Following the end of World War 2 in 1945 there came a need to return to a lifestyle similar to one we had enjoyed prior to those war years. Highland Dancing had been popular prior to and during the war years and the post war conditions encouraged this further this interest.
Schools of Highland Dancing sprang up in the cities in New South Wales and in many small and large country towns. Highland Dancers performed at most of the important functions held throughout the State encouraging more interest from a wider circle into this dance form. Dancing competitions and Highland Games were revived and proved a most popular outlet for the large number of dancers who were now involved in the art.
With the growth of so many schools of Highland Dancing, some large, some small, different styles of Highland Dancing soon became evident. This caused concern at some competitions where certain steps, styles and dress were popular with the different judges and the dancer had to dance to that particular adjudicator on the day to be in the winning circle.
Teachers and Adjudicators were not qualified although dancers were graded by a method of “Restricted” and “Open” Sections. Each competition organiser had his own interpretation of “Restricted.” There was no conformity.
Travel and the means of travel in Australia in the late forties usually restricted one to one’s own State with not many venturing past the borders of that State to compete.
By the late l940’s it became evident that there had to be a change to try and standardise the dancing in some way. A meeting of known Teachers, Adjudicators, Dancers and interested persons was called by Mr John Cousins, a respected Adjudicator and Teacher who was a Scot having danced and competed in Scotland prior to his taking up residence in Australia, by Mrs Doris Stokes, also a Teacher and respected Adjudicator and by Maree Allen-(nee Fairfield) Dancer and Competitor and an Assistant Teacher, later Teacher with Mr John Cousins.
The response was overwhelming. The first meetings were held at the Railways Institute at Central Station with Mr Cousins chairing the first meetings and Maree Allen (nee Fairfield) as Secretary taking the minutes. The need to establish a standard of dance was of paramount importance in all minds. A constitution had to be drawn up. This took a great deal of time and discussion and many meetings. The meeting that finally approved the constitution of the Scottish Dancing Association of New South Wales was held on 5 August 1953.
The “Preamble” to our first constitution is as follows and best describes the reasons and the emotions behind the formation of the Scottish Dancing Association of New South Wales later to become known as “The Scottish Dancing Association of Australia.”
Preamble: “whereas certain persons with the common object of introducing uniform technique into Highland Dancing and Kindred Dancing and uniform judging of Highland Dress in NSW for the better guidance of Adjudicators, Teachers and Pupils, and wishing to confer a corporate status upon themselves agree as follows:-”
We were fortunate that in Scotland in 1949 the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing had been established with objects similar to those of this newly formed New South Wales body. It was decided – quoting the Constitution under the heading of Standard Technique -“That the technique of Highland Dancing in NSW shall conform in all respects with the standard laid down by the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing. The Association recognises the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing as the supreme body in the International control of Highland Dancing.”
Examinations were set up in the form of Medal Tests for dancers, Teachers Examinations, Adjudicators and Examiners Examinations.
There are so many names of Teachers, Adjudicators, Dancers, parents and interested people that could be listed here of those who were instrumental in the formation of the SDAA and responsible for its continuance throughout the last 50 years as an association dedicated solely to the art of Highland Dancing.
May the SDAA and the SDAAA continue to grow and flourish.
Written by Maree Allen (nee Fairfield) Foundation Member and Life Member.