A once-in-a-lifetime experience
To celebrate the Centenary of the RSCDS over 130 people keen to dance and socialise filled the floor at the Lower North Island RSCDS Centenary Ball at the College Street School Hall in Palmerston North on Saturday 4 November.
The RSCDS Hawke’s Bay, Rangitikei and Wellington Regions combined to host this Tri-Region Ball to celebrate the role of the ‘fertile crescent’ from Hawke’s Bay to Whanganui through to Wellington as the well-spring of Scottish Country Dancing in New Zealand.
Morison’s Bush in the Wairarapa was the venue of the first Scottish Country Dance Balls ever held in New Zealand. The Foreword of The Morison’s Bush Collection says “For Country Dancers in the Wellington, Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay area it [Morison’s Bush] was for many years the centre of social life and dances there were not to be missed.”
Stunning floral arrangements prepared by local dancers brightened up the entry to the hall where we were welcomed by Ian and Sue Pearson (Rangitikei Region). Inside the hall, more floral arrangements decorated the front of the stage and bunting provided by Johnsonville and Napier Clubs streamed overhead.
Portraits of the two co-founders of the RSCDS in 1923—Miss Jean Milligan and Mrs Ysobel Stewart—graced the wall behind the band.
A brace of unicorns by the stage attracted attention. How are unicorns connected to Scottish Country Dancing? The unicorn is Scotland’s national animal and represents Scotland in the British Coat of Arms. So the unicorns provided a link to our Scottish heritage.
Dancers from as far afield as Auckland, the Waikato and Invercargill, including RSCDS New Zealand Branch President Linda Glavin from Blenheim and President Elect Debbie Roxburgh from Whanganui, enjoyed the 19 dances on the programme.
Almost all New Zealand devisers who have had dances published by the RSCDS had one dance included in this programme (14 dances). The remaining five were well-known RSCDS dances including homages to Miss Jean Milligan and Mrs Ysobel Stewart.
Twenty-six past and present tutors from the Lower North Island attended the Ball. Seventeen long-standing tutors were honoured by each briefing a dance at the occasion (the dances are noted below next to the briefer). Linda Glavin briefed Petronella. Debbie Roxburgh took on the task of overall MC’ing of the evening, including introducing each tutor.
From left: Melva Waite (The Reverend John MacFarlane), Maureen Robson (New Year Jig), Val Mitchell (Seton’s Ceilidh Band), Catherine Edwards (Balmoral Strathspey), Joy Tracey (The Meeting of the Waters), Chris Kelly (Best Set in the Hall), Catherine McCutcheon (Mildred Clancey’s Strathspey), Ann Oliver, Jeanette Watson (The Reel of the 51st), Ronni Cullen, Debbie Roxburgh (Morison’s Bush), Andrea Wells, Elaine Laidlaw (Gary Morris), Margaret Bailey-Allison (Oriel Strathspey), Philippa Pointon (A Gift from Heaven), Rod Downey (Dancing Spirit and The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh) , Diane Bradshaw (Miss Milligan’s Strathspey), Chris Totton, Elizabeth Ferguson (Mrs Stewart’s Jig), Edith Campbell (Catch the Wind), Michael Laidlaw, Dot Morgan, Elaine Lethbridge, Barbara Gill, Lyn Picone, Isabel Jackson (Pelorus Jack).
It was a wonderful treat to dance to fabulous music from The Balmoral Band during the evening. Iain Mckenzie on the accordion is the Director of Music at the Australian Winter School in Queensland in 2024
Directed by Michael Laidlaw (Wellington Region), the Grand March was piped in by Nicole Trewavas (Rangitikei Region) who was also on the organising committee.
The front row of the Grand March included members of the organising committee—Jeanette Watson (Wellington Region), Mary Hawkes (Rangitikei Region), Michele Miller (Wellington Region), Rangitikei Region President Glenice Saunders, Wellington Region President Rod Downey and Hawke’s Bay Region President Isabel Jackson.
Following the Grand March, the dancing began with dancers filling the floor for New Year Jig.
A highlight of the evening was Wellington Region President Rod Downey presenting a Tribute to Edith Campbell in recognition of the generous giving of her time, teaching, creative and organisational skills to the Wellington Region over decades. Congratulations Edith and thank you for over 60 years of service to Scottish Country Dancing. See the full citation for her award
The delicious spread (including plenty of options for the dietary-restricted) was organised and prepared by Nicole Trewavas and members of the Celtic Spirit Pipe Band as a fundraiser for the band. There was such an abundance of food, we enjoyed a second supper at the end of the evening.
After supper, dancing resumed for the second half of New Zealand devisers’ dances interspersed with old favourites.
This celebratory evening of dancing ended with the energetic The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh in memory of Her Majesty, our immediate past Patron.
Click on the arrows below the gallery to see an image for each of the 14 dances devised by New Zealanders.
As Rod commented at the end of the evening:
“It is not often the RSCDS has a Centenary, and I believe this has been a wonderful showcase of all the good things about Scottish Country Dancing. We have also celebrated the rich history of Scottish Country Dancing in New Zealand.”
Considerable work is needed to make sure an event like this is a success. Thanks so much to the Tri-Region committee for working together to organise this splendid celebration; the RSCDS New Zealand Branch for a grant to support the night, enabling us to have the wonderful Balmoral Band playing; Rod Downey and Iain Boyd for preparing extensive notes on the devisers and the dances selected for this evening.
Thanks also to the decorators of the hall including beautiful floral arrangements; all those who helped with the hall-set-up and packing-up; Debbie Roxburgh for MC’ing a somewhat non-standard night of dance; Michael Laidlaw for organising the Grand March; Nicole Trewavas for her piping and providing supper together with members from the Celtic Spirit Pipe Band; the briefers who entered the spirit of the occasion, especially as a number of dances were not well-known; Duncan, Mary and Alastair McDonald for equipment and technical expertise; Pat Reesby for videography; and Loralee Hyde for communications, timelines, posters, website stories and historical research, as well as her photography which provides a great record of this celebration.
And special thanks to all the dancers who supported the night, some coming a long way, but all entering the spirit to make the night a memorable occasion.
Associated articles and photos
Lower North Island RSCDS Centenary Ball: Devisers and their Dances. The stories of the dances on the programme compiled by Iain Boyd and Rod Downey, along with historical photos and videos compiled by Loralee Hyde.
15 November 2023