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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.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance - 30 April 2011

A hit, a palpable hit.

Thank you to all who helped make it happen. And thank you to all who came and had a good time.

We had a really good band (Thistle Hill - Jim Stevenson-Mathews, Rebecca McCallum and Lisa Gutkin) playing superb music; we had a good program; and I think I can say we all had a really good time. We fluctuated between three and four sets on the floor for the entire afternoon and for the last dance there were still three sets on the floor, one of them with five couples. YES!

Personally I think the first half was the best first half I have ever experienced. I had a huge grin on for most of the ball. When I didn't it was because I was briefing, didn't have a partner, and wasn't dancing.

Hooper's Jig turned out to be a better opener than I expected. Burn of Sorrow went onto my "Top 50 Strathspeys" list and Jim Stevenson-Mathews used Calum's Road, one of my favourite tunes, as the name tune. What a delightful surprise that was!

 Auchindrain was also a delight. After hearing the midi file on Nigel Gatherer's web site I was so taken with the tune I just had to write a dance for it. The band really liked the tune too, but commented it was a very difficult tune to play. They certainly practiced it a lot I must say.

Mrs Stewart's Jig, Da Rain Dancin', and Monymusk are all good, solid, pleasant dances that have earned a spot in the standard repertoire and on my "Top 50" lists. The Cashmere Shawl is on my 'top' list but deserves wider acceptance - My humble opinion is that it belongs in the standard repertoire. It is certainly good enough, it is also easy enough, and it is just different enough to be crisply refreshing.

The Fireside Reel, with that music (Peat Fire Flame), is a winner and that 'knockout' moment for 1st and 2nd ladies is a magic moment when it works. And did I mention the music?

The second half didn't fly quite as high. It had too many esoteric dances grouped together. Don't get me wrong - esoteric isn't bad. The dances are all wonderful dances, some are my very favourites in fact. But they needed leavening, and having Quarrie's Jig and The Piper and the Penguin at the front end and Scottish Reform and Mairi's Wedding at the back end wasn't effective leavening. One or more of them should have been spread among the core of the half. And that is why the first half was the better one.

Gypsy Dreams is simply one of the most beautiful dances I have ever seen or danced. The box setting is a superb innovation and the flow of the dance approaches the sublime. It is so good that I have moved beyond mere toleration into admiration and actual liking of the Tournee.

Knights' Heys is a unanimous Dancers Choice selection. It was heartily cheered and then encored. After Linnea's Strathspey most of us were wearing broad smiles. Gordon of Straloch succeeded nicely. It fit it's music and the music was so beautiful it nearly brought the hall to silence.

The highlight of the Ball though, for me, were the youngsters. Paul and Clarissa McRanor brought several youngsters and both Katie and Margaret (11 and 9 respectively) from my class came. Margaret came up to me after with a huge grin on her face and proudly announced she had done four dances. It was the grin that said it all. It was all the grins from all the youngsters that I will treasure.

For me though the Tea Dance was only a qualified success because the one thing we didn't have was a full house.  Financially we were slightly in the red. I don't have the numbers yet (so no exactitudes) but I believe we had a loss but that the loss was under $200.

So what went wrong, why so few dancers wanting to come and share our ball? 

Actually I don't think anything went wrong. Oh there were a lot of people with conflicts. Too many events happen in April. Easter (usually), The Rerr Terr ball in NJ, NEFFA festival in Mass., weddings, you name it. 
All contributed to a drop in numbers as does the aging of our dance population with its issues of memory loss, dementia and declining physical abilities. 

All the above are contributing factors, but the major reason is, I think, philosophical. We can break the population into three groups: those who look at a program to see how many they know and those who look to see how many they don't know. Too many unknown dances and the former won't go. Too many known dances and the latter won't go. 

I belong in the latter group. I like new dances. Rather I like finding new beautiful dances with beautiful music and I like sharing them and a ball is a wonderful way to do that. The difficulty, I think, is when new for new's sake begins to drive the teachers. Which isn't quite what I want to say -- I love looking for new dances that are joys to dance. These dances should get exposure and a chance to become part of the repertoire. Finding new dances and simply moving on to other new dances serves no purpose. Finding new dances that are worth doing again, many times, and then doing them again, many times, does serve a purpose. It allows the dance to evolve, to stay fresh. And then we can go back to the 'standards', and they too are fresh, all over again. 

1 comment:

Peter1672 said...

Update on the financials -
The Tea dance did not lose any money. We are in the black by $13.00.

Hooray! There will be a ball next year!

Peter