The Scottish Country Dancer
Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Southwest Washington State Branch
Volume 37 #2
September/October 2020

Articles in This Issue


Scottish Dance Update for Local Activities

Dear Southwest Washington State Branch members and other local dancers,

It will come as no surprise that we will not be starting up classes in September. State and local restrictions regarding COVID-19, class venue restrictions, and common sense prevent our gathering together to dance just yet.

However, it is important to keep up our treasured Scottish Country Dance friendships. So the SWWS and Portland Branches have put together some activities to enable that camaraderie even if we can't be together on the dance floor. Here is a schedule of events to look forward to in September and October. Event details and links will be sent out ahead of time.

Date Event
Tuesday, Sept 8, 7:30 p.m. Social Dancing Brief Only, online; led by Tom and Liza
Monday, Sept 14 Art walk in Tualatin; led by Don
Friday, Sept 18 Friday Variety Hour, online; led by Linda Mae
Tuesday, Sept 22 Skyview High School track walk in Vancouver; led by Rebecca
Monday, Sept 28 Portland virtual session; led by Mel and Linda Mae
Tuesday, Oct 6 Daytime hike; led by Lisa
Sunday, Oct 11, 2:00 p.m. Architectural treasure hunt walk in Portland; led by Mel
Friday, Oct 16 Friday Variety Hour, online; led by Linda Mae
Tuesday, Oct 20, 7:30 p.m. Social Dancing Brief Only, online; led by Liza and Tom
Monday, Oct 26 Portland virtual session; leaders TBD

Your Branch Board will continue monitoring the coronavirus situation and will keep everyone apprised when classes and dances will start up again. Meanwhile, please join us in the above activities to have some fun and keep in touch.

Warm regards,
John Shaw, Chair
Cynthia Soohoo, Vice Chair
Tom Halpenny, Secretary
Paula Zellers, Treasurer
Liza Halpenny, Teacher Rep

Scottish Dance Stories

by Tom Halpenny

Dancers are typically challenged to remember the choreography of dances in a dance program. When I studied the program of eight Scottish dances for the July Scottish Dancing - Brief Only class, I tested my ability to memorize the choreographies. I already had strong memories for four of the dances because I had danced them before and had formed emotional memories.

According to the metalearning book Limitless, association is the key to memory and to all of learning. In order to learn any new piece of information, it must be associated with something you already know. The more you know, the easier it is to make associations.

We are really good at recalling places because, as hunter-gatherers, we needed to remember where things were. There are two methods to memorize a Scottish dance choreography. The direct method is to imagine dancers traveling the paths to places in the set. The other method is to associate the dance formations with places in a story.

I was challenged to imagine a story for Sugar Candie, so I viewed the video and diagram in order to imagine traveling the paths. The other three dances, Granville Market, The Lea Rig and The Duke of Atholl's Reel, inspired stories that form strong memories.

The tables show the stories I devised for the formations. My stories illustrate the value of already knowing something, by recalling parts of other dances I know:
The Reel of the Royal Scots and The Deil amang the Tailors.

Imagining the rhythmic music together with moving along the path strengthens memory. It would be interesting to test whether specific tunes trigger path memories. For example, the energetic music for Da Rain Dancin' evokes path memory: "1s shoot down below 3s, cast up round 3s to second place own side, 2s+1s+3s set & cross RH ..."

Scottish Country Dancing Memory Skill
The Dancing Brain

Social Dancing -- Brief Only -- Online

by Tom and Liza Halpenny

Dance list for eight programs

Liza and Tom sure have enjoyed visiting with many of you online during the past five months of COVID-19 pandemic. We have operated eight online Zoom meetings with Scottish dancing using the Social Dancing - Brief Only format with videos and cribs circulated ahead of time. The main purpose is to visit with our fellow dancers, and to share excellent Scottish dance music to accompany any level of participation that dancers desire.

Dances are mostly easy or well-known, and are selected from past SWWS Branch dance programs or the RSCDS Summer Celebration. Social Dancing programs repeat dances, so the eight programs, with nine dances each, have used a total of 36 distinct dances. Since we are not dancing in full sets, we generally do dances four times instead of eight times through. Some dancers just watch and listen to music, some dance each time as 1st couple, some dance from all positions, and some try the opposite gender role. (Dancers could even substitute their favorite jig, reel, or strathspey – and it wouldn’t mess up anyone!). Dancing by yourself or with one other person gives practice in imagining your position relative to the other dancers in the set. In between dances there is light conversation and jokes – a great opportunity to catch up with each other.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing into the Fall, Social Dancing - Brief Only might be the only local Scottish dancing opportunity we have for a while. The plan is to continue with online dancing meetings as long as is practical, until we return to in-person dancing. We look forward to your company!

Manager Musings

by Linda Mae Dennis

This lovely remembrance is reproduced from the March/April, 2008 issue of the Scottish Country Dancer. ~Ed.

So -- we were at the Day of Dance for Heart Health in February and I was so pleased, so gratified, upon watching all the demonstrations of all the other kinds of dancing, that I am a Scottish Country Dancer.

I know a lot of this has to do with the music. I think I could listen to Scottish music (and I am especially fond of fiddle and piano music) to the exclusion of all other kinds of music. Of course I wouldn't, but the prospect of listening to rock music with a driving beat while you step up on a box, step down off the box, step up on a box, step down off the box, while pumping your arms, sends me running back to dance class.

And our dancing is never boring or repetitive, but is infinitely interesting. Although there are figures that we understand and can execute, they are different depending upon what other figures are placed around them. And as soon as you think you have mastered one thing, another thing appears that needs to be mastered -- all the time, of course, working to improve or even perfect the footwork.

I have just dragged myself out of bed after attending the Portland Workshop and Ball. What a blast! What a gift to be able to spend a whole day listening to fabulous music, examining the complexities of Scottish Country Dancing, and enjoying the company of really wonderful, warm-hearted and brilliant people. Yes, my feet still hurt. But better still, my cheek muscles are sore from smiling so much, and the smiley lines around my eyes are a bit deeper.

Scottish Country Dancing is just the BEST.

Calendar of Events

Sep 8: Social Dancing Brief Only, online
Led by Tom and Liza, 7:30 pm.
Sep 14: Art Walk, in Tualatin
Led by Don.
Sep 18: Friday Variety Hour, online
Led by Linda Mae.
Sep 22: First Day of Autumn
Save the Date!
Sep 22: Skyview High School track walk
Group walk at Skyview High School track (Vancouver), led by Rebecca
Sep 28: Portland Virtual Session
Led by Mel and Linda Mae
Oct 6: Daytime Hike
Led by Lisa. (More details by email.)
Oct 11: Architectural Treasure Hunt
An architectural treasure hunt walk in Portland, led by Mel. 2:00 pm.
Oct 16: Friday Variety Hour, online
Led by Linda Mae
Oct 20: Social Dancing Brief Only, online
Led by Tom and Liza, 7:30 pm.
Oct 26: Portland Virtual Session
Leaders TBD.

Jokes about white sugar are rare; jokes about brown sugar... demerara
Olaf Falafel

  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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