Scottish Country Dancing classes held in Windsor

By Cathi Sasportas - ReminderNews
Windsor - posted Thu., Nov. 14, 2013
First-time Scottish Country Dancer Mary Boulrice learns the steps from teacher Karen Pestana. Photos by Cathi Sasportas.
First-time Scottish Country Dancer Mary Boulrice learns the steps from teacher Karen Pestana. Photos by Cathi Sasportas.

Look inside Grace Episcopal Church on the Town Green each Tuesday evening, and you will witness some unique dancing with a long cultural history. The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society meets each week for exercise, socialization and fun.

Mardene Hof, a retired teacher of Scottish Country Dancing who still attends some of the dancing sessions, says all kinds of people dance for many different reasons. "Some people like the music, some people are Scottish and are interested in their heritage, and some are interested in the intricacies of it," she said. "Many of the men who come are interested in the intricacies and figures that are part of the dance. We get a lot of engineers and mathematicians because of that."

Tuesday night classes start at 7 p.m. for all levels of dancers. They dance until 8:30 p.m., then take a break, and intermediate dancers are welcome to dance from 8:40 to 9:30 p.m. 

The Windsor group is part of New Haven Branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dancing Society. Branches of the Society can be found all over the world, and Hof pointed out that no matter where you go in the world, you would be able to dance because the steps are taught the same way everywhere. There are other locations across the state where people can find a place to take part in Scottish Country Dancing as well.

The Windsor group had 10 dancers on Tuesday, Nov. 12. Teacher Karen Pestana said the group is relatively small, but is a lot of fun, and welcomes new members. "It's easy to get to know everyone in this group, and we are eager to teach new people," she said. "Afterall, we were all beginners once, too."  She said she began dancing about 15 years ago after seeing dancers through the windows of Grace Episcopal Church.

At the recent meeting, two new people had come to check out the group. They were welcomed into the group and jumped right into the dancing. The teachers spent some time introducing each dance and teaching the steps, then everyone participated in each dance, changing partners and getting to know one another.

Mary Boulrice traveled from Springfield, Mass., to learn more. "I was looking for something to do outside of work and I like to dance, so this looked like fun," she said.

"It's good physical exercise, but it's also a social exercise and a mental exercise as well," said Hof. "There are a lot of steps to remember, so you have to keep alert and remember the sequence of steps."

While most of the teachers were trained here in the States, some received their Scottish Country Dance training in Scotland.  Ken Way has been dancing since 1955, when he learned to dance while on scholarship in the country. "I found out it was the one sport I could actually do," he said. He's still dancing, and teaching dancing all these years later because, he said, "It's just the best thing there is."

Any adult is welcome to try out a class for themselves. The first class is free and all classes after that are $5 each. You can find out more about the group by visiting its website, www.rscdsnewhaven.org.


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