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Dancing in Heidelberg

Our tutor Rod Downey has visited Heidelberg many times over the years to work with colleagues at Heidelberg University, and has always been welcomed by the Heidelberg SchlossDancers – named after Heidelberg’s famous schloss (castle).

As in the United States, local dancers regularly travel quite long distances to dance at multiple neighbouring clubs (like Frankfurt and Darmstadt), and to attend special events like balls, weekend schools and highland games.

In 2017 and 2018 we were both in Heidelberg for extended visits relating to Rod’s Humboldt fellowship. Local dancers went out of their way to offer us rides to dancing in Heidelberg and Frankfurt and took Rod along to a ball in Karlsruhe.

Rod in the eurythmy hall at the Waldorf School

Dancing with the Heidelberg group gave us the opportunity to dance in the eurythmy hall of the Waldorf School, set amongst trees, with beautiful wood floors, and racks of colourful eurythmy capes used by the students for their movement classes. It had a really beautiful feel.

We quickly got into the local culture of trips to the ice cream parlour every week after dancing, and the local specialty of ‘spaghetti’ ice cream.

It may have taken a little longer to get used to our fellow dancers changing out of their day clothes and into their dancing clothes pretty much where they stood (and where you were standing too, without any expectations that someone was about to drop trews).

As well as the dancing, we loved cycling along the Neckar. We have strong memories of the smell of fresh strawberries growing in the fields we cycled through, and cows looking out from an ancient barn next to a favourite Biergarten stop.

Just makes you want to dance really.

Kristin Downey, 9 October 2019

The Second Canberra Book of Scottish Country Dances

Canberra Club ran a competition in 2018 inviting people to submit dances they had devised.

The club has now published a book of dances selected from that competition.

Rod Downey, our tutor, made the short list of eight with his dance Summer on the Neckar, inspired by his time dancing in Heidelberg, located on the beautiful Neckar River.

See more about Rod’s dance Summer on the Neckar and download the instructions

Canberra Club has made the book of dances freely available to download.

Download The Second Canberra Book of Scottish Country Dances to see more about Rod’s dance, as well as dances by other Wellington devisers Maureen Robson, Peter Beaumont and Chris Totton.

The book is also worth a look for the charming colour illustrations chosen to accompany each dance.

Rod and Kristin: Dancing in the USA

Kristin and Rod with the Dunsmuir Scottish Dancers in the San Francisco Bay area

On their visit to the United States in September, Rod and Kristin Downey, our tutor and President, enjoyed meeting up with Scottish Country Dancing groups in the areas where they were based.

Kristin shares their dancing and teaching experiences below.

Madison, Wisconsin

In early September, Rod taught some of his dances to the Madison Scottish Country Dancers – RSCDS John Muir Branch, where he has danced a number of times on past visits to the University of Madison Wisconsin.

Dancers from all over the world were represented in Rod’s dances. Included in his programme on one of the night’s he taught were Wellington dancer Moggie G, ex-Wellington now New York dancer XiaoWen, Yu-san, Our Lady in Pink from Tokyo, and keen Heidelberg/Frankfurt/Darmstadt dancers Gillian and Joe Wheadon.

Find out more about dancing at Madison and in the USA here – with lots of interesting information under ‘links’.


Rod also taught the Milwaukee Scottish Country Dancers and enjoyed the company of old friend and Milwaukee tutor John McCormick, who kindly drove him from Milwaukee to Chicago. John is used to doing lots of driving for dancing, regularly travelling up to two hours to dance in Madison.

John is at the front right of this photo at the Milwaukee group’s open house for new dancers on 30 September, at the time they, like other northern hemisphere groups start their dancing year.

Rod’s newest dance John McCormick was devised as a gift to John, based on John’s favourite formation (the tourbillon) and his favourite dance type (the strathspey).

Some of us tried it out at Johnsonville Club and helped Rod come up with a final version. Download the instructions to the dance John McCormick

See more about dancing in the US midwest here – with lots of interesting links to groups, upcoming events, resources and even a shop selling T-shirts (and underwear!) with the Milwaukee logo. Or at their Facebook page

San Jose

The San Francisco Bay area has many keen Scottish Country dancers, with lots of options of classes (as they are known there, rather than clubs).

The dancing year had only just begun, as people returned from summer activities. I went along to the San Jose class on Monday 16 September for their first class of the year.

Our older son Carlton is now working in Mountain View not too far from San Jose, so he provided the transport and found Scottish Country Dancing came flooding back to him despite many years as a ballroom dancer.

As with Johnsonville at the beginning of the year, the night was structured with easy dances for beginners for the first part of the evening, and dances for the more experienced later on.

What a nice surprise to find the first dance of the night was The Mad Hatter – devised by fellow Wellingtonian Iain Boyd. The dance was not chosen because teacher Laura Cooper knew we were coming, rather because Iain’s dances are very popular in the Bay area.

The second dance was John McAlpine, once very popular in Wellington and still occasionally appearing on dance programmes.

Familiar dances and very welcoming and friendly dancers made us feel very much at home. And it was nice to see a group with such a good number of men. In fact, for the last dance there were seven men out of the 10 dancers on the floor for a five-couple dance to finish!

See more about the San Jose group here


Rod arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday 18 September, moving from the University of Madison, Wisconsin to the University of California Berkeley.

He arrived just in time to teach the Dunsmuir Scottish Dancers on Tuesday night, together with dancers from other groups in the Bay area.

Dunsmuir has quite a different focus from groups in New Zealand. They are a “performance group dedicated to keeping alive the spirit and form of Scottish dances old and new” from the 18th century to present day. That includes Scottish Country, Highland, and Step Dancing.

Their teacher is Ron Wallace, who Rod has met up with over the years at TAC Summer Schools.  Ron travels an hour each way to teach the class. Dancers are used to commuting much further here than we do in Wellington.

Their normal class nights are all about perfecting technique and learning dances for upcoming performances. This was a change for them, instead spending the night dancing a selection of Rod’s dances.

Rod teaching a Highland Schottische Poussette movement in his dance Le Moyne and Roger Farrell of Ithaca

It was a fun night, and interesting dancing on a plywood floor laid on top of the hall floor.

It did away with the problem of a chronically slippery floor and also provided more cushioning. You just had to be careful not to stray off the plywood, as you can see in the photo.

Julee, one of the dancers, was at the most recent Masterton Summer School and I am told that Tim Wilson, also one of the Dunsmuir dancers, will be in New Zealand next year to teach at Christchurch Summer School.

There’s always a Kiwi connection wherever you go.

Find out more about the Dunsmuir Scottish Dancers

From Kristin Downey


Standing in the shoes of new dancers

Elena and Tomoko dance Barbara’s Strathspey at the Johnsonville Annual Dance 2019

We were all new dancers once, but it’s easy to forget what it was like actually being a new dancer.

The further on we progress in our dancing, and the longer we are part of the dancing community, the more difficult it is to imagine ourselves in the shoes of a new dancer.

It’s hard to remember that as a beginning dancer, all you see is club night, and you have no idea what else is out there waiting for you.

You don’t know about tartan nights or annual dances, or region classes. You may not realise there is more dancing to be had at other clubs nearby, let alone farther afield in the region or throughout New Zealand and the world.

Extending new dancers’ awareness

To try to extend our new dancers’ awareness, we first focused on promoting the opportunities that exist at region level.

Subsequently quite a few of Johnsonville’s newer dancers attended the Wellington Region’s Basics and Beyond Basics classes, as well as Maureen Robson’s Reels class.

They not only gained skills and knowledge, they became familiar with other tutors and met dancers from other clubs.

Next we included items in our newsletter sharing members’ experiences dancing at different clubs, at weekend schools, at Summer School and at Saturday night dances.

Pat at the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Weekend Scottish Country Dancing school in Katikati

Building on that, we then focused on encouraging our newer dancers to attend our annual dance.

In 2018, only two of our new dancers came along, despite our best efforts at supporting them from beginners’ classes onwards.

It was clear we needed to see what we could do to turn that around.

Promoting our Annual Dance

We decided to try a few different ways of promoting the event, while also informing and encouraging our new dancers.

We announced at club that this was the premiere event of the club year and emphasised that it was for all members of the club – not just experienced dancers.

We followed this up with a series of e-news mail-outs focusing solely on the annual dance.

It contained a combination of practical information (like what to wear, where to park, etiquette), encouragement from our tutor Rod, and a clear message of the fun to be had on the night.

Committee members personally approached new dancers at club to encourage them to attend, and we talked at club about experienced dancers buddying up with newer dancers to make sure they had partners.

Finally, to relieve any concern about “not knowing the dances”, Rod and Jeanette, as joint MCs, decided to walk all dances.

A really good turnout

In the end, a lot of different things contributed to a really good turnout of Johnsonville’s newer dancers.

On the night, fourteen of our dancers with less than two years’ dancing experience took to the floor and were part of a really happy fun night.

For the majority of them, it was their first time at a Saturday night dance, and they had a ball.

Thanks to all those experienced dancers from Johnsonville and also other clubs who supported our new dancers on the night.

See lots more photos of our Annual Dance here

Why attend Region Classes? Three new dancers share their thoughts

This year the Wellington Region offered classes at many levels, including a Basics Class for newer dancers. And in July Maureen Robson taught an afternoon Reels Class.

Amongst the many Johnsonville dancers who attended classes, three have shared their thoughts. Find out what Andrea Boult, Andrea Buxton and Elizabeth Judge have to say about their class experiences.

Basics Class

From Andrea Boult

“In between the concentrating and the laughs, we all had a wonderful time learning…”

Andrea dancing Collie Law with fellow Johnsonville Club member Andrew Macbeth at the Johnsonville Annual Dance 2019

Between May – July the Wellington Region ran a Basics Class for beginners consisting of six fortnightly sessions.

Melva Waite was our ever so patient and enthusiastic teacher. Catherine McCutcheon and Robert and Brenda Vale very kindly helped on the nights too.

Each night we focused on three or four formations/steps which we repeated over and over. For a newbie like me this reinforced what I had been learning at my Johnsonville Club.

Melva encouraged us to be constantly thinking ahead as to what position we were in and what was the next move in each dance. This was the hardest part as we could not rely on our more experienced partners like we do on our club nights.

In between the concentrating and the laughs, we all had a wonderful time learning and appreciated all the efforts that Melva had put into these classes.She surprised us at the last class with live music! What a treat to finish on.

Like all Scottish Country Dancing gatherings, we made some new friends and are looking forward to seeing them in the future on the dance floor.

From Elizabeth Judge

“Besides the dancing I really enjoyed connecting with other dancers from around Wellington”

Elizabeth (in the centre) enjoying dancing Good Hearted Glasgow

At our first lesson Melva gave us an overview of Scottish Country Dancing in New Zealand. Throughout the lessons Melva who is passionate about Scottish Country Dancing, imparted to us the importance of etiquette, precision and enthusiasm when dancing.

When teaching us a dance with new formations, we would go over and over it until absolutely everyone had mastered it without a mistake, something we appreciate can only happen in a smaller group with people all at the same level.

My time at the Basics Class has helped me understand the steps and formations better when I come to do them at our club nights. Our last week saw a couple come along to play live music and Melva treated us to a little gift for trying so hard.

Besides the dancing I really enjoyed connecting with other dancers from around Wellington. We met up again at the Reels Class held in Tawa and no doubt will see each other at the New Dancers’ Celebration later in the year. Also these classes have shown me that there is a great network of Scottish Country dancers in Wellington.

I would thoroughly recommend attending these classes if you are just starting out on the journey of Scottish Country Dancing.

Reels Class

From Andrea Buxton

“… we had so much fun doing reels, reels and more reels”

Andrea at the rear dancing Collie Law with Moira, John and Helen from Johnsonville Club

There was a Reels Class held recently in Tawa. I went along as there was no question I needed help!

Once there, I sat in the carpark wondering how on earth we could be spending two and a half hours doing the same thing and wouldn’t that be a long afternoon …

I couldn’t believe the time went so fast and we had so much fun doing reels, reels and more reels.

Hats off to the tutor for her patience! Met some lovely people all the way from Waikanae. Had an absolute blast!

Having fun with the skills and knowledge gained

These three dancers were also part of a fourteen strong contingent of first and second year dancers at this year’s Johnsonville and Capital City Joint Annual Dance on 24 August. With skills, knowledge and the help of friends old and new, how could they not have a wonderful dancing experience?

Keep your eyes open next year and you could be enjoying classes on offer round the Region, having fun, learning more and making new friends.

From Kristin Downey, President Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club

Our Annual Dance: A happy and fun night!

Our shared annual dance on Saturday 24 August at Ngaio Town Hall was a really happy fun night. Members of both Capital City and Johnsonville Clubs can pat themselves on the back for organising such a successful event.

Click here to see the photos of the evening

An excellent turnout

Hisako dancing Barbara’s Strathspey with Elena and Ian with Prisilla

We had an excellent turnout of Johnsonville members (37 plus our two MCs, Jeanette and Rod), and fantastic support from dancers across the Wellington Region.

With 10 sets on the floor (as well as a few more people on the sidelines) the hall was buzzing with laughter, music and conversation.

It was a real treat to have past members attending – Hisako and Ian Ewing from Australia, and Judy and Don Keating from Waikanae.

Thank you for making the evening a success

Thanks to everyone who made the evening a success – MCs, musicians, volunteers and club dancers from Waikanae to the Hutt, as well as clubs closer to home.

Special thanks to the organising sub-committee – made up of John Jowett, Neil Bromley and Jeanette Watson from Capital City, with Allison Kay, Elizabeth Ngan, and Kristin and Rod Downey representing Johnsonville.  Loralee Hyde was comms person extraordinaire.

Setting up the hall

Everything went well. Aline Homes’ beautiful floral arrangements, Johnsonville’s tartan bunting, and Capital City’s stage banner set the scene.

We had plenty of volunteers for hall set-up and pack-up, masses of delicious food for supper, super fruit salad (as promised!), great music from Aileen, Don and Hilary, and a fun programme of dances for everyone.

Most importantly, we all looked after each other, and experienced dancers from all clubs made sure newer dancers were well supported. Congratulations to the 10 first year and three second year Johnsonville members who bravely came along to their first Saturday night dance, and never looked back once they hit the dance floor.

Making sure all our dancers had a good time

This year we tried to do everything we could to make our Annual Dance appealing to new dancers, and to ensure they had a good time when they came along.

Dancing Midsummer Common

Our Annual Dance e-news mail-outs aimed to give people all the information they needed in advance.

Rod and Jeanette elected to walk all dances for the first couple, allowing that couple to then dance from wherever they were comfortable.

Additionally we offered less confident dancers the option of adding a red dot sticker to their name tag, so more experienced dancers could buddy up with them on the dance floor.

A great response!

The response to all our preparation was a great turnout of new dancers, happy faces on the dance floor, and positive comments from both new and experienced dancers.

Andrew Macbeth’s photo shows a full hall, our colourful tartan bunting in service once more, and Capital City’s banner providing a great backdrop for the band.

Here’s a comment from one of our new dancers that says it all:

Such a fabulous night in so many ways. The hall looked magnificent, MCs Rod and Jeanette guided us through the programme with ease, supper – we were spoilt for choice, but the best part of all was seeing the smiles on each and everyone’s faces.

Please email Kristin if you have any comments, or suggestions of how we might further improve the organisation, information, promotion etc next year.

See lots more photos by Loralee of happy, smiling faces on the night.

Click here for more about our weeks of preparing for the dance

Download the Johnsonville Capital City Annual Dance Programme 2019

Johnsonville & Capital City Joint Annual Dance: 24 August

A series of information bulletins aimed at giving our members all the details they needed to enjoy our Annual Dance

Photos and Review
We’re ready to roll!
Learning the dances
Save the date!

Photos and Review

The first dance of the evening: Collie Law

28 August

Click here to see more photos of lots of smiling faces at our Annual Dance

See photos of members setting up the hall for our dance

Click here for a full review of our Annual Dance 2019 A happy and fun-filled night!

We’re ready to roll!

21 August

We’ve practised the dances, the band has rehearsed the music, volunteers are lined up to help from both Johnsonville and Capital City Clubs, and Jeanette and Rod are poised to guide us through a great night’s dancing.

Download the programme here

Click here for some helpful hints to make a great night even better

We’ve already danced half the programme!

8 August 

We’ve made a very successful start on learning the dances on the programme for our shared Annual Dance on Saturday night 24 August.

Find out more about the programme from Rod and how we will walk many of the dances

Our Premiere Event: Save the date!

14 July

Our annual Saturday night dance on 24 August is a very special occasion. It is our premiere dance event of the year, which we organise for our enjoyment, and that of other dancers throughout the region.

See more about our Annual Dance, the programme and how we will support our newer dancers

Dancing in Whangarei

Cath was a longtime member of Johnsonville Club from 1998-2012 – President in 2007, 2008 and Acting President for part of 2012. She is third from the left in the back row.

I was in Whangarei in early August, catching up with old friends and family members, and happened to be there on a Thursday, the day on which the Whangarei Scottish Country Dance Club meets in the Onerahi hall.

Two club members kindly picked me up from where I was staying and took me ‘home’ again afterwards.

Quite a few Johnsonville Club members will remember Cath MacAulay, who danced at Johnsonville before she moved to Whangarei. It was great to see her again. Cath dances at both the Whangarei and Kamo (also in Whangarei but meeting on a Tuesday) clubs, and says she recently moved house.

The Whangarei club’s tutor is Fiona Bullivant, who was my tutor at a summer school many years ago, so it was good to see her again too.

And a highlight of the evening was having live music. Twisty Willow (Barbara and Wes Bycroft) play for the club once a month, and I was lucky enough to be there on the right day.

Listen to Twisty Willow’s music here 

From Pat Reesby

A Tartan-Filled July Night

Tartan as far as the eye can see

What a great night we had on Monday 22 July at our second Tartan Night of the year.

Fifty dancers, a jolly (if hobbled) MC, and three talented musicians made for a really fun night.

The hall was buzzing with conversation and laughter, and the atmosphere was heightened (as always) by the Club’s colourful tartan bunting and the excellent supper.

Everyone loves a good supper! Thanks to club members for their delicious contributions, and the supper team for their dedication behind the scenes.

Monday was a very tartan-filled night. Thanks to everyone who came early to deck the hall with tartan rugs and tartan bunting, and those who bedecked themselves in kilts, tartan skirts and sashes, plaid shirts and more. It’s a joyful thing for the Scot in me to see a hall full of tartan. Well done all.

And well done to Loralee for making it back from Auckland post-fog, in time to capture that tartan filled atmosphere.  See more photos here – including a lively one of life member John Homes swirling his kilt!

Sharlene, Lynne and Heather with their ‘game faces’ on

For such a good night of dance and music, we must thank Rod for his programme, and Lynne, Sharlene and Heather for their stirring music. As Rod often mentions, the Wellington Region is blessed with Scottish Country Dance musicians, and more are continuing to emerge.

They make time in their lives not only to come along and play for us, but also to learn the repertoire for each event, bringing us so much dancing and listening pleasure.

We were so pleased to welcome over a set of visitors from clubs around Wellington, making a good night even better. Special thanks to Vicky from Nelson, who was in Wellington for the night, and past members Judy and Don Keats who made the trip from Waikanae.

Commiserations to those Johnsonville Club members who couldn’t join us, through illness or being off on their travels. Hopefully you will all be able to make it to our Annual Dance coming up on 24 August.

Click here for more of our Tartan Night photos

Download the Johnsonville Tartan Night July 2019 programme

Annual Dance 2019: We’re ready to roll!

21 August

We’ve practised the dances, the band has rehearsed the music, volunteers are lined up to help from both Johnsonville and Capital City Clubs, and Jeanette and Rod are poised to guide us through a great night’s dancing.

REMEMBER to bring 2 plates of finger food (at least one savoury) so we’ll have a spectacular supper to rejuvenate us half way through the night!!

Download the programme here



Here are some helpful hints to make a great night even better

Come early to welcome our guests
That will also give you time to take your plates of finger food to the kitchen, get your shoes on, chat to fellow club members, warm up, and find a partner for the first dance. Plus, you’ll find it easier to get a park!

Register at the door – and make sure to get your name tag for the night
Entry for Johnsonville Club members is FREE, but we need to know who attends for our financial records.

Club members will get a sticky name label at the door, with an optional sticker for new dancers. The sticker will help experienced dancers buddy up with newer dancers, especially for less straightforward dances.

Most dances will be walked – for the top couple in each set
If you’d like to walk the dance, ask if you can be top couple in your set. You can then choose to stay at the top when the dance starts, or go to the bottom of the set where you can learn more by watching.

Not everyone can be “top couple”, but you can still benefit from listening, and watching the top couple closely so you can visualise what you will do when you get to top place.

Crib sheets – these give you a brief summary of the dance instructions

Download the crib sheet for Saturday’s dance here

You can use it ahead of time to remind yourself how the dances go.

You can also go to  to search for instructions and videos of dances you’re not quite sure of.

Dance floor conventions – so everyone’s on the same page

To make the evening flow smoothly, we:

  • take our place in the set at the bottom of the lines that have already formed
  • make straight lines by lining up with the very top couple
  • rely on the couple at the very top of the line to count off the sets, making sure we know what number we are in the set
  • are quiet when MCs are briefing the dances, so everyone can hear the briefing
  • applaud musicians Aileen, Don and Hilary at the end of each dance –  they’ll be working hard for our dancing and listening pleasure
  • leave our crib sheets at home so we can socialise with our fellow dancers.

Acknowledging the band

How do you get there on the night?

Our dance is on at Ngaio Town Hall. Many of us will drive, and will be happy to give other club members a ride. If you need a ride, email Kristin and she can try to arrange a ride for you. If you need a ride home, talk to Kristin at the dance itself.

Click here for a map to Ngaio Town Hall

Parking is available in a variety of places:

  • in the small parking lot next to the hall
  • in a small parking lot across the road
  • on the street in front of the hall and Ngaio Library
  • further up the road at Ngaio station – go under the bridge and round the corner

Always a vexed question – what to wear?

This is our premiere event of the year, so it’s nice to dress up a little (but there is no dress code).

Men who have kilts will wear them, otherwise trousers and a shirt. Some women will wear tartan sashes or tartan skirts, otherwise smart casual with skirts and frocks being standard rather than trousers.

Wear something that will feel good to dance in, and that you won’t get too hot in. Layers are always good.

Volunteer roster

This is attached to this week’s club newsletter. You can check your time slot there. Thanks to everyone who’s volunteered to help on the day, and especially to volunteer co-ordinator Elizabeth Ngan who’s put in a lot of work drawing up the roster.

FINALLY – come along, have a good time and don’t worry if you make a mistake. They happen to us all! 

Any questions, feel free to email Kristin