Friday, November 2, 2012

2 November 2012 - Old Tappan Library

2 November 2012 - Old Tappan Library

Well. This update has been an even longer time coming than I thought it would be ... and I am a pessimist. “SuperStorm” Sandy has been gone a good week and a half and I am still without power at home and that means still without internet -the first of the local libraries just got back limited power and internet today.

25 September 2012 - New Haven party for the departure of Marque Lethestrom for Quito, Ecuador.

The dances taught were:
Spanish Sunrise    32 R 3 - John Drewry 2003
Sugar Candie        32 S 3 - Bk26
Culbin Sands         32 J 3 - Barry Priddey/Silver Rose Book [taught by me]
Trip to Paradise     32 S 3 - Ron Wallace/From the Redwood Forest

1 October 2012 – Scotia (NY)

The first hour - with a concern for beginners.

Ann Arbor      32 J 3 – Bob Gregg/The Reel MacGregor
Leap Year      24 J 2 – Graded Book 
           (I used reel music because the pas de basque)
It’s All Right    32 J 3 – Second Graded Book

4 October 2012 – NY Branch - 2nd hour

Margaret Parker’s Strathspey   32 S 3 - John Drewry
The Captain                              32 R 3 - Russ King/Solstice Party Book
Christine M. Phillips                 32 J 3 - Bk46

8 October 2012 – Scotia - First hour (with a concern for beginners).

Back to Basics 32 R 3 - Barry Skelton/Milestones
It Should Be Fun 32 J 4 - Roy Goldring/Graded&Social 3
The Forest Prince 32 J 2 - Iain Boyd/Katherine’s Book

11 October 2012 – NY Branch

In Traditional Mode 32 S 3 - Roy Goldring/Graded&Social 3
A Charm of Goldfinches 32 J 3 - Martha Veranth/Feathered Friends
Linnea’s Strathspey 32 S 3 - Tim Wilson/Dunsmuir Dances

15 October 2012 – Scotia - First hour (with a concern for beginners).
Scottish Reform 32 J 2
Scotia Nights
It’s All Right

17 October 2012 - received from Bob Houghton

The 2013 Rerr Terr Ball Program

St. Andrew’s Fair         32 J 3 - 5/1982
On the Quarterdeck 32 H 2 - Boyd/Harbour City
The Silver City         32 S 3 - Drewry/Silver City Book
Haste to the Wedding          32 J 2 - Bk 25/6
Miss Gibson’s Strathspey 32 S 3 - RSCDS Leaflet
The Dancing Man 32 R 3 - Goldring/10 Social Dances
Bonnie Stronshiray 32 S 3 - Campbell/Glasgow Assembly
Rest and Be Thankful         32 R 3 - McConachie/Grampian Coll.

Wild Geese        32 J 3 - Bk 24/3
Maxwell’s Rant        32 R 3 - Bk 18/10
Sauchie Haugh       32 S 2 - RSCDS Leaflet
Pelorus Jack        32 J 3 - Bk 41/1
Mrs MacLeod (Of Raasay) 32 R 3 - Bk 6/11
The Duchess Tree 32 S 3 - Drewry/Brodie Book
Old Nick’s Lumber Room 32 J 3 - Bk 26/6
Wind that Shakes the Barley 32 R 3 - Duthie/8 Scottish Country Dances

18 October 2012 – NY Branch

[Flowers of Edinburgh - 32 R 3]  taught by Chris Ronald
Links with St. Petersburgh 32 J 3 - Bk46
Delvine Side 32 S 3 - Bk2/9
Starlight 32 R 3 - Bk44/1
Deil Among the Tailors 32 R 3 - Bk14/7

22 October 2012 – NHFM  **

Dust Devils  32 J 4some - Jane Lataille
Eileen Watt’s Reel 32 R 3 set - Scottish Country Dancer #1
Eileen Watt’s Strathspey 32 S 3 set - Scottish Country Dancer #1
Memories 32 R 3 - Priscilla Burrage/Leaflet
Many Happy Returns 32 S 3 - Mel Briscoe/Slip Knot Collection
Rakes of Auld Reekie 32 S 2 - Barry Priddey/Scottish Dance Archives

24 October 2012 – NY Branch

[Bedrule  32 S 3 - Bk 33/7]  taught by C. Ronald
J.B. Milne 32 R 3 - H. Foss
Machine w/o Horses 32 J 3 - Bk 12/12
Eileen Watt’s Strathspey 32 S 3 set - Scottish Country Dancer #1
1 November 2012 – NY Branch

The Chequered Court 32 J 3 - Bk 43/3
Pasedena Prom 32 S 4 - M.S. Brandon/Dances with a Difference
Mrs Stewart’s Jig 32 J 3 - Bk 35/1
Catch the Wind 32 H 3 - Butterfield/Island Bay Collection

So... very little that is actually new.
The two dances from the first issue of the RSCDS magazine - Eileen Watt’s Reel and Eileen Watt’s Strathspey (both 32 bars long and for 3C sets) were given Dancer’s Choice Awards by my class in New Haven. They felt that EWReel is perhaps a little too complicated for a ball program but that EWStrathspey is a definite winner and should be on the next K&G ball program. 
What makes EW Reel just a bit too much for a ball, at least for now, is that the reel of four is actually for 6 dancers. The catch, and there is always a catch, is that the end dancers are in tandem and have lead changes and the middle dancers (who begin back to back) have a variant ending to the reel. And the teaching point to stress is not the tandem (end) pairs and their lead changes but the ending for the middle dancers. THAT is the critical part of the dance. 

They gave it a Dancer’s Choice Award on top of my Teacher’s Choice Award – so look it up!
Double winner and Worth it!

From Sept 25 - Culbin Sands (32J3) Barry Priddey - nice dance and worth revisiting.
Ron Wallace’s Trip to Paradise (32S3) has a really odd Targe that tends to throw dancers for a loop. they expect to meet somebody new in the new positions and it the same old corner they already danced with. And the questions begin and... well, the adjective ‘downhill’ comes to mind.
And it is an OK dance.

From 11 October:

In Traditional Mode (32S3) by Roy Goldring – the music, recorded by Jim Lindsay and Muriel Johnstone is just fabulous! A TEN. The dance is eh. And the music, which is so good, merely makes the dance tolerable rather than making it a joy to dance. Bummer.

The upside is that I can now use that set for all those dances calling for the lead tune “any good strathspey” because it is a really, really, good set.

A Charm of Goldfinches is a journeyman effort. I am not sure I would keep it on my shortlist for social programs, but as a teaching dance it has its good points. 
Linnea’s Strathspey is now, still, and as it always has been one of my favourites.


It is now mid afternoon, and I am tired and unwashed. A friend who lives nearby the library just got power back, and that means HOT WATER!! and I am signing off and walking over for a shower.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

20 September 2012 - New to New York

Well, the only constant in my life is change - much has happened and continues to happen.

I went to TAC this summer and stood my RSCDS Unit 2 exam after a week of strenuous dancing (I am  middle aged but my legs are positively stone aged, and act it). I passed. I find I still have serious doubts about the entire process of teacher certification. It is infinitely better then it was when I stood and failed my Full Cert. exam in 1998 but there are still, in my humble opinion, serious problems with the process.

I am still considering the experience but I am not ready to put my thoughts into words and post them here. I will be - Real Soon Now.

This past weekend was the NJ Branch Alpine Boat Basin Dance - and it was delightful... but...
We danced most of the first half with only briefings. Then came the first call for a walk through and then everything needed to be walked. Even Montgomeries' Rant. I was flabbergasted, appalled and gobsmacked. And that doesn't even begin to accurately describe my feelings on the situation.

A body of solid intermediate level dancers cannot do a std. repertoire dance from a briefing? Incomprehensible! And that raises the question of what we the teachers are doing wrong. It isn't all the dancer's fault. The teachers have to be aiding and abetting (facilitating?) this behavior, this lowering of standards. And I don't know the solution.

Well that was certainly a cop out. I do actually know the solution. It is all the teachers retraining them selves, stopping doing things the way they have been for the last 20 years, and holding the dancers to the highest standards and not wimping out on them.

The standard of dancing in NY and surrounding areas is either bad, getting there, or getting worse. Westchester used to be a fabulous place to teach. I could pull just about any crazy dance out of my file box and they would handle it with ease. That is no longer true. About half the solid dancers aren't any longer. They are either not there, have aged, are losing their ability to remember, and are less able physically then they were - and I can not hold them to the old standard.

The unfortunate part is that the few new comers who actually stick around are not held to the old higher standard and they will never get there because they never see it. The core of good dancers who understand the form (and the importance of form) is shrinking and shrinking quickly.

To fix this situation the NY Branch has put together a 'list'. It has 60 dances.  A third get replaced each year and no dance may stay on the list for more then 3 continuous years. All but three dances on marquee dance programs must be drawn from this list, and for local parties the three off list dances must be beginner friendly.

The idea is that through repetition dancers will begin to acquire a repertoire of dances, will become more comfortable at events because they will have seen most of the dances many times before and will acquire a better knowledge of formations through this repetition. I am on board with this idea because I have no better one. I do not, however, see this working.

I am willing to give it an honest try. And that means we need to measure the results of the experiment which needs to be run over a three to four year period to be valid.

Politics. I hate it. But it is ever present. Sigh.

All the above is a response to the very gentle, mild chewing out I got after teaching the NY Branch's Thursday Night social hour and did not teach a dance from list.

After tea the teacher of the basics class briefs the dance he taught in the first hour. The next dance is supposed to be harder, the basic level dancers watch; they get included in the third dance and anything else we get to in the evening is supposed to be for the intermediate and better dancers.

So we goofed. We didn't make the announcement early enough and the beginners lined up for the next dance. I am nor about to kick them off the floor so I did The Findlays' Jig, a nice simple Goldring dance that is non list. My other, prepared choices, were Flowers of Edinburgh and The White Cockade - both reels as was the dance we had just done. I chose to do a jig instead, and I didn't have a jig from the list prepared.

It was a small class.
I had 2 sets/8 couples, then 6 couples, then 5 at the end.
only 3 dancers were basic level - they left
of the other dancers only two were intermediate -
all others were advanced and some were teachers.

I looked at them and did not feel the list dances were appropriate.
Most of the dancers already knew what we were trying to teach.
The others were, I thought, quick studies. I was mostly right.

My second dance, the first "advanced" dance was The Gypsy Weaver.
I was a bit rusty, we worked it out. It is a beautiful dance and was well received.

My next dance was to be for the full class, but the beginners had left by then, but I taught The Captain any way. A dance from Russ King (SF) it is based on Mrs. Stewart's Jig and everyone knows that dance. No problems.

My final dance was from Sue McKinnell of Chicago - I really loved her dance Barbara's Strathspey from Book 46 so I went looking and found this one. It has a beautiful celtic knot figure for 2 couples dancing around the other 3, standing, couples.

As I was packing up I was gently chided for not teaching any list dances. It was so gently done that I didn't realise I was getting a chewing out until the end.

In my opinion there were only two dancers on the floor who might have benefitted (strong maybe) from my teaching list dances. Everyone else on the floor already knew them or knew how to do them from talk throughs. I saw no benefit for them so I chose to teach interesting, beautiful, entertaining dances.

This experience leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth and much  to think about. It was not my understaanding that the list was to be a ball and chain that we HAD to use at all times in all situations. My understanding was that it was a guideline, a tool for use to use to achieve a certain end. Was I wrong?

Stay tuned. Further installments in this latest soap opera forthcoming.

13 September 2012 - NY Branch Social Hour

Granville Market  - 32 J 3 - 2nd Graded Book
Miss Jane Muirhead - 32 S 3 - Dunsmuir Dances
Ann Arbor - 32 J 3 - B. Gregg
Solway Reel - 48 R 4 - Carlisle and Border

20 September 2012 - NY Branch Social Hour

The Findlays' Jig - 32 J 3 - Goldring
Gypsy Weaver - 32 S 3 - Between the Rivers
The Captain - 32 R 3 - Solstice Party
Chasing the Red Dot - 32 R 5 - Sue McKinnell leaflet

Monday, July 2, 2012

24 May 2012 - NY Branch Class

Well, I am back and the update/catch up continues...

I was asked to teach the NY Branch's class on short and I was thankful for the opportunity.
The only dance coming up was their United Nations "Summer Dance" fund raiser for Unicef so there was little opressure from the "we need to learn the dances" crowd. One of my fellow teachers calls this "The tyranny of Ball Prep."

I taught the first hour and the dances were:
     Good Hearted Glasgow  (32 J 3C) Knapman
     Mrs Muriel More  (32 R 3) Johnson
     Dragonflies  (32 S 5some) Lataille
     Rothesay Rant  (32 J 4 square) Holden
     The Reverend John MacFarlane  (32 R 4) Gary Morris


Good Hearted Glasgow -  A good basic opening Jig, popular and often used around here.

Mrs Muriel More - A very nice reel that I learned from Mervyn Short when attending the NY Branch's Pawling Weekend. A lovely sequence of half reel, turn; half reel turn. On my Top 50 Reel list as it is worth doing and, more importantly, worth doing again (in my humble opinion).

Dragonflies - It is an extraordinary dance on its own merits and when paired with Susie Petrov's 5x32
strathspey medley (lead tune: Hamish Henderson's Refusal) the synergy puts this dance through the roof. Recommended doesn't begin to cover it. This dance will be on the April 2013 Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance.

Rothesay Rant - On the United Nations Summer Dance Program but imho the kindest description for this dance is "tedious". In the extreme. But our everyday dancers can do it without anxiety attacks so...

The Reverend John MacFarlane - this one is growing on me. There is real opportunity here to dance with panache, to almost camp it up. I find myself smiling just thinking about this dance and that says something good.


29 May 2012 - Dancing on the Heights (Friends Meeting)

The last class before summer when I lose dancers to heat and vacations so I planned somethings new (most of it) something old (well, done at least once before) and a trial dance needing guinea pigs and feed back.

The dances were:
     Jill's Gentle Jig  (32 J 3) Tim Wilson (Measures of Pleasure)
     Chasing the Red Dot  (32 R 5) Sue McKinnell leaflet
     The Langdon Knot  (32 S 3)  Tim Wilson (ibid)
     The Southpaw Reel  (32 R 3)  Bob Gregg - new composition
     Mrs Muriel More  (32 R 3)
     Muggons in May  (32 J 4) Barry Priddey
     Naishcombe Hill  (32 S 3) Mervyn Short


Jill's Gentle Dance - anything but. this dance belongs tot hat category of dances that I call Huffin-Puffers. There is no rest. Immediate feedback was: no way is this dance a program opener (and maybe never again). Nice patterns but not only is there no down time for the dancers there are stretches in the dance where the dancers have such a stretch to get to their next position that they are truly struggling, and my dancers, who are good dancers, were having trouble. It needs revisiting, but in the middle of the evening, before break, when dancers are warm and able both mentally and physically.

Chasing the Red Dot - again I found it worth doing. The 'Celtic Braid' pattern is fun to watch and to dance. On the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance short list along with Dragonflies.

The Langdon Knot - I will have to revisit this dance. I know that what I saw was very, very pretty and worth dancing. But that was not the response I got from the floor and that means the dancers may need another try at it. I certainly feel the dance is worth a Teacher's Choice Award and ought to have a Dancer's Choice Award bestowed on it, but that is only my opinion, and I have been wrong before, haven't I?

The Southpaw Reel  - A new dance by Bob Gregg, it may be nice but we don't know that yet. The directions were nearly inintelligible as written. I certainly had trouble figuring out what Bob's intentions were and the dancers had clue not one. Bob finally agreed that his wording needed work and with that we broke for refreshments.

Mrs Muriel More - Once again the dance was well received and it is creeping upward toward my Top 50 list. All other considerations aside the only consideration that really matters, or makes sense, to me is this: Is it Fun? And this one is,  and that means it is worth doing even though it is no well known and one of the standards. that is why, I think, Mervyn Short taught it at the Pawling Weekend, to give it the exposure he felt it derserved.

Muggons in May - I just don't know. It looked good on paper but did not get the rousing and enthusiastic response from the dancers I thought it would get. A revisit is in order.

And from the book there is this:

      If they would drink nettle in March
      And eat muggons in May
      Sae mony  braw maidens
      Wodna gang tae the clay

Naiscombe Hill - by Mervyn Short and it received mixed reviews. I did not think it read well and only taught it to find out. And I am still not sure what I found out. What I do know that there is more to the dance than I initially thought and that it might actually be quietly very good as opposed to being an instant classic or bomb. I will definitely be revisiting this dance and trying his others.

I have mixed feelings about his dances, they seem, on first reading, to be unspectacular if not outright mundane, but when danced this one showed some subtlety and I may have to, in fairness, reconsider my initial 'read'.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Catch Up time, I am more than just a wee bit behind in my posting.

28 April 2012 - Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance
Music by Terry Traub and Alice Backer

Ann Arbor (32 J 3) Bob Gregg
Adieu Mon Ami (32 S 3) Bk 24
Flowers of Edinburgh  (32 R 3) Bk 1

The Elusive Muse  (32 J 3 set) Tim Wilson (Measures of Pleasure)
The Docent's Tour  (32 S 3)  Tim Wilson (Measures of Pleasure)
The Captain  (32 R 3)  Russ King (Solstice Party Book)

Rockside  (96 J 4 square) Goldring
Dean Bridge of Edinburgh  (32 S 3)  Bk 23
Pinewoods Reel  (32 R 3) JB Dickson (Yankee Sampler)

Gary Scott's Jig  (32 J 3)  Tim Wilson (Measures of Pleasure)
Maurice  (32 S 2) Gary Thomas (Dunsmuir Dances)
Scotland's Gardens  (32 R 3) Goldring - leaflet

Balgeddie Reel  (32 R 5) Mary Brandon - leaflet
Birks of Invermay  (32 S 3) Bk 16
The Kilt Maker  (32 R 4)  Priscilla Burrage (Pinewoods Coll. #2)

Christine M. Phillips  (32 J 3) John Brenchley (Bk 46)
Gifts  (32 S 3 set)  Irene van Maaseveen (Many Happy Hours)
The Dancing Man  (32 R 3) Goldring - 10 Social Dances

That it went well doesn't come close to covering it. I have had only good comments about the program and the music. Usually when there are issues there are always a few negative comments and when the positive and the negative run about even then, in my opinion, a good balance was achieved. What I know for sure is that next years program will have a hard act to follow.

The dances by Tim Wilson are really good ones and are on my permanent short list - meaning they will get early consideration for any program I am planning.

The Balgeddie Reel had some problems - there were a some breakdowns on the floor - and I try to avoid that. I clearly miscalculated with this dance. It was for me the low point of the program and I had thought it would be one of the better dances.

Gifts is one of the sleepers on the program. The first time I danced it I knew I had a potential winner but I are never sure it's true until it is over. I asked the band to play the name tune (the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts) with variations and not use a medley. It got a long round of applause.

The other sleeper on the program is Christine M. Phillips - get the transition between the half reels into the turns and it flies! I knew it was good but didn't realize just how much fun it was going to be.

Maurice deserves to be part of the standard repertoire. Every one should know this dance. How ever much effort one puts in is repaid with interest. And it just keeps getting better every time I dance it.
It is not too much of a stretch to say that this dance is as good enough to be ranked right up with Montgomeries' Rant.

The Dancing Man is another good dance but it is not a good program end-er. It too physically demanding. It qualifies as a real huffin-puffer. First half end-er maybe, certainly better earlier than later.

Kudos to all who made this evening a huge success:
Cate Mahoney, Barbara Austen, Susan Leff, Ed Davis, Nina Stein, Ingrid Davis, the band, the set up crew, the cleanup crew, the watering crew, the kitchen crew and all the the others who worked and taught and practiced and then showed up to dance. Thank you all for all that you did that I know about and especially for all that you did that I don't know about.


8 May 2012 - Fanwood, NJ

I had a surprise call asking me to teach the class in Fanwood back in April, and I got return engagement.

The April class gave me a good idea just how good the Fanwood dancers are with figures and geography. The RSCDS standard on footwork is ignored there, but they are certainly very well trained "above the navel dancers" in John Drewry's words. In short they can dance. It may not be "pretty" but they do have fun.

I tossed three difficult dances at them this night and they did superbly.

Warm up was EH3 7AF, then I did a dance of my own, a dance by Bob Gregg (of New Haven), a dance from the Imperial Book #3, and closed with a nice strathspey to some GREAT music.

The dances were:
     EH3 7AF  (32 J 3)
     Altamont Fair (32 R 3) Peter Price
(or Peter Price's Apologies to Geoff and Pat Walshe)
    Dress Parade  (32 S 4) Bob Gregg
    Mrs Stuart Linnell  (40 R 3)  Imperial Bk 3
    Dragonflies  (32 S 5some)  Jane Lataille


EH3 7AF  -  Standard, nothing special but good for warming up a class who doesn't like that stuff.

Altamont Fair - I wrote this dance Labor Day weekend while driving to Albany for the Schenectady Pipe Band's Capital District Highland Games held at the Atltamont Fair Grounds outside of Albany, NY. 
It borrows the setting figure from Da Rain Dancin' by Ron Wallace and there are moments when dancers have to move.

There is some history to this - in the early 90's Geoff and Pat Walshe started dancing in New Haven. They were both retired ice skaters (dancers) with Pat having competed at the Olympics. So there was a rather high level of ability. What I didn't realize at first was Geoff's age. It turns out he served in the Royal Navy for the duration of WWII, was sunk on at least one occasion, and wounded/injured more than once.

It became apparent that he was plateauing early and was having trouble with the more subtle aspects of the dance so I pushed for and got a class together whose purpose was to push the intermediate dancers and get them up to the advanced level. I did a poor job at that and really blew things when "politics" raised its ugly head.

A couple of the advanced dancers in the class objected loudly and publicly to Pat and Geoff being in the class. They considered the class to be for advanced dancers and didn't hear/comprehend that it was an Intermediate/advanced class with the intent of growing the intermediate dancers and I failed to squash the gripers and set the record straight. The end result was that Pat and Geoff stopped dancing in New Haven and went elsewhere for their dancing to our profound loss.

A few years later I heard in June that Geoff had been diagnosed with cancer in December. In August I headed up to the Captital District Highland Games. I was listening to the tape Soir et Matin by Kerry Elkin (fiddle), Peter Barnes (piano) and Danny Noveck (strings). One cut of reels had this dynamite tune, listed as Dm Reel, that had me bouncing in my seat. Soon a series of figures came together and I had a dance.

Some weeks later I was was struggling with a name when inspiration hit and I realized just who deserved the dance. I printed a copy, took it by, and gave it to Pat. Unfortunately Geoff never had a chance to dance it, he died later that fall. I still didn't know the name of the tune, sent the tape to a friend, and got chills when I heard back - the tune was Michel Ferry's Farewell to Tchernobyle.

The dance is published in the New Branch's book The Nutmeg Collection under the title The Altamont Fair (or Peter Price's Compliment to Geoff and Pat Walshe).

I admit it - I wimped out. The title should always have been Peter Price's Apologies to Geoff and Pat Walshe (or The Altamont Fair).

Dress Parade - by Bob Gregg a dancer from New Haven, this dance has a unique and very different Set and Link pattern. It is rather disorienting and dancers not paying close attention are in trouble.
Handled beautifully by the Fanwood class.

Not a dance I would repeat often. The pattern is a "fun once" but would become very tedious if oft repeated.

Mrs Stuart Linnell - Oh my what a fun dance! One necessary foundation is the dancers must be comfortable with fractions. The half reels really must be EXACTLY half. The three quarters turns are only three quarters if the half reels are proper half reels. If one dancer gets it wrong - chaos.
But when it is right a rhythm and a pulse come out and then, oh then...

Worth It!!

Dragonflies - 5some (5 dancer) strathspey by Jane Lataille now in Santa Fe. A linear set and link for 3 makes this one interesting. And when danced to Susie Petrov's 5x32 set of strathspeys from her vinyl album Hold the Lass till I get Her the result is sublime.

Well I am out of time today, so I can't complete this update, the rest will have to wait.

Monday, May 14, 2012

24 April 2012 - Fanwood, NJ

I accepted an offer from Loretta Holz and traveled to Fanwood, a good hour and a half from Norwood.
John Drewry has a lovely phrase for the different kinds of dancers - those who LOVE technique for technique's sake as opposed to those who learn technique because it helps them. the former are "below the navel" dancers and the latter are "Above the navel" dancers. The dancers in Fanwood are definitely above the navel dancers, in fact they would rather not have any technique taught to them at all. I can agree but only to a point. There are times when the use of good technique will get you through a difficult piece of choreography and keep a dance from falling to pieces.

I once again taught dances from the Kilts and Ghillies tea dance program. I don't think anyone at this class  had ever seen some of them. I also pulled a couple of surprises from my card file.

The dances were:
Ann Arbor  (32 J 3)  Bob Gregg
The Captain  (32 R 3) Russ King
Maurice  (32 S 2)  Gary Thomas
The Elusive Muse  (32 J 3)  Tim Wilson
A Dance for Marjorie  (32 S 3)  Peter Price
Chasing the Red Dot  (32 R 5)  Sue McKinnell

Ann, Arbor, The Captain, Maurice, The Elusive Muse, all from the Kilts & Ghillies program were, yet again well received and some of them were, as I was later informed, repeated the next week.
A Dance for Marjorie is a bit of a technique challenge. There are moments where dancers need to have strong steps and good handing.

Chasing the Red Dot, is a terrible name for a good dance with a loverly Celtic Braid pattern created by active 1st and 5th couples. Worth doing again.!

23 April 2012 - Dancing on the Heights (Friends Meeting House)

Again an "upcoming ball workshop" class. Again I taught the more esoteric dances from the program.
Again I found that they were still fresh for me. Many dances are fun once, maybe twice but more that three times in a short span become tedious. Scotland's Gardens is on the edge of it though. I probably will let it lay for a year or so, and Dean Bridge of Edinburgh, while it will not make my Top 25, is growing on me. Tim Wilson is rapidly gaining status in my view. The Docent's Tour is just superb and is soundly applauded by the dancers whenever I teach it.

The dances I taught were:
Maurice - 32 S 2 - by Gary Thomas from Dunsmuir Dances
The Elusive Muse - 32 J 3 - by Tim Wilson from Measures of Pleasure
Scotland's Gardens - 32 R 3 - by Roy Goldring from a leaflet
The Dean Bridge of Edinburgh - 32 S 3 - by Alex Gray from Book 23
Rockside - 96 J 4 square - by Roy Goldring
Christine M. Phillips - 32 J 3 - Book 46
The Docent's Tour - 32 S 3 - by Tim Wilson, ibid
The Kilt Maker - 32 R 4 - by the late Priscilla Burrage from one of the Pinewoods Collections
Gifts - 32 S 3 set - by Irene van Maarseveen

22 April 2012 - Westchester Workshop

Naomi Lasher was most kind to offer her house and dance floor for the occasion. I had a set and that was a very good thing and we made it through a goodly part of the ball program.

The dances were:

Ann Arbor  32 J 3  Bob Gregg - The Real MacGregor 1
The Elusive Muse  32 J 3  - Measures of Pleasure (Tim Wilson)
The Docent's Tour  32 S 3 - Measures of Pleasure (Tim Wilson)
The Captain  32 R 3  - Solstice Party Book (Russ King)
Rockside  96 J 4 sq  - Goldring
Dean Bridge of Edinburgh 32 S 3 - Book 23
Christine M. Phillips  32 J 3 - Book 46
Maurice  32 S 2 - Dunsmuir Dances (Gary Thomas)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Scotia (NYC) - 9 April 2012

Vivian Anapol asked me to teach the 2nd hour at the Scotia class in NYC. She wanted the more difficult of the unfamiliar dances taught.

So I taught:-

Maurice   (32 S 2)   Dunsmuir Dances (Gary Thomas)
The Elusive Muse   (32 J 3)   Measures of Pleasure (T. Wilson)
The Kilt Maker  (32 R 4)  Pinewoods Coll. (P. Burrage)

It all went well, and the weird transition into Strathspey Poussette went flawlessly.

I do have one additional comment to add to what I said previously in regards to the dance Christine M. Philips.
On bars 9-16 (and again on bars 17-24) the 1C dance a 4 bar half diagonal reel followed by a 2 bar turn with their corner dancer followed by a 2 bar turn with partner.

The corners are dancing a SIX bar phrase - a half reel of four and a turn with 1C - as one piece. There is no separation between the reel and the turn - they flow one into the other NO STOPPING, especially not to bask in the glory of a successful half reel.

Short commercial announcement:

Sunday the 22nd of April - there will be a workshop at Naomi Lasher's for those dancers who want to learn the Kilts and Ghillies dances. I will bring fliers as the links above hasn't always worked as advertised.

Monday the 23rd - my 4th Monday class on the Fair Haven Heights (Friends (Quaker) Meeting House, New Haven, CT).

Tuesday the 24th - I have been invited to teach the Fanwood, NJ class. I will be doing a few of the Kilts and Ghillies dances.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dancing on the Heights - 26 March 2012

Hmmm, where to begin. At the end of last month's class one of the dancers commented on the use of hands by dancers listening to the briefings. She said it made her very dizzy. One person learning the dance with their hands wasn't too bad, but when three dancers did it, and none the same way, well it was too much for her.

I never noticed. Mainly because I use my hands to trace the movements and I do it with my eyes closed. For me it is the kinesthetics that lock in the pattern, the actual movement of my hands as I trace the path; I feel it so I don't need to see it. Now that I am aware that there is a problem I will have to tone it down.

In other news I have finally gotten my computer and stereo system linked up properly and can now digitize vinyl and old tapes and have been doing so. One friend, soon to be moving, handed me a box of some 20 tapes and asked me to turn them into CDs. I am. Very slowly. The unfortunate part is that I have to listen to everything in real time, and then take the time to insert markers between the tracks and clean up the noise and split the tracks, and import it all into iTunes, convert everything into MP3 or AAC format and only then burn. The upside to this is that I have, temporarily, in my possession a copy of the music for Gentle Annie, 32 S 3, written by Ellie Hurd, sister to Bob Houghton, published in the Delaware Valley Silver collection. Music commissioned from Terpsichore, Liz Donaldson and Elke Baker. Super dance, super music, and now mine!

On a similar note: I was at the NY Branch class this past Thursday (March 29) and was browsing their CD collection and I saw four or five CDs, home made, of a favourite band leader, Jimmy Blair. I just love the one album of his that I have, Highland Dance Party. I want more, as much as I can get. Anybody out there willing to pass on to me any other albums of his? I would be willing to send back with a digital version. Please, anyone?
FYI - I use Jimmy Blair's version of Lady Sophia Anne of Bute instead of the name tune recording for the dance Solway Reel.

A couple of new books have been added to the collection. I recently bought The Kangaroo's Paw and Auld Friends Meet (Collected Leaflets of Roy Goldring). I went looking and found Sue McKinnell's web page and found she has posted some 10 or so years of dance compositions. I picked out some dances to try because her dance, Barbara's Strathspey, is a hot item in the NY/NJ area.

I taught one of the Roy Goldring leaflets to tepid response and one of Sue's to loud applause and a Dancer's Choice Award as well as a few groans for the name.

The evening's dances were:
     East of Yeadon  (32 J 3) Roy Goldring
     Chasing the Red Dot  (32 R 5)  Sue McKinnell
     The Docent's Tour   (32 S 3)  Tim Wilson
     The Balgeddie Reel  (32 R 5)  Mary S. Brandon
     The Happy Dancers  (32 J 3)  Roy Goldring
     Maurice   (32 S 2)  Gary Thomas


East of Yeadon:- From The Collected Leaflets of Roy Goldring, this read as an ok dance but danced as tedious. No special spark to pick it up and maybe that is why I had never heard of it before? Another possibility for the tepid response is that I made a poor choice of music. Worth another try at a later date.

Chasing the Red Dot:- Sue McKinnell apparently has a lot of cats, and she loves to tease them with a laser pointer. The name needs work the dance doesn't. There is a lovely "celtic braid" formation danced by first and fifth couples that looks spectacular and is simple to dance. All were in agreement and bestowed a Dancer's Choice Award and I have gone further, it is on the short list for next year's Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance.

The Docent's Tour:- Tim's dance continues to delight. Smiles all around every time I teach it. I had a nice email from Ken Way (teacher of the Middletown, CT class) who picked the dance up from Tim Wilson last summer and was teaching both it and Gary Scott's Jig in Middletown before he saw the Tea Dance program.

The Balgeddie Reel:- a flirtatious dance for 5 couples - according to Mary S. Brandon and she is the authority. Great fun!

The Happy Dancers:- I picked this dance out years ago. But the response just hasn't been what I expected. It may be the music. The Name tune recording just isn't as good as I would like. It is OK, but that is damning with faint praise. This dance is going on the back burner and may end up being pulled from my card file of active dances altogether. "Nice" and "good dance" are not the same as applause, cheers and a Dancers Choice Award.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dancing on the Heights - 13 February 2012

It turns out that this is a very busy week for the New Haven Branch. Monday was this class, Tuesday was Valentine's day (and was being celebrated by the class in New Haven), Wednesday the Middletown class and the Branch is celebrating Ken Way's 65th birthday, and Thursday there is a performance at the Foote School in New Haven.

Attendance at my class was understandably light but I had a full set for most of the evening.

The Big News coming out of the class is that we will no longer be meeting on the 2nd Monday of each month, but rather the 4th Monday (pending confirmation with the Meeting).

I taught:-
Happy to Meet  (32 J 3 set) Iain Boyd - Happy to Meet
Maurice  (32 S 2)  Dunsmuir Dances (Gary Thomas)
Dancing In the Street  (32 R 4) Bk 42 (Tom Toriyama)
A Book of Verse  (32 S 3) Iain Boyd - unpublished
State of Grace  (32 S 3) Tim Wilson - unpublished
Swashbuckling Iain  (32 J 2) SF 2 (Carolyn Hunt)
A Dance for Marjorie  (32 S 3 set) Peter Price


Happy to Meet:- Very much a warm up dance, at least for this group, because they are very experienced and this becomes a throwaway. It was walked for the most part. Most of the group was behind schedule and nobody was present during the set aside time for warm up.

Maurice:- I get warm and fuzzy feelings when I dance this one. Even when I just teach it. It is that good.
The only thing that kicks this dance out of pure dead simple into complicated and difficult is the odd entry into the diamond poussette - it doesn't throw beginners mind you, only the self assured experienced dancers who just can't quite modify their muscle memory. And I taught it because it will be done at the Kilts & Ghillies tea dance on April 28.

Dancing in the Street:- This was requested from the floor. It is on the New Haven Highland Ball program and not, apparently , commonly done in the New Haven class. It isn't one of my standards either - I gave it a B rating when I first taught it in 2003. It didn't get any better this time.

A Book of Verse:- This dance is listed in the database as "unpublished". I received a photocopy from Ellen Sears who taught the dance at the branch class in NYC. Iain Boyd wrote it for Mel and Ellie Brisco.
Special setting to open (nice). fairly standard middle but a lovely variation on Allemande to finish. Keeper.
Definitely going on the short list for next year's ball.

State of Grace:- This newly written dance was sent to me by Tim Wilson (San Francisco area) and is still in trials as it were. It is what I call a journeyman dance - it is solid but unexceptional. Only the final circle and chase is unusual and to get it right one needs to dance straight in and and then straight out without any movement around the circle.
No spiraling which is called for in several of John Drewry's dances so don't get caught out.

Swashbuckling Iain:- Simple but cute enough to keep handy. I wouldn't give it an A-rating but it is better than a B - so B+?  One dancer felt there was too much chasing going on - there is all of 12 bars of it.

A Dance for Marjorie:- I wrote the dance in 2006, taught it six time but not since then. Six years and I couldn't remember it. The 'feel' of it didn't come back until the 2nd or 3rd round. Then the smiles appeared. I have a note on my card showing that I had it short listed for this year's K&G Tea Dance. Maybe next year. It is good enough.

Westchester - 25 January 2012

It was a Burns night party and an end of session party combined and I tried very hard to keep the program to a realistic length - and finally got it right 'cause we weren't rushed and we ended on time.

We opened with the St. Bernard's Waltz (for warm up).

The country dances were:

The White Cockade (32 R 3)
The Lea Rig  (32 S 2/3C set)
Barley Bree  (40 J 4)
Ca' the Ewes tae the Knowes  (32 S 2)
Caberfei  (32 R 3)

a break for haggis and whiskey (as well as neeps and tatties) and then dancing continued with:

Ann Arbor  (32 J 3)
Monymusk  (32 S 3)
Montgomeries' Rant  (32 R 3)


The White Cockade:- I have been dancing it for years and, I must confess, I still like it. It must be the music.

The Lea Rig:- The music is sublime but the dance is tedious, especially if it goes the full eight times through. thankfully I had a six times through version.

Barley Bree:- I was very pleasantly surprised. I expected breakdowns during the strip the willow part and that didn't happen. I also saw a lot of smiles and I didn't expect that either.

Ca' the Ewes:- The song tune is hauntingly beautiful but we don't dance to it. What a shame. Sigh.

Caberfei:- I love it! It has so many moments! This is one of my Top 10 reels.

Ann Arbor:- From the mind of one of New Haven's own, Bob Gregg, it is a delightful dance that is easy on the legs and makes a good re-warmer for a second half.

Monymusk:- I long disliked this dance and then, one evening at Scottish Weekend at Buffalo Gap, I had such a band and the music went off the page and I went through the roof. Oh my goodness! Steve Hickman, Earl Gaddis and Alistair Fraser with Liz Donaldson and crew. I got a pirate recording of that performance, and it is a crummy recording, but I have been using it ever since to the almost complete exclusion of all other recordings because the magic of that night comes through.

Montgomeries' Rant:- I have only seen smiles and heard cheers after this dance is done and this night was no exception.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Westchester - 18 January 2012

Well, Burns' night is growing near and it falls on me this year to double deal - not only is Wednesday the 25th the last class in this winter session it is also the date chosen to celebrate Robert Burns - and I get to put together that double duty party program. So many thanks to Naomi Lasher for, lo these many years ago, sending me a list of dances with connections to the Scottish Bard.

Last week we did The Lea Rig, this week we did Red House, and Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes.

Life has been interesting which, in a very round about way, brings me to certain "Rules of Life". Bill Wagstaff, who I rather wish I had met, had one: Always buy Hondas and Apples (computers). I'm on his side now.

Last week my computer (a spotted cow if there ever was one), decided to process a number of updates even though I told it to do so "later". Top notch programming rule: never let the user specify how much later - and in the middle of class it shut down leaving me to reboot - never a quick procedure with Windows (I WANT A MAC!) and that meant Louis Perez, his wife being away, had the opportunity to fill the time by telling a joke. I REALLY REALLY want my Mac back!!

Then, this week, in trying to reconcile a number of "unknown' bands and albums, all of which had that information input, the computer 'lost' about 25 albums and the associated music files. It is a very good thing that I live nowhere near the Microsoft engineers. There would be a new term for someone (me) going on a shooting spree - "he went windows". I have spent about 15 hours relocating and relinking all those music files.
Ground down teeth and several glasses of wine later....

Other than discovering that several of the music files I had planned on using were mislaid I had a splendid evening, the dancers left happy and I will miss teaching the group.

The evenings dances were:
     Swashbuckling Iain   (32 J 2)  San Francisco 2
     Simon Brodie   (32 S 3)  18C
     Red House   (40 R 2)   7/2
     Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes   (32 S 2)  16/8
     Sunday Afternoon Jig   (32 J 3)   Dunsmuir Dances
     Monymusk   (32 S 3)  11/2


Swashbuckling Iain:- Done as a walk-through warm up dance, the music is good, the dance too. It has been a while since I last danced it so that little chore is now on my to-do list. Verification of a dance requires more that watching it takes dancing, and this dance has caught my eye again.

Simon Brodie:- Not for wimps! The last formation requires strong steps, good strong handing and forethought in the phrasing. And the music, by Dave Wiesler and Mara Shea, a set of really good, strong traditional strathspeys is wonderful... and why I chose to teach the dance. Recommended.

Red House:- The list I received said there is a connection to Bobby Burns, I don't know what it is - anyone? This is one of my favourite dances and full of opportunities to embroider and play (and over do).

Originally a 48 bar dance - 3 part music - AA BB CC - the Scottish Dance Society chose to edit out one of the As. I can understand why, but only half heartily agree.

The original (Playford ca. 1650):
A1   Set, cast to 2nd place:
A2   Repeat back to place.

That in 2 phrases of music/16 bars -  so given our modern Scottish style it would be: set for 4 bars; cast for 4 bars: that again: which is, I agree, a bit much and so the edit.

What the Society may not have realized is that in English Country Dance the term "set" can also apply to "advance and retire" i.e set advancing then set retiring. Dancers can do that or use a simple walking step instead,  which creates a delightful surge - especially where it follows the first cast- i.e. adv & retire; cast off; (here it comes) adv & ret.; cast back to place.

In English CD they keep the 48 bars but even up the dancing by splitting the parts between 1C and 2C:
A1 1C fwd & back set & cast off;
A2 2C the same. (everyone home)
B1  1C chase.
B2  2C chase (again, everyone home)
C1 1C 2M reel of 3 across (2M cuts the reel Rsh to 1L)
C2  1C 2L reel of 3 across (2L cuts the reel Lsh to 1M) and with an extra pass all end progressed.

The Scottish 40 bar version where the reels are on the sides: -
A1   1C set, cast; set, cast back.
B1   1C chase end below 2C.
B2   1C (1L followed by 1M) chase. End home.
C1  1M 2M pass Lsh to begin AS 1L dances down and across to below 2M's place where she enters the
        reel by giving  Rsh to her partner. Last 2 bars 1L dances home as men pass again to progress.
C2   1L 2L pass Rsh AS 1M (from 2nd place) dances across to below 2L's place where he enters the
        reel by giving Lsh to his partner. Last 2 bars 1M dances across to 2nd man's place as 1L 2L pass more
       time to progress.

My inclination would be to dance the first half closer to the ECD style and keep the Scottish version of the reels which are so delightfully different.
A1  1C Adv and Ret; set, and cast off.
A2  1C repeat, back to place.
B1  1C chase
B2  1C chase back?
C1  Scottish style reel
C2  The same.

Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes:-  The connection here is the incredible tune to which Burns wrote the words.
Dougie MacLean sings a wonderful rendition on his CD "Tribute" and Marian Anderson, Judith Linton and Muriel Johnstone have a dynamite set on their CD "North of the Tweed" that begins with the true tune.

Unfortunately Ca' the Ewes... is a song tune and the RSCDS chose to set the dance to a different tune, a strong traditional style strathspey and, in so doing, cut the connection to Bobby Burns. Sigh. FYI the official RSCDS recording (made by Bobby Crowe) uses "Miss Mariane Oliphant (Rossie)" as the lead tune for the dance.

Sunday Afternoon Jig:- The first dance that I have taught from the "Dunsmuir Dances" collection that has me less than thrilled. But it is worth trying again, and when I do I will make every effort to be in the set and dancing it. 

Monymusk:- Another of my favourite dances. It wasn't until I danced to it to music played by Liz Donaldson and all her regular suspects with the following additions: Earl Gaddis, Steve Hickman and Alasdair Fraser. Oh my did that change my mind. If the music is anything but strong, dark and handsome I wouldn't bother. If the music is all that then I would called to the dance floor.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Westchester - 11 January 2012

Another good turn out with three full sets and a few extras and a good bit of ground got covered too. The Westchester Burns Night Party and their End-of-Session Party coincide this year and I decided to do some party prep.

I was taught how to handle the bars 15-16 transition in The Lea Rig a particular way that is not as written and I wanted to address that - some dancers and teachers tend to get bent out of shape if you do not hew the line and a few of them were present. I also wanted to do some remedial work on Caberfei, one of my top 10 favourite reels (it's the MUSIC!)

The dances we did were:
     Sister Blanche of St. Andrew's  (32 J 3)  B. McMurtry
     The Lea Rig  (32 S 2)  21/5
     Caberfei   (32 R 3)  18C
     Burn of Sorrow  (32 S 2)  B. Priddey
     Flight of the Falcon  (32 J 3)  B. Priddey
     Glen Feshie  (32 S 3)  anon. - Grampian Coll.
     Montgomeries' Rant  (32 R 3)  10/1

Sister Blanche:- A simple jig with a poussette which means it is not a beginner's dance. But that didn't matter because we walked it for warm up. Cold and Raw finally hit the North East. It isn't special, but there is room in my box for simple, easy to teach dances that have a nice story.

The Lea Rig:- The dance itself is, in my opinion, somewhat tedious. The music and song however are sublime. The problem I have is that as second man I have never liked dancing between 1C as they set to one another on bars 15&16 which is how it is written. That setting is still their moment even though they have already had three of them. My other problem is that I am a creature of habit and inertia: I was taught a different way and I like that way - which is for 2nd man to dance down behind 1st man on those bars as 2nd lady turns into place - and since it doesn't change the dance in any substantive way, no one else is affected and it gives 1C their moment, I see no reason to change how I dance or teach The Lea Rig. That is basically what I said last night and I gave everyone permission to compare the two versions which they did and that was a real joy to see
Oh yes, one other thing - the move from right hands across into position for the half poussette is still one of the nicest moves in Scottish dancing, or any dancing for that matter.

Caberfei:- (aka The Deer's Antlers) - The music is, quite simply, joyful; and it is such a good dance, such a fun, playful dance and the suffering I see whenever it is done!  Half set and half reel - oh the pain, and such pain, and it's all habit. Don't you hear it? "Only 1 pas de basque?! Impossible! I can't do just one! I have to do two, one on the right and one on the left" and so forth and so on and on...

And those are three of the moments in the dance - the two half sets into half reels and the half set into the half circle. Moments where it is no longer rote, common or everyday. Where this one is different and you get to really dance. And most dances only have one or two such moments. Oh, and the other moment is the down-for-one, up-for-one lead - it too is different and eye contact with partner in that moment makes the moment.

On an esthetic note: The stag's antlers – this dance is the only one in the country dance repertoire where it is permited for the men to raise their arms and take the highland antler position. But for heaven's sake, if you can't hold your arms UP there don't do it! Wimpy arms with hands next to the ears looks horrible and that is saying it kindly!

The Burn of Sorrow:- one of Barry Priddey's easier dances and, like so many of his, includes the Tourbillon figure. The more I dance it the more I see how 'large' it can become. And that is really rather large. I am tempted to see haw far I can go in making all the moves 'touch and go' and reduce the hand holding to a minimum. Just because.

The Flight of the Falcon:- Basically 16 bars of tandem, lead change reels of three. On the New Haven Highland Ball. Which I still have to sign up for.

Glen Feshie:- A nice basic strathspey with a little kick to it. Needs good music, music that will hold the interest because otherwise the dance can lean to the tedious. I use Petr White's Kendoon Strathspey.

Montgomeries' Rant:- What does this dance have that, no matter how often all we teachers present it, the dancers still have huge smiles when coming off the floor? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dancing on the Heights - 9 January 2012

The first meeting of the new year and and we covered a lot of territory. We looked at Terry Glasspool's dance Chocolate Raspberry Swirl from his Picton Workshop and corrected a long running error in my teaching of The Fireside Reel - I learned it some 30 years ago and have been teaching it that same way ever since - incorrectly - despite having the original directions in front of me for some 20 years. Time was also spent discussing the upcoming Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance which should be inked in your calendar.

Date: April 28, 2012
Time: 3:00 pm start
Location: South Britain Congregational Church, East Flat Hill Road, Southbury, CT.
Band: Terry Traub and Alice Backer
Cost: $20 in advance/ $25 at the door.
Refreshments: Desserts and finger food served at the break.

The above is my current understanding and may get carved in stone in the next week or so.

The evenings dances were:
     Saw Ye My Wee Thing  (32 J 2)  25/9
     Chocolate Raspberry Swirl  (40 S 3)  T. Glasspool
     Fireside Reel  (32 R 3)  18C
     Broadway  (32 S 3 set)  C. Ronald


Saw Ye My Wee Thing:- I used to think this dance was a throw away but it is growing on me. We did it as a walk through- literally walking it because the hall was quite chill and it did a nice job of warming the muscles without stressing any. And I find I am liking the tune which is more than half the partnership. A good tune will carry a mediocre dance. A good dance will not carry a mediocre tune.

Chocolate Raspberry Swirl:- One of Terry's outside-the-box dances, that seems to be about figures crossing the phrases of the music. The hook on which the dance hangs (or not) is in the transition from Right Hands Across (5 places) for 4 corners into LHA for 6 dancers once round in 3 steps and then into an unwinding. The important distinction is between the actual 6-hands across and the virtual grouping of 3s within the bigger 6. To make the point I actually had each group of three take hands and then merge their wheels to get the 6 hands across. It worked all too well. The dance didn't fall apart as in previous trials but now there are handing issues.

This is a real challenge dance. First time through is rough because there are so many small details that everyone has to remember or the dance falls apart. I am on the fence over whether or not the dance is a really a repeater. I saw great satisfaction in the mastering of the dance but not the spontaneous joy of a great dance worth doing and redoing. No Dancer's Choice Award for this one. Better music would help. There are very few 40 bar strathspey recordings, none of them spectacular, and this dance, I think, needs its own special music.

Fireside Reel:- I learned this dance from teachers who had it from their Boston teachers and, as I found out from Bob Houghton (teaching Tenafly, NJ on Jan 4), we all had it wrong. And the insult to this injury is that Ken Way (teacher in Middletown, CT) tried to point it out to me a few years ago and I didn't get it!

The opening 8 bars for the different dancers are uneven, not symmetrical, there being overlapping phrases.
1M dances bars 1-4; 2L dances bars 3-6, 1L dances bars 5-8.

1M has 2 bars to cast and 2 to turn 2L with the RH.  He has had his 4 bars and is done. 2L has 4 bar of dancing: she has a 2 bar turn with 1M (starting on bar 3) about half round, and then 2 bars to dance up and curve right into top ladies' place as 1L begins her 4 bars - she has 2 bars to cast, and this is the important point, NOT around 1M (in 2L's place), but rather she enters between 1st and 2nd places - i.e. above 1M - and then has 2 bars to turn 2M.

Broadway:- Fun - and growing on the dancers each time they dance it. Recommended!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Elmsford - 4 January 2012

A lovely evening, with two sets and a bit. Nothing esoteric on the program so we were able to get through 8 dances.

The dances were:
     Trip to Gatlinburg  (32 J 3) Shengzhang Tang
     Meyer Lemon Strathspey  (32 S 2) Houston 30th
     Scotland's Gardens  (32 R 3)  R. Goldring
     Gypsy Weaver  (32 S 3) D. Peet
     The Captain  (32 R 3)  Russ King
     The Nurseryman  (32 J 3)  37/7
     Strathglass House  (32 S 3)  13/9
     Flowers of Edinburgh  (32 R 3)


Trip to Gatlinburgh:- A simple, jig with a variant weave making it progressive. Very good at warming up the dancers but otherwise a bit on the light side. Fun occasionally.

Meyer Lemon Strathspey:- Introduced to me by Ralph Stoddard who was teaching at the Nutmeg Workshop held in Middletown, CT., this past fall. Good dancer he, also good teacher and all round good person. Dance is somewhat simplistic but that means you must dance it clean because any error is most obvious.

While simple the dance is good enough that it is going one the shortlist for the next program I devise (at the suggestion of Miss Wendy).

Scotland's Gardens:- From the pen of Roy Goldring, a lovely dance in MHO, and except for the awkward end effect, would give The Highland Rambler a run for the money.

Gypsy Weaver:- The music, by Liz Donaldson, is simply divine and the dance ain't bad either. It's all about eye contact but please don't over play it. Keep it respectful and the dance is worth doing again. Camp it up and it is only funny once because the dance doesn't go there and big googly eyes simply don't fit. Play is fun when not overdone.

The Captain:- Yet another round of applause. 1M gets a great kilt moment and considering what I am seeing now I eagerly await the evening when all the men are wearing their kilts. Even the ladies dancing as men are getting into the swing of the moment.

The Nurseryman:- One of the top 10 jigs IMHO. The transition out of the LHA into lines of three across advancing is one of the great moments in Scottish dancing. The secret is to drop hands about half way round and spiral out into the lines across and then the dancers can surge toward the other line. If dancers hold their hands too long forming the lines is problematic and there is no momentum, and tonight, finally, the class began to get it. Oh yeah!

Strathglass House:- The music makes the dance and calls for good strong steps, and when that is there...

Flowers of Edinburgh:- One of the standards for good reason. I've done it lots and it is still good fun and went really nicely to an old recording - George Stirrat and his Band ca. 1960. It is really something when you can hear the band having fun.