Volume 25 #5
The Scottish Country Dancer
March/April 2009

Articles in This Issue
The Briefing Dance Competition Reminder
Manager's Message Hop on the left ... For Something Completely Different
Dance Classes Around the County Calendar of Events
Joie de Vivre!
The Briefing

Here's a quick summary of things coming up these next two months:

  • Classes! Some are ending and some are starting this month. See the article in this issue for more details.
  • March 6th is the deadline for registrations for the Portland workshop and ball.
  • March 7th: the Folk Dance Potpourri at the Luepke Center! See the calendar for details.
  • April 4th: Scottish Afternoon, celebrating Homecoming Scotland. See the calendar for details.
  • April 25th: our April Dinner Dance! Celebrating "Joie de Vivre!" See the calendar entry for details.
Manager's Message
by LindaMae Dennis

One of the things that I love about Scottish Country Dancing is that it expands to accommodate any level of interest.

When you finally understand the difference between hands across and hands round, there are other formations to be learned. The five basic steps get you where you need to be, but there are refinements that you can work on for years. And once you have the five basics under your belt, you can start learning highland steps to add a little spice to the dances. Once you have the basic figures interpreted correctly in your head, they ask you to dance a whole dance from just a brief. And once you can do that, there are more difficult, more interesting formations to be mastered, like the tournée, the targe, and la barratte.

If that's not enough, you can spend four or more years learning to be a teacher (talk about refinements!). If teaching isn't your thing, you can go into management and work to sustain a worldwide organization. Or you can travel all over to both exotic and mundane destinations to do Scottish Country Dancing, and collect Scottish Country Dance friends. You can stay home and devise dances while you're supposed to be sleeping. But if you don't want to do any of that, you can just come to class to enjoy the company of other people and listen to seriously happy music.

So we got into this business of becoming a Branch and a Non-profit Organization. It seems that this expands also.

We wrote new, updated, and better Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, much discussed at the last AGM, as you recall. We applied for and received Branch Status from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. We are now the Southwest Washington State Branch of the RSCDS. We applied for and got non-profit status with the State of Washington. We applied for and got an EIN (Employer Identification Number). We filled out our 24-page application complete with addenda -- this, with much trepidation and hashing out of wording. And just last month we received our official 501(c)(3) non-profit status from the US Government. (Woo-Hoo!)

Sounds like we should be about finished, right?

Well, no. Now we have to clear up the details. The main thing we have to figure out is what to do about the Vancouver USA Scottish Country Dancers. I believe we'll a llow that part of our organization to go dormant until such a time as we are large enough to have 'groups' within the branch. But for now it will be a lot like changing the name of your business. A new bank account, web site, letterhead, and probably a dozen things I haven't thought of yet. We'll most likely rewrite the Articles and Bylaws, to reflect the changes we're making, inform the State of Washington, etc. The list goes on.

If you have ideas, opinions, or concerns about the direction we're taking, please talk to or email them to any Board Member. Our next Board Meeting will be March 22nd. Hopefully, we'll get everything worked out and be able to give a full and coherent report at the next AGM. Naturally, all members are invited to the Board meeting (and all Board meetings!) to listen to or join in the discussion.

Keep on Dancing!

Dance Classes Around the County
by Tom Halpenny

Hello Scottish Country Dancers,

We can enjoy Scottish Country Dance many days a week! You can check out the class info below for a time and place that fits your schedule and location.

The Wednesday Social SCD class now features a weekly evening of social dancing to live fiddle and keyboard. Enjoy Scotland's fusion of lively rhythms and traditional dance.

You can always visit www.vancouverusa-scd.org for the latest SCD activities.

Marshall Center, 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd, Vancouver.
Vancouver Parks & Rec 360-487-7100 www.ci.vancouver.wa.us/parks-recreation
Social Scottish Country Dance, Wednesday 7:45-9:15pm, Oak Room
Beginning Celtic Tap, Tuesday 5:30-6:30pm, Oak Room

Firstenburg Community Center, 700 NE 136th Ave, Vancouver.
Vancouver Parks & Rec 360-487-7001 www.camas.wednet.edu/district/teaching_learning/community_ed.htm
Family Basic Scottish Country Dance, Friday 7:30-8:55pm, Aerobics/Dance Studio

Camas, Garfield Building, 14th and NE Garfield, Camas.
East Clark County Community Education 360-954-3838 www.camas.wednet.edu/district/teaching_learning/community_ed.htm
Family Basic Scottish Country Dance, Joyce Garver Auditorium
Contact Geri, 360-834-3757

Battle Ground, Captain Strong School, 1002 NW 6th Ave, Battle Ground.
Battle Ground Community Education 360-885-6584 http://battleground.augusoft.net
Family Basic Scottish Country Dance, Thursday 7:00-8:15pm, Gym
Contact Liza, 360-887-1888

Columbia Dance Center, 1700 Broadway, Vancouver.
Level 3 Scottish Country Dance, 2nd and 4th Tuesdays, 7:30-8:30pm
Contact Marge, 360-892-4366
Beginning / Intermediate Celtic Tap, 1st and 3rd Tuesdays, 7:30-8:30pm
Contact Linda Mae, 360-609-0623

Kelso, Caitlin Hall, 106 NW 8th, Kelso.
Basic Scottish Country Dance, 1st and 3rd Sundays 7:00-9:00pm
Contact Linda, 360-578-7893

Joie de Vivre!
by John Shaw

That is the theme for this year's Annual Dinner Dance, our 24th, "Joie de Vivre!", the joy of living. To quote the Wikipedia article:

Joie de vivre (from the French joie, "joy"; de, "of"; vivre, "to live, living") is a term sometimes imported into English to express a cheerful enjoyment of life; an exultation of spirit. Joie de vivre, as one scholar has written, "can be a joy of conversation, joy of eating, joy of anything one might do... And joie de vivre may be seen as a joy of everything, a comprehensive joy, a philosophy of life, a Weltanschauuang. Robert's Dictionnaire says joie is sentiment exaltant ressenti par toute la conscience, that is, involves one's whole being." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joie_de_vivre

The Dinner and Dance will be held, as last year, at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 426 E. Fourth Plain Blvd, in Vancouver, just a couple of blocks west of I-5. The catered buffet dinner will begin at 6:00pm, and will feature vegetarian lasagna, and stuffed chicken breast (spinach, feta, herbs), accompanied by roasted vegetables, roasted potatoes, and two kinds of salads. Coffee, tea, and lemonade will also be provided.

The Grand March will be at 8:00pm, followed very shortly thereafter by joyous dancing. Providing the wind beneath our wings, or at least our heels, that evening will be Lisa Scott (piano), Linda Danielson and Leslie Hirsch (fiddle), and Fred Nussbaum. Lisa Scott and Company have played for many of our dances, and we are overjoyed to have them with us again this year.

For a flyer with registration form and all other information, check the flyer on our website, or call one of the co-chairs, John at 360-576-5678, or Liza at 360-887-1888. Reservations need to be in by April 8th.

Is there a Gaelic phrase for Joy of Living?

Dance Competition Reminder
by Marge van Nus

We plan to publish a book of dances next year for our 25th annual Dinner Dance celebration. This follows our "Feast of Dances" and will be titled "Just Desserts".

Anyone thinking about devising a dance, working on a dance, or who has a dance ready, please submit said dance within the next few months. Judging will be during the summer session when we do not have regularly scheduled classes.

Dances may be mailed to: 1521 NE 97th Ave., Vancouver WA 98664-3035; emailed to ; or given to me in person.

Thank you all for your interest, input, and helping spread the word of Scottish Country Dancing

Hop on the left ... For Something Completely Different
by John Shaw

"Hop - step - close - step, hop - step - close - step!" How many times have we heard this admonition from our teachers? "The skip-change step begins with a hop" and we all duly hop onto our left foot while we extend our right.

Have you ever asked how high we should hop?

Interestingly, you don't have to ask. In this case, the music will tell you! Yes, the music will tell you precisely how high to hop.

When we dance in time to the music, our aim is to come down on the beat. This requires us to leave the floor some time before that beat; but that launch point is not on the previous beat, or our feet would be tapping and rebounding from the floor in a very staccato fashion (think Celtic Tap!).

After our foot lands on the beat, there is a moment's grace, as we gracefully gather ourselves and our energy, continuing the fluid motion, and begin the next lift or step in time to arrive on the next beat. So, the time between beats is only a theoretical maximum amount of time we would be in the air after a hop.

In his famous experiment at the Leaning Tower in Pisa, Galileo showed that objects fall at the same rate, regardless of their size or weight, because they are subject to the same constant force, gravity. For dancers, this means that when they hop, all dancers come down at the same rate, regardless of size, or experience.

The time in the air (t), the height of the hop (h), and the gravity of the situation (g) are related by this simple equation:

h = ½ g t2

(Now that your head hurts, I'll bet you don't notice your feet!)

I have found that I enjoy dancing to recordings of 8x32 jigs and reels which take around 4 minutes, 42 seconds (4:42) from the first bow to the last bow. So, let's look at an 8x32 reel played at that speed.

Such a reel has 8x32 = 256 bars. Each bar has 4 beats, for a total of 1,024 beats. These beats occur in 4:42 or 282 seconds. That means the time between successive beats is 0.2754 seconds.

No more than half that time is spent actually falling, since the first half is spent gathering ourselves and launching ourselves skyward. So the second half of the beat measures no more than 0.1376 seconds.

How high must we have been, to spend that much time coming down? By that simple equation above (using 32 ft/sec2 for g, the acceleration of gravity), the maximum height of the hop is 0.3034 feet, or 3.64 inches. If you hop higher than that, you will not make it down in time, no matter how good you are.

Now, is there any practical use for this information? Yes! We can use this information, for example, to evaluate recordings at other speeds.

I have seen many accordion band recordings which play an 8x32 reel at a brisk 4:28; and I have a recording of an 8x32 hornpipe at a languid 4:57. Let's compare these by computing the maximum height of the hop for each (I'll include in the table the 4:42 we already calculated):

Time Height in inches
4:57 4.04 (11% increase over "ideal")
"ideal" 4:42 3.64
4:28 3.29 (9.6% decrease from "ideal")

Believe it or not, this data answers two questions frequently heard on the dance floor:

"Why is it so tiring to dance to a slow reel?" The longer the time between beats, the higher the dancers must hop in order to stay on the beat. The energy your falling foot has when it hits the floor (wham!) is equal to the energy it took getting it into the air in the first place, and is proportional to the height of the hop. This means that it takes about 11% more energy to dance a reel at 4:57 than at 4:42! "It's no wonder I'm exhausted!"

"I'm enjoying the brisk music - but I don't know why my footwork is so sloppy tonight." When the time between beats is shortened, so also is the maximum height of the hop. The 4:28 reel permits only about 90% of the hop that the 4:42 reel allows. Not only is the height of the hop impacted, but also the timing (height and depth) of pas de Basque steps, and the length of the reach between traveling steps. Thus the quicker tempo may be easier on tired or inexperienced dancers, but it also limits the techniques which give Scottish Country Dance its distinctive flavor.

Of course, Scottish Country Dancing involves a lot more elements than just "the hop" - control and phrasing, for example - which all require time and energy, and are in their own ways impacted by the speed of the music. Our teachers are rigorously trained to be aware of the effect of tempo on their students; and they spend a lot of time carefully evaluating the music they choose for their classes. And if you've ever wondered why a teacher, checking the tempo of the music, may do a couple of pas de Basque steps...

Now you know why.

Note: the analysis of an 8x32 jig is left as an exercise for the reader!


Calendar of Events

Mar 7: Folk Dance Potpourri
A great fun way to sample the folk dance traditions of many cultures! Instruction will be provided, no partner necessary. Soft-soled shoes recommended.
Rudy Luepke Center, 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd. Vancouver, WA (behind the Marshall Center). 8:00-10:00 pm. $5.
Mar 14: Portland 30th Anniversary Workshop and Ball
Where: Masonic Friendship Center, 5625 NE Alameda St., Portland, OR.
Time: Registration, 9:30 am; Classes, 10:00 am; Grand March and Ball, 7:30 pm.
Teachers: Marjorie McLaughlin (San Diego, CA), and Bill Zobel (Courtney, BC).
Musicians: Calum McKinnon (Edmunds, WA) fiddle, and Muriel Johnstone (Courtney, BC) piano.

Get your registrations in soon! No registrations accepted after March 6. Contact Don Gertz at 503-692-5963, or for more information.

    Roaring Jelly                BJ  Foss
    J.B. Milne                   BR  Foss
    Rose of the North            IS  Goldring
    Laird of Milton's Daughter   BJ  RSCDS Bk 2
    Flowers of Edinburgh         BR  RSCDS Bk 1
    Bob Campbell                 BS  Drewry
    Ian Powrie's Farewell to Auchterader  IJ  Hamilton
    John McAlpin                 BS  Three for 2007
    Da Rain Dancin'              IR  Wallace
    Machine without Horses   BJ   RSCDS Bk 12
    Red House                IR   RSCDS Bk 7
    Culla Bay                IS   RSCDS Bk 41
    Trip to Bavaria          BR   Collins Pocket Ref
    Cranberry Tart           IJ   Seven Year Itch
    MacDonald of the Isles   BIS  Haynes
    Reel of the Royal Scots  BR   Leaflet    
Apr 4: Scottish Afternoon
Celebrating "Homecoming Scotland", 2009.
2:00 to 4:00 pm. at the Camas Community Center
1718 SE 7th Ave Camas, WA 98607
$8.00 per person or 3-for-$20. For reservations call Susan 360-576-5678 or Linda Mae 360-609-0623. A flyer with more information is available here.
Apr 25: VancouverUSA 24th Annual Dinner Dance
"Joie de Vivre!"
At St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 426 E. Fourth Plain Blvd, Vancouver, WA
Catered dinner at 6:00 pm, Grand March and Dance at 8:00pm

$15 Dinner only
$15 Dance only
$26 Both
Music by Lisa Scott, Linda Danielson, Leslie Hirsch, Fred Nussbaum
The Program:
    Machine Without Horses    J  Bk 12
    Grey Daylight             S  Let's All Dance Too
    Australian Ladies         R  Glasgow Assembly
    St. Andrew's Fair         J  RSCDS 1982
    Rose of the North         S  Goldring/Leeds
    Starlight                 R  Bk 44
    The Compleat Gardener     J  Leaflet/Paterson
    Culla Bay                 S  Bk 41
    Red House                 R  Bk 7
    Ian Powrie's Farewell to Auchterader  J  Hamilton
    The Edinburgh Strathspey  S  Douglas
    Deil Amang the Tailors    R  Bk 14
    The Argyll Square         J  Bk 43
    Seann Truibhas Willichan  S  Bk 27
    Jessie's Hornpipe         R  Bk 8
Map, directions, menu, and registration information are available here.
Sep 11-13: Fort Worden Weekend Workshop and Ball
Sponsored by the Seattle Branch of the RSCDS, this workshop has been happening for the last 34 years and has become a well known Northwest dancing event. Inspiring musicians and teachers are brought here from afar to support and refine our dancing skills and provide us with some of the best Scottish music for dancing.

Calum Mackinnon, Edmonds, WA
Lisa Scott, Portland, OR
Keith Smith, Ardnamurchan, Scotland
Ralph Gordon, Charles Town, WV
Muriel Johnstone, Courtenay, BC
Keith Smith, Ardnamurchan, Scotland
Pat Coyle, Niagara Falls, ON
Dennis Wood, Nashville, TN
Eileen Hsu, Bellevue, WA
Bill Zobel, Courtenay, BC
Watch your mailbox (or check their website) for applications starting in April. Or if you have other questions, contact their registrar by email at .

What do you call six weeks of rain in Scotland?

  Do you have an item of Celtic interest you would like to see in print?  
  You can contact me in any of the following ways:  
  By mail:  
  John Shaw
  PO Box 2438
  Battle Ground, WA 98604
  By email:  
  The Scottish Country Dancer is a bi-monthly publication of the Vancouver USA Scottish Country Dancers, a non-profit educational organization. For changes of address, please contact John Shaw, PO Box 2438 Battle Ground, WA 98604, . The editor reserves the right to alter or edit any material submitted for publication for reasons of taste, style, or clarity. All materials for publication should be sent by email to the editor at the address above, preferably in straight text. Deadline is one week before the end of the month prior to publication date. Editors of other newsletters may use or adapt any materials in the Scottish Country Dancer unless a specific copyright notice is included. Please credit author and original source.
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