"Original Instructions"

Bruce Hamilton

Message 10586 · 4 Feb 1998 18:58:47 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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On Tue, 3 Feb 1998 15:21:30, Oberdan Otto <xxxxx@xxx.xxx> wrote:

>I feel strongly that the teacher should teach the dance as it is
>prescribed in the original written instructions.

Although Oberdan was talking about dances published fairly recently
and in relatively few different publications, I think it's time to
trot out my earlier reminder that "original instructions" is a
difficult concept to nail down:

Reposted from Feb 23, 1996:
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Various people have mentioned "the directions", or "the original
directions," in contexts which implied that these terms meant
something, and that such directions were obviously preferable to what
someone wrote down after watching the dance being taught or danced.

Depending on the dance, the someone, and who was teaching, I'll agree
that this is sometimes true. On the other hand, I'd like to play
devil's advocate for a bit.

For some traditional dances (i.e. dances done in many places in
Scotland since well before 1923, done slightly differently in each
place), there is no such thing as "the original directions." We can
then refer to "the published directions," that is, what the RSCDS has
published. However, that is in fact, "what someone wrote down after
watching the dance being taught or danced."

Even for those dances that have a devisor, the situation can get
equally murky. Consider the following, which is a composite of things
I have seen, but which does not represent any actual dance:
* Thomas Wilson devises a dance, X, and publishes it in 1810,
recommending a particular tune.
* After running it at several balls, he makes an improvement and
publishes the improved version in 1816 under the same name,
recommending the same tune.
* Miss Milligan picks up the 1816 version, can't find Wilson's tune,
substitutes one she likes better. Teaches X (brilliantly) at
St. Andrews, making adjustments and interpretations as needed. The
dance works splendidly, and several people write it down.
* The RSCDS Publications Committee picks up the dance. They publish
it in 1953, with Miss Milligan's choice of tune, but without the
interpretations she made on the spot at St. Andrews.
* It doesn't work very well, and languishes.
* The TAC, noticing that it doesn't work, makes a different set of
interpretations and adjustments, and publishes them in TAC notes.
* The RSCDS Publications Committee likes those changes, and
re-publishes the dance, with the changes, in 1985.
* In 1994, a teacher asks people who might have seen Miss Milligan
teach X how they remember it. One of them still has her notes,
looks them up, and writes back to him. He teaches from those
notes.
* Someone else, seeing that the dance works that way, looks for the
tune Wilson recommended. She finds the tune, and uses that.

So...which are the "original directions?" Which are the "devisor's
notes?" What is "the published version?"
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Bruce Hamilton Hewlett-Packard Laboratories MS-4AD
Phone 650-857-2818 PO Box 10150, Palo Alto, CA 94303-0889
Fax 650-852-8092 xxxxx_xxxxxxxx@xxx.xx.xxx

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