February 2012 A NEWSLETTER No. 128
Scottish Country Dancing is easy! Well, not the stuff with swords and that, but that’s not country dancing anyway, so they tell you. We’ve all seen it in all the films and wildlife programmes – I swear it was in Springwatch once. It is compulsory in those Sunday night drama series like “1000 Acres of Sky” and “Monarch of the Glen”, when every major event was celebrated with dancing. You just dance round in a circle, or join hands in a grand chain, and it’s all fast and furious and great fun, and you want to do that too.
Scottish Country Dancing is a bit more difficult than that, you realise. They use terms like up or down with no relation to gravity. Casting off has nothing to do with knitting, and they call a circle hands round and a star hands across. If you start off as number 3, you do one pattern the first time and something totally different the second time. You’ve been to a few barn dances, but they number the set the other way round. How perverse!
Scottish Country Dancing is quite difficult. That’s what you discover when you have done it for a while, and you think you are starting to make sense of it. In my early days dancing in Cottingham, I asked a much more experienced dancer how you knew which way to enter a reel, and the reply was that they all went the same way. I knew that was the wrong answer even then. So there are reels of 3, reels of 4, diagonal reels, reels across the dance, reels on the wrong side (oh no! opposite side!) reels on your own side – and if that wasn’t bad enough, someone then came up with half reels. And you still don’t know whether to give a right shoulder to your first corner or a left shoulder to your second corner. And why is there not a gap for you to go into? You mean it’s not just me who goes wrong? So yes, definitely quite difficult.
Scottish Country Dancing is difficult. Definitely. You’ve more or less got to grips with allemandes, reels, circles and knots. Then someone starts talking about footwork, and correct use of hands, and how much better it is when the music isn’t drowned out by scuffing feet, or if you don’t go home with bruises on your arms (or shins). And then that woman who writes Broun’s Reel thinks you should listen to the music too, and try and really appreciate it! Well, haven’t you got enough to do? You have to remember the figures, and which way to go in the reels, and who your partner is – and then they say you should look at the person you are turning, and smile at your partner – and just who is your partner, anyway, because you haven’t seen them for a while?
Scottish Country Dancing is difficult. They tell you that you always start on your right foot. So the first dance you do has a circle in, and you go to your left. You learn a strathspey poussette, and half the time you start on your left foot; and it isn’t a progression. You learn a poussette in reel time, and it is a progression this time, and all the men start with the “wrong” foot. You slip down the middle and back, and if you’re a man, you set on the wrong foot again.
Scottish Country Dancing is really difficult. You have to be able to hear the bars
and phrase your dancing correctly so that you arrive in the right place at the right
time. It’s always better to dance in reel time to reels and jig time to jigs. And
to think you once thought there were just “fast” and “slow” dances! You have to
know a whole variety of set figures, and which one is coming next; which hand you
will turn someone with; which way to go in that reel. You have to be able to read
other people’s actions and respond to them in a micro-
So why would anyone do this? In the end, it really is great fun, and you really do learn most of it. It isn’t easy, and sometimes more experienced dancers forget this. It’s not a matter of intelligence, or lack of spatial awareness, or just not trying! Don’t let anyone be put off – help them see that mistakes are just a way of learning. Maybe one day they will arrive at the point where they think “why, it really is easy after all – and great fun!”
Scottish country dancing and playing chess are two of my regular activities; if I
Obviously they’ll dance on a Chequered Court (I’ll choose that for them). The pawns are jumping up and down, eager to do a Sixteensome Reel, followed by The Pawling Porch (they never could spell).
Next, to the moderately important pieces. The bishops choose Father Connelly’s Jig, on the assumption Father C will become one of them (rather than a cardinal). Then they go for Ian Barbour’s Land of the Prince Bishops, which undoubtedly some of us have danced. The knights, of course, just have to go for Knight’s Heys; it was obviously written for them and their moves are incorporated. They have difficulty with their second choice as there are so many dances for the Duke of this and the Earl of that but surprisingly few for Sir anything. In the end they go for equality and choose Lady Sophia Lindsay.
Now to the heavyweights, the castles. They prefer to be called rooks and they like the Raven’s Dance, so they choose that. It’s got rather too many turns and reels for good straightforward rooks’ moves but none of the many other castles seems much better in that respect so for their second dance they go for the somewhat ponderous Neidpath Castle. That’s one strathspey, at least.
The Kings and Queens get together and decide to pool all their energy in The Royal Yacht Britannia. Then they choose to show their power, with a little Scottish spelling maybe, in Ian Powrie’s Farewell to Auchterarder.
Then all the men (sorry, girls, no equality here) get together and, for their last dance, choose the nearest thing to a mate (check) they can think of: Mairi’s Wedding.
Of course in chess there would be no such co-
Veronica Wallace, York
HINTS AND TIPS: BRANCH DANCES FOR THE OLDER BEGINNER
The first branch dance is a worrying time for those of you like me who started Scottish Country Dancing that little bit later in life. You are stretching away from the warm bosom of the dancers that have nurtured you and now strangers’ eyes will be upon you.
Do not enter the hall calling out to friends and waving enthusiastically. This will
draw attention to you. Rather, slip quietly round the door and find a spot near to
the exit where you can change. Please remember you are wearing a kilt and the etiquette
of sitting. As you look around the hall from your seated position you will understand
……… there are some fearsome sights in your eye-
You need to accept that in at least one dance the set you are part of will finish in disarray purely due to you. Be prepared for the worst …… anything else will be a bonus.
Hiding is of no use. Scottish Country Dancing is an equal opportunities employer and you will be asked to dance. Remember you are a gentleman; you cannot refuse!
As the set assembles you should take note of your dancing partner. It’s embarrassing
Remember also that you must smile as you progress through the dance. This can be difficult for the elder novice who is using most available brain cells just to keep going. Beware you do not grimace. This will worry your partner who will wonder what she’s done to offend you. A gentle smile in place from the beginning should suffice. This can be practiced at home in front of a mirror.
Sometime, somewhere during a dance your brain will shut down; a fog will descend
and the music will cease to exist. You must now peer around for those corners. Don’t
panic! They will be there shining like a beacon. Once sighted you must head straight
for them, either one! It is quite likely this will fall-
Once the set becomes aware that you are a novice you will be the recipient of advice from five to seven persons and all at the same time. You will always recognise the teacher, working or retired. They, whilst spinning, will have a stiff arm with a finger extended pointing steadily in one direction. Just like a gyroscope. Whispers will come from all sides; ‘Round the back of me!’ Where are you? ‘Left hand with your partner!’ Where’s she? Eventually it will get too much and here you must use your final tactic……faint! As you go down remember the etiquette of the kilt and to lie facing down the set. This will enable the others to complete the dance with the minimum of disruption.
At the end of the night you can quickly collect your kit, go straight out the exit and change in the car park. This way you can avoid everyone.
When you get home you can relax, remember what a great time you had and realise you can’t wait for the next area dance.
Ken Wallace, Hornsea
WHY DO I GO SCOTTISH DANCING?
Over the years I have been dancing I have often wondered what has been its’ main attraction. What is special about Scottish Dancing?
Is it the music, the formations or just the challenge to get it right? Whilst at class or at a dance all other problems that may have troubled me during the day just fade into the background as the dancing takes over.
During the past months while I have been undergoing a session of radiotherapy Scottish Dancing has kept me going when other activities were either not possible or not permitted.
I have been overwhelmed by the support, kindness and friendship shown towards me by fellow dancers. I have never thought of myself as part of a large family until now but that is how it feels. I will never be able to thank everyone enough for all the consideration, offers help with transport and a listening ear.
To combine all this with good exercise, the need to think and concentrate (hopefully), what more could anyone ask of an activity?
Very many thanks to everyone – and my message – KEEP DANCING – it’s good for you.
Jennifer Robinson (Pickering)
The Charity Dance this year will be held on Saturday 30th June at the Community Centre in Driffield. Entrance will be by ticket (available at the door); if you cannot go but would like to contribute to the charity, please buy a ticket in advance. This year’s chosen charity is the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. Remember that all money raised on the night goes to the charity, not just profits! Each group is asked to contribute one good prize to the raffle, for which tickets will be sold on the night.
THE EXTRA DAY
1st lady dances left hands across with 3’s whilst 1st man dances left hands across with 2’s, 1’s finish in 2nd place own side (“teapots”)
1’s cross right to 2nd place own side
Repeat from new position
Tune – The Wee Cooper Of Fife, or any other good jig in 10-
This dance was devised by Malcolm Frost in 2004, to celebrate leap year (and to give
another excuse to dance to the fabulous tune “The Wee Cooper Of Fife”). It is further
hoped that less experienced dancers may find these figures less challenging than
those for “Wee Cooper” when acclimatising to 10-
John Wilkinson (Chairman Elect), Ruth Beattie (Chairman) and Malcolm Brown at the North of England Regional Conference.
RSCDS North of England Conference, 4th February 2012
The first UK RSCDS regional conference was held on Saturday 4th February at the Cairn Hotel, Harrogate, during the recent Branch weekend.
Ruth Beattie, the RSCDS chairman, and John Wilkinson, Chairman Elect, who both stayed all weekend, had been invited to address dancers from the North of England, and to meet them and hear of their concerns.
Some 59 people from both Branches and Affiliated Groups came to the conference, representing groups from Newcastle, Darlington, the Lake District, Manchester and the Wirral, in addition to those who were attending the full weekend.
Ruth began by explaining how the Society was run and its current projects and achievements,
along with aims for the future. John talked a little of finance and governance,
and of the role of the Trustees. The Society has a Dancing Development Officer working
in schools and with young people; a Media Officer (David Cunningham) has been appointed
to work to put dance instructions, music and video on-
After their presentation, there was a question and answer session, when those attending where able to put questions to Ruth and John. Several of the questions came from members of affiliated groups, and this is an area where the RSCDS has felt the need for closer cooperation; a questionnaire is being drawn up to find how these groups feel the RSCDS can help. Problems over booking for Summer School were discussed, as was the continuation of St. Andrews as the venue for Summer School. We were also assured that in spite of the move to publish digitally and have resources available on the internet, conventional publishing would still continue.
The session ended with Malcolm Brown thanking Ruth and John for coming to speak. Many thanks to Malcolm for organising the conference.
PLUS ÇA CHANGE -
I came across our branch Inaugural Ball programme held at Woodmansey Village Hall in November 1976. The band was the Rattray Band and the tickets with refreshments included cost £1.50. I was interested by how many of the old favourites from the 22 dances we still dance.
Deil amang the Tailors
Seann Truibhas Willichan
Old Nick’s Lumber Room
Duke of Perth
The White Rose of Scotland
Loch Katrine Jig
Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh
Ian Powries Farewell
I wonder what happened to the Strathspey The White Rose of Scotland and why it has not lasted the course. So if you fancy a popular retro dance programme here it is!
Margaret Highet, York
On the evening of Spring Bank Holiday (Monday May 30th 2011), a large crowd gathered outside a terraced house in Headington Quarry, Oxford, to witness the unveiling of a BLUE PLAQUE commemorating WILLIAM (BILL) KIMBER (1872 – 1961), who was a key figure in the English, Morris and Folk Dance and folk music revival, and who lived in the house MERRYVILLE (which he built) from 1908 – 1961.
A chance meeting between William Kimber and Cecil Sharp, a London music teacher, on Boxing Day 1899, when the Headington Quarry Morris Men were performing, stimulated Sharp’s interest in the dances and their music.
William Kimber was skilled as a teacher and concertina player and he helped Sharp to preserve the tunes and dance steps, which led to the formation of the English Folk Dance Society in 1911, which merged with the Song society to become the English Folk Dance and Song Society in 1932.
After a tribute by William’s grand-
Miss Milligan did English Folk Dancing at Loughborough Training College, and she must have seen how these dances and their music had been preserved by William Kimber and Cecil Sharp. Could this have stimulated her own passion to preserve the traditional dances of Scotland and go on to found the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society with Mrs. Stewart in 1923? We owe them all a great debt of gratitude.
William Kimber is buried in Holy Trinity Church, Headington, and a concertina and Morris bell shin pads are carved on the headstone.
Margaret Savage, York
ANNUAL DANCE, STOCKTON ON FOREST, 24th MARCH
Our annual dance will take place on Saturday 24th March 2012, at the Village Hall
in Stockton on the Forest, beginning at 7.30 p.m. You are asked to bring contributions
to a Faith Supper – as usual, disposable plates preferred! I hope that the advance
notice has meant that you’ve already booked this date in your diaries. Prices are
£10 for members and £11 for non-
NOMINATIONS FOR THE COMMITTEE
As usual, some of the members of the Branch Committee will have finished their three year term at the A.G.M., and will need replacing. Please think about whether this is a role you could fill. New blood has proved really useful in the last few years!
BRANCH A.G.M. & DANCE, DUNNINGTON, 14th APRIL
Our A.G.M. will be held, as usual, during the interval of the April Branch Dance,
to be held in the Reading Rooms, Dunnington, on Saturday 14th April. The dance will
begin at 7.30; entrance is £4 for members and £5 for non-
QUESTIONS FOR THE A.G.M.
This year we would like your opinions on two particular matters. Two years ago, we tried our first afternoon dance in the winter, which proved very successful. Last year we planned two, though one had to be cancelled due to the snow and ice; this year we will have held three. Our December dance in Swanland saw just 20 dancers, while the Sunday afternoon dance in Dunnington attracted 35 dancers.
At the A.G.M., we would like opinions on:
1. Should there be a dance in December at all? If so, should it be afternoon or evening?
2. The Sunday afternoon dance was popular, but several people were unable to attend. What is the general feeling? Should we go ahead with a Sunday dance next year?
BRANCH DANCE, PICKERING, 12th MAY
Our May dance will be held in the Memorial Hall, Pickering, on Saturday 12th May, beginning at 7.30 p.m. Tickets (entrance is by ticket only) will cost just £5 and we will be dancing to the music of Robert Whitehead. Again, please bring contributions to a faith supper. The programme has been chosen by the Pickering group.
OBITUARY: CHRISTINE RUSH
I am sorry to tell you that Christine Rush died in September. Christine was a member of Scarborough Caledonian Society and the associated dance class for many years. When the Branch was founded she was one of the first members and took office as Treasurer.
Branch Committee meetings were held at that time in The Bell Hotel, Driffield on a Sunday evening and Christine used to tell of one hairy trip over the Wolds when her car hit a patch of ice, turned round twice and finished up facing in the correct direction! Later on, when asked to go on the Branch Committee again, she said she would only do this if she had a companion and I was volunteered and we made a good team. One Sunday night after a heavy snowfall my husband insisted I took his big Rover to the Branch meeting (I preferred my own car Jemima a 28 year old Triumph Herald because I felt it was more stable in bad weather). However I was outvoted and a large bag of sand plus shovels and other impedimenta was placed in the boot and we set off and thank goodness arrived safely at The Bell looking like refugees from Nanook of the North! Apparently the other areas did not have snow at the time.
Christine attended Malcolm's class at Wetwang Village Hall prior to taking the PTC and was my partner in the exam. For many years Malcolm wondered what had happened during the required dances at the examination (I know you pair were up to something!) and was told many years later we had changed sex twice and no one discovered the fault. We had great fun compiling programmes for both class and branch with one exception. We felt we wanted to perform all the dances from Book One, Dance One right through to the current Book. We commenced this but it was not popular and so our aim was not to be. Unfortunately our dance class night clashed with Christine's ballroom/sequence dance class night and so for many years was not able to attend either class or Branch dances.