February  2017          A NEWSLETTER           No. 148


In the last issue I mentioned that the Strictly Come Dancing judges kept referring to “the character of the dance”. The first person I heard talk about this with reference to Scottish Country Dancing was Peter Clark: in short, he was describing things that made Scottish country dancing stand out from other dances, or the style in which you dance – the things which made it different from other types of dancing. I am referring throughout to country dancing, of course, and not to highland dancing.

Perhaps the easiest way of seeing the character of the dance – and we are referring to a dance style, not a particular named dance – is to compare it with a different style of dance. So if we compare Scottish country dancing with Irish stepdance, for instance, we instantly spot that Scottish country dancers have partners while the Irish dancers are either soloists or (since Riverdance!) part of a line; their steps are intricate, and percussive, while Scottish dancers have partners and form part of a group or set, and dance quietly in soft shoes; while the steps are fairly basic, they have precision (hopefully!), and it is the formations which are important.

As you continue to watch, you remark in surprise that the Irish dancers do not appear to use their arms at all, but hold them quite stiffly by their sides. Scottish dancers on the other hand, tend to use their arms more naturally, with less rigidity to the shoulders; arms are “given” in the gap between the waist and the shoulder; hands are lifted up within that gap. As a general rule, only when making arches, or dancing under the arm in a turn, or in allemande hold, are the arms raised above the shoulder.

Yes, yes, we know all that, you say; but our particular way of using the arms is one of the characteristics of Scottish Country Dancing, part of the character of the dance. Compare it to ballroom hold, or the (to me) unnatural arch you see in the Viennese Waltz – it’s very different carriage of the arms. Therefore, if this is one of the distinguishing features of our dance, should we not endeavour to use our arms properly? While aging and replaced hip and knee joints might stop us from achieving perfect footwork, they don’t usually prevent us from giving hands somewhere just below shoulder level, or getting that W-shape to joined hands in a circle. Let’s leave that inverted V to the Greeks – it’s not Scottish!

Another aspect we can identify in Scottish Country Dancing which is absent, I think Peter said, from any other dance tradition, is dancing with knees and hips turned out. While for some this really is physically impossible due to medical conditions, for others it’s just being over-picky – what does it matter anyway? If you’re new to dancing, this is something you can work on later or aspire to in the future, but for many of us it’s just being lazy and we could do it if we tried! Some people just don’t see the point – which is, that this is particular to our style of dance and sets it apart. For some dancers, it was something they were told long ago was unimportant, and after decades of dancing they can’t “turn-out”, and I don’t want anyone to injure themselves. Nevertheless, it is a distinctive feature of the dance, and if you can dance that way – then you should.

So we’ve looked at arms, and turn-out; what about the feet? Again (and thank you, Strictly) ballroom dancing features high heels, heel leads, etc., while we dance on the balls of our feet. Antoine did say that for those who are less agile, lowering the whole foot is just “low impact”, but it should still be lifted off the floor rather than dragged – you should be hearing feet in circles round and back now!

Is it important to maintain the style or character of a dance, anyway? If you can, then I think you should – this is what makes it special and distinctive. Take pride in the character of the dance! And sometime, I might talk about the particular character of the music; I’ll need to learn more about it to be convincing, though!

Joyce Cochrane


Gaelforce Wind has been on a good many dance programmes recently, which seems appropriate considering the weather in this second week of January. I heard a brief report that French radio would soon no longer be operating on certain wavelengths, ones that transmit the shipping forecast. I hope ours will not go the same way: apart from their continuing, if no longer vital, role for shipping, don’t we all enjoy (from time to time) hearing Sailing By, the intriguing names of the sea areas and the slightly puzzling meteorological information?

As a memento here is the shipping forecast issued by 12 Coates Crescent on no particular day.

There are warnings of dances in Leeds, Tadcaster and Harrogate. All programmes will include The Royal Yacht Britannia and be moderately rough.

North Utsire and South Utsire veering towards The Sound of Harris, and a Tempest in a Teacup is imminent. [Tempests are not official weather, it seems; they’re just something we experience on a Friday night, when men do half ladies’ chains and then pull right shoulders back south-westerly.]

Fair Isle jumpers will be good, occasionally poor, St Andrew’s changeable.

Lough Foyle to Carlingford Lough: windy on one of them, Maureen and Paddy veering north, moving rather quickly.

Cape Wrath:  very cross winds, variable 8 becoming cyclonic (Geese go Wild), backing to the Fireside where The Sailor has a cup o’ tea with a Biscay.

Iceland has generously donated Midnight Oil so Monica’s swaying, Fishermen reel and Sueno’s stoned.

Forties are counting Yan Tan Tethera, that’s the weathera, on Lundy it’s Monday so for the week’s starters we’re off to English Martyrs.

Veronica Wallace


Our Annual dance this year relocates itself back to the Village Hall in Stockton on the Forest in March.   

The dance will cost £12 and you are asked to bring contributions to a Faith Supper. The programme, to the music of Ian Thomson’s Band, has been devised by Allan Highet.


Our April Dance will be held on Saturday 8th April in the Community Hall in Station Road, Market Weighton, the venue for the AGM for the last few years – YO43 3AX for Satnav users. The AGM should be fairly short and will be held during the interval. The dance will begin at 7.30 pm.

The price is £4 for RSCDS members and £5 for non-members, and you are asked to bring contributions to a faith supper – as ever, preferably on a disposable plate.

The programme, slightly shorter to allow time for the AGM, has been chosen by Lynne and will be danced to recorded music:

Please do consider standing for the Committee! It has been hard work for last year’s committee – a few more people would really help.

Please notify any topics for discussion at the AGM in advance.


Our Branch Dance on 13th May will be held in the Memorial Hall, Pickering, beginning at 7.30 p.m. As usual at Pickering, we will dance to live music, provided this year by Alan Ross. You are asked to bring contributions to a Faith Supper, preferably on disposable plates. The price is £8 for members and non-members alike.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A TICKET ONLY EVENT – tickets are limited to 60.

The programme has been devised by Sheila Barnes and Jennifer Robinson:

Dancing at Harrogate weekend, February     2017


For full details of our Branch dances see our Events page

For events elsewhere use our contacts SCD links page

The Yorkshire Diary has details of events further ahead.

Copy date for next issue:     23rd April 2017