XTRA! XTRA! Read All About It!

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, 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

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