Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

It is hard to think of May, spring flowers, Mothers Day (USA) when I am looking at nothing but snow and ice at the moment. But surely as the snow melts the flowers will return and dancers will be sending those flowers and cards to thank their mums and in June their dads for all their support throughout the year.

The Salt Lake City Olympics have concluded the medallists and the participants have left with their memories. Television and print media all packed up and gone onto other stories. I noticed at this Olympics just how much coverage was given to the parents and the family of the athletes. The mums and dads, sisters and brothers who waited at the bottom of the ski slopes, the ice rinks. Some mums bravely watching others looking away fingers crossed till their child (and no matter your age you will always be your mothers child) had performed.

Highland is no different, being a competitive art form 90% of the time, the mums collectively hold their breath on the bleachers whilst their child performs the sword; some unable to watch incase that foot slips and disqualification. The long drives, hours of practice, to and froing with lessons, making the budget stretch to that new kilt. Making sure everything is ready for your dancer only to sit for what seems an eternity holding your breath one eye squeezed shut whilst the other is opened just a crack, stomach churning and your heart going like a drum. Dad only seeing his child through the viewfinder of the camcorder. All types of weather, and all sorts of uncomfortable venues. Why, why do we put ourselves through this as believe it or not "WE" do have control? I can't speak for the Olympic athlete parents but I have a sneaky suspicion their reasons are pretty much the same as the reasons most Highland parents are there supporting their child.

Deryck Mitchelson

The majority of Highland dancers come into this particular art form because their family has been part of the history. Mum was a dancer or in some cases dad. Dancers whose grandparents are teachers/adjudicators, families tie with Scotland. Sometimes, as with Glen it is a discovery that makes us take that initial step:

"Eleven years ago I was charged with cleaning the house of two elderly, spinster great aunts, that had passed away within a matter of weeks of one another. During this cleaning out I came across many old family documents. Buried deep within one cupboard there was small tin, which contained medals, highland dance medals to be exact, dating from the sterling hallmark to be around 1902. To my amazement they turned out to belong to my aunts, who by all accounts were more than regular and able competitors on the highland games circuit of the early 1900"s"

Glen continued to research and has two lovely little girls that now carry on the family heritage of gracing the Highland dance platforms. Highland gained two more dancers to carry the steps and dances of this land of Scotland and two more loving parents are prepared to sit the bleachers, and sacrificing so their child can have their moment in the light.

The years have certainly bought changes in the world of Highland dance since those elderly aunts of Glens graced the platforms. Young girls dancing Highland dances (traditionally for men only) in the 1900's, well you would've had to have been a bit of rebel to make your way in the competitive world of Highland then. For the young girl in the 1900's I would think that the support from mum and dad would not have been in the form of lessons and kilts but more in gaining acceptance of the female dancer competing in the world of the male. To have won medals in that day and age "the aunts" must have been exceptional indeed. However, the romantic in me can visualize those two little girls of the last century bravely mounting the platform steps and mum and dad looking on with pride, maybe somewhat nervously as their children performed the dances of their heritage. . Not so very different from today except it is the male who is in the minority, in the Highland dance world. Luckily there are some wonderful male role models that the young dancers can look up to and in next months column I will bring you Deryck Mitchelson. Deryck comes from a Highland dancing dynasty (his brother Gareth was featured a few months ago in Dancer and can be found on this website). His family has accumulated many titles between them and all continue to give back to the world of Highland, and help this art form to progress; just as Glen and his family in their own way is doing the same. Highland needs the support of all the participants the dancers, the teachers, adjudicators, competition organizers, organizations, volunteers and especially mum and dad!

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.