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Your ears can be busy too!

What might your ears be doing while your feet are busy dancing … or when you’re sitting out a dance?

Wellington contingent at the ceilidh: Natalie, Gaylia, Pat, Elaine, James, Lynne, Michele and Lee

I was lucky enough to attend the recent Queen’s Birthday Weekend Scottish Country Dancing school at Katikati, where we heard a talk by our local musician Lynne Scott, who has often played for Johnsonville dances.

Lynne was accompanied by Auckland keyboard player Sharlene Penman, and her talk covered such topics as ‘lead’ tunes, styles and structure.

I was made aware of the many hours of preparation which go into choosing the best tunes for a dance. Lynne and other musicians try to match the phrasing of a tune to the formations of each dance, making it easier for us to remember ‘what comes next’.

The ceilidh band

We had a ceilidh evening at the school, and Lynne and Sharlene’s item showed just how versatile they are. They played Puttin’ on the Ritz; the rhythmic patterns of this 1920s Irving Berlin number are said to be incredibly complex.

‘Nibbles’ at the ceilidh!

The name Katikati refers to ‘nibbles’ and many ceilidh costumes reflected this theme. Lynne’s husband James became a red hot pepper.

Scottish Country Dancing weekend schools are well worthwhile; I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Katikati.

Besides classes, a Saturday night ball and the ceilidh, there was time for a dip in the warm thermal waters of Sapphire Springs. I wish we had them in Wellington!

From Pat Reesby

Daytime Dancing: Experienced Dancers

John Homes: Afternoon dancing
Daytime dancing: Tuesday 11 June

John Homes: Afternoon dancing

From late in 2018, we heard that Gaylia Powell, from Ngaio Club, was organising some sessions of dancing during the afternoons, for those who would be able to so attend.

The sessions would be for experienced dancers, taught in the first instance by Catherine McCutcheon, on two Tuesday afternoons a month, at St John’s Church Hall, Johnsonville.

I was able to attend three of the four sessions last year. The first session was straightforward enough, with dances well within the capabilities of most dancers with a couple of years’ experience. But this was just Catherine’s evil plan to lull us all into a false sense of security.

From the second session, the gloves were off. Some of these dances were hard. They were good, enjoyable dances once you could get them down and going, but it was a tough time getting there.

Catherine told us that she would not be looking at what our feet were doing, presumably as long as they got us to where we were supposed to be. This was just as well, because often we were using all our brain power to work out where we needed to go, leaving none to consider the manner of our going.

There have been two sessions so far this year. Catherine has not attempted to break us in gently, but has thrown us into some really difficult dances from the beginning. When I say that the dances have been hard, this is in the sense of ‘Ensure-Brain-Is-In-Gear-Before-Engaging-Feet’.

They have not been more physically demanding than a lot of the dances popular at Saturday night events, and none of them have been prolonged memory tests.

With all these mentally demanding dances, one might expect a fair number of mistakes. Mistakes were made, some of them by me. However, a good sense of humour on everybody’s part has meant that the mistakes could be laughed about, and then onwards, to the next mistake.

If you are wondering whether these sessions might be for you, what would you need? You will need a fair amount of dancing experience. For most people, about four years minimum would be needed, and that is, of course, four years of dancing regularly, not just time since you started. It would pay to check with Catherine and your club tutor.

Although the dances are not (usually) very physically demanding, you will need a certain level of physical fitness to get through them. While footwork is not an issue as long as you can get to where you need to be, you will be expected to show a good understanding of phrasing and covering, and to dance fast or slow as the dance requires.

Last but not least, you will need a sense of humour. Mistakes will be made, some of them by you, and you will need to able to laugh at them.

From John Homes (dancing Foxhill Court in the photo above on 11 June). Originally published in Harbour City Happenings Volume 22 No. 1 March 2019

Daytime Dancing: Tuesday 11 June

Dancing Bon Accord

Seven Johnsonville Club members – John H, Désirée, Pat, Maureen, Moira B, Hilary and Loralee (photographer) – took part in the daytime session for experienced dancers on 11 June at St John’s Church Hall in Johnsonville.

Led by Maureen Robson, we danced four interesting John Drewry dances with lots of fun and laughter (along with a few mistakes as mentioned in John’s article above)!

  • Bon Accord
  • The Clootie Well
  • Foxhill Court
  • Dunblane Drummer (alternative name is Alex Doig’s Jig)

Click here for more photos of the afternoon

Find out more about the daytime dancing sessions for experienced dancers

Farewell to Don and Judy Keats

A good turnout of club members farewelled Don and Judy Keats on Monday 20 May.

Maureen gave a brief speech and a bounteous supper with two cakes and fruit was on offer along with lots of smiles and fond farewells.

Judy and Don are moving to their retirement home on the Kapiti Coast, and will take up membership of Waikanae Scottish Country Dance Club.

They’ve been members and very regular attendees at Johnsonville since 2014, helping behind the scenes whenever asked at both club and other events as well as volunteering to distribute posters for our beginners’ classes.

Thank you both for your help and your friendship on the dance floor. We will miss you. Please come back and visit when you can.

Good luck and happy dancing in your next phase of life.

Thanks to John Patterson for the lovely photo.

“Thank you all for making our 5 years of Scottish Country dancing so much fun. We’ve really enjoyed being part of the club and all its activities. We’ll be dancing at the Waikanae club from now on, but we’re sure our paths will cross in the future; maybe in a cross-over reel! Thank you.” Don and Judy Keats

Maureen Robson: NZ Branch Award

Ngaio is always the first club in the Wellington Region to hold their annual Saturday night dance, with a good crowd at Ngaio Town Hall making for a great night on 4 May.

More than ten Johnsonville Club members were on the floor, enjoying their night’s dancing to music by Aileen Logie, Don McKay and Johnsonville Club member Hilary Ferral. Among them was new dancer Sandy Zang, as well as quite a few of our experienced dancers.

Maureen was the Advanced Class tutor at the 1989-1990 Summer School in Hamilton including Johnsonville dancers John Homes (top row, right), the late Jim Crawford (middle, second from right) and Loralee Hyde (bottom, right).

A very special feature of the night was a presentation of a RSCDS Branch Award by New Zealand Branch President Elaine Laidlaw to long-serving Tawa tutor Maureen Robson – for outstanding service to Scottish Country Dancing. Many congratulations Maureen.

Tawa Club secretary Désirée Patterson (also a Johnsonville Club member), reported full details of the award.

Maureen’s contribution to Scottish Country Dancing has been considerable, including:

  • Tawa tutor for 35 years, being one of the Region’s longest serving teachers
  • Serving on the Wellington Region Committee for a number of years
  • Organising Region Weekend Schools
  • Teaching Teacher Training classes on behalf of the New Zealand Branch, and mentoring numerous candidates studying for their teaching certificates
  • Always willing to provide advice, support and encouragement to others, especially newer teachers
  • Teaching at a number of New Zealand Branch Summer Schools, numerous Region classes and Weekend Schools throughout New Zealand
  • Devising many dances, some of which have been published in RSCDS Books
  • Maintaining the New Zealand Branch Memorial Book.

Maureen was acknowledged for her contribution at the Johnsonville 50 Golden Years Celebration in 2016

Maureen and husband Alan were Johnsonville Club members in years gone by, also tutoring and serving on the committee, so we too have benefited from their service to Scottish Country Dancing.

Thank you Maureen.

Dance Around the World!

Saturday 11 May 6pm-10pm

St John’s Anglican Church Hall, 18 Bassett Road, Johnsonville (church near the club)

A fun-filled social evening for Johnsonville Club Members & Family.

Dance Around the World – IS NOW FULLY BOOKED

Email Allison to add your name to the waiting list for a possible cancellation.

Evening Details

  • Dance Around the World is this year’s pre-winter social gathering – we will celebrate Johnsonville Club’s diverse membership and the world-wide community of Scottish Country Dancers
  • Wear international dress – come as who you are or who you’d like to be on the night
  • Expect easy, fun dances with an international theme, from dance devisors around the world
  • Socialise with pre-dinner nibbles and a cup of mulled wine or fruit punch, then enjoy a hearty buffet meal followed by delectable desserts – all dietary restrictions will be catered for.

Mathematics, Computer Science and Scottish Country Dancing

Rod and Kristin with the Rutherford Medal

During an interview with Radio New Zealand following his award of the Rutherford Medal by the the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2018, Johnsonville Club tutor Rod Downey was asked why, as a mathematician, he was interested in Scottish Country Dancing and why he thinks this form of dancing appeals to people in maths and sciences.

Rod has written a piece as a discussion on these points that simply reflects his experiences and views as a dancer, a teacher, and a deviser. These experiences are all intertwined.

Read his article by clicking Mathematics, Computer Science and SCD Rod Downey April 2019

Rod’s article covers his thoughts on:

  • The SCD experience
  • Music and SCD
  • So what has this got to do with maths?
  • Devising
  • Social dancing
  • The core
  • Novelty
  • There are many ways to like SCD
  • His own dances
  • Teaching dances
  • His novel dances

Rod appreciating the fine efforts of both musicians and dancers at the Johnsonville April 2019 Tartan Night

Find out more details of Rod’s dances and instructions

April Tartan Night: Fun for all!

Our newer dancers – their smiles show the fun we had!

What a great evening we had at our first Tartan Night of the season on 8 April!

With eight sets on the floor, the hall was buzzing with lots of smiles and laughter along with enthusiastic applause for the fine music from Lynne Scott, Mary McDonald and Heather Elder.

It’s hard to pick the highlights. The Club’s tartan bunting once again magically transformed the hall with colour.

Rod’s excellent programme catered for both experienced and new dancers, and the music, good company and delicious supper all combined to make for a night of bonhomie.

Our very welcome guests from Capital City, Lower Hutt, Ngaio and Tawa Clubs added to the convivial atmosphere.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to making it such a good night, whether it was helping with hall setup or pack up, supper duties, wearing the tartan, supporting new dancers or being one of the many who volunteered to wash the tablecloths.

And of course, supper offerings were as good as always. Congratulations to young Emma for her successful first cake baking – whisky cake will always go down well at a Scottish do!

Lynne, Mary and Heather play their top-tapping music while Rod appreciates the fine efforts of our dancers!

Our first Tartan Night of the year is always very special, as our new dancers enjoy their first experience of Scottish Country Dancing to live music.

Our tutor Rod Downey says it was great to see so many of our new dancers (who have been dancing for only two months) doing so well at the Tartan Night.

He was particularly complimentary about them getting through Argyll’s Fancy (a 48bar Jig) – with the most welcome help from the more experienced dancers!

See more of Loralee’s photos of the night

Download the Johnsonville April Tartan Night 2019 Programme

St Patrick’s Day 2019 Celebrations

Our newer dancers

Johnsonville dancers were treated to a night of Irish-themed dances and grand tunes on Monday 18 March – only a day late for St Patrick’s Day.

New and not-so-new dancers took up the challenge to ‘wear green for St Patrick’s Day’ and filled the hall with many shades of green and a lot of enthusiasm.

Supper continued the theme with green-coated chocolate, and corn chips and guacamole on offer, thanks to supper co-ordinator Elizabeth Ngan.

Tutor Rod Downey searched out a programme of interesting and fun dances with Irish names or Irish connections, and paired them with thumping good Irish music.

The Goat Fell Gallop got us all laughing as we galloped, then it was on to Rory O’More (thank you Edith for that suggestion), Lady Glasgow, The Wild Geese, City of Belfast, St Patrick’s Day (of course), The Orchards of County Armagh and The Irish Rover to finish.

Wearing green for St Patrick’s Day!

We also danced the ‘world premiere’ of Rod’s newest dance The Coleraine Rant.

It was written for the occasion, as a beginner-friendly dance featuring poussette, and it got the thumbs up. The title gives a nod to Coleraine in Ireland, and New Zealand’s famous Te Mata Coleraine wine. See the dance instructions here

This year more than 20 new dancers have become members of Johnsonville Club. This was a great opportunity to share another aspect of Scottish Country Dancing with them, through the fun atmosphere of a theme night.

For our longer-standing dancers there was the excitement of some novel dances and new and different music. Visitors from Capital City Club added to the occasion, together with a foreign exchange student who bravely took the floor for her first go at Scottish Country Dancing

The bonus for everyone was the experience of trying out a newly devised dance hot off the press. Thank you Rod for delivering a programme which had something for everyone.

See more of Loralee Hyde’s photos of our beginners and St Patrick’s night celebrations 

From Kristin Downey. Originally published in Harbour City Happenings Volume 22 No. 1 March 2019 and Kiwi News Volume 24 No 1 April 2019


One For All

Dancing One For All at Johnsonville Club 1 April 2019

Devised by Rod Downey on 21 September 2018 as a simple teaching dance for corners pass
and turn.

Suitable for use after teaching the figure in Strathspey time using Miss Leslie Cunningham.

Note that there are no figures aside from completely straightforward ones.

The name suggests this is one all can do and also for Muriel Johnstone’s tune of the same name, played ABAB.

An excellent recording to use is ‘Clydeside Lassies’ as recorded by
Luke Brady in Part 5 of Dances from the Miscellany, where Muriel’s
tune appears as the second tune.

Download the instructions for One for All