Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Competitive Parents

Recently I revisited the two areas of competition that involved my children, Highland Dance and Soccer.Although I write a monthly Highland column and I still attend my sons "adult league" soccer games I am now "just a spectator".The day-to-day involvement of practicing, driving hither and yon, financing, dealing with teachers and coaches and long discussions with other mothers involved in the Highland/soccer are gone.

I have attended the outdoor Highland dance competitions for this column but it has been a few years since I made the effort to attend the indoor venue.I never liked indoor Highland dance competitions.As a parent they had their plus side, no wind rain or broiling sunshine, toilets that flushed and changing areas.The theatre part of me could never come to grips with the way indoor Highland dance competitions have evolved.In 1996 I covered differences between a Highland and Stage competition.

"Covering competitions, having to go from one performance area to another, the differences in ambiance, the lack of facilities that Highland competitors routinely put up with became markedly apparent.I would suggest to all indoor competition organizers, before you grab that church hall of gymnasium, please for the sake of the dance and the dancers see if you can first find a venue that will add to the art form not detract from it.
No mater how well a competition is presented or how well the dancer performs when the back drop is gymnasium doors, basket ball hoops and rubber mats it will lack audience appeal and ultimately respect (maybe another reason Highland audiences have no qualms at getting out of their seats, continually moving during performance).A performer can do so much more in the "right setting" the added distraction of glare from yellow lighting on shiny gym floors when trying to dance a sword, not to mention the injuries caused routinely by inadequate flooring (Highland dancers are not wearing Nike or Air Jordan's on their feet remember, just tiny slips of leather).I saw some truly beautiful choreography that would have been even more special in the right arena. Luckily, the Stage and Ballet competition had a great venue and the brilliance of the costuming and the dancing shone across the footlights.How wonderful to see these young dancers lighting up the day and bringing joy to the many audience members (who didn't need to be told, although they were, not to leave their seats except in between numbers)."Dancer 1996

Stepping into the indoor competition last month was like stepping back in time.The world had changed so much since I had last walked through those doors but not so Highland.I was assaulted by the cacophony of sounds and melee that greeted me.It was all too familiar.Surely, I thought with all the people milling about eating, warming up using the backs of the audience chairs for a barre, children running around the hall and a piper in the hallway playing for a dance school. "I have come during the lunch break".I was wrong for hidden away below the stage on the floor were six dancers grouped together in front of two judges that sat at card tables whilst behind them up on the proscenium stage sat the scrutinizers, waiting for the results of the previous group to be trudged across the stage to them.Is it any wonder I thought that I seem to be the "only" non-participating spectator?

Was it like this when my daughter competed, was I like these parents ,teachers and dancers not showing the respect to the performers?I would like to think that I had some audience etiquette when it came to Highland.Organizers of outdoor competitions do not have the luxury of the indoor organizer, changing rooms if available are usually some distance, PA systems leave a lot to be desired so dancers are usually to be found warming up, being coached in the immediate area.Spectators from the rest of the games mill in an around watching and moving on.However the indoor Highland competition should be able to be more professional in the "performance area" for the dancers and audience.If the parents, teachers and dancers don't give the dancers the respect they, as any other performer so rightly deserve, then who will?The only time there was any silence or attention given was when the numbers of the prize-winning dancers were announced.

Three days later I found myself sitting on bleachers once more at my son's old high school.It had been 4 years since I had attended a soccer game with high school parents.This time I was "sure" that the group of parents I sat with for 4 years was not as bad as the current crop.Since when has the passion for a sport or even dance form become more important to the parents and coaches than it seems does to the player or dancer (at least that how it looks to me one step removed from the intensity).The mothers and fathers screaming insults to referees and players, lack of social graces and respect for our children. I looked at the faces of the players and wondered if they were as embarrassed for their parents as I was.

The Highland competition could have just taken the group of dancers performing into another room to just dance in front of the judges.The judges were the only ones consistently giving undivided attention to the dancers, and they are paid to do so!Maybe Highland organizers should hand out rules of audience etiquette along with competition numbers. We parents have to understand we are setting an example for our children and they should be "good" examples; maybe that should be our New Year's resolution!

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

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