The Scottish Country Dancer
Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Southwest Washington State Branch
Volume 38 #3
November/December 2021

Articles in This Issue


From the Chair

by John Shaw

Bars and pubs may have their Happy Hours, but I found something that works a lot faster. I encountered it again just the other day -- I put the StringFire! CD in the player and within the first two bars of the first set, my mood was majorly altered. All the fun, joy, and "controlled abandon" of dances, dancers, and bands past came flooding back. The air was alive with the electrifiying drive of the fiddles -- Yes, I do remember!

The good news, of course, is that is certainly not the only recording or the only group that has that magical power. Everyone has their favorites -- I have dozens myself -- from surging strathspeys and beautiful airs to deceptively languid jigs to driving reels. We have such a rich environment of music and dance in our past...

... And in our future -- and maybe in a future nearer than we think. In this issue one of our dancers describes a recent road trip taken in search of Scottish Country Dancing. It presents some examples of how we might gently approach the process of safely reopening our classes and dances.

And just so you know, the SWWS Branch Board is tentatively working towards hosting our April 2022 Dinner Dance. It used to be that putting on such an event involved "a lot of moving parts". Now, however, the problem seems to be we have a lot of parts, but they haven't moved in a year and half! So the Board is moving forward gently, exploring what things still work, and which will need improvisation, all the while keeping in mind how things can be done safely. All agreements are tentative, subject to the conditions as they exist when we get there. Stay tuned!

Dancing During a Pendemic, or How Not to Cross the Canadian Border

by Akana Ma

You're doomed as soon as you think you know it all. That was what my mentor in a former job told me over and over again. I was young and skeptical at the time, but of course he was right. Did I learn my lesson? Well, not completely...

This is a tale about finding a respite of joy during the pandemic and the travails to find it.

Like so many, Sydney and I have been sequestered on our property for nearly the entire pandemic. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am still too busy with business that keeps me glued to a computer, and Sydney has more work than one human can do in a lifetime with managing our property... and me.

We've generally been very vigilant about maintaining our health during the pandemic, but with an apparent downturn in covid cases and an easing of travel restrictions, we decided to strike out on a road trip in September to find some Scottish Country Dancing that wasn't via a computer monitor. Not that everyone worldwide who has tried to keep the dance community connected shouldn't be praised for their efforts, but I just don't find virtual dancing that fulfilling. I have supported and followed all the protocols to keep the virus at bay, with the exception of injecting bleach and few other dubious "remedies," but I thought at the time the conditions were fine for a bit more safe social contact.

The question for us was where to find Scottish Country Dancing where we'd feel safe. So, it was with some trepidation that Sydney and I set out for a long drive and holiday in Victoria, BC - our first significant trip of any kind "off campus" since hunkering down 19 months ago.

But first, how to get there. Well, know before you go. Sounds simple right? Of course, I thought, as someone who reads and interprets convoluted federal regulations every day for a living, this should be easy to figure out. So, I looked up Canada's conditions necessary to cross the border, and indeed, U.S. residents were recently allowed to travel north in August 2021. Check. We were fully vaccinated. Check. As required for land travel, I had also registered and uploaded our passport and travel itinerary into ArriveCan, the Canadian travel registry. Check. Lastly, we had arranged to get covid tests through our doctor's office, and results would be available within 72 hours of our crossing the border. Check.

Well, that's where things went haywire. For all you prospective venturers up north, be aware that your covid test must be conducted within 72 hours of your border crossing. If your test results are dated within 72 hours (which I thought was what the regulations meant), you will be turned away at the border, probably with a frown by an unrelenting Canadian Customs officer, as were we. To add insult to injury, it didn't matter that we had just driven 6 hours from Troutdale, Oregon to the Blaine, Washington crossing.

After berating myself for misreading the regulations, and many phone calls to local pharmacies to no avail, we finally decided our only option on a cold, rainy, Sunday was to drive 3 hours south to Seattle airport to see if we could schedule a covid test on Monday.

Needing a bit of luck, we found some in the form of an express covid testing station that was still open at 5pm on a Sunday at the airport. Even better, they took us as walk-ins, and we got our negative test results in an hour, but at a hefty price. Given the possibilities, we considered ourselves fortunate, and headed back north.

As for dancing, (I know you thought I'd never get to it), we headed for Victoria on Vancouver Island. And yes, the dancing was glorious! In Victoria, BC, the local SCD branch has restarted classes and dances. Syd and I were elated to be invited to join any of their 5 classes held each week. Being the zealots that we are, we went to 6 classes over the span of 8 days in Victoria. I thought they mitigated the risk of virus infection very well by instituting measures that we have all discussed previously - vaccination and masking. All attendees of classes were required to show proof of vaccination and all needed to wear masks over nose and mouth the entire time in the dance hall, unless drinking water. Everyone knew the ground rules and everyone abided by them in all classes without exception.....and everything went quite smoothly.....and it was immensely enjoyable.

I came to dancing later in life, but I think it's never too late. And for me, the pandemic has not diminished my newfound love of Scottish Country Dancing. It has been a difficult hiatus, but it confirms for me how comforting and enjoyable the act of simple dance can be. To share a momentary gaze at your partner or the person opposite you - to feel the touch of another person's hand - to see and feel the synchronicity of dancers covering in formation - to hear a beautiful reel, jig, or strathspey informing your step and cadence - these are all aspects of Scottish Country Dancing that I find immensely rewarding.

To be sure, I am not able to do or appreciate all of what dancing offers, but I look forward to our return to the dance floor and the opportunity to try once more.

RSCDS Virtual Dance Display - Tom's Learning Process

by Tom Halpenny
Instructional video - Abigail Brown
Instructional video - Malin Altenmüller
Tom's final video after learning and practising

I registered to participate in the RSCDS Virtual Dance Display sponsored by the RSCDS Youth Services Committee. I received written and video instructions and the music track for the display of Jig-Strathspey-Reel dances (with approximate duration 2:22), learned and practised the choreography, and I recorded my dancing to send back for inclusion in the video collage project.

I am interested to study how the brain learns dancing skills. This is a good exercise to test my learning process.
I read the written instructions and viewed the video instructions facing toward the camera and away from the camera . The video instructions were more intuitive, especially viewing from behind with dancer view, and it helped my comprehension to redraw the written diagram with positions rotated 180 degrees to show the dancer view. Following the video and listening to the music helped me learn the choreography. It helped to imagine three separate Jig-Strathspey-Reel dances.

I had several short practice sessions over the course of one day with spaced repetition, for gaining the feeling of dancing to music and visualizing the patterns until I could dance the display all the way through. I was eventually able to change from viewing the video from the back to viewing the video from the front, and then by listening to the music track only, played by Luke Brady.

The following day I recorded my dancing with a Zoom meeting on my laptop PC. I recorded five mostly-successful runs plus a few runs with some memory lapses.
Viewing my video reminded me of opportunities to improve my dancing technique, like turnout.

Thanks to RSCDS Youth Services Committee leaders Philippa McKee, Abigail Brown and Malin Altenmüller for imagining and producing the Virtual Dance Display.

RSCDS Virtual Dance Display

Laws of SCD, Courtesy of TACTalk, June 2010

by Bob Anglin

[Reprinted from the November/December 2011 issue of The Scottish Country Dancer. ~Ed.]

Law of Placement:

When you are in second place, hoping to watch once, second couple is the dancing couple. When you manage to be in fourth place, it's a four couple dance and first and fourth couples begin. If you forget how the dance begins you are top couple.

Law of Briefings:

When you need a good briefing to clarify the dance in your mind,

a) the briefing will be especially confusing, or b) the MC will say there is no need for a briefing because everyone knows the dance.

Dave's Discovery:

The person who just briefed the dance cannot be relied upon to know how it goes.

Phyllis's Theory:

If the teacher didn't see it, it didn't happen.

Anonymous Observation:

When there are two or more teachers in a set, the dance will break down.

Law of Set Drift:

Sets will drift sideways toward the walls either because of the magnetic attraction or the natural slope of the dance floors.

Fran's Rule:

If the teacher has just commented on how well everyone is dancing, you will go wrong in the reel.

McMillan's Axiom of Memory Conservation:

Formations that are seldom done or dances that are rarely danced are automatically deleted from one's mental hard drive after six months and have to be reinstalled.

Bob's Rule of Setting:

When the intermission has been long, the next dance will have twelve bars of setting.

Calendar of Events

Feb 5: Déjà Vu Scottish Dance, Groundhog Day
Save the date!

April 30, 2022: Maybe a Dinner Dance!
Yes, we are dreaming of a Dinner Dance in the Spring! Dreaming, thinking about it, and making little plans, to be ready if the opportunity presents itself.

Keep checking back -- we will post information as it becomes definite!

Day 121 of the lockdown at home and the dog is looking at me like, "See? this is why I chew the furniture!"

  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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