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.