Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Mothers and Others Part Three.

Q. "What is the most frustrating part of Highland Dancing?"

A. Depending upon whether you were a mum, teacher, or judge the answers were very different. Mothers: The majority of mothers felt that "costuming, what are the judges looking for and getting accurate information?" were the most frequent comments.

Mom A. Midwest USA: " The lack of having one big easy to understand instruction book from the beginning that would have saved all the stumble-learning, especially regarding the clothing. Even when you find instruction you have more questions, so for example:--you find pattern; make a white dress to find out it's not allowed anymore...--make a national to find out 'what do you mean a yard wide on aboyne...'--look in catalog to see lace sleeved blouses that aren't allowed anymore...--and that the pattern you buy is your only choice and then by the time you figure it out past almost one size fits all; sew it up; it doesn't fit right...I could go on for an hour on this, but it's parental frustration that we all somehow work through!"

MOM B. South East USA. "The most frustrating aspect for me is the competition. I am tired of being told, "the Canadians are coming, they are so good, their standard is so much better" Why? I understand that a lot of Scots emigrated to Canada and in years previously the teaching may have been better in Canada, but now aren't we (US.CAN.SOBHD) all supposed to be on the same page within the SOBHD, BATD etc. Don't teachers all have to pass the same exam? Shouldn't the teaching level have evened out by now? Does that also mean that the standard of Judging would be better from a Canadian judge? Do Canadians practice more? Have access to more competitions? I am not saying that the Canadian standard of dancing isn't higher than what I see in the US I would just like to know why?

Teachers: Here to the answers were very much on the same tack:

Mary Beth Miller-Klein (World Champion SOBHD) "Seeing someone "not" improve due to lack of trying or practicing"

Jane Knox Teacher/Judge SOHDA Scotland " Me, feeling like a babysitter for parents who have no interest in the children's Highland dance."

Bill and Liz Weaver/Teacher/Judge SOBHD USA, Bill… " Lack of commitment on the part of the dancer, Parents who make excuses for their children. Judges who don't stay current. Some judging. And "us vs them" attitude with Scotland and the rest of the world. Liz…for some students it is not a top priority. Parents that do not support teacher. Lack of communication in all aspects of highland dance.

Young Teacher A Canada: lack of professionalism. Other teachers, recruiting, making comments about other studios dancers. Lack of sharing. I believe this is about dance. We are a small minority in the performance/competition world. I don't think Highland can grow as an art form or sport dance, whatever people choose to call it until we who are involved come together and put highland before the egos and competition. If we can't support each other then how can we expect support from outside of highland? I am not saying everyone is like this but there are too many for it not to be a problem in my opinion."

MOM A, Midwest……… "Shockingly a teacher, recently said to my daughter "you're a better dancer than ------ now..."Knowing these girls are close and practice together, you'd think she would have said something like "you're just getting better and better, you and --- are just wonderful dancers." It's such a small, thoughtless, but yet declarative and cutting statement Isn't it?" You're a better dancer than -- now..." aach! I just can't believe that after watching two dance mate girls standing side by side in the winnings, giggling and making a lifetime's happy memory, that some other teacher would be so childishly socially challenged, wanton and treacherous as to sideline one of the girls later and make such a comment. Had this come from another parent, it would have perhaps been a flippant thoughtless remark, but out of a teacher it is just not excusable. For the wins of the day, the girls were happy for each other, only this teacher was concerning herself with her judgment idea of which dancer was "better than" another, and just couldn't keep her little thought to herself. There is a difference in healthy competition and unhealthy competition, and is not a fine line. We should be happy for each other's wins and encouraging/compassionate to each other's losses. We're all in this together (and though the unsportsmanlike people consider the wins as a nyah-nyah declaration of "better than"), the wins are truly the bonuses, the award for a job well done."

Mary Beth Miller -Klein…" As a teacher I think there is (a lack of openness) as far as getting information. Depends upon the area (country/world). Some teachers are afraid to share with others. Stupid! Look at the newsgroup (highland dance list on e-groups) some teachers/organizers were upset that workshop information was being discussed and shared with others who didn't pay for the workshop. You can be sure these same people complaining were printing out and taking notes that others gave concerning workshops they didn't attend. Let's stop being so petty and SHARE information with one another. We are all in it to progress and learn aren't we?

Here to the answers were pretty much across the boards.

Mothers: The great majority felt the worthwhile aspect of workshop was meeting other dancers, " Everyone is so wonderfully enthusiastic at the workshops and it carries over into the children's attitudes". " Another teacher reinforcing to a child what areas to work on, they are hearing it from more than one person." " Hearing the compliments of their strong areas of dancing from another teacher is good for their self-confidence". Sharing information, having someone express things a little differently watching dancers in older groups, helps the dancer visually connect (especially if you are from a small school).

Most teachers and judges recommendations for workshops followed the same line: The majority of teacher/judge recommendations '. First look at teachers teaching, class limit, class times and schedules. It seems if the particular teacher felt it depended what the dancer would gain by going to a "workshop" some of the "camps" (week long) it was felt that dancers gained friendship etc. on the downside "a week long workshop is too much for the 'average dancer'. They don't work hard enough on their "own" to withstand this much dancing. Injuries can result. Most teachers would love to be able to have the luxury of "spending that amount of time working with the dancer myself"

New teachers: This group would usually recommend workshops with their mentors, the people who taught them. "I would have more confidence in bringing in a teacher I had "grown with" Also, as a new teacher and being an ex-student workshop would benefit me and the instructor would be more willing to tell me where "my weaknesses are" whereas someone else may not be so forthcoming, incase of hurt feeling etc."

I had hoped to finish up Mothers and Others this month but what with computer collywobbles and the amount of responses this too will be continued!

You may see previous Highland Highlights articles from "DANCER" at the following sites:
Highland Highlights or linked through
Highland X Press
This site also has links to DANCER and many other sites.
The e-groups list mentioned above
and Highland Gathering

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

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