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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.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

28 November 2017 - New Haven

Right, this one is really out of order as it was this past Tuesday's class and I still have August, September and October classes to catch up on. But the contents of this post are fresh and pushy and…

Coming up Real Soon Now (thank you Jerry Pournelle) the Brooklyn class of the NY branch is holding their annual John Drewry Night - (program) - and several dancers from New Haven intend to go. Therefore - Ball Prep! Well it isn't actually a ball as the dances will all be walked through but some dancers still feel they need to prepare ahead no matter how often or familiar the dances are. So ball prep.

The Dances:

Carols a Plenty  -  (32 J 3)  -  Lou Hanson
Glenalmond Gamekeeper  - (40 R 3)  -  Drewry
Anna Holden's Strathspey  -  (32 S 2)  - Drewry
Bees of Maggieknockater  -  (32 J 4)  - Drewry
Ythanside  -  (32 S 3)  - Drewry
The 50th Parallel  -  (48 R 5)  -  Zobel & Johnstone

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Carols a Plenty - Lou is a gem. She persuaded Deborah and me to use the swim facilities at Portland while we were taking our TAC unit 2 dance exams - it helped. She wrote a book of dances as a sanity check during her post grad work. This is one of them, and it is a nice welcoming, gentle, non-thinkum  dance.

The Glenalmond Gamekeeper:- I remember the day I learned this dance. The visiting teacher was John Drewry. The other dance he taught that evening was The New Opera, and both dances were relatively newly written. He was a horrible teacher, not a very good dancer, and a delightful man. The evening would have gone so much easier if we had known that before hand, or if he had known how to step in and show the new moves and not merely talk them.

There is a trick to most dances - get that and you have the key to the dance. The trick in this dance is the transition from the tandem figure of eight into the circle. Most dancers are late getting around the figure of eight but the dance is forgiving and dancers can just flow into the circle from the center of the set without having to 'get back to place'. In other words: being a little late is a good thing here.

Anna Holden's Strathspey:- I love this one. Need I say more?  And I love the story about how it came to be.

Warning- the diagram does not show the 2's cast into top place following the RHA as the 1s cross down.

The Bees of Maggieknockater:- Another dance I like a lot. But many words are needed. And a lot of energy is spend by dancers trying to understand the reelings. I have heard many different descriptions and most of them require me to remember three or four different patterns for the sequence.

K-I-S-S should be the operating principle. The simplest explanation is usually the best.  If you are 1st or 3rd couple you dance the half reels either with your partner or your trail buddy - a good contra/square dance term for the person you keep meeting who is a rock you can rely on.

So, when you are with your trail buddy (not partner) the loop is always to the right. When you join your partner the loop will always be to the left. And you alternate right loop, left loop, right loop, left loop. Trail buddy, partner, trail buddy, partner.

The second piece to the key is *how* you switch between trail buddy and partner and back. If you dance into the center and right up to the other promenading couple you are in trouble - actually fairly serious trouble. You have basically erased all your wiggle room and tightened up your maneuvering space making it difficult to flow smoothly between the half reels. May I say Bad Move?

Now a Mechanical Note: In the reels you will always be coming back into the set from an END and starting your next loop dancing out the nearer SIDE.

Therefore I dance the loop of the half reel in promenade hold until I am in either top or third place and drop hands there (at the end of bar three) and use the fourth bar to curve onto the near side line facing out and it is during that bar that I join promenade hold with the other dancer (trail buddy or partner). Not in the center of the set. Can anybody sing "Antici-pay-ay-tion?"

Ythanside:- A favorite. Definitely a top 50. Maybe even Top 10.
Two keys to the dance. 1st key is (bars 7 - 8) getting 1st couple to not only change places up/down the dance giving RH but to *FACE* partner at the end. This requires a right-ish twirl that flows uninterruptedly into Right shoulder reels of three across the dance. Why dancers want to face out despite the instructions and emphasis given is beyond my ken. But it happens.

Second key - Bars 23-25:- the two half turns on the sides by the corner men and the corner women and the cast by 1st couple. The half turns have to move in toward the center line - a fudge if you will - and that takes control. It is a slow move in two strathspey bars flowing into the circles of three. And the 1st couple tend to push their cast and end up waiting for the corners.

The 50th Parallel:-  Look what I found!  (Thank you strathspey for posting videos!) I just had to throw this into the mix. And the responses were all positive. One of the dancers left muttering "this should be a program…". So Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance 2019 short list? Ya sure, you betcha!

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Two other dances that have caught my eye that were not on this week's class are Deirdre MacCuish Bark's dance The Peat Road (32 R 3) leaflet, and George Will's dance Hunt the Gowk (32 R 4 square set).

Some day, RSN.

Jerry Pournelle - science fiction author and onetime computer magazine journalist. In his column he often talked about software, announced months or years before but still coming out Real Soon Now. His column was fun and why I read the PC centric magazine. I was then and still am an Apple user.

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