Scottish country dancing in Cowichan aims for fun and fitness

Every Thursday night the Cowichan Valley Scottish Country Dancers meet at the Chemainus Seniors Centre and suddenly the joint is jumping with people reeling and jigging around the floor to irresistibly toe-tapping music.

With names like Maxwell’s Rant, Mrs. Stewart’s Jig, Pelorus Jack and Strip the Willow, these dances are country dances with roots stretching back centuries. It’s a sociable form of dancing in which participants are grouped into sets, typically of three, four or five couples arranged either in two lines (men facing women) or in a square. They work together to dance a sequence of formations. Each dance is repeated enough times so that every couple dances each position in turn until they return to their starting positions.

It’s high-energy and certainly cranks the heart rate up a couple of notches. Some of the dances can be quite complex and there’s a degree of mental stimulation and challenge in remembering the sequences, positions and who’s on first. As a result, there is a lot of laughter.

"The club’s unwritten motto is

fun, fitness and fellowship," said Susan Lumholst-Smith, organizer. "You don’t need to be Scottish or know anything about the dances. You just have to enjoy great music and some lively activity."

The Chemainus club has been in existence since 2006 and it draws in people from around the Cowichan Valley. At 30 regular members, it is small compared to larger clubs in Nanaimo and Victoria, but what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in enthusiasm.

Katherine Miller, a member and a Scottish country dancing teacher from Nanaimo, leads the group through the dances, explaining the sequences and the steps and then walking the group through the dance before the music is played and the participants dance.

"It’s an activity that appeals to all age groups," said Lumholst-Smith. "You don’t need a partner or any special clothing – just a pair of soft shoes. We welcome new members so anyone who’s interested should just drop by and join in the fun."

The group meets from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. For more information contact Lumholst-Smith at 250-416-6749 or geoffrey.susan@telus. net