Elitism

Bob McLatchie

Message 43762 · 21 Jan 2006 17:13:12 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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Hi Everybody.

I had an experience last night that I thought was relevant to the
(probably ongoing) discussion surrounding Pia's correspondence with The
Scotsman and possibly to the discussion about demo teams. Please bear
with a long post as this will take some time to explain.

One of the SCD Groups I dance with had been invited to take part in a
Burns' Night Ceilidh organised by the Oxford Caledonian Pipes and Drums.
We were asked to "demonstrate Scottish dancing and invite the audience
to join in." There was also some so-called "Community Dancing" called by
a very able MC which featured ceilidh dances from both Scottish and
English CD repertoires. The Pipe Band played two sets of lovely tunes
and we had tatties, neeps and haggis.

First, the general atmosphere was warm and friendly; like an extended
(300 person) family party with all ages from 5 to 70 plus. So even
though the MC introduced our group as coming "to show the rest of us how
to dance properly," it was said with a laugh and there was no feeling of
a great big barrier (or plate glass window) being erected between us and
the audience. We did Shiftin' Bobbins 3x, then we each (14 of us) got
partners from the audience to do a couple of simple dances. We finished
off this set with a demo of Wild Geese.

There was no problem whatsoever in getting members of the audience to
join in either then, or later when we did a similar session, starting
with a demo of Pelorus Jack, two dances with the audience, finishing
with a demo of The Montgomeries' Rant. Those that did join us showed
every sign of enjoying every minute of it too, as we all did.

If we want to present SCD as a something anyone can enjoy doing rather
than a set of esoteric rituals for a snobbish ageing elite, there seem
to me to be two lessons to derive from what I thought was an example of
a successful breaking down of possible barriers - real or imagined. And
since I had little or nothing to do with organising our contribution to
the evening I am just putting down my own thoughts on the experience
rather than trying to boast that I know best how to do this.

First, we chose to demo relatively simple dances so that it would not
look too intimidating i.e. impossible for others to emulate. (We are not
a polished demo team anyway - in our club we do not have such a thing -
so no doubt some in the audience thought they could do just as well! We
did get appreciative appraisals from knowledgeable members of the
audience too, though.) No Strathspeys either, for similar reasons.

Our caller, being aware of the problems inexperienced dancers face when
asked to repeat a dance from second place, had carefully chosen or
modified the audience participation dances to be 4x through. So the last
8 bars of The Isle of Skye, for example, were changed to 1s leading
everyone to the bottom, making an arch for 2s, 3s and 4s to dance
through. We had growing numbers of couples participating as the evening
progressed, starting with 16 couples for Isle of Skye to about 30
couples for our most popular participation dance, Borrowdale Exchange.
So the second lesson seems to be that you have to set realistic goals
when you invite first timers to join in. Above all it has to be a fun
experience for all, no great stress and strain just enjoyment.

Like many other SCDers I get a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction
from doing dances to the best of my ability in sets where everyone knows
exactly what to do - and from the more challenging of the dances in our
extensive repertoire. The kind of elitism that effectively says simple
dances are not "proper SCD" or, because people have not had the
opportunity to develop the footwork or timing skills to pick up more
complicated dances quickly, that they are not doing "proper SCD," sets
up artificial barriers for newcomers. There must be a smooth continuum
from easy to advanced. If our preferred form of dancing is to survive
and grow, we must always be encouraging others to join us in the more
difficult aspects - not for snobbish reasons but because there is even
more fun and satisfaction to be had from mastering those difficulties.

Regards

Bob
Oxfordshire, England

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