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Scottish Country Dancing in Peterborough

I have been fortunate to live in two cities with excellent Scottish dancing opportunities! Before retiring to Nanaimo, I lived and worked in Peterborough where for at least 30 years there has been a vibrant group of Scottish dancers, who like us, also meet on Tuesday evenings.

There are several differences. In Peterborough we were fortunate to have a large church hall, so that both the beginners group and the more advanced dancers could meet at the same time, with the beginners dancing in the basement and the more advanced group meeting upstairs.

In addition we had four instructors. Two were designated to instruct the beginners and two the advanced class each year, though over time these people switched groups. Also this allowed for the instructors to take breaks for holidays. The arrangement also fostered interaction between the advanced dancers and beginners.

The first dance each Tuesday evening, after the warm-up, was for everyone and the advanced dancers were asked to partner with a beginner. After that the first half hour in each group consisted of footwork and formation practice.

In addition, part way through the evening there was a tea/coffee break with goodies supplied by a volunteer who also prepared the tea and coffee. This provided an opportunity for socializing. There were some disadvantages to this arrangement in that people used to slip away, leaving different numbers for sets afterwards! I was guilty of this too as early mornings on the farm, combined with work and a twenty minute drive home took its toll!

Several social events were planned each year, in addition to monthly social dances, which I was not able to participate in. There was a Christmas dance with potluck, a Robbie Burns dance, (catered) and a weekend workshop and dance held in May at a lake resort north of Peterborough. A special rate meant that it was quite reasonable to stay at the resort, but also the resort was close enough that people could drive each day. Dancers from all over Ontario attended this event.

For two months in the summer the group also had casual evening dancing on the deck of a boathouse overlooking Little Lake in downtown Peterborough. The boathouse is situated along a public walkway, so that people out for a summer evening stroll could stop and watch, the hope being that we might be able to add new members through being visible. The summer evening dancing had a twist to it! The instructors did not devise the program. Instead volunteers from the group could step forward and agree to be responsible for the program as well as giving the walk-throughs and briefings on a particular evening! I have to confess that when I agreed to do this it gave me a new appreciation of how much work goes into preparing an evening of dancing!!! For me it was a lengthy process of choosing then learning the dances until I felt confident enough to survive the evening! Fortunately the instructors made themselves available for help and suggestions! June and Hazel please note that I still remember how difficult it was to plan an evening of dances!

Like the Nanaimo group, the Peterborough group held a picnic in the summer. For many years this took place at a lakeside house in Lakefield. The highlight of the afternoon activities was the performance of an aquatic version of “The St John River”, with the sets in shoulder-deep water, swimming from position to position! Following the barbeque dinner, we danced on the deck for an hour or more!

The Peterborough group also had a demonstration group that performed at senior’s residences and a children’s dance group, instructed by some members of the PSCDS. They performed at the Festival of Trees and on several other occasions each year.

I have been dancing for many years and I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to carry on dancing through my retirement. Thank you to everyone who makes this possible!

Christine D. Maxwell