Accurate dance descriptions.

Anselm Lingnau

Message 62138 · 21 Dec 2011 10:30:36 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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Robert Lambie wrote:

> The RSCDS are not just teaching children, but many classes in UK are for
> adults. They should be able to comprehend that there are different ways of
> dancing that are equally valid, such as the shoulder passing in Mairi's
> Wedding.

I don't want to go over this again and again, but Mairi's Wedding is an
almost-contemporary dance, and we are fortunate enough to be privy to its
author's express views as to how the dance *should* be danced. (With many
other dances we do not have that luxury.) This ought to make it very clear –
at least to people who are able to read – that the two obvious variants are
*not* »equally valid«, and anyone who teaches them as such is either glaringly
ignorant about the subject at hand or else deliberately lying to their
students. I personally would not welcome a teacher who was either glaringly
ignorant about the subject at hand or deliberately lying to me, and nearly
thirty years' experience of teaching adults various subjects including but not
limited to SCD suggests to me that most other people feel likewise.

Which is not to say that dancers should not be taught that (a) with many
dances, variants do exist and what the main ones are, and that (b) in social
dancing they are free to improvise *in the right circumstances*, i.e., if they
don't impinge on others' enjoyment of the dance. In this context the right-
shoulder passes in Mairi's wedding are fairly innocuous – I would have more of
an issue with, say, the second corners in The Irish Rover putting in an
elaborate dap greeting in the middle of the set while the dancing couple are
cooling their heels in the sidelines waiting to be able to do their left-hand
turn in order to get into the reels of three on time. (This is not a
hypothetical example.)

This brings us back to the actual subject of the thread, namely that to be
able to teach the »official« version of a dance as well as the common
variants, a teacher must be aware of what the »official« version actually
*is*, rather than having to pick from among a number of apparently equally
likely candidates with no further guidance (which is arguably how many of the
common »variants« of dances have arisen in the first place). Hence the need
for accurate dance descriptions.

Finally, do consider that SCD is no longer a Scottish thing (and hasn't been
for a while), so what »the Scots« do or don't do isn't really that important
anymore in the grand scheme. A large part of the enjoyment of SCD stems from
the fact that it is actually standardised to a much greater degree than other
dance forms, and that this standardisation makes it possible for dancers from
all over the world to enjoy dancing together without first having to debate
which »common variant« of a dance they are going to do, or for you to travel
to Japan or Canada without having to learn about the special ways various
popular dances are done in those corners of the globe. This property is much
too important to sacrifice out of a misguided notion of »individuality«.

> Here in Scotland, they would certainly fnd out that the official
> way (left shoulder) is a very rare indeed. […] One thing is certain, and
> that is that Scots do not seem to like being made to be all the same; they
> seem to value individuality.

The problem with the right-shoulder pass in Mairi's Wedding is that, in my
experience at least, many dancers do not even *know* that according to the
author of the dance there ought to be a left-shoulder pass (their teachers
having been either ignorant of the fact or lying to them). This makes the
right-shoulder pass not an improvisational option for mature individuals, to
be embraced or not at one time or another based on informed choice, but a dumb
falsehood for sheep, drummed into them by rote learning without any actual
knowledge or consideration. Can't you see the contradiction here? Your oh-so-
individual Scots are *all the same*, but the wrong way round. It is the
precise opposite of what you seem to be advocating.

Anselm
--
Anselm Lingnau, Mainz/Mayence, Germany ................. xxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx.xxx
Terrorism is not a leading cause of death in the world. If we want to save
lives, far better to divert a small portion of the world's counterterrorism
budgets to mosquito netting.
-- Charles Kurzman, »Why Is It So Hard To Find A Suicide Bomber These Days?«

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