Dance

Chennai’s very own Scottish ball turns 50

Through these years, the ball has seen participation from expats of different nations as well

Through these years, the ball has seen participation from expats of different nations as well   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

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The Scottish Country Dance Society of Chennai will celebrate its golden jubilee with the annual St Andrew’s Ball, over postie’s jigs, Robert Burns’ poems and apple strudel

In 1969, Chennai was home to a group of Scotsmen and women, employed by Hindustan Motors; the company had established its first factory here in Tiruvallur. For lack of a happening social life, the Scots decided to meet every Monday and dance their longing for home away. And so was formed the Scottish Country Dance Society of Chennai, which this year will be celebrating its golden jubilee with the annual St Andrew’s Ball.

“This year’s ball will have the same format, but it will be much bigger. Our chief guest, Paul Dryden, the deputy head of mission from the British High Commission, is himself Scottish,” says Balaji Moorthy, chieftain of the society. The chieftain of a Scottish dance group is the one who decides which dances will be performed, and for the past couple of years, Balaji has been helming the role.

He has picked out traditional four-couple dances, including ‘The Wandering Wallaby’ and ‘Come What May’, as well as party dances to get the newcomer crowd involved, such as ‘Strip The Willow’ and ‘Dashing White Sergeant’. The dances are all about formations and patterns, that allow people to explore their physical chemistry with each other and give everyone a chance to be part of a group. The St Andrew’s Ball, a tribute to Scotland’s patron saint, also celebrates the poet Robert Burns with poem recitals and traditional dishes such as haggis and apple strudel.

Balaji recounts how the club has gotten together to dance every Monday over the past fifty years. “Like any other club, we too have seen many ups and downs. We have even come close to extinction, but somehow we have always bounced back. Today, we have approximately 38 members,” he says.

The members are of a wide age group, from eager men and women in their early 20s, to sprightly 80-year-olds. Through these years, they have seen participation from expats of different nations as well. “Right now, one of our members is a young German who is interning at Mercedes Benz here. We do not publicise the club much, that is why new members only come in through word of mouth. Whoever loves to dance, is welcome!” he exclaims.

In fact, even though the society began as a group for Scottish dancers, they invited other expats to join as well. Eventually, the group got its first Indian chieftain in 1972, and today, the Scottish Country Dance Society of Chennai comprises mostly of Indians.

Each member of the society hosts the others in rotation — once or twice a year — offering their homes as a space for dance practices, and dinners. Members take a break after the St Andrew’s Ball and restart practice for next year’s ball from February to June and August to November. They also have a similar club in Kolkata, but according to Balaji, Chennai’s is the only one that remains active.

And the reason behind it is simple self-imposed discipline, says Balaji: “Whatever jobs we hold, wherever we travel, whatever our duties and responsibilities, every Monday for eight months of the year, at dot eight o’ clock, we make sure to stay back and dance.”

The St Andrews Ball will be held at Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park, on November 29 from 7 pm. For tickets, contact 9841569759.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 3:26:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/chennais-very-own-scottish-ball-turns-50/article30096761.ece

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