Saturday, March 18, 2017

18 March 2017 – New Haven

The New Haven class sponsored a Kilts and Ghillies workshop to be sure everyone was ready for the ball.

The turn out was light. Not even all of the usual New Haven suspects plus one dancer from Northampton, Massachusetts.

The dances we covered were:

Swirling Snow  –  (32 S 3/3L) – Ruth Taylor
No  –  (32 R 3/3L)  – Wouter Joubert
Les Remparts de Séville  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 50 (Aliénor Latour)
Peggy Spouse MBE  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 46 (J. Wilkinson)

John Cass  –   (32 R 5)  –  Bk 49 (P. Avery)
The Johnsonville Diamond  –  (32 S 2)  – R. Downey
Zytglogge  –  (32 R 3)  –  Blackburn

15 March 2017 – Westchester

Snowed out - the town closed the senior center both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

Friday, March 17, 2017

8 March 2017 – Westchester

The class had a late afternoon/early evening demo for the town council so it was a  very slow starting evening.

My planned opening /warm up dance - Out the window! well, sort of. See dance #2.

The evening's dances:-

This One's Four Isobel  –  (32 S 4some)  –  Glasspool
Driving Through Eutaw  –  (32 J 3)  –  Leary
The Music Makars  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 33/1 (Goldring)
Ann of Scotia  –  (32 S – World Wide Weavings (Ronald)

The Glowerin' Coo  –  (32 J 3)  –  Drewry
Swirling Snow  –  (32 S 3/3L)  –  Martello Twr 7 (Taylor)
Da Rain Dancin'  –  (32 R 3)  –  Whiteadder (Wallace)

***   ***   ***      ***   ***   ***

This One's Four Isobel:-  Terry wrote a small collection of foursomes in a variety of formations. He hasn't published them. They are in, oh lets call it, beta testing format. That is- in note form for workshops with the advisory that the instructions could change at any time.

We are still waiting. We are not amused.

This dance is one of the nicest pieces of choreography I have ever experienced. It isn't a nightmare in which various unrelated modifications of standard pieces happen at random times in random order and all happening across musical phrases. I do acknowledge that it isn't a Drewy tour de force either where, once you start moving, the next piece is self evident from the flow. It takes some effort to learn but the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  This one gets two thumbs up and a loud YES!

A diagram would be a very nice adjunct to the crib but what is really needed is publication! [quiet whisper from off stage - "psssst, give me a call privately!}

Driving Through Eutaw:- I like it. I am also prejudiced. Deborah (my partner) wrote it. and she broke the box, well maybe not broke it but she certainly bent it out of shape. The dance is asymmetric and that just plain messes with some people's heads.

1-8      Set, set advancing; lead down the middle for 4.

9-16    California Twirl to change places with partner (and face up),
         lead up for 4, cast off 1 place.

Music:- Ye Banks and Braes by Marian Anderson's from her Robert Burns CD.

There are good cribs and a diagram [here].

The Music Makars:-  A Roy Goldring production. It has a certain flair. It's nice, easy to dance too. I give it about a 78. There just isn't anything there that grasps my heart. "It's OK" is about all I can say. A dance saved by the music.

Ann of Scotia:-  This one is a tour de force, especially since I know the lady and she has always enjoyed a good dance flirt. Chris and Sue Ronald also know the lady and wrote the dance to fit. And very successfully. [here]

The music should be Highland Cathedral, the tune to which she made here way to the altar.  At least two thumbs up.

The Glowerin' Coo:-  A Drewry. Some nice flip moments if I do say so myself. We all have our 'go to' dances, or 'kinda-sort of' favorites that we come back to every so often. Dances that just don't leave us alone. This is one  of those for Fergie who has been Westchester's head teacher for decades. He has just retired from teaching and has passed on the mantle.

Since I am now preparing the program for the Westchester Ball, this one kinda sorta :-))  came to mind. It didn't work out for that ball but I have taken it under long term consideration too, as it were.

Da Rain Dancin':- Magnificent. [here] – I consider it the next Mongomeries' Rant and like Montgomeries' Rant it is a great dance because of the music. Ron Wallace, Muriel Johnstone - thank you.

But it has an issue: Dancers don't know how to listen - they hear what they want to or expect to . If a move is outside their box they force it to fit their box.  The interrupted  Hello-Goodbye setting is that move.
The instructions don't say it but he did. He insisted that the 1s 'set' to 1st corner (pas de basque right) and 'set' to partner (pdb left) moving left, towards the gap (between your corners), but not squarely into that space, being sure to point right shoulders toward partner. The taking of hands should be easy - you just raise them and you are, magically, pointed in the correct direction for the turn - no decision (which hand?) to slow you down.

I learned the dance from him at a Pinewoods Camp Scottish Session several… (gasp) decades ago.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

7 March 2017 – New Haven

I suppose the first order of business is to acknowledge the facts on the ground. The Fair Haven Heights class is effectively defunct. I am now simply part of the rotation of teachers for the New Haven class of the New Haven Branch.  I have no set dates, they change as the availability of the other teachers changes (for whatever reason). * * * Sigh * * *  (Am I being too nice?)

Well, the New Haven Highland Ball for 2017 is past. It is time to move on. The Rerr Terr ball (NJ) is next on the calendar but most of the New Haven dancers can handle the dances eyes closed. Then the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance and for that Prep is definitely required.

The dances taught last night:-

Machine Without Horses  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 12/12
Bridge of Nairn  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 13/11
More Bees A-Dancin'  –  (32 R 3)  –  Goldring

Les Remparts de Séville  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 50/2
Dave Macfarlane's Reel  –  (32 R 3)  –  Collin
Peggy Spouse MBE  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 46/11

***   ***   ***   ***

The Machine Without Horses:-  The Old War Horse of the jig persuasion. There are some sticking points. Getting beginners to start dancing on time, especially as 2nd couple in the track figure. Getting dancers to cast up around 3rd couple and meet above them. Remembering left from right.

What struck me though was how much the music has changed since I started dancing. Why back when, when you really didn't want the stegasaurii to flip their kilts (that long spiked tail was a real problem) the hot musician was Stan Hamilton. What he was doing on piano was different from what most of other bands were doing. His music was the go to as were Don Bartlett's, Angus MacKinnon's, and Bobby Frew's. The RSCDS music was required listening though very managed and not very inspiring - even then, as a newbie, I could hear that. Don't get me wrong – it was all danceable.

Then came the fiddlers, and especially Barbara McOwen. She was in Berkeley CA. and west coast fiddle music flourished. She moved to Boston, and east coast fiddle music flourished. What she did was open dancer's ears to the song of the fiddle where previously all we heard were accordions. IMHO she deserves a Society Scroll!

So, last night, I played Stan Hamilton's version of Mw/oH. I was not inspired and I was surprised by that. Oh it had a good beat and was easy to dance to. But today I would only gave it about a 72. I find I much prefer the Reel of Seven version. They also have a good beat, are easy to dance to, but they have the sound of the fiddle. And the sound is fuller, more complex, more varied, and more mature.  They are standing on the shoulders of the greats like Stan Hamilton, Bobby Frew, and Don Bartlett, to name just a few.  (If I don't name Bobby Brown it is because although he may have had great knowledge and ability I have never liked the sound of his band. It was very heavy handed. He beat me over the head rather than let the instruments sing - This is personal opinion, other opinions differ, and to those of that persuasion what I have just said is heresy.)

Bridge of Nairn:- If there is a sticky point in this dance it is 1st man getting out of the setting into turning 1st corner RH. And with two elder beginners who are really stretching themselves with starting SCD in their seventies teachers need to use the RSCDS method (leaving out the Baroque ballet stuff). So I had to come up with a skills exercise at the last moment - yes I do claim I planned the class, just not in the society way or standard.

So I had everyone join NH with partner and face down (to start) - set and turn toward partner to face up [1-2], set again and face down [3-4]; set and face up [5-6], set and 1st lady stay facing up while 1st man turns over R shoulder to face down (as if to his 1st corner).

In the dance they got it. Even my weaker newbie was headed the correct way and basically on time into turn CPCP.

Both these dances are on the Rerr Terr program which is designed to be a beginner's first ball - very easy.

More Bees A-Dancin':-  A very nice Roy Goldring dance. I do see the pedigree which is John Drewry's Bees of Maggieknockater. Reels of three are still an issue for our newbies but in this dance 1st couple is in promenade hold for both reels. Hard to go wrong as 1s. Much easier as a corner where you have to either know which way to go, be able to taking coaching or responsive to visual cues.

Les Remparts de Séville:- I like it. It definitely rates higher than a 72. There is a trick to it which plays against training and muscle memory. There is a LH turn into the first 6 bars of Hello-Goodbye setting. Some dancers had difficulty getting their brains wrapped around that 8 bar phrase. Once they accomplished that they liked the dance.

One strong comment from the floor - find better music. I am not convinced. The arrangement doesn't send shudders down my spine. So is it the tune, the arrangement, bad playing, or the instrument mix that wasn't liked? I dunno - it could by any of these so I really need finer discernment. The dance is on the Tea Dance and I am tempted to ask the band to find French or Spanish jigs for their arrangement.

Dave Macfarlane's Reel:- Another delight from Gaye Collin of NZ and one of my Winter Specials. When I asked thumbs up or thumbs down I got four double thumbs up and one single thumbs up and no thumbs down.

This is the only dance I got into and danced. The video is so well done that I had such high expectations that I actually came away mildly disappointed but that doesn't mean it is bad. I definitely rate it as good and it gets a thumbs up from me too.

So that makes a total of ten thumbs up.  [here] Oh my are they good! (I want to move there).
The dance is now a candidate for the 2018 Tea Dance program.

Peggy Spouse MBE:- A Good One. It is beautiful. It deserves a much higher reputation but Oh My does it take lots and lots and lots of words to get the fine points and adjustments across to the dancers! (Maybe that is why they call it teaching?) But there is another issue. I have dancers who are in their 60s, 70s and 80s  and they aren't processing they way they used to. I have to take it slower and repeat myself and walk the pieces more often.

1st few bits - getting 1st lady and 2nd man not only back to back in the middle but also with both hands joined with partner ready for half poussette. It is the partners who have to adjust the spacing so 1L/2M STAY back to back. I now voice another heresy: this is not essential technique but look good technique. The dance works with or without the dancers being tightly back to back. It just looks better if they are.

The reels across (why do people not HEAR what is said?) in 6 bars with added extensions. Another couple of pieces: Petronellas for 1st couple and loops for corners to complete the phrase.

Another bunch of pieces: Set, circles of  3 - halfway; then set and link (corners) or set and petronella (1st couple).

Whew, we can now catch our breath,  it's a circle, round and back.

I like it, and the dancers liked both how it looked and how it danced. Worth the effort!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

1 March 2017 – Westchester

Tonight was intended to be a final prep session for the New Haven Highland Ball happening this weekend.
Accordingly I sent an email asking dancers to come with program dances they wanted reviewed.
The response was silence. The number of dancers going to the ball could be counted on one hand.
I revised as I went and wandered a bit from my original intent.

The Dances:-

Mrs Stewart's Jig  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 35
Maxwell's Rant  –  (32 R 3)  –  Bk 18
Barbara's Strathspey  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 46
New Haven Grid Lock  –  (48 J 4 sq)  –  Thomson
Surprising Hannah  –  (32 S 3)  –  Collin

Follow Me Home  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 38
Karin's Strathspey  –  (32 S 3)  –  3rd Graded
Saltire Society Reel  –  (32 R 3)  –  L28

* * * * * * * * * *

Mrs Stewart's Jig:-  Chosen because it is simple and easy and makes a decent warmup. Or so I thought. One set did fine. The other set was in pretty continuous breakdown.  I chose not to bring the class down to the lowest common denominator so I did not walk it a second, third, fourth... time.

Maxwell's Rant:- There is a presentation coming up next week. A set of dancers will be showing to the town's mayor and council and I was asked to give them all a run through.   Not on the ball.

Barbara's Strathspey:-  Ball dance, and it is lovely. It has been a favourite in this area for some years but hasn't been done recently. It had its three years on the NY dance list, has been off for a couple more, and because it isn't on the list it hasn't been on any local programs and hasn't been done. On the whole it went very well. No break downs - if there were problems they danced through them.

New Haven Grid Lock:- Oh My! Interesting. I know who wrote it and it is so George! Rough around the edges is being kind, but brimming with cheer and good energy.  The essential ingredient would be anticipation.  The neat thing is that because the squares are lined up, when everyone faces out of their set some couples will be facing another couple. If you dance half RL those couples change sets!

On the brunch program.

A little history - when New Haven Colony was founded the town was laid out in a 3x3 grid of nine squares, the center one being the town green.

Surprising Hannah:-  Yes! I say again - Yes! Simple? Yes. Demanding? Yes. Enjoyable? Oh Yes, but you need to have, like, and execute technique. Strong steps are needed here. The figures go out to the side lines whenever possible, which is most of the time, and you must be able to move!!

As far as I know I am still the only area teacher advocating Gaye Collin's dances. I have just shortlisted this one for the 2018 Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance program. Not because I like it but because several of the dancers liked it enough to say so! And not just out of politeness.  Thumbs up.

Not on the ball or brunch programs. One of my winter specials.

Follow Me Home:-  Another good enjoyable dance from the Briscoes. The key is getting 1st couple to cross to opposite sides on bars 23-24.  Thumbs up.

Karin's Strathspey:- I now see why the coach of the competition team had them release from the two hand turns and reform into the circle. It keeps 1st couple oriented to their proper positions. I personally don't like the way the unnecessary hand movements look.

Saltire Society Reel:-  The specified setting/set advancing is hard! Unless the dancers are dem team ready it isn't going to happen cleanly. I admit I didn't even try. I had corners advancing on the third and fourth pas de basque. Mea culpa.