Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Laudable and Lamentable part 4 by Loraine Ritchey


Those who “inspire”.My top pick this year has to go to “Dancer”. As readers of this column will remember a few months ago the arts took back a city street, “One Brief Shining Moment”. The combining of performing arts and visual arts in the one venue took a lot of work and meetings. I was the producer for the performing arts and Tom Ott; visual artist produced the visual arts aspect of the evening. We would meet in my office where I had copies of “Dancer” available. Tom enquired if he could take some of them as he had an idea for a piece of sculpture.
Dance Flight by Tom Ott

Tiny Dancers by Tom Ott

Six months passed and the newly formed Lorain Arts Council hosted a visual arts exhibition. My delight at the works being shown was increased when I recognized a number of pieces by Tom Ott, including “Dance Flight” and “Tiny Dancers”. One piece had already sold before the show had even opened to the public. What made the pieces even more exciting to me as a writer for “Dancer” was the fact Tom had been inspired by the photographs and movement in “Dancer” to use his medium to capture the expression of dance as he sees it.

The arts are a truly wonderful area.The art of dance giving a platform to those of us that publish, photograph, and write. The publication, the writer and photographer enabling the sculptor to interpret and capture the movement in a three dimensional image, freezing forever the moment of inspiration.“Dancer”, monthly inspires the child of the dance with the stories and accolades found in it’s pages and gives so many of us a platform now adds “Dance Flight” and “Tiny Dancers” to it’s repertoire (I am sure not for the first time or last time).

Inspire: to have an animating effect upon; influence; stimulate or impel; especially to stimulate or impel some creative or effective effort.“Dancer” certainly meets that definition in all aspects and continues to reach out through the artistic community including those who share a different artistic spotlight.

Laudable AND Lamentable:

Like Yin and Yang, not all things are laudable and not all things we do are lamentable.The Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing falls in this category. Whilst I have criticized them in this and other columns through the years on their restrictive practices and rules, the fact is that they have brought to the fore with their marketing expertise and hard work to the dancing world the art form known as Highland Dancing. The criticism from the Highland participants that the art form has become a “ competition sport” and only competitive dances are being taught and danced due to this format is correct. However, it has to be said the SOBHD has kept the art form alive causing participation by the dancing public using this format.

Irish dancing followed pretty much the same venue (although their structure for competition dancing is less rigid) until Michael Flatly, the Eurovision Song contest and eventually the show Riverdance took precedent over the competition. It may well be that a Highland renaissance may one day be possible. The strength of the SOBHD dancers which include Colleen Rintamaki, Gregor Bowman, Gareth and Derek Mitchelson, all “recent” multi SOBHD adult World Champion winners are all still involved and giving back to Highland Dance. It is not to say that other organization cannot break through but the money would in all likelihood come from North America and SOBHD is the only organization in Canada and the USA. The market niche carved out by the SOBHD in those countries and the fact that Canada has the strongest Highland Dancing population both in numbers and quality should help.

The SOBHD has in its ranks some truly great performers and people who have a great passion for Highland Dance. Volunteers work tirelessly to promote and educate the world in Highland Dancing.Their efforts and those that raise the funds and keep Highland alive, even in a specialized form have to have a place in laudable side of the column.

What is truly lamentable in my opinion is the fact that in order to “control” the rest of the Highland dancing world the SOBHD has in place the following rules “the prevention of those registered with the Board (SOBHD) from becoming members or organizations outside its control”.Also " the ineligibility of a competitor or judge, who has taken part in any "so called" championship not recognized by the Board, to compete or adjudicate in any championship or competition under Board rules until "given permission" to do so by the Board".

Although SOBHD members such as FUSTA (Federation of United States Teachers and Adjudicators), Tayside, Cowal and individual members have tried in recent times to remove the restrictive practices they lamentably continue. It is lamentable, in my opinion that an organization which spends so much time an effort enforcing restriction does not use its leadership role and expertise in “opening” to the world and “all” its highland dancers the opportunity to “belong” to a greater good and in turn The SOBHD too could “inspire”.

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

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