The Scottish Country Dancer
Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Southwest Washington State Branch
Volume 37 #1
July/August 2020

Articles in This Issue

From the Chair

by John Shaw

I think it is just wonderful to see the many ways our worldwide SCD friends are maintaining the social connections that bring us so much joie de vivre. From dance-classes-via-Zoom, to Old-Picture captioning contests and revelations of seemingly esoteric Scottish lore and culture, I get a very warm, cozy, "we're all here together" feeling. Thank you to all the people taking the time and thought to do this. And if you are one of the ones doing this, please keep it up!

In this vein, this is a picture puzzle, sent to me by Tom Halpenny. See if you can guess the dance name from the clues in the pictures. (I've included the description and name of the dance at the bottom of this issue.

Name That Dance
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This being the first newsletter after the electric AGM, no, I mean electronic AGM, where the attendees joined the meeting from the comfort of their homes, I should note the members of the branch Board for the coming year. They are:

Chair: John Shaw
Vice Chair: Cynthia Soohoo
Secretary: Tom Halpenny
Treasurer: Paula Zellers
The fifth member of the Board -- the Teacher Representative -- is selected by the Teacher Committee; and the Teacher Committe has chosen Liza Halpenny to continue in this position for the 2020-2021 year.

While that concludes the Chair report, I am also Editor of this newsletter, and I have a bit to mention in that regard. (I really tried to find, instead of the chair image at the start of this article, a photo of an Editor in a big Chair, seated at a roll top desk, but alas.) As the calendar of upcoming events is rather sparse at the moment, I thought it would be interesting to include a couple of articles we printed 10 and 20 years ago. The first is ... touching. The other describes the week of festivities that once culminated in the Portland Highland Games. Enjoy!

Scottish Country Dancing Memory Skill

by Tom Halpenny
The Limitless model

I am curious to explore methods for learning Scottish dancing skills. I have been studying a book and seminars titled Limitless - Upgrade your brain, learn anything faster, and unlock your exceptional life by Jim Kwik. I recorded notes.

The book teaches Metalearning = the science of learning how to learn.
Metalearning Integration = Mindset + Motivation + Method
Mindset = What ; Motivation = Why ; Method = How

The content is oriented toward learning through reading, but we can extend to learning dancing skills. The author is a memory expert, so I explored his Memory method to see how it relates to learning Scottish dancing skills.

Here are some concepts from the book:
There is no such thing as a good memory or bad memory – only a trained versus untrained memory.
A memory is not something you have – it's something you do.
Memory = Information + Emotion
The basic principle for learning is: M.O.M.
M is for Motivation – you are more likely to remember something. Ask: Why do I want to remember?
O is for Observation – pay attention for improved retention. Listen, be present in any situation.
M is for Methods – your mental toolkit. Methods like Memory are a process.
Learning is as easy as P.I.E. – Place, Imagine, Entwine.
Location – In order to remember something, you need to associate it with a place when you visualize it. We are wired to remember where things are, for our survival.
Visualization – You can remember something better when you can imagine it – see and feel and hear it. A lot of people remember what they see more than what they hear – for example, they remember a face but forget a name.
Association – Connect the Place + Image – for example, imagine ten things and entwine them together with a story.

I tested the method by creating a story to remember next year's 2021 Dinner Dance program of 15 dance names in order. We can view the cribs and diagrams and animations.

I generated an imaginary story to entwine place with dance names. I am easily able to recall the story and name all fifteen dances in order. Even better is that others can also use the same story to imagine and memorize each of the places with their own picture of the story, more easily compared with my picture. (I have a note to verify how well I can recall the story near the Dinner Dance date in May 2021.)

Dancers are typically challenged to remember the choreography of dances in a dance program. The cribs and diagrams and animations are circulated to dancers for study prior to coming to a dance event. There is typically a recap and/or walk thru just before the dancing begins as a memory aid. I have observed for my brain that viewing the animations while listening to narrated formations helps me imagine the places I will travel in a dance set, more effectively than reading the cribs. I count the 8-bar dance formations to help remember them while listening by physically extending my fingers: one, two, three, four. In the case of the 2021 Dinner Dance program, I already have strong memories for five of the dances because I have danced them before and made emotional memories. I have felt the movements and I can visualize paths, steps, phrasing and covering. I have weaker memories for the other dances so far. Practicing the dances during classes forms emotional memories. Listening to the music while visualizing or moving along the path strengthens memory.

I reviewed Chapter 1 Learning to Dance from A Handbook for Scottish Country Dance Teachers – Fourth Edition by Geoffrey and Cecily Selling about how the brain learns dancing skills and why teaching methods are effective. The content is compatible with the Limitless model. The teacher audience is advised how people learn, through modalities: seeing, hearing, moving and touching, and that dancing must be learned by moving. The teacher needs to take into account the variety of dancer-preferred modalities. Dancers can additionally explore the Limitless metalearning model in order to train their memory for learning dancing skills.

A Piper's Tale

[Reprinted from the July/August 2010 issue of The Scottish Country Dancer. ~Ed.]

As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a grave side service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery in the Pennsylvania back-country.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost; and being a typical man I didn't stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight.

There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down, and saw the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I've never played before for this homeless man.

And as I played 'Amazing Grace,' the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low my heart was full.

As I was opening the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, "I never seen nothin' like that before, and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."

The Portland Highland Games [2000]

[Reprinted from the July/Augst 2000 issue of The Scottish Country Dancer. ~Ed.]

During the second week in July, the Portland Scottish Highland Games will take place in the Portland area. I say "Portland area" because, in addition to the games (which will be at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, on July 15th), there will be other related activities during the week preceding the games all over the county.

The week starts with the Kirkin' o' the Tartan, to be held at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, NE 17th and Schuyler, near Lloyd Center. Following a special service for the public at 10:00 a.m., there will be a Coffee Hour at 11:00 with piping, and Highland and Scottish Country dancing. Several folks from the Vancouver group will be participating in the dance demos there.

On Thursday July 13th will be the 6th Annual MacTarnahan's Keg Toss and Ceilidh, at the Portland Brewing Company, 2730 NW 31st Ave, in Portland. The keg toss at 12:30 p.m. is sponsored by American Airlines, while the ceilidh (including buffet dinner) at 6:30 p.m. is co-hosted by American Airlines and the British Consulate.

For all you connoisseurs of the Bagpipe, the Piobairechd Bagpipe Competition will be held at the Mt. Hood Communicty College Theater on Friday July 14th at 7:30 p.m. As the Game's web page states, "Piobairechd, or Ceol Mor, is the classical music of the great Highland bagpipe. A limited number of top international competitors perform this complex and haunting music in a concert atmosphere."

The Games will take place Saturday, July 15th. The athletic competitions start about 8:30 a.m. Through the day, there will be bagpipe band competitions, dance competitions, fiddling workshops, tug-of-war competitions, and more. From 6:30 to 9:30 in the evening there will be a Ceilidh for the whole family.

Special note: during the Games, at about 10:00 a.m. and again about 2:30 p.m., members of the Portland branch of the RSCDS will be demonstrating some Scottish Country Dances.

Check out the Web site of the Portland Scottish Highland Games at [obsolete URL omitted].

Puzzle Answer

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The answer to the puzzle.

Calendar of Events

June 20: First Day of Summer
Sep 22: First Day of Autumn
Save the Date!

Samuel Johnson's first dictionary defines oats as: "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people." Of course, the Scots answered this slander by noting this is why England raises such fine horses, while Scotland produces fine men. (from

  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 RSCDS Southwest Washington State Branch, 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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