Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

The following article is from "DANCER" November 1996

"To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak" (Derrick "Suwaima" Davis Hopi/Choctaw) Those of you who have taken a trip to the US Post Office lately will have seen the poster advertising the "American Indian Dances Commemoratives". Looking at the poster and its quote, I couldn't help thinking how appropriate it is for all cultures.

There are no million-dollar paychecks in Highland Dancing and very little recognition of success outside of the Highland World. There must be a reason that drives the dancer to practice long hours, travel hundreds of miles so that they can compete and perform. No money, very little prestige, hard work, physical discomfort and no small expense entailed (what with traveling and lessons) So what is it that keeps the dancer going?

I would hazard a guess that Highland dancers too are speaking through their hearts; otherwise logically it would be less of a drain physically, financially, and mentally for a dancer to put their drive, tenacity and talent in something more lucrative. I think the American Indians have it right! It is the heart speaking and we all know that when it comes to affairs of the heart there is no logic.

Whilst in England, I did manage, thanks to information from a reader of DANCER) to speak to Mr. Charlie Mill. Unfortunately his publication had not forwarded to him any of the material I had sent. Since my return, I have sent your questions directly to him and Mr. Mill assures me that he will be only too pleased to respond. One of Mr. Mill's concerns, as pointed out in his article "Who would be a dancing judge?" is the fact that Highland dancers are concentrating so heavily on the "technical aspect" of the dances causing the "heart" to be overshadowed. When the "heart of the dance" is suppressed, his fear and many others that I have spoken to, is that the essence of the dance is lost. The dances of Scotland have their own history and stories to tell.

A Director once told me " Never cheat an audience, it is always up to the performer to TELL THE STORY, whether through voice, music or ones body as the instrument. An audience is an intelligent being and they will be able to tell if you believe in what you are trying to communicate!" It is up to the teacher and performer to maintain the high technical standards required of them, but also to communicate to the audience with the language of the heart. It is certainly possible, as through the years I have seen more than one dancer accomplish this, and when that happens it gives those of us in the audience goose bumps, even when it is 96 in the shade.

We have "new" World Champions (SOBHD) 1996

15 and under Colleen Rintamaki Canada

1st runner up Michelle Cumagun USA (note: see articles on both on this page)

2nd runner up Laura Melville Scotland

17 and under Lindsay Reid Scotland

1st runner up Stephanie Grant Canada,

Jacqueline Deeney Scotland.

Adult World Jacqueline Smith Canada (pictured)

1st runner up Gregor Bowman Scotland

2nd runner up Derek Mitchelson Scotland

As always for Questions and Comments, I can be reached at

Loraine Ritchey, 1127.W. 4th Street, Lorain, Ohio, 44052.