Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Jamie Jamieson

(First appeared in Dancer March 1997)

An actress takes the printed word, lifts it from the page and hopefully gives life, form, personality to the character and situation, making the words real for an audience. This month my task is the reverse. Somehow I have to in my own inadequate way, bring to life using the printed word the talent, character of a great dancer and teacher. I have agonized over adjectives, adverbs and quotes that could help me in my endeavor. None seemed to say what I wanted them to. I find myself in the unenviable position of trying to explain the color blue to one who has never had sight or describing the laughter of a child to one who has never heard. How does one describe the "magic" of a great performer?

Technically performers can be equal in ability, but every so often a person is given that very elusive "something" that sets them apart from everyone else. "Magic"? I don't know but whatever it is, it is that intangible that comes across the footlights, movie, and television screen and enters our lives. All who watch know that they have been privileged to be part of something special. The man who has caused me to realize my own limitations is no longer with us. In my own inadequate way I would like to tell you of his greatness and talent, his legacy left to the "dancing world". D.G. Maclennan in his prologue "Highland and Traditional Dances" writes "Today America's leading man is James MacGregor Jamieson"

JAMIE JAMIESON was born in Evanston, Illinois, 1920 to Scottish parents. He won his first medal as a Highland Dancer at the age of six. Jamie continued to compete as a world-class champion for fifty years. The proceeding sentences do not tell of all the wonderful performances in those fifty years and of all the people who were touched by the "magic" of Jamie Jamieson. Thousand upon thousands of people saw him dance the role of Harry Beaton (Brigadoon) on the stages of Broadway, London and Australia. He performed in every stock theatre in the USA and staged "Brigadoon" many times for stock musical theatre and opera companies.

Jamie Jamieson began his early ballet training with Edna McCrae, Walter Camryn and Bently Stone. He danced with the Polish Ballet and Chicago Civic Opera. 'Jamie' developed a lifelong friendship with the famous choreographer Agnes De Mille. It was Miss De Mille who asked him to assist with the Broadway production of "Brigadoon" and to appear in her television series "De Mille's Conversations About the Dance". In the late 50's Jamie, along with Madame Helena Antonova opened the Academy of the Dance, Wilmington, Delaware. It is here that Mr. Jamieson's talents, knowledge and memory are still very much alive as it lives on through the teachers and pupils. The Director of the Academy today is none other than Victor Wesley, three times World Champion of Highland Dance and a pupil of the late Jamie Jamieson.

Mr. Jamison passed away Christmas Day, 1993 nine days after he appeared as the grandmother in the opening night presentation of the Academy of the Dance's 27th production of "the Nutcracker". Jamie also left his students with this own 'wit and wisdom' and thanks to the Academy of the Dance and Mr. Wesley it is a pleasure to share some of them with you:

ON CO-ORDINATION: "Your OTHER left foot"

ON HONORING ONE'S PARENTS: "When you take your bow look up to the balcony where your mother is sitting. After paying for all those ballet lessons, that's the only seat she can afford!"

ON TECHNIQUE: "Point your toe or I'll get spastic cramping of the intestine!"

ON STAMINA: "Once a day and twice on matinee days"

Mr. Jamieson is still very much with us through his Foundation, which "carries on his legacy through its scholarship efforts. The Jamie Jamieson Foundation provides financial assistance for ballet, other dance forms and American Musical Theatre to talented students" Should you wish further information on the "James Jamieson Foundation" 3205 Coachman Road, Wilmington, Delaware. 19803

Loraine Ritchey

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