Break a leg . . . Waiting for their turn to perform the Irish reel in front of the judges are (from left) Jazz Thorman (15), of Christchurch, Hayley Nolan (15), of Ashburton, Siara Clake (15), of Christchurch, Olivia Mavor (15), of Oamaru, Lola Van Dyk (15), of Palmerston North, Kaitlyn Colle (14), of Rotorua, and Pete Greenslade (15), of Christchurch. PHOTOS: RUBY HEYWARD

The New Zealand Highland and National Dancing Championships were a reel success.

Last weekend, 271 dancers jigged their way to Oamaru from all over the country to compete at the championships at the Oamaru Opera House.

North Otago Piping and Dancing Society vice-president Kimberley Mavor said it was a major coup for Oamaru to host the event, which was huge on the New Zealand highland dancing calendar.

The junior competition was held on Thursday and Friday last week, and the senior national championships started on Friday afternoon. Junior competitors were aiming for a spot in the top six, while seniors were competing for a place in the top 10 in New Zealand.

Representing Oamaru, dancer Olivia Mavor (15) was the 2021 under-16 New Zealand Champion, and Sarah Janison (15) placed 10th.

In the junior competition, Oamaru’s Harper McKenzie (7) was runner-up in the under-8 age group championship and Tahlia Keats (7) placed sixth.

Mrs Mavor was “stoked” to see Oamaru dancers achieving well at a national level. Many other Oamaru dancers received commendations and medals, she said.

“They danced extremely well and were up against some tough competition.”

It was also an opportunity for young dancers to see what they could aspire to. Mrs Mavor saw a sense of awe in the eyes of the junior competitors as they watched the older girls.

At the event, one dancer told her they wanted to practise even more to get a placing in the next competition.

“That’s just perfect.”

Mrs Mavor estimated that more than 1000 people – competitors, supporters and spectators – had been in and out of the Oamaru Opera House, where the competition was held, over the weekend.

“We are absolutely delighted with how the event went,” Mrs Mavor said.

“It was so good, not only for dancing, but the town in general.”

The event was organised by the North Otago Piping and Dancing Society’s 18 committee members, who volunteered many hours, but their reward was the positive feedback given by competitors from out of town, Mrs Mavor said.

“They loved Oamaru, they loved the Opera House, and they loved the friendliness of the competition.”

Visitors enjoyed shopping and the eateries, and had high praise for their accommodation, she said.