Our foundation date is 2 October 1985 when, after a few earlier starts and stops, a regular social SCD class was started in Darwin, and taught by Angus Henry, the only experienced SCD teacher in Darwin. Within a few weeks of starting the dancers were enjoying the challenge and unanimously agreed that the class should be taught to good Royal Scottish Country Dance Society standards, which have been maintained ever since.
After a couple of difficult early years the developing core of good dancers had consolidated the organisation to the stage of becoming an Affiliated Group of the RSCDS in 1988.
The young Affiliated Group grew rapidly, establishing an excellent international reputation for its dancing, teaching, and sociability. Membership was increasing at over 20% per annum, reaching 76 by 1991.
To achieve full RSCDS Branch status requires a minimum of two fully certificated RSCDS teachers so Puka Henry immediately commenced training and study to become the Group's (and Northern Territory's) second qualified SCD teacher, involving two visits to Scotland for final workshops and examinations.
Branch status was granted in 1992, and within another couple of years Darwin had four well-attended social dance Assemblies per year; a demonstration team; several more dancers were receiving thorough preliminary training within the branch towards becoming SCD teachers; regular subsidised Beginners Courses were being run to train new dancers as previously there had been no skilled SCD base in Darwin; and an enthusiastic and participating membership.
With all SCD dancing in Darwin being under one roof the Branch was able to offer all its members high standards of training, optional classes, access to visiting teachers and musicians, and good company.
The teachers had established a fully functional Branch website by 1995 (after research, believed to be the world's earliest regular SCD website), and organised the installation of a sprung wooden floor, funded equally by the NT Government and Darwin City Council, in Malak Community Hall. The hall has been used continually since then for all SCD in Darwin.
7-couple and 5-couple dances were frequently on the programs, which were planned over the long term to introduce dancers to interesting new dances as well as working back through the RSCDS repertoire and other old dances not often encountered now. The RSCDS were very supportive in return for our undertaking to maintain high RSCDS standards, providing 3 teaching scholarships at St Andrews Summer School and very complimentary reports on our standards during this development period.
In multicultural Darwin there was no strong Scottish community support for their native culture, but the Branch survived on the basis of providing splendid music, lively, interesting and challenging dances and excellent and careful teaching to the wide range of other nationalities who joined; there were never more than four Scots on the membership list at any one time.
The membership had also established happy and courteous standards of class behaviour, welcoming visitors and newcomers, and helping set up and clean the hall, avoiding cliques by mixing well with all others, and working well as a team.
In the early years of the 21st century assistance was able to be provided to a small and even more remote SCD group in Kununurra, Western Australia, with two long weekend intensive workshops in 2004 and 2006.
2004 was also the year in which the RSCDS introduced the new system of Medal Tests for Young Dancers; the first group of young dancers to be assessed was in Aberdeen and Darwin ran the second later that same year.
As the 21st century progressed the Group suffered from many of the normal afflictions of small organisations in Darwin; a rapid turnover of population; remoteness from other support and interchange of dancers, although quite a few members had taken the plunge and enjoyed holidays in New Zealand, St Andrews and in Canada, Japan and Hawaii attending SCD schools, workshops and branch classes as part of the big international family of dancers; Defence Force families being transferred interstate; social and work commitments causing moves and personal decisions affecting membership and continuity, and most of all the fact that the Branch had taught more that 500 beginners since it started, almost all of whom had eventually taken their SCD skills and talents interstate or overseas, but only received two interstate or international dancers moving into Darwin!
The constitution, which had to comply with RSCDS requirements as well as those of NT Government, was inhibiting flexible and proactive management and with a reducing membership the sad decision had to be taken to dissolve the Branch at the end of 2009, but the small Teachers Group which had been maintaining operations stepped in and re-established the organisation as the Scottish Country Dance Society Inc to continue the same high standards as before.
We retain the use of the hall with our sprung floor, and our huge collection of resources includes over 400 CDs of Scottish Country Dance music recordings going back over half a century along with excellent audio equipment. In recent years we have had youngsters undertaking Scottish Country Dancing for their awards under the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme, regular SCD classes have again been made available to schools wishing to commit to the activity, and a regular session of Ladies Step Dancing (Highland) has been re-introduced.
With everything else tidily in place, the Society is now concentrating on recruiting new blood, explaining to people who do not know of the great international pleasures of SCD, and rebuilding a strong Darwin community of participants in this most pleasurable and sociable, happy and healthy pastime.
New members are always assured of a warm welcome at class and/or the Beginners Courses, run twice a year. Don't be shy – come and join the family!