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Sharlene Penman (piano), visiting from New Zealand, is the band leader for the 2019 Tea Dance.
Our fiddlers are Jenny Evans and Amy Beshara.

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

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