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Sharlene Penman (piano), visiting from New Zealand, is the band leader for the 2019 Tea Dance.
Our fiddlers are Jenny Evans and Amy Beshara.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

1 February 2017 -– Westchester

Steady teaching has returned to my life

Last night was the first of the new series in Westchester and the turnout appeared light. We eked out two four couple sets for most of the evening and none of the dancers needed 'teaching'. They were all experienced so it boiled down to geography lessons.

I had planned to warm up with Waltzing to Iowa but there weren't enough dancers that early to make a decent sized circle. Quick switch to More Bees A-Dancin' from the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance program and once again I was surprised by the simplicity of the dance and how enjoyable it continues to be.

There are four programs coming up in this area: The New Haven Highland Ball, The NJ Rerr Terr,
The Kilts and Ghilies Tea Dance, and  the NY Pawling Weekend. And there is very little overlap on the programs. Interesting times indeed.

Here is what we danced:–

More Bees A-Dancing  –  (32 R 3)  – Goldring
Campbell's Frolic  –  (32 J 3)  –  15/3
Aging Gracefully  –  (32 S 3)  –  47/4
Toast to the Mousies  –  (32 R 3)  –  Gratiot
New Abbey  –  (32 S 2)  –  Goldring

Scottish Reform  –  (32 J 2)  –  3/1
Zytglogge  –  (32 R 3)  –  Blackburn
Asilomar Romantic  –  (32 S 3)  –  SF 2
Deil Amang the Tailors  –  (32 R 3)  –  14/7


More Bees A-Dancin'  –  Simple and sweet. It says something that a simple dance can continue to be fresh after several dancings.  It made it onto the Kilts and Ghillies program after my co-teacher brought it to my attention. She didn't need a two by four to get my attention but it was a close thing. I  have certainly read the dance over, probably more than once over the years but it never 'caught' me. Well that is now over and I now give it a thumbs up.

Campbell's Frolic:-  Not a 'skip to the loo' dance but close, very close. To say there are better dances would be a serious understatement. Which begs the question - why are there so few really exciting jigs in the RSCDS repertoire? That is changing with the new publications but traditionally? I shudder to think of it.

Aging Gracefully:-  This one is interesting. There is some serious interpretation necessary with this dance.

9-12      1st woman and 2nd man set advancing and, giving both hands, turn once round.
13-16    1st woman and 2nd man, passing by the right, dance into each other's places and set.

Where do you end the turn? Seriously, where do you end that turn?  The instructions say only 'once round'. How far is that? You have advanced setting, so do you end the turn where you started it, in the middle? Or do you end it back in place? Both are doable. Both look lovely. Both are interpretations as the written instructions do not specify.

I first taught the dance was way back when Book 47 was published and I taught it with the dancers  finishing the turn in the middle (not going back to place) but extending the movement of the turn into the right shoulder pass.  Then I watched the video for  Surprising Hannah and saw a different way. There is a  precision, a strength there that has its own beauty to recommend it so last night I taught it with the turn ending back in place. It is going to take some more coaching to get the dancers to 'flow' in to the pass shoulders, but when that happens…

The dance works either way. It is beautiful either way. It gets a thumb up either way. And any 'rules', advice, or decree from any one is simply personal preference aka interpretation. I liked it both ways, and the dancers liked it as I taught it last night. (They don't remember that I taught it the other way). Bottom line - doesn't matter which version you teach, there is no 'one correct way' and both times the dancers gave it a thumbs up.

New Abbey:- Roy Goldring specified that this dance was doable in either strathspey tempo or jig time.
Jig time is one thing, a two couple strathspey 8 times through is something else. At the Pawling Welcome Dance it will be done as a jig. Thank God.

Last night one set rewrote the dance. Instead of ending with RH Across ; LH back they began ending each round with Poussette Right Round.  IMHO an improvement.

Toast to the Mousies:-  The first of my "Winter Specials". I learned it last fall at the Asilomar Weekend. I like it. A lot. And I want a dancing arrangement of Keith Smith's tune. (See Muriel and Keith's CD Highland Shortbread).

Basically a simple dance. There is only one figure that is unusual but it is not hard unusual, just  slightly unusual and easily taught.

Zytglogge:- I have said it all before so all I can add is - still fresh. It has an intrinsic rhythm that works. Two thumbs up.

Asilomar Romantic:-  Oh… My… Yes. Long time a favorite of mine and the music! Oh the music! The original set from The San Francisco Collection 2  CD is very good. The arrangement by Reel of Seven… I have no words. "Superb" is seriously deficient.

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