Dancing girls; With their teacher Carleen Dalton in Dunedin recently are Highland dancers, from left, Heidi Dalton, 6, Anikka Vitakangas, 8, Grace Reid, 9, and Isla Couldstone, 11


When she was a ‘‘challenging’’ three years old, Queenstowner Carleen Dalton had a little bit of a run-in with her preschool teachers.

It got so bad, her mother Kaye was asked to remove her.

And, that led to Dalton’s first encounter with Highland dancing.

‘‘It’s always been a bit of a joke about my career, that mum got me into Highland dancing to instill a bit of discipline in me.

‘‘That’s how I got started, and I’ve been dancing ever since.’’

She now has her own daughter, Heidi, 6, who took first, second, third and commended in
various events at the Queen’s Birthday Otago Championships in Dunedin recently.

Dalton, whose maiden and ‘‘dancing name’’ is McKenzie, is on a mission to make Highland
dancing a prominent part of Queenstown’s performing arts landscape.

She has established the town’s first school of Highland dancing, with 15 students aged from four to 13.

And, from September 24 to 26, she will host 120 delegates to a national conference, which will have a dance event open to the public.

The conference was cancelled at the last moment last year because of Covid restrictions.

‘‘It was heartbreaking.

‘‘We were emotionally drained by everything because it was the first time the conference had ever come to Queenstown.’’

Dalton is convinced the performing arts can benefit Queenstown’s economy, and sees the
potential for regular competitions.

‘‘It’s not just about tourism.

‘‘The performing arts can bring a lot to our town as well.’’

Dalton is a member of the New Zealand Academy of Highland Dancing, and believes there’s plenty of support for Queenstown events.

She also likes the idea of Highland dancing being promoted as a sport because of the level of coordination and strength required.

Who knew, for instance, a Highland fling requires 192 hops.

‘‘It’s massive — you’ve got to be fit.’’

For that reason, she believes parents might consider the value of getting their sons  involved.

Only about five of the 135 competitors at the Otago champs were boys.

Dalton operates from the Queenstown Performing Arts Centre on the corner of Ballarat and Henry Streets.