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)