History of the MHDA

Dance teachers play an integral role in perpetuation interest and growth in a dance form.   It is through the influence of the teacher that a specific type of dance emerges as an art form. And it is through ongoing interest in this art form that a group can continue to express and celebrate it’s heritage.

Two teachers who figured prominently in the fostering of interest and growth in Highland Dance in Manitoba, beginning in the 1920’s, were Mrs. Elizabeth Merriman and Mrs. Katherine Reay.   It is to their credit that many parent members of these two dancing schools went on to form the nucleus of the founding group of the Manitoba Highland Dancers’ Association.

The MHDA has been constituted and formed to:

    1. 1. Promote the Scottish Culture in Manitoba through the medium of dance.
    2. 2. Preserve Highland Dancing in Manitoba.
    3. 3. Encourage the provision for opportunities in the development of skills and technical competence in the field of Highland Dancing.
    4. 4. Administer, organize and regulate competitions.
    5. 5. Ensure that the Manitoba Championships are held on an annual basis.
    6. 6. Solicit and receive financial contributions and public support in order to obtain the necessary financial resources to support its objectives.

The introduction of SDTA Medal Test Examinations in the late 1950’s by Mrs. Elizabeth Merriman fostered further growth in highland dance and provided a mode of communication between Manitoba teachers and the SDTA in Scotland.   Mr. James L. McKenzie, O.B.E., was the Examiner for those first medal tests held in Mrs. Merriman’s home.

As the Medal Tests continued to be held on an ongoing basis, the teachers involved met as an informal group to discuss SDTA business.   Matters concerning the role of teachers within the Manitoba Highland Dancers’ Association and other associations were also discussed.

As the scope of the teachers’ role broadened, it was decided a more formal group was necessary and at the May meeting in 1972, the topic of “the formation of a teachers’ association” was presented.   Twelve SDTA teacher members were present at the meeting and the consensus of opinion was that a teachers’ association be formed to:

  • Foster communication and the sharing of technical knowledge among the teachers;
  • Provide an improved working liaison between the teachers and the MHDA and other Associations by the fact that advice would be forthcoming from a unified teaching body.

It was decided that the “Teacher’s Association” would have a slate of officers but it was the consensus of opinion that the group remain flexible re: constitution, etc., and that guidelines for the future could be laid down as problems arose.   It was decided to have a $2.00 membership fee and an election of officers each year in April or May.

The officers for that first year were:
Chairman – Irene Baird
Vice Chairman – Betty McMillan
Secretary-Treasurer – Judy Rowan

The name Scottish Dance Teachers’ Association – Manitoba Branch was selected but at the first fall meeting, September 1972, the question of a less cumbersome name was discussed and the Highland Dance Teachers’ Association of Manitoba became the chosen name.

For the May 1972 meeting, notices had been sent to nineteen teachers and twelve were present and for the first meeting of the new association held September 1972, twenty SDTA teachers had been notified and fourteen were present.

Teachers who served as Chairman of the Highland Dance Teachers’ Association of Manitoba were:

1972-73 Irene Baird 1973-74 Irene Baird
1974-75 Donna Cove 1975-76 Lynn Stephen
1976-77 Lynn Stephen 1977-78 Judy Rowan
1978-79 Judy Rowan 1979-80 Delma Wilson
1980-81 Irene Baird 1981-82 Irene Baird
1982-83 Shauna McGregor 1983-84 Shauna McGregor
1984-85 Donna Cove 1985-86 Donna Cove Cram
1986-87 Kathy Hopper 1987-88 Kathy Hopper Tingskou

The Highland Dance Teachers’ Association of Manitoba continued as a formal group until December 1988 when the tabulated results of a survey of the membership indicated agreement that the Highland Dance Teachers’ Association of Manitoba be dissolved.

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With the generous support of the Manitoba Arts Council