Halloween 2022: Bringing in the Samhain spirit

Setting the scene

Halloween is a well-loved celebration, by dancers and musicians alike, and Rod always brings us a lively selection of dances with supernatural links and atmospheric music. Hall decorations, a bit of ‘dressing up’ and special themed supper offerings all add to the occasion.

This year on Monday 31 October, the streets of Khandallah were full of colourfully costumed trick or treaters, putting us in the mood before we even made it through the hall door. A couple even ventured in, and left with a treat or two.

Plenty of people arrived in time to join in somewhat random hall-decorating, with an assortment of bats and spiders, ghoulish masks, pumpkin-themed items and orange streamers scattered around the hall walls.

Last year’s skeleton costume again took pride of place, though we’d forgotten how we’d cleverly attached it last year, and it did keep peeling itself off the wall (as you’ll notice in some of Loralee’s photos).

The new pièce de résistance was a large-scale, long-armed, furry black hanging spider, carefully carried back from Queensland in Rod and Kristin’s hand luggage. Festooned in web, it lurked outside the kitchen hatch.

Dances and a little bit of history

With the scene set, we took the floor ready for a fun night. Members made a great effort to dress to theme, witch’s hats ruled, masks abounded, there were caped devils and vampires, dancers in black and orange, and many a spider.

Our Halloween revellers (with the visiting skeleton looming over us!)

Club musician Aileen Logie was joined by Jason Morris, also on accordion, one of the rare occasions when we’ve danced to a 2-box band. Aileen’s enthusiasm for Halloween always brings that Samhain spirit to the night’s music, and off we went.

Jason Morris and Aileen Logie brought the spirit of Samhain to the dance

The first dance of the night was an easy warm-up dance, which also celebrated a little piece of club history. The Scottish Werewolf is a children’s dance written by former Johnsonville member Denise Sander in the 1970s, in honour of then children’s class tutor Iain Boyd.

Dancing The Scottish Werewolf, all dressed-up for Halloween

Moving from wicked werewolves to friendly fairies, The Fairy Dance kept us on our toes with fairy circles, first on the ladies’ side and then the men’s. Those fairies are agile little creatures it seems.

Next was the Harry Potter-inspired Slytherin’ House, with its two snake passes – somewhat disorientating until you pin down those slithering snake-paths. Rod first taught us this dance at Johnsonville’s first Halloween celebration in 2016, at our then home venue, Johnsonville School hall.

The caped devil, Rod, teaching the tricky snake passes of Slytherin’ House

Another bit of Johnsonville history – Slytherin’ House deviser Chris Ronald sent Rod the instructions in 2016 when he was looking for suitably themed dances, and that was the first time the dance was done outside Chris Ronald’s home club. There’s no video from our 2016 Halloween, but Pat Reesby videoed club members dancing Slytherin’ House at a Johnsonville Tartan Night in October 2018 at Johnsonville School hall.

In the final dance before supper, the devilish details of The Devil’s in the Detail lead me briefly astray, but thankfully supper treats were waiting.

Supper and the bard

Supper co-ordinator Elizabeth Ngan always brings us a supper surprise at Halloween, and this year her party treat was a very cute pegged string of Halloween sweets to choose from. Liz Hands as the other supper-server, made artistic orange iced ‘pumpkin’ biscuits and Oreo bats with beady eyes (to compete with those little plastic rats scattered about the supper bench).

Our Halloween Supper treats (along with greedy rats!) prepared by Elizabeth Ngan and Liz Hands
Aline the Bard. Photo: Anne Holmstead

As we supped, Aline Homes brought us a different sort of treat, introducing story-telling to the supper break.

Aline’s life as a Bard began in March this year when she joined the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and began a course of studies.

Wreathed in ivy, and reading from her Bard’s book, Aline drew dancers in with her version of the story of The Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui (Am Fear Liath Mòr).

Aline composed her story from many sources, including her own unsettling experience on Ben Macdui as the mist came down. (Interestingly, Aileen Logie reports some similarly eerie experiences on the mountain).


We returned to the dance floor for The Witching Hour by Chicago deviser Sue McKinnell, who loves to write complicated dances. Dancers may recognise her name as deviser of the dance Tinkling Jade, taught by Jeanette when Rod was away. It too has a Wellington connection, being written for ex-Wellington dancer, Xiaowen Yu’s new baby girl, born this year.

Although more dancing was planned for the night, a serious medical emergency for one of our members took priority. We are so grateful for the swift response of all those individuals who stepped forward, their actions made the difference in saving a life.

Click on the gallery below to see Loralee Hyde and Anne Holmstead’s photos of the night – dancers, supper, band and bard.

Kristin Downey
3 November 2022

Photos by Loralee Hyde except where noted

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