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!