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.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Kilts and Ghillies Ball - 17 April 2010

To the Organizers: How could I? Mea culpa.
There is a reason why I don't like to be and should not be an MC - I can't remember diddly when I am in 'briefing' mode.

Richard and Donna Ives - you who did most of the organizing:
for all that you did that we know about and especially for all that you did that we don't know about. Thank you.

Molly and David Keller - kudos and thanks to you too. Mollie once again did the registrar thing, and did it superbly; and David created the booklets.

Leslie Kearney - who created the flier and briefed the first half. Belatedly - thank you. Especially for Maurice which was a sheer delight and break down free.

To the anonymous not so few - who opened, and set up, and cleaned up, and broke down, and baked and cooked and fed us delicious goodies: Thank you too.

To all of you who I failed to name you have my sincere apologies and my equally sincere thanks.

The Band:
Rebecca McCallum (fiddle) and Jim Stevenson-Mathews (piano)! One person commented that there was more music from this duo than from last year's trio. And good music is 80% of the battle - in other words: so so music will sink a very good program but good music will more than carry a so so program. And when you have both good music and a good program…

The Program - very well received indeed. We started with 48 dancers and at the end of the evening not only had very few people left early, very few people were sitting out. Most people were up for most of the dances. I counted 40 dancers on the floor for Reel of the 51st.

The new 3-7 pm "tea" dance format was a success - so the same again next year. One suggestion made was to reinstate the meal, but to eat after the dance. I like it! Thank you Susan Leff!

So, as constituted, this year was a success.

What worked:
1) The new 'Tea Dance" format
2) The band
3) The program (I will have a challenge maintaining this standard).
4) No anthems (entirely subjective)

Changes I would like to see:
1) catered meal after
2) one additional band member for a fuller sound- a second fiddler?
3) 8 or more additional dancers

The dances were:
Mole’s Frolic (32 J 3) Dunsmuir (Tom Winter)
Anna Holden’s Strathspey (32 S 2) 42/2
The White Cockade (32 R 3) 5/11

Holden My Own (32 J 3) Between the Rivers (P. Stephens)
Sage and Salsa (32 M 3 set) J. Lataille - Still Enough to Dance
Montgomeries’ Rant (32 R 3) 10/1

The Nurseryman (32 J 3) 37/7
Maurice† (32 S 2) Dunsmuir (Gary Thomas)
Blooms of Bon Accord (32 R 4) Drewry - Deeside 2


Glen Falloch (32 J 3) Jean Attwood - Alexander 2
Rakes of Auld Reekie (32 S 2) B. Priddey - Golden Oriole Bk
On Hudson Creek (32 H 3) Between the Rivers (J. Sawin et al)

Back to Back (32 J 3) T. Glasspool - Itch to Dance
The Dundee Whaler (32 S 4) R.Clowes - Ormskirk
The Westminster Reel (32 R 2) 45/1

Major Ian Stewart (32 J 3) 35/4
The Duchess Tree (32 S 3) Drewry - Brodie Book
Reel of the 51st Division (32 R 4/5C set) 13/10

Mole’s Frolic – Close, but still not the perfect opening dance. It is just a wee bit too energetic for a warm up dance in MHO. I will keep looking for that perfect blend of mental and physical stimulation. I see no sense in having the first dance, or any dance for that matter, a 'throwaway' which Mole's Frolic isn't.

Anna Holden’s Strathspey
This one worked out better than I thought it would. I was getting a bit tired of it.

The White Cockade – Simple but still fun, and the music is classic.

Holden My Own
– just different enough to make a simple dance fresh and enjoyable.

Sage and SalsaYumm!

Montgomeries’ Rant – There is a reason why this is a standard repertoire dance - it is a classic.

The Nurseryman
– I missed this one: I had an offer I couldn't refuse so I was sitting it out.

Maurice – It was beautiful and over all too soon. Teaching it is a real chore, seeing the pattern is also a chore, but when it all comes together - Oh my!

Blooms of Bon Accord – I am going to commit heresy - I like the dance, I don't like the tune. I am so used to the McBain's Band recording of Angus MacLeod (which is the music we used in dem) that I am spoiled.


Glen Falloch
– I saw some sets struggling with this one but most dancers ended up smiling. I think this dance is on par with her other dance The Falls of Rogie.

Rakes of Auld Reekie – I asked the band to play the music strong and bold. They did. And the experience was extraordinary. Right up there with Maurice on the "Top Ten Strathspeys" list that I keep and I will remember it as one of the top ten dance experiences of my life. Thank you set!

On Hudson Creek – Another dance with potential for break downs that never happened. And I just love the flow from the reels into the turns. The key is not to take the instructions too seriously but allow the flow to happen naturally and turn far enough to face your next corner.

Back to Back
– Thank you Leslie Kearney for introducing us to this dance in 2007. Another fun often dance that deserves more dance time then it gets.

The Dundee Whaler – Truth be told not a dance I care for. But it was late in the program and I needed a dance of little mental effort. It filled the bill. No one asked for a repeat and I didn't expect that anyone would.

The Westminster Reel – A nice wee dance, not hard, but needing a bit of concentration.

Major Ian Stewart
– On the program because everyone should know it (and everyone did). Also on the program because I like Hello-G'bye setting (but my legs were toast and I sat it out).
But I liked what I saw which was every one having fun.

The Duchess Tree – At one time this was a favourite of mine. It has slipped off of my "Top Ten Strathspeys" list. The slow tunes, while very pretty just can't compare with hot bold strathspeys.

Reel of the 51st Division – We danced this as a 4C dance in 5C sets - and I will never, ever again, want to dance it as published in Book 13. This one was just about perfect. More time to rest the weary legs, more time to chat with partner and others without danger of missing a beat. Better flow and timing in the first figure.

For those who attended the potluck after and enjoyed my soup–

Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup
Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray
Show: 30 Minute Meals
Episode: 30-Minute Veggie Feast

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cups canned or packaged vegetable stock
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained
2 cans (15 ounces) pumpkin puree (found often on the baking aisle)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon curry powder, 1 palm full
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/2 palm full
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, eyeball it in the palm of your hand
Coarse salt
20 blades fresh chives, chopped or snipped, for garnish

Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add oil. When oil is hot, add onion. Saute onions 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, black beans and pumpkin puree. Stir to combine ingredients and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and stir in cream, curry, cumin, cayenne and salt, to taste. Simmer 5 minutes, adjust seasonings and serve garnished with chopped chives.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Woodbridge Class - 16 April 2010

A small class tonight but what was new and different was the air of calm - nobody running in circles screaming and shouting in the midst of a full blown panic attack over tomorrow's ball. How nice!

Tonight's dances were:
The Westminster Reel (32 R 2) 45/1
The Duchess Tree (32 S 3) Drewry - Brodie Book
Holden My Own (32 J 3) Between the Rivers (P. Stephens)
Rakes of Auld Reekie (32 S 2) B. Priddey - Golden Oriole Book


I have nothing more to say about these dances or the other dances on tomorrows ball except for The Duchess Tree, well not really about TDT.

The Duchess Tree – Second Figure: All set, circle to the left for 2 steps, men turn woman on their right hand once round and all circle left for 2 more steps. In order for the dancers to make it all the way round and onto the sidelines the 2H turns need to move/progress 1 or so places around the circle. And John very carefully included specific instructions to do so and, as far as I know, THIS IS THE ONLY DANCE WHERE THIS IS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN! But I see it happen all too often - as in every time I teach a dance that has a circle with turns in the middle of said circle. It boggles the mind - where do they come up with this stuff and all together, all at the same time without any planning?

Good night and joy be with you.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wilton Class - 12 April 2010

Four couples, a good thing. And several dancers had breakthrough moments. They 'got' the pattern of both Maurice and Rakes of Auld Reekie. And that made my day, even if I did run out of energy and call it quits a bit early.

Tonight's dances were:
The Westminster Reel (32 R 2) 45/1
Maurice (32 S 2) Dunsmuir Dances (G. Thomas)
The Nurseryman (32 J 3) 37/7
Rakes of Auld Reekie (32 S 2) B. Priddey - Golden Oriole Book

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dancing on the Heights - 12 April 2010

Small class, and a rough night for me. The last two weeks have been too much too much. I am rusty and finding it difficult to concentrate and my opinions are so coloured that they are not to be trusted.

Tonight's dances were:
Maurice (32 S 2) Dunsmuir Dances (G. Thomas)
The Westminster Reel (32 R 2) 45/1
Rakes of Auld Reekie (32 S 2) B. Priddey - Golden Oriole Book
The Giants of Foudland (48 R 3 tri) The Aurora Book (A. Smith)
Lassie wi’ the lint white locks (32 S 2) B. Priddey - SDA #115


Maurice and Rakes of Auld Reekie – I have taught these dances some 14 or 15 times in the last year, I should be jaded and tired of them - I am not. What is running through my brain is this: why have I been the first to find and teach these? These dances are just too good, too beautiful, too rewarding to be forgotten.

Lassie wi' the lint white locks – Barry Priddey calls them "progressive back to backs", I prefer "chevron back to backs" after Fried Herman who uses them extensively in her English Country Dance compositions. I have no idea what the social value of this dance is. I will have to teach it a few more times and actually get into it myself before I dare venture an opinion. But I believe it's worth taking a look at this dance.