Category Archives: Articles 2019

Rod and Kristin Downey: Honorary Life Memberships

Rod and Kristin with their Honorary Life Membership certificates

To great acclaim from the nine sets of dancers at Johnsonville’s Tartan and Final Night on 25 November 2019, Club Tutor Rod Downey and President Kristin Downey were awarded Honorary Life Memberships of Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club.

Rod and Kristin both started dancing at Johnsonville in 1991. Club member Loralee Hyde (Club President 1998-2000) has known them since that time and she undertook considerable research to prepare extensive commendations for their Honorary Life Memberships—which she presented during the evening.

As well as detailing Rod and Kristin’s significant achievements during their time at Johnsonville, the commendations provide a comprehensive history of the activities and the essence of our very successful Club over the last few decades.

Rod Downey: Tutor

Within a couple of  years of starting dancing, Rod began training as a tutor. He got his full RSCDS certificate in 1996 and very soon after that, Rod took over from Marjorie Crawford as Club Tutor at Johnsonville.

For 23 years now, Rod has dedicated considerable time and energy to develop dancers at Johnsonville and contribute to Scottish Country Dancing in the Wellington Region, New Zealand and internationally.

In a piece Rod wrote in 2016 about what he most enjoys about Scottish Country Dancing, he said:

  • The wonderful music, the rare instances where you are completely in sync with the music as a dancer, and the flow of formations of a really well constructed dance, together with the technical challenge of making less well constructed dances work
  • Teaching and seeing people happy and improving in their dancing
  • Seeing the club develop into a supportive and caring environment with the necessary sense of humour.

This year, in his paper Mathematics, Computer Science and Scottish Country Dancing, Rod said, “To me the music is the core of Scottish Country Dancing… As a dancer I love a great set of tunes… As a teacher, I consider the musical structure of my programmes for social dances as a key element.”

As tutor, Rod endeavours to help members understand and master phrasing to enable the flow of the dance from one figure to the next (and thereby increase their happiness and improve their dancing).

Rod works hard to give all dancers a good time, no matter the level of dancing experience. He brings energy, enthusiasm, experience and great music to beginners’ classes, Club nights, and social events.

As a bonus, Club members are also privileged to dance the ‘world premieres’ of his new dances and progressions. Thank you Rod, for all you bring to the Club.

Download the Rod Downey Honorary Life Membership Commendation

Kristin Downey: President

Rod and Kristin with Loralee

Kristin has always loved dancing of any sort, and things Scottish—the pipes, the music, the song and dance—so Scottish Country Dancing was a natural choice of activity.

Once she began, Kristin was hooked, loving the sheer joy of dancing, of working hard physically, of learning new things and how to do them well.

Along with her love of the dance, the music and the laughter and the spirit that is Scottish Country Dancing, Kristin has dedicated many years of service to the Club. She was Acting Secretary in her early years, served as Secretary for three years, Treasurer for three years and President since 2009.

Over her terms as President, Kristin has kept the Club aim of ‘fun, fitness and friendship’ to the fore while implementing innovative and appealing activities that help build Club membership and community spirit.

And it is important to note that at all times, Kristin credits the committed teams working with her (including the tutor, office bearers, committee members, supper team and many other volunteers) for the success of a wide range of endeavours.

In her 2018 paper, Recruitment and Retention of New Dancers at Johnsonville, Kristin detailed an extensive array of strategies she and the Committee and tutor have put in place since 2012 to actively recruit new dancers each year and retain experienced dancers.

Results speak for themselves—the Club has increased membership from 23 dancers in 2012 to 78 this year.

Johnsonville Club’s underlying philosophy is one of good humour, having fun, and increasing participation with a goal of building an inclusive community of dancers.

Kristin’s significant contributions have helped ensure the Club community spirit continues to shine through, growing stronger every year. Thank you, Kristin for the great impact you have made.

Download the Kristin Downey Honorary Life Membership Commendation

Click here for more of Loralee’s photos of the evening

Becoming a double agent

Désirée and Robert recently shared their experiences of having Double the Fun dancing at both Johnsonville and Tawa clubs.

Below, Moira Broughton writes about dancing at her second club – Ngaio, and the advantages of being a ‘Double Agent’.

Moira with other Ngaio dancers dressed in colours of the rainbow at Tawa’s fun night in May 2015.

I discovered Scottish Country Dancing in February 2014 when I attended the beginners classes at Johnsonville club.

I was quickly enthralled and keen to improve my dancing but could not attend the Region’s evening classes which are always held on Tuesday nights.

I decided that the next best thing was to dance at another club so I began dancing on Thursday nights at Ngaio club which meets at the Khandallah Presbyterian church across from the New World supermarket.

There are many benefits to dancing at another club, quite apart from being able to dance twice each week. You are instructed by a different tutor who has a different style of teaching and emphasises different aspects of dancing, you learn more dances and you develop a wider circle of Scottish Country Dancing friends.

Ngaio is a small club (a full two sets is a good night!), there is a good ratio of experienced dancers to beginners and each dance is walked several times until the dancers are confident, which makes it an excellent club for beginners. I can still recall that on one of my early visits to Ngaio, Melva patiently demonstrated the footwork for ‘advance and retire’ and we all practised this movement. It is not always possible to do this in large, busy clubs.

There are a number of us who attend other clubs. I was tickled pink when Elena Lark, one of Johnsonville’s class of 2019 and an extremely competent dancer, referred to herself as a ‘double agent’ who dances at both Johnsonville and Tawa. It seemed very apt since she is Russian (I apologise in advance for this Cold War era racial stereotyping, Elena – no offence is intended).

I recommend you try it out and become a double agent – try the clubs at Ngaio, Tawa or Capital City (Thursday), or Kelburn (Wednesday). You will see several faces that you know from Johnsonville and you will enjoy meeting other dancers in the Scottish Country Dancing community.

from Moira

Double the fun!

Johnsonville Club members Désirée, Elena, Maureen and Hilary dance ‘Farewell to Tawa’ at Tawa’s Final Night

How can you have even more fun than dancing at Johnsonville? You can dance at a second club as well!

Many of our members do just that – as club members or as visitors. Sandy, Rod and Stephen dance at Capital City Club.

Elizabeth N, Moira B, Moira S and Nancy dance at Ngaio Club as do Bruce and Fiona, who’ve recently been coming along to Johnsonville.

Johnsonville club regulars Désirée and John P, Elena, Maureen, Pat, and Robert, as well as Bob and Hilary dance at Tawa Club.

Find out more below about the advantages of dancing at two clubs from Johnsonville Club members Robert and Désirée.

Being a member of two clubs

Robert and Brenda dancing at the top of the set at the New Dancers’ Celebration 2018

Writing as a fairly new dancer with lots to learn I think it’s really good to belong to more than one club if you get the chance.

The obvious point is that you get to dance twice as much and there’s no doubt that the more you dance the more it starts to make sense, but there are lots of other advantages.

Different tutors teach in different ways and give different explanations of how things are done.

When you dance at two clubs seeing the same things from more than one perspective definitely makes them easier to understand. You get that “Oh, that’s how it works” moment when some figure has seemed very confusing the last time you tried it.

Clubs have different favourite dances so you get to learn more dances if you dance twice a week. Clubs prepare for each other’s Tartan Nights and celebrations so if you go to two clubs you get to repeat dances – they become more familiar and you become more confident doing them.

Finally, if you dance twice a week you will definitely be fitter! Lots of Johnsonville members, experienced and less experienced, dance at other clubs and it’s definitely worth doing if you can.

from Robert

Tawa Club’s Final Night

On Thursday 14 November, Tawa Scottish Country Dance Club had their final club night for the year. This was an especially final ‘final night’, as it was the last time that retiring tutor Maureen Robson was at the helm.

The programme consisted of club members’ favourites, and there was a demonstration of a new dance Maureen had devised for the occasion, called Farewell to Tawa. Watch Pat’s video below.

John P took photos during the evening – view them on the Tawa Club Facebook page

It was a busy night with six sets on the floor, a bit of a squish, but we had fun. Members from three other small clubs had been invited to join us (Ngaio, Kelburn and Linden). The reason we can’t extend the invitation to all clubs, is that the Redwood Hall is small, and six sets is about all it can cope with.

Ngaio/Johnsonville member Moira B attended, as did Ngaio members Bruce and Fiona, who have been dancing at Johnsonville lately. Several Johnsonville members – Maureen S, Hilary, Elena, Robert, Pat, Bob, John P and myself – are also members of Tawa.

I can thoroughly recommend belonging to more than one club. You get to dance more often, and so you learn more quickly. It is also very good to be exposed to different teachers, as all have their own styles.

from Désirée

Thanks for all the dancing

Aileen, Hilary, Maureen and Désirée

Tawa premiered a new dance at their penultimate club night for the year.

Called Thanks for All the Dancing, the dance is dedicated to Tawa’s tutor Maureen Robson, who is retiring from teaching Tawa after having been the club’s tutor for 38 years!

Désirée Patterson devised the dance and Hilary Ferral composed the music. Musicians on the night were Hilary and Aileen Logie. Watch Pat’s video below.

Photos: John Patterson
Videos: Pat Reesby

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

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