The New Zealand Academy of Highland and National Dancing

Conference Report 2016

The Academy’s 66th Annual Conference was run by the Ghillie Callum teachers and judges club and held in Dunedin over the weekend of 23-25 September.
The solo seal examination was held at the Mayfair Theatre with candidates Neryda Duncan and Sarah Robson performing at the highest level of our examination system.   They were accompanied by piper, Jorden Caig who once again played with skill and professionalism.  The compere for the evening was our President, Annetta Cowie who completed the evening with a fitting quote, “We can’t always choose the music life plays for us, but we can choose how we dance to it.”
There was also excellent entertainment by the Highland Dance Company of NZ with “Blood on the Loch” and “Hardship”, a tap solo from Dunedin Dance Academy’s Briar Taylor, and a wonderful selection of songs from Gladys Hope who was also a highland dancer.  The programme, tickets, and gifts for the candidates featured their silhouettes which was a lovely touch from the Ghillie Callum club.  Youth members finished their evening with a game of laser tag!
Youth members met early on Saturday at the Southern Cross Hotel at a session facilitated by their representative Leighton Terry.  Leighton then presented a summary of the ideas generated at the AGM which ranged from thoughts on jig shoe inspections to the need for the Academy to have a greater presence on social media.
The AGM was opened by mayor, Dave Cull, who aptly referred to the Scottish history of Dunedin.  A constitutional amendment was passed allowing electronic voting at elections.
Following the AGM, members were presented with information on the nearly complete Technical Progression Scheme which will provide a pathway of increasing levels of qualification for members of the Academy.  Members shared ideas to strengthen teachers’ and judges’ clubs, generated ideas for growing the judges’ list and discussed whether or not Hebridean dancing should be added to the Piping and Dancing Bylaws. 
The Academy heads into the future with its past always in view and over the next few conferences, the intention is to present interesting historical insights into our founding and early members.  As conference was held in Dunedin, the focus was on Otago members. Jackie McBride presented a wonderful insight into the early days of the Academy through the lives of Doreen Casey, May Wilson and Daisy Horrell.
Members then enjoyed watching a video of the Highland Dancing Company of NZs recent performances at the Lorient Festival which attracted much interest from French
The inaugural “Blokes Forum” was held at lunch time.  Sam Tait then presented thoughts back to members on what we need to do to attract and keep boys and grow our male membership.  This was followed on Sunday by a two workshops focussed on teaching boys
After lunch, the Dance Development Course commenced with guest speaker Ross Notman, Associate Professor of the University of Otago, presenting thoughts on teaching.  He explored the concept of motivation suggesting that the amount of effort invested is based on the chance of success multiplied by the likely benefit.  He also demonstrated the art of breaking physical movements down by teaching Leighton Terry to kick a football with his left foot.  Great kick first time Leighton!
The afternoon was completed by a look at jig and hornpipe tempos.  Many thanks to demonstrator, Maddie McBride, and piper James Wansink.                                                
The venue for the evening function was a mystery!  But it wasn’t long before we were all sure that we were headed for Larnach’s Castle for a special night with the buses winding their way up the hill into the mist! 
The evening contained many highlights.
· Sarah Gluyas was presented with her Solo Seal Certificate after successfully passing this prestigious examination in 2015.
· The Academy also began presenting specially designed Solo Seal medals for the first time and this will continue to be done at each conference.  Previous successful candidates were presented with their medals:
     Cushla Piesse (1971)
Barbara Tait (1974)
Pamela Fleming (1976)
Glenys Gray (1980)
Jacqui Seque (1989)
Serena Sangster (2014)
Sarah Gluyas (2015)
· Beckie Rout became our first member to reach 65 years of membership.
Foundation member Doreen Casey’s daughter, Mary Pat Hoare received her 60 year bar while Mary Pat’s daughter Louise Caulfield received her 30 year bar.  It was fitting for this to happen in Dunedin and is an example of the family history that is so strong within our Academy.

The cakes (no less than 3!) were cut by Life Members of the Academy, Beckie Rout, Joan Osborne, Enid Weir, and Sherilyn Hall. 

The night was topped off with some wonderful live music from Catgut and Steel with the dance floor full until it was time for Auld Lang Syne and for the last bus to leave the castle.

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