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Message 10557 · 4 Feb 1998 01:17:12 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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Jenn Sawin replies to Tony Szeto's query:

>>>In the Irish Rover by Cosh, on bar 12, at the end of the first half reel
>of four; beginning of the second half reel of four, does the dancing couple
>pass by right or left shoulders?<<
>(sorry, I couldn't resist that one... I was taught this should be long way
>'round, in contrast to Mairi's Wedding)

Jenn, you are taunting us with that cryptic "Yes"!

I am frustrated right now because I can't lay my hands on my copy of Cosh's
22+2. However I do know that Mairi's Wedding is an explicit left shoulder
pass. In a much earlier thread on the subject of Mairi's Wedding, somebody
quoted Cosh (when asked about which shoulder to pass in Mairi's Wedding) to
the effect that a right shoulder reel of 4 has a left shoulder pass in the
middle and that a diagonal reel of 4 should be no different.

Putting these two things together, I surmise that the instructions for
Irish Rover (also a Cosh dance from the same publication) probably indicate
an explicit left shoulder pass. If it is not explicit, Cosh's attitude
about Mairi's Wedding strongly suggests that he intended a left shoulder
pass [as the standard form of diagonal half reels of 4]. What teachers
teach and what dancers do appears to be a separate matter. In Irish Rover,
I teach it and dance it with a left shoulder pass.

The standard form of diagonal half reels of 4 is with a left shoulder pass
in the middle for the dancing couple just as it is a left shoulder pass for
the corners [right on the end, left in the middle]. If the instructions do
not explicitly say what shoulder, then it is a left shoulder. If the
choreographer wants dancing couple to do a right shoulder pass, then s/he
must tell you explicitly, because it is not the standard form.

In recent years, many new dancers are confused on this issue because most
of the more recently devised dances with cloverleaf reels have an explicit
right shoulder pass. I think some teachers have done their students a
disservice and added to the confusion by not emphasizing that the left
shoulder pass IS THE STANDARD FORM. Experienced dancers add to the
confusion of the newer dancers, who understandably think that the
experienced dancers are doing it correctly, when they take license and
dance the unprescribed form.

I have seen the uncertainty on dancers faces when meeting their partner for
the first pass in the middle of popular old standards like Mairi's Wedding,
Irish Rover and Polharrow Burn (all of which have a left shoulder pass). In
some cases that uncertainty has turned into a collision, sometimes with a
dancer knocked off of her feet. When that happens, I am angry that we have
done such a poor job educating our dancers.

We have had earlier threads on the virtues of right and left shoulder
passes and whether one is more fun, with no particular resolution. We have
also had some discussions about whether teachers and dancers should take
license with the dances.

I feel strongly that the teacher should teach the dance as it is prescribed
in the original written instructions. [If the teacher doesn't like the
dance that way, then s/he can teach a different dance]. A corollary is that
the teacher should be knowledgeable about the standard forms of formations.
It is also wise for the teacher to alert the dancers to variations they are
likely to see on the dance floor, but s/he should leave no uncertainty with
the dancers about what the correct form is. Experienced dancers should
demand to know the correct form of any dance and should be competent in
performing it correctly before putting in their own embellishments.
Confusion on the social dance floor owing to faulty memory is one thing,
but confusion owing to ignorance is unnecessary. If a dancer is not dancing
the standard form, it should be because of conscious choice, not ignorance.
There is no excuse for "Mary has a broken ankle because her partner didn't
know it was a left shoulder pass."


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