Tuesday, February 28, 2017

23 February 2017 – New York Branch

Why New York on Thursday and not Westchester on Wednesday? Because Miss C., currently teaching the NY Branch Experienced class, and I did a one time swap.

Format at the NYB is decidedly different and more difficult. There are severe time constraints, only two and a half hours for the entire evening and that includes warmup and tea time.

7:30 - 7:45   Warmup for all

                  Classes split

7:45 - 8:45 Experienced/Basics classes meet

8:45 - 9:00 Tea

9:00 - 9:50  Combined Social (we need to be out by 10:00).

There is no time to  fumble in the teaching - it has to be clean and correct.

Dances of the night:-
The Ferryboat  –  (32 J n circle mixer)  –  Let's All Dance

Experienced Class:
Chased Lovers  –  (32 J 3)  –  World Wide Weavings
Karin's Strathspey  –  (32 S 3)  –  3rd Graded Bk
Saltire Society Reel  –  (32 R 3)  –  L28/Goldring

Social Class:
Machine Without Horses  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 12/12
Rakes of Glasgow  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 11/11
EH3 7AF  –  (32 J 3)  –  Bk 40/6
Davy Nick Nack  –  (32 H 3)  –  Glasgow Assembly

* * * * * * * * * *

The Ferryboat:- A very simple circle dance and enough to almost loosen up muscles and minds. Otherwise, for those not geographically challenged, tedious if on a steady diet of the dance. That was the combined opening warmup.

Experienced Class:-

Chased Lovers:- By Tim Wilson and it is a Gem!!  (Just included in my Top 50 Jigs - that makes 54)

The two diagonal reels of 3 are a delight. Individually they are in tandem, but there is a lead change between them that, IMHO, make the dance. They start out the ends - the 1st reel out the top Lsh to 2M, the 2nd reel out the bottom Rsh to 3M and between the two there is a transitional moment, Rsh back together to change from facing up to facing down. Nice! A covering moment missed by all too many dancers.

Corners Pass & Turn - How do you get corners to dance ALL four bars? Why don't they? Sheesh! Do I sound frustrated, and maybe a wee bit upset?  No? Then you aren't listening! I sincerely wish you better success at this than I've had. … … I am smiling, thinking about waltzing with some of these dancers and only dancing three steps out of four....  I mean, that is what the 3/4 means, isn't it?  :-))

Karin's Strathspey:-  It was… interesting shall I say, to watch the Newcastle Festival video of this dance and compare their interpretation to what the instructions actually say.

On the video I saw was a clear separation of dancers - all dropping hands after the turns and dancing out to position, corners ending home and 1s in the middle or on sides, and then all raising hands as they dance into the circles.

Very pretty. But that is not what I read.

9-12      1st couple set to first corners (who also set) advancing to finish back to back. They turn their  first corners with both hands almost once round.

13-16    Opening out, 1st couple lead their corners into four hands once round to their left. 1st man finishes between 3rd couple and 1st woman between 2nd couple, facing each other.

That from Derek Haynes' Carnforth Collection and it is very clear - between the turns and the circles you keep hands joined!

This from RSCDS:
9-12      1st couple and first corners set, 1st couple advancing to finish back to back. 1st couple and first corners, giving both hands, turn.

13-16    1st couple lead corners into four hands once round to the left. 1st woman finishes between 2nd couple facing down and 1st man between 3rd couple facing up.

Not as clear. The word 'lead' suggests that hands are still joined but by not including the words "opening out" whether or not you DO keep hands joined is open to interpretation. The performance team at Newcastle chose not to keep hands joined. Since that is the only video (http://my.strathspey.org/dd/dance/3397/) it demonstrates the dance wrongly. Oops.

Saltire Society Reel:- This one bears repeat teaching.

There is one subtle point that I didn't get across.
Corners got the set for 4 bars, advancing on the 3rd and 4th into hands across. The corners got that they leave the hands across and dance out to place. The 1C got that the hands across only goes for 3 bars because once the corners leave they can stop dancing. Riiight! Again the 3 out of 4 syndrome, only in a new application of the theory.

So in a profound revelation I have concluded that a new emphasis is required - I have to stress that in the hands across 1C have use all four allotted bars of music and to keep going until they face 2nd corners!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

15 February 2017 – Westchester

The dances taught last night were:-

Caffeine Dreams  –  (32 J n Circle mixer)  – Price
Chased Lovers  –   (32 J 3)  – Tim Wilson
Flower of Glasgow  –  (32 S 3/3L)  – Ruth Taylor
Catch the Wind  –  (32 H 3)  –  Butterfield
St. Faolon of the Woods  –  (32 J 3)  – Smith
Mason's Apron  –  (32 R 3)  –  Border Bk.

Hedwig's Reel  –  (32 R 3)  –  2nd Graded
Strathglass House  –  (32 S 3)  –  Bk 13
Falls of Rogie  –  (32 R 3)  – Attwood

*** *** ***

Caffeine Dreams:- A circle  mixer for as many as will.  It achieved life after 'she who must be obeyed' made a comment that she couldn't find a simple circle warmup dance that had turns in it. So I suggested she write one. She suggested strongly that it was easy for me not so easy for her.

Since I was on my unusual second cup of coffee I did. The result was unmentionable, as most of the figures cut across the musical phrases. Not easy. So I rethought and rewrote and came up with this.

1–4    All adv. & ret. ;
5–6    men adv.,
7–8     ladies adv,. as men turn over R shoulder and dance out. (Cpls pass by R shoulders and face right into…).
9–16    All turn partner RH back to place (1_1/4 - ladies face out, men in) ; all turn corner (neighbor)  LH once round back to original places (ladies face out, men in).
17–24    All join hands and balance, turn ptnr RH half round ; join hands (ladies face in/men out) and balance, and turn next corner LH half round (you have left your partner).

25–32    With the next person turn RH (1_1/4) into promenade hold facing anti-CW ; promenade for 4 bars. With new partner face in to reform the circle.

It was confusing and I am puzzled why that was so.  It was the first teaching of a new dance so it could be the words I used were not sufficient. It could be the dance sucks, which is different from unworkable.

If anyone would pick this dance up, try it out, and inform me of the result I would greatly appreciate it.

Chased Lovers:- Nice Dance!! From Tim Wilson who is writing some absolutely top notch dances these days. The Docent's Tour, The Elusive Muse and Linnea's Strathspey are three that come to mind. This dance is definitely a keeper and is going on my Top 50 list.

Flower of Glasgow:-  Another nice little dance from Ruth Taylor. It contains a 3C circulating Allemande and there is a family resemblance to Swirling Snow. A thumbs up.

Catch the Wind:- Around here this is part of the standard repertoire. It is a good dance and nothing more needs be said of the dance. The music however…  The music I used last night was not the set usually used.

I have two copies of the dance. One published in The Island Bay Collection, one published by the RSCDS. In the Island Bay version the "name" tune is "Flirtation Hornpipe." In Bk 45 the tune see by the Society is "The Navvie".  I have three recordings, only the one by The Music Makars uses "Flirtation Hornpipe" - so The Question  - which one is correct?

St. Faolon of the Woods:- This one is not on any upcoming ball. It is from my list of Winter Specials. These are dances that I have never done and have caught my eye and I need to try them out. (I am always in search of hidden gems that might be the next Montgomeries' Rant). This one isn't going to be that. But it is a fun one.

Learned at the last Asilomar Weekend where it was done Sunday morning when the dancers are all tired and a bit hung over. And it went smoothly, more smoothly than it went last night.

Using my class in New Haven, CT to test a dance for public consumption is not a fair test. The class is predominately experienced and advanced. Using the Loch Leven Performance Team for guinea pigs is also not a fair test. Using the Westchester group which, is very mixed, is a very fair test of a dance.

Upshot of the trial is that it deserves a second test, and a test in which I teach it carefully and thoroughly with no assumptions. I like it, I would willingly do it again, and I would like to be in touch with Andrew Smith the devisor as I have a couple of questions for him.

Hedwig's Reel:- Yikes! I would not choose to open a ball with this dance! Granted no pas de basque, no slip step. But it moves and it is not what I would consider at all gentle, especially not gentle enough for a warmup/opening dance. It requires a good degree of high level technique. Footwork be damned  - it's the handing, phrasing, anticipation and transitions that need a lot of practice. Deceptively simple dances make good teaching dances. This is one of them.

Falls of Rogie:- Local standard repertoire and a great ender. Lots of Fun!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

8 February 2017 - Westchester

'Tis the season for Ball Prep so that was most of last night's program. The New Haven Highland Ball Coming up Real Soon, then New Jersey's Rerr Terr, the Kilts and Ghillies Tea Dance and New York's Pawling Weekend. Sometimes I actually remember it is not all on my shoulders.

The Dances:-

Waltzing to Iowa  -  (32 W circle)  -  Schneider
EH3 7AF  –  (32 J 3)  – Bk 40 (Goldring)
The Johnsonville Diamond  –  (32 S 2)  –  Downey
On the Wings of a Skorie  –  (32 R 3)  – Herbold
The Wishing Well  –  (32 S 2)  – Bk 44 (Bänninger)

John Cass  –  (32 J 5)  –  Bk 49 (Avery)
Singing Sands  –  (32 S 3/3L)  –  Priddey
The Black Leather Jig  –  (32 R 3)  – DelValSilver (Selling)

** ** ** ** **

Waltzing to Iowa:- I picked this dance up from the conversation on Strathspey. I had to. My mother was from Iowa, my sister lives in Iowa, my partner's late husband was from Iowa. Too many connections. Then there is the fact that it is a very nice dance with many interactions with partners past and present.

EH3 7AF:- One of the standards.

The Johnsonville Diamond:- Two thumbs up, and if I had a third hand it would get three.
The opening 8 bars has gotten mixed reviews. Several dancers have shrugged and several others have huge grins and love the "spurning" aspect should you choose to go there.

The next eight bars is a figure of eight - which some dancers have embroidered by turning it into a double figure.

The third figure is a very modified Spiral progression. And it is lovely. Worth every bit of trouble teaching - it is a meanwhile, with a high 'piece' count, needs a lot of words and demonstrating. Take your time teaching it, stress the covering and enjoy it.

Final piece - poussette.

Rod Downey's four books are available for download here.

On the Wings of a Skorie:- Oh my. Just a little over the top. Bruce plays with a standard set and link and the dancers were standing bemused when they needed to move. The flow of the dance dictated the reversal of roles. Me, I had no problem but I am considered a dance monster. I think that with familiarity the dance will become easier. I love the very different down the middle and up.

The Wishing Well:-  The theme of the night - The Spiral (modified for strathspey) and Poussette Right Round.  A pleasant solid repertoire dance.and a good dance with which to teach the Spiral.

John Cass:-  Why are five couple dances so much fun? This dance isn't exactly hard, but a reel of three with three shadows and dolphin lead changes by each twosome apparently takes some getting used to. I give it a thumbs up. Worth all the effort.

The Singing Sands:-  I have never understood why so many dancers have so much difficulty with half diagonal Right&Lefts. Obviously I am missing something.

The dance is by the late Barry Priddey so I am prejudiced in its favour. It is actually simpler than many other of his dances if you consider his Tourbillon to be simple. Around here it is being done enough that dancers are becoming familiar, even comfortable, with it. I find the final progression delightful. It is one of those mystery things where, at the end, you look around and say "how did I get here?" It is the double diagonal half rights and lefts leaves people shaking their heads in confusion and, sometimes, the set in breakdown despite the many times it has been taught.

Bottom line - leaves me smiling.

The Black Leather Jig:- which is a reel   :-)  ** Recommended **

I urge you to find a source for the CD Thistle House Live - by said band. The musician are Dave Wiesler, David Knight and Dan Emory. The music is spectacular! This set (also appropriate for Sleepy Maggie) is dynamite!

And the dance is pretty good too.

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.