Australian Winter School 2023
October 26, 2023
RSCDS Sydney Branch – Australian Winter School 2023
The Winter School, hosted by Sydney Branch, was held in the sea side town of Kiama, NSW, where we welcomed 170 people to Dance Through the Decades. Each day featured a selection of books and publications from the RSCDS representing around 20 years each day. Our teachers were Gary Coull and Andrew Nolan from the UK, Hazel Fish and Ann Oliver from New Zealand and Sally Ord from Tasmania. Our musicians were Ewan Galloway and Shona MacFadyen from the UK, Sharlene Penman from New Zealand and James Gastineau-Hills, Emma Nixon and Iain McKenzie from Australia.
Scholarship recipient Olivia Longson wrote about her week in Kiama.
Dancing Through the Decades? More like Dancing with the Decades!
I have just returned from my first Winter School and, reflecting on my week, the memory that really stands out is the joy of a shared passion across people from so many different decades. People in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and even 80s (plus a few in their 90s enjoying from the sidelines!) all sharing the same hobby – there can’t be many moments in life when you get to experience that!
As a Jay Family Fund Youth Scholarship recipient, I was extremely fortunate to be able to experience the wonder of a Winter School this year. Spending hours and hours every day dancing, honing techniques, learning formations and perfecting dances, I have come away with a buzz for Scottish Country Dancing and a knowledge that I have found a hobby that I can have for life.
Celebrating the Centenary of the RSCDS, the theme of “Dancing Through the Decades” was a wonderful way to tie the week together, with each day bringing another time frame in history to life. Starting 100 years ago, and working all the way through up to today, with a few brand-new dances from our own members thrown in, we worked on all sorts of dances throughout the week. Not only were there plentiful reels, jigs and strathspeys, but we also had a waltz, running step and minuet dance thrown in, alongside Highland and Scottish Step classes to really round out and celebrate all the various elements of the RSCDS.
One of the biggest highlights for me was the range of visiting teachers that we were lucky to learn from over the week, accompanied by a wonderful range of musicians from all over the world. Each teacher brought a different style to their classes, with some focussing on technique, some giving us great insight into the history of the dances and others providing little snippets of memory reminders to take through all our dancing (a favourite of mine is thinking of ‘WOW’ when thinking about the shape I should be making with my arms when dancing around!). Having done a class with all the visiting teachers, I’m proud to be able to decree a “BINGO!” on my teachers bingo card!
The evening socials, formal dinner and ball were a fantastic way to be able to put our learnings into practice, dancing with people from all the different classes and sharing knowledge and experiences. Seeing the dances come to life in a hall with 100+ dancers on the floor was brilliant! Tempering your dancing to work with so many different partners and sets helps to focus on the importance of appreciating the decades of people that are involved in the sessions and the level that they are wanting to dance at.
My first Winter School experience was a brilliant demonstration of a lifelong hobby that has done, and will continue to, stand the test of time. No matter if you’re dancing every dance on a Youth Scholarship, or sitting out for a few to pace yourself, Scottish Country Dancing really does bring the decades together and I can’t wait to continue in my journey with this great hobby, meeting people from all decades along the way!