The Grace McMillan Project

A Woman

A Vision

A Castle

the grace mcmillan project

About the project

A Dinky-Di Dance Discovery

In the summer of 1904, Grace McMillan, an Australian-born education specialist then living in Scotland, was selected to go to Sweden for a teacher-training program called Lekkursen in songs, dances, and games for young children at Sweden's renowned Nääs Slott & Slöjdseminarium (Nääs Castle and School of Crafts). Miss McMillan's book Swedish Recreative Exercises for School & Playground was a result of what she had learned in that program. This book was adopted in both the UK and the USA at the forefront of the educational folk dance movement for physical training and organised play. 

For decades, Miss McMillan's story had been lost... until now.

In early 2023, dance historian Erica Nielsen Okamura came across a rare 1912 Australian edition of Miss McMillan's Swedish Recreative Exercises. Fascinated by this discovery, Erica embarked on a challenging quest to piece together Miss McMillan's life story and to determine how the Nääs dances and games were used in Australia. The Australian edition seemed out of place. Other early 20th century folk dance resources from the UK and USA did not have Australian editions. Erica had to know: Who was Grace McMillan, and why did an Australian edition of her book exist?

Biography

Erica Okamura

Erica Nielsen Okamura holds a Master's of Fine Arts degree in Dance from Arizona State University (Tempe, Arizona) and a Bachelor's of Arts degree in International Studies with Cultural Anthropology from Macalester College (St. Paul, Minnesota). In her 20s, Erica spent two years traveling across the USA to research dance communities for her book Folk Dancing (2011), part of the American Dance Floor Series by Bloomsbury Publishing. Erica moved to Australia with her family in 2018. Her current research focuses on the adoption of national or folk dances for children's physical exercise and organised play at schools and playgrounds in the early 20th century.


Events

Click on the pictures below to take you to workshops in Albury / Wodonga, National events or International events.

Albury - Wodonga Workshops (Children)

Click on the picture above for more information about upcoming children's workshops in the Albury-Wodonga area.

Albury - Wodonga Workshops (Community)

Click on the picture above for more information about upcoming community (adults or all ages) workshops in the Albury-Wodonga area.

National Events

The Grace McMillan Project is proud to be part of Australia's National Folk Festival and National Folklore Conference in 2024. Click on the picture above for more information about these events.

International Events

The Grace McMillan Project began as an international collaboration and continues to pique interest far and wide. Click on the picture above for information about international lectures and workshops.

Dance History Explorers Group

Dance History Explorers (DHE), is a group for all ages who are inquisitive about the relationship between dance and culture. The group is facilitated by Erica Nielsen Okamura and meets in-person in Albury-Wodonga, Australia. Click on the links below to access the DHE quarterly newsletters.

January 2024

April 2024


media

Erica Okamura ABC Radio Interview

Click on the Soundcloud link below to listen to Erica talk about Grace McMillan and the upcoming Scandi-Lightful Dance collaboration events being staged in Albury/Wodonga.

Grace McMillan National Launch

Click on the YouTube image below for an overview of the Grace McMillan project and it's national launch in Canberra (March 2024)
Grace McMillan Project

To read more about the McMillan-Hofer connection, please see the Dance History Explorers April 2024 Newsletter

GoFundMe

Please support Erica Nielsen Okamura's travel to Scotland in June-July 2024 to continue researching MissMcMillan's story and to give a presentation entitled "Grace McMillan: Dundee's Dinky-Di Connection" for the Lunchtime Lecture series hosted by the Friends of Dundee City Archives.

Click on the GoFundMe logo on the left to support The Grace McMillan Project in Scotland.

Click to open gofundme

Gallery

The following images represent highlights from the archival process and Grace McMillan's life story. To learn more, see
"Grace McMillan: A Leader in Education" in the Dance History Explorers Report for January 2024.
the grace mcmillan project

Contact Us

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Contributors

The Grace McMillan Project has always been a collaborative effort, from the initial discovery of Miss McMillan's Australian birthplace to the production of song and dance/game recordings from Swedish Recreative Exercises for the first time in over 100 years. Erica could not have gotten this far alone and would like to personally thank the following organisations and individuals for their support.

Research assistance :

  • August Abrahamson Foundation, Nääs Slott (Floda, Sweden)

  • Edinburgh City Archives (Edinburgh, Scotland)

  • Dundee City Archives (Dundee, Scotland)

  • Kungliga Biblioteket / National Library of Sweden (Stockholm, Sweden)

  • Methodist Ladies' College (Melbourne, VIC)

  • National Records of Scotland/ScotlandsPeople (Edinburgh, Scotland)

  • Presbyterian Ladies' College Archives (Melbourne, VIC)

  • Scotch College Archives (Melbourne, VIC)

  • Society of Folk Dance Historians (Texas, USA)

  • Toowoomba & Darling Downs Family History Society (Toowoomba, QLD)

  • University of Melbourne Archives and Special Collections (Melbourne, VIC)

  • University of St. Andrews Special Collections (St. Andrews, Scotland)

  • Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, English Folk Dance and Song Society (London, England)

Content creation:

  • Amy Beddoe, Music

  • Ofra Fried, Music

  • Helena Kernaghan, Music

  • Kathleen Pomeroy, Music

  • Simon Reich, Videography & Media

  • Bronia Renison, Music

Financial and/or in kind support:

  • Dance History Explorers Group (Albury-Wodonga, Australia)

  • Society of Folk Dance Historians (Texas, USA)

  • National Folk Festival (Canberra, Australia)

  • Australian Folklore Network (Perth, Western Australia)

  • Sarah Aitken

  • Sonja Bensen

  • Stacey Coenders 

  • Emily Booth

  • Anna Drummond

  • Sue Ferrers

  • Anne Fletcher

  • Gunilla Hallset

  • Ken James

  • Paul Mishura

  • Jeanette Mollenhauer

  • Gregg & Marie Nielsen

  • Tresha & Alex Nielsen

  • Linda & Lawrence Okamura

  • Nicholas & Felix Okamura

  • Joan Pope

  • Simon Reich

  • Ross & Soren Schipper

  • Karen Schupp

  • Kristin Sjöberg

  • Mark Welch