Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

THE CHAMPIONS by Loraine Ritchey Dancer 04

December, the end of another year and time for reflection. The organizations involved with Highland Dance and those that “champion the cause of Highland” are still mired in the “he said she said” of Highland politics.

The August SOBHD World Championships held in Dunoon Scotland found this writer the recipient of hundreds of e-mails, mostly pointing out unfair situations and frustrations with the adjudicating etc “Why is there such a discrepancy in the marks”; “Why can’t the world championship move around the world like ScotDance Canada Championships and USIR?”; “The panel of judges was top heavy on the Scottish side” .And my question “Why do the writers feel that this column is their only resource to be heard? ”The answer could be that their own organizations are not listening to their public, the dancing community.
The remarks, some disparaging, on various e-mail chat forums, with questions as to the ability of the SOBHD adjudicators and objectivity were passionate. (Unfortunately, at least one top SOBHD official went to an organizer of world prestigious championship with a concern of fellow adjudicators objectivity when the complainant had a dancer entered rather than go through the proper channels( rather smacked of trying to stack the judging panel in my opinion).

Reading the comments and concerns I realized that once again it was the “dancer” that suffered, their accomplishments questioned due to the behavior of those who are supposedly the “objective professionals”. The situation somewhat akin to Paul Hamm, his gold medal tarnished through no fault of his own but politics and posturing have taken away the joy of Hamm’s moment. It is the same with Highland Dancing the “politics and posturing” are affecting the dancers more than those in power. At the end of the day those that are the “professionals” still come away with their expenses and payments.
The innocent in all of this is the dancer, the one that ultimately pays not only financially but also with their talent and desire to keep the art form from dying. It is the dancer that is caught in the middle, the children of the dance to those that have achieved adulthood and competitive fame, barred from dancing with others on threat of banishment.Sounds a little medieval and I believe it certainly brings out the semblance of the “dancing dark ages”.

This column from time to time has donated trophies to various competitions both SOBHD, such as Jacksonville, and Kansas and SOHDA. Amongst the flurry of emails after the SOBHD world championships came a photo of a small child being presented the British Baby Champion (SOHDA) by Celtic singer Alisdair Gilles. The tiny champion brought a smile to my face and brought home the fact that she didn’t care about the politics she was enjoying her moment in all her innocence. A few years down the road she will probably realize that those who are older but seemingly no wiser have more input in her dancing than her teacher, her mum or how ever hard she practices.

Lisa mercer receives Highland Highlights Trophy

Will this child of the dance be able to stand on a platform with dancers of the SOBHD and compete in a truly open World Championship before her dancing career ends? Will those that wield the power of decision making for the organizations look upon this child of the dance and say NO she can’t stand along side our children. Yes, I think they probably will as they have been entrenched in that attitude for the last decade, hundreds of tiny dancers have gone through the tangle of politics as usual their smiling faces failing to touch the cold hearts of “Highland politicos”. One prominent adjudicator and teacher of many champions said to me “ when will they remember this is about the children ultimately?”

Anthea Bundy Scottish National Champion 2004

Two years ago I featured a tiny dancer of the SOHDA Anthea Bundy “Dancing Queen” she was a dancer of the SOHDA. However, she too was caught up in the world of Highland politics,ue to her teacher, at the time, upping stakes and moving over to the SOBHD taking her studio with her Anthea lost her Championship’s and medals earned previously by the SOHDA. Anthea's titles and medals were not recognized by her having to register (not become a “member of” but register to dance) with the SOBHD. The cry of “the SOHDA dancers aren’t as “elite” in the dance world as ours, they aren’t in the same league etc. fell upon the apparently “deaf ears” of our “Dancing Queen”. Anthea did in fact enter the Scottish National Championship this year at Cowal, with a new teacher, and won her age group.This should at least make the naysayers realize that good dancing and talent can rise above Highland politics.Congratulations to little Anthea Bundy still a “Dancing Queen” and to little Lisa Mercer the winner of the Highland Highlights Column “trophy” as the British Baby Champion of 2004. Hopefully both Anthea and Lisa will one-day grace the same platform for the children are really the “true” Champions of Highland Dance. This years SOBHD World Champions are all from Scotland, Juvenile David Wilton, Junior Rachel McLean, and Adult Tony Cargil Congratulations!

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

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