Tuesday, December 29, 2015

14 December 2015 - Scotia

A short post today - we didn't do anything extraordinary but there are two mini-rants.

The dances taught were:

Autumn Leaves  –  (32 J 3)  –  Jane Lataille
Strathglass House  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 13
General Stuart's Reel  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 10

Slow Simmer  –  (32 J 3)  –  Pam Stephens
Ann of Scotia  –  (32 S 3)  –  Ronald
Hamilton Rant  –  (48 R 3)  –  Bk 22
Delvine Side  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 2


Autumn Leaves:- a nice simple baby jig. Nothing special in terms of formations or figures. But what it does have are opportunities for covering. Which begs the question "what is covering?" 

I often hear covering being taught as a learned skill in and of itself much like foot changes, handing and so on. I do not agree. It is a result - not something you "do".

It is what happens when everyone is dancing the same thing in the same way at the same time.

What most teachers are trying to say, or think they are saying, is "check where the other dancers are to find out if you are in sync with them - and adjust your dancing accordingly."

Slow Simmer:- from the book StrathsBabes by Pam Stephens and Ellen Ternes. It starts with (In New World vernacular) Double Crossover Mirror Reels - And if you want to bring it to a full boil, as Pam says, have every couple cross to the opposite side when they are at the top. Fun! A bit different. Thumbs up!

Hamilton Rant:- What I have been hearing for years, from several sources is that this is the only dance in which Set to and Turn Corners/Partner has a 'flip' written into each turn.

I have taken that statement at face value and since I know that dance well I have never specifically checked the original for that. When I did go back, I read what I was expecting to see not what was actually on the page. Bad me.

It turns out that the flip/twirl is NOT written in. It says this:
First couple set to and turn first corners, to finish facing each other in diagonal line          * between * first corners."
 The emphasis is mine. The word 'between' forces us to make the two hand turns Full Round. We then have to figure out what dancers have to do to end facing their partner because Bob Campbell doesn't say.

I see two options:
1)  a standard release hands early and "slide" into place with backs to corner and facing partner or
2)  hold on to hands a little longer than in option 1 and use your corner's right hand to aid you in  "flipping" to face your partner.

Important point - to flip or not to flip is the choice of 1st couple, not the corner. Corners have only one job - to lend support! Corners to not get to force anyone to do something they are not able or ready to do!

Friday, December 11, 2015

7 December 2015 – Scotia

The prep is mostly over! Yay! And in my delight I taxed the mental prowess of my dancers. No complaints but a gentle comment from a fellow teacher a few days later.

Deborah was working on pas de basque and Set to Corner-Partner (Hello-Goodbye).
I found a John Drewry dance with that in it and it didn't seem overly difficult (yeah right!) and Drewry Night was over and why not?

Dances taught were:

Sla'ine's Fancy  –  (32 J 3)  – Let's All Dance 2
un-named dance  –  (32 R 3)  – Leary
Da Rain Dancin'  –  (32 R 3)  –  Wallace

Driving Through Eutaw  –  (32 J 3)  – Leary
Drumduan Cottage  –  (32 S 3)  –  Drewry
Orpington Caledonians –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 49
Eggemoggin Reach  –  (32 J 3)  – Price
Dragonflies  –  (32 S 5dancers)  –  Lataille


Sla'ine's Fancy:- aka The Spinning Wheel. Nice baby dance. Thumbs up.

Un-named dance:- written to make Set to Corner-Partner the only issue. It worked. I suspect it has been written before and more than once.
RA ; LA :: set, cast ; dance between 3C cast up to corners :: Set C-P :: 6 hands round and back ::

Da Rain Dancin':- Golden Gillie! This is an ok dance to fabulous music and that makes it a hit.
With the correct music I would dance it anytime anywhere. Any other music -  forget about it.

Driving Through Eutaw:- By Deborah, while driving on the long stretch of Interstate highway in Alabama. We were playing the Marian Anderson CD  of Robert Burns dances and tunes. The dancers in her head came up with this.  A nice little dance but with a bit of asymmetry that makes for a little more thinkum than usual for a simple jig. The last time it was taught it was fairly ugly. This time much much nicer.

Drumduan Cottage:- Look it up (Canadian Book). I asked afterwards if there was any redeeming social value to the dance. I got a  yes - it keeps the dancers thinking out of the box. That is not a resounding positive response.

Me, I liked the Corners Pass & Turn in this dance. The usual track has corners dancing in, turning RH half round and dancing back out to place. The actives dance round, pass right shoulders in the middle and dance on. Nice but there is not much spice to it. Here the figure starts facing 2nd corners, the active couple dance round and have a very zesty turn to face first corners. I like! He uses this pattern in Miss Florence Adams (Bk 38). I like it there too. No one else seems to adopted it and I have to wonder why. It ups the level nicely and pleasantly but not by too much.

Orpington Caledonians:- Another thumbs up from the floor. I like it enough that I put it on The Kilts and Ghillies program for this May. The Fair Haven Heights class gave it a Golden Ghillie.

Eggemoggun Reach:- I did it again here because I really need a fair test. The dancers in New Haven are too good. I needed it done by a set of representative dancers.

It is trickier than I thought and needs careful/thorough teaching. For some reason the 4 bar turns following the half reels seems to short circuit the brains.

Emphasis - four bar turns start on side lines, end on side lines. Don't hold hands too long!
Stay with the music. When the dancers are on it shines! When they are even just a little off it gets ugly.

Dragonflies:-Oh I just love this one! I use Susie Petrov's 5x32 set of strathspeys from her album Hold the Lass Till I Get Her. The music is lovely and the tunes work with the dance… the room seems to get quieter for some reason. In my top 10.

30 November 2015 – Scotia Party

Party Night!

Gloria's Wee Jig  –  (32 J 3)  – McMurtry
Bedrule  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 33
Hamilton Rant  –  (48 R 3)  – Bk 22

Welcome to Ayr  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 47
Auld Springs Gees Nae Price  –  (32 S 3)  – Treble
Sleepy Maggie  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 11

The Lady Wynd  –  (32 J 3)  –  Goldring
A Summer Meeting  –  (32 S 3 set)  –  Bk 48
Red House  –  (40 R 2)  –  Bk 7

Mrs Stewart's Jig  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 35
Braes of Breadalbane  – (32 S 3)  –  Bk 21
Deil Amang the Tailors  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 14

23 November 2015 - Dancing on the Heights (NHFM)

This evening was about prep, but not completely.
Drewry night was coming Real Soon Now and The Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance is coming in May.

The latter program is more varied than the usual ball program. It is about half RSCDS and half out society. This is deliberate. The couple of years before I took over the class and the ball programing fewer than half the dances had been from RSCDS and sets were breaking down on a regular basis. I chose to ease the difficulty level while trying to keep the flavor of those programs.
The end result: unfamiliar dances (not necessarily hard dances) that require prepping.

The dances I taught were:

Broadway  –  (32 S 3 set)  –  Ronald
Capelthwaite  –  (32 R 2)  –  C. Sigg
Earl of Mansfield  –  (48 R 4)  – Drewry
Richard the Third  –  (32 S 3)  –  Glasspool
Countess of Dunsmore's Reel  –  (32 R 3)  – Bk 49
Ythanside  –  (32 S 3)  –  Drewry
Eggemoggin Reach  –  (32 J 3)  – Price


Broadway:- I had small numbers at the start, this dance worked and besides I like the dance a lot. So do the dancers. The only hard part is knowing who dances the diagonal half rights and lefts. Simple solution - the four dancers who cast during the Set-and-Link3 are the four who dance the Rights and Lefts.

Capelthwaite:- This one also was well liked by the class. I consider it something of a mind bender but the dancers didn't have any trouble with it. And I think I know why. It was on the New Haven Branch's Nutmeg Workshop held on October 17th just a month earlier.
I don't know that I would do it on a regular basis but give it try anyway. Your dancers might like it - perhaps enough to make it a favorite.

Earl of Mansfield:- On the upcoming Drewry Night program.  Not easy. Not even that rewarding when you get it right - low payback for effort put in. It is not going on my favorites list.
My assessment is that while the individual pieces of the dance are not difficult the sum of the parts is.

Richard the Third:- I love this one. The music is a problem though. Terry strongly recommends using the music for Miss Gibson's Strathspey from the CD Memories of Scottish Weekend. This is a recognized name tune and I normally wouldn't use it.

But I do.… and I use another recordings when I teach Miss Gibson's. The music and dance fit so well here that any other music just doesn't cut the mustard. During the Rights and Lefts variation for example a pulse develops that is almost mesmerizing. We often say "Listen; and dance to the music." Here I say "Listen and dance WITH the music." There is a difference.

Countess of Dunmore's Reel:- This is the first time (that I know of) that this dance has been taught by any of the teachers in this area. The class loved it. They gave it a Golden Ghillie.

And that is a relief! I put this on the Kilts and Ghillies program unseen and undanced. It looked good  on paper and now I know that it is good in fact as well.

Ythanside:- One of my top 50 but not a golden ghillie dance. What it does is reward good dancers who anticipate. The expanding turns into circles takes a lot of self control to make them flow. When it flows it is magic. When you are early and stop between each piece the magic just never happens.

Eggemoggin Reach:- The Eggemoggin Reach is a stunningly beautiful stretch of water on the north side of the Penobscot Bay in Maine. The tune this dance wrote itself too is The Penobscot Bay Jig tthe fourth tune in a set of jigs by Peter Macfarlane and Lilian Linden.

I am finding this dance to be 'interesting'. The dancers in my head have no problem with it. The dancers on the floor do. This is the third or fourth teaching of the dance to this group and it is only now coming together.

Where I anticipated difficulty it went well. Where I thought it would be easy it was ugly. This pattern has happened now in several classes so it must be true and the dancers in my head must be very mistaken.

Even before they got it the class liked it. In fact they over ruled me when I wanted to give it a rest and insisted that we keep going until they got it right. This month they still had trouble in the beginning, but when they got it they gave it a Golden Ghillie and were enthusiastic about it appearing on the next (2017) Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance.

And a huge Thank You to Keith Rose. I put a crib and he wrote a diagram for the dance!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

16 November 2015 - Scotia

Deborah was back and it was another week of prep for Drewry Night.

The dances taught were:-

Sla'ine's Fancy  -  (32 J 3)  -  Let'a All Dance 2/Guilbert
John McAlpin  -  (32 S 3)  -  Foss
Deil Amang the Tailors  -  (32 R 3)  -  Bk 14

Gloria's Wee Jig  -  (32 J 3)  -  McMurtry/Devil's Quandary
Earl of Mansfield  -  (48 R 4)  -  Drewry
Ythanside  -  (32 S 3)  -  Drewry


Sla'ine's Fancy:- aka The Spinning Wheel. Nice little dance in keeping with Deborah's other hobby. The joy of this baby jig is that it is not deadly boring like so many others. If you find good music this one is a bit of fun. I think this is a good one to have on call as needed.

John McAlpin:- On an upcoming class party program. A good handing dance and a good vehicle for teaching clean, precise, dancing.

Deil Amang the Tailors:- Good fun! Need to lighten the mood? Need a quick no-thinkum ender for a half or to bring up the energy level of the room? Choose this one.

Gloria's Wee Jig:- IMHO the end chase is sweet. It has just enough of a surprise element that it gives the dance a dash of spice. I give it a good hearty thumbs up!
I can't tell you how many times I have read it over and shrugged. Then I danced it...

Earl of Mansfield:- It just shouldn't be this difficult. I look at the pieces of the dance and they aren't particularly hard.

Then I look again at the leading and casting figure - and realize that 3rd couple have to know where third place is and go there - precisely. This is called Set Awareness and it is, I am realizing, a very esoteric skill. I call it the "birds on the wire" syndrome. You have seen it. A flock of birds sitting on a fence or a wire, all evenly spaced out. Then one bird leaves and all the birds shift just enough to close up the gap and once again they are all evenly spaced.

Dancers do that in this dance. Active dancers are 1st and 3rd couples so there is already a gap between 2nd and 4th couples, then 2nd couple steps up to top place doubling that gap and third couple is supposed to cast into 3rd place creating the proper space in which 1st couple face 1st corners. It rarely happens. What do 3rd couple do instead? They cast into the middle of the double gap created by 2nd couple stepping up and leave no clear cut obvious gap to define who and where the corners are. Poor 1st couple. They get no help, no clue, and the onus of keeping the dance together falls on them.

Ythanside:- I love this one! It takes some teaching but it rewards you far beyond the effort required.

The dance has two 'moments' where care is needed. On bars 7-8 1C change places up and down the set by RH and end between 2nd or 3rd couples. They *must* pull right shoulder back and face one another. This sets them up for the reels of 3 across - 1M to pass 2M and 1L to pass 3L by Rshoulders. There is a tendency to make the change and stay facing up/down out of the set. This gives a "wrong" entry into the reel and into the next figure and that breaks the flow, and John is noted for the flow of his dances.

The other 'moment' - bars 23-24:- 2L and 3L turn with BH half way opening up to face 1L who has cast; 2M 3M similarly turn BH half way and open up to face 1M. These turns merge into circles of three merging into a circle of 6 ending on own sides. This is a lovely sequence of assimilation - 2s into 3s into 6 - and it requires anticipation and planning and control and when you do all of that the flow thrills. Therefore it is critical, well that is a bit of an exaggeration, that the turning dancers end closely back to back with partners and keep dancing on, flowing into the circles of three. In the teaching, that moment between bars 24 and 25, is a *artificial* stopping point which dancers take to heart and all these artificial moments of stoppage where we place them so we can teach the sequence or provide landmarks unfortunately become part of their dancing.

Thank you Leslie Kearney (New Haven, CT) for finding it, teaching it, and putting on a ball program. I would have continued to pass it by.

9 November 2015 – Scotia

Deborah couldn't make it this evening so some switching around was in order. I stood in for Deborah and took the first "teaching" portion of the night and Sue Ronald stood in for me and took the second, social, half of the evening.

My emphasis was pas de basque and poussette. And I was thorough. Very thorough.
I had a warmup dance and then Flowers of Edinburgh. Not much for a bit over an hour. So in the final consensus I would say I was too thorough, even painfully so.

The dances taught were:-

The Kissing Bridge  -  (32 R 3)  - Bk 47 (Butterfield)
Flowers of Edinburgh  -  (32 R 3)  -  Bk 1

Chase Court  -  (32 R 2)  - C. Ronald/Big Apple Coll.
Silver City Strathspey  -  (32 S 3)  -  Drewry
Bratach Bana  -  (32 R 3)  -  Drewry
Roselath Cross  -  (32 J 3)  -  Bk 41


Chase Court:- A nice little dance with Left and Rights (starting LH on the sides) into poussette. And right in keeping with the theme of the first half.

Silver City:- Prep for the upcoming Drewry Night hosted by the Brooklyn (NY) class. Question - why is it so difficult to get dancers to lead when in promenade hold. A good promenade hold and strong lead here really helps the 'outside' person get around the ends of the reel but so many dancers around here dance all scrunched up with their hands close to their chest. Looks ugly and dances ugly. And I know that the proper technique has been often mentioned in class. This is not news to the dancers despite what they say.

Bratach Bana:- Good music good dance. This one has a Golden Ghillie and deservedly so. Also on the Drewry Night program. And I don't care that it has been on the last four, or is it five, programs. This one doesn't get old. Two thumbs up!!

The Roselath Cross:- Sue said it was done just for fun. It was. A thumbs up.