Busy with sword dance and jig, then dancing off to play rugby

Oamaru twins Laura and Gemma Aker are pretty good Highland dancers and, as it turns out, are pretty handy at other sports, too.

On Saturday, the 8-year-olds danced the sailor’s hornpipe, Irish jig, sword dance and Highland fling at the Oamaru Performing Arts Society’s 81st annual festival at the Oamaru Opera House, which ran from Friday to yesterday. For Gemma in particular, it was a busy day.

She danced with her sister in the morning before swapping her dancing shoes for rugby boots, playing for her Valley age group side against Excelsior and scoring a try. Both agreed that dancing together was what they enjoyed most,  along with performing in front of a crowd.

Twins Gemma (left) and Laura Aker (8) pose outside the Oamaru Opera House where they danced in...
Twins Gemma (left) and Laura Aker (8) pose outside the Oamaru Opera House where they danced in the Oamaru Performing Arts Society’s 81st annual festival over the weekend. Photo: Daniel Birchfield

Gemma has been dancing for three years and Laura two years.

They also play hockey and compete in swimming and gymnastics, which keeps them and their mother, Fiona Caldwell,  busy.

"I encouraged them to do a sport, especially a team one, because Highland dancing is quite individual."

The twins’ grandmother, Joy Riddell, an Oamaru Performing Arts Society committee member,  is proud of her granddaughters.

The festival hosted 48 Highland dancers and a total of about 250 competitors in six categories — speech, vocal, instrumental, Highland and national dancing, tap dancing, and ballet.


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