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|Volume 32 #2||September/October 2015|
How did you spend your summer? I spent part of mine in Farmville! No… not the Facebook game. :-) There's actually a town called Farmville in Virginia, U.S.A., believe it or not. Apparently, it was big on growing tobacco in its early days—but I won't go into that right now. I also happen to know there's a perfectly good explanation for why there is a university in Farmville, Virginia, population 8216, (saaaaalllutte!) but I won't expound upon that, either. Suffice to say, TAC (Teachers Association of Canada) discovered Longwood University and decided it would be a good location for 2015 Summer School!
Most readers of this article know that TAC Summer School is not about bookwork; rather, it is about footwork—and fun for the avid Scottish Country dancer. I was first exposed to TAC three years ago when they came to Portland State University, and I was among the locals asked to "stooge" for the prospective teachers. We were given to understand that we were to be honest in our dancing abilities to provide the most realistic teaching possibilities for the candidates. That actually took some pressure off of me, as I still had a lot to learn back then.
Hmm, did I say, "back then"? Oh well. :-) The following year, several of our local dancers, including my husband, Martin, decided to go to Summer School at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, in the maritimes provinces of Canada. They had such a good time, and I have made a wee bit of progress since then and upon earlier this year I received an email promoting TAC in Virginia, I was inclined to make a go of it. Martin was not averse to tackling TAC again, so come July 26, we found ourselves on a shuttle from Richmond airport with other students, bumping our way to Longwood University. Little did we know that one of the "students"was actually Etienne Ozorak, one of our accordion musicians! We also discovered later, that he and his wife, Cheri, are amazing ballroom dancers!
Between the dearth of sleep we owned, and a missing garment bag we apparently didn't own, I was kind of "shell-shocked", but Gail Michener, Sandy Gallamore, and Fiona Miller among others, were on hand to welcome us.
It was enjoyable and fascinating meeting fellow students. As Martin said to me, "Attending TAC is like traveling all over the world without actually going." There were people from United States, England, Scotland, Canada, Australia, France and Switzerland, for starters! There were so many diverse accents being used that on more than one occasion I couldn't resist rolling my "r"s. One day, I was the gleeful recipient of a ride from Curry Hall to the Dining Hall. Dave "Mr. Fiona" (married to Fiona Miller, Summer School Director), who was our "Jeeves", driving the university-provided golf cart around heard me trolling, and asked where I was from. "Orrregon", I replied.
The morning classes were personalized by dancing preferences and abilities and identified by local trees: Sassafras (Advanced), Mulberry (Social), Hickory (Intermediate) and Tupelo.
Martin was not a suffering Sassafras. Some of you know that Martin dealt for over a year with plantar fasciitis, and he more than half-expected to "feel the pain" with the rigorous
course, but apparently he is healed!! I really enjoyed being a Mulberry. People were so friendly, complimentary and patient with me. We were taught social aspects of dancing,
especially from the waist up; most of the students had various physical challenges that kept them from being able to do the fancy footwork. Be sure to smile, look like you are
enjoying yourself! It was also fun having Marge van Nus in my class! The teachers were Rebecca Blackhall-Peters, Langley, BC; Terry Harvey Newton Square, PA, USA;
Robert McOwen, Arlington, MA, USA; Sue Porter Oban, Scotland, UK. They all traded off teaching the different levels. Here is a link to the dances taught to each group:
It was a treat having live music for the classes every day! Speaking of musicians, we had some wonderful, talented performers: Kathy Fraser-Collins, Glen Andrew, ON, Canada,
music director and keyboard; Neil Barron Wetherby, West Yorkshire, England, UK on accordion; Fred Collins on the drums, Glen Andrew, ON, Canada; Judi Nicolson, Katy, TX, USA
on fiddle; Etienne Ozorak Sacramento, CA, USA on accordion; Don Wood, Aurora, ON, Canada on keyboards. The music was incredible!
The afternoons provided opportunities to learn different dance genres and techniques, but I decided I would benefit most from the dance/ball walkthrough classes. Martin, being the nice guy he is, attended with me. One of the teachers for the walk-through classes will be known by the long-term dancers from the Portland, OR Branch: Lin (aka Linda) Pettengill. She earned her teaching certificate as a Portland member. Sadly (for us), right after she got certified, her husband got a job and they moved to California; some of you may know her from Asilomar.
Wednesday had no regular classes because it was field trip day! Some either went hiking on the High Bridge Trail nearby or toured Monticello, the famous home of Thomas Jefferson. There were dances almost every night, Sunday through Tuesday. Thursday, Wednesday and Friday evenings had ceilidhs. Saturday had the banquet and Ball! There were after parties (almost?) every night on the first floor of Curry Hall. Some after parties were mostly chatting and enjoying food and drink; others consisted of people getting their second (or third) wind! Sometimes the musician's music inspired a lot of creative moves and dancing! What tune was it that Sue Porter kept dancing the "Macarena" moves to? I was frankly amazed at the energy displayed/demonstrated by people after long days of combined dancing and humidity. (To be fair, there were some that would find soothing relief at one of the water fountains on the way "home" after a dance. Daily (or nightly), Martin verbally counted the bathers: 4,4,4,5,6,18! After the Ball, there were people who actually swam in it!)
I have likely "jacked" too much space, but there was so much to say! I was amazed at the noisy cicadas, which I originally thought were automatic sprinklers. :-) The tree frogs were abundantly ever present. And, we actually spied some fireflies! I must share appreciation for the friendliness and conviviality of the Longwood staff! I also want to publicly thank student Maria Ward for her kindness in using her car and time to take Martin and me shopping so we could avoid the humidity and find some clothing suitable for the Ball!
In closing, I would like it to be known that attending TAC Summer School is a fun, valuable and worthwhile experience!
(As husband to the writer of this article, I want to express a sincere thank you to everyone who treated Eunice and I with such kindness at TAC Summer School! For those who might be considering this another year but are unsure, know that at whatever level you are you will learn something and have a wonderful experience immersing yourself in Scottish dance and culture. ~ The Editor)
RSCDS has introduced its online archive of digital images. The content of archive documents has been catalogued, and many documents of interest have been scanned and
can be downloaded. I spent a day downloading large pdf files so I could more easily read them. We can visit the website.
Readers can time-travel back to the beginning of the Society. For example, The Scottish Country Dance Society was founded in 1923 and began publishing a twice-annual Bulletin in 1932,
and changed to a brief once-annual Bulletin in 1940 with the beginning of World War II's rationing of paper. The Bulletin resumed its larger content in 1946 with continued annual frequency.
The 1952 Bulletin carried the title "Royal Scottish Country Dance Society" for the first time. The final edition number 82 was published in 2004. The Society began publishing a twice-annual
magazine that has continued. We can access the magazine editions from the RSCDS website.
RSCDS has also published a fascinating video interview of the Society's first archivist and most recent president, Alastair MacFadyen, who answers 20 questions. He covers the Society's
archive topic at time 25:28. Alastair observed, "An archive is the essence of a nation's heritage. The same applies to an organization like the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society."
The RSCDS Southwest Washington State Branch has its own history, going back over 30 years with the Vancouver USA Scottish Country Dancers. We can access the complete collection
of newsletters online.
The Branch history lies with the dancers, teachers, musicians, and organizers. I read the newsletters and consulted my notes, and compiled a list of over 200 names, in approximate
chronological order, who have influenced the Branch history with friendship and fun dance activities. I plan to update the list with future names. Please contact me if your name is
absent and you would like to be added.
The well rehearsed dance team entertained the audience during the August 9, 2015 Clark County Fair SCD performance, starring dancers Susan and John Shaw, Lanette Pinard, Marge van Nus, Holly Gibson, Martin MacKenzie, Liza and Tom Halpenny, fiddler Maggie Hannahs, and piper David Stredwick.
David piped the dancers through the audience and onto the stage for the opening dance titled "Fair Enough", devised by emcee Liza and first performed in the 2014 show.
(We can look forward to the dance in the upcoming Fall Dance program.) Maggie played a fiddle solo and then accompanied dancers for "The Cupar Jig".
David took the stage for a bagpipe solo, always an audience favorite. Dancers performed six dances and assisted with audience participation in two sets.
Due to the warm summer temperature, the group used the air-conditioned Event Center building lobby for their pre-performace dance practice. A Dixieland Jazz band was
performing in the space, so the dancers enjoyed walking the dances to the music. Here is what "The Reel of the Royal Scots" sounds like.
The Scottish dancers have publicly performed at the Clark County Fair annually since 2002. The group danced the first year on the other more intimate stage, on two different days with different programs. The hypnotist preceded and followed the dance performance, and Van Meter Hord imagined, "Just have the hypnotist suggest to the people to join our group. We'll be overflowing with members!" Along the way, the dance performance was promoted to the main community stage near the food court and carnival rides, with larger audiences. The shows have had variety and often featured a piper and musicians playing for the dancing, and the kilt talk.
We can visit the Facebook page photo album at
Scottish dancers came to the annual summer picnic July 12 at Fairgrounds Community Park. We ate and socialized, danced together, and returned home for a nap. The sunny weather was an improvement over the 2014 picnic with lightning. Lisa Scott led the dancing that began on the grass and moved into the shelter between the picnic tables in order to escape the bright sunlight. The beautiful Branch banner was flying, recalling its debut at the 2013 summer picnic.
(Pied) pipers Patrick Hogan and Sydney Thomson gathered just up the hill from the picnic shelter and practiced their piping skills. About fifteen children ran to investigate, as the music wafted across the park.
Don Morrison brought granddaughter Genevieve and her boyfriend Trinidad, who are both dancers. Don reminded us that Genevieve had danced with us when she was nine years old. Trinidad enjoyed his introduction to Scottish dance.
I arrived early at 7:00am in order to claim the shelter for the picnic that began at noon. The hours passed quickly as I secured the table cloths from the breeze with thumb tacks, finished three sudoku puzzles, practiced bocce ball, and picked up rubbish around the shelter.
We can visit the Facebook page photo album at
Calendar of Events