Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Nikki Ritchey

Dancer July 1997

This article was extremely personal, as my daughter had decided to no longer compete. So much of her formative years we had spent involved in the Art of Highland Dance. Selfishly, perhaps, I used my column to say farewell to that aspect of my life and hers. Nikki continues to teach Highland, but very rarely performs.

Once upon a time there was a little girl with light blonde hair and big blue eyes, who was dearly loved by her mother and father. One day the little girl was asked if she would like to ride on top of the Loch Ness Monster in a parade (the day of the parade the temperature hit 102, a drummer plopped his Glengarry on the little girls head as she rode 10 foot in the air on top of Nessie. (What was that mother (me) thinking?) The resulting photo did win a National award for the photographer Tom Whittington). Would she also like to learn a dance called the Fling? Everyone thought this sounded like great fun. So began the little girl's journey of the dance.

The following years found the little girl spending many hours learning the Fling (as well as other Scottish dances) and all that practicing. Nana wondered "Will she ever learn how to do that dance (the Fling) don't they learn anything else?" The family traveled many miles to Highland games and competitions. The child met lots of people, making some very nice friends on the way. Teachers touched her life in special ways and imparted a love of the culture as well as love of the dance.

As the little girl grew, along came the awkwardness of dealing with growing limbs, braces and all the problems that adolescents face. Her body changed and matured and so did her dancing. Eventually the cuddly little girl became a young girl. She became more assured and sophisticated and so sis the interpretation of the dance. Finally, after a lot of hard work the young girl reached the status of "Premier" (SOBHD). This meant that she would be able to compete in Championships with some of the best dancers North America had to offer.

Weekends were spent traveling to lessons in Canada and Michigan, (256 miles one way). Competitions all over the USA and Canada. The long drives meant that she; her mother and grandmother (Nana) spent a great deal of time in the car watching the miles tick by. Nana would help pass the time and miles with stories of days gone by. Such as the time her great-grandmother packed her "red" petticoats and ran away from home to "dance on the London stage" only to be firmly escorted back by an irate father who felt dancing, let alone on the stage, was definitely NOT what a "lady" did.

The little girl is now a young woman whose life has been touched in so many ways by some truly great people. They have helped her grow into the complicated, wonderful young woman she has become. Today her mother is feeling both proud and a little sad. You see, the young woman is my daughter and she recently made the decision to no longer compete in the highland arena. Her students will now carry the banner, put in the hours of practice (hopefully), share the drives, meet new friends and collect memories.

As for me, I have a special memory of a day last summer, a village green, the North Coast Pipe Band standing at attention, a hillside covered with people, whilst a lone piper played for a young woman with hair the color of sunshine who danced a "Blue Bonnets" with grace and beauty as the light of the sunset splashed a carpet of color 'neath her feet. This is the memory that I will carry with me and replay again and again on the videotape of my mind.

My "little girl" will be making other decisions, career choices, giving her heart to a special young man. I know that all she has learned and the people that have touched her life in those Highland years will help her make those choices.

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

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