Mandy Clark: My year as a new dancer at Johnsonville Club
A friend invited me along to the beginners classes at Johnsonville Scottish Country Dancing Club. I remember thinking I would go, have a look, but didn’t expect to be there the next week.
When I walked in, I saw all these people, smiling and being very welcoming. I thought this is a good start. I don’t really remember much of those first few lessons, but somewhere along the way I got hooked, and found the whole SCD experience addictive.
Pictured: Mandy on the right with second-year dancer Liz Hands at the Johnsonville Club Christmas Lunch
Once the beginners classes finished, it definitely got harder. Initially I struggled to pick up the phrasing of some of the harder dances. The turning point for me came when we were given You Tube videos of the dances prior to the next lesson, so I could learn them beforehand.
I had done ballet and tap as a child, some 40 odd years ago and had always wanted to get back to some form of dancing. That background definitely helped me with the footwork.
Later in the year, I enthusiastically enrolled in the Wellington Region beginners classes in Petone, taken by Jeanette. They were fun, concentrated on learning easy dances and mastering the footwork.
It was suggested to me to go along to the Ngaio Club on a Thursday night. This was fun, and really helped build my confidence with the dancing.
About three quarters of the way through the year the dancing started to fall into place for me, and I enjoyed it a lot more. I still have a lot to learn, I realise I am still only a beginner. At times I am too competitive in learning the dances, and would worry about silly things.
I remember going along to my very first club Tartan dance in April and having a great time. The live band was lovely. I have since been to a few dances throughout the year, and enjoyed them all.
Pictured below: Mandy leading up the centre with her dance partner at the 2017 Wellington Region New Dancers Celebration
On reflection, I have had an amazing year. I have put in a lot of effort, dancing twice (sometime three times) a week. I have met some lovely people and been lucky enough to have had a lot of encouragement and support.
There is something very special about SCD. I realise I have developed an enthusiasm which I didn’t expect. It is extremely beneficial, and I encourage anyone I come across to give it a go.
I am looking forward to 2018, and can’t wait to bring along some friends to try it out.
By Mandy Clark. Originally published in Harbour City Happenings Volume 20 No. 3 December 2017
Download this article from the Independent Herald on 17 January 2018 about Club Member Mandy Clark’s first year of dancing at Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club.
Vikings & Celts Midwinter Frolicking
Download this article from the Independent Herald on 19 July 2017 about our night of midwinter fun, feast and frolicking.
Emma Wilkins: Stooging for Dummies
As a relative newbie to Scottish Country Dancing with only three years under my belt, I approached my first Summer School in blissful ignorance. I looked forward to morning lessons, evening dances and afternoons filled with diligent activity of some sort, maybe learning a new style of dance or walking the streets of Christchurch as an enthusiastic tourist. So it was with naive innocence that I first heard the word ‘stooge’ mentioned at Welcome Drinks and volunteered to ‘stooge’ for the next day.
Such was my enthusiasm for dancing in those first 24 hours of Summer School, I didn’t register the concerned glances, or understand the subtle meaning behind polite phrases such as ‘you must have a lot of energy’ or ‘oh yes, I stooged once’ from the more experienced Summer School attendees.
I was wafting around on a cloud of happy dancing endorphins unaware of what the afternoon would hold. For those of you who have never heard of ‘stooging’, it involves dancing for trainee tutors in the final leadup to their examination. A good tutor is god-like in his or her ability to make sense of formations, phrasing and music while turning mere mortals into ‘passable dancers’.
Never has it been more apparent to me just how great the divide is between us and them as it was during that first afternoon. Those trainee gods were relentless in their pursuit of perfection. Step practice upon step practice was rained down upon us. Skip change, pas de Basque, strathspey travelling step, over and over again.
Hour after hour of dancing passed until finally it was over. Broken, in a daze, I stumbled back to my room where I fell onto my bed thinking I would never walk let alone dance again. Needless to say, for the rest of the week thoughts of afternoon activity left my head. Instead I spent the hours between lunch and dinner curled up with a good book or even napping! I had now joined the wise ones. Would I do it again? Absolutely!
By Emma Wilkins. Originally published in Harbour City Happenings Volume 19 No. 4 March 2017