Wednesday, November 30, 2016

29 November 2016 - New Haven

My monthly class in New Haven has moved physically and temporally.
The class is now on Tuesdays, not Mondays and to support the New Haven Branch class I have moved out of the Friends Meeting into the class' space - The Whitneyville Cultural Commons, 1253 Whitney Ave., Hamden, CT.

The space is small, the floor is good. The experience is… interesting shall we say.

The issues are aging and culture. The class is aging out of existence. I started in New Haven in 1976. I was one new dancer among three sets of beginners. Halfway through the evening we joined the other class, which also had at least three sets. Now the class is down to 5 couples. We have no dancers from any of the colleges or universities. Not Yale, not the Univ. of New Haven, Southern Connecticut State, Quinnipiac, or Albertus Magnus. No young folks - neither public school students nor home school.

Culturally the teachers in New Haven have been nit pickers. The class has always been, until recently, more than capable and has benefited from the nits. Times have changed. Now nit picking picks the joy out of the dancing. And having learned to dance and teach in New Haven I have to include myself in that culture. There is a problem - beginners don't come back.

The group currently has two courageous beginners. They have kept coming back. They are in their seventies, they are not going to develop turnout. It just isn't going to happen. Proper foot positions and point - very unlikely. A dip at the beginning of the strathspey step? Now that is a possibility and that is all I asked for from them. Did I get it? Kinda sorta. But that was good enough for one night. Next class a reminder and maybe another small point. The key is not to ask for too much at one time. The short form –– Keep it Simple (stupid).

The first hour of the class is geared to the two beginners and we did three dances:

The Findlays' Jig __ (32 J 3)__ Goldring
The Shores of Solway__ (32 S 3)__ Goldring
Anderson's Rant__ (32 R 3)__ MMM

How did they do? Fairly well.  Mrs K has trouble stepping out and covering ground. She tends to catch on to the geography faster than Mr. K. He has a tendency to hold on for dear life and back up into place. He hates to let go and dance forward. I think he loses his sight cues? The Findlays' Jig has few opportunities for him to indulge himself.

In The Shores of Solway there are more such opportunities and he managed to find most of them. But he managed the Knot, and the Set and Flirt. And, though he often backed into place, he was mostly when and where he needed to.

Anderson's Rant was the real test. Mr. K has real difficulty with reels. This was his best showing - the shape is beginning to happen, the pattern seems to be taking, not to the point of knowing, but he is taking cues and mostly looking up and being aware. It wasn't the 'haul him through it' that I have been seeing.

And they got through 3 dances instead of the usual 2 and in respectable fashion.

We also did three dances in the second hour (which is for experienced dancers):

Joe Foster's Jig__(32 J 3/3L)__Noden
R. A. Gregg__(32 R 3)__Price
Cardross House__(32 S 3)__Brunken

I learned Joe Foster's Jig from a NYC teacher. He taught it to a set of reels. (Fire in the Rye - The Music Makars). The dance is on the upcoming Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance. I wasn't thinking clearly and programmed the dance in a jig slot - well it IS a jig! (Sorry Fergie).

I got some very strange looks as I taught it.They liked the dance but they loved that reel music! And since it is on the Tea Dance program they wanted THAT music. Oh their disappointment when they realized there would be a different band with a different sound, a different arranger, different tunes, and a different time signature. Oh well - they will cope.

R. A. Gregg is a dance I am writing. The dance is evolving out of a video purporting to be of Pinewoods Reel. There is a resemblance, it is a very interesting interpretation but I don't think they ever saw the dance or the written instructions. Here, watch it, enjoy.

So 1C are dancing petronella turns during the Double Triangles?? Hmmm. Play Time!

Danger Will Robinson! Danger!
That version of DTs goes against all muscle memory and training. Easier for beginners than dancers with miles under their belt I think.  Last night was a first time run through/experimental session. The feedback was "iffy". See above. The consensus - table it and maybe revisit.

The last dance of the evening was Elaine Brunken's dance Cardross House. To the original music by Muriel, Keith and Jim Lindsay. And that music takes this from good enough for standard repertoire into the exalted heights reserved for dances the like of Montgoeries' Rant, Delvine Side and Deil.

No kidding.

The music makes the dance. True. And the music is extraordinary. The dance is good. Standard formations, but Elaine played played with them. From good to… well not sublime. But dancers tend to fall into the music and forget to dance. And that makes it special. Just MHO.

Put it on your Wish list. Two thumbs up.

Monday, November 28, 2016

I Am Back

A lot was going on and most of it was ball prep. I find this very uninteresting both as a dancer and as a teacher because all the teachers in all the different classes pick all the same dances as needing review. 

I erred when signing up for Pinewoods - I got us in to the weekend and not both sessions as I was supposed to. But that error enabled us to sign up for the Asilomar weekend in October. He he he.

In October there was a wedding - and how does this all tie together? Well…

At Pinewoods I was introduced to a not so new but otherwise unknown dance from Switzerland - Zytglogge (32 R 3, Blackburn). Fun dance. Even when done plain jane and unadorned it is a fun dance and not difficult. Add some embroidery and it can go over the top into just plain silly. Highly recommended.  So highly recommended that Sandra Bethray and I put it on the upcoming Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance program - April 30th (a Sunday - yes a Sunday) 2017.

At Keira and Marc’s Wedding Ball I met their band  (and a Very Good Band it was btw). I know of the band leader from a very nice CD self named for the musicians, fiddle player Peter Macfarlane and pianist Lilian Linden. I immediately hired Peter for the 2018 Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance. When I first heard their CD I wrote a dance to his jig Penobscott Bay (4th tune in a set of jigs 8x32 with the lead tune North Country) and used that fact to introduce myself. Peter wanted a copy of the dance and Sandra wanted it on the Tea Dance. Done.

Peter is a canoe builder in Vergennes, VT and leader of the Vermont Strathspey and Reel Society. Until I heard the CD he was unknown to me. The CD was an impulse buy and sometimes good things happen.

My dance is Eggemoggin Reach (named after a great Scottish body of water (riiight), a 32 J 3C/4L. 
There is a story here.    Sorry  :-)

In 1971 I attended the Hurricane Island Outward Bound program - rowing and sailing in Maine. Hurricane Island is in the Penobscott Bay as is the Eggemoggin Reach, a stunningly beautiful stretch of water, which we sailed as part of our weeklong ‘cruise’.

Fast forward to Asilomar where I met many lovely people and some very nice dances. A new one, not yet published, written to honor a lovely lady, who I met passing in a dance, is St. Faolan of the Woods (32 J 3/4L) by Andrew Smith. Not yet in the SCDDB - pooh. I do have the notes! Also shortlisted for the K&G Tea Dance in 2018.

The Summer:-

Spent, mainly, trying out dances for the Tea Dance.

1 August 2016 - Scotia Club (Manhattan west side)

This class was team taught by myself and at least three other teachers - Purpose - for fun.

Carols A-Plenty               32 J 3      Lou Hanson (my Portland Mermaid)
Abbot of Unreason          32 J 3      Milton Levy (of NYC and Gang the Same Gate)
Cranberry Tart                 32 J 3 Terry Glasspool
Johnsonville Diamond 32 S 2 Rod Downey
Bill Little’s Strathspsey 32 S 4 Roy Goldring
New Virginia Reel 128 R 4 sq Anna Holden
Orpington Caledonians 32 R 3 J. Brenchley
Sleepy Maggie 32 R 3 Bk 11/5
The Laurel Jig 32 J 3 Sawyer (unpub)
Balquidder Strathspey 32 S 3 Bk 24/2

8 August 2016 - Scotia

As before, team taught.

Johhny’s New Jig 32 J 2 Kass
Old Way of Killiecrankie 48 R 3 set RSCDS Leaflet
Wee Cooper o’ Fife 40 J 2 Foss
Saint John River 32 S 4 P. Edwards
Startled Rabbits 32 R 5 D. Haynes
Eightsome Reel 464 R 4 sq Bk 2/12
Dundee Whaler 32 S 4 Clowes
John Cass 32 J 5 Bk 49/10
Australian Ladies 32 R 3 Campbell

9 August 2016 - New Haven

Waltzing to Iowa 32 W circle Schneider
Johhny’s New Jig 32 J 2 Kass
Saint John River 32 S 4 P. Edwards
Scott Meikle 32 R 4 Bk 46/3
John Cass 32 J 5 Bk 49/10
Zytglogge 32 R 3 Blackburn

14 August 2016 - Loch Leven Dancers (rehearsal)

Screaming Eels 32 J 3 Princess Bride
Zytglogge 32 R 3 Blackburn
The Shores of Solway 32 S 3 Goldring
Abbot of Unreason 32 J 3 Milton Levy
Kildonan Sands 32 S 3 Goldring
Pinewoods Reel 32 R 3 JBD

16 August 2016 - New Haven

Espie McNabb 32 J 3 MMM
Anderson’s Rant 32 R 3 MMM
Shores of Solway 32 S 3 Goldring
Banks of Allen 32 J 2 MMM*
Abbot of Unreason 32 J 3 Levy
Les Remparts des Séville 32 J 3 Bk 50/2
Miss Nidra Aitken 32 S 3 set F. Walduck

23 August 2016 – New Haven

Brudenell Jig 32 J 3 2nd Graded
No         32 R 3 set Joubert
Bridge of Nairn 32 S 3 Bk 13/11
Joe Foster’s Jig 32 J 3 set Noden
Miss Nidra Aitken 32 S 3 set Walduck
The Baldooser 32 J 3 Priddey

The New Season (September)

27 September 2016 – New Haven 

Lovers’ Lane 32 J 3 set J. Lataille
Findlays’ Jig 32 J 3 Goldring
Thornycroft 32 R 2 Goldring
Birkenside 32 S 2 Goldring
Red Baron 32 R 2 Boyd
Abbot of Unreason 32 J 3 Levy
Portland Mermaid 32 S 3 Price
More Bees A-Dancing 32 R 3 Goldring

4 October 2016 - Kilts & Ghillies Program for 2017 set

Driving Through Eutaw 32 J 3 Leary
Shores of Solway 32 S 3 Goldring
Anderson’s Rant 32 R 3 MMM

John Cass 32 J 5 Bk 49/10
Johnsonville Diamond 32 S 2 Downey
No           32 R 3 set Joubert

Les Remparts des Séville 32 J 3 Bk 50/2
Chris Ronald’s Strathspey 32 S 3 Wallace
British Grenadiers         32 R 3 MMM

Abbot of Unreason 32 J 3 Levy
Robertson Rant 80 S 4 sq         Bk 39/8
Zytglogge 32 R 3 Blackburn

Joe Foster’s Jig 32 J 3 set Noden
Peggy Spouse MBE 32 S 3 Bk 46/11
More Bees A-Dancing 32 R 3 Goldring

Saw Ye My Wee Thing 32 J 3 MMM
Swirling Snow 32 S 3 set Taylor

Deil Amang the Tailors 32 R 3 Bk 14/7

28-30 October 2016 – Asilomar Weekend San Francisco Branch

I was there to have fun, and I did. I also found two dances:

St. Faolan of the Woods  32 J 3 Andrew Smith
A Toast to the Mousies         32 R 3 Sarah Gratiot

Pat Coyne taught these dances by Anna Holden:

Bannocks and Brose 32 J 3
From the Broomielaw 32 S 4
Miss Alison Little         32 R 2

I like her teaching. Sure she makes mistakes but her sense of humor is so dry it a joy.

1 November 2016 – New Haven

Pint o’ Ale is Fain 32 J 3 McMurtry
Betelgeuse 32 R 3 Gregg
Bedrule         32 S 3 Bk 33/7
Eggemoggin Reach 32 J 3 Price
Toast to the Mousies 32 R 3 Gratiot
St. Faolan of the Woods         32 J 3 Smith
Chris Ronald’s Strathspey 32 S 3 Wallace


The short form -
Chris Ronald’s Strathspey:- Good enough for a ball!

Orpington Caledonians:- Nice!! Fun music good dance.

St Faolan of the Woods:-  2  thumbs up.

Toast to the Mousies:-  I like the Keith Smith tune. I like the dance. 2 thumbs up.

Eggemoggin Reach:- Why is it so hard to get dancers to go big and wide and bold???

Pint o’ Ale:- A nice easy opening Jig.

Swirling Snow:- be careful, the allemande will bite you if you’re not careful. But nice!

More Bees A-Dancing:- Fun, but please forget Maggieknockater.

Joe Foster’s Jig:- I like it. I learned it as a reel. the teacher found nice 6x through reel music, no strike that, he found great

Zytglogge:- Find it, do it!!

British Grenadiers:- Why? Because of the Jim Lindsay music, he includes Radetsky March! Fun!

Anderson’s Rant:- Smoooth!

No:-  Scotland’s referendum, Brexit and Trump!! BTW it is a nice dance.

Miss Nidra Aitken:- Read better than it danced. Familiarity issue?

Portland Mermaid:- More difficult than I thought. Twice now I have had difficulty when teaching it. No name figures, nothing new, just the arrangement?

The Baldooser:- I like it. It reads harder than it dances and it dances similarly to John Drewry’s Flying Spur - it is 2 dances in 1. One dance for the corners another for the active couple. 

The Banks of Allen:- My opinion? AS written it is fun, mildly demanding and rewards the effort expended.
As interpreted in diagram - bloody awful!  Where does it say that 1st and 2nd couples, when they dance diagonally into the center, have to end with their backs to each other??  That is, IMHO, a gross misinterpretation of what is written. As a rule - keep it simple.

What I teach is- dance diagonally in or down- ending side by side with the other couple:

             2L 2M 1M 1L  
Now pivot and face the other couple      2M 1L
2L 1M
and continue, forming lines of four on the centerline and across the dance. Curve? Why? Just to make the dance a turkey?

Side Issue:- Any good Reel? The music is a jig!


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

16 March 2016 – Westchester

A class of scarcity but with interesting developments.

The weather was awful, cold and rain, lots of rain. The turnout was low.
At the start of class there only five dancers so I pulled out one of my specials, Jane Lataille's Dragonflies. Which I love and which I do to the 5x32 S set by Susie Petrov off her vinyl album Hold the Lass Till I get Her. (The music helps make the dance).

A few more dancers drifted in and we made a circle. There had been a  discussion on Strathspey about this circle waltz and since I had the book I decided to try it out. It is a smashing dance it is it is.
Since I did not have the name tune for Waltzing to Iowa  I used "Penobscott Memory" by The White Cockade on their musical tape "Tartan Stew". The class loved it. There are some wonderful interactions between the dancers. Highly recommended.

Then on to a standard Australian Ladies, and I, once again, taught my Mermaid Jig - The Pawling Mermaid, followed my my Mermaid reel - The Palisades Mermaid. The dance went well enough and I saw what I needed to see to amend the final two bars of the reel. No way was anyone going to be comfortable turn RH 3/4 to end in 2nd place own sides and Plan B became operative.

The Mermaid dances worked which is really nice to know since they are going to be published Real Soon Now. i.e. someday. And a big 'thank you' to Keith Rose who started making diagrams for them before I even knew he had the directions.

The teaching of The Palisades Mermaid took enough out of the class that we ended with Sugar Candie and headed home.

The dances I taught:-

Dragonflies  -  (5x32 S 5some)  -  Jane Lataille
Waltzing to Iowa  -  (32 W n circle)  - D. Schneider
Australian Ladies  -  (32 R 3)  -  Campbell
The Pawling Mermaid  -  (32 J 3)  -  Price (unpublished)
Palisades Mermaid   -  (32 R 3)  -  Price (unpublished)
Sugar Candie  -  (32 S 3)  -  Bk 26/9

9 March 2016 - Westchester

Well, the first ball is over and done with. And a great weekend it was too. The band was Dave Wiesler, David Knight and Dan Emory. Fabulous!

The New Haven Highland Ball WeekendAt Westchester this w programs are here.

Only three more to go. Westchester has been added to the list even though we don't have a program yet and we have less than 60 days to go. Real Soon Now!!! Please?

At Westchester this week we taught the following:-

As a warmup...
The Ferryboat  -  (32 J ncircle)  - Let's All Dance (Hunt)
The Captain's House  -  (32 R 3)  - H. Boyd
Richard the Third  -  (32 S 3)  - Glasspool- 7 Year Itch
Orpington Caledonian  -  (32 R 3)  - Bk 49/2

The Rerr Terr Jig  -  (40 J 3)  - Trinkaus-Randall
Linea's Strathspey  -  (32 S 3)  - Bk 47 (Wilson)
Da Rain Dancin'  -  (32 R 3)  - Wallace

The Pawling Mermaid  -  (32 J 3)  - Price (unpublished)


The Ferryboat:- A very nice, simple, warm up dance, also good for audience participation, new dancers and whatever else you want. In my hip pocket for just hat reason.

The Captain's House:- I like it - Give it about a 92 :-)  Didn't know what to think of it when first it appeared on a NY Branch ball program but danced it once and fell for it. And, just to add to the fun, it was devised by Holly Boyd (Montreal) who was with Deborah and me in Portland at the TAC candidate class.

Richard the Third:-I have been teaching this dance to The Loch Leven Dancers as a performance dance. They are coming around and beginning to really enjoy it. I have also taught it to my class at the New Haven Friends Meeting. They gave it a Golden Ghillie award.  Now the Westchester club has been exposed to it and have also given it a positive response.

With that many good reviews you too should take a look at it.

Be aware that Terry is doing whatever he can to mess with your mind.

First he changes the timing of a standard figure of eight just a bit. It needs to end in the middle ready to give LH to partner, not on the sidelines. That LH turn is ALL the way around - not half- and is on the zesty side.

Secondly the right hands across, man up with 2C and lady down with 3C end with 1C closely back to back and the corners back out to place; then the circles of 3 go"back" to the right! and open up with 1M drawing 2C down onto the men's side and 1L drawing 3C up onto the ladies' side.

Thirdly he has a R&L for 3 couples. 2C and 3C change on the diagonal RH, ALL cross over LH; right diagonals cross RH, ALL cross LH. The key here- cross all the way onto the side lines every time. A wonderfully satisfying pulse develops when that happens and IMHO is the heart of the dance. Note that at the end of this last crossing 1C (making it a turn) is facing 3rd corner position!

Now comes the hardest part - half reels of four on the diagonal with a very zesty Left shoulder dance rounds to face 4th corner. Corners can not be slow! They need to be out of the way so 1C can start the second half reel only a half bar late - on time is almost impossible but worth striving for. The way I like to end the dance is with a second L shoulder dance round ending in the center but shoulder to shoulder and facing out own sides, from where you can cast in parallel with the new couple starting at the top.

I love this one!

Orpington Caledonians:- Reads nice and easy. In actuality, 'A Little Stinker" to steal a the words  from the  mouth of the great New England contra caller Ralph Page.

Control! You need to be aware and in control. Big Thumbs UP.

The Rerr Terr Jig:- Won in a raffle. A wee bit more of a challenge for beginners then we wished. Not bad. It won't make my top 50 list but it will be in the back of my mind for...

Linnea's Strathspey:-Another one for which I can say "I love this one".

Da Rain Dancin':- It is part of my standard repertoire. Another "I love this one!" IMHO the RSCDS need to publish this one and claim it as their own. It is better than most, and the music makes it!

2 March 2016 – Westchester

Another  prep session for the upcoming balls - The New Haven Highland Ball - NJ's Rerr Terr Ball -
 The Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance.

Driving through Eutaw  - (32 J 3)  -  Leary
Scott Meikle  - (32 R 4)  - Bk 46/3
Sands of Morar  -  (32 S 3)  - Bk 45/6 (Priddey)
Flights of Fancy  -  (32 J 3)  -  Boston 50th (McColl)

Rory O'More  -  (32 J 2)  -  Bk 1/9
Duchess of Atholl's Slipper  -  (32 S 2)  -  Bk 9/3
Countess of Dunmore's Reel  -  (32 R 3)  - Bk 49/12 (D M Bark)
Many Happy Returns  -  (32 S 3)  - Briscoe


Rory O'More:- 1 star - If I Must. The swap places on the sides is OK. and I love poussette with pas de basque, but what else is there in this dance? If you absolutely can not find another QT poussette anywhere else in the standard repertoire then why not this dance.

Driving Through Eutaw:- Alright already - I admit it, I am prejudiced toward this dance. But it still has a little more substance to it than Rory O' More has IMHO. The first 16 bars a unbalanced and take you out of your box, and that is a good thing. It takes a little bit of thinking. A short video is available - see my earlier post.

Scott Meikle:- on the Kilts and Gillies Tea Dance. And a lovely wee bit of choreography it is. I just love surprise progressions where you look around and ask "how did this happen?"

Sands of Morar:- from one of my favorite divisors, Barry Priddey. He didn't write as many dances as John Drewry did, but as a percentage I think he has more really good dances. Take a look at the Golden Ghillies page and do the counting - and this award comes from the dancers.

This dance is not one of my favorites. It is good, and I will happily dance it. I just believe he has devised better ones, and that said you should not plan a trip to the loo when this one comes up. Far from it. This is a good dance - just not one of his best. And if you like this one what does that mean about his others?

Flights of Fancy:- Yes! Another good one! Thank you Jeanetta and the band and her father who wrote the tune and...
The trick to this dance is handling all the changes in orientation and facing and who is on the proper side or who is not and when. It is a tricky little dance but rewarding when you get it right.

The Duchess of Atholl's Slipper:- This is one dance you either love or hate or love to hate. Have you ever done it it a good sized, maybe even slightly oversize set? Try it. It smooths out all the rough spots. In a cramped ball room I'll of for the loo first. With space - I love it. I also love diversity and these reels are different. Thumbs up to that!

The Countess of Dunmore's Reel:-  Chaperoned chain progression! Yes! This dance dance rocks! As does the original dance Linnea's Strathspey.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

24 February 2016 – Westchester

Yikes. A very hard night. I have what you could call an 'institutional memory' going back to 1998 with this group. I have a sense of what the class can do - but I am remembering the class as it was, not as it is. And I get myself into trouble.

This post is made up from cryptic notes made on the print out of the Dance List I printed out - the so called 'plan'. But I worked so hard I never actually wrote down who did what with whom. So this is post is going to be brief and very sketchy.

The 'big' dance of the night was John Drewry's Hunter's Moon, 32 J 4 couples.
Nothing special here--- Right! just La Baratte, followed by 8 bars of Bees of Maggieknockater reels.
Several dancers were completely nonplussed by La Baratte (French Canadian for Butter Churn).
I mean completely! We got it eventually, kinda sort of.

I have no advice on how to teach this. because I wouldn't call what I did successful.  I can only say there are two kinds of people in this world – those that love Scottish Country dancing and those that don't. And there are people who can pick up something a little weird and those that can't. I am coming round to accepting that that is just the way it is.

It is a nice dance. All the people who 'get it' love it. And those who don't get it, hate it.

Dances taught:-
Sla'ine's Fancy  -  (32 J 3)  - Let's All Dance Too (Guilbert)
Hunter's Moon  -  (32 J 4)  -  John Drewry
The Rerr Terr Jig  -  (40 J 3)  - Trinkaus-Randall
Light and Airy  - (32 J 3)  - Bk 4
Miss Milligan's Strathspey  -  (32 S 3)  - Leaflets
Pinewoods Reel  -  (32 R 3)  -  JBD


The Rerr Terr Jig

This dance was a raffle prize. Gregor donated a dance that he would devise for the winner. The president of the NJ Branch won and she asked for a dance for our Rerr Terr Ball.

and Hunter's Moon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

17 February 2016 –– Westchester

It is still prep time for upcoming balls. It has been, is, and will be the theme of this entire series. Sigh.
Trapped by the tyranny of ball prep.

The dances taught this week were:-

The Cup-of-Gold Vine  -  (32 J 3)  - Claudette Sigg
The Duchess of Atholl's Slipper  -  (32 S 2)  - Bk 9/3
The Whistling Wind  -  (32 R 3)  -  Bk 36/5 (E. Goosen)
The Robertson Rant  -  (80 S 4 sq)  -  Bk 39/8
Catch the Wind  -  (32 H 3)  -  Butterfield


The Cup-of-Gold Vine:- A nice little jig. With some minor transition issues,  that will catch the unaware.

The Duchess of Atholl's Slipper:- I have done it before but it has never made it onto any of my lists. I now know why.  This dances takes effort - effort to nail the phrasing and effort to keep a largish size set (necessary for good phrasing) and that is not going to happen in this area without a rod and a staff to keep the dancers in  line. And along with set awareness it needs team work - everyone knowing their part. Both are currently rare commodities around here.

My experience has been that, in the CT, NY, NJ area, all the dancers have some familial relationship to sheep. We get uncomfortable if we aren't within touching distance of one another. And close proximity kills this dance. Without the necessary space the dance becomes an excruciating exercise in teeny mincing strathspey steps. The RSCDS standard is 2 meters between partners across the set and in this dance you need every millimeter of it.

With the necessary space the dance is actually quite nice. The reels are different. And that is Good! I like variety, I like things interesting.  I like the reels in Red House which are unique interpretations. I like the reels in Cadgers and in Tulloch Gorm which are different from each other and from the norm. I do not like the idea of dancing their reels in the same way. And here, in The Duchess, we have yet another way of dancing cross over reels. Just one caveat -  Know your basics - both the normal reel of three and the 'standard' cross-over reel of three. Knowing the basics lets the variations stand out and be fun to dance.

The Whistling Wind:- Oh what fun! (I am weird - I like pas de basque). On the New Haven Highland  Ball.

The Robertson Rant:- Another one that's fun. The music inspires play. Don't be pedantic, let the dancers reach for the outside of their box. Also on the NHHB.

Catch the Wind:- Just plain nice. The recordings are all good fun.  And yet another on the NHHB.

10 February 2016 - Westchester

My last post was Feb. 3rd. Today is the 30th of March and that means I have a lot of updating to do.

Neat stuff has happened - Keith Rose has made diagrams for my three Mermaid dances  (Coming Real Soon Now) and for two of the more obscure dances on the NJ Branch's Rerr Terr Ball program - The Rerr Terr Jig - 40 J 3 - (Gregor Trinkaus-Randall) and Driving Through Eutaw - 32 J 3 - (Deborah Leary).

I have also heard from Ellen Ternes, the devisor of Grandma's Mandolin, which  just happens to be on both the Rerr Terr Ball (NJ) and the Kilts and Ghillies' Tea Dance (New Haven). I taught it this past Monday (March 28) to a group of six (6) dancers and had to improvise an ending. My off the cuff "twiddle" worked well enough that I was strongly urged to contact Ellen and make her aware of the change. She liked what I had done and has sent me the link to the partial video (bars 9-32) of her dance.

Which has, by the way, been blocked from the Strathspey site. Apparently it doesn't matter how helpful it is, if it isn't complete it will not be allowed. I am going to start investigating ways to put up video/links on this blog - multimedia should be easy but I am a crank old vessel and new tricks for old dogs…

By the way (2), Grandma's Mandolin is one of my Top 50 Strathspeys (the list of which is alphabetical and has only 56 dances on it). If I had to put a number against it - it would be in the top 10. Really it is that good. I do not have a class musician (sigh). I have no recording of the tune - Minnie Walker by Dave Wiesler (deep sigh). I have to use any good strathspey (wee sigh) and the recording I have been using is In Traditional Mode - lead tune Sarah Elizabeth by Muriel Johnstone. It is a fabulous set that works and is fun (loud cheer).

In an aside - it will be very interesting to hear the published tune when it is played at the balls. Will my choice of music be anything close to the paper tune?

Anyway - back to the class.

We got through 6 dances plus an unofficial 7th.

Dances Taught were:-

Highland Fair - (32 J 2) - Graded Bk
Across the Esk - (32 R 3) - Barbour/Set & Cast Off 1
Grandma's Mandolin - (32 S 3) - StrathsBabes (E. Ternes)
Driving Through Eutaw - (32 J 3) - Leary - unpublished
Balquidder Strathspsey - (32 S 3) - Bk 24
Flowers of Texas - (32 R 3) - Let's All Dance 2 (Torf)

Tiptoe and Sway - (32 R 3) - Imperial 3 (Bayly)


Highland Fair:- my rating is "If I Must" and if I can find the loo in time I'll consider the evening a success. This really isn't fair to the dance. There aren't all that many good, beginner friendly, opening jigs. But IMHO this dance is a waste. It doesn't even wake up the mind, well not my mind anyway.

Across the Esk:-  All right! I was wrong! I admit it. Ian Barbour has written a good dance. Not that I ever claimed he hadn't, it is just I have seen only one other dance of his and didn't like the contrived nature of it. This one is OK. It definitely wakes up the brain and it rewards good dancing. Nice to have in your hip pocket when putting together a program. It is on the K&G Tea Dance, which was the effort of a committee of 2 - myself and Sandra Bethray who teaches the Kilts and Ghillies class in Wilton, CT.

Grandma's Mandolin:- Five Stars! I love this one. It read well enough that it went on the program short list before I ever danced it. It made it past that onto the program. Nothing since has changed my mind. The 'mandolin' figure is smooth and sweet! A wee 'sorry' is due to the 2nd corners who dance for only two bars out of the 8.

Take a look – The opening diamond poussette has been omitted because it is 'easy'…

(Aha!  Success!)
Driving Through Eutaw:-  Written as we were driving past Eutaw on the Interstate with Marian Anderson playing Rbt. Burns tunes, in this case Banks and Braes. An unconventional jig because it isn't balanced.
2 to set, 2 to set advancing; 4 to lead down. :: 2 to change places with partner, 4 to lead up, and 2 to cast off.

But nice. And,  ;-)  it usually highlights those dancers who just can't seem to break through all the ingrained muscle memory and do something just a little bit 'off'.

Balquidder Strathspey:- On the short list because the last hour or so should be dances that are fun and do-able without any teaching needed. And it is on the K&G Tea dance for that the same reason. They can't all be final exam dances. Besides, I like the music.

Flowers of Texas:- A beginner dance for those who do not yet have pas de basque and poussette. Nice and mindless.

Tiptoe and Sway:- This is from John Bayly, the genius who devised Mrs Stuart Linnell. Which may be my all time No.1 reel. No kidding and not easy. This dance, if it were possible, is even less forgiving than MSL.
No wiggle room, not a moment of it. Everyone has to be right all the time. I like dances that are demanding but this one is a bit over the top even for me.

My way of putting it is: This one has little or no redeeming social value.

It needed lot of effort to learn and there wasn't enough payback for the input. So it not a social dance but may be good for a performance.

Friday, February 12, 2016

3 February 2016 - Westchester

This week was again mostly ball prep. with a experiment as well.

Last week I taught a dance brought to my attention by one of my dancers (Swirling Snow - 32 S 3 set) which was well received by the class. I brought it to the attention of the teachers on the NY Branch dance list committee and they liked it enough that they put on the list for 2016-17.

And that brought another dance to my attention, one proposed as a beginner friendly jig, Beach Dancer (32 J 3) by Eddy West. It did not get onto the list mainly because none of us had ever danced it and it had this moment we deemed potentially unfriendly.

I was curious so I taught it and now we know - it is a good dance, liked by the dancers who would willingly dance it again, but it is not for beginners. It just isn't tolerant enough of a late start into the chase, a six bar distance with only four bars of music, and a skip change that doesn't fly.

I had a lot of fun teaching Caberfei. I took a slightly different approach this time. I built up to the half set and travel for three. I started with extension (jeté) of the right leg, hop left into the skip change a perfectly normal move. I then had them extend the left leg and hop on the right into a skip change. Also perfectly normal but not as a starting step. But they showed they could. I then had them wait a bar and start with the left on bar two. Most did it just fine. A few had muscle memory issues they just couldn't over ride. I then had them saying "pas de basque (without the doing) and HOP…"

With a little practice most could hold on bar one and start skip change on bar two. I then added the actual pas de basque to the exercise. It worked better than anything else I have tried.

Dance taught this week:-

A Wee Nothing  – (32 J 2)  – E. Brunken
Beach Dancer  –  (32 J 3)  –  Eddy West
Gramachie  –  (32 S 3)  –  MMM
Caberfei  –  (32 R 3)  –  18C
Reel of the 51st  –  (32 R 3)  –  13/10

Gloria's Wee Jig  –  (32 J 2)  –  McMurtry
Asilomar Romantic  –  (32 S 3)  –  Cuthbertson
Highland Rambler  –  (40 R 3)  –  Goldring

Friday, January 29, 2016

27 January 2016 – Westchester

Third series, class number 1 and a somewhat rocky start.

The other teacher and I were not in contact until just days before the class, I myself had not gotten into the groove so no lesson plan/cribs had gone out to the class which is the procedure in Westchester.

And there was a gotcha of my own doing.

Because no cribs were sent out, a couple of the dancers went onto Strathspey looking for the upcoming ball programs that I would probably be teaching to. And in looking there found a dance that resonated with the blizzard of the weekend. A 32 bar Strathspey called called Swirling Snow, from  the Martello Tower Bk 7 (Kingston, Ontario). They brought it to my attention and, since I did not have a program ready for Wednesday, teaching it seemed like a good idea…     Yeah! Right!

I knew it until I tried to teach it. Just a wee bit of confusion and a fair bit of embarrassment. I had to figure out on the floor how the circulating allemande worked. Once over that hurdle it went well and was liked. I am now looking for a copy of the original because it is always a bad idea to teach a dance from the cribs.

The dances I taught:

Orpington Caledonians  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 49
Swirling Snow  –  (32 S 3 set)  – Martello Tower 7
Braes of Balquhidder  –  (32 R 3)  –  18C

Fingal's Fancy  –  (32 J 3)  – Alexander 3
John McAlpin  –  (32 S 3)  –  Foss
Davy Nick Nack  –  (32 S 3)  – Glasgow Assy


Orpington Caledonians:- On the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance and the NJ Rerr Terr. And in a major departure from established procedures there has not been a teachers workshop to learn the dances in the recently issued Book 49. I have been teaching this one because I put on the K&G program based on a reading of the text. I got lucky with it because it was voted a Golden Ghillie by the dancers in my New Haven class.

Swirling Snow:- They liked it in spite my incredible fumbling. Now on my short list for my Feb. class in New Haven and, if they like it too, it gets short listed for next year's tea dance. I give it a thumbs up. Nice job Ruth Taylor!

Braes of Balquhidder:- There are two dances with this name you know. One a strathspey, this a reel. And what is different about this dance is the phrasing. You can't parse it neatly. You need to exercise good judgement and common sense. The first 16 bars are restrained and then it takes off and flies! There a pieces that you can not phrase in a normal, what we were taught, fashion. A little more, a little further, with more flight. you need either young legs or to know how to cut corners.

Fingal's Fancy:- A nice light hearted jig. Need a simple dance with Double Triangles? Choose this one.

John McAlpin:- I have a problem with this dance as done in this area. It seems to be the rule, self selected and not taught by any teacher that I know of, that as 1C dance down to 2nd place and turn with LH to face 1st corners  2nd couple step on on bars 7&8.  What??

Once result, which I have seen, is that 1C end up somewhere down between 3rd couple and have no idea where their corners are. Good for a hearty laugh - and some embarrassment. The instructions are very clear - 2C steps up AS 1C lead down -  on bars 5&6!! It opens up the space where 1C must end and prevents the confusion.

Davy Nick Nack:- Great dance. Just one thing of which you must beware - DO NOT EVER dance this in a 7 couple set unless it is a children's class and you are desperately trying burn off their excess energy.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

25 January 2016 - NHFM

I taught 7 dances. Some familiar. Some not. Some from upcoming party programs, some not.
The class was light on dancers which severely impacted my choice of program.

The regular New Haven class meets on Tuersdays and, on the weeks when I teach my monthly Monday class, they are now canceling the Tuesday class since too many of the dancers are choosing not to dance 2 nights in row. There is something wrong with this picture.

I started this class because I lived in New Haven, danced and taught there for over 25 years, took over  a different class that met the same night and I was not happy having to choose one over the other. I therefore set up this once a month class so I could stay involved and in touch with my immediate 'family'.

I have some rethinking to do.
1. Not all the Tuesday dancers are able to attend my Monday class.
2. My numbers are light.
3. Everyone who is coming on Monday also danced on Tuesdays.
4. If Tuesday dancing is being canceled because of my Monday class...
5. Young Emma and her mom say Tuesdays is actually better for her
6. If changing my reservation to Tuesday is acceptable with the Friends Meeting then, other than the conflict with the Ho Ho Kus class who also dance on Tuesdays, switching my trip to New Haven to Tuesday seems to make sense.

What I taught:

Gloria's Wee Jig  –  (32 J 2)  –  McMurtry
Domino Five  –  (32 R 5some)  –  Haynes
On the Quarter-Deck  –  (32 H 2)  –  Boyd
A Moment for Marilynn  –  (32 S 2)  –  Glasspool
The Portland Mermaid  –  (32 S 3 set)  –  Price
Miss Eleanor  –  (32 S 3 set)  –  Bk 49
Blairmormond  –  (32 S 2)  –  Drewry


Gloria's Wee Jig:- We have done it before and it still gets smiles and good reviews from the dancers.
                              The set up for the Ladies' Chain is nice and the end little chase is just plain sweet.

Domino Five:- A very simple five person dance from Derek Haynes. Tedious if done on a regular basis.

On the Quarter-Deck:- I have always liked this one. It is one of my top 50. It is simple, accessible, and it helps if you pick good music. And with hornpipes that is easy to do. They are all good, aren't they?

A Moment for Marilynn:- This one is pure dead brilliant and beautiful. A stunner! La Baratte is the only formation that requires practice and more practice. I find that this dance fully rewards all the work required to get it right. Top 50 for sure. It is in the database but without any data. I will correct this oversight shortly.

The Portland Mermaid:- I actually like it. (I know, I know, I wrote it. But just because I wrote it doesn't mean it is any good - but when the dancers are saying they like it there might be some truth to it). The real issue is that I have the dancers doing a couple of slightly unusual patterns and I have been struggling to find the best words to convey the movements. I am getting there - slowly.
Due to be published Real Soon Now.

Miss Eleanor:- YES! Another 3 couple bourrell! Finally! Two thumbs up. So far that is a total 4 good dances from the new book. That's so good I can't complain. I have tried four and all four were good dances. I mean, how many of us still teach any of the dances from Book 28?

Blairmormond:- A John Drewry dance. How bad could it be? That was rhetorical, obviously. It has the flow. Thumbs up. Just don't take the diagram or the cribs too seriously even though they are absolutely correct.

The class is advanced. They know what they are doing and they know what works. They did not dance the reel of four as it was written because it worked better slightly modified.
As written:
 "at the end, the men turn each other with the  left hand once round to finish back to back in the middle facing own partners.

The dancers found this awkward. The men found it easier to end offset while the ladies looped into place to face partner. This did not affect the set to and turn partner into circle four. At some point we become too rule bound for good dancing. It isn't a science it is an art. There has to be a place for common sense. The change made did not change the dance in any substantive way and in my opinion it flowed better. But in your class it is your call.