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.