Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Michelle Cumagun

1997 World (SOBHD) Juvenile Highland Dance Champion

(First appeared in "DANCER 1997 December)

"Oh! Say can you see…." Unlike the Olympics, the World Highland Dancing Championships (SOBHD) Cowal, Scotland, do not play the National Anthem of the winning dancer as they receive their gold. If they did the Star Spangled Banner would not have been heard for 20 years, not since Mary Beth Miller in 1977. However, 1997 finds a young lady from Texas claiming the title of Juvenile World Champion.

Michelle's dancing resume is something that most dancers in their 20's would be extremely proud to have. Starting at the age of 7 she was awarded "Most Promising Dancer" awards 6 times. By the time she had reached the ripe old age of 11 Michelle, had won her way through to Premier category. Michelle's first year in Premier (able to compete in Championships) found her on the winner's podium in the U.S. and Canada. Within a year she had won her first United States Championship in Albany, NY. The next summer found Michelle traveling to Scotland and winning the "World Pipe Band Championship" and the "Scottish Championship, Cowal. July 1996, Houston, Texas on home ground she once again stood on the platform as the United States Champion in her age group. August found Michelle and her family repeating her accomplishments in Scotland, as well as adding other Championships to her already overflowing resume of titles.

1997: Michelle who loves soccer, gets a "hat trick"!!! 3 times US Champion, 3 times World Pipe Band Championships, 3 times Scottish Championship, Cowal. Michelle added at least 7 more trophies to her collection in August of 1997. However, the one that I am sure will get the most polishing will be the "1997 World Juvenile Highland Dance Champion". When you realize that this young lady at the ripe old age of 15 (only being able to compete in the Premier category for 4 years) these accomplishments are even more impressive for one so young.

To be a Champion you need good health, talent, desire, great teaching, supportive family, commitment, opportunity and sometimes a little luck. Michelle has all of the above. Diane MacPhee Krugh and Donna MacPhee Cusak, have been Michelle's teachers since the beginning. Her interest in Highland was fostered by watching her brother Derek compete. "I guess I got the interest from him. I love dancing, all types of dancing. It's something I can work hard at and prove to myself that I can set a goal and achieve it." Michelle is a sophomore at the St. Thomas Episcopal School in Houston and is on the Dean's List. St. Thomas, as part of it's curriculum teaches the Scottish Arts. Diane and Donna are the Dance Directors for St. Thomas. The school has also given the USA World Titles in the area of pipes and drums. Dance teachers, especially in Highland, form a special relationship with their students. It is a relationship that continues long after the dancing stops. To take a young child under your care and teach all that is bright and beautiful, to watch the child blossom and see your hard work bear fruit is very special. To have that child stand on a World Championship Podium is something that very few of us will ever experience. To Michelle, her family and her extended family ..her teachers…Diane and Donna Congratulations!!!!!

August did not put and end to the dancing in Scotland, far from it. "Braveheart is Back" Before you all go running to the newspaper for news of Mel Gibson, let me add that this time it was the real "Braveheart". William Wallace who was being honored in 1297. 700 years ago, Wallace won the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Little did he realize that the Battle would one day be celebrated in the shape of a "Highland Dancing Championship event. The organizers felt it "right and proper that the event be held in the heart of Wallace Country". 200 dancers from all over competed in traditional Highland and National Dances and appropriately for the day "The Broadswords". The event, held at the beautiful Albert Hall, Stirling, was run by the SOHDA. Stiling's Lady Mayoress presented an array of 50 magnificent trophies, specially molded commemorative medals as well as financial awards to the winning dancers. Scotland's dancers won the day, as did Scotland in 1297. Maria Boyle, Steven Bryson, Stephanie Bridge, Kimberly Craig, Jody Clelland and Kirstie Cameron and Gilliam Wannan were the Champions in their respective age groups. The SOHDA plan on continuing the Championship as well as continuing to research the lesser know dances.

"Linkumdodie" This little known ladies solo dance, (at least here in North America) takes it's name from a small hamlet north of Moffat, where the Logan Water joins the Tweed. Doesn't that conjure up romance and intrigue? Sounds so much better the "Exit 182" of the Turnpike. Maybe that's why we are short on the Robert Burns' today.

"Willie Wastle dwalt on Tweed

The spot they ca'd it Linkumdodie,

Willie was a wabster gude,

Cou'd staun a clue wi' ony bodie"

The dance is a solo dance of 6 steps and can be performed to the tune of "The Deuks Dang O'er My Daddie" or any 6/8 Jig Tempo, e.g. "Bonnie Dundee", "Kenmore's On An Awa." If you would like more information on this dance please contact the S.O.H..D.A. Mrs. Pauline Knox, 36 High Street, Dunbar, East Lothian EH42 1JH Scotland.

No wonder there was poetry and dance and fierce warriors fighting for causes with the excitement generated even by a small hamlet. I personally find it really hard to get excited about "Exit 182". However you can imagine the excitement caused to "spell check" on the computer when I asked it to do it's duty and "check the copy"!!!!>

Loraine Ritchey

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