Sat, Nov 23, 2013 - Page 12 News List

A Scottish adventure in Taiwan

By Jerome Keating  /  Contributing reporter

Expect a night of drinking, dancing and dining at the St. Andrew’s Ball.

Photo: Jerome Keating

Long-term Taiwan Scottish resident Bob Weir says he will do anything for his country.

“Anything, that is, except live there,” Weir quips.

Weir is exhibiting traditional wry Scottish humor, but given the fact of the large Scottish diaspora, there may be an element of truth there as well. Regardless, one of the many things that Weir does for Scotland is to teach Scottish country-dance lessons in preparation for St. Andrew’s Ball, an annual event that takes place today to celebrate Scotland’s National Day and honor its patron saint, the apostle St. Andrew.

The event is open to everyone with a ticket and takes place at the Grand Hyatt, Taipei with a full capacity of some 350 to 400 participants.

Shanghai born Ken Sien (須建中) recalls the first one in Taipei was at the Hilton Hotel in the mid 1980s. “It was a black tie affair, always. The Scots all wore their kilts so the rest of us had to dress up as well.”

St. Andrew’s Ball is unique because traditional Scottish country dancing is always an intergral part wherever it is held. And to insure that all attendees can participate, free dance lessons are given for five to six weeks beforehand. These lessons also allow participants to get to know each other well before the event. “It is pure joy,” says Marlene Strobl, who, with her husband, has attended the lessons and ball for the past four years.

“One of the best adventures in Taiwan.”

The ball, though, is not for the faint-hearted. It begins with a champagne reception at 6pm and continues with the traditional Haggis ceremony, dinner, a full night of dancing, breakfast at 1am and more dancing until 3am. A Scottish piper and a band have been flown in to ensure “authentic” music. Steven Milner, a teacher at the Taipei European School and another dance instructor says, “I am a 13 year regular. It’s the best party and the best value in town.”

For information contact the British Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (02) 2720-1919.

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