BROUN’S REEL

September 2012  A NEWSLETTER           No. 130


Editorial


The White Rose Festival 2012. Another great day.  Unfortunately, as with that typical June and early July weather, it was rather wet, and had been very wet. And in one of the dem dances, I went slightly wrong. And then I went wrong in the next dance.  Badly.  And the next one. Also quite badly. Now, that just doesn’t happen to me – slightly wrong, yes, but nothing that can’t be put right within a bar. It was a great day.


“Sorry?” I hear you say. “It was a great day, but you couldn’t dance outdoors, and you messed up three dances?” Let me explain.


As we were dancing indoors because of that weather, we had been dancing each pair of dances twice, with the mixed team first and then the ladies’ team.  After the interval, Helen decided that the ladies’ team would do each pair of dances first, and then the mixed team would dance.  The mixed team were quite happy about this; unfortunately all bar one of the ladies’ team knew nothing about it and we missed the first dance of the pair, scurrying on in between the two dances. That panic was my excuse for going wrong the first time – quite atrocious really when you’re first couple and it’s a dance you’ve known for a couple of decades at least.


However, I could find no such excuse for the dreadful errors that sent me wrong in the next pair of dances. I’d been to the last three practices; I’d finished my exam marking earlier than usual, and consequently I’d had time to mug up on the dances I wasn’t sure of; didn’t put a foot wrong in the last practice.  There I was, stranded in the middle of the set, with not the slightest clue where to go.  I was mortified, dreadfully upset with myself, critical of my own performance and devastated about letting the team down.

Nevertheless, I return to my insistence that it was a great day.  Why? Basically, because of that great team of people I was dancing with. They told me it didn’t matter – AND THEY MEANT IT.  Really and truly.  They got me to put it behind me and enjoy the rest of the day, with comfort and wise words.  They noted that only one small group of dancers had even seen us, due to dancing indoors – and they’d looked equally grim and unimpressed even when we’d been dancing at our very best.  Our team, unlike so many others, I was assured, really looked like we were enjoying ourselves – and we were!


Other things also contributed to a notable day – dancing in the evening too, and going home after a full day on that floor with no injuries; meeting up with friends, some of whom I only see once or twice a year; the music. In spite of some heavy rain, which caused Allan and Margaret to get stuck in the resulting mud, we timed picnics well, sitting in the sun, watching the kites, and getting to know each other much better – what a great set of people!


The next week I received a lovely email from Rosemary Smart, which gave a lot of comfort and salved my hurt pride.  She finished her email with these questions:

1. Did you enjoy it and have fun?

2. Would you encourage anyone to come and dance with us, because we care more about each other's feelings rather than the quality of the dancing?

3. Shall I put your name down for next year?


I hope the answers are a resounding YES. After all, it is a festival to celebrate Scottish dancing and I hope that is precisely what we did.


So, Rosemary, the answer was definitely YES. While the quality of dancing is very important to me, the friendship of the team was much more important.  Working for a few weeks like that with such a super group of people was a marvelous experience.  And I would encourage more of you to take part in the White Rose Festival, to experience the camaraderie of both your own team and the wider collection of dancers, and to celebrate Scottish dancing with other enthusiasts. And to the York Club – thank you again for making us so welcome.


Joyce Cochrane



RULES’ OR SOCIAL ETIQUETTE!


In her article in the May 2012 Broun’s Reel, Carol Hazell makes some interesting comments about the addictive nature of Scottish Country Dancing! She also asks if there are ‘rules’ about looking and smiling at other dancers.

I have enjoyed Scottish Country Dancing from my school days until my middle-age, when I had a long quarter century break! Earlier this year, I was re-introduced to the RSCDS Branch in Pickering:   what a joy it is to get back to dancing again! Even though I am less agile than I once was, and I am no longer familiar with most of the dances currently being done. However, I am slowly familiarising myself with some of the thousands of dances now available to us — and many thanks to MiniCrib (http://www.minicrib.care4free.net/index.htm)   for providing the abbreviated instructions for these 4,000-plus dances.

When I was learning SC Dancing, emphasis was always placed on the need to acknowledge one’s partner and other dancers in the set whenever one encountered them when setting, taking hands, turning , leading or even when passing them. The teachers emphasised that a dance is a social activity, in which the participants should be taking pleasure in each other’s presence.

To respond to Carol’s question, I believe there is no ‘rule’ about acknowledging other dancers in the set. But I believe that dancing etiquette goes back to general ballroom manners and politeness that were refined in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Accordingly, don’t be embarrassed to look in the face of others in the set when dancing with them;   smile where appropriate;   and dance in such a way as to add ‘grace’ to the interactions ones makes during the dance (as long as you can remember what comes next in the dance sequence – otherwise, it is all right to panic!).

How many times, when dancing Rights & Lefts, have you taken the hand of the person passing, with them staring fixedly straight ahead and pulling your hand down like a pump-handle? It is more pleasant and polite to take the hand of the person passing at around elbow (or hand-shake) height, look at the person (smiling, if appropriate!) and allow one’s arm to move to your rear as you pass each other. Watch carefully how dancers on an RSCDS DVD behave, and I would suggest that this will provide a good guide to dance etiquette that we might all benefit from emulating. Enjoy dancing, and keep smiling!


P.S. I have downloaded the RSCDS manual (The Manual of Scottish Country Dancing) from the RSCDS Web site and the following relevant information appears in Chapter 1 on p. 13 of the Manual:


‘Today, as in the past, the social character of the country dance is strongly emphasised. It is a form of dancing which enables the dancer to dance with and to meet many other dancers during the course of an evening's dancing.’


The following quote from Robert and Joseph Lowe, teachers of dancing, Glasgow, 1822 follows: ‘". . . in them (country dances) all are alike partakers of the pleasure, – there are no silent, envious gazers, — no sullen critics to mar the amusement, or intimidate its votaries, – joyous gaiety animates every countenance, and, while pleasure beams in every eye, the young and old are equally employed informing the mazy circlets of the dance."’


Gordon Malan, Thorpe Bassett, Malton


A WEEK IN CRIEFF (IN BRIEF)


As your Joyce-appointed humorist, what can I write about a perfect week’s dancing in a superb hotel with an excellent band every night? Moans can be quite funny but there didn’t seem to be many, though one or two people thought the programmes consisted of dances that were too old and easy. Considering the mess that was occasionally made of these (for instance, our set for The Bees of Maggieknockater was made up by two self-sacrificing ladies who hadn’t a clue, so we ended up in laughing chaos) I don’t think this was a valid criticism. There were no recaps or walks-through – and indeed no moans on this score, as we had been clearly warned in the preliminary information, but it resulted in much scurrying for cribs between dances.


The week was, as usual, superbly organised by Richard and Dawn Furlong, but, apparently worn out by many years of similar weeks, on this occasion they were not present and our very friendly hosts were Caroline and Graham Hamilton and their 10-year-old son James. James’s favourite dance, James Gray, I didn’t know and he kindly led me successfully through it the first time it appeared on the programme, and repeated it with me the next time. Ian Powrie’s Farewell also appeared on two evenings; those of us who looked in on Auchterarder as we approached Crieff could quite see why Ian Powrie left it, though I did get a decent cup of coffee there.


Janet Johnston kept our brains active with three morning classes. The triumph, I think, was getting us to dance the Stanford Swing with its La Baratte figures with corners. The way she taught it, you’d think it was the easiest thing in the whole world of dancing. During one of the evenings we had a demonstration from an RSCDS team, one of whose dances included this ‘churn’ movement – they of course were perfect but our morning sets were not far behind. They also danced a very pretty dance in triple time, and Janet a beautiful solo step dance.


We had a day off: a trip by coach to see the Royal Yacht Britannia. Talk about understated elegance! The audioguides were very good, too, with an appropriate dignified text. I think I liked the engine room best, all gleaming copper and clock-faced dials, just like the science museum – but it was the working hub for the 40-odd years of the ship’s life. In the restaurant the waiter managed to tip a glass of water from his tray all over our table – poor young man, we laughed him out of  his embarrassment, I hope, with silly jokes about not having realised it was so choppy on this (dead stationary) ship, rivalling the silly jokes others made about royal waves and royal flushes. In the evening I managed a repeat of the theme and spilt red wine over my red skirt and red chair (and nowhere else – there’s damage limitation for you!).


In truth, apart from some officious why-can’t-you-get-it-right looks occasionally and  a bit of excess silliness, hazardous to other dancers in the set, in Montgomery’s Rant, a lovely week was had by all, with  much mirth and good company. There’s a Furlongs website, with details of their dancing and other holidays, which you might like to visit if I’ve whetted your appetite with these bits and pieces about my week in Crieff. And it doesn’t have to be a week: you can book for any two or more nights...


Veronica Wallace, York



BRANCH WALK AND LUNCH, THURSDAY 7TH JUNE

Eleven walkers took part in our branch walk on Thursday 7th June, over a circuit starting and ending at Wharram Percy. Despite a fairly heavy shower lasting almost an hour mid-walk, we had probably the best weather in the week before and after! Helen Brown joined us for a good lunch at the Middleton Arms in North Grimston. Many thanks to Jean for all the organisation.






Paris Branch International Weekend, Beaune, Easter 2012


Paris Branch’s 4-yearly International Weekend was held in 2012 in Beaune, in the heart of France’s Burgundy wine growing area. As usual the event took place over the Easter weekend, from the 7th – 9th April, with over 150 participants coming from 13 countries, including from countries as far afield as Canada and Russia.


While the emphasis of the weekend was on dancing, to the marvellous music of Muriel Johnstone and Keith Smith and the excellent teaching of Bill Zobel, the weekend also took its character from the local area as participants were able to experience the food and wine of the Burgundy region and visit the picturesque town of Beaune itself.


Although the weekend officially started on the Saturday lunchtime, in the spacious Palais des Congrès, close to Beaune’s historic centre, over three-quarters of the participants had arrived by the Friday evening, which enable us all to get together for a very convivial meal and have the opportunity to catch up with old friends and regular attendees at the Paris Branch’s international weekends, as well as to meet the many new faces who were present for the first time. It was also the occasion to hear the encouraging news of how Scottish Country Dancing is developing and expanding in many countries, particularly with younger dancers, such as in Germany and Russia.


Free time on Saturday morning allowed many to explore Beaune and take in the colourful sights of the local Saturday morning market and enjoy the pleasant spring weather. The afternoon was then in the hands of our very competent and experienced teacher, Bill Zobel, who, realising that three half-day classes and two evening dances would be a challenge even to the fittest of us!, promised to take the weekend at a not too demanding a pace, which he did with notable success, but still managed to cover over the three days a wide range of both older dances and more modern additions to the dancing repertoire – all with something by way of a challenge, either in technique or through new and interesting figures – or both!


After the cocktail reception on the Saturday evening and a four course dinner we moved to the dance floor. Despite the potential handicap of the excellent food and wine we were able to sustain four hours of dancing. Muriel and Keith took us in hand with their uplifting rhythms and melodies and carried us effortlessly through the evening, so much so that almost all were still going strong at 1am! – despite the 10 am start with Bill next morning.


Sunday’s programme was varied and very complete. A morning class with Bill was followed by a (slightly) shorter lunch, a few hours rest then a visit to Beaune’s famous Hospice where afterwards, in the medieval bastion of the Hospice, we enjoyed a formal Gala Dinner within the ancient walls of this 15th century tower, complete with tapestries and wall hangings. A formal ball then followed back in the Palais de Congrès where the adrenalin was flowing even more strongly, both on the part of the musicians and the dancers, as midnight again went by unnoticed!


It was a great compliment to our musicians and teacher to see at the class on the Monday morning, so many enthusiastic dancers still in such high spirits after such a very full weekend. Our final buffet lunch together was the occasion for “au revoir”s and to speculate on the question, where will Paris Branch hold its next Easter Weekend in 2016? We wait with interest to hear!

Tom McKinlay

SUMMER SCHOOL 2012, ST. ANDREWS

For many years it was the tradition that someone who had just been to Summer School for the first time was asked to write that year’s review, but nowadays everyone has been before! This year saw fewer of us at Summer School: Allan and Margaret Highet and Ken Wallace attended Week 1, Ken enjoying it so much that he rebooked again for Week 4.  Jean McInnes  and I were there for Week 2, Helen Russell taught Week 3 (and examined in Week 4), and Alasdair Brown taught Week 4.

It was the first time I’d been at St. Andrews since 2005, and I’d never been to Week 2 before. This year we were based at McIntosh Hall, with country dancing in the evening at the Younger Hall, and ceilidh dancing in McIntosh Common Room. These were not the only changes – while Ladies’ Step-dance was formerly an option for the second morning class, it was now an additional optional class in the afternoon only.  Unfortunately a badly inflamed big toe forced me to drop out of Ladies’ Step anyway, though it gave me time for long therapeutic paddles on the beach.

I was in the Fully Certificated class, which proved to be a smaller and much more competent group than classes I’d previously attended, and a very friendly group too. Our first morning session was with Antoine Rousseau, who is now heading my Best Teachers Ever list along with Mary Murray; John Wilkinson taught the second class.  We were really blessed with our musicians, the incomparable Robert Mackay and the young but incredibly talented Martainn Skene.  The Brady boys played at the Younger Hall one night; another night Jean and I went to hear them play with Martainn for the ceilidh dancing at McIntosh, a tremendous session ably captained by John Wilkinson. Jean had picked up an injury on Day 1, but had a whale of a time at the ceilidh dancing – as did all of us.

One of the great things about Week 2 was that it was truly international – there were people and groups from Australia, Canada, the US, Hungary, France, Russia, Italy, Germany and Japan.  Jean and I found ourselves sharing meal tables with a whole variety of people who we then managed to dance with in the evenings.  The other big feature of Week Two was the number of young people in their 20s and 30s there, and even some teens.  They added a different dynamic and their enthusiasm was really catching. Jean was great company; we both had a great time, and were glad we’d gone to Summer School 2012.

Joyce Cochrane

BRANCH HALF-DAY SCHOOL AND DANCE, 6th OCTOBER


As usual our annual Branch Half Day School is being held at the Village Hall in Stockton on the Forest, near York. Pat Cass from Newcastle Branch, who has played for us for the last few years, will play for us again, and her son Peter, described as an outstanding young teacher, will teach the class.  The Class will be held in the afternoon from 2.00 to 5.15; the cost is £12.


There will be a High Tea between the class and the dance at a cost of £6. St Andrews Shoemakers will also be present, and Tom Struthers of St Andrews Shoemakers will give a short talk after tea.


Catering for the evening dance: if you can offer any help with catering for the High Tea, please contact Chris Hare, who would be delighted to hear from you. This could involve baking or salad making in advance of the day, and/or helping at the event.  Chris will refund any expenses you incur.


Those who have expressed an interest, or who have previously attended the day school, should have received an information/application form either by email or in the post. If you have not received one and would like one, the application form can be photocopied or downloaded from the branch website (www.rscdsyork.com); or contact the organiser, Chris Hare on 01482 645282  or email: chrisandkeithhare@gmail.com.


The evening dance begins at 7.30, and this year we will be dancing to the music of Lindsay Weir and her band, who come from the Inverness area. Tickets cost £12, though it is just £10 for those who attended the day school.  There will be light refreshments only during the interval. The programme has been chosen by Helen Brown.



BRANCH WEEKEND, HARROGATE, 22-24 FEBRUARY 2013


If you’ve expressed an interest, or have previously attended the Branch, you will probably have received an information/application form either by email or in the post. If you have not received one and would like one, the application form can be photocopied or downloaded from the branch website (www.rscdsyork.com); or contact the organiser, Helen Brown.  Be aware that single rooms are now in very short supply.


BRANCH DANCE, DUNNINGTON, 3rd NOVEMBER


Our November dance will be held at the Reading Rooms in Dunnington on Saturday 3rd November, beginning at 7.30 pm.  Usual prices for dances to recorded music apply – (£4 members, £5 non-members) and you are asked to bring contributions to a Faith Supper (paper plates preferred).  The programme has been chosen by Ken Wallace from Hornsea, who has been thrown in at the deep end by his fellow committee members.


BRANCH DANCE, SWANLAND, 2nd DECEMBER


Our December dance will take place on Sunday, 2nd December, at Swanland Village Hall (at the back of the village pond), beginning at 2.00 p.m. The December dance is taking place on the Sunday afternoon rather than the Saturday so that it doesn’t interfere with Christmas shopping plans! Usual costs apply, but there is no Faith Supper.  The programme has been devised by Lynne Brooks and Chris Hare, and will be danced to recorded music. They have chosen dances with a Christmas or winter  theme and the two halves begin with a ceilidh dance to warm you up and set the Christmas party mood.