Sun, Feb 11, 2024 10:30 AM

Highland dancers’ making all the right moves


William Woodworth

Marlborough’s Highland Dancers’ impressive moves have greeted Picton’s cruise ships this summer.

Members of the Marlborough Academy of Dance (MAD) Highland troupe have been welcoming visitors to the Top of the South in unique style.

And every time they don their kilts, the team take a step closer to getting to the Paris International Highland Gathering Championship at Disneyland Paris.


The fundraising efforts have been a big success on two fronts, says Academy director Robyn Simmons.

“One of the families that live in Picton suggested the cruise ship day performances as a fundraiser in 2019.

“I think it’s been so successful because the children are directly involved in doing the work themselves and getting extra practise in for their dancing in front of crowds.

“The dancers and bagpipes add vibrancy to Picton’s Foreshore on busy days, and it means we’re also fundraising from one-off donators that come to Marlborough…”


The Paris International Highland Gathering Championship returned from hiatus last year but at such short notice MAD decided to wait for another opportunity.

Robyn is driven to get dancers to this year’s October competition, as it also may be a final opportunity to attend.

“From what I understand Disney weren’t keen to continue hosting these competitions,” she says.

So, the fact this might be the last chance means it’s one we really want to jump on the opportunity to be a part of.

“We are still waiting on costs for the packages, so at this stage we’re just aiming to fundraise as much as possible, so whatever the costs are we have made this trip as accessible as possible for our dancers.”


The competition sees solo, duos and group dancers choreograph dances to Disney songs.

Robyn says the dancers are doing their homework by watching Disney films for inspiration.

“The dancers have been planning what songs and characters they are keen to dance as, and so our preparation is about to start and I’m eager to see what they come up with.”

“The competition is very different from the usual idea of Highland dancing which is usually very structured.

“But we have such a blend of styles all in one place and do our Academy-wide production including choreography which they are definitely capable in taking on.”

Robyn says comparing themselves to other studios entering is difficult to do before arriving, but she says she has faith the effort and dedication shown during training, dancing or fundraising efforts is a positive sign.


“The event has been dominated by Northern Hemisphere studios because it’s on their doorstep, and I’m under no illusions - it will be a very high standard of choreography and dance.”

“We need to get the fundraising done first so we can get as many of our dancers to Paris as possible, but they work really hard and have a great reputation in New Zealand, so I know they’ll do us proud.”

And spectators had nothing but complements for the dancers last Thursday.

“I just sent a video to my daughter who used to do Highland dancing and told her to get her son into it – it’s just lovely to see kids out here dancing”, said one spectator.

“I heard the pipe music and saw the crowd watching which drew me in, and I’ve been thoroughly impressed and entertained”, said another.

Marlborough App Logo
Marlborough App
Marlborough App is owned by Top South Media. a locally owned media company.