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.