Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Below is Part two of the three part series on the Dancer's Body

The Dancer's Body Part Two.

Mr. Victor Wesley, Artistic Director Wilmington Ballet, Director of The Academy of the Dance and three time World Highland Dance Champion last month pointed out some of the body problems he saw during the finals of the Cowal (SOBHD) World Championship. These dancers are at the "top" end of the Highland competitive ladder yet they are prone to basic body problems when dancing. Why? Is it the fault of the teacher, the associations (Highland) that examine the applicant for their teaching certificate? The requirements and knowledge of the mechanics of the body in order to become a teacher of Highland are they tough enough? Is it the parents responsibility to go outside the teacher of Highland choreography and get basic dance technique elsewhere? Mr. Wesley continues:

"What does the parent want for their child? As it is the parent that ultimately makes the decision in the first place to introduce the child to any outside activity, whether it be sports or art related. The parent asking the question "Where do I send my child and eventually what do I expect to come from the experience" Highland for the most part is a competitive art form and the child will have to progress through the levels no matter the organization running the competitions) What is needed to nurture that child through the levels so that eventually the decision as to whether to compete is the dancers and not, if after years of body trauma, the decision rides on "can I physically continue?"

Why are dancers in Highland dancing world suffering injury? Is it due to the methods of teaching as prescribed by an association, is it "forced method" that is causing dancers to suffer from alignment problems, knee injury, tendonitis, Achilles and metatarsal syndromes? Sad to say many teachers don't even know that these are problems until a student or competitor starts having such a problem and has to see a physician etc.

Questions: "Where do I send my child? Ask people with a knowledge of the dance for references " if they were to send their child where would YOU send them and why" "Does the school have a reputation of stability with longevity, are the instructors knowledgeable of the particular art form. What were the criteria behind the forming of the school? What qualifications do the instructors have with regard to teaching the art form, such as their accomplishments and their dance history? There are many schools that are the "Miss Mary" or the bubble gum variety, the "Lula Belle Mac Lu" who is soooooo nice with the kids whose parents twice removed came from Scotland and is proud of the heritage (run quick!) this type of school that specializes in ballet, baton bungee, scuba and Highland. If you are serious about having a son or daughter progress through the levels and still able to walk in their 30's 40's You the parent have to make some decisions initially.

In all other dances forms other than Highland the dancer "passes through the half point" but you don't dance on the half point in Highland you do! Dancer A referred to in part one: there was a clenching of the foot in order to get the arch, by clenching this restricts the ability of the dancer to have " spring" when landing eventually the dancer will experience serious injuries. For example take your hand, hold it taught and just curl your fingers experience the tension in that position and how the feeling continues up your arm and in some cases you will not only feel the discomfort but the older among you will feel pain. Now imaging trying to dance and land an adult body.

What I am seeing in the Highland world today is the majority of dancers are twisting the body in order to get turnout this position comes from the rotation of the hip. The dancers knee has to be over the arch of the supporting foot. What I see happening is the knee is misaligned with the foot in a great majority of dancers thus putting great stress on the spine and hips. What happens to the body is like taking a bath towel and twisting it from both ends in order to wring it dry, this is what is happening inside the body with the tendons etc that are all interconnected within the framework of the human body.

How do you know if a teacher has knowledge of the body? ASK! You the parent must do your homework initially. The teachers that are serious and qualified will answer the questions, they will willingly and proudly give the knowledge in a manner that will both stimulate, encourage and enhance the growth of a child in a proper manner and in a correct environment and regardless of their affiliation (Highland) will not allow you the parent to succumb or be subject to the "vacuum syndrome"

To be continued...

Questions 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.