Wednesday, April 26, 2017

11 April 2017 – Ho Ho Kus

Substitute class - Kenwyn away and me in his place.

He sent me his class plan and I mostly kept to it, and it was mostly ball prep for the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance. (Again). It is a good thing that I like this program. Mostly the dances are still likable even after a lot of repetition.

The dances we did were:-

The Findlays' Jig  –  (32 J 3)  –  Goldring
Chris Ronald's Strathspey  –  (32 S 3)  – Wallace
Lady Susan Stewart's Reel  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 5/9

Fountainfall  –  (32 R 3)  – Wheater
Wisp of Thistle  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 37/4
General Stuart's Reel  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 10/3
Les Remparts de Séville  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 50/2
The Compliment  –  (32 S 2)  –  Goldring

*  **  ***   ** * **   ***  ** *

The Findlays' Jig:-  I like. Over time it becomes a wee bit tedious but it is a go to type jig. Nice and Simple. All it needs (if you are not blessed with class musicians) is a good tune.

Chris Ronald's Strathspey:- By Ron Wallace, commissioned by Sue Ronald and music commissioned from James Gray. I really like this one. It makes nice use of Terry Glasspool's Push Me Pull You reels
(a figure eight around a couple dancing Back-toBack Rsh then by Lsh). I also like Ron's figure of Hello-Goodbye with Turns. Bottom line: This one is a keeper - I am getting a goodly amount of positive feedback. So it is not just me.

Lady Susan Stewart's Reel:- Not well received. They did not like the opening 10 bar phrase that need to be danced in 8 bars. A dance for young legs or very canny survivors.

Fountainfall:- A  dance written just a day or so before this class. The devisor's first dance- she started Scottish Country dancing this past September. (My first dance wasn't this good).
Dance Instructions [Here]

Les Remparts de Séville:- I have commented before - The bottom line? A thumbs up.

The Compliment:- Needs good technique to make it look good. A thumbs up.

Friday, April 14, 2017

10 April 2017 –– Scotia

Again intended to be a fairly standard ball prep evening. That didn't last long. First day of the Jewish celebration and the attendance was light. So I got to play.

First Half - (Deborah teaching)

Circle of Cheer  –  (32 J n circle)  –  Hamilton
Hedwig's Reel  –  (32 R 3)  –   Graded 2
Hope Little's Strathspey  –  (32 S 3/3L)  –  Goldring
The White Cockade  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 5

Second Half - (me teaching)

Cabbages and Kings  –  (32 J 3)  –  Butterfield
Johnsonville Diamond  –  (32 S 2)  –  Downey
Zytglogge  –  (32 R 3)  –  Blackburn
Monadh Liath  –  (32 S 3)  – Drewry
Cranberry Tart  –  (32 J 3)  –  Glasspool
Anderson's Rant  –  (32 R 3)  –  MMM

*  **   ***   ** **    ** * **   ** **   ***   **  *

Circle of Cheer:- nice simple circle dance that just calls for a class on handing. And that was Deborah's plan for the evening.

Hedwig's Reel:-  Another "Chain" dance. Taught as written and danced other. So she went with the flow, as it were, and substituted a mirror fig. of eight for the original parallel Rsh fig. of eight.

Hope Little's Strathspey:-  One guess. A "chain" dance?  You betcha.  And this one has that 'something' that takes it out of tedious into acceptable. One piece of that is the set arrangement which means fewer repeats. Eight times through Seann Triubhas Willichan, for example. Nice dance but when will it ever end?

The White Cockade:-  Rights and Lefts. Just a different version of Chain.

Cabbages and Kings:-  Another of Deborah's dances and I got to open the 2nd half with it.  "I like it" the Walrus said, "The time has come to dance Cabbages and Kings." Again R&L (that mini-chain thing).

Johnsonville Diamond:-  I Like It.  Note: The Spiral variation is not good for dancers who are susceptible to motion sickness, and Deborah is one of the two who in the class who are. The opening setting figure shines when the dancers advance 'aggressively'. Wimps - stay home!

Zytglogge:-  It's Play Time! Simple set up, 16 bars of relatively simple central corner figure, Simple finish. The structure is simple, the figures are simple, and that opens the door to embroidery. And the door is not open just a crack.

When danced straight and clean care must be taken to round all the turns to the max and use ALL the allotted time. Elegant.

Play time version:- 2nd corners have little to do and little interaction with the other dancers. But they can become quintessential clockwork figures, turning about at the corners, spinning as they move along the track. First couple and 1st corners can twirl too, since the inside RH turn is only 3/4 in 2 bars, a twirl 'to face' is possible there and another is possible when 1C and 1st Corners turn each other into/out of the center. Lots of possibilities if you have a crooked mind and like to play.  Oh sorry!  I forgot. This is Scottish Country Dancing isn't it? No Fun allowed.  Hah!

Monadh Liath:-  Highland schottische balance in line is the highlight. Not a thumbs up, a High Five!

The music I have is by David South (an Aussie band) and I have just one of their CDs - "Kardinia Capers". On the whole I like it but I am not a huge fan, except for two tracks.

The music for Cauld Comfort, a Ron Wallace dance is on the CD as is the music for Monadh Liath. And they work!

Monadh Liath is not on any upcoming ball. This one was for my delight. And it has been a while since I have done it and I am seriously considering it for the next year's K&G short list.

The Cranberry Tart:- Terry was in a serious back and forth with the woman he wrote the dance for. She claimed the color of her gown was fuchsia, he insisted it was cranberry, and he brought the discussion to an abrupt end with this: Well if that is so then I'll have to name the dance "Fuchsia Shock". Need I say he won?

This dance is also a playground. He wrote the dance before Dolphin Reels became all the rage by way of Pelorus Jack. So one of our local dancers emailed him and asked him if he would have written the tandem reel across as a lead change reel? Terry has left the door open. We now embroider it that way. It is a liberty since only 1C is involved.

Anderson's Rant:-  A nice dance, a simple dance, with good music. A good ender for a rather brain heavy program.







4 April 2017 –– New Haven

A Rescheduled event. My usual slot is at the end the month. Late March has become early April.

I was asked to do another, yet another, prep session for the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance.  It makes one suspicious of what the usual teachers of the class are doing. "We have a problem Houston" - communication wise.

Hence the existence of this Blog. I started it because I wanted to know what the other teachers in the branch were doing. I knew that someday I was going to be asked to do another ball program. (It still hasn't happened). And I only knew what I was teaching in my one class in the branch. Middletown? No idea. New London/Mystic? Unknown. Granby? Black hole.

So I thought that a blog, where all the teachers had editing/posting ability would fix that, Every week the teachers would post what they had taught, a simple list would do. Program devisors would then know what dances are being done throughout the branch.  Silly me. I sent invitations out to each and every teacher.  No one accepted the invitation. So, sadly, it defaulted to my private playground.

The lists on the strathspey server are a wonderful planning tool but not a good historical tool. Lists  allow you to see what was planned for a class. The dating feature extends that over time but unless it is for a set program it doesn't necessarily show what was actually taught/danced. For example my plans change depending on who actually shows up.

So, all the dances I taught were from the upcoming Tea Dance:-

Driving Through Eutaw  –  (32 J 3)  –  Leary
Swirling Snow  –  (32 S 3/3L)  – Taylor
Anderson's Rant  –  (32 R 3)  –  MMM
Saw ye my wee thing  –  (32 J 2)  –

The Johnsonville Diamond  –  (32 S 2)  –  Downey
More Bees A-Dancin'  –  (32 R 3)  –  Goldring
Chris Ronald's Strathspey  –  (32 S 3)  –  Wallace
Les Remparts de Séville  –  (32 J 3)  –  Latour (Bk 50)


Thursday, April 13, 2017

3 April 2017 – Scotia

Opening night of a new series and I always struggle. There are the usual suspects and then there is a certain amount of churn within a rotating pool of other dancers, and I haven't seen them as a class in about a year, and I feel rusty. It doesn't matter that I finished teaching a series for another class just 2 weeks ago. Each class has its own identity and I need to adjust. And I am just a little slow at that these days.

The churn of ball prep continues. The Rerr Terr is over and done, the Westchester Ball program just came out. And so it continues.

This group has a different class arrangement.
The first hour and a half is supposedly geared for beginners, they accept them off the street nightly, and most of the technique is scheduled for this slot. The second half is less friendly to beginners and  more dance oriented than skills oriented.

First Half (Deborah):-

Waltzing to Iowa  –  (32 W nCircle)  – Schneider
Cutty Sark  –  (32 J 3)  – Bk 40
The Highland Rambler  –  (40 R 3)  –  Goldring
Bedrule  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 33
Chicago Loop  –  (32 R 3)  –  K. Smith

Second Half  (Peter):-

Gloria's Wee Jig  –  (32 J 3)  –  McMurtry
Peggy Spouse MBE  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 46
British Grenadiers  –  (32 R 3)  – MMM
Abbot of Unreason  –  (32 J 3)  –  Levy/Tin Woodman
Black Leather Jig  –  (32 R 3)  –  Selling/DelVal25


*  **   ***   ****   ** * **   ****   ***   **  *

Gloria's Wee Jig:– I hadn't planned on doing this dance. But after tea I was asked if the first dance was going to be beginner friendly. Seriously, how could I have said no?

It is a nice dance overall with one troubling fudge - the two men, on the diagonal,  turn LH to set up the Ladies' Chain. It works but it always causes just a moment of "huh?". It is not a sweet flow but the chase that follows is. And, yes, I like the chase even though it unusual enough to confuse the unwary. Even when it is stressed as "the hard part".

These two issues are just enough to keep it off my Top 50 Jigs list.

Peggy Spouse MBE:- I like it. I give it a 92. The dance is a beauty!  But I hate the teaching and the briefing. Too many words, too many short bits. Just too many pieces! I took a look at it when Bk 46 came out but I didn't learn/prep the dance until last year. The amount of ink on the page turned me away. I have reconsidered the situation and the dancers are liking it. Enough that they are putting in the work.

Bottom line-- A Keeper.

The British Grenadiers:-  An oldie. Not on any of Tyler Campbell's lists and for good reason.
Simple dance with the figures following in no flowing order. In other words a simple, but not easy, dance.

But the new music by Jim Lindsay is simply too much fun not to use. And did that upset our Scots guard of expats. The nicest words I heard were "That's not Scottish!" followed by grumble grumble b***h and moan.

Different strokes and all that.  This music not only makes me smile but it makes me want to get up and dance.

(We are talking about the RSCDS CD for Book 49 with Jim Lindsay and his band. He includes a couple of 'extras' just for fun.)

Abbot of Unreason:-  By Milton Levy, with a borrowing from Caberfei. Music by one of our own, I mean one of New York City's own - Jim Stevenson lives on Long Island, just 40 miles and 3 hours away. (I exaggerate - a bit).

If you aren't familiar with Milton's name think Gang the Same Gate, My understanding is that Milton invented the set and link for three. I can not dredge up the information at this moment but some where he lectures on the difference between the types of set and links. There is the standard Set and Link, and there is the Set and Cross Link.

And when I teach using that language there is less confusion.

Set and link - dancers change places but not orientation. The standard.

Set and Cross Link - dancers change places but also orientation.
1C 2C join hands and set and "link" but end beside partner NHJ, 1C facing up and 2C facing down.
HUH?
Try this - 1st and 2nd couples set and cross link.
And when you are briefing?

So  set and link for 3 in Gang the Same Gate is technically a cross link. We don't call it that and later that makes our life harder when we teach set and link/cross link for 2 couples. No common vocabulary.

The Black Leather Jig:- Fun dance. Fairly easy dance. Great Music! I recommend the CD by Thistle House recorded live when the played the New Haven Ball and Brunch some years ago.

I knew the couple who would show up at dances in black motorcycle leathers. And then Heather made her man a leather kilt…

A great way to end a program or a half.

22 March 2017 – Westchester End of Series Party

We did the Whole Thing!

The Findlays' Jig  –  (32 J 3)  – Goldring
The Paisley Weavers  –  (32 S 3/3L)  –  Haynes
On the Morning Tide  –  (32 H 3)  –  I. Boyd
Hooper's Jig  –  (32 J 3)  –  MMM
Culla Bay  –  (32 S 4 sq)  –  Bk 41
The Black Leather Jig  –  (32 R 3)  – DelValley25

Cutty Sark  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 40
Mary Erskine  –  (32 R 3)  – Goldring
Fair Donald  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 29
The Cranberry Tart  –  (32 J 3)  –  Glasspool
Deil Amang the Tailors  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 14

Saturday, March 18, 2017

18 March 2017 – New Haven

The New Haven class sponsored a Kilts and Ghillies workshop to be sure everyone was ready for the ball.

The turn out was light. Not even all of the usual New Haven suspects plus one dancer from Northampton, Massachusetts.

The dances we covered were:

Swirling Snow  –  (32 S 3/3L) – Ruth Taylor
No  –  (32 R 3/3L)  – Wouter Joubert
Les Remparts de Séville  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 50 (Aliénor Latour)
Peggy Spouse MBE  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 46 (J. Wilkinson)

John Cass  –   (32 R 5)  –  Bk 49 (P. Avery)
The Johnsonville Diamond  –  (32 S 2)  – R. Downey
Zytglogge  –  (32 R 3)  –  Blackburn


15 March 2017 – Westchester

Snowed out - the town closed the senior center both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

Friday, March 17, 2017

8 March 2017 – Westchester

The class had a late afternoon/early evening demo for the town council so it was a  very slow starting evening.

My planned opening /warm up dance - Out the window! well, sort of. See dance #2.

The evening's dances:-

This One's Four Isobel  –  (32 S 4some)  –  Glasspool
Driving Through Eutaw  –  (32 J 3)  –  Leary
The Music Makars  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 33/1 (Goldring)
Ann of Scotia  –  (32 S – World Wide Weavings (Ronald)

The Glowerin' Coo  –  (32 J 3)  –  Drewry
Swirling Snow  –  (32 S 3/3L)  –  Martello Twr 7 (Taylor)
Da Rain Dancin'  –  (32 R 3)  –  Whiteadder (Wallace)

***   ***   ***      ***   ***   ***

This One's Four Isobel:-  Terry wrote a small collection of foursomes in a variety of formations. He hasn't published them. They are in, oh lets call it, beta testing format. That is- in note form for workshops with the advisory that the instructions could change at any time.

We are still waiting. We are not amused.

This dance is one of the nicest pieces of choreography I have ever experienced. It isn't a nightmare in which various unrelated modifications of standard pieces happen at random times in random order and all happening across musical phrases. I do acknowledge that it isn't a Drewy tour de force either where, once you start moving, the next piece is self evident from the flow. It takes some effort to learn but the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  This one gets two thumbs up and a loud YES!

A diagram would be a very nice adjunct to the crib but what is really needed is publication! [quiet whisper from off stage - "psssst, give me a call privately!}

Driving Through Eutaw:- I like it. I am also prejudiced. Deborah (my partner) wrote it. and she broke the box, well maybe not broke it but she certainly bent it out of shape. The dance is asymmetric and that just plain messes with some people's heads.

1-8      Set, set advancing; lead down the middle for 4.

9-16    California Twirl to change places with partner (and face up),
         lead up for 4, cast off 1 place.


Music:- Ye Banks and Braes by Marian Anderson's from her Robert Burns CD.

There are good cribs and a diagram [here].

The Music Makars:-  A Roy Goldring production. It has a certain flair. It's nice, easy to dance too. I give it about a 78. There just isn't anything there that grasps my heart. "It's OK" is about all I can say. A dance saved by the music.

Ann of Scotia:-  This one is a tour de force, especially since I know the lady and she has always enjoyed a good dance flirt. Chris and Sue Ronald also know the lady and wrote the dance to fit. And very successfully. [here]

The music should be Highland Cathedral, the tune to which she made here way to the altar.  At least two thumbs up.

The Glowerin' Coo:-  A Drewry. Some nice flip moments if I do say so myself. We all have our 'go to' dances, or 'kinda-sort of' favorites that we come back to every so often. Dances that just don't leave us alone. This is one  of those for Fergie who has been Westchester's head teacher for decades. He has just retired from teaching and has passed on the mantle.

Since I am now preparing the program for the Westchester Ball, this one kinda sorta :-))  came to mind. It didn't work out for that ball but I have taken it under long term consideration too, as it were.

Da Rain Dancin':- Magnificent. [here] – I consider it the next Mongomeries' Rant and like Montgomeries' Rant it is a great dance because of the music. Ron Wallace, Muriel Johnstone - thank you.

But it has an issue: Dancers don't know how to listen - they hear what they want to or expect to . If a move is outside their box they force it to fit their box.  The interrupted  Hello-Goodbye setting is that move.
The instructions don't say it but he did. He insisted that the 1s 'set' to 1st corner (pas de basque right) and 'set' to partner (pdb left) moving left, towards the gap (between your corners), but not squarely into that space, being sure to point right shoulders toward partner. The taking of hands should be easy - you just raise them and you are, magically, pointed in the correct direction for the turn - no decision (which hand?) to slow you down.

I learned the dance from him at a Pinewoods Camp Scottish Session several… (gasp) decades ago.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

7 March 2017 – New Haven

I suppose the first order of business is to acknowledge the facts on the ground. The Fair Haven Heights class is effectively defunct. I am now simply part of the rotation of teachers for the New Haven class of the New Haven Branch.  I have no set dates, they change as the availability of the other teachers changes (for whatever reason). * * * Sigh * * *  (Am I being too nice?)

Well, the New Haven Highland Ball for 2017 is past. It is time to move on. The Rerr Terr ball (NJ) is next on the calendar but most of the New Haven dancers can handle the dances eyes closed. Then the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance and for that Prep is definitely required.

The dances taught last night:-

Machine Without Horses  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 12/12
Bridge of Nairn  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 13/11
More Bees A-Dancin'  –  (32 R 3)  –  Goldring

Les Remparts de Séville  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 50/2
Dave Macfarlane's Reel  –  (32 R 3)  –  Collin
Peggy Spouse MBE  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 46/11

***   ***   ***   ***

The Machine Without Horses:-  The Old War Horse of the jig persuasion. There are some sticking points. Getting beginners to start dancing on time, especially as 2nd couple in the track figure. Getting dancers to cast up around 3rd couple and meet above them. Remembering left from right.

What struck me though was how much the music has changed since I started dancing. Why back when, when you really didn't want the stegasaurii to flip their kilts (that long spiked tail was a real problem) the hot musician was Stan Hamilton. What he was doing on piano was different from what most of other bands were doing. His music was the go to as were Don Bartlett's, Angus MacKinnon's, and Bobby Frew's. The RSCDS music was required listening though very managed and not very inspiring - even then, as a newbie, I could hear that. Don't get me wrong – it was all danceable.

Then came the fiddlers, and especially Barbara McOwen. She was in Berkeley CA. and west coast fiddle music flourished. She moved to Boston, and east coast fiddle music flourished. What she did was open dancer's ears to the song of the fiddle where previously all we heard were accordions. IMHO she deserves a Society Scroll!

So, last night, I played Stan Hamilton's version of Mw/oH. I was not inspired and I was surprised by that. Oh it had a good beat and was easy to dance to. But today I would only gave it about a 72. I find I much prefer the Reel of Seven version. They also have a good beat, are easy to dance to, but they have the sound of the fiddle. And the sound is fuller, more complex, more varied, and more mature.  They are standing on the shoulders of the greats like Stan Hamilton, Bobby Frew, and Don Bartlett, to name just a few.  (If I don't name Bobby Brown it is because although he may have had great knowledge and ability I have never liked the sound of his band. It was very heavy handed. He beat me over the head rather than let the instruments sing - This is personal opinion, other opinions differ, and to those of that persuasion what I have just said is heresy.)

Bridge of Nairn:- If there is a sticky point in this dance it is 1st man getting out of the setting into turning 1st corner RH. And with two elder beginners who are really stretching themselves with starting SCD in their seventies teachers need to use the RSCDS method (leaving out the Baroque ballet stuff). So I had to come up with a skills exercise at the last moment - yes I do claim I planned the class, just not in the society way or standard.

So I had everyone join NH with partner and face down (to start) - set and turn toward partner to face up [1-2], set again and face down [3-4]; set and face up [5-6], set and 1st lady stay facing up while 1st man turns over R shoulder to face down (as if to his 1st corner).

In the dance they got it. Even my weaker newbie was headed the correct way and basically on time into turn CPCP.

Both these dances are on the Rerr Terr program which is designed to be a beginner's first ball - very easy.

More Bees A-Dancin':-  A very nice Roy Goldring dance. I do see the pedigree which is John Drewry's Bees of Maggieknockater. Reels of three are still an issue for our newbies but in this dance 1st couple is in promenade hold for both reels. Hard to go wrong as 1s. Much easier as a corner where you have to either know which way to go, be able to taking coaching or responsive to visual cues.

Les Remparts de Séville:- I like it. It definitely rates higher than a 72. There is a trick to it which plays against training and muscle memory. There is a LH turn into the first 6 bars of Hello-Goodbye setting. Some dancers had difficulty getting their brains wrapped around that 8 bar phrase. Once they accomplished that they liked the dance.

One strong comment from the floor - find better music. I am not convinced. The arrangement doesn't send shudders down my spine. So is it the tune, the arrangement, bad playing, or the instrument mix that wasn't liked? I dunno - it could by any of these so I really need finer discernment. The dance is on the Tea Dance and I am tempted to ask the band to find French or Spanish jigs for their arrangement.

Dave Macfarlane's Reel:- Another delight from Gaye Collin of NZ and one of my Winter Specials. When I asked thumbs up or thumbs down I got four double thumbs up and one single thumbs up and no thumbs down.

This is the only dance I got into and danced. The video is so well done that I had such high expectations that I actually came away mildly disappointed but that doesn't mean it is bad. I definitely rate it as good and it gets a thumbs up from me too.

So that makes a total of ten thumbs up.  [here] Oh my are they good! (I want to move there).
The dance is now a candidate for the 2018 Tea Dance program.

Peggy Spouse MBE:- A Good One. It is beautiful. It deserves a much higher reputation but Oh My does it take lots and lots and lots of words to get the fine points and adjustments across to the dancers! (Maybe that is why they call it teaching?) But there is another issue. I have dancers who are in their 60s, 70s and 80s  and they aren't processing they way they used to. I have to take it slower and repeat myself and walk the pieces more often.

1st few bits - getting 1st lady and 2nd man not only back to back in the middle but also with both hands joined with partner ready for half poussette. It is the partners who have to adjust the spacing so 1L/2M STAY back to back. I now voice another heresy: this is not essential technique but look good technique. The dance works with or without the dancers being tightly back to back. It just looks better if they are.

The reels across (why do people not HEAR what is said?) in 6 bars with added extensions. Another couple of pieces: Petronellas for 1st couple and loops for corners to complete the phrase.

Another bunch of pieces: Set, circles of  3 - halfway; then set and link (corners) or set and petronella (1st couple).

Whew, we can now catch our breath,  it's a circle, round and back.

I like it, and the dancers liked both how it looked and how it danced. Worth the effort!







Thursday, March 2, 2017

1 March 2017 – Westchester

Tonight was intended to be a final prep session for the New Haven Highland Ball happening this weekend.
Accordingly I sent an email asking dancers to come with program dances they wanted reviewed.
The response was silence. The number of dancers going to the ball could be counted on one hand.
I revised as I went and wandered a bit from my original intent.

The Dances:-

Mrs Stewart's Jig  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 35
Maxwell's Rant  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 18
Barbara's Strathspey  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 46
New Haven Grid Lock  –  (48 J 4 sq)  –  Thomson
Surprising Hannah  –  (32 S 3)  –  Collin

Follow Me Home  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 38
Karin's Strathspey  –  (32 S 3)  –  3rd Graded
Saltire Society Reel  –  (32 R 3)  –  L28

* * * * * * * * * *

Mrs Stewart's Jig:-  Chosen because it is simple and easy and makes a decent warmup. Or so I thought. One set did fine. The other set was in pretty continuous breakdown.  I chose not to bring the class down to the lowest common denominator so I did not walk it a second, third, fourth... time.

Maxwell's Rant:- There is a presentation coming up next week. A set of dancers will be showing to the town's mayor and council and I was asked to give them all a run through.   Not on the ball.

Barbara's Strathspey:-  Ball dance, and it is lovely. It has been a favourite in this area for some years but hasn't been done recently. It had its three years on the NY dance list, has been off for a couple more, and because it isn't on the list it hasn't been on any local programs and hasn't been done. On the whole it went very well. No break downs - if there were problems they danced through them.

New Haven Grid Lock:- Oh My! Interesting. I know who wrote it and it is so George! Rough around the edges is being kind, but brimming with cheer and good energy.  The essential ingredient would be anticipation.  The neat thing is that because the squares are lined up, when everyone faces out of their set some couples will be facing another couple. If you dance half RL those couples change sets!

On the brunch program.

A little history - when New Haven Colony was founded the town was laid out in a 3x3 grid of nine squares, the center one being the town green.

Surprising Hannah:-  Yes! I say again - Yes! Simple? Yes. Demanding? Yes. Enjoyable? Oh Yes, but you need to have, like, and execute technique. Strong steps are needed here. The figures go out to the side lines whenever possible, which is most of the time, and you must be able to move!!

As far as I know I am still the only area teacher advocating Gaye Collin's dances. I have just shortlisted this one for the 2018 Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance program. Not because I like it but because several of the dancers liked it enough to say so! And not just out of politeness.  Thumbs up.

Not on the ball or brunch programs. One of my winter specials.

Follow Me Home:-  Another good enjoyable dance from the Briscoes. The key is getting 1st couple to cross to opposite sides on bars 23-24.  Thumbs up.

Karin's Strathspey:- I now see why the coach of the competition team had them release from the two hand turns and reform into the circle. It keeps 1st couple oriented to their proper positions. I personally don't like the way the unnecessary hand movements look.

Saltire Society Reel:-  The specified setting/set advancing is hard! Unless the dancers are dem team ready it isn't going to happen cleanly. I admit I didn't even try. I had corners advancing on the third and fourth pas de basque. Mea culpa.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

23 February 2017 – New York Branch

Why New York on Thursday and not Westchester on Wednesday? Because Miss C., currently teaching the NY Branch Experienced class, and I did a one time swap.

Format at the NYB is decidedly different and more difficult. There are severe time constraints, only two and a half hours for the entire evening and that includes warmup and tea time.

7:30 - 7:45   Warmup for all

                  Classes split

7:45 - 8:45 Experienced/Basics classes meet

8:45 - 9:00 Tea

9:00 - 9:50  Combined Social (we need to be out by 10:00).

There is no time to  fumble in the teaching - it has to be clean and correct.

Dances of the night:-
Warmup:
The Ferryboat  –  (32 J n circle mixer)  –  Let's All Dance

Experienced Class:
Chased Lovers  –  (32 J 3)  –  World Wide Weavings
Karin's Strathspey  –  (32 S 3)  –  3rd Graded Bk
Saltire Society Reel  –  (32 R 3)  –  L28/Goldring

Social Class:
Machine Without Horses  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 12/12
Rakes of Glasgow  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 11/11
EH3 7AF  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 40/6
Davy Nick Nack  –  (32 H 3)  –  Glasgow Assembly

* * * * * * * * * *

The Ferryboat:- A very simple circle dance and enough to almost loosen up muscles and minds. Otherwise, for those not geographically challenged, tedious if on a steady diet of the dance. That was the combined opening warmup.

Experienced Class:-

Chased Lovers:- By Tim Wilson and it is a Gem!!  (Just included in my Top 50 Jigs - that makes 54)

The two diagonal reels of 3 are a delight. Individually they are in tandem, but there is a lead change between them that, IMHO, make the dance. They start out the ends - the 1st reel out the top Lsh to 2M, the 2nd reel out the bottom Rsh to 3M and between the two there is a transitional moment, Rsh back together to change from facing up to facing down. Nice! A covering moment missed by all too many dancers.

Corners Pass & Turn - How do you get corners to dance ALL four bars? Why don't they? Sheesh! Do I sound frustrated, and maybe a wee bit upset?  No? Then you aren't listening! I sincerely wish you better success at this than I've had. … … I am smiling, thinking about waltzing with some of these dancers and only dancing three steps out of four....  I mean, that is what the 3/4 means, isn't it?  :-))

Karin's Strathspey:-  It was… interesting shall I say, to watch the Newcastle Festival video of this dance and compare their interpretation to what the instructions actually say.

On the video I saw was a clear separation of dancers - all dropping hands after the turns and dancing out to position, corners ending home and 1s in the middle or on sides, and then all raising hands as they dance into the circles.

Very pretty. But that is not what I read.

9-12      1st couple set to first corners (who also set) advancing to finish back to back. They turn their  first corners with both hands almost once round.

13-16    Opening out, 1st couple lead their corners into four hands once round to their left. 1st man finishes between 3rd couple and 1st woman between 2nd couple, facing each other.

That from Derek Haynes' Carnforth Collection and it is very clear - between the turns and the circles you keep hands joined!

This from RSCDS:
9-12      1st couple and first corners set, 1st couple advancing to finish back to back. 1st couple and first corners, giving both hands, turn.

13-16    1st couple lead corners into four hands once round to the left. 1st woman finishes between 2nd couple facing down and 1st man between 3rd couple facing up.

Not as clear. The word 'lead' suggests that hands are still joined but by not including the words "opening out" whether or not you DO keep hands joined is open to interpretation. The performance team at Newcastle chose not to keep hands joined. Since that is the only video (http://my.strathspey.org/dd/dance/3397/) it demonstrates the dance wrongly. Oops.

Saltire Society Reel:- This one bears repeat teaching.

There is one subtle point that I didn't get across.
Corners got the set for 4 bars, advancing on the 3rd and 4th into hands across. The corners got that they leave the hands across and dance out to place. The 1C got that the hands across only goes for 3 bars because once the corners leave they can stop dancing. Riiight! Again the 3 out of 4 syndrome, only in a new application of the theory.

So in a profound revelation I have concluded that a new emphasis is required - I have to stress that in the hands across 1C have use all four allotted bars of music and to keep going until they face 2nd corners!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

15 February 2017 – Westchester

The dances taught last night were:-

Caffeine Dreams  –  (32 J n Circle mixer)  – Price
Chased Lovers  –   (32 J 3)  – Tim Wilson
Flower of Glasgow  –  (32 S 3/3L)  – Ruth Taylor
Catch the Wind  –  (32 H 3)  –  Butterfield
St. Faolon of the Woods  –  (32 J 3)  – Smith
Mason's Apron  –  (32 R 3)  –  Border Bk.

Hedwig's Reel  –  (32 R 3)  –  2nd Graded
Strathglass House  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 13
Falls of Rogie  –  (32 R 3)  – Attwood

*** *** ***

Caffeine Dreams:- A circle  mixer for as many as will.  It achieved life after 'she who must be obeyed' made a comment that she couldn't find a simple circle warmup dance that had turns in it. So I suggested she write one. She suggested strongly that it was easy for me not so easy for her.

Since I was on my unusual second cup of coffee I did. The result was unmentionable, as most of the figures cut across the musical phrases. Not easy. So I rethought and rewrote and came up with this.

1–4    All adv. & ret. ;
5–6    men adv.,
7–8     ladies adv,. as men turn over R shoulder and dance out. (Cpls pass by R shoulders and face right into…).
9–16    All turn partner RH back to place (1_1/4 - ladies face out, men in) ; all turn corner (neighbor)  LH once round back to original places (ladies face out, men in).
17–24    All join hands and balance, turn ptnr RH half round ; join hands (ladies face in/men out) and balance, and turn next corner LH half round (you have left your partner).

25–32    With the next person turn RH (1_1/4) into promenade hold facing anti-CW ; promenade for 4 bars. With new partner face in to reform the circle.

It was confusing and I am puzzled why that was so.  It was the first teaching of a new dance so it could be the words I used were not sufficient. It could be the dance sucks, which is different from unworkable.

If anyone would pick this dance up, try it out, and inform me of the result I would greatly appreciate it.

Chased Lovers:- Nice Dance!! From Tim Wilson who is writing some absolutely top notch dances these days. The Docent's Tour, The Elusive Muse and Linnea's Strathspey are three that come to mind. This dance is definitely a keeper and is going on my Top 50 list.

Flower of Glasgow:-  Another nice little dance from Ruth Taylor. It contains a 3C circulating Allemande and there is a family resemblance to Swirling Snow. A thumbs up.

Catch the Wind:- Around here this is part of the standard repertoire. It is a good dance and nothing more needs be said of the dance. The music however…  The music I used last night was not the set usually used.

I have two copies of the dance. One published in The Island Bay Collection, one published by the RSCDS. In the Island Bay version the "name" tune is "Flirtation Hornpipe." In Bk 45 the tune see by the Society is "The Navvie".  I have three recordings, only the one by The Music Makars uses "Flirtation Hornpipe" - so The Question  - which one is correct?

St. Faolon of the Woods:- This one is not on any upcoming ball. It is from my list of Winter Specials. These are dances that I have never done and have caught my eye and I need to try them out. (I am always in search of hidden gems that might be the next Montgomeries' Rant). This one isn't going to be that. But it is a fun one.

Learned at the last Asilomar Weekend where it was done Sunday morning when the dancers are all tired and a bit hung over. And it went smoothly, more smoothly than it went last night.

Using my class in New Haven, CT to test a dance for public consumption is not a fair test. The class is predominately experienced and advanced. Using the Loch Leven Performance Team for guinea pigs is also not a fair test. Using the Westchester group which, is very mixed, is a very fair test of a dance.

Upshot of the trial is that it deserves a second test, and a test in which I teach it carefully and thoroughly with no assumptions. I like it, I would willingly do it again, and I would like to be in touch with Andrew Smith the devisor as I have a couple of questions for him.

Hedwig's Reel:- Yikes! I would not choose to open a ball with this dance! Granted no pas de basque, no slip step. But it moves and it is not what I would consider at all gentle, especially not gentle enough for a warmup/opening dance. It requires a good degree of high level technique. Footwork be damned  - it's the handing, phrasing, anticipation and transitions that need a lot of practice. Deceptively simple dances make good teaching dances. This is one of them.

Falls of Rogie:- Local standard repertoire and a great ender. Lots of Fun!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

8 February 2017 - Westchester

'Tis the season for Ball Prep so that was most of last night's program. The New Haven Highland Ball Coming up Real Soon, then New Jersey's Rerr Terr, the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance and New York's Pawling Weekend. Sometimes I actually remember it is not all on my shoulders.

The Dances:-

Waltzing to Iowa  -  (32 W circle)  -  Schneider
EH3 7AF  –  (32 J 3)  – Bk 40 (Goldring)
The Johnsonville Diamond  –  (32 S 2)  –  Downey
On the Wings of a Skorie  –  (32 R 3)  – Herbold
The Wishing Well  –  (32 S 2)  – Bk 44 (Bänninger)

John Cass  –  (32 J 5)  –  Bk 49 (Avery)
Singing Sands  –  (32 S 3/3L)  –  Priddey
The Black Leather Jig  –  (32 R 3)  – DelValSilver (Selling)

** ** ** ** **

Waltzing to Iowa:- I picked this dance up from the conversation on Strathspey. I had to. My mother was from Iowa, my sister lives in Iowa, my partner's late husband was from Iowa. Too many connections. Then there is the fact that it is a very nice dance with many interactions with partners past and present.

EH3 7AF:- One of the standards.

The Johnsonville Diamond:- Two thumbs up, and if I had a third hand it would get three.
The opening 8 bars has gotten mixed reviews. Several dancers have shrugged and several others have huge grins and love the "spurning" aspect should you choose to go there.

The next eight bars is a figure of eight - which some dancers have embroidered by turning it into a double figure.

The third figure is a very modified Spiral progression. And it is lovely. Worth every bit of trouble teaching - it is a meanwhile, with a high 'piece' count, needs a lot of words and demonstrating. Take your time teaching it, stress the covering and enjoy it.

Final piece - poussette.

Rod Downey's four books are available for download here.

On the Wings of a Skorie:- Oh my. Just a little over the top. Bruce plays with a standard set and link and the dancers were standing bemused when they needed to move. The flow of the dance dictated the reversal of roles. Me, I had no problem but I am considered a dance monster. I think that with familiarity the dance will become easier. I love the very different down the middle and up.

The Wishing Well:-  The theme of the night - The Spiral (modified for strathspey) and Poussette Right Round.  A pleasant solid repertoire dance.and a good dance with which to teach the Spiral.

John Cass:-  Why are five couple dances so much fun? This dance isn't exactly hard, but a reel of three with three shadows and dolphin lead changes by each twosome apparently takes some getting used to. I give it a thumbs up. Worth all the effort.

The Singing Sands:-  I have never understood why so many dancers have so much difficulty with half diagonal Right&Lefts. Obviously I am missing something.

The dance is by the late Barry Priddey so I am prejudiced in its favour. It is actually simpler than many other of his dances if you consider his Tourbillon to be simple. Around here it is being done enough that dancers are becoming familiar, even comfortable, with it. I find the final progression delightful. It is one of those mystery things where, at the end, you look around and say "how did I get here?" It is the double diagonal half rights and lefts leaves people shaking their heads in confusion and, sometimes, the set in breakdown despite the many times it has been taught.

Bottom line - leaves me smiling.

The Black Leather Jig:- which is a reel   :-)  ** Recommended **

I urge you to find a source for the CD Thistle House Live - by said band. The musician are Dave Wiesler, David Knight and Dan Emory. The music is spectacular! This set (also appropriate for Sleepy Maggie) is dynamite!

And the dance is pretty good too.



Thursday, February 2, 2017

1 February 2017 -– Westchester


Steady teaching has returned to my life


Last night was the first of the new series in Westchester and the turnout appeared light. We eked out two four couple sets for most of the evening and none of the dancers needed 'teaching'. They were all experienced so it boiled down to geography lessons.

I had planned to warm up with Waltzing to Iowa but there weren't enough dancers that early to make a decent sized circle. Quick switch to More Bees A-Dancin' from the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance program and once again I was surprised by the simplicity of the dance and how enjoyable it continues to be.

There are four programs coming up in this area: The New Haven Highland Ball, The NJ Rerr Terr,
The Kilts and Ghilies Tea Dance, and  the NY Pawling Weekend. And there is very little overlap on the programs. Interesting times indeed.

Here is what we danced:–

More Bees A-Dancing  –  (32 R 3)  – Goldring
Campbell's Frolic  –  (32 J 3)  –  15/3
Aging Gracefully  –  (32 S 3)  –  47/4
Toast to the Mousies  –  (32 R 3)  –  Gratiot
New Abbey  –  (32 S 2)  –  Goldring

Scottish Reform  –  (32 J 2)  –  3/1
Zytglogge  –  (32 R 3)  –  Blackburn
Asilomar Romantic  –  (32 S 3)  –  SF 2
Deil Amang the Tailors  –  (32 R 3)  –  14/7


**********

More Bees A-Dancin'  –  Simple and sweet. It says something that a simple dance can continue to be fresh after several dancings.  It made it onto the Kilts and Ghillies program after my co-teacher brought it to my attention. She didn't need a two by four to get my attention but it was a close thing. I  have certainly read the dance over, probably more than once over the years but it never 'caught' me. Well that is now over and I now give it a thumbs up.

Campbell's Frolic:-  Not a 'skip to the loo' dance but close, very close. To say there are better dances would be a serious understatement. Which begs the question - why are there so few really exciting jigs in the RSCDS repertoire? That is changing with the new publications but traditionally? I shudder to think of it.

Aging Gracefully:-  This one is interesting. There is some serious interpretation necessary with this dance.

9-12      1st woman and 2nd man set advancing and, giving both hands, turn once round.
13-16    1st woman and 2nd man, passing by the right, dance into each other's places and set.


Where do you end the turn? Seriously, where do you end that turn?  The instructions say only 'once round'. How far is that? You have advanced setting, so do you end the turn where you started it, in the middle? Or do you end it back in place? Both are doable. Both look lovely. Both are interpretations as the written instructions do not specify.

I first taught the dance was way back when Book 47 was published and I taught it with the dancers  finishing the turn in the middle (not going back to place) but extending the movement of the turn into the right shoulder pass.  Then I watched the video for  Surprising Hannah and saw a different way. There is a  precision, a strength there that has its own beauty to recommend it so last night I taught it with the turn ending back in place. It is going to take some more coaching to get the dancers to 'flow' in to the pass shoulders, but when that happens…

The dance works either way. It is beautiful either way. It gets a thumb up either way. And any 'rules', advice, or decree from any one is simply personal preference aka interpretation. I liked it both ways, and the dancers liked it as I taught it last night. (They don't remember that I taught it the other way). Bottom line - doesn't matter which version you teach, there is no 'one correct way' and both times the dancers gave it a thumbs up.

New Abbey:- Roy Goldring specified that this dance was doable in either strathspey tempo or jig time.
Jig time is one thing, a two couple strathspey 8 times through is something else. At the Pawling Welcome Dance it will be done as a jig. Thank God.

Last night one set rewrote the dance. Instead of ending with RH Across ; LH back they began ending each round with Poussette Right Round.  IMHO an improvement.

Toast to the Mousies:-  The first of my "Winter Specials". I learned it last fall at the Asilomar Weekend. I like it. A lot. And I want a dancing arrangement of Keith Smith's tune. (See Muriel and Keith's CD Highland Shortbread).

Basically a simple dance. There is only one figure that is unusual but it is not hard unusual, just  slightly unusual and easily taught.

Zytglogge:- I have said it all before so all I can add is - still fresh. It has an intrinsic rhythm that works. Two thumbs up.

Asilomar Romantic:-  Oh… My… Yes. Long time a favorite of mine and the music! Oh the music! The original set from The San Francisco Collection 2  CD is very good. The arrangement by Reel of Seven… I have no words. "Superb" is seriously deficient.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

24 January 2017 - New Haven

Last night was a workout. Two absolutely brand new dancers (and boy does New Haven need them).

First dance was Saw Ye My Wee Thing from the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance program and it has IMHO the single most difficult figure in Scottish dancing - Rights and Lefts - which they mostly got.
Gold stars were given out.

The next dance was Campbell's Frolic. a poor choice. The formations weren't difficult but the piece count was fast and furious and too much to ask for from newbies.

Set, Right Hands Across, cast off.
Set Left Hands Across, cast off.
(a lot of new concepts and quick movements - a bit much for beginners)
Set, lead up, cast off
Circle

Getting the cast out of the Hands Across  was the hardest part, remembering which hand was also a problem but that got better.

These two dances took more than hour. I got bogged down and didn't see that more demonstrating and less talking …

In the second 'hour' we did three dances, the one we included the beginners in was More Bees A-Dancin'. They coped with the Reels of 3.  Actually really well considering it was their first or second  night.

The other two dances were 'specials' that I found as videos and just had to give a try. They called to me. Really they did.

The evening's dances were:-

Saw Ye My Wee Thing  –  (32 J 2)  –  25/9
Campbell's Frolic  –  (32 J 3)  –  15/3

Born to Dance  –  (32 J 3)  –  Gaye Collin
More Bees A-Dancin'  –  (32 R 3)  –  Goldring
Surprising Hannah  –  (32 S 3)  – Gaye Collin

**********

Born to Dance: This one bent my mind into a pretzel the few times I watched the video. this is my second teaching of the dance and I found the tricky piece not so tricky this time. The important piece, out of the half hands across, is to impress on the dancers that the chase ends in lines of three across, men down, ladies up.

It received a solid round of applause, two thumbs up from several dancers, and is right on the edge of getting a Golden Ghillie Award. It shines!

More Bees A-Dancin':- "Good dance". This from the floor! And it is a good dance. It is simple and enjoyable.

Surprising Hannah:-Another very good dance from Gaye Collin. This has no convoluted spaghetti choreography. All it has are simple pieces that require GOOD technique: strong steps, timing, handing and all covered. And dancing it with mastery is the joy. Two thumbs up from the floor.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance - Band

We have found a fiddler!


We are proud to announce that

Dave Wiesler and Katie McNally

will be the band for 

The Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance

to be held on Sunday April 30th 2017


Sunday, January 15, 2017

15 January 2016 - Loch Leven

G'day y'all,

It was supposed to be a rehearsal this afternoon but with only three couples it became more of a 'reminder' session. We are supposedly prepping for a video taping session. The four dances we are working on are Pinewoods Reel (there is no, I am sorry to say, decent video of it that I have found), Zytglogge; The Shores of Solway and The Abbot of Unreason.

It is not, however, working out the way we planned! I intended to hand out the dance instructions for the new set when we finished the taping of the previous set,  come in the next week ready to learn the geography and come in on week three ready to refine and do the taping. Basically working on a two to three week cycle. So far three… months and counting. I really, really, want to be done with  this set and through the next two sets and have them published before the Kilts and Ghilllies Tea Dance. (April 30th).

We ran through the dances 3 times each (once and to the bottom for each couple0 and then moved on to the fun stuff.

Zytglogge  –  (32 R 3)  –  Blackburn
The Waggle o' the Kilt  –  (40 J 3)  –  Cosh
A Couple of Keepers  -  (32 S 3 set)  -  Herbold & Cobb
Born to Dance  –  (32 J 3  –  Gaye Collin

**********

Zytglogge:-  this is a keeper. It isn't a 'rewarding when you get it' dance. Rather it has a rhythm and flow that is just plain hugaliciously satisfying. It is a  'two thumbs up' keeper and if it as satisfying the next time I dance it the number of thumbs will go up to 3!

The Waggle o' the Kilt:-  I learned this dance all too many years ago and I hated it. Wednesday I was in a class where the same teacher taught it again. I liked it better but another dancer in the class, who is also in Loch Leven, wanted to dance it again but with all the possible twiddles (aka kilt waggles). So we did the whole thing… well let's be truthful, we over did the whole thing.

I get it. I finally get the dance. There are places to tastefully twiddle. In moderation the dance is a good one and if you also take mild liberties with some of the prescribed timing the dance is lovely.

The last 16 bars are two corner chain figures to get them home. Written as follows:
1-2      1C change 3rd corners in RH
3-4      corners change in the middle  (Turn LH 1_1/2 )
5-6      corners change 1C in RH - corners home.
7-8      1C turn LH to face 4th corner.
Repeat.

Do-able. Takes strong, knowledgable dancers to do it well, but do-able.

I am still able to dance it as written (praise be) but I find I like to dance it as follows:

1-       1C change 3rd cornerss in RH
2-4     corners change in the middle  (Turn LH 1_1/2 in 3 bars )
5-       corners change 1C in RH
6-8    1C turn LH to face 4th corner

And if you would rather add a kilt flip or are not able to dance it as written then:

1-2      1C change 3rd cornerss. in RH
3-4    corners Turn LH 1/2 and twirl (or not) to face away
5-6      corners change 1C in RH
7-8      1C turn LH to face 4th corner

End of story.

A Couple of Keepers:- Boy did I muck this one up. I only thought I was prepared because when I taught it we found my notes were not adequate. But when we finally worked it all out we found the notes were almost correct and it was my memory that was inadequate. Note that we loved the dance when we had it worked out but it takes *careful* prep and teaching as the orientations and formations are unusual.

The dance is for Tim Wilson and his partner Sylvain. (Did I mention that Bruce likes word games?) and the dance too is a keeper. It is going on my Top 50 list and on the short list for Kilts and Ghillies 2018.

Born to Dance:- Love it!  Gaye Collin plays with your mind and I just LOVE IT!     Dance: Born to Dance | SCDDB

Take a look, fall in love. Teach it, dance it, and spread it around.