Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wilton Class - 30 March 2010

10 dancers tonight, such luxury. But some of them have been away for a while and have had no exposure to the dances on this year's Kilts and Ghillies Ball - so once again…

Tonight's dances were:
Holden My Own (32 J 3) Between the Rivers
Dundee Whaler (32 S 4) Roy Clowes - Ormskirk
Blooms of Bon Accord (32 R 4) J. Drewry - Deeside
Sage and Salsa (32 M 3 set) J. Lataille - Still Enough to Dance
Back to Back (32 J 3) T. Glasspool
Maurice (32 S 2) Dunsmuir Dances


Back to Back – The Push-Me-Pull-You Reels! Pure Dead Brilliant! But be open to the other dancers; dance with your head up and eyes wide open, and not so focused on your part that you become a victim of tunnel vision.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

27 March 2010 - K&G Ball Workshop at NHFM

Fourteen dancers convened for the first ever K&G Ball workshop.

The dances taught were:
Mole’s Frolic (32 J 3) Dunsmuir Dances (T. Winter)
Anna Holden’s Strathspey (32 S 2) 42/2 (Drewry)
On Hudson Creek (32 H 3) Between the Rivers
Maurice (32 S 2) Dunsmuir Dances (G. Thomas)
The Nurseryman (32 J 3) 37/7
The White Cockade (32 R 3) 5/11
Rakes of Auld Reekie (32 S 2) B. Priddey - Golden Oriole Book
Reel of the 51st (32 R 4/5C set) 13/10


To warm the minds as well as the bodies I used Mole's Frolic and The White Cockade.

Anna Holden's Strathspey – The key to the dance is the first figure. Get that and the dance is yours. Whether you dance it big or dance it with control doesn't really matter but above all dance the figure as one smooth move and keep it covered and on time.

On Hudson Creek – This dance is about being just in time and that grey area where reels of four and turns intersect. The report from the floor was "lovely dance" - and I concur. Another keeper.

The Nurseryman – I will let you in on a secret (if I have already done so in an earlier post it is worth repeating) the heart and soul of this dance is not the Inverting Double Triangles. Rather it is the transition from the LHs Across on the sides which should open up early into wide sweeping curves ending in lines of three across the dance that then surge into the advance and retire. For me THAT is the dance.

Rakes of Auld Reekie – I have said this before and I'm saying it again: Dance it boldly, dance it strongly and dance it crisply. Wimps need not apply. And God how I love that final figure!

Woodbridge Class - 26 March 2010

Last week (19 March 2010) I had a family emergency and canceled class - they, wise people that they are, thought to call on a substitute and held class without me.

The Dances on the 19th were:
The Duchess Tree (32 S 3) J. Drewry
Maurice (32 S 2) Dunsmuir Dances (G. Thomas)
Back to Back (32 J 3) T. Glasspool
Montgomeries' Rant (32 R 3) 10/1

Tonight's dances were:
The March Hare (32 R 3) I. Boyd
Blooms of Bon Accord (32 R 4) J. Drewry
Anna Holden's Strathspey (32 S 2) 42/2
Glen Falloch (32 J 3) J. Attwood
Major Ian Stewart (32 J 3) 35/4
Dundee Whaler (32 S 4) R. Clowes


The March Hare – The hardest part of the dance is the 3rd figure - 1C, back to back in the center, set twice to 1st corner, set twice to 2nd corner. And what is so difficult about that? Nothing. Which is why I have a flat forehead, I smack it every time dancers make the figure hard on themselves, which is all too often.

You can tell them, tell them again, tell them that you told them and they will still leave enough room between themselves and their partners that a Mack truck could drive between them. It is not rocket science, it is simple geometry. The closer to the center you can stand the shorter the distance you have to travel when you move to face your 2nd corner. The closer to your corner you are the longer the distance you have to travel. So why do so many of you make it hard for yourself? For sure I dunno, and I sure don't get it.

Blooms of Bon Accord – It has been several years since I taught this. And I love it. Especially to the "wrong" music. Cocker's Roses is a nice enough tune but the only version I have includes a bunch of very campy tunes. Some people like that, I don't. But I love the set of tunes for Angus MacLeod - which are 'Angus MacLeod' and 'Pulling Bracken'. It is the set of tunes we used when I danced on the dem team, and nothing since then has felt as 'right', not even the 'proper' sets.

Anna Holden's Strathspey – A dance for control freaks, especially the first 8 bars. If you don't have the control then you better dance it big and expand the set. One way or the other it is not easy to get the cross/cast into the barn door turns to fit together smoothly. But do it and you have the key to the dance.

Glen Falloch – You tell and they don't believe you - Yes Virginia, the interleaved Reel of 3 and R&L by the corners really will work. And to watch the expressions on the dancer's faces transform from serious doubt to mixed feelings to joy is priceless.

Dundee Whaler – A simple dance, but almost nobody knows what "petronella" is these days. "Set and petronella turn" it is all they know. A "petronella" is "petronella turn and then set", four times, back to original place. And it isn't like we're neglecting our teaching. It is just that there are so very few dances that have petronella in them and so very many Drewry dances, and others, with the other.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Westchester Class - 24 March 2010

My series here in Westchester is ending and that means Party Time!

The dances were:
Machine without Horses (32 J 3) 12/12
Miss Jane Muirhead of Dunsmuir (32 S 3) Dunsmuir Dances
Auchindrain (32 R 3) P. Price - leaflet
Glen Feshie (32 S 3) Grampian Collection
Flowers of Edinburgh (32 R 3) 1/6
Rakes of Auld Reekie (32 S 2) B. Priddey

Kendall's Hornpipe (32 J 2) Gr. 22
Monymusk (32 S 3) 11/2
Reel of the 51st (32 R 4/5C set) 13/10
Scottish Reform (32 J 2) 3/1

Two dances planned but not danced (bunch of party poopers! Where's the vim, the vigor? Where were the bitter enders last night?)
Gordon of Straloch (32 S 3)
Mairi's Wedding (40 R 3) Cosh

Today my time is short and I must run, so more later.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wilton Class – 23 March 2010

A very small class last night that started late and ended early.

The dances were:
The Red Baron (32 R 2) Iain Boyd-Katherine's Book
Maurice (32 S 2) Dunsmuir Dances (Gary Thomas)
Haste to the Wedding (32 J 2) 25/6
On the Quarterdeck (32 H 2) Harbour City
Anna Holden's Strathspey (32 S 2) 42/2 (John Drewry)


Maurice – the transition from the half reel of four into the poussette right round has always been one of the more difficult elements of this dance, and they are getting it! its taken a while but it is happening. And they are beginning to smile!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Westchester Class - 17 March 2010

The best laid plans o' mice and men…

My next to last session with Westchester for this year (sigh), my last chance for getting in any of my specials and what do I get? Two brand new dancers. And that trash cans much of what I had planned for the evening. But the early indication is they are likely to stick! Yes!

Tonight's dances were:
The Red Baron (32 R 2) I. Boyd - Katherine’s Book
Lang May Your Lum Reek (32 J 2) B. Priddey - SDA #72
Phyllis Dixon Ivory (32 S 3) M. Briscoe - leaflet
My Ain Hoose (32 J 2) H. Foss - Glendarroch #5
Glen Feshie (32 S 3) Grampian
Montgomeries’ Rant (32 R 3) 10/1


The Red Baron – Always a fun dance, but with no set tune or recording I don't always pick the 'best' music. Tonight was one such night. I used The Reivers and I won't do that again. Not that the music was bad, it just didn't work with the dance. And I listened to it with that intent. So much for that.

Lang May Your Lum Reek – The Wednesday night special. Hard work but worth it I think. I mean, there was applause after it was all over so the dancers must have liked something. And the simplicity of the progression (bars 28-32) leaves me tickled pink with joy and, because I didn't think of it first, green with envy.

Phyllis Dixon Ivory – On the face of it an easy dance. The reality is bit different. There is some subtlety here and, my apologies to you all, I knew the beginners were coming up soon so I didn't take the time I knew was needed to get it across.

The dance was written in memory of Kim McGarrity, leader of the band Fiddlesticks and Ivory. I knew her from my SD trip to Hawaii. She is missed.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wilton Class – 16 March 2010

It was another small class tonight, we eked out 3 couples, and it almost didn't happen. Start time is advertised as 7:30pm and tonight's actual was 8:20 or so.

Tonight's dances:
Kendall’s Hornpipe (32 J 2) Gr. 22
Miss Jane Muirhead of Dunsmuir (32 S 3) Dunsmuir Dances
Montgomeries’ Rant (32 R 3) 10/1
Glen Feshie (32 S 3) Grampian
On Hudson Creek (32 H 3) Between the Rivers
Sage and Salsa (32 M 3 set) J. Lataille - Still Enough to Dance
Flowers of Edinburgh (32 R 3) 1/6


Miss Jane Muirhead of Dunsmuir – The first time I saw the directions to this dance my response was "uninspired". A few weeks later I actually danced it and the note on my card was immediately crossed out and the new one reads "very sweet". The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Montgomeries’ Rant – There is a reason why this a perennial favourite. It has been way too long since I last taught it.

Glen Feshie – I programmed this dance on the 2004 Kilts and Ghilllies Ball and I just can't believe six years have passed and I have taught it only once in that time (until tonight).
The secret for this dance is choice of music - I have been using the Peter White arrangement for Kendoon Strathspey. It is fun, doesn't take itself too seriously and leaves everyone with a light smile on their face, and they notice that. And they like the fit.

On Hudson Creek – Another night, another success. So far all four class (New Haven, Westchester, Wilton, Woodbridge) have given it high marks. I kinda figured it would be a good one and finally got it to fit on a program. It has been on my shortlist since August 2007.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Woodbridge Class - 12 March 2010

Tonight's dances were:
Holden My Own (32 J 3) Between the Rivers
Rakes of Auld Reekie (32 S 2) B. Priddey
On Hudson Creek (32 H 3) Between the Rivers
The Nurseryman (32 J 3) 37/7
Sage and Salsa (32 M 3 set) J. Lataille - Still Enough to Dance

Not much to say tonight. The dancing went well, the class enjoyed the dances. There were smiles all around. Life is good.

Rakes of Auld Reekie – When I filled out a set on Wednesday a couple of points made themselves known. The nature of the dance calls out for strong dancing or, as I put it tonight, dancing "large": crisp, clean, strong steps; strong arms; and clean phrasing. There is nothing "small" about this dance. Don't be a namby-pamby, don't wimp-out in this dance. Dance bold! I did not pick the right music tonight. The Beauty of the North just doesn't have it,

On Hudson Creek – If you are a teacher please give this dance a try. I saw a number of wide-eyed looks during the dance, but not wide eyed in horror or fear - rather they were wide eyed in pleasant surprise. This dance brings smiles with it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Westchester Class - 10 March 2010

Tonight's dances:
The Mad Hatter (32 J 3) Iain Boyd – Happy to Meet
On Hudson Creek (32 H 3) Between the Rivers (J. Sawin et al)
Rakes of Auld Reekie (32 S 2) B. Priddey - Golden Oriole Book
Maurice (32 S 2) Dunsmuir Dances (Gary Thomas)
Mole’s Frolic (32 J 3) Dunsmuir Dances (Tom Winter)
Gramachie (32 S 3) Misc 1


On Hudson Creek – for this dance what do dancers need to know? Fractions! They need to know exactly what and how far a half reel of four goes, and they need to know how far a three-quarters turn goes. And do them in exactly 4 and 2 bars respectively (more or less). Heaven help they who, in the half reel, just HAVE to take hands before they complete their left shoulder pass. Quickly now! By how much does that change the turn?

Rakes of Auld Reekie – Oh me oh my, how I like this dance. Along with Maurice this one a "no doubt" top 10 winner. It does takes some work to put the pieces together especially the timing which is on the subtle side. I have been using a set of melodic, smooth strathspeys, but in filling out a set tonight I realized that the dance works better to strong traditional tunes. Dancers can't be genteel with this one. Strong steps, strong dancing make the dance. Good dancing rewarded.

Maurice – Following on the heels of RoAR this was a case of biting off more than I could chew. I ended up behind schedule and made the beginner class wait as we (finally) danced it through. But it was coming together. Once again, good dancing rewarded.

Gramachie – A solid, doable, reasonably pleasant dance done to solid performed reasonably pleasant music. Not exhilarating, but OK. Is this a case of damning through faint praise? Perhaps. I wouldn't want to do the dance on a regular basis, and I would certainly prefer better music. I chose it because I needed a dance for a mixed set (including true beginners) and it filled the bill.

On Hudson Creek, Maurice, Rakes of Auld Reekie and Mole's Frolic are all on the Kilts and Ghillies Ball (coming real soon now).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wilton Class - 9 March 2010

Tonight's dances:

Mole’s Frolic (32 J 3) Dunsmuir
Rakes of Auld Reekie (32 S 2) B. Priddey - Golden Oriole
The White Cockade (32 R 3) 5/11
Sage and Salsa (32 M 3 set) J. Lataille - Still Enough to Dance
The Caithness Heart (32 R 2) J. Attwood - leaflet
Winter Wonder (32 R 3) J. Lataille - Fun for All Seasons
Anna Holden’s Strathspey (32 S 2) 42/2
The Cadger’s Roadie (32 J 2) M. Zadworny - Aye Afloat


Mole's Frolic – I have now taught this dance 13 times since 6 February 2009 and it continues to thrill me.

Rakes of Auld Reekie – The dance was looking very good tonight. The timing of the reels is finally beginning to fall into place for the Wilton dancers. Interesting thing though - I do not have a recording of North Bridge of Edinburgh so I am using The Earl of Northampton on Boston's Celebrate 50 Years CD. And dancers get mesmerized and forget what they are supposed to be doing when. The ball happens in 5 weeks and, at this point in time, I can only hope that the name tune works half as well as The Earl does.

Sage and Salsa – Still fresh, still fun, still medium hot.

The Caithness Heart – A nice simple dance but just different enough to keep me interested and it is on my shortlist for the next ball, so a keeper and then some.

Winter Wonder – Read my earlier comments - a keeper and also on the shortlist for our 2011 ball.

Anna Holden's Strathspey – A nice dance but it doesn't hold up to repetitions over time. I am thankful that the band and I have agreed to 3 couple sets and only 6 times through. Rounds 7 & 8 would be well on the way to boring.

The Cadger's Roadie – Yuck, what a disaster. Not the dances fault, ours. We all ran out of gas, myself included. The best thing to do is forgive and forget and come back to it at a later date.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Westchester Class - 3 March 2010

Tonight's Dances:
Cabbages and Kings (32 J 3) Harbour City
The Valentine (32 S 3) 5 Dances 2009
Reel of the 51st (32 R 4/5C set) 13/10
Auchendrain (32 R 3) Price - leaflet
Kendall’s Hornpipe (32 J 2) Gr. 22
The White Cockade (32 R 3) 5/11
Delvine Side (32 S 3) 2/9


Cabbages and Kings – a nice simple introduction to corners. Needed as there was a brand spankin' new dancer in attendance tonight.

The Valentine – I stunk up the hall on this one. I remembered most of the major points but missed the one where couples turn half round, take hands in lines of three, and set. I forgot
the "and stay close to partner" piece. The dancers struggled - I wonder why? Some dancers found the handing in the final 8 bars a little fussy. Eh.
Bottom line: When competently taught this is a nice dance - especially with a significant partner and you're both in the mood for some fun. In moderation if you please.

Reel of the 51st – Experimental version for 4C.

I have wanted to try this for a while and for a number of reasons. Firstly because I have a recording from a Dundee band (Cavendish, was Tim Wright's) with most of the arrangements played 10 times through; and I have heard that 5C sets are the norm in Dundee; and I recall (misremember?) that the deviser of the dance was from Dundee. So adding 2 + 2 and getting 5, I'd bet that he intended the dance to be done in 5C sets, and that it was intended to be as a 4C dance, not a 3C dance as published in Book 13.

Too, I have always felt that bars 3-8 had a problem - a little too much music for the distance to be covered. So 1C has to hold back in order not to arrive early - and this does not fit the music! And it shows in the dancing! Poorly.

So tonight I had the opportunity to teach it as a 4C dance and we found that 1C has just enough time to cast behind 3 couples (2s, 3s and 4s) dance in below 4C and lead up to corners. No holding back, no disconnect with the music, better looking - just better.

So, on the basis of tonight's test I will go out on a limb and say that Reel of the 51st Division was originally written as a 4C dance to be done in a 5C set. And, God how I love this part, I get to decree it will be done that way at the Kilts and Ghilllies Spring Ball on 17 April 2010. (Right, I am done gloating now.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wilton Class – 2 March 2010

We actually had a class tonight! The last three weeks in a row we had to cancel due to weather (twice) and illness. It is also the last class before the New Haven Highland Ball so the pressure was on for the two of us that are going and since I already know the dances the pressure is really on only one of us. Thank you all who quietly tolerated the accelerated run through of ball dances.

Tonight's dances were:
Holden My Own (32 J 3) Between the Rivers (P. Stephens)
My Friend Joe (32 S 3) 38/2 (Bob Campbell)
The Music Makars (32 R 3) 33/1 (R. Goldring)
She’s Ower Young to Marry Yet (32 S 3) 14/8
Quarries’ Jig (32 J 3) 36/3 (K. Smith)
The Quaich (32 S 3) Drewry - Rondel Book


Holden My Own – A nice pleasant doable dance but on the Kilts & Ghillies, not the New Haven, Ball. A keeper for sure.

My Friend Joe – A Bob Campbell (of Bonny Stronshiray and Australian Ladies fame) dance. Pleasant and doable with a down side - lots of pieces and variations on standard formations. The challenge is get it all to fit together smoothly.

The Music Makars – I am glad I am not briefing this dance. Lovely dance but difficult to talk through coherently. Being able to *show* the pattern is sooo nice.

She's Ower Young to Marry Yet – In my opinion this is the sleeper of the year. As I have said before the heart of the dance is the two transitions from the circles into straight lines. And when they get it right the dance, which doesn't look like much on paper, starts to shine.

Quarries' Jig – Very little wiggle room if you err. A 'tight' little dance that rewards good crisp dancing.

The Quaich – The challenge in this dance is control of the set size. The 'petronella' figure must needs expand the length of the set to accommodate all 3 couples in line, then 1L and 3M have to be sure to unexpand the set. Then there is Rondel. It is not a difficult figure in concept so why oh why is it so difficult to actually execute properly?

Arches: by 2nd couple when dancing up and by the men when dancing across. This is not rocket science but it is the most egregious error I see and I see it all too often.

Timing: 3, 3, and 2. Again, not rocket science. But how often do you get it right? It is one step to change places (under the arch) one step to cross with partner changing sides, and finally one step to loop and meet neighbor on the sidelines (i.e. the two men meet as do the two women). And it is on the very start of bar 4 that you take hands and not a moment sooner! Repeat these 3 bars in new orientation. Final arch to progress on bars 7&8.

I want to scream when I see dancers stop after bar 2 and wait during bar 3 for the other dancer to complete their loop! And then there are the dancers who can't wait to take hands and so have their arches up and are halfway across the set by the end of bar 3. And then they wonder why the formation doesn't work!! Arrggh the frustration of it all.