DST - A new Iberian weekend
January 26, 2022
Roger and Sue from Affiliated Group Grupo de Dança Escocesa da ART tell us about their exciting upcoming plans to host a new Iberian weekend event in March 2022...
'This spring, with a wee bit of luck, a new Iberian event will be born, the March Weekend in Lisbon! The “Iberian Weekends”, rather splendid occasions that typically take place in a 4-star hotel in a sunny Iberian venue, are well-established, but like everything else were hit by the pandemic. The 2020 event in Madrid miraculously took place a few days before lockdown stuck but the 2021 event scheduled for Évora in Portugal was first postponed until 2022 and then had to be postponed yet again to 2024 (the 2023 Iberian Weekend will be in Spain)
After getting over our initial disappointment, it occurred to us that all the participants would have already blocked the 2022 dates in their calendars, so when sending out the news of the postponement we told people to keep that weekend free as we intended to come up with a smaller, local event for those dates! We were pretty confident we would get a good turnout as there are now no less than three groups in Lisbon where we are based.
Two of the earliest supporters in our endeavour were the musician/dance teacher couple of Phill Jones and Zsofi Jozsef whom we had got to know through their online ceilidhs and dance classes (including, of course, one for the Dance Scottish at Home series!). Local dancers were also keen on the idea, and their teachers gave us invaluable help in helping us to find venues and shape the content of the weekend. As for visiting teachers, the indefatigable Raphaelle Orgeret agreed to come and teach us, as did Martin McWilliam, who was due to attend a (pottery) symposium in Portugal around the time of the weekend.
The event was mainly directed at local dancers, so we did not even try and include accommodation or meals, but we did opt for solely Lisbon venues so that anyone who might want to come by air would not have a long journey on arrival. Another consequence of the local target audience was that we did not schedule anything at all on Friday evening, because many people will be working all day long, and because the Friday night traffic in Lisbon is horrendous! Instead we went for a gentle start after Saturday lunch, but sounded out Phill (who by this time had decided to come to the weekend himself) on whether he was able to give a musicians’ workshop on Saturday morning.
A musicians’ workshop would be a particularly valuable addition as there are plenty of musicians in Lisbon, but none currently play for SCD! We had held musicians’ workshops in 2014 and 2016 but some momentum had been lost since then. Here was an opportunity to try to re-ignite the interest, albeit that this time the length of the course would be two hours rather two days.
As we managed to get two visiting teachers, it seemed natural to go for two levels of classes, especially as we have a big range of experience in the local groups, including some promising young beginners. So as not to tire people out mentally or physically, we decided to go for just one ball, a mini-ball two hours long on the Saturday night with largely accessible dances, but with two or three harder ones where a beginner could cope if she or he had a good partner. We plan to encourage people to help the beginners in this way!
The final element of the weekend is a ceilidh late on Sunday afternoon, which will be open to all. Naturally here again we are exploiting Phill’s endless energy and enthusiasm for playing for dancers, because there is nothing like live music to get people going! Having a ceilidh means that we are able to bring Scottish music to everyone in Lisbon, not just country dancers with some experience, because we are not allowing absolute beginners in the dance classes. We’ve created a public Facebook event for the ceilidh, and have sent out colourful posters and general information to email contacts, and we think that these publicity efforts will bring us to our target of having at least 60 Scottish country dancers at the Weekend.
It’s very gratifying that in spite of the relatively small-scale nature of our event – at least compared to the Iberian Weekends – there have been a surprising number of enquiries from dancers outside Portugal. Probably there would have been more interest if we had been able to suggest any nearby hotels, but as it happens, our venues are in an area of Lisbon where there aren’t any! Booking local apartments seems to be the alternative, or else using the public transport system, as unfortunately few dancers are able to accommodate visitors.
Re the pandemic … naturally we cannot say for sure what rules will be in force in March, but Portugal has a high level of vaccination and the population have been very accepting of the use of masks and any other measures deemed to be necessary. We are hopeful that whatever the rules are, they will not prevent our weekend from going ahead. If the worst happens, we will be refunding everyone the relatively small amount that we are charging attendees, which ranges from zero (for the musicians’ workshop) to 25 euros (for the entire weekend).'
If you'd like to find out more about the event and the group visit their website.
Thanks for sharing this and good luck for the event in March - do let us know how it goes! Don't forget, if you've got good news stories you'd like to share, do drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.