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