Tuesday, November 26, 2013

13 + 20 November 2013 - Westchester

!3 November 2013

2nd session of the series and a good one. We manage 8 dances over the evening, warming up with Kent Smith's Chicago Loop and then dancing City of Belfast without a talk through. 

There is not a lot of story around the dances this week so 

This night's dances were:

Chicago Loop  (32 R 3) Kent Smith - Chicago Collection
City of Belfast  (32 S 3 set)  Mulholland - Belfast Jubilee
The Hazel Tree  (32 J 3)  Drewry - Brodie Book
The Docent's Tour  (32 S 3)  T. Wilson - Measures of Pleasure
Jessie's Hornpipe  (32 R 3)  Bk 8/9
Waverley  (48 J 3)  Bk 15/12
All for One  (32 S 3 set)  McMurtry - Dragonfly Book
The Punchbowl  (32 R 3)  Bk 5/5


20 November 2013

The basics class was larger: last weeks beginners were back along with a couple who started last year but have been *very* busy this fall. Things are looking up here, 'cause a group without beginners is a dying group. 

And that is my fear for Westchester. When I started teaching this group I could pull anything, and I do mean anything, out of my little box and they would handle it. Even a John Drewry piece of spaghetti choreography. I can't do that now. I now have to be careful what I choose and with teaching Shinkansen, in a bit of a time constraint ,was a mistake.

3rd session of the current series.

Warm up dance:
The Findlays' Jig  (32 J 3)   Goldring - 14 Social Dances 2000

The No Talk Through:
The Hazel Tree  (32 J 3)  Drewry - Brodie Book

Intermediate Class:
The Fountain Strathspey  (32 S 3 set) Rbt. Gregg
Miss Hadden's Reel  (32 J 3)  Bk 23/5

Social hour:
The Silver Tassie  (32 S 3)  Drewry - L1
Blue Bonnets  (32 J 2)  
Shinkansen  (32 R 3)  A. Dix - Reel Friends 3


The Findlays' Jig –  It is basic and different. A hard combination to achieve. And I like cuddle casts if the dancers do more than 'make the motions' and actually acknowledge on another.

The Hazel Tree – I like the Espagnole! It isn't hard - it is simple!. So why all the panic stricken faces? It is only a half double fig. Eight… in a different orientation. Last weeks teaching actually took. They did a beautiful job of it.

The Fountain Strathspey – This one took more time than I anticipated. The opening figure took a lot more teaching than I planned. I need to re-think how and what I say cause what I did worked but not well. When done well a keeper!

Miss Hadden's Reel – An eye opener for me. Inverting a line of three should not be a mind twisting concept. But it was this day. Another "re-think the process" dance. 

The Silver Tassie – Taught to the beginners downstairs, and opening the social dance period. Rondel is not my favourite figure. I do it well but very few others do. It is all about timing.

Blue Bonnets – good music but even that doesn't carry the dance. Good for beginners, otherwise tedious, in the extreme. (IMHO, of course)

Shinkansen – Again I misjudged. The meanwhile figure is the same as in Mrs Hamilton of Wishaw.
1C sets and dances an 6 bar track; 2C sets and dances a 4 bar track; 3C sets and dances a 2 bar track. 
Even five years ago this would not have been a problem for this group. It is now. Sigh. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

6 November 2013 - Westchester

First night of a new series in Westchester.
A new lot of beginners (2), a couple who contra and swing dance. The old lot of beginners haven't been showing up. Not because they have decided to stay away but because life has gotten in their way.
A cataract surgery; premature grand twins; the death of a sister; an aging parent; and so on and so forth.

One thing that became clear after this evening is that the Westchester group is not what it used to be.
The greying of the class has taken firm hold, and politics has made it a bit worse…  I am not going there!

I opened with Romaine Butterfield's dance Cabbages and Kings  which has become one of my standard, any place any where any group, dances. There is enough in it to keep it interesting even for experienced dancers walking it as a warm up.

The next dance, also from down under, was Home and Away, by Barry Skelton. It uses the Best Set in the Hall figure, and possibly predates that dance. What I like is the alternate ending - half Dolphin Reels of 3 on the diagonal. First made popular by the publication of The Dolphin Book, 'dolphin reels' were also used in Barry Priddey's Flight of the Falcon which predates the Dolphin Book. Who may have invented the figure before Barry Priddey I do not know.

I know the class has been taught Best Set in the Hall, and more than once in the last year. The walk through looked really good. So I moved on with out doing extensive walk-throughs. When they danced it they looked like they had never seen it before and would have benefited from a complete reteaching from scratch. In retrospect I don't think it would have been beneficial.

I have been teaching here part of each year since the mid 1990s. This was a wake up for me. I know they had been sliding downhill but I have not seen it this bad before or, actually, acknowledged that it was this bad.. And looking back, they have lost a lot of their good dancers over the last two years. I should not have been surprised.

I continued the precedent set by Sue Ronald which is to teach a 'No Talk Through' dance each week to be danced the next week. It seems to sharpen the mind a bit. This week I taught City of Belfast. The music by Marian Anderson is lovely. So lovely that Chris Ronald used this music for his dance Broadway. The New York Branch instituted a "dance list" a few years ago, and no dance can stay on it more than three years. Broadway is coming off, and it looks like City of Belfast is going on. I see no reason not to keep using this music by Marian Anderson and her band, it is simply, IMHO, too good to lose.

The second hour, or what remains of it after a very social tea 'break', is dedicated to social dancing with the beginning/basic dancers included.

The first dance was Flowers of Edinburgh taught by Deb Leary. I then taught Delvine Side. (It is the music, that great music by the San Francisco Band Fiddlesticks and Ivory). This album is a must have.
Even if you don't care for fiddle bands get this one! I consider this music for Delvine Side to be THE definitive recording. I have never heard a better or more energy filled recording or live performance.

Cabbages and Kings - (32 J 3)  Butterfield - The Harbour City
Home and Away - (32 J 3)  Skelton - The Celtic Book
My Mither's Aye Glow'rin' Owre Me - (32 J 2)  Hugh Foss - Song Tunes
City of Belfast - (32 S 3 set)  Mulholland - Diamond Jubilee Dances - Belfast Branch
Delvine Side - (32 S 3) Bk 2/9

28 October 2013 – New Haven Friends Meeting

This evening was also a very experimental evening.

Through my work with the SCD DataBase I ran across two very interesting Hugh Foss dances,
a 16 bar strathspey Somebody, and a two couple jig , wait for this… My Mither's Aye Glow'rin' Owre Me, both from Hugh's book Dances from Song Tunes.

Both were hits with the dancers. Both are going to show up on the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance. This year it will be My Mither's… next year, maybe, Somebody.

Without question Hugh Foss qualifies as a genius. How else could a dance, comprised of simple figures [ advance & retire; half rights & lefts; set, cast, cross over, set; 4 bar cast, turn, cast; half fig eight; half rights & lefts ] be so confusing in the dancing. It isn't just the piece count and the memory problem.

The other dance of his, Somebody, is couple facing couple around the room. A different orientation in which to dance a half strathspey poussette. That threw even me. You really need to be aware of the orientation, where the women's positions are. That is the critical diagonal on which the dance is constructed.

The dances I taught were:

Granville Market  (32 J 3)  2nd Graded Book
Somebody  (32 S 2 RtR)  Hugh Foss
My Mither's Aye Glow'rin' Owre Me  (32 J 2)  Hugh Foss
The Flying Spur  (32 J 3)  John Drewry
Lady Jane's Fancy  (32 R 3)  Peter Price
Lassie wi' the lint white locks  (32 S 2) Barry Priddey


Granville Market – a nice simple jig for everyone. Not a throwaway like some 'simple' jigs. Devised by            Elinor Vandegrift one of my favourite people. She was my tutor when I stood my Full Cert. back in 1998. She also devised a very fun dance (the music!) - Monterey Mixer.

Somebody – From Hugh Foss' book Dances to Song Tunes. A Dancer's Choice Award recipient!
                    Recommended! I have seen it on maybe 1 program, Asilomar I believe. So I took a look. I was taken by it. I really like Hugh Foss's dances. They are 'different', and he is one of the giants whose shoulders every modern dance devisor stands on whether they know it or not. So I now choose to program his dances when I can.

The response from the class, beyond the DCA, was "put it on the ball, but not this year. Give us more time to become comfortable with it."

My Mither's Aye Glow'rin' Owre Me –  Another Dancer's Choice Award! Another "ball program"! Another dance from Hugh Foss' book Dances to Song Tunes. Another Keeper! But… keep your head.

The Flying Spur – An early dance by John Drewry, one that has been on ball programs in GB. I have taught it twice to the Westchester, NY class to tepid response. I like it a lot, it is typical Drewry, so why the lukewarm response. I chose to give it another try in a different class.

Oh my not tepid at all. Enthusiastic would be an understatement. Wonderful dance! according to these dancers.


Lady Jane's Fancy – A dance from my pen. Good journeyman effort. Nothing special but the music will make or break it. The transition from the reel of 4 across the dance into set to first corner was the sticking point in my mind. Not so. Easy peasy in fact. I can not publish it until I have permission from she for whom it is intended. Real Soon Now (as Jerry Pournelle used to say in his computer column).

Lassie wi' the lint white locks – I done this one before, I still love it. I love the Tournée. And my new way of teaching the Tournée worked again. The dancer who looked stricken when I announced the figure was actually smiling when we finished.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

23 September 2013 - New Haven Friends Meeting

Back on Schedule… Yeah Right!

This was a very experimental session. On the near horizon a workshop dedicated to the late Robert Gregg, one of my dancers and a deviser of different but good dances.

H was still working on The Southpaw Reel when he died. The action is all left handed (no surprise given the title). I was scheduled to teach it at the workshop and the description was so very Bob that after 20 minutes of trying to figure out what he meant I headed for the fridge for a beer. 40 minutes later I thought I knew what his intent was but that is never a sure thing until it is danced and thus confirmed.

This class was the perfect opportunity to test my interpretation. It took up most of the first half. I was very lucky too. 4 of the dancers had previously learned it from Bob himself and my interpretation not only worked it was correct. (hooray!)

I like the dance. The problem is bars 9-16. They are a 30 minute project in and of themselves. It is so different in concept and so not standard usage that experienced dancer are thrown for a loop and require serious retraining, as it were.

All in all, except for the wording, this dance is a finished product ready for publication. I have to work this out with the branch and his estate.

The other three dances I taught this evening are also winners and,  dare I say it, more accessible.

The dances were:

Dust Devils  (32 J 4some)  Jane Lataille - Still enough to Dance
The Southpaw Reel  (32 R 3)  Rbt. Gregg - leaflet
Yet Another Birthday  (32 S 3 set)  Holly Boyd - Montréal Moments
Shinkansen  (32 R 3)  Ann Dix - Reel Friends 3


Dust Devils –  If you have a class with small numbers, and this one is,
           this is a dance for you.  From a   book you should have. By a
           dance diviser who is thinking outside the box and who is
            really very good at what she does. Recommended!

The Southpaw Reel – From the pen of a chemist who had a view far
            removed from the norm. I need to find time to rewrite the
            second figure into something understandable. Forty minutes
            struggling to decipher his description is just too much. Forty
            minutes teaching the figure is a guarantee that the dancer
            will never want to see it again. The results are not worth
            that kind of effort. If I can get the description down to 10
            minutes study and the teaching down to a minimal
           10 minutes then the reward is definitely worth the effort.

Yet Another Birthday – It's a beautiful thing indeed. It received a
           Dancer's Choice Award and they were most insistent that I put
           it on the upcoming (March 28, 2014) Kilts and Ghillies Tea
           Dance program. Holly wrote a Keeper. Went right to the top
           of my Top 50 Strathspeys list, neck and neck with Maurice,
           Linnea's Strathspey, and Gypsy Dreams.
           Highly recommended!

Shinkansen – from the pen of the late Ann Dix. It also received a
            Dancer's Choice Award. On it's first trial too. it too will be on
            the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance program this spring.
            Accessible, Fun, with a mild fugal formation.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NY Branch – 19 September - 31 October 2013

Geez Louis, I knew I was a bit tardy in updating the blog but I had no idea it had been two months.

These past months have been a very different experience for me. I have been teaching at the New York Branch (Holy Cross School on 43rd Street). I have the first hour upstairs which is for experienced dancers. The first hour downstairs is the basics class, and the second hour upstairs is a combined social hour. The standard procedure is for each teacher to plan their program and send out an email containing the cribs. This is so dancers can come, if not prepared, at least familiar with the dances.

I am not used to this degree of preparation though that really isn't the right word. I used to select 40 or 50 dances at the beginning of a series that I called my WannaDo list. I also had a list of easy warm up dances, a list of old chestnuts and easy (though not always familiar) dances for social hour and a list of 'specials'. At class time I'd look at who was there and pick my dances as I went. It worked well.  That system gave me the ability to quickly adjust to changing circumstances (like newbies walking in the door). This crib method ties me into my plan and flexibility is much harder to achieve. There is an element of "keeping to the plan" that is difficult to break. I find that the time I would be updating the blog is spent going to DanceData and cutting and pasting up the cribs.

Then there was the mailing list which was a shambles. I finally spent the time to add the branch members' addresses into my personal contact book as a separate group. Time that I could have spend profitably elsewhere. Good for me now, but what a pain when I am no longer the teacher and have to pass the list onto the next teacher. It is easy to maintain the group but I haven't maintained the list I was originally sent. Essentially each teacher has to maintain their own list and how do we get them in sync and keep them in sync? I shudder to think of it.

New Jersey does it smarter. They have a Yahoo account and keep the list there where it is easily maintained by the branch secretary. You just have to log in and the list is ready and waiting for you and it is not a mess.

Anyway off my soap box and onto dancing.

19 September 2013 - NY Branch 1st hour (upstairs):

Warm up –
Dust Devils  (32 J 4 dancers)  Jane Lataille

No Talk Through Dance –
Argyll Strathspey  (32 S 3C/4C)  Goldring (Bk 35/3)

Next No Talk Though (teaching) –
Crazy Aunt Wendy  (32 J 4C/4C) C. Ronald (leaflet)

Glastonbury Tor  (32 R 3C/4C)  Duncan Brown (Bk 47/11)
Yet Another Birthday  (32 S 3C set)  Holly Boyd (Montréal Moments)


Dust Devils –
From the Santa Fe class's book Still Enough to Dance containing dances for classes with small numbers. This one is for four dancers in a 'square' set. Simple. Reasonably elegant. More importantly it was well received and, most importantly, dancers finished with smiles on their faces. Recommended.

Crazy Aunt Wendy –
Written at the request of the current chair of the  NY Branch's Jeannie Carmichael Ball and on this year's program. Lots of back story not fit for public discussion - so don't ask. The end result was a good dance. Different too.

 It starts with 1C and 3C on opposite sides - into double down the
 middle (2), up (2) and cast to 4th and 2nd place. Hands across |
 Dolphin reels on the sides | set, half turn cast to the side, set.

 There is now a crib for it on DanceData.

Glastonbury Tor
A Book 47 dance - nice. I would like to have taken more time in the teaching but CAW was different enough to soak up time. This one is worth doing again. It might become a regular. We will see.

Yet Another Birthday –
Lovely!  This dance is a keeper! I just updated my list of Top 50 Strathspeys to include it. Dance is by Holly Boyd and published in the book Montréal Moments. The accompanying CD is superb, though the music has just a little too much back beat for some dancers who find the rhythm difficult to find. I am looking forward to doing more from this book especially if the other dances are as good as this one. This dance is now on the short short list for the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance/Ball (coming in late March).

26 September 2013 – NY Branch

warm up:
The Sorcerer's Apprentice  (32 J 2C)  Iain Boyd (Katherine's Book)

No Talk Through:
Crazy Aunt Wendy  (32 J 4)  Chris Ronald (leaflet)

Next No Talk Through (teaching):
Linnea's Strathspey  (32 S 3) Tim Wilson (Bk 47/2)

Shinkansen  (32 R 3) Ann Dix (Reel Friends 3)


Linnea's Strathspey – 
A top 10! An instant favourite of mine and now a recipient of a Dancer's Choice 
Award. On its way to stardom and a place alongside Montgomeries' Rant, General Stuart's Reel and their like.

Shinkansen – It is nice to see a new relatively simple dances; this one has a nice fugal second figure and it has a poussette! Smiles and clapping at the end and I'd do it again in heart beat. Now on my Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance short short list.

3 October 2013 - NY Branch

warm up:
Back to Basics  (32 R 3)  B. Skelton

No Talk Through:
Linnea's Strathspey  (32 S 3 ) Tim Wilson

No Talk Through (teaching):
Thirteen Fourteen (1314)  (64S+64R 4 square)  J. Drewry


Back to Basics –
Just as it says, a very basic dance :
RHA LHA  |  cross, cast; turn RH  |  adv/ret; BtoB  |  6 hands round.
The first dance of the evening is a warm up - and I like it to be walked and that means I have to pick my music very carefully. If it is too swingy and energetic nobody walks - they all dance. Not good when still cold.

Thirteen Fourteen –
This took up the balance of the hour. 
It went well. It was danced and no blood on the floor after. I was pleased.
No special teaching points other than teach it carefully and do not assume that the dancer's remember.


10 October 2013 - NY Branch

warm up:
Mrs. Stewart's Jig  (32 J 3)  Bk 35/1

No Talk Through:
Thirteen Fourteen  (64S+64R 4C square) Drewry

Next No Talk Through (teaching):
Starlight  (32 R 3)  Ed Abdill (Bk

The Fountain Strathspey  (32 S 3 set) Robert Gregg


Thirteen Fourteen –
Yikes!! I needed to tun my back and not look!
Several dancers got in who hadn't been here the previous week for the teaching - with
predictable results.

Chris Ronald chose to do it again next week during the second hour. It is on the JC Ball Sunday brunch and it needs exposure.

Starlight –
I like this one more and more as I keep doing it. Definite keeper. Do not have a good recording so the fall back music is Mara Shea and Dave Wiesler's arrangement for Sleepwalking. Oh yes!

The Fountain Strathspey –
I have both of the late Robert Gregg's dance books. (He danced in New Haven and in my class) But this dance hadn't caught my attention.  We held a memorial dance/workshop in his honor on October 5th and it got my attention then. The parallel cast in Set and Link for 3 show up here in a different context.
He has 1C dancing up and casting into 2nd place while 2C dances up and casts into 3rd place while 3C dances up and cast into top place - all couples casting independently (in parallel).
Lovely! A Keeper! Short Listed!


24 October 2013 – NY Branch

Warm up:
New River Reel  (32 R 3) Fuell & Lindsay

No Talk Through:
Starlight  (32 R 3)  Abdill (Bk 44/1)

Next No Talk Through (Teaching):
The Fireside Reel  (32 R 3) 18C

Maurice  (32 S 2) Gary Thomas (Dunsmuir Dances)


New River Reel –
Nice enough, has good figures and good flow but unless the music is stupendous it isn't anything special. And *Yes* I would teach it again, maybe not a first choice, but it is a dance that dancer's will enjoy.

Starlight –
Well done. Phew.

The Fireside Reel - 
Not to be confused with The Peat Fire Flame by John Drewry though they share the same name tune.
The dance instructions are adequate though not perfect. There is, unfortunately, an area open to interpretation.

I was taught this dance way back in the stone age thus:
1M cast off behind 2M, turn 2L RH 2L ending in top place end of bar 4 (1M end in 2L's place)
1L beginning on bar 5 cast off behind 1M (in 2Ls place) and turn 2M LH 2M end at top, 1L in 2M's place.

There are some problem's here. First of all 2 people can not occupy the same space at the same time, 
Either 1L begins her cast early (when and with what foot?) or 2L has to take extra time to dance finish her turn and get into place late. This thinking breaks the rules. I did it because I was taught to do it and didn't think twice - but I was a learning dancer then. 

A few years ago a teacher informed me that this was wrong. That, in fact, 1M, 2L and 1L are each dancing for four bars, in overlapping phrases, during this 8 bar phrase.
1M dances bars 1-4; 2L dances bars 3-6; and 1L dances bars 5-8.

I took a look at the original (which I had previously thought I had read carefully and only seeing what I expected to see) and sure enough Ken was right. I had been dancing and teaching it incorrectly. 

So this night I started to teach it this way:
1M cast off behind 2M, turn 2L RH slowly.
2L starts her turn with 1M then dances up to top place on bars 5-6 while 1L is casting off behind 1M (in 2L's place) and turns 2M LH on bars 7-8.

At which point another teacher (chair of the NY teacher's committee) runs over and whispers in my ear that I have it wrong (again? still? what?)  That 1L doesn't cast behind anybody, that in her cast she dances into the set above her partner to then turn 2M LH.

OK> he's committee chair and I am not going to either argue or have a discussion then and there. I taught it that way and next week we danced it that way. I have issues with that interpretation, and it is an interpretation and a very gray area.

The instructions read:

"First lady cast off behind second lady (who dances up to the top) crosses over and turns second man with left hands, finishing on the men's side below second man, who is now at the top."

In my opinion this moment of the dance is seriously over-thought and over-interpreted.
1M cast around 2M (In 2M's place). Standard move. No problem.
I know 2L is dancing up the center,…
I know 1M has ended his turn with 2L in 2L's place…
But…  How "cast off behind second lady" can 'imply' that 1L casts of a half place and dances in above her partner I do NOT get. It is not a standard move. It makes for a very awkward movement. It is a serious violation of the KISS rule. It is probably a mistake.

My interpretation – she casts off behind 2L's place (i.e. behind her partner) and dances in below him to then turn 2M with the left hand. That is also a standard move. And it would mirror what 1M danced on bars 1-4. I do not buy that her move is any harder than his move is.

Would that the editor Jack McConachie had said it so. He assumed and we have a bit of a mess.

31 October 2013 – NY Branch

Granville Market  (32 J 3)  E. Vandegrift (2nd Graded Bk)

No Talk Through:
Fireside Reel  (32 R 3) 18C

General Stuart's Reel  (32 R 3)  Bk 10/3
Best Set in the Hall  (32 J 3)  H. Greenwood - Bk 46/7
Montgomeries' Rant  (32 R 3) Bk 10/1


Granville Market –
While it isn't anything special it a good dance. It is in the Second Graded Book. It isn't intended to be unique, special or difficult. It works.

But… you knew a but was coming didn't you?
But I don't like the recording. It is so bass heavy (especially that cut) so oppressive that I either use an spectrum equalizer to reduce the bass and make the melody more prominent or I use a different recording all together. 

Fireside Reel
Oh well done! The ladies even danced that horrible casting figure well… and that took some doing.

General Stuart's Reel
On the JC Ball program. It was a request from one of the struggling newly promoted basic dancers. Who was not there as she had a very bad fall and broke her ankle. 
What I stressed was the Setting to corner partner and the 1s needing to be cheek to cheek with each other in the center. THEN it looks like something. Else it looks like nothing special. I got an improvement there. The reels? Oh well, not in tonight's spotlight. Some other time.

Best Set in the Hall
Great Dance, mildly counter intuitive, mildly disorienting but FUN!
I made one comment to the class based on what Miss Millagan wrote in my version of Won't You Join the Dance?
She said that anywhere a 4 bar RH turn is called for a two hand pas de basque turn is acceptable.
And on a crowded ballroom floor with scrunched up sets that is a very valuable option to have.

Montgomeries' Rant –
In the spotlight: the NH setting to 2L 3M 3L 2M - What I can not abide is the 'set to the right and whip around' thing that I have had the misfortune to experience from some very experienced dancers and, god forgive them, teachers.  Each person gets two full bars. There is enough time to change your 'facing' on the jeté of the left bas de basque. Yes there is! And I'll leave it there.

Ciao, til later

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

27 August 2013 - New Haven Friends Meeting

The dances:

The Sorcerer's Apprentice  (32 J 2)  I. Boyd - Katherine's Book
Crom Allt  (32 R 3)  Goldring - 24 Graded & Social
Blairmormond  (32 S 2) Drewry
It's All Right  (32 J 3) Graded Bk 2
Delvine Side  (32 S 3) Bk 2/9
Solway Reel  (48 R 3) Carlisle & Border Anniversay Book


The Sorcerer's Apprentice – A nice simple beginning jig suitable
                                           for a newcomer, which we had this evening.

Crom Allt – A nice little reel, this one is also suitable for newcomers
                   if you think they can handle mirror reels of three on own sides. I thought she could handle them and she did. This dance is also a simple introduction to corners.

Blairmormond – A Drewry dance that doesn't get done much in this area.
                           The Brooklyn, NY., class has a John Drewry evening every December, but this one I do not remember ever being done there. Unfortunate because this a one of John's pleasanter, more accessible dances.

What is nice is the reel of four across the dance. It is not the normal "line of four " starting position but the side by side positioning that creates that subtle difference in timing and phrasing that I so enjoy.

If looking at the "Pilling" diagrams beware - they show the reel ending in a line of four. That is NOT so if you follow the written directions which place couple in offset positions. The following set, Turn partner BH into circle of four half round is sweet and I especially like the set, dance 3/4 double figure eight to progress. So did the dancers. Keeper and likely to show up on a Kilts & Ghillies Tea dance real soon now.

It's All Right – Another good basic dance for basic dancers
                    and a nice relief from John Drewry spaghetti constructions.

Delvine Side – Oh the music. Nice dance, great music. I never get tired of the music.

 Solway Reel – Nice dance. Easily accessible. The name tune is disappointing but I use a set of good hearty energetic pipe tunes. Which lifts the dance and keeps it from becoming tedious. Keeper.

Thursday, 12 September 2013 - NY Branch

Last Thursday was the first class of the new season at the NY Branch and I brought a real project to the first hour experienced class - the quintessential and dreaded Tournée. My approach was very different from any I have experienced.

Rewind a couple of years and transport yourself to TAC summer school in Portland, Oregon and into the dorm room of the Units 4 & 5 tutor and the late evening drinking and discussion session.

"How do you dance the Tournée," I was I asked.

I showed him. My partner and I danced as 2nd couple and using both hands (i.e. still in promenade hold) I firmly led the lady in front of me, released bottom (left) hands and pivoted - and there we were, partner facing the men's side, me facing the lady's side, ready for the gate turns. Beautiful.

"Wrong!" he said. "The manual says that on bar 4 1st and 2nd couples turn into position." I tried it, I didn't "get" it.

Fast forward to last week and me sitting at my desk reading, and rereading, the pertinent passage in the manual (bars 2-4) and noticing that it does indeed say "men turn partners in front of them into position…" and that NO mention of hands is made. And then, in an AHHA moment, I got it!

I can't tell you how many different rules I have been given, how many different methods teachers have foisted on me and all the other dancers while trying to make the dreaded Tournée clear and understandable and, by witness of the dancers expressions, doing the exact opposite.

And what I now realize is that the Tournée is actually quite simple, very elegant and only two simple rules need to be taught.

So here goes - my attempt to say in words what is best shown.

Bars one to three - as written: couples end in a line of four, center of dance, 2C above, 1C below, men in the middle and shoulder to shoulder, women on the ends, 2C facing the men's side, 1C the facing ladies' side (i.e. the result of an anti-clockwise rotation.)


The "Goal" to be achieved at the end of bar 4 is to have ladies in the middle of the line and facing the men's side, the men to be on the ends of the line and facing the ladies' side. To get there, per the manual, the men turn the ladies in front of them.

   For 1C:  Since M1 is facing the ladies side L1 must dance toward her own side (forward) and UP as 1M dances toward his side and down, and that makes it a LEFT hand turn half round.

   For 2C: Since M2 is facing the men's side L2 must dance forward, towards the men's side, and DOWN as he dances toward the ladies' side and up. And that makes their turn a LEFT hand half turn as well.

I repeat -the turns for both couples are left hand turns.

"Problem" I hear you shout. And yes there is a problem. The ending positions after the turns will be:


1C have achieved "the goal" (see above). They are in the correct positions and are facing the correct sides. 2C are in the correct positions but facing the WRONG way. Ooops.

Is there a Solution? And is it Simple?

Yes there is a solution and it is simple and it is Rule 2 below.

On bar 4 BOTH couples turn with LHs half round to change places with partner.

2C, and ONLY 2C,  have to change the direction they are facing. To do so they tuck in (by way of a polite turn) at the end of their half turn. That is BOTH 2M and 2L turn inward toward partner to make that change. That leaves them here:


The men are on the ends of the line and facing the ladies' side, the ladies are in the middle of the line and facing the men's side. And that is The Goal, achieved.

Oh yes, just one more thing. 2C must, obviously, change to near hands (Right hands for both) for the gate turns.

Which leads me to wonder how many rules can we give dancers before confusion sets in? How many rules can a dancer process and comply with? I have come across The Rule of Three which says that a child can not hold onto more than three rules at a time. Give them more and you can forget compliance. I am beginning to think that it is similar for dancers. If the formation being taught requires more than three rules the dancers will be confused and overwhelmed.

Anyway, the dances taught on 12 September 2013 were:

The Findlay's Jig  (32 J 3) Goldring - 14 Social Dances 2000
Argyll Strathspey  (32 S 3) Goldring - Bk 35/3
Bill Clement MBE  (32 J 3) Wilkinson - Bk 47/1


The Findlays's Jig – a nice simple dance with just enough
                                 difference to make it doable more than once. Since it was for warming up I asked that it be walked not danced. My concern was to get the muscles warm and good aerobic walking is one of the best ways to achieve that. Stretching should happen after the muscles are warm, at  the end of the evening. Please note, some dancers are constitutionally unable to simply walk when good dance music is played. Sigh.

Argyll Strathspey – I misjudged. Badly misjudged. I planned
                             on doing four dances in my hour and a bit. I only just managed three. Most of my time was spent here teaching this dance thoroughly - perhaps to a fault. I just had to. Firstly I can't stand sloppy, muddle through dancing (which if we are honest with ourselves is what most dancers do) and secondly because this dance will be done again, on the 19th as the No Talk Through dance of the night.

Take Half-Turn-and-Twirl. I do not ask a lady to dance so I can look at the back of her head and that is what all too many women give me. Which is exactly what most teachers ask for because that is what  John Drewry named it - half turn and twirl. But if you read the description that not what he wanted. And in Argyll Strathspey Roy Goldring don't ask for this move by name, thank you very much. Instead the move is described, written out. But dancer's mostly dance by muscle memory and once they have 'learned' something do not really listen to what the teacher asks for. Knowing this I taught the figure from scratch and, 20some minutes later, I could finally give them a passing grade.

Then the circle. And the "teacher hands" coming up a full bar early and some dancers actually stepping into the center to begin there and not on the side lines. All that needed correction as did the proper ending of a standard circle which then needed morphing to put first and third couple in proper position for the R&L up-and-down the center. Another 10something minutes used.

The Rights and Lefts - not bad, but the steps needed work. Some steps longer the others much shorter and again the handing needed work.

All this remedial work because two dancers were newly graduated up from the basics class and needed the work on hands and feet and handing and posture and how to begin and end circles etc., etc.. As did many of the intermediate dancers. Why? Because we need to keep them coming and that means promotions for politics and finances and not for merit. It is unfortunate but that is the world we live in and a different conversation.

Then, after dancing the first 3 figures once through, the teaching of the Tournée. Another 15-20 minutes. It went well. They listened. In practice they danced it beautifully. And when we danced it for real, eight times through, on the whole, they still did it right! No breakdowns! Occasional errors but successful recoveries! Yes! 'cause that meant they understood it.

Bill Clement MBE – First time through for this dance.
                              I know how to teach it now so next time it will go more smoothly. Bottom line- it's a nice dance dance but I need a few more run throughs before I can determine if it is worth multiple repeats.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

20 August 2013 - New Haven

Another class with small numbers - I made the 8th dancer for most of the evening. Then 2 dancers left after the break and we were just six.

The dances were:
   Lover's Lane (32 J 3 set) J. Lataille - Still Enough to Dance
   On the Quarter-Deck  (32 H 2)  I. Boyd - The Harbour City
   Paidlin' in the Burn  (32 J 2)  Barry Priddey - SDA #87
   Flight to Melbourne  (32 R 4 sq.)  Book 47
   Aging Gracefully  (32 S 3) C. Bromann - Book 47
   Yet Another Birthday  (32 S 3 set) H. Boyd - Montreal Moments
   The Lasniks of Arlington  (32 S 3)  R. Wallace - wip


Lover's Lane: A simple one. Good for warming up as there
                    are no pas de basques and no circles. Also a good reminder of the differences between figure eights on the sides and fig of eights across. If you have small numbers then the books from her Santa Fe class are must haves.

On the Quarter-Deck: One of my, and my dancer's, perennial
                                   favourites. With the right hornpipes (and some people say there are no bad hornpipes) the feel of the dance is just sublime. Every one stands straighter, dances crisper, and has a smile on their face. And isn't that really the acid test. That the dancers have fun? Smiles say so.

Paidlin' in the Burn: somewhat on the busy side.
                                I give it about an 85 - the transitions from the corner into the
center turns are awkward. One of the few dances by Barry Priddey that I am not enamored of.

Flight to Melbourne: Taught tonight by Deborah Leary it has,
                                according to her, similarities to Bobby Brown's Canadian Breakdown without the tediousness. It is simple enough to be sure but I am I do not want to dance it on a regular basis. An 80? Good but not top flight.

Aging Gracefully: Another Book 47 dance, and for
                           the most part a good one. One dancer has real problems with four bar RH turns in strathspey time. Not as in "difficult" but as in "why bother". But the "set, Turn BH; pass Rshoulder, set" is nice if you can get the timing, flow and control. The reel is just different enough to keep it out of the 'ho hum" category.

Yet Another Birthday: A Holly Boyd dance from Montreal Moments.
                                 She takes the wonderful synchromesh back-to-back movement from the dance Maurice and combines it with a half diamond poussette to make a delightful progression. Two thumbs up from me, and if I could I'd give it three. The music! Oh such good music!

The Lasniks of Arlington: a work in progress by Ron Wallace. This one
                                      is a toughie. The middle figures take work… lots of work! The opening figure - The Rose Progression - is simply stunning and soooo beautiful. Downside- The final 8 bars: They are a let down after everything that came before. Ron, please come up with something better before you carve the dance in stone.

13 August 2013 - New Haven

The second week of my leading the New Haven's class of summer social dancing.

The dances we did were:
    This One's Four Isobel  (32 S foursome )  Terry Glasspool
    As the Worm Turns  (32 J 3)  Priscilla Burrage
    Cruit Mo Chridh  (32 R 3)  John Bowie Dickson
    Sands of Morar  (32 S 3)  Barry Priddey
    Links with St. Petersburg  (32 J 3)  Malcolm Brown
    Culbin Sands  (32 J 3) Barry Priddey


This One's Four Isobel:  Quite simply one of the best pieces of
                                       choreography I have ever encountered. A beautiful dance and accessible; it is not a 'demonstration team only' piece. When I have small numbers this is one of my standard fall backs. Well worth doing.

As the Worm Turns: With such a name how could I resist. Another
                               dance liked by the class. My impression, on first reading, was "too much - too little down time". I was wrong. It is good, not great. It won't become a standard of mine but it is worth remembering and pulling out occasionally. Yet another dance from the Montreal Moments book. Buy it. Good stuff there.

Cruit Mo Chridh: A John Bowie Dickson dance who also authored
                           Pinewoods Reel.  Fun! The music by the band Les Joueurs de Bon Accord is terrific though not traditional. The combination is Finest Kind! So you should buy both the book and the accompanying CD.

Sands of Morar: A dance by Barry Priddey (quickly becoming one
                        of my favourites). Published  in Book 45 and elsewhere. I love the Tourbillon progression and I try hard to fine tune how it is danced. Bars 5-6: Getting dancers to release hands early enough for the 'lead dancer to make it  across the set so couples can cross over from the side lines is the key and that is hard to get. When it happens it is stunning. Anything else is, unfortunately, mush. If you look on the "top 50" pages you will see more than a few of Barry Priddey's dances listed. I like edgy dances and his dances usually are just that.

Links with St. Petersburg: The performance by the summer school
                                       dem team is not danced as written. And I prefer it as danced not as written. But I understand - getting most dancers to actually DO it that way is near to impossible. So we publish it as it will be done. And we teach those who can (or will) the subtle points that make it dance so nicely. One thing about the video - in the "set to corner partner" I saw a lot of traveling with open pas de basques (i.e. no close in third) which is not what the manual 'recommends'.

Culbin Sands:  A Barry Priddey dance - you're not surprised are you?
                     Not a Dancer's Choice Award dance, at least not yet. But it is close. My Humble Opinion - it is a good one worth doing and redoing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

8 August 2013 - Tenafly, NJ

I am currently sitting in the Honda dealership waiting for the car. Honda has a WiFi network for their customers so I am, in this regard, rather happy as I update my neglected blog.

There are issues. The main one - I no longer have a steady class to teach. No steady class - no steady stream of updates. The classes that I do teach have mostly been for beginners and therefore I can only do one or two dances a week and rather tedious ones at that.

Well I finally caught a break. I am teaching the New Haven Branch class all of August. Hooray! and other good words because I finally have news and updates!

6 August - New Haven

Small class - just 9 dancers.

We warmed up with Alice’s Request, 32 J 2, Roy Goldring 2nd Graded & Social Dances. I requested that it be walked, rather I told them to walk it and it seems, much to my surprise, that some people just can’t. If the music plays they have to dance. 

We covered 8 other dances in the 2 hours
   Shining Lights  (32 S 3) B. McOwen
   Wicked Willy  (32 R 4) H. Ways
   Union Jig  (32 J 3)  E. Brunken
   Miss Jane Muirhead of Dunsmuir  (32 S 3) Dunsmuir Dances
   Cruit Mo Chridh  (32 R 3)  JBD - Montreal Moments
   The Dancer's Circle  (32 J 3)  
   City of Belfast  (32 S 3 set)
   Welcome to Pawling  (32 R 4) JBD- leaflet


Shining Lights –-  written by Barbara McOwen of Boston and included
                       with her CD of the same name. This dance I like, in spite of myself. The 2-hand turns halfway to change sides, then again to change places on the sides is a nice figure and it takes some work to make them look good. Similarly the change of pace from the 2-bar half turns to a 2-bar full turn takes work if it isn't to come as a surprise.
   The set to corner and gypsy partner, first seen in John Drewry's dance The Peat Fire Flame and next seen (at least by me) in a Roy Goldring strathspey was getting a bit long in the tooth (in my humble opinion at least) but works here partly because of the set up and partly because of the following reel with its ending. Add in the good music and we have a keeper.

Wicked Willy - This dance has only one major figure, and yet, for all
                    its simplicity, it is a perennial favorite and with good reason: It is both accessible and fun.

Union Jig - A dance newly published by Elaine Brunken and inscribed
               to Jim  Stevenson-Mathews and Gaitly Stevenson-Matthews in honor of their union. When marriage became legal in Connecticut they took the ferry across Long Island Sound and were legally married. I was there and that probably prejudices me - I like the dance. I like the care needed in the first 8 bars: RH Across once round! LH Across 2 bars only! the 2 men turn half round, the women the same. End 1C 2C in original places on opposite sides. Dancers need to be aware and be consistent in their dancing. 

Miss Jane Muirhead of Dunsmuir - I bought the book. I looked over
                                           the dances. This one got an "eh". Then I danced it. The "eh" became "sweet" and it has been in my top 10 ever since. Simple with a gem tucked inside. Recommended!

Cruit Mo Chridh - By John Bowie Dickson of Pinewoods Reel fame.
                        Worth it. Dancers finished with smiles and applause. There is a CD to go with the book. (Les Jouers de Bon Accord). Not traditional but fun. Recommended -– as is Yet Another Birthday by Holly Boyd which is also in the book.

The Dancer's Circle - This one did not end with smiles and applause.
                           The consensus was: too many pieces. I, unfortunately wasn't in it so there will have to be a retake. Maybe on August 20th. Probably with different music if I can remember then what I used this time.

City of Belfast - We have a problem Houston. I like both the dances
                      that use this music. This is the proper dance for this music and it is nice. And I like set to 1st corners, set to 2nd corners (not often done) and the espagnole progression…... especially when they are nicely danced and this group does dance well. I would willingly do this dance again and shortlist it for a ball program. Recommended.

This music was also chosen to accompany the dance Broadway, composed by Chris Ronald and published in his 2010 book The Big Apple Collection, all dances with a New York City connection. The music is good and it fits the dance which is a wonderful one. This dance is on the shortlist for the 2014 Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance (March 29 - note well - a month earlier than usual. Plan Ahead!)

Welcome to Pawling __- another John Bowie Dickson dance, another winner. Not easy.
                           The last figure is different! The transition into it is tricky (fourth couple: WAKE UP) and needs careful teaching but the effort put in is well rewarded. Gets smiles from the dancers every time. Recommended.