Walking with turnout - historical perspectives

ReelLass

Message 2694 · 13 Oct 1995 05:49:02 · Variable-width font · Whole thread

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Norah Links:
<<
Presumably, since turnout was introduced and apparently considered important
in the French court (if I've followed our historical perspectives thread
correctly!), dancers were expected to use turnout. But were the dancing
masters as fussy about it with the "common folk" who might not have the time
to really work on it? And if they were, what did they do to teach people?
I don't expect anyone really knows the answers to these questions, but if
anyone
<<... wants to chime in:

_Traditional Dancing in Scotland_ by J.P. Flett & T.M. Flett (pub. Routledge
& Kegan Paul, 1964 - paperback edition in 1985). This book is a study of
pre-RSCDS Scottish country dancing practices. I have not even finished the
first chapter (I bought it in early September :-} = sheepish grin ). Despite
my laggardliness, it's a pretty readable book. This passage is interesting:

"... As one old man put it, 'ye had to be verra mannerly when lifting your
pairtner, no' likes as if ye were drawing a hog oot o' a ditch' (82). And as
another told us, 'after the dance you had to take your partner back to her
seat, no' throw her away like a hot potato' (64).
     In spite of such strictness, these old dancing-teachers do not seem to
have put great emphasis on technique. They regarded it as more important to
learn the figures of the dances, and, whilst they taught steps, they were not
greatly worried if their pupils did not attain great precision or polish.
 For instance, one of our informants who attended a good many of Mr Buck's
classes told us that 'Mr Buck wasna' fussy as long as you were there to take
y our place' (16). Again, Mr Blackley of Lanark taught the travelling step
for Country Dances as simply 'hop, step, close behind, and step'; he did not
specify the exact position in which the one foot closed behind the other 'and
was quite pleased if you got it behind, without worrying exactly where it
was'(8). The same was true of James Muir of Motherwell. When we asked his
son, Mr. Jack Muir, about this, Mr Muir pointed out that in the old days
there was no need to be very precise, for there were no medal tests or
competitions in ballroom dancing. Indeed, when one remembers that these
teachers frequently had classes of a hundred or more pupils, and that they
had at their disposal only a dozen or so evenings in which to teach a fair
selection of Reels, Country Dances, Square Dances, and Circle Dances (and
often step-dances as well), one could not have expected them to attempt to
aim at a high standard of individual performance in the steps."

Terry Barron
San Jose, CA

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