Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Highland Highlights by Loraine Ritchey

USIR Celebrates Silver

Going for the Gold!Is usually the cry but the Federation of United States Teachers and Adjudicators of Highland Dancing (SOBHD) will be celebrating the silver this year.The first United States Inter Regional Championship was held in Alexandria Virginia in 1980, this years USIR to be held July 9th in Skagit, Washington State will mark the Silver Anniversary.

Liz Weaver, (SOBHD) teacher and adjudicator fondly remembers that first USIR, although injured and unable to dance.“The competition itself has changed very little, the dancers eligible to compete come from all over the United States.However, there are many more activities surrounding the competitions which give the dancers of every age group a chance to meet and get to know one another”

Ann Johnson, the President of FUSTA agrees “ there has been a definite growth in the networking and friendships coming from the USIR and the willingness to exchange ideas, going backstage the camaraderie between the dancers has the nicest of feelings. Dancers who have been made friendships when they danced at 11 that have continued through their university years gathering in almost a family reunion atmosphere.This years USIR will reflect a silver anniversary theme in the events and banquet”

The changes from that first competition are few where there were 4 age groups there are now 5 and instead of 3 judges it has grown to 6 and the Champion of the age group gets an automatic “bye” to the following years USIR.(Note to enter the USIR a regional championship is held each year in each of the 6 regions of the United States and the top three placements are eligible to attend the USIR.)

Ann tells Dancer “ By a happy coincidence this year, our Silver Anniversary, is the first year the FUSTA will be selecting the judges and also paying for the judges.This year the six judges on the panel will be three from Scotland and three from Canada.”Every member of FUSTA was given the opportunity to participate in the selection process.Ann continued “ We are also taking on the responsibility of marshalling, scrutineering and providing the trophies and medals.

The challenges, which face the host region, are many; the two primary ones are securing enough financial support and having a large enough volunteer pool to meet the needs of the event this year we have been able to take on more of the responsibility.FUSTA has evolved in that sense as we now have funding, we also have numerous activities for both the “professionals” and the dancers and the parents open house.”
FUSTA is a non-profit 501C3 organization.

Since 1995 inclusive of 2004 60% of the competitions have been held in conjunction with a Highland Games and this year the competition will be held in conjunction with the 11th annual Skagit Valley Highland Games.“When the USIR competition is part of a Highland Games, the physical needs of the competition are arranged and paid for by the host games.In most cases, host highland games, guided by the host region and FUSTA Liaison have gone above and beyond to insure the comfort and safety of the dancers.The number of dancers is far less at the USIR.When the USIR is held in conjunction with a highland games near the US-Canadian border, we are more apt to see an increase in dancers who come along to compete in the other competitions offered.Even in years when FUSTA hosts the North American Championship, attendance by dancers who did not qualify to compete in the USIR is light.

Unlike Canada, the USIR is not one of a series of championships or competitions held over a four-day period of time but the featured event.The US does not have the number of dancers or volunteers to support the kind of undertaking SDC (ScotDance Canada) does so very well. FUSTA does provide the host region with guide lines for running the USIR competition, however, FUSTA has assumed a greater presence at the USIR and in addition to providing all of the awards, it now provides all the necessary paperwork required to run the championship as well as the scrutineers, the computer and printers to run the scrutineering program, platform stewards (those volunteers who line up the dancers) the announcer, volunteers to organize the Parade of Regions, the presentation of awards, recognition of the teachers of the finalists, and the teachers of the five US champions.Since the host region is gracious enough to take on the USIR and the attendant meetings and social functions, FUSTA feels should assist as much as possible”
.FUSTA is looking forward to compiling a publication or history on the remembrances of Highland Dancing in the United States including the years before and after FUSTA.

For more information on this years USIR and the Skagit Highland Games http://www.celticarts.org .The Celtic Arts Foundation offers scholarships and awards to individuals wishing to advance their expertise in areas of Celtic culture. The application can also be found on their website. Whilst there does not state any specific restrictions on the application form which can be downloaded from the site. Skye Richendrfer, Executive Director of the Celtic Arts Foundation stated “ We focus mostly on Pacific NW Celtic artists in terms of our scholarships” and later added “Focus does not necessarily mean limited to the Pacific NW (depends on need/application, etc.). The Celtic Arts Foundation can be reached 360-416-4934 .FUSTA may be contacted through http://personal.cmich.edu/weavelwt/fusta/ Should you wish to contribute to the book of memories please contact the FUSTA though their website or through this column highland@danceronline.com.

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

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