I have had an interesting week that culminated in a good class this Monday.
Let me begin with some ancient history.
I began dancing in 1976 and was soon doing a lot of the road trip thing. One of the road trips was an annual pilgrimage to the Delaware Valley Hogmanay ball where I met Eleanor and Robert Hurd who were a strong presence in the country dance world of contra, English and Scottish. Fast forward a few decades.
On Wednesday, Nov. 9th, at the Westchester end of session party Bob Houghton taught a dance (from the Delaware Valley 25th Anniversary book) which I had looked at years ago but never taught as I did not have the necessary music, a medley of Stephen Foster songs, and in his introduction to the dance Gentle Annie he mentioned that the dance had been written by his sister Eleanor who had married Robert Hurd and they subsequently introduced Bob to Scottish dancing.
Well, the dance stole a piece of my heart. I know this because I could remember it and write it down when I got home. I have taught it twice since then: on Sunday to Naomi Lasher's performance group - The Loch Leven Dancers, and on Monday to my class on the Heights. The response from both groups were smiles and applause even though I did not have the Stephen Foster music. Bob has promised me access to his tape when I am finally moved in at Livingston Street, my electronics are up and running and I am able to make digital copies of his analog tape. Cheers, whistles and stamping from resident peanut gallery.
Gentle Annie is utterly charming and I realized I needed to revisit the Delaware Valley 25th Anniversary book and re-view the dances. There are a number of good dances there and I have done the following: The Black Leather Kilt, The Blue Route, Bubbles in the Pond, Gentle Annie, It's Not Rocket Science, The Man in Waiting and Pete and Marilynn's Welcome Home. Commendable dances all - leaving me with five more dances to check out. The book is Recommended.
Back to Monday: I had notice that several of my regulars would not be attending and I was somewhat worried - Needlesly. The 8 dancers who showed up were great and that allowed me to play - the dances I pulled from my back pocket were all ones I have been looking at and wanting to test. Except for The Captain and The Dean Bridge of Edinburgh I had not taught any of the dances before this evening.
Monday evening's dances were:
The Captain (32 R 3) SF Solstice Party Book*
Gentle Annie (32 S 3) Del Valley 25th (E. Hurd)
Faradh Nam Fidhlearan (32 R 4) Many Happy Hours (Joubert)
Bubbles in the Pond (32 S 3) Del Valley 25th (K. Nealley)
Home and Away (32 R 3) Skelton - Celtic Book
Dean Bridge of Edinburgh (32 S 3) 23/4*
* These dances are on the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance program.
The Captain :- A nice easy dance for everybody and there is a "kilt" moment between bars 24 and 25. The music I have been using is the Shea/Wiesler set for Sleepwalking and with that set of tunes the dance is smoking! I usually don't use reels for warm up dances but with only 2 bars of setting this one works if kept a bit down tempo.
Gentle Annie :- A gentle dance, a lovely dance. Reactions have been nothing but positive.
Faradh nam fidhlearan :- By Wouter Joubert, Pretoria, South Africa. My initial reading had me thinking a degree of difficulty of 5 out of 5 was appropriate. Dancers thought 3 to 4 out of 5 was more accurate. The one essential is this: dancers have to move! during the hands across into the tandem reels. The only other emphatic point is how the ladies end the reels of 3 and enter the reels of 4. Last figure (back-to-back and circles of 4) was considered by most of my class to be a cop out. My thinking is that if the dance is a difficult one then the dancers need the breathing space. If it is merely of middling difficulty then the dancer don't need the respite and my dancers are correct. I'm still on the fence.
Bubbles in the Pond :- Nice dance! - and that is also the response of the class. This was, as they remember it, their first exposure to the "Bubble Up" figure though I am sure some were present when I taught it in July 2009 (Station Master's Jig (Michael Bentley)).
In the bubble up Kate calls for the dancers to be on the sides facing in every two bars and the only way that can happen (IMHO) is if the dancers drop hands after every half turn. That is how I taught it but it needs exceptional dancing and rehearsal to be covered and looking good. Both the dancers and I preferred it when hands were kept throughout the moving turns.
Home and Away :- I thought I was going to have trouble with this one - it has the same middle figure as the dance "Best Set in the Hall". Which, as it turned out, most of the dancers knew so I didn't have any trouble at all. Lovely figure, lovely dance and the 2 half dolphin reels at the end are simply spiffin' and liked by all.
Christopher's observation that after setting to their corner 1st couple is always casting back to their own sides was very helpful
Dean Bridge of Edinburgh :- This dance is a sleeper but be warned - in Pilling the diagram for the last figure is VERY WRONG! No hands! And I (unlike Christopher) like the last figure. There may not be much eye contact/interaction between unpartnered dancers but there are lots of opportunities with partner.
As written the description of bars 17-20 call for 2 sets of half R&L. One standard (starting across), the other a variant (starting on the sides). What I see is 2 changes of a grand chain, and my dancers find the idea of the "chain" easier to comprehend.