by Ruth McHenry
Our 25+ years as a RSCDS Branch
There was a Scottish Country dance class in the Phoenix area which Joan Baker joined in 1978. When the teacher moved away in 1979, the class members asked Joan to take over the class. Since she had danced all her life in Scotland and in Chicago, Joan accepted the challenge. By 1980 an opportunity came for her to attend a teacher training class in Canada where she passed and was awarded her preliminary certificate. In 1982, Miss Gibson, who was then the secretary of the society encouraged her to take further training at St Andrews, Scotland where she obtained her full certificate.
In the next few years as the group was growing, Madeline Forman attended training classes in Canada and passed her preliminary exam as did Phil Gillies also.
In 1985 once again due to encouragement from Miss Gibson, Joan applied for Branch status for the group. This was granted and the Phoenix Branch was born.
Due to Joan’s husband’s work, she moved to California in 1987, but prior to the move she trained Madeline Forman and Jan Markham, who subsequently passed exams, full certificate for Madeline and Preliminary certificate for Jan. Madeline became the teacher for the Phoenix Branch.
Madeline, with the help of Phil and Jan continued to teach the Branch and Phil continued his training to receive his full certificate. Later, Caroline Engel-Wilson also qualified for her Preliminary and Full certificates. She started teaching a class in the west valley, unfortunately, Caroline and her husband moved out of the area and Sandy Sanderson maintained the class for a period of time.
Madeline was retiring from teaching, so Caroline trained Diane McLeister and Jennifer Reiner for their Preliminary Certificates, which they received and they took over the Phoenix class after Madeline retired. Diane moved to Colorado and Jennifer, and Scott Monach were the teachers. Diane moved back and started teaching again. Joan Baker also moved back and has started teaching again. Thus Joan has come full circle in starting the branch and then moving back to the area to be here for our 25th anniversary.
During the 2013-2014 dancing season, Joan trained Branch members Diane McLeister, Larry
McLeister, Becky Ball, and Renee Metcalf for their Certificates. All the applicants were successful in
receiving their teaching certificates. The following year, and to the present, the Branch classes have been
taught by Diane, Larry, Jennifer, and Renee. Joan is semi-retired, but still teaches class from time to time.
Although membership and teachers have changed over the years, the classes are going strong. We
have several junior members and hope to train the next generation of dancers. We enjoy dancing to the
music of Scotland, learning about Scottish traditions, and activities which include balls, demonstrations,
workshops, and our annual appearance at the Highland Games. We hope that Scottish Country Dancing
will continue in the Phoenix Branch for many more years to come.