50th Anniversary Ball: A photographer’s view

Wild and wet Wellington weather did nothing to dim the excitement of 100 dancers from across the country who attended the RSCDS New Zealand Branch 50th Anniversary Ball at Government House on 20 August.

I had offered to take photos of the evening for the Branch. Once inside the grand ballroom, I was thrilled to see the golden glow from the huge chandeliers accentuating the fabulous colours of the ballgowns and the tartans of the kilts—this would help make eye-catching photos.

The evening started with drinks in the Blundell Room with Elaine Laidlaw, the President of the New Zealand Branch. The adjoining Bledisloe Conservatory proved an ideal location for the Auckland and Wellington Region dancers to pose for group photos. It’s relatively easy to photograph Scottish Country dancers—they quickly get in ‘formation’ and all that is needed is to get them to move slightly so they’re all in the frame. And smiles abounded in anticipation of the evening ahead!

Wellington Region dancers

We were soon back into the buzz of conversation with other dancers, meeting up with old friends and making new ones. I took photos of other regions and clubs during the evening and these will contribute to historical records of Scottish Country Dancing in New Zealand.

The Governor General, The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, welcomed us to Government House, saying it was wonderful to see the ballroom being used by enthusiastic and committed dancers from around New Zealand. Wearing a MacNeil tartan sash, Dame Patsy also shared her Scottish heritage with us. We were advised in the pre-Ball material not to ask for ‘selfies’ with the Governor General but private photos were welcome. Dame Patsy graciously posed with Elaine for another fine record of the occasion.

With Elaine as MC, dancers then took to the floor to the toe-tapping music of Ian and Judith Muir from the UK. I loved photographing the dancing—the dancers formed perfectly straight lines as they took to the floor, they smiled at their partners and others in the set and were clearly enjoying themselves. At dances I often stand on a chair or stepladder to photograph the view of all the sets on the floor. This time, I decided it wasn’t a good strategy to step on the ornate ballroom chairs!

At supper, dancers enjoyed special Scottish delights including haggis sausage rolls and Cullen skink pies with smoked fish, leek and potato followed by chocolate and whisky torte. I took advantage of the supper queue in the Conservatory by quickly snapping couples and small groups of dancers in their finery.

Many dances on the programme were devised by New Zealanders including Iain Boyd, Gary Morris, Maureen Robson and Romaine Butterfield from the Wellington Region. I was fortunate to find myself in a perfect position to photograph Iain Boyd and Noeline O’Connor dancing Catch the Wind—a dance devised by Romaine for them.

Iain Boyd and Noeline O’Connor dancing Catch the Wind

This special evening of dancing proved a grand celebration of the Branch’s 50th Anniversary. Thank you to the organising committee of Diane Bradshaw, Michele Miller, Lee Miller (all from Wellington) and Katharine Hoskyn from Auckland for their hard work that made this night such a wonderful occasion.

The smiles of the dancers, their laughter and the fun had by all made photographing the event an enjoyable assignment. The photos have had over 500 views—see them all and download here if you wish

From Loralee Hyde

Originally published in Harbour City Happenings Volume 21 No. 2 September 2018

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