Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

The following is PART ONE only of a three part series, part two and three deals with advice and quotes from SOBHD judges and Chairperson. I had planned on putting all three parts up together once in print however Part one is already up on the Dancer website. The names of the dancers all who reached the final were named but it was hardly fair to single them out by name due to the nature of the brief given to Mr. Wesley

Photo Victor Wesley courtesy of Duntroon Publishing

Highland and the dancer's body! Victor Wesley of the Academy of the Dance, Wilmington Ballet and three times World Champion of Highland and professional adjudicator agreed to cover the dancing at the SOBHD World Championships, Cowal, Scotland (note this world championship is "closed" and open only to dancers who are registered with the SOBHD, there is no other "world" championship in Highland at the moment which is open to all dancers and all organizations. Mr. Wesley won his World Championships before Cowal became a closed venue and also after Cowal went totally with SOBHD adjudicators). I asked Mr. Wesley to pick out at random dancers who made it through to the "final" and to critique the body.

Part one of this article will deal with his finding and part two hopefully will deal with finding solutions to the problems experienced by dancers, mums and teachers. Bear in mind that the dancers critiqued in this article are all championship caliber, male and female in the various age groups and have reached the finals of a world (albeit closed) championship. This problem in the dance world is not just confined to SOBHD participants but in the Highland world in general.

"With my professional credentials and dancer in the Highland world, a professional dancer counting among my partners Dame Margot Fonteyn as well as the Artistic Director of the Wilmington Ballet and Academy of the Dance these are some of the things I noticed whilst watching the finalists. Dancers selected will be referred to as A, B, C and so on:
World Champions All??

Dancer A: This dancer had an impressive sword only. Dancer is unable to flex the foot in the supporting foot during elevation causing a strained bouncing effect. The foot was rigid and no use of the Metatarsal and Achilles. Which can be ultimately extremely detrimental to the health of the dancer.

Dancer B: Bad technique, extremely bad posture, hips torso twisting to accomplish certain foot positions, falling all over the sword as well as being in and out of the sword. (Note this twisting of the torso was very common among dancers)

Dancer C. Complete package, dancer had "IT"!! Walked on the stage like a champion, more dignified than any of the others knew why they were there and the job that had to be done, a true competitor! Whilst others dancers were "coming down" this dancer was still elevated. Very pleasing to the eye. Back step jumps to 3rd ariel position no clear run in movement, handwork strained with fingers closed, no definition. Shows extremely well but could even be better than "Dancer C" already is.

Dancer D. Turned in at hips, flat positions in 2nd 3rd 4th opposite 5th has a very noticeable sickled foot. Also danced behind the pelvis with groin pushed forward, constantly off beat with rhythm of the piper, bad musicality, forcefulness being used to convey stamina rather than that of natural movement and flowing buoyancy. Metatarsal and Achilles being damaged by landing incorrectly putting more stress on the knee from rotary movements harmful to the patella. Lackluster

Dancer E. Laboured dynamics, no punctuation or attack within certain movements. Back steps not running smoothly but jumped and bashing the shin. High cutting either low on leg and never attained a complete straight leg extension. Missing consistently in double beat. Arm positions short and need to be elongated to give at least an illusion of height. Supporting foot never stretched, body in an inclined hunched over stance, which throws off in the lumbar.

Dancer F. Looks great prior to dancing then facial expression becomes plastic and false. Confirmation of body dips and twists displacing the vertebrae and prone to using the mouth in excruciating contortions to try and hold turn out, culminating in incorrect alignment not to mention mandible jaw dysfunction.

Danger G. Not top line but a good possibility for the prizes, twists torso to reach 2nd position and whole body turns in order to get head positions. Dancing is contrived, more insipid than exciting. Possibility of becoming a much better dancer but needs to be taught with understanding of body mechanics. Bounces rather than elevates.


Invariably natural head positions have been replaced with unnatural body twists. In some cases contorted extraneous movement culminating in spinal misalignment. Every dancer look tired from performing limited (6) steps. Overall the chosen dancers in each final were not "all" of a higher level or training or ability. It would have been better to eliminate, by cutting the fat. (Note: a dancer needs only a six place from a judge in the heat to enter the final) and showing the "very best" competing. Dancers were dancing set steps (SOHBD) which were either not suited to their particular level of ability and others were "restricted" in confinement of their particular ability.

The educational aspect of the importance of dancing correctly and the physiological and anatomical approach to teaching is an art itself and one that I can see is being disregarded on the whole in teaching. Teachers are responsible for knowing right from wrong, what can ultimately harm the body and improper training methods can cause damage that will show up in later life. This lack of understanding by those training today's dancers is quite prevalent when seeing some dancers compete.

When watching the dancers of today's competitions either the dancers themselves are unaware of these potential hazards on the body or the teachers are not aware of the anatomical damage they are responsible for and imposing on the dancers. Maybe there is another lucrative profession looming in the future for highland dancers a future in physical therapy!

to be continued..

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

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