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Sharlene Penman (piano), visiting from New Zealand, is the band leader for the 2019 Tea Dance.
Our fiddlers are Sarah Stefanski and Jenny Evans, both local artists.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dancing on the Heights - 9 May 2011

Well the Kilts and Ghillies ball prep season is done and I can finally get back to trying out new and infrequently done dances in preparation of next years Kilts and Ghilllies Tea Dance. Summer seems to be the only time I get for this but summer always seems to go by too fast for what I want to try. During the dance season the cries for ball prep seem to get louder and louder as dancers get older and their memory falters. Oh well, it is what it is.

Last night's dances were:

The Haggis Tree  (32 S 2) Drewry
The Silver Nutmeg  (40 J 3) Price
Solway Reel  (48 R 4)  Carlisle & Border
The Dance Wizard  (32 R 4) W. Joubert - Many Happy Hours (Pretoria)
Echoes of Strathglass  (32 S 3 set)  M. Brown - Many Happy Hours
The Captain  (32 R 3)  R. King - Solstice Party (San Francisco)
A Winter's Walk  (32 J 3) P. Stephans - Between the Rivers

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The Haggis Tree - On the 2009 Kilts and Ghillies' Ball it is time to consider repeating it. It is on my "Top 50" list and every time I dance it I remember why - it is a beautiful dance to a beautiful Scott Skinner air (Herr Horloff's Farewell). When the NY Times reviews a restaurant the ratings run from "Do Not Miss" to "Worth It" to, well, skip-able. On that scale this dance is a Do-Not-Miss (in my ever so humble opinion of course).
But I know I am a little on the strange side because I like formations like La Baratte and Tournee. When they are right they are so right.

The Silver Nutmeg - One of my dance compositions. I find it worthwhile to revisit a dance after a couple of years of "sitting on it" as the Quakers would say. Time gives you a new perspective, a lessening of personal attachment and a clear, less partisan, eye. An OK dance with some nice elements but not worth a slot on a ball program. I  wrote the dance to honor the 25th anniversary of the New Haven Branch, but inspiration came a little late and I missed the deadline by a month or so.

The Solway Reel - One of my favourite dances. When I ran across the dance I had no recording so I used Jimmy Blair's version of Lady Sophia Anne of Bute. I still prefer that set to any other I have heard. Colin Dewar's set is a disappointment.

The dancers liked it but there wasn't the enthusiasm that would warrant putting it on a ball program. Struck from the short list.

The Dance Wizard - Oh my. We have a winner! Thank you Wouter Joubert:  this is a great dance. Don't Miss It! Definitely on the short list for next year's ball. Receives both a Teacher's choice and a Dancer's Choice Award.  Can be found in the Pretoria Branch's publication Many Happy Hours.
See also Iain Boyd's dance The Red Baron from Katherine's Book where I found the "dogfight" figure eight.

Echoes of Strathglass - The key is when supporting couples step up and down. When synced with 1C the effects are striking and were mentioned by the dancers; note: I did not emphasize that aspect when I taught the dance, they found it out for themselves. It was also nice to see one of Terry Glasspool's figures being picked up and used by another dance devisor.

I don't have a recording of Wouter's music so I was forced to punt yet again. Luckily there is a wonderful 3x32 set by Dave Wiesler and Mara Shea on their CD Heather Hill. Another Don't Miss It. Several dancers made the point that the dance and that music worked well together.

The Captain - Granted that there are many similarities between this dance and Mrs Stewart's Jig. It works and is original enough to stand on it's own. But choose your music carefully. R. King calls for "any good reel" but not any reel will do. It needs a really good tune. I chose Mara Shea's and Dave Wiesler's set for "Sleepwalking" off their CD Heather Hills and got lucky. Oh my! That pairing earned the dance a Dancer's Choice Award, from two different classes, and definitely puts the dance on the short list for next year's tea dance.

A Winter's Walk - Another of my personal favourites, this one from "Between the Rivers" I have not yet found that special set of tunes that brings it alive and puts it over the top. Yet it is still a good dance, liked by most of the dancers and that is going to be enough to keep it on the short list. Mind you it has been on the short list for the last four years and has not yet made it onto the final program. Maybe this year?

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