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Sharlene Penman (piano), visiting from New Zealand, is the band leader for the 2019 Tea Dance.
Our fiddlers are Sarah Stefanski and Jenny Evans, both local artists.

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.

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