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.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

5 October 2015 - Scotia

This week was especially fun.

Deborah taught the first half and she does a darn good basics class. Last week she stressed handing. This week she stressed Pas de Basque and Poussette. There was mild skip change step practice followed by moderate Pas de Basque step practice leading into Poussette practice. And the improvement was noticeable!

 I taught the second half - one dance for everyone, and then just two others, but what others!

Back story on the one dance for everyone:
Once upon a time, back in the stone age, I used home made 3x5 cards with my own version of Pilling's diagrams. I would prepare a whole series: my want-to-do dances; the need-to-do dances; the go-to beginner dances; dances from up-coming programs; a group of surprise, extraordinary dances; etc. etc. 2 - 3 hundred cards/dances, all in a single file box. I would walk in, open the box, choose the evening's dances, spread them out on the table and, depending on who walked in door, pick out the dances I would teach. If I got surprises all I had to do was pull out the appropriate back up group, and go on from there. The system worked.

I can't do that now. Too many classes going at once, too many programs coming up, and the system that worked well for me for all these years has proven inadequate for the task. I needed a better way.

Hooray for Strathspey and the SCDDB! Those lists, those wonderful, printable, lists! In my computer bag I now have printed lists for the NY Dance List, the JC Ball, The Nutmeg Workshop, Drewry Night, and the Kilts and Ghillies Ball, as well as the list for tonight's class. And that list can be far larger than I could possibly teach in the evening. And the list is public so the dancer's can prep for the class. Many find the videos, when the dance has them, to be invaluable.

Mind you, I still bring my old card file. I still find it easier to teach off a 3x5 card with Pilling style diagrams than off the written word. What is in the file box now? A card for each of the dances on the NY Branch dance list,  both past and present; a group of beginner dances; a group of dances for small numbers (2somes, 3somes, 4omes and 5somes); and a group of maybe someday, current interest dances. The Old Way is still a good fall back position and I had a dance to hand when I decided to pull a switcheroo - drop Mole's Frolic for It's Nae Bother.

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The dances we taught this week:

The Ferryboat - (32 J n Circle) - C. Hunt
Blue Bonnets  - (32 J 2) -  Bk 3/5
Rakes of Glasgow  - (32 S 3) -  Bl 11/11
It's Nae Bother  - (32 J 2) -  Haynes
The Hamilton Rant  - (48 R 3) - Bk 22/2
Richard the Third  - (32 S 3) -  Glasspool

The dances were picked from this list : Scotia 5 October.

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The Ferryboat :- A  basic introductory circle dance that makes for a decent "lets walk it to get ourselves somewhat warmed up " dance. Good for newbies or audience participation

Blue Bonnets :- What does this dance have? A poussette… and the music.

Rakes of Glasgow :- When the dance is a strathspey and all you have is Rights&Lefts | down the middle and up | Allemande | and a circle, you better have really good music. I have three recordings for this dance and the two RSCDS tracks are… tedious. Luckily there is the old Berkeley Scottish Players' LP Heather and Yon. Really nice secondary tunes, all of them beautiful.

What Deborah stressed, as she did last week, was the handing aspects of the dance, especially the handing in the Rights & Lefts and the "assist" in the polite turn and the other ways to "help" other dancers. The NY Branch has been concerned about inappropriate assistance and has written a 'minute' which has been published on their web site. NY Branch Guidelines  More about this later in the post.

It's Nae Bother :- Switch dance - Deb worked on handing last week. I wasn't there for it as I was teaching a class in New Haven. So a dance that gives the dancers handing practice was a better choice than what I had originally planned. And a surprise for me - This time round I am finding the chase figures in this dance pleasing. Thumbs up.

The Hamilton Rant :- Twenty years ago we so over did this favourite we burned out on it. There are now many dancers who have never seen the dance. And most of the teachers, who burned out on the dance, look surprised when they hear that.

It has been chosen for the NY Branch's dance list. It is on the JC Ball program therefore it is on the prep list, and watching the joy of the dancers who are learning it brings me joy. Don't forget this one guys. The short form - *Thumbs Up*.

And now my rant:

Many dancers play. They like twirling out of Set To and Turn Corners. There are also some dancers who believe that they should be pro-active and assist dancers into polite turns and birls. I would go a little further and say some dancers like to be really helpful and actively assist dancers into polite turns and birls.

Doing that is neither helpful nor polite and can cause injury.

Case in point - I almost had my shoulder dislocated one evening when a teacher shoved me, make that SHOVED me, into a polite turn. I didn't need the hint, I knew the polite turn was coming and I wasn't expecting that degree of "assistance". I had to walk off the floor my shoulder hurt so, and I am no longer able to sleep on my side with that shoulder under me.

Truth in Scottish Country Dancing:

We are aging. We are getting fragile and we don't heal as quickly as we used to. Also, I have some  dancers who are in their nineties and getting hard of hearing, mildly forgetful, and unsteady on their feet. For them, what? A helpful Shove?  Seriously?  And if it is your habit to be proactive will you always remember to go gently? Yes some of us do need a reminder or an assist on occasion. But it needs to be gently done and that is what we need to be teaching but haven't been - gentle dancing even when in overdrive. And we should be teaching this to our beginners and reteaching to our experienced dancers!

The gentlest way to "assist" someone in a polite turn, or into a birl out of a turn, is to provide a firm and steady support. A passive support that is there IF NEEDED. It is the choice of the 'active' dancer to use or not use that hand. It is not for the supporting dancer to force a birl or a polite turn. Their job is to have their hand where it should be, firm and steady, and nothing more. A newer dancer may not have "gotten" the polite turn thing and not know how, or when, to do it. A hard shove does not a polite turn make, but a gentle coaching after the fact is more in keeping with that intent.

Enough. I am off my soap box now.

Richard the Third :- ** Two thumbs up.**  In my humble opinion this is one of the top strathspeys of all time. A fabulous dance!  First, Terry Glasspool messes with your mind by messing with the standard timing of the first figure. Then there is an unusual RHA for three into a circle back (to the right) into lines on the sides. The third figure develops a pulse and rhythm that I find deeply satisfying. I know I have taught this dance before and have raved about it. Go take a look in the archives.

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