St Andrew's Summer School 2012 Week 3 and 4

I was asked to right an article for the Cape Town Caledonian Society newsletter on what it entailed to qualify as a Scottish Country Dance teacher, here's a copy of the piece I wrote......


I recently returned from St Andrews in Scotland where I attended a two-week course at the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) Summer School and took my final exam in the process to be become a fully-certificated RSCDS Scottish Country Dance teacher.

To become a Scottish Country Dancing Teacher it is necessary for a dancer to pass 5 Units. Unit 1 is a written, theory exam on the history of Scottish Country dancing, the history of the RSCDS and music and also the steps and formations. Unit 2 is a practical examination where candidates must be able to brief and dance to a high standard 12 prescribed dances. Unit 3 is a practical examination where we must teach 16 bars of dancing, as well as teach any step and formation from a list of over 100 formations. There then has to be a gap of two years while one gains more teaching experience. Unit 4 is the Record of Teaching Practice, which is basically a supervised log of teaching. This must be assessed at least 6 months before taking the Unit 5 examination, which is the final teaching exam.

As you can see it’s quite a rigorous and lengthy journey requiring a lot of time and effort.

This last sector in the journey was in July/August. On arrival in Edinburgh I headed straight up to St Andrews, well not quite I did make a slight diversion for a lighthouse, one I’d not managed to see on previous visits to Bonnie Scotland.

The North Queensferry Lighthouse is a small lantern tower that was built on the village's pier in 1812 by celebrated Scottish engineer John Rennie, one of the greatest engineers of his day. Robert Stevenson advised the type of apparatus for lighting the tower. The lighthouse was constructed to safely guide passenger ferries across the Firth of Forth. The site is also notable for being one of the best viewing places of the gigantic Forth Rail Bridge, a truly impressive sight.

There were 11 candidates in my class and we were quite a cosmopolitan bunch. Six of us had all been together in 2010 when we took our unit 2 and 3 exams and we have remained in touch so it was great to meet up with friends – Anna from Russia, Samuele from Italy and Birgitta, Ilona and Johanna from Germany. We were joined by Sashiko from Japan, Olina a Kiwi, Reg a Sassenach and Gillian and Lindsay – a couple of Scots. Our tutor was Graham Donald and our musician Robert McKay.

The days passed in a blur of classes, teaching lessons, writing lesson plans, dancing, queuing for meals in the university residence, dancing, music, ceilidhs, rhythmic coaching and more dancing. There wasn’t too much time for sleep and I only managed a couple of bracing strolls along the west sands beach. There wasn’t energy though to jog or run and so re-create a scene from ‘Chariots of Fire’.

On my one free afternoon between the two week course I was able to meet up with Callum Farquhar. Some of you may recall meeting him when he visited Cape Town earlier in the year. (He joined in our Callies Burns Nicht celebrations where he recited some of the Burns’ poems for us with a genuine Scottish accent. He was also partly responsible for Jacinta’s revived interest in the renowned family Tetraonidae and not from an ornithological point of view I may add!)

At Callum’s suggestion we went to the picturesque village of Falkland, nestling at the foot of the Lomond hills with its palace, estate and gardens. The palace was the favourite retreat of the Stuart dynasty and a former residence of Mary, Queen of Scots. In the gardens there is also a real Tennis court. It is quite different from the lawn tennis we know and it was fascinating to watch a game in progress. It was great to have a change of scenery, wandering the quaint narrow lanes brightly enhanced with pots and tubs of flowers and buildings oozing history.

The exam on the second last day went well and I even managed to enjoy teaching this lesson. There were of course things I forgot and could have improved on but I was successful and passed!

Before closing I would like to acknowledge some of the ‘teamwork’ I have enjoyed on this teaching journey. The patient, keen and enthusiastic dancers in the classes I have taught and the encouragement offered by friends. The visiting teachers who provided inspiration for my progress on the teaching continuum. The loving support of my family.

I look forward to passing on the skills and traditions of Scottish Country Dancing to the next generation of dancers. I hope to see you on the dance floor….

Heather Hodgson

October 2012