Rock and roll on the South Island

Title: Two girls for every boy

Rock and roll is alive in Christchurch – but where are the boys?

Christchurch took out six first place titles at the South Island Interclub Rock and Roll Challenge on Saturday night [June 14] – but with 21 prizes, it was a slight showing from the biggest city on the South Island. 

The Christchurch Rock and Roll club has 120 members, but ten years ago had 300.

Vice president Hazel Cummings said the decline in numbers was a trend “New Zealand-wide,” but the post-quake landscape in Christchurch had posed extra challenges. “We lost a lot of premises.”

Thirty years ago there was only one rock and roll club in Christchurch, but it has since split into three – the Christchurch Rock and Roll club, which now practices in Hornby, the Southern Club, which moved from Richmond to Woolston post-quake, and a third in Kaiapoi.

Southern Club treasurer Anna Jamieson said the club was “desperate to find new places” to practise.

John Rickerby, who is 77 and has been dancing in the Christchurch club for 27 years, points to another problem: “There is always a shortage of men”.

There is now a Same Sex dancing category at the Interclub Challenge because girls outnumber boys almost two to one.  

“I don’t have to ask anyone to dance – I get asked,” Rickerby said.

Junior coaches Shaun Birchall and Hayley Inglis, who placed first in the Open Restricted at the Interclub Challenge, said they were seeing the same problem in competitions across New Zealand.

“It’s very hard to find a boy to dance,” Birchall said.

Out of the 120 members in the Christchurch club, there is only one boy under 18 competing in the Junior category – Rhys Lilley. The 11-year-old placed third in Intermediate at the Junior Nationals in April, alongside fellow club member Keithleen Javier. They were the only Christchurch team to place. On Saturday, they came in second behind a pair from Invercargill, a club that is bucking the nationwide trend of declining numbers.

The Christchurch club was intent on building its Junior numbers, Cummings said. “They are your club in the future and if you don’t keep that building, you’re not gonna have a club.”

Real change came when whole families got involved. “It’s much better with families,” Birchall said. “Parents come along, kids enjoy it. It’s good. 

The Christchurch club is throwing a Have A Go night next Monday [June 23] for parents and their children at the Hornby Workingmens Club from 6.30-7.30PM.

“We always tell the guys, ‘if you can dance you can draw the chicks’,” Rickerby said.

“Come along and see if you like it.”

Published June 19 2014 // Christchurch Mail

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Title: Rock and roll teens buck national trends 

Rock ‘n’ roll clubs across the country are struggling to find young blood, but Invercargill is bucking the trend.

The Invercargill Rock ‘n’ Roll Club has one of the biggest junior clubs in New Zealand and dominated at the South Island Interclub Challenge in Christchurch on Saturday [June 14]. 

More than half of the 39 teams entered in the competition were from Invercargill, including 18 of the 22 under-18 teams, and the southern teams took out 12 of the 21 first place titles.

The city’s strong youth presence did not go unnoticed in the Garden City, where clubs are struggling to find younger members, especially boys.  

Of the 120 members in the Christchurch Rock ‘n’ Roll Club, there is only one boy under 18 competing in the Junior category.

But Invercargill is seeing “the complete opposite,” according to president Karl Herman. “We don’t have problems really finding too many boys.”

In his seven years at the helm, Herman has seen the club expand from 45 members in 2005 to more than 180 today, with 50 members under 18.

He attributed the success to having an “active, positive and passionate committee”.

In 2008, he spearheaded a move to offer more than the standard block of four beginner lessons to juniors.

“Kids are hungry for anything you are going to give them,” Herman said. “You’ve just got to keep at them and keep at them and never let them go.” 

He also faxed every school in Southland advertising the lessons and on the first day of classes walked into the hall to “a crowd of kids”.

“It was just unreal,” he said. “The kids down here, they just lap it up. They just love it. They drive their parents mad by playing rock and roll music all the time.”

The club’s popularity has forced it to restrict beginner lessons to only once a year, and it is no longer actively recruiting under-18s.

Its next event is Rocking With The Stars, a fundraiser at Stadium Southland on Saturday June 28. The club is also hosting the Senior Nationals in October.

“If you want to see some good rock and roll dancing, get down,” Herman said.

Published June 19 2014 // The Eye

Date: 19 June 2014 Client: Fairfax Media Role: Freelance writer URL: Tags: Competition, Dancing, New Zealand, Rock and Roll