DST - Edinburgh University New Scotland Country Dance Society
November 30, 2022
Continuing our blog posts about Dancing Scottish at universities, Rhoslyn Howroyd, President of Edinburgh University New Scotland Country Dance Society, tells us all about it...
Here at the Edinburgh University New Scotland Country Dance Society (affectionately shortened to New Scotland by members), we are well into our first Semester of classes this year. Our name may be deceiving, as we offer Highland dance and Hard Shoe Step dance classes alongside our Scottish Country classes, with 5 classes a week in either the Pleasance or Teviot Debating Hall. I think it’s a real benefit that we are able to offer a range of different Scottish dance styles so that members can get familiar with the whole range of different Scottish traditional dance forms, and it’s always heartening to see people attending all classes!
Alongside our regular classes, we also run student-led monthly ceilidhs - each ceilidh has a different theme, with a statutory raffle thrown in for good measure. These are not only a great excuse for a fun dance after a month of deadlines, but also allow our class attendees to chat without having their turnouts scrutinised.
We mainly have new members joining us from our Freshers Fayre - often involving a mix of exchange students who want to learn about Scottish culture during their stay in Edinburgh, and students who are continuing their hobbies from before university. There’s a good representation of degree subjects in our classes too. Our doors are always open to non-students however, most often with people who joined New Scotland during their studies and have remained with us ever since - we even have a past member currently living in Switzerland joining us for our Step classes via zoom!
We have recently reached our 75th anniversary, with planning for an anniversary dance underway to celebrate. As many past members have continued dancing in the Edinburgh area, either as part of the Dunedin Dancers branch (New Scotland’s non-student led sister society), or in other dance groups, the 75th Dance will be a great opportunity for previous and current members to meet - I know that since I only joined committee during the pandemic, I’ll be finally able to put some familiar names to faces!
Scottish Country Dancing was a world which I first entered 10 years ago. After moving back to the UK when I was 11, my mum suggested that I attend Scottish Country Classes to help manage my joint disability. Despite stumbling my way through my first class and forgetting what the words ‘right’ and ‘left’ even meant, I went away with a new hobby and keen interest in Scottish dance. I attended the Newcastle Festival before knowing what a big event it was in the RSCDS circles, and then joined the Rosemarkie branch after moving to the Highlands. Attending New Scotland’s online classes during my first year at university in 2020 provided me with a chance to actually interact with other University students, and a sense of familiarity during a time that was quite unstable. I was Treasurer for the Society during my second year (where I finally got to meet the other committee members in person!) and was elected President in April this year.
What I would say to any young person not yet involved in Scottish Country Dancing, is that “It isn’t as scary and formal as you may think!”. You can start Country dancing at any stage in your life, and you can take it as seriously or as casually as you’d like. We have people in New Scotland interested in choreographing and dancing in demonstrations at competitions, and others who are content with the occasional Country lesson and Ceilidh. Also, if you’re worried about making mistakes, just remember that even the more experienced dancers still forget whether it's a right- or left-hand turn, and Scottish Country classes and dances are probably some of the most inclusive events I’ve ever attended. You’re guaranteed to make friends for life if you enter the RSCDS world, as well as having a hobby which you can do practically anywhere in the world.