The New Zealand Academy of Highland and National Dancing

Conference Report 2011

New Zealand Academy members travelled to Palmerston North from 23rd - 25th September 2011 for our 61st Annual Conference.

Our conference was officially opened by Hon. Steve Maharey who gave a very entertaining overview of his Scottish ancestry and what Palmerston North has to offer visitors to the region.

The Solo Seal examination was held at the Spiers Centre, Palmerston North Boys High School. This examination is the only Academy examination open to the public and is the supreme award in our examination system. Entering the examination this year was Jessica Findlay from Christchurch and Stafford Horman from Palmerston North and I am sure both dancers enjoyed performing to an appreciative audience accompanied by excellent piping from our own Academy member Mr Neil Baxter from Christchurch. At the completion of the Solo Seal examination Mr Stuart Easton gave members a marvellous display of piping.

The audience was then treated to the spectacular debut performance from The Highland Dance Company of New Zealand performing their contemporary dance – The Thistle and The Fern. An excellent team of dancers showcased our dancing – a world class performance with amazing choreography and attention to detail. Special thanks must go to Mrs Julie Hawke and Mrs Robyn Simmons for their work in making this happen.

The Youth of the Academy then went to the Daytona Go-Kart complex for go-karting for the remainder of the evening – this gives the Youth an opportunity to meet at the beginning of the weekend.

The Dance Development Course on Saturday held a number of interesting and informative workshops and this year there were a large number of guest tutors including Tania Huddart who presented a DANZ workshop. Shelly and Stuart Easton's session “Dancing on the Beat” where a large number of members were up on the floor experimenting with different ways tunes can be played. Mrs Linda Gray who gave a very informative talk regarding tax issues and how they relate to dance teachers and Sara Simmons who presented First Aid for Dance Studios showing members how to perform CPR and some basic first aid skills. It is wonderful that we are able to see our own members contributing using their professional and diverse skills at our Dance Development Course and see how many skills can be related back to dancing. The Technical Committee had prepared excellent workshops with varied content and there was certainly something of interest for all members in attendance. Congratulations to Mrs Sherilyn Hall and her team on another successful Dance Development Course.

The Diploma and Bar Awards were presented on Saturday evening – it was wonderful to have so many of our young members present to receive their diplomas. Our Academy Patron Mrs Beckie Rout received her 60 year membership this year and I am sure others in attendance were interested to hear about Mrs Rout's experiences of dancing over the past 60 years – particularly her experiences completing her dancing examinations. Mrs Sherilyn Hall was awarded Life Membership of the Academy on Saturday evening – her commitment to the Academy and her willingness to share her vast knowledge is appreciated by all members – Sherilyn is a very deserving recipient of Life Membership.

The Highland Dance Company of New Zealand performed twice on Saturday evening – their contemporary item - The Thistle and The Fern and their traditional item - New Zealand Dancing Feet – both of these items were very well received and again our dancing was showcased to an appreciative audience. We wish all involved in this every success.

Yet again our Conference fell on Daylight Saving so our Youth Members had a very early start at 8.00 am on Sunday morning – they had a varied agenda and our new Youth Representative Kate Wills had a large number of youth in attendance discussing matters that relate to them.

Following the Youth Forum the Annual General Meeting commenced. A Lament was played by Mr Neil Baxter for three of our members. Those present were given an opportunity to share their memories of Mrs Tui Downie – Life Member, Mrs Betty Broadbelt and Mrs Margaret Thomas.

The meeting then covered all formal aspects relating to the Academy with all reports tabled for various activities. At the conclusion of the AGM we had a Discussion Forum – topics covered this year were group interviews for examinations, subscription due dates, the possibility of having one combined conference/dance development course fee, exploring the possibility of purchasing dance development course notes if not in attendance and an update regarding opportunities for the Academy dance group.

Thank you to the Manawatu Teachers and Judges club for hosting our annual conference. There was great hospitality and excellent venues that made it easy for old friendships to be renewed and new friendships formed.

The New Zealand Academy of Highland and National Dancing Inc., PO Box 5470, Palmerston North
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