From The President
by Holly Gibson
Well, it’s happened again with the same startling regularity that it does every year - summer is almost over and dancing season is drawing close. Reading that sentence over makes me think I spent too much time this summer reading books by English authors who wrote in the early 20th century. But I digress.
One of the best things about being a dancer is not only the dancing but the numerous fringe benefits. There are places I’ve been and people I’ve met all because of our dancing community, and I bet most of you could say the same thing. Each of you is a part of that community and so here’s a reminder that as the season changes and it’s cold and wet outside and you’re tempted to stay in with a good book or watch your favorite TV show, just remember there’s a roomful of people hoping you’ll join them in the laughter that follows a dance done well (or even, maybe especially, when not), and in the friendship that comes from doing something with a group of people sharing a similar interest. I hope to see you all in a few weeks with your ghillies on ready to dance!
by Linda Mae Dennis
Hello Everyone! Welcome back to dancing! We’re very excited this year to welcome Greg Reznick to the teaching staff.
I think the watchword for the coming season is kindness. Be kind to new dancers, but not in a creepy way. It’s very good to be friendly and helpful during the dancing. New dancers are often amazed by how nice everyone is (and we are so very nice). Try to be aware when a new dancer starts to feel pressured, though. When they get home, we want them to remember how much fun they had, and not wonder about whether or not they’ve stumbled into a weird Scottish cult. People get twitchy when they feel like there’s too much pressure to return.
Be kind to each other. Care for your fellow dancers by remembering that the dancing only works in a team atmosphere. Help newer dancers through the dances with gentle hand gestures, head tilts, smiles, and eye contact (not too much chatter over the music, please). Help the teachers by standing quietly during the teaching, even if you already know the dance. Be mindful not to “help” with the teaching by conducting your own lesson within your set.
Be kind to yourself. Take care of your body – you’re going to need it for dancing, and you’re going to want to continue dancing for your whole life! There are no cash rewards for pushing yourself further than you can go, so if something hurts, by all means, walk rather than dance, don’t do stretches that bother you, leave out turns and casts if they make you dizzy, wear shoes that help your feet, even if they’re not ghillies or slippers.
Be kind in general. Emotions are running high in our current political climate. Please do remember that not everyone shares the same political opinions and refrain from making potentially politically charged statements that might make others uncomfortable, especially in class. If you’d like to have a respectful, considered political discussion with another dancer, please go out for lunch or a walk together. In class, we are there to dance, have fun, and enjoy each other’s company.
Be kind to your teachers by listening, tactfully correcting them when they lose their minds and go off into a different dance, and asking questions that all can hear if there is confusion. With fewer social dances this year, the teachers will have more flexibility to teach dances that are not on the upcoming program. Trust them to have something in mind as they teach each dance, and be patient with them, as they’ll be preparing more material for each class than they may actually use – more opportunity to get mixed up.
See you very soon on the dance floor!
Holly's European Vacation, two of two
by Holly Gibson
When we last left our heroes, they were making their way against insurmountable odds to Loch Lomond. Well, maybe they were going by train, but you know what travel is like these days.
Balloch - There was a mix up with our train tickets and we found out the hard way that it is more expensive to buy tickets on the day of travel. The ticket clerk pointed out it would be cheaper if we didn’t go directly to Alexandria but stopped in Glasgow. He had a slight accent and it wasn’t until later we realized that not only did we change trains but we changed stations! From Glasgow Station it was a bit of a mad scramble to find said station, or rather to find the right one since there were at least three within several blocks of each other. We finally found the Queen Street Station (after visiting Argyle Station) and made our way to Balloch, which is at the mouth of Loch Lomond. We stayed at the Innkeepers Lodge, which is on the edge of Balloch Castle Country Park, complete with Balloch Castle, a walled garden, and numerous trails that run along Loch Lomond. We visited the nearby tourist information centre (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose) and a lady there told me photographers were allowed on the fourth floor viewing deck of the Loch Lomond Sea Life Aquarium without having to buy a ticket. When I asked the lady at the front desk of the Aquarium, she very nicely showed me to the lift. The view from the top was amazing and I was very glad to have found out about it.
Dumbarton - This deceptively bustling town is bordered by the Rivers Clyde and Leven. We checked in at the Dumbuck Inn and some of us walked to Dumbarton Castle while others took the bus. There were the usual thousands of stairs getting up to the top but the views of the River Clyde and the city with Ben Neven and Ben Lomond in the distance were worth it. The inn was in the shadow of Dumbuck Hill and I attempted to find a path to the top but after some research, it turned out there was a quarry there that was off limits. I still did some exploring the morning before we left (there may or may not have been some climbing over a barbed wire fence involved) and got a nice view of Dumbarton Castle sitting on its rocky perch.
Glasgow - We traveled by train to Glasgow and alighted a mile or so from the Glasgow Botanical Gardens. We had about two hours before meeting Muriel Bone, chair of the Glasgow branch, and several other members of the Glasgow branch for lunch. There were some scattered showers but the weather cooperated enough for us to enjoy the gardens. The four of us split up, and I took the trail that went along the River Kelvin and saw several good examples of the old and new that is Glasgow. The next morning, Sunday, I got up early and went to Glasgow Cathedral and then explored the streets around the cathedral before going back to the hotel. What a feast to the eyes of colors and textures with very little traffic, pedestrian or otherwise.
Paisley - We spent another day in Glasgow and then walked to Paisley. It was a quiet haven after the noise and activity of Glasgow. We somehow got split up on the way (something to do with Linda Mae, Patrick, and Sally heading to a cafe across the street and me darting off into Rosshall Park). It was a lovely diversion, but I’m not sure the others thought our brief separation was as much fun as I did. After we reached Paisley, our navigator realized we’d missed Crookston Castle, one of the sights we were to visit on the way. It was about three and a half miles back along the footpath to the castle. After a look at Google maps, I headed back the way we’d come. Crookston Castle was originally built in the 1200s, was rebuilt around 1400, and today sits on a hill above a main street. Two boys were playing nearby, and it struck me that to them playing in the shadow of a 15th century monument is an everyday occurrence. Our hotel in Paisley was the Milton Watermill Hotel, which is on White Cart Water (it joins with Black Cart Water to form the River Cart, and it seems obvious that it should be called Grey Cart Water, but I’m just a tourist).
We were so impressed with Paisley Abbey that Sally and I visited it again on our last morning so she could get some things from the gift shop. We enjoyed talking with the two volunteers there, one of whom was an elderly woman who had a real twinkle in her eye and a definite zest for life. We explored several other parts of town we hadn’t seen the day before and seriously considered getting lost and missing the plane, but then thought better of it and showed back up at the hotel like the obedient little travelers we are. I hope the next adventure is just around the corner!
Linda Mae's European Vacation, two of three
by Linda Mae Dennis
The next leg was another two-mile trek up what was described as “the straight road”. Patrick got out his chanter and played while we marched along, but is was a road, so we had to keep moving to the side as busses and cars passed us. We overshot our destination, and walked right up to Hadrian’s Wall, which had all of our attention once we got to the main highway. We tried to get off the main road by bushwhacking through a sheep pasture, which didn’t go over well with some of the travelers, who didn’t appreciate the nettles and thistles. We consulted with some hikers coming down off the wall, and upon turning around, we could see our destination Inn that we had just passed up. So we walked back down the hill to the Twice Brewed Inn (it’s in a town called Once Brewed), and had a lovely beverage before checking in, because we were hot and thirsty. It was beautifully modern on the inside and rustically charming on the outside. Patrick and Sally wanted nothing more than to lie on the soft beds in the warm breeze and nap. Holly and I headed back to the Wall, for the “optional” three-mile round trip hike to “Sycamore Gap” (which, it turns out, is a gap in the wall with a sycamore tree growing in it). The Wall “runs with the land”, so there was a lot of rather steep up and down. It was very exciting though, and beautiful, and breezy at the top. We took in some stunning vistas. Upon our return to the Inn, there was the requisite showering, followed by general merry-making in the pub, along with some good-natured accusations about ‘making’ Sally bring too much stuff, which, if anyone has the rare opportunity to try to make Sally do anything, I’m sure they would rush to my defense. There was some good legal talk, too, about representations and warranties. This of course, was accompanied by more lovely beverages and an excellent meal – these people are real foodies! Patrick wiped out early, and Holly, Sally, and I wrapped up the evening with a game of Quiddler. We all turned in by about 9:30pm – Holly with plans to get up super early to catch the sunrise at Sycamore Gap.
Monday, June 19
Holly was up skulking about the house by about 3:30am (as I was up watching bats fly around the patio area, being unable to sleep because of so much congestion that when I lay down, I couldn’t breathe) only to find that we were locked in. We met for breakfast at 8:30am as planned, some of us a little more bleary-eyed than others. I suggested that Sally take the bus to our destination B&B as I was unsure about the terrain for our 6.5 mile walk that morning. She was all for it. So Holly, Patrick, and I set off from the wonderful Twice Brewed Inn, planning to meet Sally at the Roman Museum, just a mile back from our destination at Greenhead at noon. Walking along the wall was amazing – fantastic! The views were incredible, the history palpable, and the terrain was extremely challenging. We were up and down numerous steep hills, following paths that were tenuous at best. We only got lost once, causing about a 15 minute delay, but ended up at the agreed upon meeting place about 2 hours late. Sally, in the meantime, had rested at Twice Brewed, taken the bus to Greenhead, found the Holmhead Guesthouse, where she left her beloved pack, and made her way alone through fields of “unpredictable” mama cows to arrive only 4 minutes late, which gave her time to see everything in the museum at least three times before we got there. It took us very little time to find each other once we had all arrived. The museum had a 3D movie (with glasses and everything) for us to watch about Romans and the Wall. It was quite fascinating except that 1) a class of French students arrived about five minutes after the movie had started, and it took them at least that long to get settled, and 2) with the exhausting walk of the morning coupled with the lack of sleep, the sunburn, and the cool, dark theater, it was very difficult to stay awake. It was really good though. Because of the noise and bluster of all the school kids, our museum experience was less than satisfactory, so we left without trying to absorb all of it. Sally took Patrick and I through a sheep pasture back to the B&B and down into Greenhead to the pub, while Holly went back up the path to find Thirwall Castle, a ruin, which turned out to be just steps from the B&B – go figure. Holly caught up with us at the pub, where our feet were already feeling better due to the cider, applied internally. The only tourists in there, we had made friends with the barkeeper, who was also the chef for later. She had lived all over the world, including Central Texas, and had been, among other things, a horse trainer. We did not find out how she ended up as a barkeep/chef in a tiny town like Greenhead, North Umbria. We had to go back to the B&B to get cleaned up so that we could return to the pub for supper. After supper, Sally, Patrick, and I tried a wee wander on our way back to the B&B, but were too tired to put much into it. Holly went for an explore to try to find a subject for a sunset photo, but once midnight rolled around and the sun hadn’t even tried to set yet, she gave up also.
Tuesday, June 20
We had set our breakfast time for 8:00am, and met in the little dining room at the B&B. We had a lovely breakfast, mothered over by our very talkative host, Judy. There were times when I was sure we would never be able to stop nodding and smiling long enough to take a bite of our eggs. Still, all was excellent, and we did eventually finish breakfast and got underway. We were assured that this day’s walk would be much easier. We had a little over six miles to go over rolling hills. We didn’t actually see a lot of Wall. There were multiple turret formations to look at, but mostly it was wanders through sheep pastures, a couple of cows to be passed, lovely cloudy weather in the morning, and sunny in the afternoon. We found our way to the target B&B, the Quarryside Guesthouse, by about 1:30pm, and were heartily welcomed. We knew we were early though, and so made ourselves scarce by walking down to the local teahouse – a 30 minute walk down a long hill, for a lovely beverage and some lunch. We hung out there for a couple of hours, Holly taking her leave early to hunt photos. The three of us checked out the priory next door to the teahouse, which was really quite something, and then tackled the hill back to the B&B. Chanting, singing, and conversation got us there in no time. Because the Quarryside Guesthouse is actually in Banks, and the teahouse where we had lunch is the nearest place to get food, and is actually in Lanercost, the hosts of our B&B have a deal worked out with a pub in Hallbankgate – The Belted Will. They drove us over to the pub, where they knew we were coming and had a table ready for us. We had a lovely dinner, and the pub owner drove us back to the B&B.
Wednesday, June 21 The Quarryside Guesthouse was a bustling place, with grandchildren being hurried off to school, Peggy the dog checking out everything and everyone, including in the breakfast area where she was not supposed to be. We met some other wall walkers at breakfast and compared notes. They had started in Newcastle and were covering about 10 miles a day, but they were not carrying packs. They had not left themselves enough time to appreciate the museums and pubs along the way either, which I thought was a shame. It had rained through the latter part of the night, and into the morning. We waited until it slowed, but walked the better part of the morning through a light drizzle. We made our way to Brampton, where one of the colorful locals out walking his dog, gave us directions to a footpath that would take us to the train station, which was little more than a platform out in the middle of nowhere. We were able to turn on our hotspot and purchase tickets on our phone in plenty of time before the train showed up. This train took us to Carlisle.
From the train station in Carlisle, we walked a short distance to the Cornerways Guesthouse. Unfortunately, this is not where we were staying. We then made our way through quiet neighborhoods to the Cornerhouse Guesthouse, where they were expecting us, and had our rooms already ready. After a brief respite, we ventured forth to find the castle. The Carlisle Castle was quite something, and we spent an hour or more wandering through it, looking at interesting staircases, alcoves, etc. There was a history of how Bonnie Prince Charlie had taken that castle during his attempt at the throne. Holly peeled off to check out a nearby park, while Sally, Patrick, and I went to visit the cathedral. The cathedral and grounds were quite impressively old and extensive. Sally went off to find a Methodist Church that she was interested in, and Patrick and I went to enjoy a pint at a very nice pub, The Griffin. We met back at the guesthouse, got cleaned up, and headed out for dinner. After looking at numerous menus along the main street, we ended up at The Griffin again – our favorite pub in Carlisle! I was invited over to the girls’ room for Quiddler, and returned to find Patrick watching Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail on his phone, only to fall asleep well before it was over.
Thursday, June 22
The guesthouse rooms were quite spacious and nicely decorated. Before we left the next morning I asked the proprietor if she had done the decorating herself – she had, and was quite pleased that anyone had noticed and appreciated it. We went back to the train station in Carlisle to get tickets to Alexandria. It turned out that if I had bought the tickets the day before on my phone, which I was prepared to do, but wasn’t sure what time we wanted to get going, so I didn’t push the button, it would have cost us £8, but because we were buying tickets the same day as we were traveling, the best they could do for us was route us through Glasgow and charge us £28 each! Unbelievable. We had to transfer from a “Virgin” train to a “Scotsrail” train in Glasgow, and got a little lost between train stations, but eventually arrived in Alexandria unscathed. The 2.5 mile walk from Alexandria to Balloch along the River Leven was quite pleasant, and we checked in at the Innkeeper’s Lodge, just south of where the River Leven flows out of the Southern end of Loch Lomond. We had a bite to eat at the pub, then Holly went off to find the Castle, while Sally, Patrick, and I went to the Info station across the street and then off to throw a rock in the Loch for good luck. We explored the Maid of the Loch, a steamship tour boat that is being restored to its former glory. We wandered back to the Inn, where we dropped Sally off, and Patrick and I went to find the Castle. We never did find it. The castle is in a large park, filled with hiking trails. We hiked through the woods, and found a walled garden that was quite lovely, and a stump that had been carved into a gnome home, that was quite charming, before walking back to the Inn to clean up for dinner. We had a date that evening with Andrew Smith (a Scottish Country Dance teacher who we have had teach the Portland Workshop, and who lives most of the time in Emporia, KS) and his brother David (who lives along Loch Lomond). We met them at the Tullie Inn, diagonally across the intersection from our Innkeeper’s Lodge. We had a lively dinner, with lots of catching up, advice for what to see next, dance talk, laughter, and general socializing. We were plenty tuckered out and ready for some sleep by the time we got back to our rooms.
Q & A, Mel Whitson, Norse Influence in SCD
by Mel Whitson
After Martin MacKenzie heard from Mel a description of the origins of Scottish Country Dances and the various contributions from across Europe and that there were Nordic contributions to the form, the question was asked, "Could you describe the Norse bits that are in SCD for me? Are they from Shetland or the Orkneys or are they more directly from Scandinavia?"
"My understanding is that the influence is predominantly in the dances (and music) that are/were more common in the northern islands, including Shetland. We don’t see it much in the dances published by the RSCDS but over the years, I’ve been taught a variety of dances at workshops or in classes where the teacher indicated the dances had roots in Nordic dance traditions.
Some of these dances are reminiscent of quadrilles but done with much exuberance, large numbers of dancers, multiple changes of positions around the floor. The connection of the steps to the phrasing of the music can be a bit loose, particularly depending on the musicians and their tune choices. If the dancers arrive too early at a destination, they may step in place until the musical phrase comes round for the next figure.
There are two examples I can point to that were published by the RSCDS. One is The Foula Reel and the other is the Hebridean Weaving Lilt. Notice they use a running step, which is a good indication they have different roots. Also note that both of these dances include kneeling.
The Hebridean Weaving Lilt came from Scandinavia to the Hebrides. This dance is said to be a simplified version of the figures of the Swedish weaving dance, Vava vadmal. In general, it appears that dances that include weaving figures (said to mimic weaving looms), may be examples of the Scandinavian influences. Of course, we can’t say that about the modern dances with weaving figures. And of course, eventually Scotland had its own extensive weaving industry so may have incorporated weaving figures in dances as a result of that.
In terms of music, in the traditional tunes from the northern islands and the Shetlands one can hear the Nordic influence. Some of these tunes have migrated over into the tunes musicians use for SCD. But of course, a lot of the Nordic sound is about the style in which a tune is played, not just the tune itself. Some of the Shetland fiddlers, such as Willie Hunter, or the Wrigley sisters from Orkney, have distinctive sounds that reflect the “melting pot” of their island heritage."
THE FOULA REEL (J4x48) 4C set RSCDS Book 4 Running step 1-8 1s lead down the middle and back 9-24 1s turn RH, 1M turns 2L LH as 1L turns 2M LH, turn partner, turn 3s, turn partner, turn 4s (as Strip the Willow) and cast up own side to top 25-32 2s+3s+4s kneel and clap as 1s with nearer hands joined dance down Ladies' side and up Men's side over the kneeling dancers 33-48 All hold partners 2H and 1s dance in and out to bottom as 2s+3s+4s in unison shuttle first to Ladies' side and back to Men's side moving up as 1s pass
The Hebridean Weaving Lilt Mary Isdal MacNab S C D Book of Four Set Dances Schottische 88 bars 4 Couple Repeat 4 Couple Set Lengthwise Set
FIGURE 1: 1-4 all dos-à-dos (advance, pass partners by the right, pass back-to-back and retire, passing by the left); 5-8 repeat bars 1-4;
FIGURE 2: 9-12 all turn partners by the right and dance back to the side lines; 13-16 all turn partners by the left and dance back to the side lines;
FIGURE 3: 17-18 1s cross down to finish between 4s; 19-20 1L4M 1M4L turn by the left and 1s turn by the right; 21-22 1s repeat bars 19-20 with 3s; 23-24 1s repeat bars 19-20 with 2s, finishing in original places;
FIGURE 4: 25-28 WHILE 2M3M4M kneel and clap at the beginning of each bar, 1s make an arch over the Mn's side and run to the bottom of the set; 29-32 WHILE 2L3L4L kneel and clap at the beginning of each bar, 1s make an arch over the Ls' side and run to the top of the set, finishing in places;
FIGURE 5 - THE SHUTTLE: 33-34 all take both hands with partners, 2s 3s 4s run straight towards Ls' side and back WHILE 1s (THE SHUTTLE), going diagonally down, run towards Mn's side and back so as to finish between 2s and 3s; 35-36 repeat bars 33-34, 1s finishing between 3s and 4s; 37-38 repeat bars 33-34, finishing 1s below 4s, 2s3s4s in places; 39-40 taking nearer hands, 1s lead up to places;
FIGURE 6 - THE LOOM: 41-41 all join nearer hands with partners, 1s lead down under arch made by 2s WHILE 3s lead down under arch made by 4s; 42-42 2s (at top) turn about to face down WHILE 3s (at bottom) turn about to face up WHILE 4s lead up under arch made by 1s; 43-48 repeat bars 41-42 three times from new positions, all finishing in original places;
FIGURE 7 - THREADING: 49-49 Ls move half a place down the set, cross arms left over right and take partner's right arm with left, next M's left arm with right; 50-56 without breaking the holds and led by 4L, all dance up the centre line under the joined arms (4M 3M 2M turn under their own left arms) and dance anticlockwise to finish 1M1L2M2L on the Mn's side, 4L4M3L3M on the Ls', 1M4L briefly taking hands to finish by completing the circle;
FIGURE 8 - WINDING THE BOBBIN: 57-60 4L, dropping 1M's hand, continue anticlockwise, winding the dancers tightly around 1M (the BOBBIN) who does not move; 61-64 without breaking the holds and led by 1M, all dance under 4s joined hands and continue clockwise, finishing in the circle as at bar 56;
FIGURE 9: 65-66 all face partners, put left hand on hip (to make an EYELET) and turn by the right 1½ times; 67-68 all face next dancer (M to L), put right hand on hip (to make an EYELET) and turn by the left 1½ times; 69-72 repeat bars 65-68 from new positions, finishing facing partners halfway round the circle;
FIGURE 10: 73-74 all join crossed hands with partners, lean outwards and dance round once; 75-88 repeat bars 73-74 ad lib while progressing anticlockwise around the room and, led by the 4s, dance out through the exit.
- The official step is a running step with four steps to each bar and strong accentuation on the first (right foot) step of each bar; making arches should be similarly staccato. One hand turns are made with linked arms, ceilidh style.
The reader might enjoy this recording of Calum Kennedy singing Brochan Lom, a tune commonly used for this dance. https://youtu.be/YxVlmUn3K8g