Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

A Father's View

So often we hear from dancers and their mums, whereas dear old dad, sits quietly on the bleachers supporting financially and physically and emotionally his daughters dancing choices. Glen is one such father, residing in Scotland; his two daughters (Gail and Lorna) are traveling the dancing paths of their ancestors. Glen's involvement in Highland has progressed from sitting the bleachers and cheering the efforts to trying to preserve the heritage and traditions of the dances of his birthright. The following are "exerts" from Glen thoughts as he drove to work one fine crisp Scottish morning.

A FATHER'S VIEW: " Every weekday morning I wend my way to work in South Lanarkshire via a quieter route than that of the motorways. The journey takes about an hour and one morning I stopped to watch the sunrise and consider the past twelve months. Easily the most memorable of the games (Highland games) was Cowal. This is where Highland dancers from all over the world come to do battle for a chance to become a World Champion. The dancing is run under the rules of the SOBHD. (Dancers note as readers are by now aware only dancers from the SOBHD can compete restricting entry from other organizations and countries worldwide) Although unable to compete this year (2001) Gail was mesmerized by the gathering. For her to see first hand the standard and quality of competitors gave her an insight to what was possible through hard work and dedication. As I watched the SOBHD World Champions perform their winners Fling I was saddened that this event and the World of Highland Dance is still surrounded with discord and lack of understanding on all sides. This after all is a tradition of my ancestors and of the many Scots that were forced to relocate to such places as Cape Breton, the Carolinas, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

These ancestors took with them traditions in music, song and dance that have been handed down through the generations. The traditions and styles in Highland Dance have developed in these parts of the world to what we see today. Each has an important role in the education of our young people in their heritage and all have a valid place in Scottish tradition. It is not the place of any one individual, group of individuals or organization to try and standardize at the expense of tradition.
As the sun started to clear the hills of the east I couldn't help but remember and exhibition of Highland dance given by the Christine Aitken Academy of Dance. The occasion was a Seik wedding. Eight dancers performing, including my daughter Gail and Lorna. It was to be nothing fancy, no choreographed work, Fling, Sword etc. The girls performed impeccably to rapturous applause, whoops and delight of the guests. It was probably my proudest moment of the years as a father watching the two of them contribute to making a very special day even better.

Too often we adopt modern ideas, and methods over that of traditional methods with a result of redundancy and a loss of skills that can never be replaced. The world is changing, more so now after the tragic events of 11th of September. Change is inevitable, however change must not simply be for the sake of change. I am proponent of openness in the Highland Dance competitive arena. I understand the reasons why the SOBHD has evolved the way it has and the need to create a level platform upon which all dancers could be fairly judged-fifty years ago. There are challenges involved for those at the top in Highland Dance in accepting that there is a need for change and how to accomplish it whilst retaining traditions in style and technique. These are not insurmountable but achievable if the willingness is there. Each of the Highland dance organization (SOHDA, P&D NZ, HDNA, VSU and SOBHD) must lead with integrity and transparency that is necessary to ensure growth and development of this art form. If not then I cannot help but feel that generations of Scots throughout the world will have lost the traditions that our forefathers fought for and held so dearly.

As I continue my journey I considered myself very fortunate to live the life I do in this great country and the joy, fellowship, friendship, passion and discipline that my children receive and give through their involvement in dance. After all is that not what is important?"

Glen works diligently for Highland dance and is also one of the Directors of the Wynd Centre (http://www.thewynd.org.uk) He has been instrumental in bringing Highland and the dances to the forefront of world discussions, writes and works tirelessly for the heritage and education of Scotland and her traditions.

Questions and comments: 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.