Who says don't touch? (was Special reels)

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Message 17657 · 14 Jun 1999 02:19:50 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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>[Jean Milligan, WJD p66:]
>"In all formations it is advisable to give hands freely and wherever
>possible, as not only is it very helpful, but it adds greatly to the social
>feeling of the dance. It also helps to maintain the shape of the set and to
>keep the lines straight."

>Being pedantic myself for the moment, the context of the quotation is in
>the middle of talking about Crossing over Using Four Steps - there is a
>description of the movement before it and the diagrams after.

I definitely interpreted the statement as an aside, not related to the
context in which it was placed. I have always thought that it was an odd
place for it to appear since it seems to have nothing to do with the
surrounding discussion. There is no other supporting text for the
statement, so I believe it stands on its own, without hidden qualifiers or

>If one suggests that hands should be taken in reels, then the question is
>'which reels?'. Should we make a special case for 'mirror' reels of 3? What
>about reels of 4? What about reels of 3 across the dance? I don't think one
>can take hands in parallel reels of 3 :-).

Actually, I do not suggest "that hands should be taken in [mirror] reels".
What I object to is the claim that "hands should NOT be taken in reels" and
other formations such as figures of 8. I don't think that doing it or not
doing it should be programmed.

Giving of hands should be a natural action. If it distorts a formation or
requires the dancers to go to extraordinary measure to take hands, then it
clearly does not make sense. Giving hands is not an imperative. Neither
should not giving hands be an imperative.

>Someone else has said that reels should be danced on the side-lines and, to
>quote from 'Won't you join the dance' page 40 - 'Reels of Three may be done
>at the sides of the dance or across the dance'.

If the dancers are too far apart, it does not make sense to give hands.

>Oberdan, if you set such store on page 66 of WYJTD, what about page 91,
>where, when talking about 'Gates of Edinburgh' JM says '...The dancing
>couples must almost touch as they lead up or down to pass through the
>middle of the eight, and this is made much easier and more clear if couples
>are allowed at practice to join hands...'?

Actually, this is quite instructive...

These are mirror reels on the sides, with 1st couple crossing down to the
other sides on bars 1 and 9. These reels are a lot of fun and in their
excitement, the dancers often finish them too early. Although giving hands
in the reels doesn't guarantee that they will be phrased well, it does tend
to slow things down a bit and tends to make the loops a bit fatter, so the
dancers have a longer tracks to dance. So in addition to the social aspect,
giving hands helps improve the phrasing.

As for the statement on page 91, I do not regard it as one of Miss
Milligan's gems of wisdom. We know that she was not completely consistent
throughout her teaching career. Much of what she said was right on the
mark. I believe some of what she said missed the mark entirely. The above
statement is actually inconsistent with itself. To me "almost touch"
suggest brushing shoulder-to-shoulder. If the point is to come THAT close
to your partner in the other reel, giving hands prevents it because the
hands and arms are in the way.

>I prefer not to take hands in mirror reels unless the instructions so
>specify. If I am dancing in a wide and long set, then taking hands means
>that I have to vary the track that I believe is the correct one for the
>dance. I find it much better to phrase the reels in conjunction with my
>partner and the other dancers, only metaphorically taking hands as we
>approach from the ends of the set. To me, that is much more satisfying.

Now this is a much better reason for not giving hands than "somebody told
me it wasn't correct". The wide-and-long-set situation you describe is one
for which I would also choose not to give hands.

>If other people find it more satisfying to dance by taking hands and feel
>that it enhances the social aspect of the dance, then go for it! But dont
>spoil the shape of the set or the phrasing of the dance just so that you
>can grab that other person's hand!

Yes, and right-on!

>I don't think I am a grumpy, fuddy-duddy nay-sayer. Nor do I look
>scornfully down my nose at other people's giving hands here or there, so I
>don't think there is anything wrong with my nose.

Yours are not the words of a grumpy fuddy-duddy, and it appears to me that
your nose is just fine.

Cheers, Oberdan.

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