Two chords - a question

simon scott

Message 44768 · 20 Mar 2006 17:36:30 · Variable-width font · Whole thread

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One chord or two. Which will it be?

May I first say how much I have enjoyed, both dancing and teaching, many
of the newer dances in which the third and fourth couples begin on the
opposite side of the set. I say "opposite" side rather than "wrong"
side. The added variety, the altered progression and the mirror imaging
are indeed a delight. Many of them, of course, have been so cleverly
written by our very accomplished and renowned John Drewry and I join you
in thanking him for them, along with his many others.

I do however continue to be most concerned by what, I feel, is an
"unnecessary" need for two beginning chords to allow those couples to
change sides in order to start the dance. I don't think that either the
changing of places, or therefore, the second cord is at all needed. May
I explain my reasons why?

To use, if in fact we do, as our example and or our reference, the very
wonderful and very old strathspey "The Glasgow Highlanders" is, I think,
not at all valid.

The Glasgow Highlanders is not only a most elegant and classic dance but
it contains it's very own, and equally very unique, form of progression.
This progression is an ongoing and integral part of the dance. It is
not just a change of sides in order to start dancing. It is a special
feature of that particular dance which carries on, making its needed
adjustment, during each repetition, until the dance ends.

I have never considered the two chords at the beginning of "The Glasgow
Highlanders" to be for the purpose of changing positions. I rather
believe that the first chord is to acknowledge ones own partner, and
then, 'having made the change' to acknowledge the person you now face,
and with whom you are about to begin dancing the rights and lefts to
start this magnificent dance. When these two chords are played, with
sufficient time separation to properly make the second bow and curtsey,
a most gracious start is experienced. Most often these two chords are
played without sufficient space and the enjoyment of this feature is
sadly missed or maybe not even realized.

However, this feature is not the case in these newer dances to which I
refer. There is no need at all to acknowledge the same person twice.
Here, it is surely "only" a matter of a different "starting" position.
Many of our dances have varied starting positions. A square set for
instance or sets with three or five couples or any number of other
possible shapes that are not the standard set. Those dances don't have
two chords in order for us to adjust to a different shape, size or
configuration, away from the conventional four couple longwise set.

With the greatest respect for these new dances, and indeed for their
composers, I feel that the beginning would be far more elegant and
enjoyable with the dancers ready, in their appropriate starting place to
begin the dance, and to have "one" chord only. This would allow dancers
time to execute and enjoy a gracious bow and curtsey as their
acknowledgement to their chosen partner. Our acknowledgement should be
something that happens with 'meaningful grace' and with 'equal emphasis'
at both the beginning and end of every dance that we take part in.

I find it so unfortunately untidy and inelegant to quickly acknowledge
ones partner and then to rush across the set, particularly in reels and
jigs, in time for the first step of the dance. It has "no" worthwhile
reason. The second chord of music seems only to be a spacer and has no
dance movement to accompany it whatsoever.

At a social dance or at a ball, with live music, the band must be told
if any of these dances are on the program. The MC must then announce to
the assembled dancers how many chords will be played. THEN, as many of
these dances are very popular and are likely to be encored, yet another
decision and announcement must be made. Do the dancers stay where they
have obviously finished the dance and are suitably ready to repeat or do
they return to the other side to restart ? If it is live music I'm very
sure the MC will say "Stay where you are" and begin the encore with one
chord. If so, then why not the first time through, when the dance first
began ?

If recorded music is being used they either cross back again for the
encore or they ignore one of the chords. I'm not sure which one is
best. I only know that all this rather confusing and untidy mess can,
and should, be avoided.

When using recorded music for teaching, the dancers must be told by
their teacher whether the music to be used will or will not have two
chords. On other occasions a good piece of recorded music with two
chords may be difficult to use for an alternate dance that requires only

I would like us to avoid this kind of confusion and unnecessary "non
dance" movement which, I think, is for no apparent reason or gain at the
start of a wonderful dance.

"'Let's start the dance where the dance starts'

As these and maybe more delightful dances are used, and as new recorded
music comes out, now on DCs, I would seriously encourage us to drop the
two chords, both with live music and on any future recordings, in favour
of a simpler and far more elegant beginning with the dancers taking
their places on the floor where they will begin, and play music with one
"wonderful" chord.

By the use of two chords I feel we are setting an unfortunate precedent
for an unnecessary and inappropriate need. My comments, of course, are
directed as much, if not more, to musicians and composers, as they are
to the teachers and dancer. However, we as dancers are the ones who are
affected. Therefore, if you agree with me, we should be asking our
musicians and dance composers to consider, that in the best interest of
the dance, we start without this unnecessary changing of sides. It
will, I believe, add to the enjoyment as well as maintain the
appropriate elegance, if we start from the dance's starting place.

As has been evident over centuries, The Glasgow Highlanders itself being
an example, dance composers have and will continue to explore numerous
and innovative variations of both old and new formations, within this
ever living dance form. We are therefore always likely to dance in any
number of new and different patterns and shapes. Sometimes these may be
from new and alternate starting positions. It is very much my hope
that, through this evolving process, we will always do everything we can
to maintain the character of Scotland's national dance and music, to
contribute to the rich social enjoyment, but also to display the
wonderful elegance, poise and dignity that this fine dancing deserves.

I "love" the full rich sound of the chord. I "love" the thrill that the
bow and courtesy can have, as our mutual acknowledgement to one another
as partners. They both need and deserve our time and our attention to
their execution and duration. Don't let them be hurried because they
signify, in such a grand and gracious way ...


I talked with John Drewry some time ago and you will note that he no
longer suggest two chords in these type of dances.

Simon Scott

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