Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Laudable and Lamentable Part One by Loraine Ritchey

To critique or not to critique that is the question! As the deadline for submission comes due, I start to form a column in my mind. This was precisely the part of the process I found myself going through this week. I decided that it was probably time for the "laudable" and "lamentable" column, the ying and the yang of Highland Dancing. When I was not involved in dance, soccer and advocacy I used to tread the boards and produce those that tread the boards. Theatre was and is a wonderful and productive part of my life so it was with disappointment I read a published "blog" on one of our local community theatres website links from a individual, a member of the theatre company, who "critiqued" the current production in such a way that was harmful, hurtful and with no regard to the many people who volunteered their time talent and expertise to give back to the community, worthwhile productions. The critique served no useful purpose except to defame .I attended to the performance of " School House Rock Live!" last evening and found the critique totally inaccurate and biased. Therefore, the critique was obviously a way of hitting out at individuals under the guise of "critique" and using that platform for self interest.

There is a responsibility shared by those that have access to "publishing" our comments and thoughts that hopefully a "critique" will be of a productive nature, an aid if you will, for the participants to see their performance or production from a different perspective. I rethought my column and decided that the "lamentable"needed qualification. To critique the critic has to bear in mind, in my opinion the following, are the services provided on a volunteer, semi professional or professional basis? An example being a review of a high school production does not carry the same weight of expertise criteria as that of a community theatre and by the same yard stick those who are "professional" or are paid to perform, judge or promote carry a greater responsibility to the audience and participants and are therefore open to a different level of critique. Bearing this in mind I present my "laudable and lamentable" column for 2004.


The New Zealand Academy of Highland and National Dancing, (http://www.nzahnd.org.nz) an examination body that trains and qualifies highland dancers, teachers and judges .The Academy fosters and maintains the Highland and National dances brought to New Zealand by the Scottish Settlers. The efforts made by this organization to promote and continue to perform and keep alive the dances and steps of the dances of Scotland are laudable. The situation in New Zealand, which is dividing the dancing community, could very well see the demise of these dances. Those personages of the NZAHND who refuse to give way to losing their beloved dances and technique so that they can compete in SOBHD competitions deserve support from their own Piping and Dancing Association. The path NZAHND have chosen may not be the easiest but it is the "high road"!

Scottish Official Highland Dancing Association (SOHDA)(http://www.sohda.org.uk), Scotland shares the podium with NZ. This organization also has had a fight on their hands to keep alive the many dances and steps in their repertoire. Unfortunately, for Highland Dancing the situation worldwide is that only the dances that are being competed are the ones being taught. If dances aren't competed then they are rarely taught and so they eventually go the way of all things that are not exposed to life and sunlight, they fade away into memory. The SOHDA has been trying to keep alive these dances against apathy from games organizers, people involved in dance who carry baggage with them from yesteryear, the Scottish Arts Council, Scottish Traditions of Dance Trust and Cowal who are enabling this situation to continue. The situation in Scotland would have found most involved in the SOHDA situation with regard to restriction and being the under dog giving up and joining the larger organization with their restrictive practices. The fact that in the last year two of their most outspoken members "against" restriction, Victor Wesley and Gillian Whitelaw have indeed "crossed over" is definitely lamentable (more on that later). The members of the SOHDA who promote "open" dancing and choice definitely have earned this writers respect and regard due to their unselfish love of the dance form and determination to keep alive against the odds the dances of Scotland.

Mats Melin and Dannsa. (http://www.dannsa.com) This performing group has kept alive, not by competition, but by performing the dances of Scotland.Dannsa are the Highland based group of talented step-dancers Mats Melin, Frank McConnell, Caroline Reagh and Sandra Robertson.They perform their own unique arrangements. Frank McConnell's brand new quadrilles add excitement to the programme, which includes old Scotch reels. The group will be taking to the road again because as they tell "Dancer": "The enthusiastic, heartfelt response from previous years of performing in many small, vibrant Highland communities has inspired Dannsa to embark on their third tour. This will take in mainly the islands on the West coast. It just seems right to be performing in the places we do - we have all spent time both learning and teaching dance on the islands," said Caroline."We wanted to visit the islands we know have a reputation for good music, song and dance and to share what we do. There is a sense in being a part of the developing celebration of dance and music which has always been a part of the communities we visit." continued Frank.

To be continued…

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

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