September 2014          A NEWSLETTER           No. 138


“There are too many dances.” “Why are people still writing new dances when there are already thousands out there?” “You’d think with the thousands of dances out there somebody could have come up with a better programme than this.” “I came across this great new dance.” “Why do we never dance X, Y or Z?” “He’s got another new dance in the new book – I like that new figure in it.” “I can’t learn all these new dances.” “It’s not really that hard, just different.” “The RSCDS should only include the good dances in the ones they publish.” “Why isn’t there a list of well-known dances and you could put a lot of them in every programme?”

I suspect we’ve all heard those comments before, and maybe we’ve even been responsible for some of them. The last one is perhaps the easiest to answer – such a list (the RSCDS Core Dances) does actually exist. So why doesn’t everyone use it? First, it’s quite a long list – over 100 – and quite a few of them do appear regularly on dance programmes, such as Hooper’s Jig, Deil Amang the Tailors and Reel of the 51st. Others of the dances are virtually unknown in our branch – what was the last time you danced La Russe? So, not all of the dances on the list are familiar everywhere; some would not make everyone’s top five hundred. And wouldn’t it be boring to dance the same 7 or 8 dances at every dance? And should we be learning whole dances anyway – isn’t it better to learn the figures?

Just the good ones? Who decides what is a good dance? Ask half a dozen people, and you’ll get at least five definitions. It is probably easier to define what a bad dance is. The RSCDS wasn’t founded to publish only good dances, but rather to collect and preserve the traditional dances of Scotland, whatever they were. It was only with Book 17, the Victory Book, that the Society first published a dance which was not traditional – Reel of the 51st, of course. Additionally, many of the dances were considered “good” when published: tastes have changed as more formations have been devised, and you can’t really abolish an archive.

The question as to why certain dances don’t appear on programmes any more is partly answered by my opening quotation: there are too many dances, and we just can’t dance them all. As new dances come along, some of them become very popular, and in order to include them on programmes, others have to make way. Sometimes a newly popular dance can appear on programmes time after time, while equally good – or possibly better dances – are forgotten. One person’s aim in writing a programme may be to make a programme accessible to newcomers, another’s to include their personal favourites, while a third finds geographical challenges important and won’t have “boring” 8 x 32 bar strathspeys. Enthusiastic new dancers come across new exciting dances all the time; they may simply never have met some older favourites.

Why do people write new dances? Every dance was made up at one time, and people have been collecting or publishing collections of dances since before the 1745 rebellion! Since Reel of the 51st, the RSCDS has moved on from collecting dances to publishing modern dances written in traditional form. The only difference between writing a new dance in the past and writing one now – apart from all those new figures – is that it is much easier with modern media for a dance to be known over a wider area. Dances are written through the creativity of dancers to commemorate events, people and places; can you imagine anyone saying “I’m flattered that you named a dance after me, but I’m not going to dance it because there are too many dances already?” I can’t!

Do you have a dance you would consider a really good one, a particular favourite you’d like to see on any programme?  Why do you like it – formations, music or particular associations? You could write to Broun’s Reel to tell us, but you could also write a few lines or a paragraph for our 40th Anniversary Booklet.

I finished last time by saying that a future editorial would talk about the poetry and music collected and preserved by Burns. Even though I visited the new Burns Museum in Ayr on my way back from Arran (which seems to have been this summer’s most popular holiday destination), we’re still going to have to wait for another edition!

Joyce Cochrane   


Several Summer School veterans urged me to give it a go - "you should try it at least once" they told me.  I didn't actually need much encouragement, as I'd been wanting to go for ages, but I did wonder why the emphasis was on "once" It seemed more like the sort of thing you might say to somebody trying a parachute jump, as in "once will be more than enough".

Well, as I write this I'm just recovering from the whole experience, and all I can say is that, for me, once is nowhere near enough. In fact I can't wait to go back for more!

Ken Wallace and I were the only members of the Branch to trek up to St Andrew's this year, but there were some familiar faces from other areas of Yorkshire among the more than 200 people, young and old, who congregated from far flung corners of the world. To be among so many like-minded people with a shared passion for dancing (some would say "obsession", and they might be right), and to live, eat, breathe, talk dancing for a whole week surpassed my highest expectations. It's a heady mix, and it's proving hard to come back into the real world…

For me it was something of a baptism of fire, having been advised to sign up for the Technically Skilled High Impact class, but how wonderful and how inspiring it was to dance with, and to socialise with, such experienced dancers. And a real sense of achievement to have reached that level in the five years I've been dancing, and to feel at home among them, especially since we were among the oldest in the class of 37 dancers.

I've heard Summer School described as a holiday, but if your idea of that is relaxation, then it's a misnomer. Our morning class of three hours focused on learning the dances in the new RSCDS Book 48, and on polishing our dance technique. This was followed by a quickly gobbled down lunch, and then another, admittedly optional, two hours of preparing to take the new Dance Achievement Award (results as yet unknown). No time for R and R for us, although many (less masochistic?) dancers choose to keep their afternoons free. Add to that the long walks between venues, and the full dance programmes in the evenings, and you begin to see why I've returned home beyond exhausted.

All very well worth it though, and I enjoyed every minute. Among the highlights were the amount I've learned from excellent teachers (which will hopefully be reflected in my dancing style); the camaraderie with so many others equally passionate about dancing; the quality of the musicians - all leave me with the happiest of memories. Added to that are the echoes of one teacher's constant remonstrations to the class of "third position", and "no bulging" (in an Allemande) which will doubtless come back to haunt me each time I dance.   

Carol Hazell, York


MANY CONGRATULATIONS to both Ken and Carol, who passed their dance proficiency award (intermediate), both very nearly gaining a distinction. We are really proud of you!


It started with Malcolm finding it hard to get his tongue round: ‘We crossed the Forth to Fife for the Scottish Branch Dance.’ Then came the joke about the snail who knocked at Jim’s front door; Jim threw him into the next-door garden. A year later the snail knocked again: ‘What was all that about then?’ he said.

Now read this sad story out loud:

Six snails watched Wisp of Thistle and decided on a once-through slither-through. Their shatteringly slow strathspey shuddered sloppily as their unsuspecting shells got stuffed to the top with slip-stop. The mortified molluscs, miserably misled, felt the unfairness of fate – but, oh woe, worse was ahead!  Three speeding thrushes changed their trajectory to snatch up and devour the suffering suffocating snails – supper had never seemed simpler. But snails stuffed with slip-stop, not aspic or sarsaparilla, are perfection fatally infected; the next day three thrush corpses and their contents were ignominiously thrown on the bonfire.

Veronica Wallace, York


Our annual Branch Half Day School is being held on Saturday 4th October at its usual venue, the Village Hall in Stockton on the Forest, near York. Once again we will be delighted to welcome Pat Cass from Newcastle Branch to play for us; the teacher for the afternoon is Les Lambert, recommended by those who have been taught by him at St. Andrews.  Although Les is from the Glasgow branch, he’s originally a Geordie, and has a great sense of humour. 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.

Catering for the Half-Day School: if you can offer any help with catering for the High Tea, please contact Helen Brown (01904 488084) or Chris Hare (01482 645282), who would be delighted to hear from you. Salads and desserts for the High Tea, and tray-bakes for the evening dance, are all needed. If you’ve been inspired by The Great British Bake-Off, now’s your chance to join in!  Of course, the Branch will refund any expenses you incur. I’m sure Helen would also appreciate offers to help at the event too.

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 (; or contact the organiser, Ken Wallace on 01482 532440.

The evening dance begins at 7.30; we will be dancing to the music of Ian Thomson and his band. Tickets cost £12 – just £10 though if you attended the day school.  Light refreshments in the form of traybakes (see above!) will be available during the interval.

The programme has been chosen by Ken Wallace.


The Y & NH Branch Weekend School in 2016 takes place at the Cairn Hotel in Harrogate from 6th to 8th February.  Those who have either expressed an interest or who have previously attended should have already received an application form or an email. There are no single rooms left, but there are twins and doubles. You will find an application form on the website.


Where:   Dunnington Reading Room YO19 5PW

When:   Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cost    £10

Tutor:   Malcolm Brown

Timetable:  Registration & Coffee: 10.00

Morning Class  10.30 – 12.30

Lunch   12.30 - 1.15

(Please bring a packed lunch – tea & coffee will be available)

Discussion Groups 1.15 - 2.00

Afternoon Class 2.00 - 5.00

(There will be a break during the afternoon for tea / coffee)

Topics to be covered:

Classes:  Lesson Planning - Sequence of Teaching Formations; Teaching Points; Linking Formations; Fixed points; Class only dances

Programmes:  Objectives (Target audience); Themes; Complexity; Fatigue

General:  Working with a band; Music (Name tunes / Instruments); Walk Throughs; Cribs - Types / writing / reading / teaching

Application forms are available from Malcolm Brown.

Please apply to:

Helen Brown, 8 Copper Beech Close, Dunnington, York YO19 5PY

Tel: 01904 488084 email:

Cheques payable please to RSCDS York & N Humberside Branch.


Our joint ball with Leeds RSCDS Branch will take place on Saturday November 15th at the Riley Smith Hall, Tadcaster, beginning at 7.30 p.m. Music comes from Ian Muir and the Craigellachie band, and a (catered) supper will be provided; tickets cost £18. This is usually a really special occasion, and if you’ve not been before, well worth trying. The programme has been drawn up by Leeds RSCDS (their turn as host – it is our turn again next year) and includes suggestions from our branch.


You may remember Lynne campaigning hard for a dance to live music in the south of our area, and a good detail of support for this at the AGM. Now here it is! The dance begins at 2.00 pm and should end by 5.00 pm.

Our December dance will take place on Sunday, 7th September at Swanland Village Hall; this is now the usual slot we’ve put in so that people can have a winter afternoon dance AND still do their Christmas shopping with (or without!) family on the Saturday. There will not be a supper, so you don’t need to bring any food, but there will be mince pies during the interval. And, of course, we will be dancing to live music – the accordion playing of Ian Slater, who many of you will know. I’m sure it will be a great afternoon – thank you, Lynne, for working hard to make sure it would happen.

The programme has been drawn up by Lynne


As readers of Broun’s Reel should know by now, next year sees our 40th Anniversary as a branch of the RSCDS, and all sorts of plans are being made to celebrate it. Our 40th Anniversary Ball will take place on 21st November 2015, at the Riley Smith Hall in Tadcaster, to the music of Luke Brady and his band, and Jim Healy (chairman elect of the Society) and his wife have accepted our invitation to attend. The committee has also decided to produce commemorative laminated bookmarks, and other projects are also being discussed. This does not mean that new ideas will not be welcome!

Malcolm for some time has been promoting the 40th Anniversary Booklet he wishes to produce to celebrate our 40 years as a branch, but so far contributions have been a bit scarce. Do think if there are any memories you would like to share in the booklet. If you no longer have the sheet that Lynne and I produced for short, Twitter-style answers, do contact me, and I will email or send another copy. We intend to launch the booklet at the 40th Anniversary Ball.

Finally, we would like to introduce a Dance Competition. We are looking for a new dance, written to celebrate our 40th Anniversary, which would be demonstrated at the 40th Anniversary Ball and included in the 40th Anniversary Booklet. The dance needs to be submitted by the Burns dance in January, and all the dances will be tried out. If there were enough good dances it might be possible to publish a booklet collecting the dances. We did something similar in 1989, and it is hoped that we can revisit these dances in our programmes between January and June.

Any good ideas to celebrate our anniversary? Do let us know!

My apologies if you’ve sent me a contribution for Broun’s Reel and it’s not in – I seem to have omitted something from every issue so far this year. Please do not be discouraged, and write in again, or remind me.

Summer School
dance proficiency

Snail Trail

Harrogate 2015

Basic teaching
skills course

Branch 40th
anniversary 2015