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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.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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.

1 comment:

BDan said...

I came to a similar but slightly different conclusion about the tournee a couple of years ago: that the turn on bar 4 should be an anticlockwise turn with *crossed* hands. I think this preserves the simplicity you talk about in terms of number of rules, and removes the need for a hand change at the top.