Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Branch Christmas Party

10 dancers besides myself turned out for the Branch's Christmas Party. :-(

We danced through the program then partied. Baklava, spice bread, cookies, more cookies, and cider. Oh yes the cider! Hot, mulled and gone. (Secret family recipe you know ;-)

The Program:
Quarries’ Jig (32 J 3) 36/3
Phyllis’ Fancy (32 S 2) B. Priddey - Sutton Coldfield
The White Cockade (32 R 3) 5/11
The Beauty of the North (32 S 3) J. Drewry - Deeside 1
John of Bon Accord (32 R 3) 33/5

The Nurseryman (32 J 3) 37/7
Dalkieth’s Strathspey (32 S 3) 9/6
On the Quarterdeck (32 H 2) Harbour City
Gordon of Straloch (32 S 3) P. Price - leaflet
Da Rain Dancin’ (32 R 3) R. Wallace - Whiteadder Coll.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Diamond Poussette

On strathspey.org the very long thread on strathspey steps transitions continues. Strong notes of boredom are being sounded. One splinter thread moved onto the subject of the Strathspey Pousette Right Round. I submitted the following and repost it here.


The manual describes the *current* thinking on the strathspey poussette right round. In the 1963 edition of Book 21 (which is the one I have) the appendix has a very nice set of diagrams, with description, of the strathspey poussette right round – and it is not, repeat not, what is in the current manual.

The Society has changed their thinking and there are TWO ways of dancing the SPRR. The main difference between the two is the position of the dancers at the end of bars 1 and 4.

Old version -
bar 1 - Dance in to position on the top and bottom points of the diamond, each couple angled at 45 degrees to the center line, men above partners. Couples are NOT lined up.

bar 4 - Couples turn about and remain on the diamond end points, angled at 45 degrees to the center line and men above partners. Again, couples are not lined up.

New version:
bar 1 - couples dance in (and a little up or down) to stand in a diagonal line of four (angled at 45 degrees to the center line) but not ON the top and bottom points of the diamond but rather somewhere in between.

bar 4 - couples turn about AND move either up or down the set AND move away from the center line (definitely off the diamond end points) to reform that line of four.

Apparently some body of dancer/teachers thought that four dancers lined up looked pretty spiffy and changed the rules. To my mind all too much 'fudging' is required in achieving it.

The irony here is that the older version too has a line of four. It happens after the "step, close" portion of bar 2 when, like magic, the two couples form a line of four, angled at 45 degrees etc. It is just a passing moment. It appears and then disappears. It is the ephemeral nature of the line that makes the older version, in the opinion of this dancer, the more attractive of the two.

Comments definitely welcome!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Strathspey Steps - Transitions

There has been an extensive discussion (17 posts and counting) on strathspey.org over the 'proper' way to transition from a strathspey setting to str. traveling. The post by Oberdan Otto caught my attention and I am reposting it (without permission, please forgive) in its entirety.


Hi Diane,

This is a subject on which I have spoken in the past. I have my own views which are not necessarily shared by much of the SCD world as they are governed by what I consider good body mechanics and not by dictum.

As for the Manual, you will get very little consolation there because it generally does not address step transitions. There are so many different step transitions, that trying to cover them might easily double the size of the manual and it might end up generating much discontent in the SCD community, because for many step transitions, there is not a single obvious method and our practitioners have chosen different solutions. As for getting a general consensus in the SCD community, that might be equally difficult.

Some step transitions are "natural" such as the transition from a right foot traveling strathspey step to a left foot traveling strathspey step. The normal end to one step is the normal preparation to begin the other.

The transition in question however--a left moving common scottishe (sp?) step to a right foot traveling strathspey step--is NOT natural. To do the transition, you have to decide if you are going to change the end of the previous step or the beginning of the next step. The setting step ends with the lift behind. The traveling step starts from 1st position. You cannot avoid changing one or the other. In this particular case you are likely to get as many people answering one way as the other as there are many practitioners on both sides.

For me, the first principle is that the transition should be smooth--no awkward bumps, halts or interruptions to the body flow. Well, in this case, a skilled dancer can do both methods smoothly, although a less skilled dancer might have difficulty moving into the traveling step with his stepping foot "trapped" behind the other leg.

For my personal answer to this question, I take one (mental) step back and ask "why is there a lift with the free foot coming up behind the other leg in the setting step?" In a mechanical sense, it isn't necessary--one could just draw in the free foot to the standing foot and step out again. However, anyone who has done the setting step correctly knows how good it feels to do that lift behind as preparation for the next setting step. It is great for reversing the body flow from going to the right, to the left and to the right etc. That is why I think the lift behind is there and when it should be used--for side-to-side DIRECTION REVERSAL.

So I ask myself, if I am transitioning from a left setting step to a right forward traveling step, is that a direction reversal? No, I think it is not. From this line of argument, use of the lift behind would be inappropriate. So I will transition through first position, not through 3rd rear aerial. If I am dancing a Petronella figure, there are lots of direction reversals. I will use the lift behind between the right-moving setting and the left-moving setting, AND between the left foot traveling strathspey and the right-moving setting!!!

But this brings up another transition on which we were all carefully schooled--circling to the left using strathspey traveling steps to circling to the right. I was taught that we should NOT lift behind because we are doing a traveling step, NOT a setting step. But how many of us have simply disengaged the brains, let our muscle memory take over and done the lift behind without thinking? It is MOST CERTAINLY a direction reversal, and that lift up behind feels really good. My personal view that dogmatically forbidding the lift behind in this case "because it is not a setting step" is a fundamental mistake that ignores body mechanics. Moreover, calling what we do when we circle left or right in stathspey time a "traveling step" is a pretty big stretch. It is a fairly contorted version of strathspey traveling with the dancer trying to have the upper body facing the center while the feet are dancing the circumference. The direction reversal is the only time we are not contorted and it sure feels exactly like the end of a setting step! I think this is a case where dictum has got its foot in its mouth.

OK, I'm off the soap box. Next!

Cheers, Oberdan.

End Quote.

If you want to read the entire thread you can access it from the archive page of the Strathspey server. You will need to either open the December Archive or do a search - try "strathspey transitions".

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Middletown Holiday Party

Wednesday, 30 December 2009
First Church, 190 Court Street, Middletown

Music: Norb Spencer and Friends

C'est l' Amour (32 J 3) 24/1
The Bonny Heather (32 S 2) Between the Rivers
The Black Dance (32 R 3) 12/10
Miss Allie Anderson (32 J 3) L14
Land O' Cakes (32 S 3) 29/1
Miss C. M. Barbour (32 R 3) Set & Cast Off, V3

The Bawk (32 J 3) 30/4
A Trip to Tobermory (24 S 2) Drewry - Bon Accord
The Glenalmond Gamekeeper (40 R 3) Drewry
The Hills of Langholm (32 J 3) Goldring - 10 Social Dances
Miss Gibson's Strathspey (32 S 3) L10
Catch the Wind (32 H 3) 45/5

Kilts and Ghillies Class - 8 December 2009

The holidays are wrecking havoc with attendance. This is the second week in a row with only four dancers. 'Twas a good thing I went looking for 2C dances after last week's class.
Looking ahead next week is going to be a little on the sparse side too.

This weeks dances:
Collie Law (32 J 2) Roy Goldring - 24 Graded & Social Dances
Gala Water (32 S 2) J. M. Duthie
Rovin' Robin (32 R 2) SDA #4
Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes (32 S 2) 16/8
Scottish Reform (32 J 2) 3/1
Duchess of Atholl's Slipper (32 S 2) 9/3
The Caithness Heart (32 R 2) Jean Attwood - Leaflet 2

Gala Water – Highland Schottische setting - not. I asked for Glasgow Highlander setting instead and needed to review that. But in the end the class responded positively to the dance. The music made a huge difference. I started out with a set of classical Skinner strathspeys but they didn't feel right. I ended up using a 4x32 S set from a McBain's Band recording (lead tune = Laird of Thrums). Just right!

Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes – how did this one fall by the way side? Oh yes, I remember now, the music. I still can't get around why the Society would choose a lead tune that wasn't the name song (which is just staggeringly pretty). But they did. Nice dance that deserves more air time. (I last taught this dance in 1994. Yikes.)

Duchess of Atholl's Slipper – Another nice dance but just loaded with timing issues that require a jug load of fudge factor. With room (and we had that!) timing issues were easy to sort out and when both couples remembered to dance in together (bar 24) it looked really nice!

The Caithness Heart – Another winner from Jean Attwood. It looks harder than it dances and it earned itself a Montague award.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

From Headquarters: Summer School Info

Information regarding Summer School 2010 is also available (especially prices) together with the information that the web based application form is planned to be available from midday on Monday 21 December - no paper application forms for Summer School will be available

The other thing which has just been added, and is available for download, is the application form for the Youth Scholarships, which are designed to assist young dancers attend events anywhere in the world.

(Thank you Malcolm)

(There is a link to the RSCDS at the bottom of the page.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Haven Highland Ball Workshop - 24 January 2010

We are go! We are agreed on a place. It will be the Yoga studio corner of Whitney Ave and Putnam Street, Hamden, Ct.

Time: 2-5 PM

There is parking across the street behind The Playwright pub. There is more parking by the Whitneyville Food Center, around the corner and a block down.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kilts and Ghillies Class - 1 December 2009

The dances:

On the Quarterdeck (32 H 2) Harbour City Book
Anna Holden's Strathspey (32 S 2) 42/2
The River Cree (32 J 2) 8/5
Phyllis' Fancy (32 S 2) Priddey-Sutton Coldfield
Elizabeth Adair (32 J 2) H. Foss-Angus Fitchet Album

Saw Ye My Wee Thing (32 J 2) 25/9
The Lea Rig (32 S 2) 21/5
Rovin' Robin (32 R 2) SDA 4


On the Quarterdeck – is becoming part of my standard repertoire. Simple, fun (and what hornpipe isn't) with enough of a twist that it's staying fresh.

Anna Holden's Strathspey – tonight was the 3rd time I have taught it this fall and it is beginning to show very nicely indeed. A small technique point that makes a difference: in the down the middle and up - if 2C dances to the top and 'casts' into top place it looks really really good. Doing that is like serving up cold whipped cream on top of warm pumpkin pie. Not essential but lusciously decadent.

The Lea Rig – A simple dance that is one of the most physically demanding - especially if you're dancing to form. And it's pretty. And the music borders on the sublime. And there is one point where I differ with the written directions. On bars 15-16 the instructions say 2M is to dance home by going between 1C as they set to one another. I hate that! It is so rude - and 2M can get home just as easily by dancing behind 1M as he sets. That is how I dance it and that is how I teach it. On the shortlist for the 2011 K&G ball.

Rovin' Robin – also on the 2011 K&G ball shortlist. Everybody's having way too much fun when they dance this one.

Monday, November 30, 2009

New Haven Branch Christmas Party - On Again - Monday, 14 December 2009

7:30 PM, Monday, 14 December, 2009,

New Haven Friends Meeting House
225 East Grand Ave.,
New Haven, CT.

Update on the program -

Leslie expressed concern that the program wasn't 'Christmas-y' enough – so I redid it. :-)
All the dances (
but two) are familiar and all are simple to intermediate in difficulty. So come and party and see if you can Name That Dance.

Dasher's Jig (32 J 3)
S. Claus' Strathspey (32 S 2)
The Tassel (32 R 3)
Lord Nicholas' Fancy (32 S 3)
Ultima Thule (32 R 3)


The Toymaker (32 J 3)
Dancer's Strathspey (32 S 3)
The Sleigh Bench (32 H 2)
The Fa' North (32 S 3)
Da Snow Swirlin' (32 R 3)

Note - I will be bringing mulled cider. All other goodies are bring your own/pot luck.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Re: Schiehallion on Strathspey server

For those of you who may be following this thread, there is a video posted on the BBC program, "Come Dancing" of Schiehallion done by the group with whom I dance when I visit in England, particularly, the Bournemouth RSCDS. The woman being interviewed after the demo is Marilyn Watson, a very well known SCD instructor who teaches the Bournemouth branch as well as throughout the UK and in Europe. It was to her and the Bournemouth group to whom I gave a copy of the New Haven Anti-Book when I danced with them a few years back. She lives in Christchurch, just outside Bournemouth. It`s in Christchurch where my wife and I stay when visiting her sister and family. I danced in Bournemouth as well as smaller venues in Hampshire and the New Forest just last year. When I`m in Christchurch, I always give Marilyn a call and she`ll always come give me a lift to the church where they dance. It`s always neat dancing with a group you don`t really know because they treat you so royally. And some of the dancers even recognize me after more than a year`s absence! And Marilyn, God bless her, is truly a gracious lady and a wonderful instructor..... Major Jeff


Friday, November 20, 2009

Program for the Joint New Haven Christmas Party (Monday, 14 December 2009)

This is tentative:

Quarries' Jig (32 J 3) 36/3
Phyllis' Fancy (32 S 2) Sutton Coldfield
The White Cockade (32 R 3) 5/11

Lady Mary Douglas (48 J 3) Imperial 1
The Beauty of the North (32 S 3) Drewry
John of Bon Accord (32 R 3) 33/5

The Nut (24 J 2) 1/4
Dalkieth's Strathspey (32 S 3) 9/6
On the Quarterdeck (32 H 2) The Harbour City

The Nurseryman (32 J 3 ) 37/7
Gordon of Straloch (32 S 3) Price - leaflet
Da Rain Dancin' (32 R 3) Whiteadder Coll.

Please note: it is Lady (not Miss) Mary Douglas

Changes may be made to the program at any time - updates will be posted.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

RSCDS New Haven Branch Christmas Party is Canceled

There will not be a New Haven Branch Christmas Party in New Haven this season.

The change of space and landlord makes a weekend date untenable for monetary reasons. And the Friends Meeting House is only available on the 19th which is too close to Christmas.


The New Haven Class and Peter's monthly class will be holding a joint Christmas party on Monday, 14 December 2009, at the Friends Meeting House.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Call for a Book 46 Workshop

Is there anyone interested in a Book 46 Project Workshop?

I would like the New Haven Branch to put on a workshop in early to mid January to properly assess the Book 46 project dances. I would like to see an afternoon workshop in which all nine dances are taught, a potluck dinner followed by a dance session in which the dances, having been taught earlier, can be done in a party setting.

I have a possible venue: The New Haven Friends' Meeting House is usually available on Saturdays– it will accommodate 2 sets comfortably, three sets are do-able but a squeeze. Full kitchen downstairs with tables and chairs.

Why this call? Because I am not going to be able to assess the Book 46 dances properly in class. The 'assessment' form provided by RSCDS is set up to compare dances by group. As in– Which dance do you like better Jig #1 or Jig #2?

No problem there, I can teach two new dances in the course of an evening at get an answer as to which is preferred. I can even get the three reels taught in an evening. I will not be able to get the four strathspeys done.

And all nine in an evening, even if they already know them? Not going to happen!

I am willing to get the hall, I am willing to do the teaching. I am willing to help with set up and cleanup and close the hall. Is there anyone else interested and willing and able?

Kilts and Ghillies Class - 17 November 2009

A full set present tonight - Hoo Rah!

We danced:
Joie de Vivre (32 J 3C - adapted for 3C set) Bk 39/2
Dance No.39 (32 S 3 set) Bk 46 project
John of Bon Accord (32 R 3) Bk 33/5
The Nurseryman (32 J 3) Bk37/7

Joie de Vivre: Adapting Joie de Vivre for a 3C set is an interesting proposition. With couples in the order 3,1,2 you need to end 2, 3, 1. The easiest solution is to "fix" the Allemande thus: 3C dances up and out to the right as 1C dances up and to the left. 1C has now cut in front of 3C and the Allemande completes normally. (Thank you, Mary Shoolbraid Brandon! She wrote this "fix" into her dance The Double Sixsome - which is where I first saw it).

Dance No. 39: Very frustrating. I have taught it twice now and both times it was like going to the dentist. I could not believe that I had to teach a group of experienced dancers (most with over 20 years dancing experience) how to set to corners. Not Hello-Goodbye setting but set to 1st corner, set to 2nd corner - from scratch no less. A comment though brought me to earth.

How often does that figure actually appear? Answer: Not often. My guess is that a dance with that figure might get done once every 10-12 years. And my struggle is to remember that I am not normal. I don't forget these things - Once learned - learned. Other dancers need repetition to retain familiarity and they haven't had that. My frustration - My bad.

John of Bon Accord: For some reason this dance continues to fly under my radar. I have taught the dance in 1992, twice in 1994, once in 2003 and tonight. It is a far better dance than that record would indicate.

What is needed are good crisp, properly timed reels. 1C needs to keep the first 3 half reels HALF reels and not overshoot their marks. Every four bars those marks are: for 1L the center line of the set; for 1M one or the other of the sidelines. The subtlety here is where IL, in the transitional moments between the half reels, positions herself along the center line– for it is her relationship to her partner that create the axis of each new half reel. The four reels are on the diagonal (1M to 2L), straight across the set in 2nd place, on the diagonal (2M to 3L), and across the set in 3rd place.

The Nurseryman: One of my favourite dances. What I find special is not the Inverting Double Triangles but rather the transition from the Left Hands Across on the sides into lines of 3 across the set. The secret is to dance the Left Hands Across about half round, release hands and expand it into a sort of chase. Then when everyone links hands at the same moment what appeared to be circular magically transforms into a line and it just shines! That, IMHO, is the moment that defines the dance. And tonight someone else actually 'got' it!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Woodbridge, Friday the 13th

It has been a very difficult week. For the third time I have had, as Jane Lataille so aptly put it, a class of very small numbers. Last night it was three (3). So Tony Kalbfus gets the 'Hero of the Night" award since he drove up from New York to attend and if he hadn't there would not have been a class.

So once again it was threesomes and foursomes, with one exception, until we dropped.

Eigg, Muck and Rum - 32 R 3some - Jane Lataille
The Gay Goshawk - 32 J 2 - Barry Priddey
This One's Four Isobel - 32 S 4some - Terry Glasspool
Four Paws - 32 S 4some - Terry Glasspool
The Four Winds - 32 R 4some - Terry Glasspool

Eigg, Muck and Rum: from Always Enough to Dance. A nice little dance and a superb reinforcement to reels of three. I have the dancers line up in a row across the normal axis of a set with the end dancers facing up and the middle dancer facing down.
The opening fig. 8 foreshadows the upcoming Reel of 3, both are in 6 bars, both are identical tracks, and the final 2-bar crossings (1 bar each) really force correct timing of the reel.

The Gay Goshawk: From The Sutton Coldfield Book - a tight little dance requiring strict phrasing and a concentrated mind. It is worth a second trial with a proper set. A 2-couple dance in a 2-couple set is a bit much.

This One's Four Isobel - a favourite of mine. Of all the foursomes I have done this one comes closest to having a story line (though it may simply be familiarity on my part) and is so pretty that one day, real soon now, it will show up on a ball or party program.

Four Paws - This one is a bear to teach. We danced the first two rounds but on the third round the reels fell apart. There is a moment there that boggles my mind. I normally have a very strong sense of pattern and in that transitional moment I want to go the wrong way every time.

The heart of the dance is the reel - two dancers have a normal(?) half reel of four, the other two dancers have half Schiehallion-like reels, and then you switch! And it is at that moment that I have been going the wrong way, giving right shoulder to the wrong person. The key people are the ones who are starting the Schiehallion-half reels. They go to the person on their right to pass right shoulders. If you are that other person you have to start to your LEFT to pass that opening right shoulder and it doesn't feel right. I may have it sorted out now. One can only hope.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kilts and Ghillies Class - 10 November 2009

Another squeaker - 6 dancers present.

We danced:
A Wee Nothin’ - 32 J 2 - E. Brunken
Seann Truibhas Willichan - 32 S 2 - 27/9
Winter Wonder - 32 H 3 adapted - J. Lataille, Fun for All Seasons
The Quaich - 32 S 3 adapted - J. Drewry
Saw Ye My Wee Thing - 32 J 2 - 25/9
Kendall’s Hornpipe - 32 J 2 - Gr 22
Anna Holden’s Strathspey - 32 S 2 - 42/2
The Red Baron - 32 R 2 - I. Boyd - Katherine’s Book

The big disappointment - not being able to get my teeth into the Book 46 dances.
The big thrill - finding out the proper pronunciation and meaning of 'quaich'.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dancing on the Heights - November 2009

We barely squeaked a class in tonight - just four (4) dancers showed. So, instead of getting a jump on the Book 46 project I had to pull out all the 3-some, 4-some and 5-some dances I had in my card file.

We danced:
Santa Fe Summer (32 J 4-some) - Jane Lataille
This One's Four Isobel - (32 S 4-some) - Terry Glasspool
The Four Winds - (32 R 4-some) - Terry Glasspool
The Four Poster - (32 S 4-some) - Terry Glasspool

What I am finding is that 4-some dances such as these have little chance of developing a storyline. These dances are essentially figure/pattern sequences and the formations can be irregular so a very good short term memory is needed as the parts may be familiar but the patterns are going in unfamiliar directions. Muscle memory can lead you astray here.

This only the second time I have taught Santa Fe Summer and I haven't made up my mind yet.
This One's Four Isobel is absolutely positively one of my favorite dances. It is gorgeous, it is elegant and one day it will end up on a ball program.

The Four Wind is a good journeyman dance. It is fairly simple, fun but it won't win an Uncle Molly Award. The last dance to do that was Mole's Frolic which is the opening dance for this season's Kilts and Ghillies Ball -17 April 2010.

The last dance of the evening, The Four Poster is one another winner. In this one Terry plays games with that good old mundane, if not down right boring, figure: Back-to-Back. Here we have interlocking Back-to-Backs for 4 persons in line, then he gives us a "Back-to-Back Half Reel of Four". Without a doubt Terry has one of the most devilish minds I have had the pleasure of meeting.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Book 46 Project

Error found in Dance No. 78.

I was studying the Batch 5 dances and noticed an error in Dance No.78 (64S/64R Medley).

Bars 25-32 - last sentence reads in part -
… divide and dance back to finish all opposite original place.

this is not so!

1st and 3rd couples DO end halfway round the set and directly opposite original places but
2nd and 4th couples end ON HOME SIDE, but in partner's place (i.e. improper).

Correct positions at end of bar 32:


---------- 3M 3W

-----4W ----------2M
-----4M---------- 2W

----------1W 1M

Sorry about them thar dashes but this idiot text editor has its own moronic ideas about formatting and takes out spaces without permission. No pretty diagrams.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kilts and Ghillies Class - 3 November 2009

It was a very small class tonight - all of 3 couples.

I opened with Jane Lataille's dance After You (32 J 2/3/4) as a 2C set.
Next was Dance No. 39 (32 S 3C set) from the Book 46 Project.
An oldie was next - Haste to the Wedding (32 J 2C),
A Jean Attwood dance: Langholm Fair (32 S 3C set),
and we closed with The White Cockade (32 R 3C) suitably modified (1C 3C R&L3/4 and set) for dancing in a three couple set.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Haven Highland Ball

Saturday, March 6, 2010

West Hartford Town Hall
50 South Main Street
West Hartford, CT

Music by Music Makars: Etienne Ozorak, Fred Mamula, Jack Lindberg, Nicolas Ozorak, Elizabeth Ozorak

5:00 P.M. Reception
6:00 P.M. Dinner
7:30 P.M. Dancing

Joie de Vivre - 32 J 3C - 39/2
John of Bon Accord - 32 R 3C - 33/5
My Friend Joe - 32 S 3C - 38/2

Quarries' Jig - 32 J 3C - 36/3
The Talcott Mtn Strathspey - 32 S 3C - Nutmeg Collection
The Glenalmond Gamekeeper - 40 R 3 - Bankhead 6

Over the Water to Charlie - 32 J 3C - 34/5
The Valentine - 32 S 3C - 5 Dances 2009
The Music Makars - 32 R 3C - 33/1

The River Cree - 32 J 2C - 8/5
The Whistling Wind - 32 R 3C - 36/5
The Quaich - 32 S 3C - Drewry (Rondel Book)

Old Nick's Lumber Room - 32 J 3C - 26/6
She's Ower Young to Marry Yet - 32 S 3C - 14/8
The Black Leather Jig - 32 R 3C - Delaware Valley Silver

A Wee Nothin' - 32 J 2 - E. Brunken
The Bonny Heather - 32 S 2c - Between the Rivers
Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh - 40 R 3C - 39/7

Ramblings from the Heights

Wandering Thoughts

I am in overwhelm. Too much that I want to do and not enough class time to do it in or even half of it.

Let's see - first there is the RSCDS Book 46 project which consists of 9 dances - 2 jigs, 3 reels and 4 medley/strathspeys. Headquarters wants us to rank each within its category. I can certainly teach two jigs in an evening class, maybe even 3 brand new reels, but 4 strathspeys? And one of them a 128 Medley? I don't think so. The medley alone is probably a full evening project.

I am going to try teaching one or two dances a night and then run three test sessions - one for each category but with a January 29th deadline time is already short. With the Kilts &
class's very iffy attendance numbers time is actually very short.

What I really want is a mid January workshop where all the dances can be done and the votes for best of category and best overall can be tallied and no one has to try and recall the dance they did two weeks ago - "When did we do that one?" and "was it any good?".

Another issue is music. We teachers received absolutely no guidance from the deviser or Headquarters. Do we choose a smooth classical jig or bumbitty Irish jig? Classical strathspey or slow air? If we pick the 'wrong' music we spoil the dance. And the music I pick won't be the music another teacher will pick.

Last night I taught Dance No. 39 in Wilton - I used Yet Another Birthday (3x32 S) from les joueurs de bon accord. It was "Ok" but not the best fit - I am open to suggestions!

Monday (9 Nov) is the next Meeting House dance and I will be teaching a number of the Batch 5 dances. Dance No. 49 (8x40 R) is on the agenda and for music I have chosen Captain Macintosh. (It dances well to that music - in my mind - and that is a dangerous place for me to be). Dance No. 71 (4x80 R square) is also on the agenda. Come one come all!! Let the show begin!

Just One More Thing - I do NOT want to be the sole voice on this blog. Invitations have gone out to most of the people whom I have email addresses for. Please sign up and become authors. Please Contribute! I know what my impressions are - and how often I need a good swift reality check. Help me get out of my mind - in the good sense.

By the way, Blogger makes this really easy - it is as close to idiot proof as can be. Please note "I" am doing this - so you can too.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Golden Age of Scottish Country Dancing

This in from Anselm Lingnau (originally posted to the strathspey.org list):


Here's a quotation especially for those people who believe that SCD today has become too technical and has stopped being fun/representing »the tradition«:

Hugh Foss said this in his pamphlet »Notes on Evolution in Scottish Country Dancing« (published in 1973). "

Some people grumble that the Society has over-emphasised technique (the steps, that is) and made the dances so precious and difficult that they are no longer the joyful romps they always used to be (always, in this instance, meaning, say, 1890-1920). In other words they complain because the Society has changed the second-best dances into best ones. But where else are the best dances today? When you had courtly corantos, you might like to relax in a Playford romp. When you were tired of very decorous waltzes or very difficult highland step-dances you might prefer to do the country dances without pointing your toes. But now there are no courtly (perhaps not even any decorous) dances to relax from. If you want the best dances the Society has them. I hope they won't become second-best for a long time yet.

The Society does not suggest that all dancers must have perfect technique before they can be let loose on a dance. It is quite easy for anyone -- or almost anyone -- to pick up enough about the steps to be able to enjoy the dances at the first class they attend. They don't have to learn the minuet first. (p.26f.)


The golden age of Scottish Country Dancing, by the way, is now. (p.26)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Going Viral?

A couple of days ago I posted the Kilts and Ghillies 2010 Ball Program to the Strathspey list as part of a thread on dance programs and attendance. This elicited a number of comments. Then, in one of my responses to said comments, I mentioned my liking for the medley Sage and Salsa. (Quoted below).

I have now sent either the ball crib or the actual directions to eight people. Four are in Europe or the UK, two are in Canada, one from Minnesota and one unknown.

And then, in a mistake, I sent a post to the strathspey list that commercially plugged the Santa Fe class's books, The Dunsmuir Book, Between the Rivers and Barry Priddey.

Where will it End?

"Sage and Salsa is the first medley I have ever danced that I liked. It is simple. If you don't know it contact me. The dances coming out of the Santa Fe class are remarkable for their originality and sometimes IMO sheer genius. This is one of them."


"I am attaching the ball crib for you. I think you will find more than one dance with differences.
My favourites are Mole's Frolic, Sage and Salsa, Maurice (advanced), Glen Falloch, Rakes of Auld Reekie, and On Hudson Creek.

Books to seriously consider owning: Always Enough to Dance, Still Enough to Dance, Fun for All Seasons (these from Jane Lataille and the Santa Fe SC Dancers - a very small class);
The Dunsmuir Book - I have found 6 superb dances in this one and haven't tried them all yet.
Between the Rivers - lots of good ones here too.
I am also finding a number of good dances from Barry Priddey (who seems to deserve far more recognition than he has so far gotten.)"

Kilts & Ghillies Class - 27 Oct '09

Dances done tonight:

The Cadger's Roadie (32 J 2) -M. Zadworny
The Bonny Heather (32 S 2) - H. Ways
Autumn Leaves (32 J 3 set) - J. Lataille
Glen Falloch (32 J 3) - J. Attwood
The Valentine (32 S 3) - L. Gaul
Dunbar Castle (32 J 2) - B. Priddey

The response to Glen Falloch was gratifying. (I do so like that dance!) It dances easier than it teaches. Fun too. After The Valentine was done everyone just stood there. It took a direct question before anyone would say they liked it. I will have to try it on the class at a time when everyone has their brains in gear, which was not the case tonight. I had to work to get the dancers to move tonight and to get them to go where they were supposed to was another struggle.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nutmeg Workshop - Musician's Perspective

Email to Strathspey.org from Susie re getting dancers to attend events.
Reposted with permission.


I read the postings about how to get people to come to a social dance with great interest and because I suspect that many Strathspey readers are leaders in their dance communities, I offer the following:

As a dance teacher I consider it my responsibility to provide a place where everyone can experience the movement of RSCDS dancing. When it comes to an evening's social dance, I am particularly interested in figuring out what I need to do to create a situation where the people dancing on the floor and the musicians playing on the stage can reach a state of exhilaration. When dancers are in that state of exhilaration, they have extra energy and share that energy spontaneously. When dancers are using all of their faculties to remember where to go and to help others get there, they cannot share that energy.

This physiological fact is one of the driving forces that makes me consider very carefully each dance that I choose to put on a social dance program. There are many dances in the RSCDS canon that are more appropriately puzzled through during a dance class. There are also many dances when combined with their fantastic original music, make you fly.

After my recent engagements with but few familiar titles, new people who went home after the first half and sets that stood still on the floor, I am left wondering why dance leaders don't program more dances like Monymusk and Wild Geese; surrounding a new, interesting, complicated dance with old favorites that give the dancers a chance figure out something new as well as a chance to rest and re-exhilarate themselves.

Susie Petrov
Boston, USA

Monday, October 26, 2009

Beginners? What to do?

(Email from LKDJQ)

Hi Guys
I figured out how to do "reply all."
I have a couple thoughts. One is, please come and celebrate Halloween with us this coming
friday. If you want to bring goodies and/or dress up, so much the better.I'll bring something tasty and have a seasonal program.

Also may I make a suggestion for the future? I know we are continuing to struggle with attempting to expand the group. It is always a challenge to know how to attract new people, keep them once we get them there, integrate them into a class of people who've been doing this for eons, stuff like that. I know there are no easy answers and everyone is trying their best. But personally I don't think it's fair to me--or any other teacher--to have to keep preparing classes week after week only to have a beginner straggle in at the last minute; have to completely jettison the plans; subject the entire group to the "introductory" class time after time after time--especially when none of these people ever seems to come back.Let's face it, this activity is NOT for everybody. When somebody says "ouch" when asked to stand with her heels together, it's a pretty fair bet she will not become a regular. And, unlike contradancing or square dancing, this is not really an activity one can get much out of by coming once. I understand that people have to start somewhere but i'm thinking that whatever advertisement we're putting out there is giving a somewhat misleading impression. If you're awaiting hip or knee replacement or haven't moved in 20 years this just isn't the activity for you. I would appreciate it if, in the future, we prescribe a time frame when people can start--like within the first four weeks of the season, say. That seems to me like a generous amount of time and might convey to people that it's an activity that has a learning curve. In addition or alternatively, we could say beginners can come for the first hour of the evening. That's the way New Haven handled it when i first started. And that's what ended up happening the night the two elderly ladies came. That works for everyone, the first half of the class can be review and instruction, then the people who really want to dance have a chance to do so; The beginners can stay and watch and get an idea of what it's really about. You may not realize it but most classes of this nature do not grind to a halt to accommodate rank beginners. Anyway, these are some things i've been thinking about. I welcome input or alternative suggestions-


Kilts and Ghillies class - 20 Nov 2009

Three of the dances I taught deserve comment.

Lapton Reel - 32 R 2C (Barry Priddey - SDA #69) is essential
y an 8 bar set up, 8 bar half fig. eight, 10 bar half petronella and 6 bar closer. 2 bar phases followed by setting. On my initial reading I commented that there seemed to be some interesting interactions and that it seemed simple enough. I was half right.

There is an underlying pattern but it is broken up by the setting and not easy for most dancers (in my class any way) to discern. It was also rather difficult to teach coherently. I found lots of demonstration and lots of repetition were necessary. The teaching took so much time I thought the response would be negative. Wrong - it was mostly positive. I wasn't able to get in it, but the report is : very aerobic. For them to actually say it has to be so. This one gets a thumbs up from the class and they are a tough sell.

Langholm Fair - 32 S 3C/3C set (Jean Attwood - Alexander Dances 3)
This is the third time I have taught the dance since early this past summer and the response has been unanimous - "It's a good one." Not that I am surprised. This is from the same person who wrote The Falls of Rogie. The dance is inherently simple but there is one tricky (not hard) piece: a half promenade that requires very controlled traveling steps. I have short listed this dance.

Gordon of Straloch -32 S 3C (one of my still unpublished efforts).
The music is critical to this dance (in my opinion). The dance wrote itself to Liz Donaldson's set of strathspey airs on her CD Waverley Station : First Stop. The fourth tune in the set is from the Straloch Lute Book (1627) where the A phrase doesn't stop at 8 bars. The dance tries to follow the music and there should be no "break" between bars 8 and 9, between the diamond poussette and the lead down. I find too that there is no one proper moment where the dancers should change feet. (I do it when it is convenient for me and not necessarily when I said it should be done). I have consistently gotten positive responses to this dance which is not surprising given the extraordinary music.

I promise: I will be posting the dance on Eight by Thirtytwo soon.

5 Nov 2009 - Update

Gordon of Straloch is now posted on Eight by thirtytwo.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kilts and Ghillies 2010 Ball

The 2010 Kilts and Ghillies Ball is coming together. We have a date, a hall, a band and a new format.

Kilts and Ghillies Spring Ball
17 April 2010
South Britain Congregational Church
East Flat Hill Rd.,
Southbury, Ct.

Jim Stevenson-Mathews - piano
Rebecca McCallum - fiddle

Start time 3:00pm
End time 7:30 pm
Dinner - after (at local venue of your choice).
Finger food before and during, desserts at the break (remember - always eat dessert first).


Moles Frolic / 32 J 3 / Dunsmuir Book
Anna Holden's Strathspey / 32 S 2 / Bk 42/2
The White Cockade / 32 R 3 / Bk 5/11

Holden My Own / 32 J 3 / Between the Rivers
Sage and Salsa / 16S+16R Medley 3 / Still Enough to Dance
Montgomeries' Rant / 32 R 3 / Bk 10/1

The Nurseryman / 32 J 3 / Bk 37/7
Maurice / 32 S 2 / Dunsmuir Book
Blooms of Bon Accord / 32 R 4 / Drewry


Glen Falloch / 32 J 3 / J. Attwood - Alexander 2
Rakes of Auld Reekie / 32 S 2 / B. Priddey - Golden Oriole Book
On Hudson Creek / 32 H 3 / Between the Rivers

Back to Back / 32 J 3 / T. Glasspool - Itch to Dance
The Dundee Whaler / 32 S 4 / R. Clowes - Ormskirk
The Westminster Reel / 32 R 2 / Bk 45/1

Major Ian Stewart / 32 J 3 / Bk 35/4
The Duchess Tree / 32 S 3 / J. Drewry
Reel of the 51st Division / 32 R 4/5 set / Bk 13/10

Note Bene: If time gets tight one or more of the dances in the penultimate set will be dropped.
(Back to Back/The Dundee Whaler/The Westminster Reel)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nutmeg Workshop

23 October 2009

The workshop was held Saturday the 17th at the Incarnation Center, Ivoryton, Ct. It was so nice to see old friends and meet new ones. The teachers were Chris Ronald from NYC and Elaine Brunken from Virginia. They each taught two sessions, one for beginners and one for experienced dancers. I danced with the beginners all afternoon and had a blast.

There were three new dances (new to me, anyway) on the evening program. The Golden Apple Jig (40 J 3) is Chris Ronald's salute to the NY Branch's 50th year. Four's a Score (32 R 3), one of Elaine's dances and Winter Wonder a 32 H 3 by Jane Lataille. All three good solid friendly dances that are now on my short list of dances. Jane's dance made it onto my top 25 list the first time I danced it. It is so simple but SOOO nice. She captured a little bit of magic with this one.

The facilities were a bit spartan, the kitchen a wee small for a 50 person potluck, and the men had to navigate around several poison ivy shrubs on their way to relief. But the floors were bouncy, the acoustics good, and the rooms warm enough. Thumbs up.

Kudos to the hard work of Catriona and Joyce who were the movers and shakers of this event. There is some question, and there shouldn't be, over whether or not there will be one next year. This was, in my opinion, a success. I had a great time even though my legs kept me off the floor for the evening and I want to go again.