Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dancing on the Heights - 13 December 2010

A very good night with several dances receiving "Dancer's Choice" Awards.

The evenings dances were:
Glasgow Highlanders (32 S 2)
Hunting the Pinecones (40 R 3) I. Boyd
The Flight of the Falcon (32 J 3) B. Priddey
The Kiltmaker (32 R 4)
Craig Mhor (32 S 2) J. Drewry
Gordon of Straloch (32 S 3) P. Price


I began the evening with Glasgow Highlanders because Deb is the understudy for the Loch Leven Dancers' Mohunk House performance which includes a threesome highland dance highlighted by 2 strathspey and 2 quicktime setting steps and Deb hasn't had any highland training.

Hunting the Pinecones – Recipient of the evening's first Dancer's Choice Award, it is from Ian's book The World Around the Corner. This dance has been on my agenda for several years now and last night was the first time I was able to work it into the 'flow' as it were. And what a shame that is because the consensus is that it is worth doing again and on a fairly regular basis too.

The Flight of the Falcon – There was a rather lengthy thread on Strathspey list concerning 'dolphin' reels (if you want to know more look it up there) and I have been wanting to teach this one for a while too. Another Dancer's Choice Award recipient, I saw some creative possibilities for dancers in some of the transitions to make it dance even better.

The Kiltmaker – The dance was taught at the Pawling Weekend this past spring. I missed it but heard so much about it (thank you Deborah!) that it too has has been on, and is now off, my short list. Nice dance! From the response there is no question – this dance is a lot of fun, especially for 1st man who gets all the chevron back-to-backs. The third Dancer's Choice Award recipient of the night.

Craig Mhor (pronounced 'vor') – I have mixed feeling about this dance. The response was not enthusiastic -- but here's the but you heard coming – the basic pattern cries out for a little embroidery and that would (might?) make all the difference. The basic pattern includes a half reel of four across the dance with the dancers starting 4 square on the side lines not in line of four. So, following a turn 3/4 and cast by 1st diagonal dancers and a simultaneous cast and turn 3/4 by the 2nd diagonal dancers, there is a half reel of four across the dance: 1M and 2L begin by passing left shoulders in the middle and, looking on from the sidelines, that opening pass seemed awkward to me. What I will try the next time round is having everyone dance the middle pass of the reel with setting steps – 1 step diagonally forward to the right to just pass, then diagonally forward to the left to reach the sidelines, then loop for 2 bars.

A similar issue arises in Robertson Rant when head couples dance a reel of four on the center line starting beside partners and the solution for the New Haven demo team was to set through the middle. Similar issue – similar solution?

We will see.

Miss Muriel Johnstone's Jig – It is on 'OK' dance but I am not thrilled. I needed a nice simple jig for a ball program and this seemed to fit so I chose it and it is too late to have second thoughts. You see, I am something of a dance monster. I have never had a problem with reels – and here, the right shoulder half reel of three, 1C chase, left shoulder half reel of three, 1C chase seems to be throwing people off their centers. Well, it is on the K&G program and it is going to stay on the program. So deal with it.

Gordon of Straloch – commented on in earlier posts.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Long Last Update

My apologies for the last couple of months – I had to prioritize and my mother's car accident took the prize. I updated all the “happening soon now” events yesterday. Today I begin my assault on the back- log of classes and other events.

Wilton Class – 12 October 2010

The young girls were present only for the first half. And it is clear that what will keep them coming back is my keeping them moving and not doing any obvious 'drills'. They are a joy to have in the class. The other (and older) beginner, Dante, survived the second half where I taught The Moray Rant by John Drewry. In one swell foop he learned reels of three, mirror reels of three, cross over mirror reels of three, and finally Inveran Reels. Wow!

The nights dances were:
The Forest Prince (32 J 2) I. Boyd
Kendall's Hornpipe (32 J 3) Gr. 22
On the Quarterdeck (32 H 2) Harbour City
Seann Truibhas Willichan (32 S 2) 27/9

The Moray Rant (48 S 3 set) Drewry

Wilton Class – 19 October 2010

The youngsters were missing this week, and several experienced dancers were there in their place, as it were.

The night's dances were:
Saw Ye My Wee Thing (32 J 2)
Albatrosses & Shearwaters (32 S 3 set)
Westminster Reel (32 R 2)
The Burn of Sorrow (32 S 2)

Kendall's Hornpipe (32 J 2)
Seann Truibhas Willichan (32 S 2)

Nutmeg Workshop – 23 October 2010

Wonderful time! I really liked Rebecca Roman's approach to phrasing. She introduced the concept of “Green Light Specials” where, while driving, the idea is to approach a light just as it turns green, and to do this on a road with a series of timed lights. And the idea in dancing is to figure out where you don't have to stop between figures and to get into position at the end of a phrase just in time to start the next one.

The social dance in the evening was also great fun. But the interval, with raffle, was way too long, and we had time for only four dances in the second half, and should have ended with Pinewoods Reel and not with Wind that Shakes the Barley. Wind doesn't compare well when danced back to back with Pinewoods Reel. Live and learn.

Program was:
Berwick Johnny (32 J 3) Gr. 11
Silver Tassie (32 S 3) L30
Royal Deeside Railway (32 S 3) 40/9
The Isle (32 J 3) Gr. 15
Birks of Invermay (32 S 3) 16/2
Lady Susan Stewart's Reel (32 R 3) 5/9

Roaring Jelly (32 J 3) Glendarroch 6
The Gentleman (32 S 3) 35/6
Pinewoods Reel (32 R 3) Yankee Sampler
Jubilee Jig (32 J 3) L19
Miss Milligan's Strathspey (32 S 3) L19
Wind That Shakes the Barley (32 R 3) Duthie

Wilton Class – 26 October 2010

Very short on numbers, and very late getting started. A new dancer, who just started with the Waterbury (ex Woodbridge) class joined us, and I concentrated on her dancing. She handled it with aplomb.

Only did three dances – they were:
The Forest Prince (32 J 2) Boyd
Off to Speyside (32 R 2) Goldring
Cabbages and Kings (32 J 3) Boyd

Wilton Class – 2 November 2010

Another good evening with the girls present. Their parents, however have ruled that they have to leave at halftime. Sigh.

The night's dances were:
The Forest Prince (32 J 2) Katherine's Book
Courtship (32 R 4) C. Sigg
Crockett's Victory Garden (32 R 4) H. Ways
Flo'ers o' Fa'kirk (32 R 3) P. Price
The Chase (32 J 3) Nutmeg Collection
Langholm Fair (32 S 3 set) J. Attwood
The Wandering Drummer (32 R 3 set)


Courtship – Looks easy, it's not. The step up followed immediately by step down and that right into Back-to-back is not easy. It caught me by surprise. But as a challenge to beginners, requiring thinking, it is superb. I am seriously thinking about using this on unsuspecting experienced dancers.

Crockett's Victory Garden – Not worth doing if not for the wonder music from Bill Spence and Phennig's All Star Band. Good dance to teach handing and “weight” and turns 1-1/2 in 4 bars.

Flo'ers o' Fa'kirk – My rewrite of Flowers of Edinburgh so beginners aren't faced with poussette. Instead half R&L, turn RH to own sides. I kinda like it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

11 October 2010 - Dancing on the Heights

Holidays play havoc with attendance. And I act as if that were something new (not). Once again I had just four dancers for the class and ended up teaching one 3 person dance and three 4-somes and one 3 couple set dance in which I danced with a ghost partner.

The dances taught were:
Eigg, Muck and Rum  (32 R 3-some) J. Lataille
The Four Paws  (32 S 4-some)  T. Glasspool
The Four Winds  (32 R 4-some)  T. Glasspool
The Moray Rant  (32 S 3 set)  J. Drewry
Four of Diamonds  (32 J 4-some)  T. Glasspool

Eigg, Muck and Rum - A simple dance for three dancers in a straight line. But not so easy. A phrasing challenge with both a figure of eight and a reel of three in six bars. And if you are late finishing the reel there is no time for the progression. Oops. I like it.

The Four Paws - Oh my. There are two parts to this dance. The first half consisting of a 4 person back to back followed by what Terry calls "Diamond Reels". And the second half which is easy enough and simply sets up the next round of the dance.

The first figure (back to back for four) is actually the hardest. Most dancers are simply not very comfortable dancing backwards and don't have the same command of the angles as when dancing forward. But it is in this figure that the dance lives in my opinion. Ya gotta get this part right first of all.

The second figure consists of reels: head couples start with "Schehallion" like half reels (in only 4 bars) while side couples dance half reels of four across. It looks like reels of four only two of the dancers take off for Paris! And then it is the head couples dancing half a reel of four on the central axis and the side couples dancing the Schehallion-like half reels - and again two dancers take off for who knows where. And somehow it all works - but leaves my head spinning. And while this is the most difficult of all the figures it appears all chaos until it resolves (every four bars) into pattern.

The last two figures are progression and quite standard.

It was very nice having a good chunk of time in which to teach the dance. Every round needs to be walked and the keys are as follows:
Reels - heads face right and pass right with side dancers. After four bars heads start the next half reel dancing to the same side position and pass right shoulders with the new person there. The sides also face the same head position both times. When I realized this point the reels became much easier to teach and cue.

Dancers Award given with this caveat - not for the faint hearted and difficult orientation changes.

The Moray Rant - John played some games with phrasing. Things aren't quite square, just a little different from what you expect. Otherwise simple but long winded.

The Four of Diamonds - lovely little dance that goes along at a nice comfortable pace until the last four bars when Terry springs a bit of a surprise and sleeping dancers have to wake up and move!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wilton Class - 21 September 2010

Dancing resumed at long last. There have been some personnel changes. Angela is going to be dancing with us on an irregular basis but I am hoping that Sandra's son and daughter in-law and her two young sisters (14 and 10) will be coming regularly. Cynthia's grandaughter Hayley returned after a four year absence and she brought a friend - Dante.

I really worried about this class. I have never had young children as students. I way over prepared but once into it found an approach that seemed to work. I kept them moving as much as I could and had them either walking or skipping. No skip change and no setting and no strathspey. I wanted them to find the rhythm of the music and get comfortable moving to it which they began to do. I was also looking for phrasing and timing. I figure if they get the rhythm then footwork can be added in slowly.

Anyway, we were nine dancers for the evening, and the dances were:

Birkenside (adapted)  (32 S 2)  R. Goldring
The Ferry Louper  (32 J 3)  R. Goldring
Crom Allt  (32 R 3)  R. Goldring
Off to Speyside  (32 J 2)  R. Goldring
Kildrummy Castle  (64 R 4 sq)  R. Goldring

All dances were from Roy Goldring's book: 24 Graded and Social Dances.


Birkenside - Originally a strathspey for 2C, I taught it as a reel for 3 couples by changing the opening circle to 6 hands round and back, and the last figure to a chevron shaped push-pull poussette and a RH turn. I really could have done a lot better - a simple down the middle and up, or down the middle and up and cast would have been a much better choice. And my idea of introducing 'progression' in nice easy steps was the first casualty of the evening.

The Ferry Louper - Adapted in that I used reels and not the specified jigs. And because of the end effects I modified the track figure. The young ladies had no problem with it. I worried needlessly.

Crom Allt - This one too was adapted, but not intentionally. When I was making out the new cards for these dances I just happened to leave out 4 bars of this dance. So I improvised. Yuch. But I won't tell them if you don't.

Off to Speyside - This one needed no adapting. Straightforward throughout.

Kildrummy Castle - Nice little square dance. Best feature: simple.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dancing on the Heights - 13 September 2010

A light night - only four other dancers showed.  So once again I delved into that category of dances that I call "n-somes". These are dances for three, four or five dancers (not couples) and they reside in my card file under their very own separator so when I need them I not only have them I can find them.

Last night's dances were:
Ducks in a Row  (32 J 5 dancers) Martha Veranth
The Gay Goshawk (32 J 2)  B. Priddey
Dragonflies  (32 S 5-some)  J. Lataille
Cactus Flower  (32 J 5-some)  J. Lataille
The Four Poster  (32 S 4-some)  T. Glasspool
Four of Diamonds  (32 J 4-some)  T. Glasspool
Gypsy Dreams  (32 S 2)  T. Glasspool


Ducks in a Row - The first time ever teaching this dance. I was not impressed. My fault I am sure. The music was not an inspired choice on my part. Better music might have made all the difference.

The last formation, which we ended up calling it 'single-triangles', was what caught everyones attention and was the highlight of the dance. Nice pattern. The dance needs redoing to better music.

The Gay Goshawk - This was the second time I have taught this dance and it will never earn a Dancer's Choice award I fear. Don't get me wrong, it is by Barry Priddey, and I like his dances. This is a solid and respectable dance but it is missing the "Oh Wow" factor that the really special dances have. The first time I taught it I used The Weaver and His Wife (Andrew Rankine). That tune fits the nature of the dance but the Jimmy Blair recording is just too fast and I am not able to slow it down because my software combination (Winamp + Pacemaker) is just too volatile. I used Anne Munro of Portree instead. It is a delightful, slower tempo jig that I often use when 'any good jig' is called for. It did not work well with this dance. Just gotta keep on lookin' I guess.

Dragonflies - Dancer's Choice award winner from Jane Lataille. I have now taught this dance 16 times over the last 5 years and I have always had a positive response from the dancers. I just checked my Top 50 list and this one is missing and I must rectify that omission.

Cactus Flower - Another good solid dance from Jane Lataille. But not an award winner. But don't let that stop you.

The Four Poster - Terry Glasspool. *Magnificent*  Interlocking Back-to-Backs. Back-to-Back Half Reels of Four. Wow! He is the most innovative dance choreographer I have ever run across. And I found music that fits the dance: Pasadena Prom, by Muriel Johnstone & her Band from the CD "Dances with a Difference."

Four of Diamonds - Another Terry Glasspool dance. This one is another winner in MHO. Not as original as The Four Poster but still a fun one.

Gypsy Dreams - Dancer's Choice award winner a hundred times over. Simply one of the prettiest dances ever devised. And not just my opinion either. It is a gem and it belongs in the standard repertoire. Another Terry Glasspool creation!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Haven Summer Social - 7 September 2010

Four couples turned out. For the day after the long weekend I thought that was pretty good. The temperature was cool, the humidity was high, and two fans dealt with that.

Summer is over and when my class in Wilton resumes I will be teaching there on Tuesdays and only rarely making it to the New Haven class and only as a dancer, not as a teacher. My teaching in New Haven will once again be restricted to the Second Monday of the month class on the Heights.

Bad news - but not completely unexpected: Mary Kate Adami (nee Sampson), who has been quite sick for some time, has died. A memorial service was held this past weekend. 

Tonight's dances were:
Knights' Heys  (32 H 3)  T. Glasspool
Gypsy Dreams  (32 S 2) T. Glasspool
Miss Muriel Johnstone's Jig  (32 J 3)  G. Dale Birdsall – A Cup of Kindness
Auchindrain   (32 R 3)  P. Price
Through A Glass Darkly  (32 S 4) B. Skelton – Kiwi Book
Un-Named Dance  (32 S 2)  C. Anagnostakis
Lang May Your Lum Reek  (32 J 2) B. Priddey


Knights' Heys - Teacher's Check Mark award winner in 2003 and about to make its first encore appearance since that ball - and about time too.

Gypsy Dreams - What a delight! The Tournee is becoming  a good looking formation. Finally. Due to sheer repetition. I hope the teachers in New Haven continue with this. Oh and by the way - reappearing on the 2011 K&G ball program for the first time since it premiered in '04.

Miss Muriel Johnstone's Jig - A fairly simple wee dance, heavily weighted toward first couple. Second and third couples are very much supporting couples in the dance - theirs is a choppy role with lots of stop and go four bar phrases. I would like to dance it some time and see for myself - but no Dancer's Check Mark Award for it tonight.

Through a Glass Darkly - No dancers award for this one either, but I would give it a Teacher's award. Why? To justify the amount of head banging I had to do to get a couple of very simple concept across. Set advancing men, that means moving forward on bar 1! Right? Got it? Not.

Un-Named dance by C. Anagnostakis - Sorry. You will just have to wait, but I think it will be worth it.

Lang May Your Lum Reek - I just love that stealth progression (bars 29-32). Worth all the angst and sturm und drang of the third figure. As for that - try practicing it with both hands joined and you may find the key to the whole dance. Note well: I am programming this one as the premier dance on the 2011 K&G ball program.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Haven Summer Social - 31 August 2010

Summer humidity returned with a vengeance. Three couples came to dance -  how I love the true die hards!
Thank you Dick and Jane, Bob Cole (who drives down from Windsor), Ingrid, Paula and Deborah (who drives up from New Jersey).

The evening's dances were:
The Burn of Sorrow (32 S 2) B. Priddey
Kendall's Hornpipe  (32 J 2) Gr. 22
The Dunsmuir Strathspey  (32 S 3 set)  J. Drewry
The Westminster Reel  (32 H 2)  45/1
Greyfriars Bobby  (32 S 3 set)  B. Priddey
Turning Thirty  (32 J 2)  C. Sigg
Lassie wi' the lint white locks  (32 S 2)  B. Priddey


The Burn of Sorrow - I  have covered this dance before - post of 9 August '10.
What I said then still holds true, and dancers liked it this time too. A relatively simple dance that calls for some good technique, and when the tourbillon is danced properly it is a delight to watch.
One of Barry Priddey's simpler successes. Received a Dancer's Check Mark awared.

Kendall's Hornpipe - Believe it or not (and most people who know me would not) this is one of my most taught dances. I like it, and especially to the music recorded by The Music Makars. Theirs is the definitive recording in my humble opinion.

The Dunsmuir Strathspey - From John Drewry's first Bankhead Book, I have neither seen it nor danced it before but while I have read it over before I just never cottoned on to it, so this was a first timer for us all. And Jane Platt's response was "it deserves a star, not just a check."

 It is in some sense a typical Drewry dance, it dances smoother than it teaches (certainly the first time - now that I know it I can improve my teaching). The dance is simple enough, he uses his "petronella in tandem" and varies the simple circle in a nice way yet again. But it is the opening and closing formations that make the dance.

The opening - lead down, half turn, cross up and cast up; is apparently simple but calls for some subtle touches to bring out the elegance hiding there. I like that kind of dancing. And the final formation, which I first saw in his dance Seagreen, is one of my favourite progressions. I call it a 'stealth' progression because the first time I danced it I found myself at the bottom of the set wondering how I had gotten there. This dance is going on my list of Top 50 Strathspeys.

It was written by John to honor the Dunsmuir Dancers, part of the San Francisco Branch, who recently (2007?) publish a book of dances that include many good ones, several great ones and not one turkey. I will buy a book of dances it there is one (1) dance in it that has become part of the standard repertoire and is being programmed on balls, too any book that has two or more really good dances in it. And here we have a gem, a book of dances with many (more than 7) good dances - Maurice, Miss Jane Muirhead of Dunsmuir, Linnea's Strathspey, Mole's Frolic, Sleeper's Awake and Sunday Afternoon Jig, to name a few off the top of my head. How does one say Very Highly Recommended strongly enough?

The Westminster Reel - devised by Jeremy Hill, published in Book 45. A hit, a palpable hit. The ending of the reel is a piece of genius and I the transition from Set and Rotate into R&L is sweet. A simple dance and on my list of Top 50 Reels.

Greyfriars Bobby - Another recipient of the Check Mark dancer's award. This one is a toughie, not that the choreography resembles spaghetti, but more in the subtleties of the transitions. From left hand turn to a left shoulder reel of three, from a reel where corners dance out to begin but need to dance an allemande next. And finally the last formation, of four 2 bar phases, of rounded chases into straight lines with no posts to align on. These eight bars are the meat of the dance and take the most work to become comfortable with.

Turning Thirty - This dance has intrigued me for years but I have only taught it twice now. It reorients your head. You dance most of the first 16 bars from the improper side, and continue to dance Espagnole from the improper side (yikes) and end with poussette. Definitely worth another trial or two but it did not receive a Check Mark dancer's award this night. Maybe later, maybe never. Oh well.

Lassie wi' the lint white locks - Second trial, second Check Mark award. Hmmm. Non standard opening with men dancing fig. 8 round ladies, followed by top dancers (not partners) dancing fig. 8 round dancers below. Then a form of Back-to-Back that I haven't seen in Scottish before, only in English country dance from Fried de Metz Herman, Chevrons! And they are absolutely lovely in strathspey time especially when covered with the dancers casting. Dance ends with 'The Dreaded Tournee'. Which, by they way, is looking better and better. And teaching it as 'upper' dancers turn with 'upper hands' and 'bottom' dancers turn with 'bottom hands' seems to be working better than anything else I have tried.

What is worth noting is that over the last month or so I have taught a fair number of Barry Priddey's dances and most of them received of "Check Mark" awards from the dancer's on the floor. I mean, I actually put the check mark on the card, but only if the sense of the floor is that the dance is not only worth doing, but worth doing again, and again...

And what is also worth noting is that before I started teaching Barry Priddey's dances I can only remember two (2) instances of another teacher doing the same.  One many many years ago in New Haven, it was Bob Frew, I believe, and Mel Briscoe at a workshop before one of the New Haven Highland Balls.

The List:
Lassie wi' the lint white locks  (32 J 2)
The Burn of Sorrow  (32 S 2)
Greyfriars Bobby  (32 S 3 set)
Lang May Your Lum Reek (32 J 2)
Twelvesome Reel  (32 R 6)
Phyllis' Fancy  (32 S 2)
Rakes of Auld Reekie (32 S 2)
Heather Ale  (32 S 3 set)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

New York City Summer Dance - 26 August 2010

Finally! An almost cool night for dancing and gender equality on the floor and five couples.

The night's dances were:
The Glowerin' Coo (32 J 3) J. Drewry – leaflet
Glasgow Country Dance (32 M 3) 23/6 (Bob Campbell)
The Pillar Dance (40 J 4 sq) C. Ronald – The Big Apple
Broadway (32 S 3 set) C. Ronald – The Big Apple
Five Penny Ness (32 J 5) J. Attwood - leaflet
Spiffen (32 J 5 sq) Quarries et al
Fisherman's Reel (32 R 5 sq) Petyt & Gamon
Miss Johnstone of Ardrossan (32 R 5) R. Goldring – 14 Social 2000


The Glowerin' Coo - Taught by James Ferguson, I found it a nice pleasant wee dance. It is one of John's earlier choreographies (c.1988). 

Glasgow Country Dance - This dance used to be one the dances on Full Certificate teacher's exam. It is a little stinker that is the exception that proves the rule that women always have the difficult parts - the men have it easy. Not here. To dance this one neatly the man has to be darn near perfect.

The Pillar Dance - The Catholic school where the NY Branch dances has a very strange gym. On (in?) the basketball court there are six cast iron pillars supporting the floor above and around which the dancers have to fit their sets. so Chris Ronald wrote a dance with a pillar in the center of the set. Rather site specific, a bit on the simple side, but boy do you have to move - that pillar adds more distance than I anticipated. And its a mixer. Don't get to see many of those in SC dancing.

Broadway - I regret to say I did not dance this one, I was searching for music for Five Penny Ness, the dance which I was going to teach. My impression is that the Broadway is both straight forward and deceptive. What I like most though is the fact that Chris is always having fun with his dancing.

Five Penny Ness - So answer me this. Why is it that when we find a great dance from a choreographer we stop looking?  Jean Attwood wrote The Falls of Rogie, a favourite dance in the tri-state area, but no one ever seems to program any of her other dances.

Spiffin' - I consider this one to be a little stinker. Not that there is anything inherently difficult about it but, for some reason, most people in my set, and most of us were teachers too, found it difficult to transition from the opening birl into the left (I repeat - left) shoulder parallel reels of three.

The Fisherman's Reel - I can only remember dancing this once before (courtesy of Brian Haeckler in New Haven). Much smoother this time around.

Miss Johnstone of Ardrossan - A very nice dance from Roy Goldring. He has brought two innovations to Scottish dancing that I approve of. He wrote several 88 bar reels for square sets - which means I never have to do the Round Reel of Eight ever again. Thank you Roy, thank you! And he has popularized 5C dances that are 1C start, not 1s and 3s, and are danced once and to the bottom.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Haven Summer Social - 24 August 2010

The evening's dances were:

Greyfriars Bobby (32 S 3 set)  B. Priddey
Hooper's Jig  (32 J 3)  Miscellany 2
Five Penny Ness  (32 J 5)  J. Attwood
Castle Douglas  (32 S 3)  R. Goldring
Miss Norah Kindness  (32 R 3)  D. Birdsall
Gypsy Dreams  (32 S 2)  T. Glasspool


Greyfriars Bobby - As I taught this dance for the first time a sense of deja vue crept over me. I now remember being taught this dance in the late 1970's or early 80s by Bob Frew, one of the founding fathers of Scottish dancing in New Haven. Or at least I think I remember this.

The dancer's gave this one an up tick at the end saying it was well worth doing again and worth adding to the local repertoire. It has the potential to being very beautiful, but it is a demanding dance. Not physically but it definitely needs precise phrasing and proper timing throughout as well as control of steps, stretching and retarding as necessary.

Hooper's Jig - A standard that I don't teach often enough. I finally figured out that the dance is not about the Ones, but rather ALL about the 2nd couple - they step up, step down and step up again -  forget - and the dance will crash and burn. Second couple make or break the dance.

Five Penny Ness - Another first time dance and it was a very good thing that I had the original direction in my bag as I really screwed up reading my note card.  This one also received a dancers "gotta do it again" award. Personally I found it more interesting then most of Roy Goldring's 5C, once-and-to-the-bottom, dances. I don't think it is much harder either. The opening promenade reels take some effort to do well but the rest of the dance is really neat and sweet. My third thumbs up for the evening.

Castle Douglas - I have finally found dance-able music for this one. Muriel Johnstone finally included the tune (Mr and Mrs Little of Castle Douglas) in the set for another strathspey and that set works just fine here.

The dance is asymmetrical, similar movements happen at different places in the music, and I find that part of it's charm. It is also one of the most intensely social dances I have done. (I am tempted to say intensely intimate dances). It is not such a great dance for the 2s and the 3s who merely support but it is just fabulous for the 1s. A thorough gem it belongs in the world standard repertoire.

Miss Norah Kindness - Bob Gregg taught this one. And this one too received applause at the end.
Written (or as Hugh Foss said "choreographed") by Dale Birdsall there is a faint whiff of technique about it.
The charm of it all are the mirror reels of three across followed by reels of three on the sides. There was one part that was not clear - after the second reel first couple passes each other into right hand casts to own sides - I seem to recall Bob saying pass by left shoulders and I found myself passing partner by right shoulders.

Gypsy Dreams - As always it is the unspeakable, bloody tournee. And the rest of the dance is so pretty  several dancers called for it to be done on another ball, in fact to be programed on the Kilts and Ghillies Ball on a regular basis. I am willing, but there are so many pretty dances that need to be done...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Haven Summer Social - 17 August 2010

Brian Haeckler teaching.

It is late summer and numbers are dwindling for the final days of relative freedom are upon us. We eked out a full set last night, and were down to six by the second half.

Last night's dances were:

Hazelbank  (32 J 3) John Drewry
Celebration Strathspey  (32 S 3)  Bk 43
Broadford Bay  (32 R 3)  Skye Collection/L 32
Corian Strathspey  (32 S 3set)  Bk 43
Collie Law  (32 J 2)  R. Goldring


Hazelbank - The short form: Good dance. It has an Espagnole which, for all the fancy name and fol-de-rol, is truly a very simple and, in my humble opinion, lovely and under rated formation of progression. (Only not as a first dance please). I used to have a mind like a steel trap, but with graying hair comes greater confusion. Sigh. One has to wonder why this dance is so infrequently done, 'cause I would have heard of it if it was popular. (Brian, I would definitely short list it for ball program.)

Celebration Strathspey - Yawn. Solid dance but "yawn". Perhaps with live music?

Broadford Bay - Not easy. Young, or well warmed but not tired legs a necessity, as is a working brain. I think the difficulty level is actually a positive, not a negative, as you need at least one interesting dinkum thinkum of a dance on a ball program. So is it a ball dance? I say yes.

Corian Strathspey - From the pen of the late Maurice Whitby (in whose honor Gary Thomas wrote the 32 S 2 dance Maurice). The first time I taught this dance the reception was at best luke warm - as it was last night. What was notable during the repeat we did, to the "encore" music (of Ian MacPhail), was that not only did our dancing improve so did our perception of the dance. For this dance the 'right' music is of critical importance.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Haven Summer Social - 10 August 2010

Brian Haeckler Teaching.

I learned a lesson tonight, well, sort of. I already knew it, I just haven't had much chance to practice it.

To Whit: Teachers need to get out and experience other teachers - for a couple of reasons. Their methods for one, and their choice of dances for the other.

For example: Leslie Kearney has introduced me to some of what are now my favourite dances. Terry Glasspool's Back to Back for one. I read it and dismissed it. Too hard I said. And so wrong I say now. What a great dance it is, and so too John Drewry's Sarona and Beauty of the North. Also gifts from Leslie.

Brian has a different take from Leslie, or me. And thank goodness. He brought several dances tonight that I have looked at and passed on that I will have to reconsider.

And this brings up a point that I have tried to make to the other teachers in the New Haven Branch - I want your input on this Blog.  Really! We all have different points of view and like different dances - and that is good. And we can all learn from one another and expand our horizons - but we need to be talking to one another. And that is where this blog can contribute by being the medium.

On a personal level - I want to know what dances Joyce is choosing for her group in Mystic, and Ken for his class in Middletown. And what are they dancing in Windsor. But I don't know because no one is saying. And I especially want to know WHY you like the dances you pick - I may not agree with what you say but that doesn't mean it is invalid - just that it is personal opinion. And I can assure you that what I have to say is only opinion. I can and do learn from you all. So please, become contributors.

Tonight's dances were:
A Capital Jig  (32 J 3)  9/2009
The Beeswing  (32 R 3)  New Haven 12
Lettie G. Howard  (32 S 2)  M. Levy
Betty Burke  (32 J 3)  M. Levy
The Compliment  (32 S 2)  R. Goldring
Colwyn's Ruby Reel  (32 R 3) Rhodes
Once I Loved a Maiden Fair  (32 S 2) New Haven 12


A Capital Jig - I must say I did not find it to be special. Good solid dance, but just not special. Most likely because I made a bad choice of music. Possibly because the dance was just not a suitable opening jig.

The Beeswing - Yikes! Fair dinkum thinkum dance from Marty Briggs. Forces you to fight muscle memory and 'standard' thinking. I got well and truly bit a couple of times. Nice dance but it really needs the right music. I wish I had a recording of that hornpipe. The first of the 'hmmm - better than I remember" dances in the evening.

Lettie G. Howard - by the late Milton Levy (of NYC). In honor of a restored fishing schooner that sails out of South Street Seaport. If it helps - Milton Levy also wrote Gang the Same Gate which introduced Set-and-Link-for-Three to the Scottish dance community.  A nice dance and worth doing again. Won't make my top Ten list but maybe my Top 50 strathspey list. It certainly deserves to get a few more trials. And the second of the 'Hmmm' dances.

Betty Burke - Another Milton Levy dance. A good solid A dance - there is some sweet choreography here. The sequence - half reel, right hand turn, half reel is sweet. The first half reel starts with the corners dancing in, the last half reel starts with the corners dancing out, and the right hand turn is a brilliant way to transition the corners from the one to the other. The challenge for the corners is to change their pacing and temper their dancing during the right hand turn and allow the  first couple to get around them and into place for that second half reel. I have liked this dance for some time but never gotten a positive response and so haven't taught it often.

Again, I found the dance to be better than "OK", but needing a superior jig to make it 'sing'. And I have not loaded Bill Hendrie's recordings onto my new computer. I will get to that Tin Woodman CD Real Soon Now.

Colwyn's Ruby Reel - "yawn". Oh well. Remember - personal opinion here. don't take for the 'truth' - dance it and decide for yourself. And I would love to know Brian's reaction - he picked it and does he feel that it worked as well as he thought it would?

Once I Loved a Maiden Fair - this is the gem of the night. It too is from Marty Briggs. I was on the publication committee that put the book together and I don't remember the dance being THAT pretty. But looking at it again, for the first time in over 20 years - Oh My!  This is a nice dance with original choreography and a lovely entry into the Tournee. (Sorry 'bout that - it does have a Tournee - live with it and do it anyway). I certainly have my opinions, but when I hear someone watching a dance gasp and start to pay close attention I must be wrong and need to reconsider my prejudice. So three thank-yous are in order. One to Brian for going back into the archives and teaching the dance, one to Deborah for seeing what I missed and bringing it to my attention and one to Marty Briggs for her unique eye for choreography.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dancing on the Heights - 9 August 2010

The weather turned hot and muggy again and only four dancers showed up. That gave me the space to do some individual coaching. And, Hooray for me,  I had prepared a number of 2C dances so I wasn't scrambling for material.

One dance was completely new, one was a favourite from the Kilts and Ghillies Ball circa 2005 and the other two were recent finds of mine that have been given the top accolade of applause from the floor. Mind you there are two possible reasons for applause - either the dancers really liked the dance or they are really happy it is done and over with.

And regarding that favourite dance, Terry Glasspool's Gypsy Dreams - before tonight I have taught it only once in the last five years, and that was in April of this year. And it bothers me that when we find real gems, and Gypsy Dreams is definitely a gem, we don't make sure, by repetition, that the dance becomes part of our repertoire. And I know how difficult the initial teaching was, and tonight I was astonished at how inherently easy the dance really is. So why?

Susan Leff offered a solution - build up a repertoire of dances linked to the Kilts and Ghillies ball. This is what the Brooklyn, NY class does with their Drewry Night. They program the neat but difficult dances every other year or so. Worth considering.

Tonight's dances were:
Cubbie Roo  (32 J 2)  J. Attwood
The Burn of Sorrow  (32 S 2) B. Priddey
Lang May Your Lum Reek  (32 J 2) B. Priddey
Gypsy Dreams  (32 S 2) T. Glasspool
Elixabeth Adair  (32 J 2) Hugh Foss


Cubbie Roo - Jean Attwood. Worth a second take, mainly because I think different music would be a huge improvement. It was the first dance of the evening and that was probably a mistake. The dance requires mental clarity and precision. With neither minds nor legs warm precision was out of the question. A relentless dance, a proper set would have been a great relief.

The Burn of Sorrow - Dancers like this one (two trials and two positive responses). Me too. What I like is the contrast between the strong turn and loop that follows the initial right hands across and the much slower no turn and loop (in four) out of the left hands across. Too, I simply adore the tourbillon progression and was tickled pink when one of the dancers wanted to work on the timing. It is so lovely when done right.

The key to the tourbillon, IMHO, is the timing of the handing. The turn with partner is only a half turn - that puts 1M into position to dance down the Ladies' side into 2L's position and by dropping his left (partner's right) hand after just one step he gets to 'draw' her back to her place, where they then set on the sides with near hands joined. They turn again, again only half way, and that puts 1L in position to dance across to 2M's place. By dropping her left hand (partner's right) after just one step she gets to 'draw' 1M back to 2L's place. And here is the but - But the only way they can be in 2nd place on the sides across from one another is if they drop both hands. And here is the big but - BUT don't drop them at the same time! She should drop her left hand first and a moment later, after setting up the illusion of the draw, she should drop her right hand and dance across the set as 1M dances back into 2L's place. Couples now cross to own sides.

Another consideration - the nature of the figure is inherently curvy. From lines to turns (think 2 person circles) to lines and set. From lines to turns (again think circles) to the side lines and cross. Think covering too.

I am SO tempted to put this on the K&G ball.

Lang May Your Lum Reek - We have another Winnah! With sixteen bars of lullaby to get you to lower your guard, and then...  Wham! Eight bars of Rotating Ptolemaic Epicyclic Hello Goodbye setting no less. ( no lie - that is the name we came up with tonight - and not me, it was Bob Cole!) And the progression is one the simplest and most satisfying I have ever danced.

And, gulp, I did succumb to temptation and I have put it on the K&G program for April.

Gypsy Dreams - So beautiful! I have no other words. You have to dance this one at least once in your life. And once you have, once won't be enough. This is my #1 strathspey despite of the tournee.

Susan, you are absolutely right. So I promise, I will teach and program Gypsy Dreams more often.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New Haven Summer Social - 3 August 2010

Another warm muggy night. A front moved through early this afternoon and I just plain wilted. I showed up for dancing because I am the only one with key and code and, minor point, I was teaching tonight.
What was really nice was having 14 dancers. I can't remember the last time such a crew showed up.
The downside of the evening was the weather and the fact that no one, my self included, brought their A brains to the game.

Brian Haeckler will be teaching the next two Tuesdays.

Tonight's dances were:
The Gates of India  (32 J 4)  Jean Attwood
Twelvesome Reel  (32 R 6)  B. Priddey
Glayva  (32 J 2)  John Drewry
The Burn of Sorrow  (32 S 2)  B. Priddey
Bratach Bhana  (32 R 3)  J. Drewry
A Warm Winter's Evening  (32 S 4) S. Rusche


The Gates of India - From the lady who brought us The Falls of Rogie a dance for a folly. Standing on a Scottish hillside is, I am told, a replica of an Indian city gate build to provide employment during the great depression.

I honestly don't know what to say about this one.  Though a  bit more of a challenge than I figured, the dancers did appear to be enjoying themselves and no one was holding their nose. I am definitely going to teach this one again and will try to be in the set dancing it when I do.

Twelvesome Reel - the second go-round for this dance and not nearly as successful as the first, and most of the dancers were there the first time. Oh well. I'll give it another shot another time. (I still think it is a neat dance).

Glayva - I taught it out of Pilling and boy did I screw it up. Lovely dance when properly taught. 'Nough said.

The Burn of Sorrow - This one got a healthy round of applause! Simple, slightly asymmetrical and very interesting variations in light and shadow (control of step length). And I thought it was going to be a throwaway. Despicable me. (Wrong again - and glad to be). Another winner from Barry Priddey - checked and highlighted.

Bratach Bhana - Again. Why? Because it has been a very long time since it has been done on a regular basis and it is too good a dance to led fall into disuse. An early Drewry the only negative about the dance is the piece count. So many 2 and 4 bar chunks to remember. Oh well - deal with it - it's good for you.

I hate Microsoft software. I have the Andrew Rankine version on the computer. iTunes (for PC) can find and play it but Microsoft's Windows Media Player can not find it so I can't play it. And I have to use WMP because I need to adjust the speed of playback, and iTunes doesn't do that! Drat and Darn and other bad words. So I am stuck using the Colin Dewar Trio's version of Bratach Bhana and, pardon my french here, his version stinks out the house. The band is so bad (MHO) I almost didn't load it onto my computer. It has to be my only choice before I will play him.

A Warm Winter's Evening - By an old friend who used to dance in New Haven (while attending grad school). He wrote the dance while in Atlanta at Emory.

A simple strathspey that demands careful phrasing and covering. A simple challenger.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Haven Summer Social - 27 July 2010

As is almost always the case, especially after having six couples for the last two weeks, when I plan six-couple dances, and I prepared three of them, I only get five and a half couples. One more person, please, just one more...

Tonight's dances were:

Hana Strathspey  (32 S 3) Alex Gray
The Sea Caves  (32 R 5) Green - Southern Stars
The Glenora Ferry  (40 J 3)  Terry Glasspool
Ythanside  (32 S 3)  John Drewry
A Winter's Walk  (32 J 3)  Pam Stephens
The Black Craig of Dee  (32 R 3)  Hugh Foss


Hana Strathspey - I have the Tokyo 25th Anniversary CD with the music for this dance and the dance directions are in the liner notes. The music doesn't do it for me (what ever 'it' is), but the dancers liked it. The dance itself is a very basic dance - not a bad thing because there are basic dances and then there are boring basic dances which, according to the mob, this one isn't.

The dance is by Alex Grey, present chairman of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, who taught it at the New York Branch's Pawling Weekend this past May. It introduces his figure "The Helix" which is sweet.
I give it a 72 - but I am a tough grader.

The Sea Caves - By Jeff Green, whom I have never heard of before, but I hope to hear more of him in the future, 'cause this is a fun dance. It is from his Southern Stars Book.

What I find neat is the rather different progression - in a 5C set the usual is: 1s and 3s start together and after one round of the dance 1C is in 3rd place and 3C is at the bottom. So, starting at the top, each couple dances twice-and-to-the-bottom, just like all the 8x32 3C dances we have been doing since our first day of dancing.

Here 1C dance it once and end at the bottom while 3C end in top place and repeats from there. Different.
And for the active dancers in the reel of four - 8 bars is just enough time to dance half way round the set and I do mean just.

If I don't sound enthusiastic enough it is because I have been up since 5:30 this AM and I don't do mornings well at all. The dance made it onto my A list. OK?

The Glenora Ferry - by Terry Glasspool - by TERRY GLASSPOOL - ANOTHER good Terry Glasspool dance. Have you got it yet? Do I need to say more? Great dance. The circulating Allemande, where 1C (in 2nd place) start out and up while 2C 3C start out and down, is a thing of beauty.

Ythanside - a pastorale - another dance of surpassing beauty. Kudos to Leslie Kearney for introducing me to this dance. I had read it over but not recognized it for what it is. The high point is the last figure (circles) and the key to the circles is the last 4 bars of the previous figure:

Lines of 3 set a second time, then while 1C cast to own sides the 2 corner men, and the 2 corner ladies, turn BH half round in 2 bars. SLOWLY! and merge smoothly into the circles of three on the sides, then the circles of three must begin to speed up and merge into the circle of 6 which needs to keep accelerating to get everyone far enough round to make to own sides. Sweet! The previous 20 bars of dance is just a set-up for these last 12 bars.

Not only is it on my A list, it is in fact on my Top 50 Strathspey list, and is actually one of my top 10 strathspeys of all time. (And the music makes the dance so do use the right music).

A Winter's Walk - by Pam Stephens from Between the Rivers.  I like what Pam is doing. This is a fun dance and definitely on my A list of Top 50 Jigs. And Between the Rivers is one of my two favourite dance books - the other being Dunsmuir Dances from the Dunsmuir class in the San Francisco area. These books have more winners than any other 5 books of dances I have seen.

The Black Craig of Dee - One of my favourites. Love that music. Like the dance.

Dance by Hugh Foss,  music by Peter White. One of the top items on my "in-my-lifetime" wish list: that the Peter White/Hugh Foss albums be remastered and issued on CD.

The Foss dances are good, if not great, and certainly of historical importance, while the music Peter White wrote/arranged and plays approaches the sublime because theirs was a collaboration and the fit of music and dance is near perfect.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Haven Summer Social - 20 July 2010

Another warm muggy night, but not nearly the oven that the last couple of weeks were. Thank you lord.
Once again 12 dancers were present and, once again, thank you lord, 'cause that meant I could teach a 12-some reel by Barry Priddey that I have wanted to do for some time now - since the day the book arrived in the mail.

Thank you Susan and Ed for the lovely drippy watermelon, thank you Deborah for the veggie chips and thank you Bill and Alice for the seltzer.

Tonights dances were:
The Solway Reel  (48 R 4) Carlisle & Border Anniversary Bk.
Monadh Leath  (32 S 3) John Drewry
Twelvesome Reel  (32 R 6 square)  Barry Priddey
Unnamed Dance  (32 R 3) Bob Gregg
Bratach Bhana  (32 R 3) John Drewry


The Solway Reel - One of my favourite dances. And, contrary to the commonly held myth, some of the dances I like really are simple. I have found only one recording for this dance and it isn't very good so I continue to use Jimmy Blair's recording of Lady Sophia Anne of Bute. Good upbeat march tunes and the dancers respond to them.

It is interesting to note the difference that 9 years makes. (I last taught this in May 2001 and I know that it has been taught at least once by another New Haven teacher). Tonight dancers were on time - and what a difference that makes!

Monadh Leath - figure of note: balance in lines of 4 with Highland Schottische setting, dancers facing in alternate directions, into half reels of four. Lovely. The hardest part of the dance: getting the dancers to take hands and remake that line of four whenever possible, especially just before the entry into the half reels.

Twelvesome Reel - Oh my. I had NO idea.  I have been trying to diagram (pilling style) this dance since the book arrived. Usually, translating a dance's written directions into diagram form teaches me the dance - I get to see it as a whole pattern. Not this time.  So I finally just taught it from the book which I hate to do. And it was a delight to do. The last 8 bars are the only difficult part because the progression happens so quickly.

Formation - 4 couples in a square with 2 couples in the center ( #5 facing up to #1 and #6 facing down to #3) all proper (men on left, ladies on the right).

Heart of the Dance - parallel reels of four with head couples then with side couples. What makes the dance special is this - couples 5 & 6 do NOT pass left shoulder on bar 8 but cut the reels a little short, and the men get to do a twirl and really flip their kilts (ladies - enjoy the view!).

What follows is unique in my experience - there are four "teapots" - Right Hands Across for 3 dancers at each of the four corners of the set flowing into 1/4 chase while #s 5 & 6 dance half LHA into:  heads & centers change places with half RHA.

Bottom Line: Do it. Dancers were struggling but almost all of them had smiles on their faces even though it never quite came together for the full six rounds. Now #52 on my Top 50 Reels list.

Bratach Bhana - coming up soon - on Brooklyn's Drewry Night program. Great music if I can get my iTunes files read by Windows Media Player. The best version I have is by Andrew Rankine but it is way fast. I could slow it down with Windows Media Player if only Windows Media Player could find it. I really hate the Microsoft Windows world.

I like the dance as it is being done, but I like it better the way John originally wrote it. After the diagonal  promenade to change the corners he had 1C and corners turn into place, as couples, with pas de basque! I love it that way. The current style, to open out with skip change of step, is easier but has no soul, no panache. John must have taken a whole lot of grief because he almost never knuckles under to outside pressure.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Haven Summer Social - 13 July 2010

Last night was very warm and very sticky and still 12 dancers showed up. All but one regulars of the New Haven or Woodbridge classes and no one, regretfully, from another CT class.  That other was from New Jersey.

Tonight's dances were:

Reekie Linn  (32 J 2)  Jean Attwood leaflet
Rose and Woodbine  (32 S 3) SF 2
Mill of Fortune  (32 J 4) Jean Attwood leaflet
Gordon of Straloch  (32 S 3) Peter Price
It is Time  (32 S 3 set)  Wouter Joubert
The Cashmere Shawl  (32 S 3) Iain Boyd


Reekie Linn - I like the dance. I am not sure that anyone else did but that could be because I used it as a warmup and no one had a functioning brain at that point.

Rose and Woodbine (aka Asilomar Romantic) - Still one of my favourite dances. Definitely on my top 50 and maybe even on my top 10 list. 

Mill of Fortune - This one was my toughie of the night. The conceit of the dance is four sequential and simultaneous half reels of four and right hand turns. It is also a timing dance -  all the dancers need to be spot on for it to work and I may have over reached considering the weather and the melting brains. We managed a few clear rounds but I didn't see it coming together and called it quits. That's when I found out that they all liked the dance. So maybe it is a winter dance and not a dog-day-of-summer dance. This one is definitely worth the work.

Ke Nako (It is Time) - A brand new dance from Wouter Joubert of South Africa to celebrate the FIFA World Cup. 
I really liked the opening 8 bars into the Hello-G'bye setting. I didn't hear a whole lot of talk after but at least one other person liked it a lot.

The Cashmere Shawl - This one just made it onto my Top 50 Strathspey list. It doesn't read as such but it certainly dances that way. Recommended! I used the Hanneke Cassel and Dave Wiesler recording of Irongray. I sped it up a bit and it worked very nicely.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Haven Summer Social - 29 June 2010

Leslie Kearney taught.

The evening's dances were:
Robert's Reel  (32 S 3)  Dunsmuir Dances
Hanna's Pride  (32 J 3)  Dunsmuir Dances
The Fiddlehead  (32 S 3)  Dunsmuir Dances
Fair Ronny's Reel  (32 R 3)  Dunsmuir Dances
Outside the Box  (32 S 3)  Between the Rivers
The Stella Strathspey  (32 S 3 set) Bob Gregg - leaflet
Margot's Love  (32 J 3)  Dunsmuir Dances


All the dances but one were from  Dunsmuir Dances and Between the Rivers. And what incredible books they are. I don't think there is a boat anchor dance in either book. To put it another way - I am willing to spend money on a dance book if there are 2 good dances in it. In these books MOST of the dances are good, if not great. Mind you I wouldn't do all of them on a regular basis but many of them - oh yes.

From the Dunsmuir book: Maurice is perhaps my favorite strathspey of all time. Other favorites of mine are: Linnea's Strathspey, Miss Jane Muirhead, Mole's Frolic, and The Fiddlehead. I have enjoyed dancing these others too: Crowecombe and StogumberFair Ronny's ReelHanna's PrideMargot's LoveRobert's ReelThe SeamstressSleeper's Awake and Sunday Afternoon Jig.

I cannot think of another book that has such a high proportion of good dances in it - other than Between the Rivers. That book has 17 dances and I have danced and enjoyed the following: A Winter's WalkHolden My OwnOn Hudson CreekFoggy River ReelGypsy WeaverOutside the Box and The Silver Thistle Ball.

I can't speak of most of the other dances because I haven't danced them. The only one I haven't liked is A Wee Nothin' - not because it is a bad dance, it isn't - but it is so basic that it is no challenge at all - and I need to be challenged in some manner to find a dance interesting. (Note: this is a great dance for beginners or for a warm up early in a dance program).

To put all this in perspective: either Leslie or I have programed the following dances on the Kilts and Ghillies Ball:
Maurice, Linnea's Strathspey, On Hudson Creek, Gypsy Weaver, The Silver Thistle Ball, Holden My Own, and Mole's Frolic.

Too both Crowcombe and Stogumber and Miss Jane Muirhead of Dunsmuir have appeared on recent New Haven Highland Ball programs.

So kudos to Leslie for finding these books and being willing to work through them.  


The Stella Strathspey is a work in progress by Bob Gregg who taught it. The talk through had me squirming but once the dance got under way I found myself enjoying it. There are real possibilities here. Nice job!

The Fiddlehead - This is one where embroidery makes the dance - and I saw many missed opportunities. The secret to this dance is to turn the long way into place when ever possible- and there are many possibles.

The one place I disagree with Leslie's  interpretation is on bars 7-8.
The directions read:
     ... while 1st and 2nd women turn with left hands to
     face partners in a diagonal line between 1st man's 
     and 2nd woman's places.

Note: 1M ends these bars in 2L's place and 2M in top man's place while 1L starts in partner's place and 2L in home place.

Leslie had the ladies turning more than once round in 2 steps which I found busy. If I were to embroider the moment my preference would be to have them turn only half round (1 step) and pivot in place (1 step Lsh back) to face partner. This would be more in keeping with the curly theme of the fiddlehead (IMHO). The simplest interpretation however would be to have the ladies turn halfway in 2 bars and flow directly into the reel of four that follows. A Keep It Simple movement.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Haven Summer Social - 22 June 2010

Teachers were: Peter Price (just the warm up) and Leslie Kearney.

The Dances were:
Kendall's Hornpipe  (32 J 2) Graded Book #22
Three Quarters = Seventyfive Sense  (32 S 3 set)  Between the Rivers (Barnes)
The Bonny Heather  (32 S 2)  Between the Rivers (Ways)
Corrievrechan  (32 R 3)  Barry Priddey
A Trip to Lorient  (32 S 4)  RSCDS Leaflet 2008
Silver Thistle Ball  (32 S 3 set)  Between the Rivers
Sueno's Stone  (32 R 3)  RSCDS Leaflet 2008

New Haven Summer Social - 15 June 2010

Summer Social Dancing in New Haven has begun!
Tonight's Teacher was Leslie Kearney and tonight's dances were (in no particular order):

The Seamstress  (40 S 3 set) Claudette Sigg
Toad of Toad Hall  (32 R 3) Tom Winter
The Stolen Kiss  (32 S 3)  Claudette Sigg
Sleepers Awake  (32 R 3) Tom Winter
Sunday Afternoon Jig  (32 J 3) Shari Salis
New Dance  by Bob Gregg

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dancing on the Heights - 14 June 2010

Summer is here which means heat and humidity and no AC at the Friends. Deal with it. It is far better than having AC and cold muscle injuries. Too, it means I have fewer opportunities to teach and this blog gets a little slow.

We had 5 couples for the first part of the night. It was wonderful! Gold star to the Goldbergs who drove up from Brooklyn just for this class.  And another gold star for Deb Leary for the honey-gingerale recipe that is sooo good.

Tonight's dances were:
The Wee Cooper of Fife  (40 J 2) Hugh Foss
Gordon of Straloch   (32 S 3)  Peter Price
The Land of Oz  (32 R 3)  John Drewry
Lang May Your Lum Reek  (32 J 2) Barry Priddey
Bill Clement, MBE  (32 J 3) John Wilkinson
Castle Douglas  (32 S 3)  Roy Goldring


The Wee Cooper of Fife - I remember this dance with great fondness but have been mildly dissapointed both times I have taught it recently. Personally, the 10 bar phrases are no longer the marvelous oddity that used to be so much fun. And I find the dance to be what I call a "huffin' puffer" - a 2C dance with no let up or resting places build in. Not a problem when I was 30 and in good shape. An issue when 58 and dealing with creaky legs.

Gordon of Straloch - The music makes the dance. The band is Waverley Station led by Liz Donaldson; the CD is First Stop; the two tunes are "Rorate coeli" and "I long for thy virginitie". The latter from the Straloch Lute Book of 1627 from whence the name of the dance comes. The music is sublime. The dance is pretty and is published on the Eight by Thirty Two web site (here).

The Land of Oz - from Drewry's Australian Book. Another Huffin' Puffer! But boy do I like the transition from chase and cross into circle! But I am now thinking perhaps not for a ball program that already includes The Wee Cooper of Fife - too many Huffin' Puffers is not a good thing.

Lang May Your Lum Reek - I have thaught this before and commented on it before. The third 8 bars relies on good, strong, accurate pas de basque steps. In other words you gotta move!

Bill Clement, MBE - Eh. It's OK. But it will never make my top 50 list.

Castle Douglas - I have been teaching this dance since 1995, and it continues to be one of my favourites. Take a special partner for this one.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

11 May 2010 - Dancing on the Heights

A wonderful night! I had a full set, I had some music on the new computer and taught dances that I had music for but hadn't prepared. And it went really well.

Tonight's dances were:
Coming Through the Rye (40 J 3) San Francisco 2
Knights' Heys (32 H 3) T. Glasspool
Glencoe (32 S 4) B. Priddey - Tam O'Shanter Book
The Pride of the Murray (32 H 3) I. Boyd - World Around the Corner
Gypsy Weaver (32 S 3) Between the Rivers (A. Peet)


Coming Through the Rye - The first 24 bars are pure dead brilliant. The sequential parallel reels are stunning. The asymmetry gives it spice and when covered it is simply mahvelous. Peanut gallery piped up and declared it a ball dance. Who am I to argue with them? It is now on the short list.

Knights' Heys - Wow! I put this on the 2003 K&G Ball and haven't taught it since. My bad because it is a wonderful, joyous dance and how quickly we forget. It is one of Terry's best dances and he has many very good ones.

Glencoe - Mixed reviews on this one. Positive feedback from several and negative feed back from several. My personal feelings are equally mixed. I will put it this way: not up to the standards of Rakes of Auld Reekie or Maurice, but few dances are. This one is a good solid middle ground strathspey that is a little bit different.

The Pride of the Murray - I liked it in 2006 when I put it on that year's K&G Ball. I still like it and tonight's dancers all liked it. The moving turns and the social warmth of the "invitation" to 3M and 3L to join the turns and form teapots make the dance memorable.

Gypsy Weaver - Oh My Goodness Gracious. What beautiful music and what a beautiful dance. Top 10 contender! It is right up there with Maurice and Rakes of Auld Reekie.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

5 May 2010 - Wilton Class

Another late start and small class. It was also very warm and I was very distracted. My Mac crashed, I lost all my music and the Apple stores don't work on "antiques". I am now the owner of a PC and feeling like I stepped back into the stone age. All very depressing. Which affected the class negatively - and before you ask, no I was not able to leave it at the door.

I had to bring cds - and that is just about as bad as having to use tapes (remember those?).

Tonight's dances were:
The Burn of Sorrow (32 S 2) B. Priddey
Wedding in St. Monans (32 J 3) Mary S. Brandon
The Pride of the Murray (32 H 3) Iain Boyd
Bill Clement, MBE (32 J 3) John Wilkinson


The Burn of Sorrow: Nothing special. I may need to find better music (when I have the new pc up and running and the basic library of SCD music is installed).

Wedding in St. Monans - Needs a four couple set for proper test. Three couples means too much fudging with the progression.

The Pride of the Murray - I like this dance! So did tonight's crew. And so they should, they liked it enough that I put it on the 2006 K&G Ball for them.

Bill Clement, MBE - Again I wish I had the right music, because the music I picked it proved to be nothing special.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wilton Class – 27 April 2010

There was a very full moon that night - I was already distracted and no body else brought their brains. Hard work all around. The evening was also a guinea pig session: I had several dances I wanted to look at in regards to programing them on the next K&G Ball. I need to do these testings because my eye often leads me astray - I think most dances are easy and most people think I am abnormal and need a reality check.

The night's dances (there were only three):
The Wee Cooper of Fife (40 J 2) H. Foss - Song Tunes
Linnea's Strathspey (32 S 3) Dunsmuir Dances a
The 51st Travelers (32 J 3) 44/9 (S. Turton)


The Wee Cooper of Fife – 4 figures of 10 bars each - I love this dance and I am, in fact, so prejudiced that I am having trouble assessing accurately how it will work on a ball program, and yes Virginia, I am already working on the 2011 K&G Ball program. But I love the music for this dance, I really like the dance itself, I think it is total fun. Apparently not everyone agrees with me.

Linnea's Strathspey – Another dance I really like. Last 'taught' 26 April 2008 when it was on the K&G Ball. The dance hangs on the turning couple in the middle of the Half Chain Progression. For some reason the concept of a 4 bar turn going once and a half round was beyond some of the dancers, and getting that concept across was certainly beyond me. Yeuuch.

The 51st Travelers – Ralph Page, an old time contra caller from New Hampshire, had a category of dances that he called "little stinkers" - and this is one. There is no wiggle room, no chance of recovery if the dancers bobble and there is a lot here that can be bobbled. Not a dance for a ball and here I was thinking it was - until I saw it danced by real people and not the shadow dancers in my head. A dance for young legs.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Re: Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance 2010

I also want to lend my thanks to a most successful K&G Ball ( or should I say Tea Dance this past weekend?) I don`t know if it was the musicians, the dance program, the hour of the day, or the dancers themselves but the sum total far exceeded its individual parts in terms of pure joy. I`ve been to many, many Balls over the years but there was just that extra something, whatever it was, that, IMHO, will keep this among the best I`ve attended. Thank you, Peter, and to all who were part and parcel of this wonderful dance, God bless you all!
Jeff Rossman

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wilton Class - 20 April 2010

Usually the first class after a ball is going to be on the small side, and tonight was no exception. I am not sure I was all there either as I am definitely suffering from post ball depression. After exhilarating highs come the Death Valley lows.

Tonight there were only four dances:
The March Hare (32 R 3) I. Boyd
Gypsy Dreams (32 S 2) T. Glasspool
St. Patrick’s Day (24 J 2) Herbold & Price
Phyllis’ Fancy (32 S 2) B. Priddey


The March Hare
– This was in my section of warm up dances and that was a mistake. No way no how should this be a warm up dance. Not a bad dance actually, kind of a bunny hop thing. Kind of fluffy.

Gypsy Dreams – Another home run from Terry Glasspool. The first three figures of the dance are inspired, one might say pure dead brilliant. There is a but though. The dance has one minor flaw - the Tournée. However, of all the dances that have the Tournée, this dance comes closest to making it palatable.

I taught this dance to this group in 2005, and tournée was a problem for them then and it was still a problem now. But definite progress was made tonight. I took a slightly different tack. Usually the figure is described as 1 bar to come in, 2 bars of rotation, and then, on bar 4, you turn your partner with one hand or the other to put you in position for the barn door turns that follow.

What I see is: 1 bar in, 2 bars to rotate and 5 bars of barn door turns. And that means that at the end of bar 3 couples need to be facing correctly and there is no time to ponder the situation.
The upper couple turns with upper hands/lower couple turns with lower hands - that began to get through and seems to have made a difference with at least 2 dancers, both of whom have severe right/left challenges.

But the teaching/learning process is so ugly. The figure is completely devoid of helpful clues. It is rote memorization and repetition. And when done right it is a pretty thing. But is it worth the effort?

St. Patrick's Day – Not the RSCDS version which is an abortion and not worth the effort. Instead the version that Bruce Herbold and I came up with.

Society says: Right Hands Across half round in four bars. Then poussette back to place in four bars. That is - out and turn, move and turn, into the middle and fall back. Oh, and one more thing, make it look elegant …Righhht!

I say: Right Hands Across half way in the [otherwise] standard two bars, then you have six bars to poussette - out on 3, turn on 4, move on 5, turn on 6, into the middle on 7, fall back to place on 8.

The rest of the dance is Bruce's: Down the middle for 4, change places with partner with a California Twirl (woman under joined hands, man across below ptnr), and lead up to 2nd place.
Dance RHA with 2C, 1C turn RH x 1_1/2 to own sides.

Phyllis' Fancy – From the pen of Barry Priddey but not one of his greatest. It is a 'safe' dance: no risk so only slight reward. I'd put it on a program when a mental breather is needed.