Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Deryck Mitchelson Article Part Two

This is the month before Cowal Highland Gathering. Next month will find dancers from the SOBHD take to their flights, boats, trains, and automobiles and travel to those special platforms. The Mitchelsons have made that trip many times first as dancers (and very successfully too as readers will remember) then as adjudicators. Deryck will hopefully make the trip next year with another title, Chairman of the SOBHD. In the meantime Deryck's interview from last month continues:

Q. It seems that Highland (at least here in North America has become the competitive venue for the under 18's do you find that in Scotland? If so what do you think needs to be done to rectify that situation.

A. This is often the case. In the under 18s, dancer are often at a similar standard. This encourages more competition. When dancers progress into adults, even successful under 18 dancers, it is often difficult to make an immediate impact against stronger and older (sometime "wiser") dancers. This is a quite healthy environment.

Q. As an adjudicator what is the most common fault that you find in the dancing overall? Also what do you think has become matter of fact today (something that used to be done only by a few and is now done by most Premier (positive). What would you like to see teachers do to correct the common fault…? (If any)

A. I still get frustrated when judging dancers who have not mastered the basics - shedding not coming round the leg, "three beat" pas de Basque, not cutting the "figure of eight" correctly. As I have previously mentioned, due care must be given to the basics. We used to practice the "figure of eight" by following a chalk outline drawn on the floor. Sometimes I would practice shedding all night until I was happy with it!

Q. I understand that your family (great dancers of yesteryear and today) has a great deal of interest and respect for the lesser-known dances and the traditions of those dances. I am told that you and your family perform original choreography as well as some of the lesser-known steps. Would you please tell the readers of this column a little about your performance troupe etc and where you perform etc. and the contact person for more information Would you like to see if not a competition at least some bringing back of some of the older steps and some of the NZ hornpipes and jigs performed before competitions such as Cowal. Or even a special competitive section for those dances. (Due to the fact that it seems that unless performed in the competitive venue these steps and dances are not being taught and therefore not danced and are in danger of being forgotten…agree of disagree with this statement)

A. My brother Gareth (DANCER note Gareth was featured last year in this column) and I regularly perform with our dance troupe "Celtic Spirit". This started as Celtic Choreography for a dance spectacular in Glasgow, for which I also composed the music. Since our conception we have regularly performed at various concerts, festivals etc - sometimes using the whole group and sometimes only Gareth and myself. We have always tried to mix both old and newer steps into our routines. More details can be found on Gareth's website at http://uk.geocities.com/garethmitchelson/frindex.htm
The SOBHD has started collecting documents on old technique and steps. I would like to see this expanded and made publicly available. We should be using the Internet to enable all this material to be viewed in one central archive and encourage all our dancing friends across the world to participate in such a project. These archives could perhaps be used to help develop some new steps for use in competitions or choreography.

Deryck continues to be very involved, as does the rest of his family in the world of Highland dance. His family are very involved in the teaching and judging and performing aspects of this ancient art form. However, Deryck has also taken the step of putting his name forward to run as Chairman of the largest of the dancing organizations the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing.

Q. What made you decide to run for Chairman of the SOBHD?

A. I believe that a fresh input of ideas is required to modernize the SOBHD. Often change is good for an organization. I believe that my background in dance and Information Technology is ideal in guiding and shaping the SOBHD.

Deryck is one who obviously wishes to give back to the dance and to the organizational aspect of the art. Highland is indeed very lucky to have the younger generation continue to uphold it's ancient heritage and give back to the art form. Deryck tells me, " I love all aspects of teaching dance. I do get a buzz when concentrating on technique with the younger dancers, getting them to understand how important the basic movements are."

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

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