Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New Haven Summer Social - 28 June 2011

An enjoyable evening was had by all and what a wonderful all it was. We had a 7 couples last night and I finally got to reintroduce Mary S. Brandon's Double Sixsome to the New Haven dancers. I last danced it sometime around 1979-1980 and I don't think it has been danced/taught in New Haven at anytime since then and that highlights the issue of numbers. 3 couples/4 couples make for nice easy teaching but 7 couples/8 couples makes for greater energy and oh the possibilities that now present themselves!

Bob Gregg retaught his dance, Ken McFarland's Reel, originally a reel, as a jig and that made all the difference. That slight difference in tempo meant there was more time for the dancers to 'get' there. By the second time through the dance came together and not only looked like a dance but the dancers were finally comfortable with what Bob was asking them to do. At the end there was a very positive response from the floor.

Last night's dances were:
The Elusive Muse - (32 J 3 set) - Tim Wilson
Double Sixsome - (64 R 6) - Mary Shoolbraid Brandon
Echoes of Strathglass - ( 32 S 3 set) - Malcolm Brown
Well Met in Paris - (32 H 3) - Terry Glasspool
Ken McFarland's Reel - (32 J 4) - Bob Gregg
The Docent's Tour - (32 S 3) - Tim Wilson
The Vale of Atholl - (32 J 3) - Evelyn Murray


The Elusive Muse or Easily Led:- I first taught this two weeks ago and it just gets better. Oh it is by no means Tim's best, but it is still a very pleasant and social dance. It is good enough that I am considering it for the opening slot on next years Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance. And yes, Virginia, I know it has 4 whole bars of pas de basque, a no-no for opening, so called warm up, dances, but they, the pdbs, are part of the last figure and I am not going to be looking at dancer's foot work in that particular situation.

Is it my imagination or is Set&Link for 3 becoming a popular figure? A personal favourite and, from the outside looking in, it is a visually stunning formation.

Double Sixsome:- I began dancing in 1976 and I remember dancing this soon thereafter. At the time it was a new dance, only 5 years old, and something of a rave dance at the time. That quickly passed because I don't believe it has been done in New Haven since. Last night may have been the second showing.

By current standards it is feels dated. It doesn't have the flow that we expect from a Drewry or Goldring dance, and there are interruptions as couples stand while others dance. I am not sure that 'dated' is really the right word to use. In traditional style is probably the more accurate description.

The response from the floor was better than luke warm but not excessively positive. I figure it should remain in the repertoire but not weekly or even monthly, perhaps once a season when the numbers allow, just for fun and as a break from the usual diet.

Echoes of Strathglass:- I give this one a Teacher's Choice award. I don't know that anyone else likes it as much as I do, but then, that's why I give out separate awards, one is mine and the other the dancer's.

It has showed up twice now as a nice, pleasant solid dance that uses a lovely figure devised by Terry Glasspool. My humble opinion - it is worth doing and it has a place in the repertoire along with all the standard RSCDS strathspeys.

Well Met in Paris:- Oh my! thank you Leslie Kearney for having the courage to teach this gem of a dance. I know that I held back because it read as difficult. You, however, saw that the reward was greater than the pain. So it went on the 2008 Kilts and Ghillies Ball, and is once again on the shortlist.

The swapover (dolphin) reels are fun and the entry into reels of 3 for 2nd C is just plain neat. Keeper.

Ken McFarland's Reel:- a nice piece of choreography. Still under construction but we worked out some issues - better as a jig than as a reel was the big one. Coming Real Soon Now.

The Docent's Tour:- Last night it received a Dancer's Choice Award, with applause. From the San Francisco Branch's publication Measures of Pleasure, which came to my attention by way of Leslie Kearney. She may have found the book first, but I found the dance!

The book is full of good dances, not just one or two - so, a Teacher's Choice Award for Measure's of Pleasure.

The Vale of Atholl:- Consensus from the floor, not a great dance but the music is. The music is by Mara Shea and Dave Wiesler on their CD Heather Hills. And the music is why I taught the dance which is not going on the short list.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New Haven Summer Social - 21 June 2011

I seem to be a little behind. We dance tonight and I am just posting last weeks dances.

The evenings dances were:
MacFarlane's Geese  (32 R 4)  Jean Attwood
Carlaverock Castle  (32 R 3)  Peter Price (that's me!)
The Docent's Tour  (32 S 3)  Tim Wilson (Measures of Pleasure)
Dancin' Witches  (32 J 3)  Edwin Werner (Dragonflies)
Glen Nevis  (32 S 4)  Diane L. Dow (Pinewoods Coll)
Romance of the Waimarie  (40 J 4) Bevin Shaw - Oaks in Autumn


MacFarlane's Geese:- A nice retake on Wild Geese with a delightful last eight bars - I just love a stealth progression! But the dance just didn't have the spark that would have made it memorable. Please note, I did NOT say I would't teach the dance again, 'cause I will, but with different music. I used The Danelaw band set of 4x32 Reels based on Caddam Wood.  The virtual dancers in my head loved the combination but the dancers on the floor may not have.

Romance of the Waimarie:- The best I can say is "Eh".  I love Bevin's dance Those Russians - this one, compared to that one is a bust. Nice concept with the fwd and reverse paddle wheel and i liked the corners moving up with 1C into 3 hands across, but the 8 bar setting figure was a big why?  The overall, and unanimous response was "Don't bother?"

Carlaverock Castle:- It is a good thing to do, to sit on a dance for a couple of years, not teaching it, and then to revisit it. I know what I wanted when I wrote the dance, but sometimes I lose sight of it, and when I return to it I fall in love with it all over again, only this time it isn't as personal and there is a fuller appreciation of what I achieved in the dance.

Please - use Muriel Johnstone's recording of Lady Dumfries if you possibly can.

The Docent's Tour:- Oh my, this one has it, that ineffable something that puts this dance on my Top 50 list and on my short short list of dances for the 2012 Kilts & Ghillies Tea Dance - and it is so simple that surely someone else has written this dance before, haven't they? I am very glad that it was Tim Wilson though because I like almost everything of his that I have seen. This teacher's Choice Award.

Dancin' Witches:- Just another dance until you experience the transition between the reels of 3 across into the reel of 4 on the diagonal. That is a nice moment and makes this one a keeper. From the Bob McMurtry publication Dragonflies.

Glen Nevis:- I had hopes that this would be a keeper - it probably isn't. The figure that I call a Grand Figure Eight might work with  quite a bit more work but, frankly, it just isn't enough reward for the effort required. And I feel  like a traitor because I know and like Diane Dow - she used to dance in New Haven and was a favourite of mine. I wish her well where ever she may now be.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Haven Summer Social - 14 June 2011

Windsor held it's end of season party last night, and several of our regulars must have gone because we barely scrapped together a 3 couple set and there I was scrambling yet again. I couldn't do any of the 4C dances I had planned, got to try one of Monday's dances with different music and we all had a wonderful time and managed to work through 8 dances, some not so easy.

Tuesday's dances were:
The Four Winds  (32 R 4-some)  T. Glasspool
Gifts  (32 S 3 set) I. van Maarseveen
Crossing the Brook  (32 R 3 set)  R. Goldring
The Dean Bridge of Edinburgh  (32 S 3) 23/4
The Elusive Muse  (32 J 3 set)  Tim Wilson
Age of Aquarius  (32 S 3)  Tim Wilson
The Captain  (32 R 3)  R. King
The Flourish  (32 S 3) Tim Wilson


The Four Winds:-  From the pen of Terry Glasspool and thank goodness. All these new dances for groups with small numbers are a god send. And Terry's are among the most elegant and witty of the lot. This one is spare and simple but the 'side' dancer's need to change directions adds just enough spice that no one's going to sleepwalk through the dance . 

Gifts:- By Irene van Maarseveen, published in Pretoria Branch's book Many Happy Hours, I taught it on Monday to one set of tunes that worked but didn't really fit the dance. Last night I taught to a different set of tunes (for the dance Forget Me Knot) and it was just plain better. I still want a 3x through recording of the hymn which would be 'the bomb' (as I have heard tell). But as a good second choice Forget Me Knot works well. And I still like this simple dance - it is most definitely on the short short list for next year's ball.

Crossing the Brook:- by Goldring from his Social Dances 2002,  we had to modify it slightly to make it work for a 3C set. Good dance, but I am not willing to put it on my Top 50 list. It just doesn't have that little something that puts a dance over the top and makes it special. That could be my fault as I didn't choose the music wisely, and Muriel's recording for the dance might have been what was missing.

The Dean Bridge of Edinburgh-  From the pen of Alec Hay and I like it even though I am not sure what to make of the last eight bars. There is a curious disconnect between the dancers during the advance and retires and I am not sure how or even if I should get them to make eye contact. But NO HANDS! Handing in the last formation would make the dance very unpleasant.

The Elusive Muse:-  one of Tim Wilson's contributions to the San Francisco publication Measures of Pleasure.  And what a delightful contribution it is too. Once I finally figured out my note card was missing a bit of vital information - namely that the dance was for a 3C set - I finally picked some good music: Muriel Johnstone's set for Heid of the Bay from the Port-no-quay Collection. Another short listed dance working it's way up the list.

Age of Aquarius:- Another Tim Wilson dance (is there a theme developing here I hear you ask, ah...yep).
I like what I am seeing from this guy. A bit more difficult than most of his other dances this one is going to take a few coaching sessions to get just right. But I like what Tim is doing with Terry Glasspool's box setting. Pure genius to invent the figure, genius too to see other possibilities, in this case to see you could rotate the figure to the corners. 

The Captain:-  From San Francisco Branch's Solstice Party Book. Simple choreography, certainly not very original, but with the right jaunty maybe even pushy reel it garnered a Dancer's Choice Award. I used Dave Wiesler and Mara Shea's recording for Sleepwalking off their CD "Heather Hills". Recording: highly recommended. The book of dances: ditto.

The Flourish:-  As the last dance of the evening I was really pushing the envelope with this dance.  A lovely dance with lots of opportunities to embroider, but too much too late in the evening. I would dearly love to see this done at a party with kilts and gowns swirling.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dancing on the Heights - 14 June 2011

The usual suspects were there which left us one person shy of a full set. I am accumulating a substantial back log of four couple dances that need trials. The classes in New Haven are the only ones that continue through the summer and the sad fact is very few dancers from other classes choose to join us.

I have received another shipment from TACBooks: Measures of Pleasure (San Francisco); Many Happy Hours (Pretoria); Just Desserts (SW Washington/Vancouver); Oaks in Autumn (Bevin Shaw-NZ); Dunedin Dances Book 4 (which Dunedin I don't know); and, I am taking a long overdue look at the Pinewoods collections where I am finding some sleepers.

I bought Many Happy Hours because the related  thread on Strathspey had so many positive reviews. Oaks in Autumn I bought because it includes Those Russians which I taught to the Loch Leven Dancers (Naomi Lasher's NY  performance troupe, which they raved over) and I want to see whether or not he is a one dance wonder. I am willing to give any Tim Wilson dance a try - that's why Measures of Pleasure and Just Desserts.

The hard part is that many of the interesting dances I am finding require 4 couples and the classes over the summer are not likely to draw those numbers consistently leading to that aforementioned backlog.

Anyway  back to dancing,

Last night's dances were:
The Elusive Muse  (32 J 3 set)  Tim Wilson
Greyfriar's Bobby  (32 S 3 set)  B. Priddey
New Biggin  (48 J 3) Leaflet 33/1
Gifts  (32 S 3 set)  Maarseveen
Carlaverock Castle  (32 R 3)  P. Price
Maurice  (32 S 2)  G. Thomas

The Elusive Muse, or Easily Led:-  By Tim Wilson from Measures of Pleasures.  It is a sweet little dance! It landed on my short list for the next Kilts and Ghilllies's Ball the moment I danced it. Easy but interesting and nothing weird about it.

Greyfriars Bobby:-  Another wonderful dance by Barry Priddey. It requires constant attention. You can't relax your guard, especially not during the last figure where the dynamic changes each round depending on who is leads the chases. It also has a very interesting transition from reel of three on sides into Allemande. But ever so sweet a dance.  I have been using the Dave Wiesler-Mara Shea recording of strathspeys for the dance Forget Me Knot. (Wow! and yet again wow!).

I have taught this dance 3 times now and the response is unfailingly positive and it has received a Dancer's Choice Award. Obviously I have short listed it for the K&G 2012 Ball.

New Biggin:-  While I was a regular at Pinewoods dance camp, there was on open glade among the pines where a dance pavilion once stood - Named for an Englich Country Dance (one guess -...) - that's right New Biggin - it stands again having finally been rebuild a few year ago.

I haven't checked the ECD sources to compare interpretations but this is an old dance with slightly crank choreography. i.e. it doesn't have the smooth flow that we now expect in a dance. So some liked it and some didn't. A matter of taste.

 I have never liked the "usual" method of transitioning from a circle of three with couple x to a circle of three with couple y - in most cases the 'flip' has never felt right to me and I have seen few dancers handle it gracefully. So I tried something different last night - The prior LH turn lent itself to starting the first (LH) circle with 1st C (lady up, man down) in the center, back to back with partner. But I had the dancers end that circle in place on the side lines and start their RH circle (with the other couple) from the sides and that worked well. Especially for those in the class with 'new' knees.

It is a long dance, 1C centric in that 2nd and 3rd couples don't have a lot to do. For some boring, for others a relief, especially if the dance is programmed later in a program. Time to rest and socialize.

Gifts:-  From Many Happy Hours. This is a quiet gem! Since I know of, and certainly don't have, a SCD recording of the hymn simple Gifts I had to use a generic, sweet, 3 times through strathspey. Good, but not sufficient. The consensus is that the dance needs its proper tune, and would approach the sublime. I agree. This dance needs Simple Gifts, played three times as tune + variation(s). I wasn't expecting much having only read the dance but boy am I glad to be wrong. This dance is a gift. A keeper.

Carlaverock Castle:- 2006, while listening to cd music became inspired by the laid back nature of Muriel Johnstone's recording of Lady Dumfries. This dance (one of my better efforts) is the result. I will get it up on 8x32 Real Soon Now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Haven Summer Social - 7 June 2011

What can I say? Four dancers showed tonight, all men. Which left me with very little choice in what I taught, Terry Glasspool, more Terry Glasspool, and yet more Terry Glasspool.

Tonights Dances were: -
Four of Diamonds  (32 J 4-some)  T. Glasspool
This One's Four Isobel  (32 S 4-some)  T. Glasspool
The Four Winds  (32 R 4-some)  T. Glasspool
The Four Poster  (32 S 4-some)  T. Glasspool
Maurice  (32 S 2)  G. Thomas


I have taught all of these dances before, I have commented on all of these dances before. There really isn't any need for me to say more except that tonight I had the easiest time ever teaching Maurice which was a very pleasant surprise. Kudos to Bob Gregg, Marque, George and Harold.