The New Zealand Academy of Highland and National Dancing

Conference Report 2012

This year, New Zealand Academy members were hosted by the Nelson Highland Conference Committee for our 62nd Annual Conference.

Our Solo Seal examination combined with a night of Celtic entertainment was held at the Theatre Royal in Nelson which was an excellent venue. The Solo Seal examination is the only Academy examination open to the public and is the supreme award in our examination system. This year the candidate was Emma Denney from Auckland and I am sure she enjoyed performing to a very appreciative audience at the theatre. Mr Neil Baxter from Christchurch was the piper and as always gave the candidate every opportunity to showcase her dancing. There was a vast array of entertainment throughout the evening – the Academy dance company ‘The Highland Dance Company of New Zealand' gave five excellent performances showing the audience what they performed during their trips to Virginia and Shanghai this year – the dancers showed what great performers they are and we are proud they are representing our Academy and dancing at such high standards showcasing New Zealand dancing around the world. Other entertainment was provided by the Celtic Pipe Band who played a large variety of items, Kildunne Dancers, Kelly Webster, Origin Dance Crew and Fuzion Dance Crew. Following the Solo Seal examination, the youth of the Academy attended a function organised by our Youth Representative Miss Kate Wills.

We did not have to contend with daylight saving this year and the Youth met bright and early on Saturday morning with over 40 members attending. They discussed items relating to them at the meeting organised by Kate Wills and all members were encouraged to share their ideas in a relaxed format. At the same time the Dance Company Co-ordinator, Mrs Julie Hawke, Assistant Co-ordinator, Mrs Robyn Simmons and some members of Executive Council met with the Regional Co-ordinators to discuss what had been happening in each area over the past year and to give the Regional Co-ordinators the opportunity to ask any questions. Executive Council appreciates the support given by the Regional Co-ordinators in organising items in their local areas during the year.

This year, the Annual General Meeting was changed to the Saturday morning to allow the Dance Development Course to commence on Saturday afternoon giving the Technical Committee additional time to work with all of our members and to allow the Youth Forum to be held on Saturday morning at the commencement of conference. The conference was officially opened by Nelson Councillor Mr Ian Barker. The Annual General Meeting followed this and we remembered Mrs Lynette Cameron and Mrs Julie Appleton-Seymour who both passed away since our last meeting and members were invited to pay their respects and share memories. The meeting then covered all formal aspects relating to the Academy with reports tabled for various activities. At the conclusion of the Annual General Meeting we had a Discussion Forum – this year topics included Future Directions and the Kiltie Club. Two members of the Dance Company Chantelle Shatford and Harriet Lintern then gave a talk describing the two overseas tours.

The Dance Development Course commenced early on Saturday afternoon and all members attended a talk by Tania Huddart entitled 'The Art of Balance' – as always Tania is very interesting and approachable and all members enjoyed her presentation. The Technical Committee had prepared a quiz for the remainder of the afternoon – there was a lot of competition in the room, a great deal of laughter and a lot of learning – everyone at the quiz had a great time and I am sure learnt something new.

The Diploma and Bar Presentations were held on Saturday evening. It was lovely to see there were many people in attendance. A special presentation was made to Mrs Kay Grout who, after 14 years as a Liaison Officer from the Piping and Dancing Association to the Executive Council of the Academy, has decided to stand down. Kay has spent many hours working for the good of the Academy and all of our members. We wish her well for the future and we know she will always follow the Academy with interest. Thank you Kay for all of the work you have done for us so willingly.

Sunday morning started bright and early with a warm-up session with Kelly Webster. She then, gave a demonstration showing different warm-up and stretching techniques. The Technical Committee had prepared excellent workshops that members chose to attend – these covered a large number of topics including: Setting up for Teaching, Turning Points, 18 years and over Set Steps, Junior Judging, Irish Jig steps and Up & Arms. What a huge variety to choose from and all members benefited from their knowledge. Our own member, Mrs Helen Gilchrist gave a very informative talk to all members entitled 'Chill and Thrill' – how to chill and thrill the audience at the same time. She covered how to relax, breathe and think to optimise a dance performance. How fortunate we are as an Academy to have a member with these skills willing to share with us. Mrs Sherilyn Hall then led a practical group session on the Irish Reel. Congratulations to Mrs Sherilyn Hall and her team on another very successful Dance Development Course.

Congratulations must go to the members of the Nelson Highland Conference Committee for their excellent organisation and attention to detail shown over the entire weekend. The venues and hospitality were excellent and all events were very well organised and this gave all members every opportunity to renew old friendships and foster new ones.

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