There was a nice turnout last night - 7 couples plus an extra which made a nice even number for dancing The Earl of Mansfield, a four couple dance from John Drewry, published by the Society as a leaflet. And where have I been? I know I looked at it sometime ago and I usually have enough of an eye to pick out interesting and fun dances so how did I miss this one?
There is a "John Drewry" night dance coming up this weekend in Brooklyn, NY. That means there is a strong push from dancers to "be prepared" which can be rather limiting for teachers. I have, thankfully, gotten exposure to 2 dances I would never have done otherwise: The Earl of Mansfield and The Belle of Bon Accord. I am not sure I would put them in my top 10 list but they certainly make the top 50. Fun and different enough to be attention getters.
The evening's dances were:
Ann Arbor (32 J 3) Bob Gregg
Earl of Mansfield (48 R 4) John Drewry
Duchess Tree (32 S 3) John Drewry
The Elusive Muse (32 J 3) Tim Wilson
Anna Holden's Strathspey (32 S 2) John Drewry
Solway Reel (48 R 4) Joseph Killeen
Ann Arbor :- It's a pleasant wee dance that does a very subtle but lovely thing: it sets the proper width of the set with the advance and retire in 2nd eight bar phrase. It is also a nice warm up to the rest of the evening. Thank you Bob.
Earl of Mansfield :- You will not survive falling asleep in this dance. And the 'hook' on which the entire dance hangs together is the bar 31-32 moment when 3rd couple must, absolutely must, end back in place with a proper gap between themselves and 2nd couple who are concurrently stepping up to top place. If 3C places themselves in the middle of the gap between 2C at the top and 4C at the bottom then poor 1st man has no idea who is truly his first corner (3L? 4L?) and the chance of recovery is, at best, poor.
Duchess Tree :- Two points. First - yes both 1C and 3C casts into the initial cross over reel but NOT in the same way. 3C is asked to (what I call) 'cuddle' cast. They dance into the middle to meet one another before they pull shoulders back and start their actual cast. I find teachers are leaving that piece of it out and dancers are doing what they are told, are not meeting, and that is throwing the timing of the reel off.
Secondly,the "Set, Circle, Turn (moving the circle along as you turn), Circle" sequence began here, in this dance, and is now, unfortunately, migrating - dancers are now doing it it other dances where there is no need to move the circle on and no has asked them to. They are doing that on their own and it needs to stop! It should remain unique to this dance (IMHO).
But the best dance of the night, the one that got a spontaneous standing ovation was...
The Elusive Muse :- Devised? by Tim Wilson and published in the San Francisco collection Measures of Pleasure this is a really fun dance full of tandem (not dolphin) half reels, a California Twirl and Set and Link for 3. A Dancer's Choice Award recipient and on the Kilts and Ghillies program in April. A Keeper!
I do not have a recording and have been using The Vale of Atholl jig medley by Mara Shea and Dave Wiesler off their Heather Hills CD.
Anna Holden's Strathspey :- One of my favourites! The key word for the 1st figure is control, control and more control. Having a good, properly wide set helps.
The Solway Reel :- The one name tune recording I have for this dance is, I regret to say, a poor one - I don't like the music chosen or how it is played so I continue to use the music I picked when I didn't have a proper recording at all. I use the Jimmy Blair set for Lady Sophia Ann of Bute off his old vinyl record Highland Dance Party. (Teacher's Choice Award).
This year the dance was on NY's Jeannie Carmichael Ball and I was called because they wanted 'my' music. I was certainly feeling warm and fuzzy (not to mention smug and self satisfied) after dancing it at West Point. By the way Parcel of Rogues is a wonderful band - two thumbs up.