|Volume 37 #5||March/April 2021|
Scottish dancers in Washington and Oregon tuned in online for the fourth annual Déjà Vu Scottish Dance with theme Goundhog Day to enjoy energetic dancing music played live by Cynthia Soohoo on piano and Nathaniel Soohoo-Hui on fiddle. In case you missed it or would like to watch the February 6, 2021 dance, we can view the recording.
The Déjà Vu dance online version has four dances in the first half, and we repeat the same four dances that are really fun to dance a second time with more confidence! The dance was patterned on the Groundhog Day movie in which TV weatherman Phil Connors relives Groundhog Day over and over. Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil was on hand to prognosticate when spring is coming.
Cynthia observed that the last time the SWWS Branch had organized a Scottish dance with live music was the Déjà Vu dance one year ago. This year had 39 people attend online to dance or watch and enjoy the fabulous music, compared with an average 26 people during previous years. Liza Halpenny taught the dances in the January Social Dancing class. The Déjà Vu dance format is unique in the Scottish dance world ... so far.
Many thanks to folks for their efforts to put on the Groundhog Day - Déjà Vu dance. Lisa Scott and Rebecca Mintz briefed the dances. Liza and Tom Halpenny were the emcee and dance chairs. Ken Heinemann and Mel Whitson tirelessly assisted the musicians to produce good-quality sound over Zoom. See you next year ... again.
Are Scottish country dance formations a verb or a noun? The Manual of Scottish Country Dancing doesn't specifically address the question, however the Standard Terminology for use in the description of Scottish Country Dances document gives a hint with the word dance preceding a majority of formations but is omitted for some formations.
The table lists SCD formations which are (mostly) referenced in Standard Terminology. Formations like Set are verbs which denote an action, while other formations like Ladies' Chain are nouns that denote a movement and are preceded by the verb dance in order to indicate an action.
A Scottish dance teacher who calls or briefs the formations of a dance might omit the dance verb or replace it with another descriptive verb, for example, circle six hands round and back.
The related Square Dance form is danced with a caller commanding the calls real time in order to guide dancers through the choreography. The spoken call names are interpreted as verb actions with speaking and dancing phrased in time with the music. A majority of calls like Ladies Chain denote an action, and other calls with nondescriptive names like Flutterwheel are also interpreted as actions.
We can read Scottish and Square Dancers Are Friends for an introductory comparison of the related dance forms.
Tom's article Scottish Country Dance Formations - Verb or Noun? "struck a chord" with me in a specific (as opposed to general) way: how I hear and process a briefing. I don't know whether this affects others this way, but this is something that works (or doesn't work) for me.
As most of us know, it is good not to be distracted during a dance brief. During a brief, I focus on the words, turning the words into images of figures, formations, and dancing patterns. Speed in comprehension is key, and a distraction at the wrong moment can leave a 4 or 8 bar hole in my picture of the dance that is about to start. You know the "deer in the headlights" feeling.
During a brief, the Briefer's instructions may at times indicate the name of a figure (e.g., Rights and Lefts, Ladies' Chain), while at other times the instructions may actually indicate the specific steps, turns, or other actions the dancers need to do (e.g., "shoot down the middle, cast up around third couple into second place, and all set"). I've found that for my peace of mind, I need to be able to discern quickly at each point whether the brief is naming a figure or describing some action, and for me, noun versus verb is an important part of that recognition.
Now, the instruction, "shoot down the middle, cast up around third couple, into second place, and all set", starts with a verb, so I can quickly recognize it as the description of an action, and it is important to remember the exact sequence described. The "all set" comes after the cast up to second place -- very important! On the other hand, "Rights and Lefts" does not start with verb, so very quickly I can identify it as the name of a figure and get that figure into my mental image of the dance. So far, so good -- I'm keeping up with the Briefer.
"Corner Pass and Turn" -- not a verb, so is a figure, got it! I'm still with the Briefer.
"Turn Corners and Partner" -- "turn" is a verb, we're describing action here, note the sequence: corners, then partner -- wait, that's only 6 bars! No, wait again, this is the name of a figure, where you "turn corner, partner, corner, partner" -- 8 bars! Oh-oh, I've missed the next 4 bars of the brief... And all because the Noun (name of the figure) started with a Verb.
[Reprinted from the September/October 2008 issue of The Scottish Country Dancer, for auld lang syne. ~Ed.]
A one-day SCD workshop, followed by a Dance is a full day of delight. A weekend SCD workshop in a fabulous setting is like a full vacation, restoring balance to your psyche that lasts for several weeks. The Seattle Branch sponsored Fort Worden weekend is just such a workshop, and with the fabulous weather included in this year's program, I'm sure those of us who attended will be buoyed on by our memories maybe even until next year!
Fort Worden is a former army barracks, turned into a state park. A group of us from Vancouver / Portland almost always makes the trip, staying together in the 100-year-old officers' housing that has been beautifully restored and updated. We carpool up on Friday, arriving in time to settle in and prepare an evening meal that we enjoy together before heading over to the Fairgrounds for the Friday dance.
Friday is fairly informal - meet and greet all those people you've met over the years and add a few new faces to your ever-growing collection of Scottish Country Dancers. The music, of course, is fabulous. The Fort Worden weekend has grown in popularity to the point where they can always afford really top notch musicians and teachers. The teachers are introduced on Friday evening, which gives them a chance to get to know a few people before classes start on Saturday.
At the party at the musicians' house after the Friday Dance, there is a ceilidh, which this year we all mostly missed due to the excitement provided by our own housemate and long-time Vancouver dancer who shall remain nameless (but whose initials are Susan Shaw). Susan went upstairs to take a relaxing bath after the Dance. She got the water turned on okay, but was unable to turn it off! We all heard a panicked Susan request help from John, and then the fun began.
The mechanically inclined ran up the stairs with pots from the kitchen for bailing [because the drain was slower than the spigot!] and tried to get the water turned off. Another group of us looked up phone numbers and eventually contacted the Park Rangers, and another group ran over to the party house to recruit additional help. Before long there were about 10 people in the upstairs bathroom working on the problem and another 10 downstairs discussing it. We got the water turned off just as the Rangers arrived. I'm pretty sure Susan didn't get relaxed at all that evening.
Saturday we all packed up our shoes and went off in different directions to classes. There were two morning sessions and one afternoon session for classes, and four wonderful teachers. There were lots of classes to choose from - something for everyone. Unfortunately, with four teachers and only three sessions, one of the teachers had to be left off everyone's schedule.
After classes are over there's a nice afternoon break. Some people take naps; some sit and chat about the events of the day. I traditionally walk over to the beach, as Fort Worden fronts Puget Sound, and soak my feet in the seriously cold water. Because the weather was so nice this time the beach was fairly well populated, and the sand was very warm and gave a nice foot massage as we walked on it. The water was predictably icy and the in-, out-, in-, out-, proved very therapeutic.
Back to the house for another lovely dinner shared with good friends, and then off to the Ball - a rather formal affair with a champagne (or cider) reception, sparkling, shiny and rustling skirts, and colorful kilts, all in a blur of activity. That, of course, and the happy faces anticipating the fun about to begin. And then it was over before we knew it. The music was excellent, the excitement and fun contagious.
Back to the house again, with all our frothy and bubbling housemates to relive the evening, ice down our throbbing feet, and wind down enough to get some rest. Sunday comes early at Fort Worden.
Sunday morning we have to try to keep our exhausted wits about us long enough to collect our scattered belongings, get them packed up, and vacate the house before we go off to the last class of the weekend. The class on Sunday morning is taught "tag team" by each of the teachers. It has a softer feel to it than the Saturday classes. Hugs and smiles are exchanged as people depart to catch a ferry or get started on their journey home. Finally, we get into our car and get on the road. Finally, we can feel in our faces the workout we got in our smiling muscles. And the music plays on in our heads.
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