Wellington Region New Dancers’ Celebration 2022

The buzz and excitement of a full hall

The last New Dancers’ Celebration held in the Wellington Region was a very successful one hosted by Waikanae Club in 2020, complete with piper Nicole Trewavas.

Unfortunately, the 2021 New Dancers’ Celebration was cancelled due to Covid, a great shame considering all the work that Carterton Club had put into its organisation, and the preparation involved for the Saltire Scottish Dance Band.

This year it was Johnsonville’s turn to host – the third time since Rod Downey has been tutor. Given the disruptions to dancing over the past three years, invitations were extended to all new dancers who started in 2020, 2021 and 2022 (as opposed to the usual two-year timeframe).

The buzz

More than 100 people attended the event on 8 October, including 25 invited new dancers, and the Knox Church Hall in Lower Hutt was alive with dancing, music, and bonhomie. It’s hard to beat the buzz and excitement of a full dance floor, a great band and a programme that everyone can relax and enjoy.

Over 12 sets of people filled the Knox Church Hall with buzz and excitement

Amongst the attendees were eight new dancers from Johnsonville (four of whom only started this year), and 23 experienced dancers in support – so nice to see such enthusiasm.

For longer-standing dancers, walking into a packed hall brought back fond memories of days gone by when club annual dances regularly attracted those sorts of numbers. For newer dancers, it was a chance to realise how far they’ve come, and to be welcomed into the wider Scottish Country Dance community.

(We also had the added vibe of a very special 80th birthday party celebration finishing up as we began, with music, dance, children and the different colours and sounds of Samoan culture.)


New Dancers’ Celebration 2022 Programme

Everything centred around ‘tartan’ at this year’s New Dancers’ Celebration, as befits such a wonderful celebration of the dances of Scotland. The programme, new dancer Invitations and name tags all featured the RSCDS tartan.

Continuing the tartan theme, Johnsonville’s tartan bunting looked fantastic high up on the white walls, and the stage frontage was decorated with the Wellington Region’s tartan cloth.

An assortment of colourful tartan rugs and scarves encouraged dancers to enjoy the warm feeling of home and hearth and Scottish hospitality.

The outfits of musicians Aileen Logie, Hilary Ferral and Jason Morris (aka Black Tartan), brought even more festive tartan to the night. Aline Homes’ arrangements of greenery and flowers along the stage front made a beautiful setting for them as they made beautiful music for us.

Jason Morris, Aline Logie and Hilary Ferral playing on the stage with beautiful floral decorations created by Aline and John Homes.

The night

MC Rod Downey drew up a programme of easy dances to suit everyone,including some by local Wellington devisers.

We began with the fun of Noeline O’Connor’s beginners’ dance, The Kingston Flyer. Lots of old and new favourites followed including Sean Truibhas Willichan, Delvine Side and Violynne (one of Rod’s dances).

Johnsonville dancers were among those enjoying The Kingston Flyer, the first dance.
Newer and more experienced dancers from Johnsonville joined in the round-the room dance Border Meeting.

You had only to look across the dance floor of smiling faces and hear the excited chatter, to know how much everyone was enjoying themselves. There were occasional challenges, such as in Lady Home’s Jig, but it is the nature of Scottish Country Dancing to pose challenges.

Lady Home’s Jig had some interesting connections between formations to master!

The Reel of the 51st Division made for a fine end to the first half, leading into a very welcome supper. It was such a convivial affair that a little bit of encouragement was needed to get people back on the dance floor.

Romaine Butterfield’s lovely dance Come What May started the second half, followed by more Johnsonville favourites including Shiftin’ Bobbins, Monymusk and St Andrew’s Fair. The night finished with the exuberance of The De’il Amang the Tailors.

Remembering our patron Queen Elizabeth

In memory of HM Queen Elizabeth II, longstanding patron of the RSCDS, Rod changed the advertised programme to include The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh.

This dance was written in 1948 to recognise the 1947 marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, who King George VI subsequently named Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh in honour of their wedding.

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh – in this six hands round and back, all the dancers are associated with Johnsonville Club including former member Shirley Kalogeropoulos who now dances at Waikanae.
The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh – plenty of Johnsonville dancers on the floor including MC Rod Downey.

Rod particularly chose this dance for its New Zealand connection. One of the Scottish devisers, Mrs Florence Lesslie, subsequently settled in New Zealand and was widely recognised as having an enormously beneficial influence on the development of Scottish Country Dancing here.

Special award

Kevin & Elaine Lethbridge with her Wellington Region award.

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of a Wellington Region Certificate of Appreciation to Wellington dancer Elaine Lethbridge for her many years of service to the Region.

Region President Ann Oliver thanked Elaine for her dedication in teaching the Region’s junior dancers, arranging JAM camps, sitting on the Region committee and supporting region activities in a host of other ways.

Congratulations Elaine.

Read the full citation here

Many thanks to all

Everyone played their part in ensuring a fantastic night for the Region’s dancers.

Thanks to Rod as MC, Johnsonville sub-committee members Charles Burden, Maura Beattie and John Markham, with Kristin Downey as organiser, Loralee Hyde on promotional design and photography, and Robert Vale for keeping everyone informed.

Aline and John Homes once again created beautiful floral arrangements, Veronica Young and David Mackey (and their grandchildren) chopped a lot of delicious fruit salad and Elizabeth Ngan led the supper team.

More than 20 Johnsonville members lent a hand one way or another on the day, setting up the hall, helping with supper, or packing up at the end. Many thanks to you all.

Organiser Kristin Downey was one of the many Johnsonville members helping to set up the stage and hall. Photo: John Homes

Thanks also to the Region committee and to Elaine and Kevin Lethbridge for their support, and finally, thanks to everyone who attended, both new and experienced.

New dancers from the past few years are especially to be admired for managing to become part of the Scottish Country Dance community, despite all the covid disruptions. They couldn’t have done it without all the tutors and experienced dancers who supported them at club, and joined them on the dance floor on 8 October.

Take a look at all of Loralee’s photos of this celebratory evening

The buzz carries on

It was wonderful to feel the buzz from Saturday night carry over to club night at Johnsonville on Monday 10 October. Any event that keeps you smiling for that long has got to be good!

Kristin Downey
11 October 2022

All photos by Loralee Hyde except where noted.

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