Nelson Summer School: The fun of it all!

For the RSCDS New Zealand Branch Summer School 2023-2024, it was the turn of the  Nelson/Marlborough Region to host us in Nelson—billed as the place for dancing, sun and friendship!

Catching up with old friends from around New Zealand and the world, together with making new friends, is one of the highlights of Summer School. On the first night of dancing, as the laughter and chatter echoed around the hall, I wondered what fun was in store for us at classes, evening functions and other social activities.

A Hogwarts fancy dress night set the scene for many amazing costumes, along with dances fitting the theme and lots of smiles and laughter. I managed to concoct a ‘Hedwig the Owl’ costume entirely from bits and pieces I found at home, with a mask template downloaded from the web.

Loralee dancing Slytherin House as Hedwig. Photo: Tim Cuff, Nelson Creative

Remarkably, I danced Slytherin House partnered by ‘Fluffy’, the three-headed dog (three dancers dancing as one). The rest of the set was very accommodating, particularly while dancing the Snake Pass!

Fluffy, the three-headed dog!
The band—Ian Telfar, Jason Morris, Hilary Ferral and Aileen Logie—dressed up as characters from Hogwarts and played spooky, supernatural music to fit the theme, especially for Slytherin House.

At Hogmanay, it was a delight to see dancers enjoying the strathspey Feshiebridge, devised by long-time Wellington Region tutor Gary Morris. Other popular dances included the old favourite Glasgow Highlanders, and Scott Meikle with much joyful birling.

Enjoying birling in Scott Meikle!

Although morning classes cover the serious business of step practice, learning new formations and dancing together as a team, there are plenty of fun-filled moments. I enjoyed three mornings dancing with the Social Class tutored by Ann Oliver where there was an intense focus on learning about the intricacies of dances and the music, with Lynne Scott on the fiddle.

Ann wrote the dances of each day on a board as an aide-mémoire for us. Lo and behold … there were fine artists amongst us who drew cartoons representing each dance on the board! Resulting in lots of laughter and discussion as well as providing visual clues to help us remember the dances.

Our dances on Day Four of the Social Class provided plenty of inspiration for the cartoonists.

My joy of dancing is equalled by my love of our native bush and wildlife. On one afternoon excursion, a group of us went to the Brook Waimārama Sanctuary, a stunning haven for our unique biodiversity. How relaxing it was to stroll along the tracks through the bush and along Brook  Stream in the fresh air; recuperation for our brains which had worked so hard at classes and evening functions, and for our sore legs.

Strolling along the tracks of the Brook Waimārama Sanctuary—a quite different activity to Scottish Country Dancing, but still providing the many benefits of fun, fitness and friendship.

Summer School ceilidhs are full of clever, entertaining items ranging from performances by musicians to recitations, to singing, along with (sometimes quite wild!) dancing. Superbly organised and MC’d by Ruth Budden, the Nelson ceilidh was no different.

Ruth was also the tutor of the Teacher Training Class, but somehow she found the time to teach some other Scottish Country Dancers some Rock and Roll moves. Well done all!

Ruth and Jenn, Su and Ian and Katherine and Andrew show off their fabulous costumes and rocking and rolling skills

At the ceilidh, a group of Wellingtonians including the 2024-2025 Summer School Organiser Ann Oliver and members of the Committee, danced Catch the Wind (devised by Romaine Butterfield) to welcome everyone to the next Summer School in Wellington. This dance ties in with the catch cry of the School—You’ll be blown away by a Wellington welcome!

Philip, Andrew, Margaret, Ann, Peter, Michele, Lee and Jeanette dancing Catch the Wind with Helen and Loralee ensuring the Wellington Summer School banner wasn’t blown away! Photo: From RSCDS New Zealand Branch video

In a nod to the ‘windy’ theme of the next Summer School in Wellington, the last dance on the Final Night was The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Watch this video from the RSCDS New Zealand Branch to see the joy of the dance. Hear the fabulous music from the band alongside musicians from the Summer School Musicians’ Class led by Lynne Scott! And hear the whoops of joy at the end!

Thanks so much to Doug Mills and Lynda Aitchison and  their committee for organising the Nelson Summer School, and thanks to the tutors, musicians, MCs, gofers, makers of morning teas, drivers, photographers, videographers and others who helped make this such a fun and successful get-together.

I do recommend coming along to enjoy all the fun and friendship at the Wellington 2024-2025 Summer School. Find out more and register here

See all my photos of Nelson Summer School and download if you wish

Loralee Hyde
15 March 2024

All photos by Loralee Hyde except where noted