XTRA! XTRA! Read All About It!

Sharlene Penman (piano), visiting from New Zealand, is the band leader for the 2019 Tea Dance.
Our fiddlers are Jenny Evans and Amy Beshara.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

23 October 2018_New Haven

We have a beginner. A 3 weeks of experience beginner. She is planning on going to the Nutmeg Workshop and Evening Social. I received a list of formations she has been taught and I decided, given the reports, that she could handle some heavy duty dances. Wipe my brow and sigh (in relief). She could and did.
She is, simply put, magnificent.

The dances (and there were only four):-

The Findlays' Jig  -  (32 J 3)  -  Goldring
The Chicago Loop  -  (32 R 3)  -  Kent Smith
Miss Florence Adams  -  (32 S 3)  -  Bk 38 (Drewry)
The Scallywag  -  (40 J 3)  -  Bk 52 (Kelly)

The Findlays' Jig:- Nice, simple, good warm up, and a good way to assess basic timing.

The Chicago Loop:- Another simple dance, one where dancers have opportunities to take unauthorized trips to Paris.

Miss Florence Adams:- I like it. I always have. And with Set & Link, with variations, and a variant Corners Pass & Turn - a great dance for a superbly competent beginner and for me because I got to reteach the standard figures, with variations, from bar 1, and the know-it-alls (and we all have some) couldn't complain and got the necessary review.

I taught standard S&L with neighbor on the sides. I then taught Set & cross Link (change of orientation). Then S&L all facing up; all facing down; and again - this time all start facing up, end the link facing down and cross link to end on the sides. And finally, after revealing that they had all learned 2C's and 3C's parts, as in the dance- 2C facing down, 3C facing up and 1C facing up, then down, and ending facing 2nd corners. It worked.

Similarly I taught a standard corners pass & turn with 1st corners, then 2nd corners. Then posed the question: What changes if we start the formation facing 2nd corners? 1C has to turn RH to face 1st corners.

Threw them into the dance. They did it. All of them. Well.

The Scallywag:- Except for the setting piece it is more or less a straight forward dance. They got it, and called for an encore.

22 October 2018_Scotia

This class was all of two days after the NY Branch's Jeannie Carmichael Ball. I wasn't about to start stressing, either myself or the class, about the Brooklyn class' upcoming Drewry Night program. This was a 'anything but' class.

The dances I taught were:

Davy Nick Nack  -  (32 H 3)  - Campbell
The Lea Rig  -  (32 S 2)  -  Bk 21/5
The City of Stirling Reel  -  (32 R 3)  - Goldring
A Reel for Allice  -  (32 R 5)  - Goldring
One Set Short of a Hundred  -  (32 S 3/3L)  -  Paris Bk.
The Scallywag  -  (40 J 3)  -  Bk 52 (Kelly)
Deil Amang the Tailors  -  (32 R 3)  -  Bk 14

– ::  ––  ::  ––  ::  ––  ::  ––  :: ::  ––  ::  ––  ::  ––  ::  ––  :: –

Davy Nick Nack:- Why? Because the corner changes are HALF TURNS!! and nobody dances them that way unless they are hit with a 2x4 to get their attention. Muscle memory! Feh!
The main fig. opens with a nice big wide open turn 1+1/2 in 4 bars, a cast and a short turn to 1st corners - Then the dance cries out for nice big wide strong turns (just 1/2 way) to change the corners in, change the corners out and for the ones to turn to face 2nd corners.
I hear the cry. Am I the only one?

The Lea Rig:- because it has been decades since it was a common dance. And the music is… classic.
Yes Virginia, it should come back as a std. repertoire piece. But please not every week!

The City of Stirling Reel:- A new intake on NY Branch's dance list. I needed to learn it as it was new to me (too). What is nice here? Well, a snowball chain in QT, abbreviated snake passes - not shortened but for 4 dancers in place of 6. It's a Goldring so how bad could it be.

A Reel for Alice:- Because I like it! I just adore the double capstan move, and the question: Can you make eye contact?

One Set Short of a Hundred:- A sweet simple thing. Contains a diamond poussette (👍) and a tourbillon (👍👍). Did I say simple? I think I did. Well, the world might as well learn 'em 'cause they are going to see them for the rest of their days.

The Scallywag:- This one is a gem!! In a platinum setting. In fact the whole of Book 52 is a gem. I found this dance just a wee bit daunting at first (even second) reading but it eases beautifully with even a touch of familiarity. The only thing I had to work out was the setting figure for 1C in the final 8 bars. I found some who could (and loved it) and some who were just confused: left? right? ??

This one went into my list of top 50 Jigs. Currently sitting at #50 out of 57 - but only because the list is alphabetical.

Deil Amang the Tailors:- not because they needed to learn it, because I needed a simple well known closer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

15 October 2018 – Scotia

This week we mostly prepped our own Halloween Party.


The dances we did were:

The Cup-of-Gold Vine  -  (32 J 3)  -  Sigg/California Gold
Glastonbury Tor  -  (32 R 3)  -  Bk 47/11
Dancin' Witches  -  (32 J 3)  -  Dragonfly (E. Werner)
Insomnia  -  (32 S 2)  -  Dragonfly (J. Montes)
Pinewoods Reel  -  (32 R 3)  - JB Dickson
Chris Ronald's Strathspey  -  (32 S 3)  - Wallace

<<<  ___  <<<---->>> ___  <<<---->>>  ___  <<<---->>>  ___  >>>

The Cup-of-Gold Vine:- Simple, suitable for beginners, pleasing.

Glastonbury Tor:- Zesty! It moves and it gets a thumbs up.

Dancin' Witches:-  Another good moderate intermediate dance. Good lead tune - The Sailor's Wife.

Insomnia:- Yet another good, moderate dance that everybody should know. The only even slightly outside the box figure is the Knot which might not yet have been taught to some beginners. And since most intermediate dancers would know that figure the dance is made up of known figures - so it should be a talk through the park.

Chris Ronald's Strathspey:- Devised by Ron Wallace so what could be bad? Two thumbs up (but I am prejudiced as you know).

Saturday, November 3, 2018

8 October 2018 – Scotia

The dances taught were:-

New Year Jig  -  (32 J 3)  - Bk 51
An Autumn Posy  -  (32 S 2)  -  Butterfield
Lucy Campbell  -  (32 R 2)  -  Bk 17
Ruby Wilkinson's Farewell  -  (32 S 4)  - Bk 52
MacLeod's Fancy  -  (32 J 4)  -  Bk 33 (Drewry)

- - -  ^-^  - - -  ^-^  - - -  ^-^  - -  ^  - -  ^-^  - - -  ^-^  - - -  ^-^  - - -

New Year Jig:- This one is just popping out of the woodwork. From not even the radar to ubiquitous.
Easy Peasy flow, 1st woman never faces her partner but begins and ends every figure facing out. Eye contact challenged dancers have to work at it. Nice dance for opening and warming up. But I would be careful to avoid over doing this dance, which would be easy to do.

An Autumn Posy:- I call it a Xiowen special - she taught it, thereby bringing it to our attention, and it is catching on. I initially had issues with it. It is a very simple dance and that requires clean precise dancing which we don't get often enough for my taste. But the more we do it the better the dancers are doing. Yay! There must be a tune out there that fits this dance like a glove but I haven't found it. I am looking.

Lucy Campbell:- Something Society and something different… I had never encountered it before Sandra proposed it for there Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance and I do mean never. I don't remember ever looking at. I certainly never had it taught to me and it is different enough I would remember it.

A variant RHA LHA - into a slipping figure with some traveling pas de basque that somewhat resembles a poussette, then a fugal figure into the final figure to progress.

    Diagram courtesy of SCDDB and Keith Rose.

In my opinion dancing the slipping/setting figure cleanly is the key to the dance. Across the set in 4 slip steps is easy and the transition to p-d-b on inside foot should be natural. It is the slipping to the center that causes problems. 4 slip steps here are too many or else too small and in either case just plain ugly. 

My solution is three slip steps to the center and a deliberate close. The left foot is free and the rotation [bar 7] is then on the easy foot and the retire is on the right p-d-b. As 1st Man I make my foot change at the beginning of the cast in the next figure. I dance p-d-b close, and leave off the jété.

A piece of me really wants to break out of the box and do the jété and begin the cast hopping on my right - making it an 'easy' cast and then stay 'out of step' for the remainder of the figure. Maybe someday I will gather the courage.

Ruby Wilkinson's Farewell to Cranshaws:- I like it. Deborah loves it! The music is delightfully different - I would NOT want our music to be all esoteric and different - but on occasion it is great fun.

The reels need work. There IS a preferred timing to reels of four. Unfortunately the Manual doesn't explain it clearly enough. In fact the manual can too easily be misinterpreted, and with double diagonal reels of four intersecting in the middle and those reels also intersecting with reels of four across the top and bottom timing becomes… critical.

In a reel of four you have to make three passes in four bars or 6 passes in 8 bars. Now where have we heard that before? Anyone?

Right you are – in grand chains. The timing of the end couples in a reel of four is EXACTLY the same: 1, 1, 2: Pass dancer by the right [1], next dancer by the left [1] and the next dancer by the right - slowly [2 steps]. You are in the opposite place from where you began, 1/2 way through the reel. Middle people simply start in the middle of the phrase (as it were). Take two to dance out to the END - no further - come in on 3 and pass on 4. In other words 2,1,1.

From the manual:
  1. 1st and 4th women pass by the leftô° while 2nd and 3rd women continue to dance to the right, round the loop, to finish 2nd woman facing down and 3rd woman facing up.
The words that cause all the problems and misinterpretations: 
  1.  continue to dance to the right, round the loop, to finish … facing down and … facing up.

So Around the end we go and back into the middle of the reel - early. And confusing the dancers who are expecting to meet only one person, not two, in the middle.

(If asked I will diagram this out.)

MacLeod's Fancy:- On the Brooklyn class' Drewry Night program.  For the eighth straight year in a row, and the 13th time in 19. Seriously, do I really have to prep this?  …… Yes. Sigh.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

1 October 2018 – Scotia

The dances:

EH3 7AF  –  (32 J 3)  – Bk 40 (Goldring)
Barbara's Strathspey  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 46 (McKinnell)
Bubbly and Cake  –  (32 R 3)  –  Wendy Carse
The Flying Spur  –  (32 J 3)  – Drewry
The Moray Rant  –  (48 S 3/3L)  –  Drewry

––   ÷ ÷ ÷   ––   ÷ ÷ ÷   –––   ÷ ÷ ÷   –––   ÷ ÷ ÷   –––

Barbara's Strathspey:- I have taught it before and commented on it before. Nothing has changed. It is still one of the loveliest dances in the repertoire.

Bubbly and Cake:- I was introduced to this dance by Brian Haeckler, one of the other teachers in New Haven, who was working with Set and Link for three. I think the dance has that 'something' and the dancers at Scotia agreed. They gave it more than just polite clapping.

Diagram courtesy of SCDDB and Keith Rose.

The Flying Spur:- I love it! I always have (well since I first danced it). But what I can not stand is the music that I have for it. Nothing about that recording makes me want to get on the floor and dance. So I use The Famous Baravan instead - recorded by Marian Anderson's Band. that one gets me out of my chair.

I have written about it before and my view that it is actually two dances in one hasn't changed.
The 1st couple have one dance, the supporting couples have a different dance and they occasionally intersect in interesting ways.

The Moray Rant:- One of John Drewry's sleepers - by that I mean there are lots of opportunities to interact with partner and the other dancers and those moments are often missed. And, for me at least, knowing that those moments are just ahead make it easier for me to remember the choreography. The turns are out the side! Why? So you get a moment with partner as you dance toward each other at the bottom, or the top, or…

These last two dances are (or will be) Drewry Night staples. It is hosted by the Brooklyn class of the New York Branch and will be held on 1 December 2018. See the posting in Upcoming Events.

25 September 2018 –– New Haven

The dances:

New Year Jig  –  (32 J 3  –  Bk 51
The Sands of Morar  –  (32 S 3)  –  Priddey
Glastonbury Tor  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 47
The Pawling Mermaid  –  (32 J 3)  –  Price
The Scallywag  –  (40 J 3)  –  Bk 52 (Kelly)
Barbara's Strathspey  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 47 (McKinnell)

 Ãš   ÒÒ   ÚÚ   ÒÒÒ   ÚÚ  Ã’  ÃšÃš   ÒÒÒ   ÚÚ  Ã’Ã’  Ãš

New Year Jig:- The dance is well constructed. The flow is superb, better it close to perfect. Is there a mantra? Yes. "1st lady - face out!" Always! The dance is growing on me. Thumbs up.

The Sands of Morar:- A Barry Priddey gem. You do understand that I am severely prejudiced just about every dance of his is going to be one of my favourites. This one is interesting and lovely.
Key: the timing/phrasing of the reels. It needs to be impeccable. No overshooting the halfway point.

Glastonbury Tor:- Really, what can I say? The dance is a good one. If there is a catch, it is with the four bars of Set + Link for 3. At first the dancers will go with muscle memory and try and add a second link. Oh well.

The Pawling Mermaid:- Look at earlier posts 'cause I have pretty much said it all already.

The Scallywag:- At first look I wasn't sure. At first teaching I still wasn't sure. I am now sure. This is a good dance. For those who can the opportunities for eye contact, for flirting, are there for the taking.
And it is fun! Thumbs up for this one. And by the way, the Jim Lindsay recording for Book 52 is really, really, good.

Barbara's Strathspey:- This is one of my Top 50 dances. That it is not danced everywhere is beyond my ken. Yet I just found out that it is not part of the Paris Branch repertoire. The newest dancer in New Haven, a professor of French Literature fresh from Paris, had never heard of it. And my greatest joy is to see dancers light up when I introduce them to a new fabulous dance.

Friday, October 19, 2018

24 September 2018 – Scotia

Just so you know, I have a good excuse, no, reason, why I am behind in my posts. I have my computer back, and while the case is the same the insides are brand new.

It started last month when the curser began to wander around the screen without my input and only sort of settled down after multiple reboots. I had also forgotten my original (2012) system password which meant I could not update anything, could not add fonts, could not upgrade a program, or make any other changes to the system. So I had nothing else to do but take it in for a complete hard drive erase and reinstall of the system… they took it in back and the next day I got a phone call with the 'news' that the new trackpad hadn't solved the 'problem'. Apple wanted to send the computer to Texas for more extensive 'repairs'. I agreed - I had no other choice.

When I got the computer back the invoice included a new logic board, a new hard drive, a new battery, and two new memory modules. Mind you the old ones were all working when I handed the machine over to them.

Hmmm… what do you think happened and why was the repair only $130.00 (as originally quoted) and not the $612.00 on the bill the rep presented me?

Anyway, I am back.

The Dances I taught were:

The Pawling Mermaid  -  (32 J 3)  -  Price
The Sands of Morar  -  (32 S 3)  -  Priddey
The Aviator  -  (32 J 3)  -  Bk 52 (Fischer)
Trip to Tobermory  -  (32 S 3)  -  Paris Book

-  -  -  $$  -  -  -  $$  --  --  --  $  $  $  --  --  --  $$  -  -  -  $$  -  -  -

The Pawling Mermaid:- I wrote the dance in honor of a dancer who 'loves' to swim in Sylvan Lake at the NY Pawling Weekend and will do so even though there is no lifeguard present and we are expressly forbidden. This will be formally published Real Soon Now because I now have a commissioned tune by Peter Macfarlane.

Peter send me three MP3 recordings. The first one was a hornpipe for my Palisades Mermaid, a strathspey for my dance The Portland Mermaid and this jig. The usual procedure is to check with the person commissioning the tune to see of they like it and solicit feedback in order to tweak it into shape. It wasn't needed. I listened to the hornpipe first and about halfway in I found myself beginning to smile. I listened to the strathspey and found myself 'singing' along. I listened to this jig last and wasn't sure so I put it on repeat. I soon found myself imaging the swing of my kilt. Three for three!

The Sands of Morar:- There are two sets of instructions out there. The dance as published by the RSCDS in Book 45 and the dance as earlier published in Glasgow Diamond Jubilee. The instructions for bars 17 - 20 differ. Oh Joy!

From Glasgow's Diamond Jubilee Book:

1st couple turn with both hands once round and dance down the middle to 3rd place retaining nearer hands; 2nd couple dance up to above top place, join nearer hands and dance down to 2nd place; 3rd couple dance in to touch hands and continue to dance out and up round top place to face down with nearer hands joined.

From Book 45:
1st couple turn with both hands once round, dance down to third place and retain nearer hands. 2nd couple dance out and up to first place and, joining nearer hands, dance down to second place to finish in the middle behind 1st couple. 3rd couple dance in to give nearer hands (3rd man right hand 3rd woman left hand) and dance up and out to first place to finish in the middle behind 2nd couple. All three couples are in the middle of the set facing down.

Small difference in text with big difference in space-time continuum for the dancers.

The Aviator:- Nothing has changed - I still love it! So do many of my dancers.

Trip to Tobermory:- Not the John Drewry dance, (24 S 2). From the Paris Book (32 S 3). This is one temperamental wee beastie and in a very subtle way. I read it over several times before hand but to really know it, I will have to dance it and I didn't get the chance. I had to get all the other people through this dance which I, honestly, didn't know.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

17 September 2018 – Scotia

The dances:

The Findlays' Jig  –  (32 J 3]) –  Goldring
Neidpath Castle  –  (32 S 3/3L)  –  Bk 22 (Haynes)
Gothenburg's Welcome  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 37 (Munro)
The Bon Viveur  –  (128 M 4 sq)  –  Bk 52
Links with St. Petersburg  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 46 (Brown)
Insomnia  –  (32 S 2)  –  Dragonfly (Montes)
Deil Amang the Tailors  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 14

""  ––  ""  ––  ""  ––  ""  ––  ""  ––  ""  ––  ""  ––  ""

The Findlays' Jig:-  We open the experienced portion of the evening with a dance for everyone.
This is a nice easy one and while getting a 'little' old it is far from nauseating. Still a thumbs up.

Neidpath Castle:- A old chestnut. And, usually, the first 8 bars are hard to watch as the dancers seem incapable of covering the turns. I really didn't intend to spend as much time on this dance as I did. (I received comments). But in my defense I got what I wanted - the covering improved.

Gothenburg's Welcome:- I like this dance.  I love all the eye contact that is possible. I have met some dancers who just won't, something to do with flirting with strangers, but the moments here are so fleeting that who could possibly flirt. All you can get are 'hi ya' moments (aren't we having fun!).

The "Dance to each corner and Set" figure has boggled the minds of many and the only solution is sheer repetition, so that is what I did. Practically ad nauseam.  But, oh joy, it was coming together!  ðŸ˜Š

The Bon Viveur:- My weekly Book 52 dance.  Essentially simple, it went very quickly. Want to introduce Schiehallion Reels to your class - this is one would be a good choice.

Links with St. Petersburg:- I have liked this dance from the start. It is perennially on my short list of dances to do, but I find myself increasingly reluctant.

When I watch the Summer School or Newcastle festival demo teams I see an intent that I rarely see on the social dance floor. Specifically the transition from the down the middle and up into the mirror turns. The dem. teams end the down the middle and up in place on the sidelines. The turns then clearly start from those places.

Socially dancers seem to get lazy and 1C never go to places but start the turns from the center of the set near hands still  joined with partner. It is mushy! I prefer the clean definition of ending and starting from places.

Too be honest I am not sure the dancers are entirely to blame. Lord knows that when I teach the dance I mention the point but I am more interested in getting the basic geography nailed down and being particular on that point seems like to too much detail in the moment. And nobody benefits from that.

Clearly I need to teach the dance (or program it) again soon and make that a point for refinement.

Insomnia:- A simple enough strathspey, on our Halloween program, but new to the group so it need introducing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

10 September 2018 – Scotia Opening PartyBlue Bonnets –

The Program:

It's all right  –  (32 J 3)  –  2nd Graded Bk (See)
The Dancing Bees  –  (32 R 3)  –  Goldring
An Autumn Posy  –  (32 S 2)  –  Island Bay 2 (Butterfield)
The Barmkin  –  (88 R 4 sq)  –  Goldring
New York Frolic  –  (32 J 3)  –  Leary-leaflet
The Rose of the North  –  (32 S 3)  –  Goldring
Deil Amang the Tailors  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 14


EH3 7AF  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 40
Broadway  –  (32 S 3/3L)  – Sunday Class (Ronald)
Shiftin' Bobbins  –  (32 R 3)  –  Clowes
Anna Holden's Strathspey  –  (32 S 2)  – Bk 42 (Drewry)
Blue Bonnets  –  (32 J 2)  – Bk 3
Fair Donald  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 29
Trip to Timber Ridge  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 52 (Henderson)

28 August 2018 – New H<- -aven

The last of the Guinea Pig sessions!

I taught

Cutty Sark  –  (32 J 3) –  Bk 40
The Lea Rig  –  (32 S 2)  –  Bk 21
Beach Dancer  –  (32 J 3)  – Eddy West
One Set Short of a Hundred  –  (32 S 3 set)  – Paris Book
Rory O'More  –  (32 J 2)  –  Bk 1
Jaywalking  –  (40 J 3)  – Tyler
Trip to Timber Ridge  –  (32 R 3)  – Bk 52 (Henderson)

   < – – – >     < – – – >     < – + – >     < – – – >     < – – – >

Cutty Sark:-  A simple no thinkum warmup dance. Nice to know about

The Lea Rig:- Once an old favourite and we burned it out and stopped doing it.
But We have a at least one new generation of dancers who haven't seen it before. Resurrection time? Ya, you bettcha. And the response from those dancers was such that it is one the K&G dance.

Beach Dancer:- Contra dancing has a term for dances that requires a bit extra in energy, or thought, or anticipation, or moving smartly. These dances are called Zesty contras.

This dance has a 4 bar sequence that earns itself that term.  The track needs to be completed in 4 bars - most dancers would automatically time it in 6. _Edinburgh, we have a problem._  Well sort of…

The real  problem though is the next 4 bars. From a zesty pace to a very sedate 4 bar RH turn.  :-)  Oh my do the dancers have to work on their brakes.

Made the cut and it is on the Tea Dance program.  (BTW - Eddy West was a New Zealander).

One Set Short of a Hundred:-  No spectacular formations. No tricky phrasing, no surprises - and yet it earned a place on my Top Fifty List. I just haven't yet gotten around to putting it there. From the Paris Book which is quickly gaining my attention.  Definite Thumbs up for the dance and a thumbs up for the book.

Rory O'More:- Need a different dance with a poussette? Look in Book 1- there are many. Rory O'More is one of them and is ok, so is Meg Merrilees (24 R 2) which is on the upcoming K&G Tea Dance. I would not recommend a steady diet of any one of them though.

Jaywalking:- Interesting (even in a Chinese sense). Uses Best Set in the Hall figure (for lack of consensus on a better name) into half reel of four. Worth a look. I liked it. but can your class handle it?  A picture is worth a thousand words, so…

diagram courtesy of SCDDB and Keith Rose

Trip to Timber Ridge:- This one is neat! Highly Recommended. Two, maybe even three, thumbs up. Another Bk 52 gem. Fast moving and exciting. Fun, fun, fun until daddy takes my ghillies away. And the music helps make it. 

We all have our usual list of program enders. Reel of the Royal Scots, Reel of the 51st Division, Etc. etc. (what are yours?)  Trip to Timber Ridge just made it onto my list and will, in fact, be closing the 2019 Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance. It has that 'thing'.