See what Robert has to say about the delights of dancing in South Otago below.
The School kicked off on Good Friday evening with an enjoyable social dance in nearby Waitahuna.
Classes began the next morning, from 9:00 to 12:00, with two to choose from, Development or Further Development. I chose the latter, which was taught by our own Jeanette Watson.
Free time after classes was a chance to enjoy the local delicacy of a South Island cheese roll before the evening’s Formal Dance in the very grand Coronation Hall in Milton, on SH1 about half an hour from Lawrence. All the dances were walked so it was less scary than it might have been.
On Easter Sunday there was time to explore the delights of Lawrence in the wonderful warm weather, before classes in the afternoon, followed by a dinner and Ceilidh in Beaumont, where we were advised to avoid flushing the loos in the hall so as not to overload the septic tank – ah, rural life.
Finally Monday morning featured a Combined Class for the whole group back in the big hall in Milton before we all set off on our travels. I came away both having had a really good time and feeling I had learned a lot.
Dancers did a great job of wearing green for St Patrick and the Emerald Isle on Monday 15 March. Every shade of green was on show, and if you looked closely, there were shamrocks and celtic knots and symbols to be found on T-shirts, socks and silver.
Rod’s programme inspired great music from musician Aileen Logie, and we definitely had a night of ‘fun, fitness and friendship’, with a few challenges thrown in!
We began with A Trip to Ireland, then two RSCDS dances TheWild Geese (referencing Irish soldiers) and City of Belfast, as well as Rod’s dance The Coleraine Rantwhich premiered at the club’s 2019 St Patrick’s day celebration. It honours both the New Zealand wine, and the Irish county of the same name.
In the middle of the first half, we were lucky enough to dance the world premiere of The Parting Glass, newly devised by Rod for 2021’s St Patrick’s Day. It is a dance for everyone, with no difficult formations or footwork, and is named for the wonderful old song tune claimed by both Ireland and Scotland.
With five dances under the belt, we were ready for supper. Elizabeth Ngan offered a very inviting display of green-themed goodies, with green eggs, popcorn, chuppa chups and feijoas (she always includes something healthy). There were green serviettes and Irish place mats, and Liz Hands served us freshly-baked green cookies with white chocolate, just the thing to give tired minds a boost.
Back on the floor, it was time for the experienced to try out Rory O’More, amid a few tussles with arches and under-the-arm movements. Having fun is what it’s all about, and there was a lot of laughter with this one!
Seeking Irish-themed dances for St Patrick’s Day, Rod came across the jig Paddy in the Car, and strathspey The Orchards of County Armagh. Theywere both new to us, but really enjoyable, and I’m sure dancers would be happy to see them again on another programme.
We finished the night with old favourite The Irish Rover,for those who knew it. A fine finish to a very good night.
This was our first special club night in our new home at Khandallah Town Hall. It was also our first live music night for 2021. It was a beauty, may there be many more like it to come.
Held in brilliant Wellington weather at Waitangi Park on Saturday 27 February, Pipes in the Park was a day of piping, highland dancing, Irish dancing, clan and food stalls – and of course some Scottish Country Dancing.
It’s always nice to see Scottish Country Dancing on display, helping add colour to the day and raising our profile. The Scottish Country Dancing demonstration was organised by Elaine Lethbridge (Tawa dancer and teacher of Newtown Juniors), at the request of Pipes in the Park.
Elaine’s volunteers came from Capital City, Kelburn/Lower Hutt, Linden and Tawa, and included dual Capital City/Johnsonville member and tutor Jeanette Watson.
Johnsonville dancer Deborah Shuker was one of a number of Scottish Country Dancing spectators and shared her thoughts and photos for us to enjoy – see her story below.
Member of many years Laurence Black, and partner and past member Maddy Schafer were also there soaking up the Scottish atmosphere. Despite not dancing with us for quite a few years now, Maddy thoughtfully provided us with this photo.
Deborah Shuker: A feast of things Scottish
At Waitangi Park on a beautiful hot sunny day there was a feast of things Scottish – stalls about clans and kilts, plus crafts, and food (which wasn’t noticeably Scottish).
The earlier items were dancing – Highland dancing by groups from beginners to very experienced and massed groups. Then the Irish dancers the same mixture of abilities but more dances, and different costuming.
The Scottish Country Dancing set danced on the grass as the stage was a bit small for safety. Dancing on grass is difficult but they did a great exhibition, some of which would only be fully appreciated by those who know about timing and covering.
Having tutors from three clubs in the group leant lots of expertise, and all those kilts gave lots of colour. There were six dances altogether, and I recognised one as Shiftin’ Bobbins, which we often do at club. 1
We finished the day watching two Pipe Bands perform, and then headed home for a much-needed cold drink!
Deborah Shuker 11 March 2021
* Elaine Lethbridge advises that other dances done were The Silver Grey, The Hunting Horn, The Barmkin, Minister on the Loch, and Pelorus Jack – all done four times through, except strathspeys which were three times through. A mighty fine effort.[↩]
When dancing shuts down over the summer, Wellington dancers still enjoy their sport thanks to the annual Dancing on the Grass organised by the Wellington Region of the RSCDS. This takes place on four summer Tuesday evenings on the grass in front of the Old Government Buildings in Lambton Quay.
Before getting on to the dancing, what about the venue?
The building was designed by William Clayton to accommodate all of New Zealand’s public servants. Originally intended to be made of concrete so as to be fireproof, that proved too expensive and so it was constructed all in Kauri instead, made to look as if it was stone, presumably to make the government look solid and dependable. It was, as building projects often are, over budget when completed in 1876.
Surprisingly, for nearly fifty years the building was heated with open fireplaces, but because of its wooden construction, smoking inside was banned right from when it opened, unlike in Wellington’s wooden-bodied trams which even provided smokers with metal plates fixed to the woodwork on which to strike their matches!
Having served the Colony of New Zealand from 1876, the Dominion of New Zealand from 1907 and housing government Ministers until 1921, the Old Government Buildings are now the home of the Faculty of Law of Victoria University.
But what about the dancing?
Dancing is outside (on the grass) in front of the main entrance, so we provide a bit of a spectacle. In previous years tourists on Lambton Quay liked to stand and watch but there weren’t many tourists this year. One night this year one of the bus drivers gave us a toot on the horn and a wave as he drove down towards the city.
Dancing on grass is quite a novel sensation. It’s certainly different than dancing on a flat floor, it’s a bit bumpy and in summer if there’s not been much rain it can be quite firm and scratchy. There’s also a large floodlight sticking out of the grass which you need to look out for when casting behind your line.
Some people wear their dancing shoes and some like bare feet. There are little acorn-like things hiding in the grass which can give you a nasty surprise in bare feet, like stepping on a piece of the kids’ Lego in the dark.
Each of the four summer dancing sessions is led by a different tutor from one of the Wellington clubs. The dances are usually the fairly familiar ones that appear on many club dance programmes throughout the year although there were a couple of exceptions this year that confused quite a few of us. The tutors generally choose dances that are not too complicated and they’re walked, so it’s all a lot easier than trying to dance from just a briefing.
And what about the Lino?
Well, being Wellington in the summer, it can be wet and it can be cold. This year, for both those reasons, we danced inside for two of the four sessions.
The inside space is the student café of the VUW Law Faculty (it offers a very cheap vegan lunch). The door to the café is round the other side of the building from the grass and the main entrance.
The café is a good sized space with one extra feature, which is the series of columns that hold up the floors above. These are cunningly placed so that you have to dance round them when casting, or dancing a figure-of-eight, which adds to the excitement.
And the flooring in the café is lino, or to give it its proper name, Linoleum, which is made from jute and linseed oil. There’s a fine Scottish connection, as the city of Dundee was famous for “jute, jam and journalism”. Known in the 19th century as Juteopolis it was the centre of the global jute trade. Dundee was also famous for producing Keiller’s marmalade and for still being the home of D C Thomson, the publishers of well-loved comics like The Beano and Scottish cartoon strips The Broons and Oor Wullie.
Dancing on the grass is a great way to enjoy some dancing when clubs are closed for the summer. You get to meet people from other clubs, you might then see them later in the year at a dance. One of the four nights this year was a beautiful warm, still night and it was magical dancing outside as the dusk fell.
There’s also something special about being able to dance right outside the heart of government, just across from the Beehive. This year it felt extra special to be able to dance at all, given the situation in many less fortunate countries.
Johnsonville held its first summer ceilidh at Kristin and Rod’s place in 2014, dancing in the living room and on the deck, in perfect Wellington weather conditions.
But by 2015, larger numbers of members had us shifting the ceilidh venue to Johnsonville Bowling Club, with the bonus of adding bowling into the day’s activities.
Saturday 30 January was our seventh ‘bowling ceilidh’. Once again the weather favoured us and we had a grand time – on the bowling green, on the dance floor, and at our pot luck dinner.
This year’s atmosphere was buzzy right from the start. There was lots of chit chat and catching up while we waited to get onto the bowling green, with time to get the dance floor decorated with the club’s tartan bunting, and our long-serving tartan tablecloths brightening up the downstairs dining area.1)
Bowling Club members set us up to bowl, and guided those who’d never played before. Since most of us only bowl once a year, our efforts were often unpredictable with warning shouts of ‘incoming!’ alerting us to bowls approaching from unexpected quarters. Of course, some of us did quite well, and all of us had a good time.
A quick snack and a drink, and it was time to ceilidh. Some years we have few members available to share their talents, but this year was a bumper year for ceilidh items, perhaps inspired by the ‘Rabbie’ Burns theme of the day.
We began with items by the Scots in our midst. New member Maggie Boag was up first entertaining us with a lively performance of the poem Aince Upon a Day by William Souter. She was followed by our club musician Aileen Logie on accordion. Husband Gareth joined in on guitar, as they played a moving bracket of popular Scottish tunes written by Robert Burns.
Across the afternoon, we interspersed ceilidh items with Burns-related dances.
Kate Quigley played two piano pieces (Spanish Donkey-Driver by Jeno Takacs, and Rush Hour) as well as joining John Markham in singing a beautiful duet (Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes by Ben Johnson, and Ave Maria by Jacob Arcadelt). Malcolm Leitch accompanied.
New member Graeme Stuart gave us an entertaining ‘Wee Yam on Tin Whistle’ (his words), supported by Aileen who stepped in to accompany him on piano for a host of familiar Scottish tunes.
Then it was back to dancing. We all had a lot of fun with the ceilidh dance Bonnie Lassie Party Dance, and that was followed by Scottish Country Dance Ha! Ha! the Wooin’ o’ it (named for a line out of the poem Duncan Gray by Robert Burns).
For our last set of ceilidh items, Malcolm returned with his expressive piano solo of Fantasia on Scottish Airs by Stuart Templeton, including melodies of Robbie Burns poems such as Scots Wha Hae and Auld Lang Syne.
The last performance for the day was Sono Barnes and her lovely flute items Salute de Amor by Edward Elgar, and Dance of the Blessed Spirits by C. Gluck. Sono’s not been dancing for the last couple of years, and it was very nice to have her back amongst us, and back on the dance floor.
The final dance of the afternoon was Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, written to commemorate the bi-centenary of Robert Burns’ Highland Tour of 1787. Then it was downstairs for a very special event.
The haggis is the centrepiece of Burns celebrations everywhere. But what is a haggis without a piper, or a speaker to welcome and honour this ‘great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race’?
Many thanks to our piper Graeme, and to Aileen for her spirited rendition of Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis. Who knew she could be so fierce with a knife? Their traditional drams of whisky were well drunk and well deserved.
We finished the day with a fantastic feast of shared pot luck dishes, and a lot more chit chat.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the day’s success. We couldn’t have done it without our MC Rod, ceilidh performers who generously shared their talents, kitchen workers with Elizabeth Ngan at the helm, and those who set up and packed up.
Behind the scenes treasurer Allison Kay managed the finances, Loralee Hyde developed the online registration form, and Maureen Sullivan co-ordinated pot-luck dinner offerings.
Having made the Bowling Club our home for the 2020 dancing year, it was especially nice to continue that connection. The summer ceilidh gave us the opportunity to catch up with some of those bowling friends who welcomed us each Monday night – something we can look forward to doing next year as well.
The tablecloths deserve a paragraph to themselves. They are now 33 years old, appear at every club function, and are loaned out for other events (members may have spotted them at the 2020-2021 RSCDS Wellington Hogmanay). The red tartan tablecloths were made and presented to the club in 1988, by life members Isla and Eric Norris on the occasion of the club’s 25th anniversary of opening up membership to those outside the original church group. (They have also now been joined by a green tartan more recently gifted by Liz Hands.[↩]