The New Zealand Academy of Highland and National Dancing

Conference 2022 report - 9th Nov 2022

Conference 2022 - Queenstown
After two years of setbacks, the Southland Teachers & Judges finally had the chance to host all Academy members in Queenstown over the weekend of 16-18 September 2022. The 71st Academy Annual General Meeting and Conference weekend was upon us – and what a weekend it was! Many of our members, upon landing at Queenstown Airport or driving into the resort town, were feeling excitement for what was about to unfold.
Friday evening kicked off with the Solo Seal examination at the Queenstown Memorial Centre, hosted by compere Mrs Kirsty Pickett. This was the same venue that had hosted Solo Seal in 2020 despite the cancellation of Conference that year, and once again it was perfectly suited to hold this performance examination. The three candidates, Imogen Grayson, Britney Moore and Ariana Watkins, showcased themselves with grace and decorum, which was a credit to their many hours of hard work leading up to the exam. The candidates were accompanied by Solo Seal piper Mr Neil Baxter, who showed skill and professionalism throughout the night.
The Highland Dance Company of New Zealand provided interim entertainment at Solo Seal. The audience certainly enjoyed seeing this top group of dancers showcase Highland choreography in an innovative way and it was evident that the dancers enjoyed performing together again after many events for them have had to be cancelled over the past two years.
On Saturday morning some members had an early start, arriving at conference venue Rydges Lakeland Resort at 8am for the Youth Forum and Examination Organisers meetings. Newly elected Youth Representative Miss Imogen Grayson led an interactive and engaging session, with the over-arching topic of “communication” – both between the Academy and its youth members, and amongst the youth themselves. Imogen later presented a summary of the forum to all members during the Annual General Meeting. At the same time, examination organisers held a robust and collaborative discussion about their experiences of Academy exams in different areas.
The Annual General Meeting on Saturday morning was officially opened by the Mayor of Queenstown Lakes, Mr Jim Boult. Mayor Boult’s passion for the Queenstown community was evident and it was a pleasure to welcome him before his term ended in October 2022. Along with a moment of silence to acknowledge the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Paige Taylor played a lament during which everyone had time to remember and reflect on treasured past members – Mrs Verna Dougherty, Mrs Carol Jankhe and Mrs Marlene McKerrow who together reflected more than 180 years of membership to our Academy.
During the AGM we recognised our most recent life members Mrs Cushla Piesse and Mrs Annetta Cowie, both of whom had the honour of their names being added to the Academy Emeritus Scroll. Annetta was also presented with a very special Past President’s badge.
Following the formalities of the AGM the Academy presented service bar presentations to 20, 30, 40 and 50-year bar recipients from 2020, 2021 and 2022. All bar recipients received warm recognition of their many years of respective service given to the Academy. Guest speaker Mr Warren Lees then presented an insightful and moving recollection of his life and career that provided many lessons to all those present.
Following lunch, members launched into forum discussions. Topics this year included the Academy Technical Progression Scheme, Academy resources and the barriers to utilising these, and the Academy’s Sustainability guidelines. Each group held passionate discussions and provided helpful feedback for Executive. The forum was followed by other presentations from the Academy’s Privacy Officer Mrs Jeanie Borsboom, Piping & Dancing Association President Mrs Barbara Tait, and an interesting insight by Mrs Jackie McBride into the life of past Technical Member Mrs Janice Wood.
The final meetings on Saturday afternoon brought about the start of the 2022 Dance Development Course, with junior and senior judging workshops. As always, members enjoyed the opportunity to upskill on their judging and gain helpful tips on judging at their respective levels.
The Saturday evening function overlooked the beautiful Queenstown landscape, atop the hill at Skyline Gondola – what a fantastic venue, even if there were a few comments from those with a mild fear of heights that they might have to sleep the night up the hill! By all accounts the dessert buffet and help-yourself candy bar dispelled those anxieties.
Presentations included what must have been a record number of diploma presentations made in one evening (41), reflecting those who had qualified over the past three years. What a pleasure it was for all of these diploma recipients and their families to join the evening’s festivities. A number of significant bar presentations were made to the following members, recognising their loyal service to the Academy over the previous years – Mrs Sheilagh Moore-Briggs (60 years), Mrs Averil Bray and Mrs Johanna Lees (65 years) and Mrs Beckie Rout (70 years).
Mr Angus Hendry was recognised as the Academy’s 24th successful Solo Seal candidate, following his examination in March 2022 in Christchurch. Mrs Anna Ashmore (who passed in 2008) also received her Solo Seal medal at the evening’s presentations. The formalities concluded after Mrs Annetta Cowie and Mrs Cushla Piesse were presented with their Life Membership awards. Annetta was also given the honour of cutting the Academy cake. Everyone danced into the night with the sounds of piping group Highland Sounds. The dance floor was packed for their entire set, which was indicative of their top class performances throughout the evening.
The Dance Development Course continued on Sunday morning with a refresher course of Irish tempos as contained within the P & D Bylaws, and we were grateful to once again have piper Mr Neil Baxter present to showcase these differing tempos impeccably. After this, the Technical Committee presented a wide variety of workshops to members that were very well received. These were: “Mind Over Matter” – techniques for mindfulness within performances, “High Points of the Seann Triubhas” – rising to the challenge of the intricacies and dynamics of technique and timing within the Seann Triubhas, “Plan, Prepare, Perform” – a session on preparation for performances at the NZ Championships, and “Battle of the Swords” – a practical workshop to give attendees the X Factor to compete in the Sword Dance at the highest level.
All members came back together to compete in a large group quiz run by Mrs Cushla Piesse – everyone’s competitive nature reared its head as we all scrambled to decide which dancer was presenting a movement correctly, or name some foundation movements from the Irish Hornpipe!
Sunday lunch preceded the formal closing of Conference for 2022, and a resounding Thank You was extended to the Southland Teachers & Judges. It is a big undertaking to plan for conference once, let alone three times, and we are so grateful for their effort in running a smooth conference that was so well enjoyed by all.
Everyone is now looking forward to the next Conference in 2023, to be hosted by the Manawatu Teachers & Judges Club in Palmerston North

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