Saturday, January 27, 2018

24 January 2018 - Westchester

Burns Night!

We had only two family members visiting so the program remained mostly easy but experienced friendly.

Findlays' Jig  -  (32 J 3)  -  Goldring
Fair Donald  -  (32 S 3)  -  Bk 29
Circle of Cheer  -  (32 R n circle)  - Let's All Dance
Shetland Shepherdess  - (32 J 3)  - Wallace
Silver Tassie  -  (32 S 3)  - Drewry
Shiftin' Bobbins  -  (32 R 3)  - Clowes

      The Annual Haggis Bashing

Collie Law  -  (32 J 2)  -  Goldring
Adieu Mon Ami  -  (32 S 3)  -  Bk 24
Da Rain Dancin'  -  (32 R 3)  -  Wallace

23 January 2018 - New Haven

Deborah celebrated Burns Night with the Ho-Ho-Kus class of the New Jersey Branch and I provided the neeps. :-)

It is the start of the new season and a busy season it is coming up. Both the New Jersey Branch and the New Haven Branch have 2 events:NJ has a workshop in Maplewood and their usual ball The Rerr Terr; New Haven has it's Highland Ball weekend and the Kilts and Ghillies Tea dance and Westchester has it's ball in early June. That is a lot of ball prep to look forward too…Not!

I decided to ease into it by only doing a bit of ball prep. The Facebook page for the New Haven class indicates they don't need it from me so I am planning on having fun.

The dances I "taught" were:-

It's Nae Bother  -  (32 J 2)  -  Haynes
The Duchess Tree  -  (32 S 3)  -  Drewry
Scott Meikle  -  (32 R 4)  -  46/3

The "Winter Specials" were:-

The Aviator  -  (32 J 3)  -  Fischer
A Trip to Edinburgh  -  (32 R 4 sq)  -  Nolan
The Clumsy Lover  -  (32 R 3)  -  Aurora 10
Linnea's Strathspey  -  (32 S 3)  - Wilson

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

It's Nae Bother:-  Simple. Kind of cute. A nice way to get the muscles geared up for dancing.

The Duchess Tree:-  A lovely dance but so often poorly done. Two issues. The main one is the entry into the opening reels. 2C has no issue- they simply cross up to begin. 1C doesn't have a problem either if they simply do a normal cast in the normal time. 3C start the reel by taking 4 bars to cast up into second place. Ya, you betcha! A whole 4 bars but this is where the timing goes wrong -
3C tends to rush the cast and the reel gets real mushy.

The other piece that John Drewry choreographed impeccably is the Set, Circle, Turn, Circle. He tells you that you need to move the Turn along the circle. He is right. (Has he ever been wrong?) What I had tonight was an eye opening moment. I saw a couple of dancers who didn't know how to dance a two hand turn in such a way that it progressed along the circumference. In the press of the moment they couldn't even do a proper turn! And that means it has been Bad Teaching - and I passed the moment by when I could have taken the 30 seconds to demonstrate the point.

Scott Meikle:-I love this dance! Neat simple concept that makes you look up and say "how did I get here?" It has become a standard in the NY/NJ area and however often we have done it, I still like it.
Two thumbs up!

The Aviator:- OMG!! This one literally gives me goose bumps up and down my arms both when I dance it and when I see it danced well covered. Yes, it is that good. So Just Do It.

The music used in our video is by Dave Wiesler and Mara Shea. It is good. The music I prefer is "On the Wings of the Morning" by Keith Smith and Muriel Johnstone's from their CD "Campbell's Birl".

The class loved it too. And they were not adverse to my suggestion that it might show up on the 2019 K&G Tea Dance program.

The Clumsy Lover:- Deborah came home raving, well she wasn't actually raving, but she was very enthusiastic about it. The experiment was repeated here and the result was the same. Enthusiasm.
Another candidate for the 2019 K&G short list.

There is a video but I don't know the music. I talked to a piper and there is a pipe tune of this name.
Would that I could play it so I could hear it. I had to come up with a tune but had nothing quite like what they played on the video - I used City of Stirling Reel/Glencraig SCD Band.

Result of the experiment - enthusiasm and more than one thumbs up from the floor.

Linnea's Strathspey:-  Oooh, nice! Highly recommended (as I have said before).

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

12 December 2017 - Loch Leven Dancers

Well, Loch Leven Dancers have danced, filmed and edited, and posted 4 more dances.

Monadh Liath:-

Rob Roy     (video 2 is ours - but it is first in the queue)

The Aviator

Black Leather Jig:-  2 videos - one straight, two for fun)

24 October 2017 – New Haven

An appropriate subtitle for this post - Still Struggling.

It is almost the end of October and my goal was to have the Tea Dance program settled by September.
I missed that deadline. So I reset to the end of September. Missed that one too. We are now almost out of October and the program still hasn't come together to my satisfaction.

Usually when I have this much trouble finishing a program there is one dance that is holding things up. Doesn't play well with others, and no matter how much I want that one on the program everything improves when I take it away. Not this time. There is no one dance causing the problem. To make it work I would have to start from scratch and build the program in a different manner, from a different mind set. That isn't going to happen unless I am still struggling at Christmas.

Short version: today I am - still - looking at dances.

The dances taught:

Come What May  -  (32 J 2)  -  Bk 51/11
A Reel for Maria  -  (40 R 3)  -  Suncoast (McRanor)
The Clarsach  -  (32 S 3)  - Portland 20th (Ryer)
The Young Foxes  -  (32 R 3)  -  Gregg notes
Rockside  -  (96 J 4 sq)  -  Goldring
Scotia Sea  -  (32 R 3)  -  Goldring
From Paper to Pearl  -  (32 S 3)  -  Collin

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

Come What May:-  Book 51 is aaaah… something. Intended for children and beginners. Ok it might work for them. I used this dance for a warm up because our class includes a couple, in their 70s, who are challenged. They do not move well, are slow picking up patterns, don't always remember them in time, but they started dancing just over a year ago so this is normal. But I see little to like in the way of additions to the standard repertoire. How many circles do we need? But how many books do we skip over when making programs? Book 2?

We do Delvine Side regularly (for the music) but I haven't seen Bob O'Dowally, also good music, on a program in over 30 years. Glasgow Highlanders shows up now and again, but  Eightsome Reel? Not in over 20 years.
And now we add another book that is useful only in very specific circumstances.

A Reel for Maria:- A Yes. It is not a rave dance but it is a nice one. And yes it is on the Tea Dance program. It is accessible to almost all, and it was written by Ellen McRanor who, before she retired, taught both the Kilts and Ghillies and the Woodbridge groups in Connecticut and is now teaching in Florida.

I had no idea Ellen had published dances until I met Livia Kohn (a co-author) at Pinewoods this summer and saw the book in the bookstore. I had to… I mean not buy a book with their work in it? And not put one of her dances on 'her' ball? Seriously?

In regards to the book - some very nice dances here. Thumbs up.
It is available from They print (and mail) on demand and do the eBook thing too.

The Clarsach:- Some nice moves and some different moves. Definitely worth looking at. Some of the transitions just plain make me smile, and that is a very good thing.

A video will be coming soon - I mean Real Soon Now, like before March… maybe. (Hopefully much sooner but who knows with this group of mine).

The Young Foxes:- By Robert Gregg. When he died he gave me several files of dance notes and the commission to edit and publish what I could. This is the first one which I could clean up enough for publishing. It is now published in Ruby Anniversary Book - Scottish Country Dances from Connecticut.

The entry into the first reel is almost unique and worth it. The flow is worthy of John Drewry. The short form - two thumbs up - I Like It!

Not for this year but starred and on the top of the shortlist for 2019.

The Scotia Sea:- I have taught and talked about this dance before.

From Paper to Pearl:- Do it! Didn't you hear me? DO IT! As I taught it I heard several "huhs?" and when we danced it I then heard several "wows!"

Saturday, December 9, 2017

26 September 2017 – New Haven

I had hoped to have the K&G Tea Dance program settled by now - No such luck though.
So this evening was a mixed one. Some dances try outs from the short list and some for 'just because'.

The dances I taught were:

Deborah's Request  -  (32 J 3)  -  Price
Scotia Sea  -  (32 R 3)  -  Scotia Suite
The Rose Garden  -  (24 S 2)  - SF2
Highland Light Society  -  (32 J 3)  - Price
The Falkirk Wheel  -  (32 S 4 dancers)  - Price
Mrs Watt's Teakettle  -  (48 R 3)  -  Burrage

--  *  --  *  --  *  *  *  --  *  --  *  --

Deborah's Request:-  I heard a cry "I can't find any good dances for warmup, simple dances with simple turns in them".
"Well, write one" I said. "
"You do that better than I can." she replied, with that 'look'.
So I did. I had to.

Scotia Sea:-  I like the music. It could carry it's dance if it had to. It doesn't. The dance is good and I like the fit between the two. And the music flies!

The Rose Garden:- I have posted about this dance before. Check back. This one earned two thumbs up.

Highland Light Society:- I wrote this dance for Morag Geraci. A pillar of the Westchester group until she retired to Cape Cod. The Cape Cod Highland Light Society hosts the Scottish dancing in the 
Falmouth area.

The Falkirk Wheel:- At Falkirk two canals meet, sort of. There is an elevation difference of about 24.7 meters between the two canals and the Wheel is magnificent! The mechanical principle is based 
on a sun and planet gear system as are the reels in the dance. 

I first met this reel system in a George Emerson dance where he called it a "Planet" reel. Subsequently I have met the same reels under the term Celtic reel. They are the same but the concept of a celtic reel, a cross and a circle, is much easier on the mind than the other.

Mrs Watt's Teakettle:- Truth be told I looked at this dance a couple of times and passed on to the next. I didn't see any thing here, not really. But one day I did teach it and the response from the dancers was positive. It is a nice dance. It is not only worth doing but it is worth doing again. 

17 September 2017 – Loch Leven

No rehearsal just another Fun afternoon.

Orpington Caledonians  -  (32 R 3)  -  49/2
Born to Dance  -  (32 J 3)  -  Collin
Rubinus Portus Novi  -  (40 S 4 sq)  -  Price (Ruby Anniversary)
Back to Back  -  (32 J 3)  -  Glasspool
Double Trouble Triangles  -  (48 R 4)  -  50/8
The Rose Garden  -  (24 S 2)  -  Wendell (SF 2)

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

Orpington Caledonians:- Fun, just plain fun especially with the music (Jim Lindsay et al). I programmed it on the 2016 Tea Dance and I am waiting for enough time to pass that I can program it again. Like, like, like.

Born to Dance:- I have said it before - Lovely! So lovely that it is on the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance program that is coming up RSN.

Rubinus Portus Novi:- Right-O. I agree the name is pretentious but I am just so tired of Ruby this and Ruby that. Over 50 dances with Ruby in their name. Enough I cry, enough! I can't take it any more! So it is a very good thing that I know several dancers who have a grounding in Latin.

This was a testing.

In June I received an email announcing a 40th birthday party for the New Haven branch. (The meeting in which we voted to apply for branch status was hosted at my house). I was also informed in that email that I was going to provide a 40 bar dance for the occasion, right?! It took a while for the dance to come together but a testing about a month and a half early is in time, I believe. Yes but just barely!

The book is available through the New Haven Branch.

Back to Back:- Push-Me-Pull-You Reels! Yes! We danced it in both 2007 and 2010. Soon, real soon now we will dance it again. I promise.

Double Trouble Triangles:-  A Double Triangles chain –– a wonderful conceit. Looked fabulous in the video. Less exciting in practice.

The Rose Garden:- One of my Top 50 dances. Ms Wendell did something rare. She wrote a fantastic 24 bar dance and stopped. Applause. Standing ovation actually. So few devisors manage that. Too often they just have to make it a 32 bar sequence so they add a gratuitous 8 bars - sigh.

In 1998 I stood my full teaching certificate in Vancouver, BC, Canada. My decompression space was the University's rose garden looking out on the sound and the snow capped mountains to north. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

6 September 2017 – Westchester

Tonight was the start of the new dance season. The teacher of this first series is Charlotte and I asked her to put together the opening party program. And a nice little party it was too.

The dances:-

Chairman's Whim  -  (32 J 2)  - H. Boyd
Delvine Side  -  (32 S 3)  -  2/9
Welcome to Ayr  -  (32 J 3)  -  47/8
J. B. Milne  -  (32 R 3)  -  Foss
Inchmickery  -  (32 J 5)  -  Goldring
MacDonald of Keppoch  -  (128 M 4sq)  -  49/1

Slytherin House  -  (32 S 3)  -  Ronald
For Your Eyes Only  -  (32 R 3)  -  unknown

*  **   ***    ** * **    ***  ** *

Chairman's Whim:- A jig but done as a hornpipe. A simple ditty by our friend in Montréal Holly Boyd.

Delvine Side:- I love the music for this one. In my opinion the set played by Fiddlesticks and Ivory is THE definitive recording, 

Welcome to Ayr:- It is a tricky little dance, and it is the teacher who, the first time, usually gets bitten by not paying enough attention in the prep. That said it is a nice little dance that requires a little forethought and planning in the dancing.

J. B. Milne:- So much fun! In the greater NY area it is part of the standard repertoire.

Inchmickery:- A good dance but not in my Top 50. If I had to pick a 5C dance I would choose A Reel for Alice, The 50th Parallel, Black Mountain Reel, or any of a number of others first. But the consensus of the teachers in the area was to put in on the NY Branch's dance list. So it gets done a lot.

MacDonald of Keppoch:- This one is a hit, an all round palpable hit. The dance is good, the music is good and when the dancers make the transition they are ecstatic.

Slytherin House:-Another popular (around here) dance by Chris Ronald. The snake pass is not quite the normal one and that tends to throw me because here the move wars with not only my muscle memory but my mental expectations.

For Your Eyes Only:- Sorry no link for this one. It is one of the book 52 test dances and since there was no name attached to it we made one up. It was very well received. We can only hope that it was selected for the new book.

Monday, December 4, 2017

29 August 2017 – New Haven

The Last Class of Summer - the last chance to freely experiment.

Dances taught:

Chased Lovers  -  (32 J 3)  -  Wilson
Auld Lang Syne  -  (32 S 3)  -  27/12
Toast to the Mousies  -  (32 R 3)  - Gratiot
Gothenburg's Welcome  -  (32 J 3)  - 37/3 (Munro)
Dowie Dens  -  (32 S 4)  -  Priddey

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

Chased Lovers:- What a lovely dance! Previously commented on.

Auld Lang Syne:- Book 27 isn't neither an early publication or a recent one but the society was probably beginning to run out of sources for simple easy dances. This one is a piece of spaghetti choreography. Somewhere somebody is struggling. The devisor, the interpreter, the teacher, the dancer? But it made the cut. Hmmmm.

Toast to the Mousies:- Nice Dance! Nice Music! And I finally have a good recording. This one is a winner, Ah say agin, a Winna. Mind you, I knew that the first time I danced it (Asilomar Weekend 2016) and every time since. What I didn't have was a dance friendly recording. That  has changed. We have now have a set by Muriel Johnstone and Keith Smith. It is for Monica's Garden on their CD Spark o' Water.  Two thumbs up for both the dance and the recording.

Gothenburg's Welcome:- I like it. It is fun. I hate teaching it. The "dance to each corner and set" figure blows dancers' minds and since I get it I don't get it that they don't set it. I have been wanting to put this on a Tea Dance program for years. Someday Real Soon Now. For Sure.

The Dowie Dens:- I love it, but we know I am a monster with very weird tastes.  Highland Schottische setting with partner but with multiple twists. From the Barry Priddey's Golden Oriole Book. At first read I wasn't sure it would flow well but it did better - it flowed beautifully. Short list for 2019? 

I found this one while searching for dances with highland schottische setting. Two dances had been offered up for Tea Dance consideration. They were The Balquhidder Strathspey and Brig o' Doon. Both are from the Mrs MacNab set of collected dances and concerning the latter dance she makes this comment 

"This dance was collected at Dalmellington in the early 19th century. It was a great favourite at the balls in that district."

Ahhhh… right! My personal feeling is that that dance is not suitable for a social occasion. Unless, maybe after a lot of high octane punch? Times have definitely changed or else I am turning into a fuddy duddy old guardist. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

15 August 2017 – New Haven

Back to my back log.

And again there are two agendas on the agenda  :-))

First the class was testing dances for the upcoming Book and secondly I was testing dances for the Kilts and Ghillies 2018 Tea Dance.

The dances of the day were:

Driving Through Eutaw  -  (32 J 3)  -  Leary (Ruby Anniversary)
Dance #105  -  (32 S 3)  -  unknown
Braes of Balquidder  -  (128 S 4 square)  - MacNab

The Spey in Spate  -  (32 R 3set)  - Haynes
Silver Thistle Ball  -  (32 S 3set)  -  Fogg&Turner
Florida Crackers  -  (32 R 3)  - Kohn

* **  ***    ** *  **   ***  ** *

Driving Through Eutaw:-  A very nice little dance with just enough of a twist that dancers need to put a lid on their muscle memory. I like it but I am also prejudiced in it's favor. Not a new dance to the blog so previous posts have the comments.

Braes of Balquhidder:- It is a dance, and it can be fun after a good bit of work is done. I rather like it but not enough to put it in myTop 50 list. I think that if a group liked it enough they could do it enough to put it in their standard repertoire. Maybe even put it on a ball program if enough dancers from away also knew it.

Not well enough known to make the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance short list. But if enough of us started teaching it now it might make the 2019 or 2020 shortlist. Guys???

The Spey in Spate:- This one has promise. It made it to the short list but the competition was fierce and didn't make the cut. Again maybe in a year or too (RSN?).

Silver Thistle Ball:- I like it. We had it on the K&G back in 2007 and we are past due to repeat it. I actually believe (MHO) that it dances easier than it reads. It made it. It is on the 2018 Tea Dance Program.

Florida Crackers:- Different. In my humble opinion that is good. I like petronella Double Triangles, I like variations on corners Pass & Turn. And it is available from Lulu the web publisher in either a print on demand paper version or, if you prefer, as a downloadable epub/pdf version.

28 November 2017 - New Haven

Right, this one is really out of order as it was this past Tuesday's class and I still have August, September and October classes to catch up on. But the contents of this post are fresh and pushy and…

Coming up Real Soon Now (thank you Jerry Pournelle) the Brooklyn class of the NY branch is holding their annual John Drewry Night - (program) - and several dancers from New Haven intend to go. Therefore - Ball Prep! Well it isn't actually a ball as the dances will all be walked through but some dancers still feel they need to prepare ahead no matter how often or familiar the dances are. So ball prep.

The Dances:

Carols a Plenty  -  (32 J 3)  -  Lou Hanson
Glenalmond Gamekeeper  - (40 R 3)  -  Drewry
Anna Holden's Strathspey  -  (32 S 2)  - Drewry
Bees of Maggieknockater  -  (32 J 4)  - Drewry
Ythanside  -  (32 S 3)  - Drewry
The 50th Parallel  -  (48 R 5)  -  Zobel & Johnstone

*** + ** +  ***     ***+**+***     ***+**+***

Carols a Plenty - Lou is a gem. She persuaded Deborah and me to use the swim facilities at Portland while we were taking our TAC unit 2 dance exams - it helped. She wrote a book of dances as a sanity check during her post grad work. This is one of them, and it is a nice welcoming, gentle, non-thinkum  dance.

The Glenalmond Gamekeeper:- I remember the day I learned this dance. The visiting teacher was John Drewry. The other dance he taught that evening was The New Opera, and both dances were relatively newly written. He was a horrible teacher, not a very good dancer, and a delightful man. The evening would have gone so much easier if we had known that before hand, or if he had known how to step in and show the new moves and not merely talk them.

There is a trick to most dances - get that and you have the key to the dance. The trick in this dance is the transition from the tandem figure of eight into the circle. Most dancers are late getting around the figure of eight but the dance is forgiving and dancers can just flow into the circle from the center of the set without having to 'get back to place'. In other words: being a little late is a good thing here.

Anna Holden's Strathspey:- I love this one. Need I say more?  And I love the story about how it came to be.

Warning- the diagram does not show the 2's cast into top place following the RHA as the 1s cross down.

The Bees of Maggieknockater:- Another dance I like a lot. But many words are needed. And a lot of energy is spend by dancers trying to understand the reelings. I have heard many different descriptions and most of them require me to remember three or four different patterns for the sequence.

K-I-S-S should be the operating principle. The simplest explanation is usually the best.  If you are 1st or 3rd couple you dance the half reels either with your partner or your trail buddy - a good contra/square dance term for the person you keep meeting who is a rock you can rely on.

So, when you are with your trail buddy (not partner) the loop is always to the right. When you join your partner the loop will always be to the left. And you alternate right loop, left loop, right loop, left loop. Trail buddy, partner, trail buddy, partner.

The second piece to the key is *how* you switch between trail buddy and partner and back. If you dance into the center and right up to the other promenading couple you are in trouble - actually fairly serious trouble. You have basically erased all your wiggle room and tightened up your maneuvering space making it difficult to flow smoothly between the half reels. May I say Bad Move?

Now a Mechanical Note: In the reels you will always be coming back into the set from an END and starting your next loop dancing out the nearer SIDE.

Therefore I dance the loop of the half reel in promenade hold until I am in either top or third place and drop hands there (at the end of bar three) and use the fourth bar to curve onto the near side line facing out and it is during that bar that I join promenade hold with the other dancer (trail buddy or partner). Not in the center of the set. Can anybody sing "Antici-pay-ay-tion?"

Ythanside:- A favorite. Definitely a top 50. Maybe even Top 10.
Two keys to the dance. 1st key is (bars 7 - 8) getting 1st couple to not only change places up/down the dance giving RH but to *FACE* partner at the end. This requires a right-ish twirl that flows uninterruptedly into Right shoulder reels of three across the dance. Why dancers want to face out despite the instructions and emphasis given is beyond my ken. But it happens.

Second key - Bars 23-25:- the two half turns on the sides by the corner men and the corner women and the cast by 1st couple. The half turns have to move in toward the center line - a fudge if you will - and that takes control. It is a slow move in two strathspey bars flowing into the circles of three. And the 1st couple tend to push their cast and end up waiting for the corners.

The 50th Parallel:-  Look what I found!  (Thank you strathspey for posting videos!) I just had to throw this into the mix. And the responses were all positive. One of the dancers left muttering "this should be a program…". So Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance 2019 short list? Ya sure, you betcha!

-- + --   --  +  --   --   +   --     --  +  --   --   +   --   --  +  --  -- + --

Two other dances that have caught my eye that were not on this week's class are Deirdre MacCuish Bark's dance The Peat Road (32 R 3) leaflet, and George Will's dance Hunt the Gowk (32 R 4 square set).

Some day, RSN.

Jerry Pournelle - science fiction author and onetime computer magazine journalist. In his column he often talked about software, announced months or years before but still coming out Real Soon Now. His column was fun and why I read the PC centric magazine. I was then and still am an Apple user.