Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Highland Highlights appears in Dancer and Celtic World by Loraine Ritchey

August once again will find the dancers of the SOBHD gracing the platforms at Cowal Highland Gathering for their World Championship. DANCER readership will remember one such dancer who not only graced Cowals platforms, finishing 2nd overall twice in the championship, Laura Carruthers. Laura's career did not end on that happy note. Laura has graced the stages of the Pennsylvania and Arizona Ballet, then taking on the awesome task of mounting the "original" Fire and Grace in 1998. Laura had a desire to "share the beauty of the other Celtic dance tradition, Scottish Highland Dancing."

Laura, a champion Highland dancer who has taken the love of her Scottish art form beyond the known boundaries and perimeters most Highland dancers experience, the competitive circuit. Since 1997 has scripted, produced and directed and danced in three multimedia productions. 'Fire and Grace' found Laura both in the performance and production seat as well as finding the financing to mount the production, definitely a job that takes the tenacity and drive of a champion. As with all champions Laura continues to use that drive to take her to the next level and the next project 'DRIVEN CELTIC' is definitely an apt title for this young lady as well as her latest project.

"Driven Celtic is a mosaic of miniature music videos that together form a larger picture. The video opens in the arid rocky desert, where a girl, stranded on a road, finds a pendant-charm in the shape of an ancient Celtic stone carving. Her discovered treasure "drives" her from the desert terrain of the American Southwest to the green western shores of Argyll, Scotland. There, she dances from one setting to the next, guided and accompanied by a mysterious partner, charming composer and ensemble of Celtic musicians. with a surprise at the end. I should emphasize, said Laura " that 'Driven Celtic' is definitely experimental entertainment, as it merges the music video and the independent short or featurette together without using any dialogue. Only music, dance location, graphics, silent drama convey the experience."

'Driven Celtic" has been a collaboration with bass player, guitarist and songwriter John Saich, formerly of the super group Capercaillie. John, who departed from the group in 1998 to concentrate on composing music for film and television, brings his musical expertise to the video. Laura commissioned John and his new recording company "Wild Biscuit Music" to write record and perform original music for the project. Well respected musicians such as Clare McLaughlin (fiddle) of Deaf Shepherd, Brian McAlpine (accordion) of Iron Horse and Finlay MacDonald (pipes, whistle)

But where would a leading lady be without a leading man and in 'Driven Celtic, long time associate and dance partner Xavier Corcoran takes the heroine of the piece in his able arms. Xavier's career in dance has found him with the Ballet Arizona, Ballet Theatre Spectacular with Leslie Brown and West Side Story with Robert Redford's Sundance Theatre Company, Fire and Grace and Needfire, Passion of the Heart at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto Canada.

The video takes the viewer through the girl's journey from the arid dryness of the desert to the lush greenery and spectacular scenery of the home of Laura's ancestors, Scotland. Filming took place around Kilmartin Glen, Kimelford and Crinan. According to Scottish screens trade newsletter, 'Roughcuts' July 01 " it is hoped that this (video) will give the area a higher profile in the United States." The video was filmed in a PAL digital format both in Arizona and Scotland working with a local production crew from the Maricopa Institute for Arts and Entertainment Technology. This is a new outlet, fundamentally driven and sustained by established and emerging theatre/film technicians. In the United Kingdom l Laura worked with a unit of professional freelance cameramen and technicians, who Laura managed to assemble with some assistance from Scottish Television, Scottish Screen and the Glasgow Film Office.

Laura sums up her experience " it has been a long, yet incredible, road so far and I have learned to be patient through all the frustrations that come with operating a "maverick' arts company. It has certainly tested my level of passion for independent, pioneering innovation and self-belief. However, it is still my overall hope that the experimental integrity and vibrancy of Highland projects such as "Driven Celtic" will help push our common Scottish interest in traditional and or modernized form into new and open domains."

So what is next in store for Laura apart from marketing the video "folks can start to look for the tape at the games (starting with west coast games this summer)" Laura has at least two exciting options in the offing so as they say "watch this space"!
Readers may learn more of Laura and her works on www.celticdance.com where they may also purchase the video. For information on Wild Biscuit music www.wildbiscuit.com or contact By real mail: Celtic Dance 8562 E. Thornwood Dr. Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Since this article was in print the video "Driven Celtic" won a prize at a big film festival in Georgia (Zoie Film Festival)...1st Place Women's Experimental Film Short.

As a "rooky" filmmaker, I wasn't expecting anything like that. The video can now be viewed from their site

Questions and comments Loraine Ritchey, 1127, W.4th Street, Lorain,OH.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.