Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Highland Highlights 2003 by Loraine Ritchey

The "children of the dance", the next generation waits in the wings to take up responsibility of keeping the dances of Scotland alive for the next generation of dancers. How do the 10 ands 12 year olds feel about the responsibility that will ultimately fall to them? Does it ever cross their minds how much depends upon their tiny shoulders or is the focus on perfecting that backstepping? There is hope for the perpetuation of the dance from at least one corner of the world. Her name is Clara- Jane or C-J. I was introduced to Clara through her website http://clik.to/highlandancers. Why did Clara-Jane decide to venture into the realm of websites usually run by the organizations and adults of the dance?

"Because no one had a site for dancers only, it was only dancing teachers websites. I would like to get all highland dancers involved so we can all keep in touch and chat about highland dancing which we all love"

And C-J certainly has a great love for the dance and also for her fellow children. Using the art form that she loves she decided she could utilize her talent and the talent of her fellow dancers to raise money for the BBC's Children in Need campaign

" The last two years I decided to dance to make money for BBC Children in Need (which is a National television thing held every year to raise money). I got a few of my friends together two years ago and we had a garage dancethon with over 50 people in our double garage. We raised nearly 300, ($500) Last year we raised nearly 800 (approximately $1,300) when I asked my dad's work (Marathon Oil Company) if we could dance at his work at lunch time". On the same day my dance teacher (Pam Dignan) said it was ok for her annual celidh to raise money for the same event. Throughout he day of dancing the children raised 1000 ($1,600) " This year we want to raise even more money for the Children in Need because I like to think all the money is going to a good cause. I'm still trying to arrange it for dancing at the BonAccord Shopping Centre in Aberdeen. I am going to have about 5 dancers and dance for the shoppers who will hopefully give us money to watch us dance. At night my dancing teacher Pam Dignan and I have arranged for a ceilidh to be held in the Westhill Hotel in Westhill, Aberdeenshire on the 15th November 2002. I'm looking forward to it very much. I like to work hard at my dancing but I really enjoy the happiness or raising money for children in need rather than concentrating (solely) on winning championships and everything." C-J added, "It would be nice though (to win championships)

What does the "child of the dance want for herself, what dreams does she have?

"But my two dreams are to dance at the Theatre and also dance in front of Monarch of the Glen Castle for BBC children in need. That would be absolutely great. But I don't think the last dream will come true. I did send a letter though to the Monarch of the Glen production company in London if they could sign some BBC Children in Need Posters so I could put them in the raffle for the Ceilidh at night I would love to go to Canada and also to other places where children are poorer than us to show them some lovely colour dancing from Scotland and for people to raise money for them and also have someone to teach them highland dancing that I think they would really enjoy".

If C-J could ask anyone in the dance world a question what would that be and to who?

"I would like to ask Betty Jessiman of Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland how long she practiced for and who was her dancing teacher?

Dancer's note: Ms Jessiman was contacted on behalf of CJ and her answer was forwarded, you may read Betty Jessimans article on this page

I like to dance with her grandson Gordon Raeburn(age 10) who is a good dancer and who I danced with at the Bobby Watson Tribute this year"
. This was one of C-J's favorite memories

" One of my favorite times I danced out was when I danced at the Arts Centre in Aberdeen for a Tribute to Bobby Watson (world famous dancer) show. I like performing at concerts because I can stay up late; the latest was 1:30 in the morning! My dancing teacher takes us out a lot to do lots of displays This week we have been out three times". I also like Joanna Buchan from Peterhead and Tony Cargill who I think are the best dancers in the World. I would love to know how long they practice for a week and when they started dancing and also what other hobbies they have".

But what about C-J how did she get started in the world of Highland Dance?

"I started dancing with Pam Dignan Dancers when I was 2.5 yrs. I started to do highland dancing because I wanted to wear a kilt and dance. I used to do Ballet, tap, highland and gymnastics until I was 7 and then only kept on Highland after that so I could concentrate on Highland. Mum could never highland dance and nor my Dad (but I have taught him the pas de basques for his Ceilidh dancing, he's not a built dancer, ha ha!) but he played the tenor drums for a pipe band and won the world novice juvenile at Cowal (a long time ago).

My sister (Sophia) dances in the same dancing classes as me. She's nearly 9. I'm 10. She's also won lots of trophies and medals as well. She dances out at displays too whenever I go out. She also helps me with the Children in Need stuff as well along with my best friend Isla who is also a competitive dancer.

I love to keep fit. I love my dancing the best but also play Netball 3 times a week. I've just finished my second block of skiing lessons in my October break. I think keeping fit is so important because I love to eat but never put on much weight. Some kids I know don't do any exercise but just watch TV.

I like competing and making lots of new friends. I hate when I kick the swords when competing or my mind blanks out and I just stop. I don't much like dancing out on carpets or hard concrete. I love dancing out at summertime. I especially like dancing at Crathes Castle and The Lonach Gathering and ceilidhs and concerts. I really just love dancing anywhere!"

What would this child of the dance and keeper of the heritage like to see happen in the world of Highland in the future?

"I would like to see more people in Scotland competing and to make it cheaper to dance, so that more girls could dance at Festivals, and more money at Festivals to win because I like winning money especially at the Highland Games (the money is great at the Games!). I would like a lot more dancers to get involved with Highland Dancing especially in Scotland. Most of the girls I know think that Highland dancing is uncool because you have to wear highland wear and not any cool gear like the disco dancing, but I don't think so. I wish they wouldn't think that, it annoys me because it's our national dancing. I love wearing my kilt and Aboyne outfits. It makes me feel proud to be Scottish. I think its great to see so many highland dancers in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
I would like to see a dance that we could make up or our dancing teacher make up and get judged for it at Dancing Festivals. Like a freestyle dance where you could bring your own CD music or the organizer gave out music for this dance before a competition to make it fair for everyone."

It looks like the heritage is in capable hands even if those hands are the tiny hands of a child.

C-J's mother (Pauline) tells me C-J was extremely ill as a toddle and ended up having a major operation. The surgeon decided to wrap her stomach around and move it below her ribcage. It was awful to see such a wee thing in intensive care for three days. I will never forget when she woke up after the operation (tubes everywhere) I asked her how she was " she said (I'm fine! (With a huge smile) Never cried once due to all the pain she was in, but always woke up smiling!

Now the child of the dance brings smiles to others with her performances and her very kind heart." the heart and wisdom of a child!" C-J in this writer's opinion is already a "Champion of Highland dance!"
Questions/ Comments Loraine Ritchey 1127. W 4th Street, Lorain Ohio, 44052 Tel 440.246.6046 E-mail lritch7@yahoo.com

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

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