strathspey Archive: How Long a Beginner?

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How Long a Beginner?

Message 14658 · Ron Macnaughton · 19 Nov 1998 04:54:23 · Top

I had a discussion at our monthly dance about how long someone should
attend classes before participating in
social groups, general dances and major balls.

I my case (with two left feet and no two right arms, or at least usually the
wrong one) I went to social groups (where dances are walked) after 3 months,
general monthly dances after 5 months of dancing and major balls (sometimes
without briefing, but with lots of study) in a year and a half.

I've heard comments from some very experienced SCDers that most people
should spend about two years at classes before moving to higher levels of
dancing.

Maybe, but
(a) Don't we want to encourage as many new dancers as possible to progress
to the most enjoyable phases of dancing?
(b) Many experienced dancers (including me) make lots of mistakes,
sometimes more than beginners so the quality of dancing might not be that
reduced.
(c) I suspect most newer dancers would want to continue classes to improve
their skills anyway.

I ask for comments from teachers of beginners on how long should a keen new
dancer wait before dancing outside their classroom?

Ron Macnaughton
Bolton Ontario

How Long a Beginner?

Message 14659 · RuddBaron · 19 Nov 1998 05:04:14 · Top

I say get people involved as soon as possible. I attended my first formal ball
after about 2-3 months. Around here (Atlanta) the experienced dancers are very
helpful towards the beginners.

s/RBJ

How Long a Beginner?

Message 14662 · SnowshoeTS · 19 Nov 1998 06:01:24 · Top

Hi
I and the branch with which I dance have always felt that people should be
encouraged to dance when and where ever possible-It may be wise to
teach/advise beginning dancers to be wise/polite enough to ask a supportive
experienced dancer whether a dance is so advanced that his/her dancing would
mess things up for more experienced people or frustrating for a newer dancer.
I've always felt that the prigs who say"Beginners keep out" are not in tune
with the principles of SCD or of civilized society.Usually they are no where
near such good dancers as they think they are,either.
Kirk Bachler

How Long a Beginner?

Message 14664 · Genevieve Moore · 19 Nov 1998 06:42:40 · Top

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This may not be the input you wanted, but regarding beginners:

I certainly had no idea what I was getting into when I started dancing
nearly four years ago, and if 'classes' had been my only exposure to
SCD, I mightn't be dancing now. Not to disparage any of the wonderful
teachers to whom I am deeply indebted, but there is something to be said
for the 'romance' of a ball. Being whisked around the room in a dream
of a dance, learning to appreciate the power of the music, meeting new
people, seeing friends from class in formal attire--these were some of
the enchanting aspects to me as a beginner. The clouds of innocent
oblivion were (and still are!) kindly lifted by more experienced dancers
with grace equal to that of the dance itself.

We all reciprocate the times when we couldn't tell our first corner from
the next set by helping dancers newer than ourselves. Why restrict the
glamorous side of SCD to experienced dancers? It can be overwhelming at
first, but seeing the jubilation possible beyond the classroom can be
great motivation to improve.

Genevieve Moore
Asheville, North Carolina, USA

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<HTML>
<BODY BGCOLOR="#FFFFFF">
This may not be the input you wanted, but regarding beginners:

<P>I certainly had no idea what I was getting into when I started dancing
nearly four years ago, and if 'classes' had been my only exposure to SCD,
I mightn't be dancing now.&nbsp; Not to disparage any of the <U>wonderful
</U>teachers to whom I am deeply indebted, but there is something to be
said for the 'romance'&nbsp; of a ball.&nbsp;&nbsp; Being whisked around
the room in a dream of a dance, learning to appreciate the power of the
music, meeting new people, seeing friends from class in formal attire--these
were some of the enchanting aspects to me as a beginner. The clouds of
innocent oblivion were (and still are!) kindly lifted by more experienced
dancers with grace equal to that of the dance itself.

<P>We all reciprocate the times when we couldn't tell our first corner
from the next set by helping dancers newer than ourselves.&nbsp; Why restrict
the glamorous side of SCD to experienced dancers?&nbsp; It can be overwhelming
at first, but seeing the jubilation possible beyond the classroom can be
great motivation to improve.
<BR>&nbsp;

<P>Genevieve Moore
<BR>Asheville, North Carolina, USA
</BODY>
</HTML>

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How Long a Beginner?

Message 14665 · Dianna Shipman · 19 Nov 1998 08:37:11 · Top

Hi - I recently started a group in Houston and am experimenting - new
dancers come every week - the first hour the new dancers are shown steps and
basic figures then the next two hours additional people show up and I go
through dances with them, I select several dances with similar figures and
do them progressively (i.e. first dance with promenade, second dance with an
allemande, third dance with both a promenade and an allemande) - everyone
helps everyone else and we're having a great time - when any social, ball,
etc. is coming up that people in the group want to attend then we include
dances from the program - I've had people after only five weeks successfully
go to socials (giving them a list marking which ones not to try). I am
also having guest teachers from other forms of dance come occasionally and
teach. A combination of inexperienced people (in any form of dance), new
Scottish dancers with prior experience in other forms of dance (who
generally pick it up VERY quickly) and dancers who have danced quite a while
make it possible for new people, in my opinion, to learn more quickly and
more thoroughly and have more fun.
Dianna Shipman
email: diannashipman@worldnet.att.net
-----Original Message-----
From: Ron Macnaughton <macnr@interlog.com>
To: strathspey@tm.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de
<strathspey@tm.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de>
Date: Wednesday, November 18, 1998 8:58 PM
Subject: How Long a Beginner?

>I had a discussion at our monthly dance about how long someone should
>attend classes before participating in
>social groups, general dances and major balls.
>
>I my case (with two left feet and no two right arms, or at least usually
the
>wrong one) I went to social groups (where dances are walked) after 3
months,
>general monthly dances after 5 months of dancing and major balls (sometimes
>without briefing, but with lots of study) in a year and a half.
>
>I've heard comments from some very experienced SCDers that most people
>should spend about two years at classes before moving to higher levels of
>dancing.
>
>Maybe, but
>(a) Don't we want to encourage as many new dancers as possible to progress
>to the most enjoyable phases of dancing?
>(b) Many experienced dancers (including me) make lots of mistakes,
>sometimes more than beginners so the quality of dancing might not be that
>reduced.
>(c) I suspect most newer dancers would want to continue classes to improve
>their skills anyway.
>
>I ask for comments from teachers of beginners on how long should a keen
new
>dancer wait before dancing outside their classroom?
>
>Ron Macnaughton
>Bolton Ontario
>
>
>--
>Ron Macnaughton <macnr@interlog.com>
>

How Long a Beginner?

Message 14670 · S.M. Gent · 19 Nov 1998 13:02:15 · Top

When I started dancing it was at social dances and not a class. My paren=
ts
would walk through all the dances they thought I could manage in the afte=
rnoon
and then we would go at night to the dance. Once I was seven and conside=
red old
enough to go to a class, I went, but still kept walking through the dance=
s
before we went anywhere.

I think a lot depends on the group you are dancing with. If they are rea=
sonably
experienced and willing to help then it is not a problem, but it they hav=
e
enopugh trouble getting themselves through the dances, never mind anyone =
else,
then I would suggest waiting a while.

A friend of mine just started dancing in September and attended his first=
social
last week on the basis that he could now do reels of three.

Se=F3naid

How Long a Beginner ?

Message 14672 · Peter Hastings · 19 Nov 1998 15:17:29 · Top

The university group I dance with most takes in a high proportion of new
folk in October each year. By the end of November they take part in dances
which have programmes slanted towards beginners. By the end of January the
Universirty SCD ball season is in full swing and they go to, and enjoy,
those. Many return overseas after a single academic year able, and
willing, to tackle anything.

The training regime is teaching (~1.5 hr) followed by social dancing for
both beginners and intermediates (~1hr) on a Thursday night with an
additional (~1.5 hr) on another night for beginners who want to progress
faster.

Support and tolerance by the experienced combined with a complete
disregard for what is impossible allows rapid progress to be made.

Peter Hastings
Royal Observatory
Edinburgh
(:

How Long a Beginner ?

Message 14673 · Freeman/Pavey · 19 Nov 1998 16:12:46 · Top

I agree with all the comments who say "go to as many dances, socials,
balls etc. as soon as possible.
I know for us we went to our first Ball a few months after we had
started dancing. We were bad dancers and only danced a few dances. But
we learnt so much about what we needed to know. That experience was
invaluable. Since, we have been recommended to go to some Balls "to
watch", a deplorable attitude I think. We don't go to watch, we practice
(in the living room with friends) the dances we think we can do, and
then go and dance and have fun.
SCD is about dancing not classes!

Susan,
Maberly, Ontario.
--
http://www.peterboro.net/~tay/
Scottish Country Dancing in Eastern Ontario

How Long a Beginner ?

Message 14676 · RuddBaron · 19 Nov 1998 19:16:51 · Top

One more thing...though the Atlanta Branch has its monthly socials, my class
also has a monthly social as well. This allows new dancers to experience the
more social aspects of dancing and meet some other people in the area without
the "pressure" of a major event.

s/RBJ

How Long a Beginner ?

Message 14687 · Norman Dahl · 20 Nov 1998 01:31:42 · Top

Peter Hastings wrote:

> Support and tolerance by the experienced combined with a complete
> disregard for what is impossible allows rapid progress to be made.
>

Not only in SCD...

-norman-

--
Norman Dahl n.dahl@citr.com.au
Documentation Team +61 7 3259 2261
CiTR Pty Ltd 339 Coronation Drive, Milton Qld 4064

How Long a Beginner ? --long reply

Message 14675 · briscoe · 19 Nov 1998 19:13:47 · Top

When I was a beginner (in San Francisco Branch) , my teacher encouraged me
to attend monthly parties after I'd been dancing for several months. She
gave me a copy of the program with the dances marked that I should
definitely do, those I should definitely watch, and the others we talked
about. It gave me confidence that I could go and have fun, and know which
dances I wasn't ready for and which would only frustrate me and the set.
Fortunately, the programs were usually designed so that even a new dancer
could do a reasonable number of dances.

We also routinely got together informally in someone's home and walked
through the dances for upcoming programs, either on our own, or with a
teacher's help. This doesn't all have to be done in class. In a real basic
class, you can't run it as a party prep class. Still, if you are
fortunate, there is consideration for basic dancers by programmers, so
there is something on local programs you can use to teach the basic folks
the things they need to know!

In the DC area, the formal balls are mostly associated with weekend events
which also have Friday evening informal dances which cost less to go to
than the balls, and to which tickets may be purchased separately. We've
found new dancers may be shy about going to the balls because of the
higher price for tickets, or because they don't have the formal "gear"
yet and don't want to look like beginners. The braver ones go to the
afternoon Ball Review classes, so they can tackle the evening program with
some confidence. The Argyle weekend (just past now) gives basic dancers a
discount, since we assume they would like to come but can't really do the
whole thing.

We have a Beginner's Tea Dance in the spring: dances are relatively easy,
it's less formal than a ball but fancier than a monthly social. The basic
class is responsible for the refreshments, and generally running the event
except for briefing and emceeing, so they learn not only the dances, but
the background stuff.

Ellie Briscoe

How Long a Beginner ? --long reply

Message 14681 · Priscilla M. Burrage · 19 Nov 1998 23:44:31 · Top

On Thu, 19 Nov 1998, Ellie Briscoe wrote an excellent synopsis of how to
get a beginner to stay with the dancing.

> . . . my teacher encouraged me to attend monthly parties
> . . . gave me a copy of the program with the dances marked that I should
> definitely do, those I should definitely watch, . .

> . . . the programs were usually designed so that even a new dancer
> could do a reasonable number of dances.

> . . . We (beginners) got together informally in someone's home and
walked through the dances for upcoming programs . . .

> . . . formal balls are mostly associated with weekend events
> (with) Friday evening informal dances which cost less to go to
> than the balls, and to which tickets may be purchased separately.

> We have a Beginner's . . . Dance: dances are relatively easy,
> it's less formal than a ball but fancier than a monthly social. The basic
> class is responsible for the refreshments, and generally running the event
> except for briefing and emceeing, so they learn not only the dances, but
> the background stuff.

What a wonderfu way to bring newcomers into the world social dancing
called SCD.

Two other suggestions: have a 'newcomers' welcoming committee,
responsible for ensuring that the individual walking into a class for the
first time has partners, has someone to talk to, and has a good time.

At any level of dancing, organize your ball-practise sessions so that the
teacher does not have to attend and run them. They usually need some free
time in their busy lives. Also, don't expect the class to cover all the
ball dances, repeating them until every knows them. Go off and learn them
by heart on your own.

We usually have to drive some distance to get to a ball. We would play
'twenty questions,' limiting the subjects to the ball program dances and
extras.

The game goes like this: I'm thinking of a dance.
1. Is it a strathspey? NO
2. Is it a reel? YES
3. Does it have reels of three in it? YES
4. Does it have an eight-bar progression figure in it? NO
5. Does it have eight-bar reels of three in it? YES
6. Across the dance? YES
7. Does it also have six-bar reels of three? YES
8. Is it Montgomeries' Rant? YES
I've won! And I didn't use all 20 questions.

No you haven't. You have to give a brief of the dance before you win.

We don't play this game any more. Today I asked my husband if I knew all
the dances on the program for Saturday, and he said, "Yes." (I will of
course forget them when I get up to dance.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Priscilla Burrage Vermont US
(pburrage@zoo.uvm.edu)

How Long a Beginner ? --long reply

Message 14682 · RuddBaron · 19 Nov 1998 23:54:22 · Top

In a message dated 11/19/98 4:45:22 PM Eastern Standard Time,
pburrage@zoo.uvm.edu writes:

<< Two other suggestions: have a 'newcomers' welcoming committee,
responsible for ensuring that the individual walking into a class for the
first time has partners, has someone to talk to, and has a good time. >>

--- This is a good suggestion. The beginners at workshop weekend here tend to
flock together because they know each other from the beginner class. This is a
mistake to me, in that they would likely be better off dancing with more
experienced dancers. But...at least they aren't standing around feeling like
no one wants anything to do with them! :)

How Long a Beginner ? --long reply

Message 14686 · Norman Dahl · 20 Nov 1998 01:30:25 · Top

Mel and Ellie Briscoe wrote:

> We also routinely got together informally in someone's home and walked
> through the dances for upcoming programs, ...

I recall that a group of about six of us went from the Cote d'Azur to
Montpellier for a ball organized by the charming though slightly formal
(exclusively French) SCD group there, who had a fondness for tricky dances.
We arranged to meet up at a picnic area on the autoroute, and walked through
the dances there - to the stunned amazement of picnicking French families;
the children, in particular, found it fascinating.

-norman-

--
Norman Dahl n.dahl@citr.com.au
Documentation Team +61 7 3259 2261
CiTR Pty Ltd 339 Coronation Drive, Milton Qld 4064

How Long a Beginner ? --long reply

Message 14688 · The_Healys · 20 Nov 1998 02:11:30 · Top

Norman Dahl wrote:
> We arranged to meet up at a picnic area on the autoroute, and
> walked through the dances there - to the stunned amazement of
> picnicking French families; the children, in particular, found it
> fascinating.

It's become an annual event, Norman, but, as so often in France,
the quality of the picnic food is beginning to be more important
than the dancing :)

Take care,
Jim Healy

How Long a Beginner?

Message 14684 · Michelle C. Nogales · 19 Nov 1998 23:58:45 · Top

I was attending monthly parties after two months, devising dances
after five months (mostly because it helped me to learn to read pillings,
but one or two weren't half bad), and attended my first Valentine's Ball
(no briefings, no pillings, quite formal) after six months - and was able
to dance about two-thirds of the program, including an all-female Reel of
the 51st which I will never forget! (Well, we weren't about to let
ourselves be left out. The gents could have all the attention if they
liked, but not all the fun!)
But then, I'd had half a year of very informal semi-SCD taught
through a Renaissance Re-enactment group, not to mention a few years of
modern dance and ballet as a youngster ( many years ago). And after my
fourth month of proper SCD classes I attended a second weekly session, at
which point I noticed the rate at which I learned accelerated quite
noticeably.
So perhaps how long one is a beginner can be influenced not only
by number of months or years and whatever native talent one may be
fortunate enough to possess; but also by what other dance experience one
has had, and by how many nights a week one dances. In my case both of
the latter made all the difference in the world.
Slainte,
Michelle
Dunsmuir Scottish Dancers
San Francisco Bay Area

How long a beginner?

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How Long a Beginner?

Message 14689 · Chris Collin · 20 Nov 1998 03:34:26 · Top

Ron Macnaughton wrote:
>
> I had a discussion at our monthly dance about how long someone should
> attend classes before participating in
> social groups, general dances and major balls.

The Ardbae SCD'ers in Ottawa invite beginners to attend the second
monthly social. Their teacher prepares a list of the dances that they
can do (with instructions), and the program is designed so that they can
dance at least half or more. They also learn the dances during class.
I am pleased to say that we had a goodly number of them attend our last
social, and that they did very well!

Our annual Ball is in January (Burn's Night). Beginners are not
encouraged to attend in their first year, but it is certainly allowed,
and we have a "spectator" ticket that allows 4 or so dances. We have
had beginners in the past who could dance most of the evening on a full
ticked successfully, although this is not altogether common. We also
co-host a Beginner's Ball (in April or May) with the Ottawa Branch
RSCDS, which is usually well attended. And fun!

We are lucky to have a school with two adjacent gymnasia. The beginners
dance by themselves for the first few weeks, but then they join the
intermediates half-way through the evening. They really enjoy this, and
we have found that they progress quite rapidly. Of course, some of you
who dance with groups with only one class will think this is no big
deal! But, we find that this mixing really adds to the social nature of
the dancing as well as improving quality.

Silver Anniversary/Silver Square

Message 14691 · Etienne Ozorak · 20 Nov 1998 03:59:15 · Top

Hello,

Can anyone tell me whether there is any music recommended for the above
two dances? (and yes, I did check Alan Paterson's fine database ...
perhaps the instructions say something?)

Hi! Ho! Silver!

With thanks,
Etienne

Silver Anniversary/Silver Square

Message 14692 · eclyde · 20 Nov 1998 04:59:32 · Top

Etienne:

About a year ago I put a request for information on the Silver Square on
Strathspey
and had a personal reply from Sally Grubb. The dance was written in honor
of
her 25th wedding anniversary by Ithaca Scottish Country Dance members
Terry Glasspool and Sue Hall. She said that Earl Geddes "has written
some music specially for it" and that she would dig it out for me,
but that it would take a while, since they were in the middle of house
renovations. If anyone in the Ithaca group is reading this, perhaps
they could find out more for you.

As I wrote at the time, the dance has proved very popular at the class
I was teaching in Ottawa. I use David Cunningham's Plantation Reel
set, and the dance and music seem to mesh together beautifully.

All the best.

Eric

Etienne Ozorak wrote:

> Hello,
>
> Can anyone tell me whether there is any music recommended for the above
> two dances? (and yes, I did check Alan Paterson's fine database ...
> perhaps the instructions say something?)
>
> Hi! Ho! Silver!
>
> With thanks,
> Etienne
>
> --
> Etienne Ozorak <etozorak@alleg.edu>

How Long a Beginner?

Message 14701 · Martin.Sheffield · 20 Nov 1998 19:27:05 · Top

How Long a Beginner?

A long time, if you stay in a "beginners' class" where the only model is
the teacher.
There is more imitative reinforcement of bad habits (seven bad models in
each set!) than positive reinforcement from the one teacher who cannot be
in everyone's line of sight the whole time.
Not so long, if a few beginners are surrounded by more experienced dancers,
who will allow them to get the feel for SCD fairly quickly, and provide
constant --but silent ! -- reminders of the way things should be done.

I have only once taught a weekend workshop with no experienced dancers at
all -- was it hard work! The kind of discipline we are used to (straight
lines, pointed toes, correct posture, timing, ...) was completely foreign
to the experience of these total beginners, and I found I was playing the
part of the strict school-teacher in order to get any results at all.
I was patient with them (just), they were patient with me, and by Sunday
afternoon, we were beginning to enjoy ourselves and performing dances that
looked the way they ought to (well, more or less).
But this was intensive training. With short weekly classes, there is ample
time for the particular characteristics of SCD to be forgotten.

Every year, I get beginners in my regular club nights, and, as long as we
don't allow them to dance together, they do not peturb the group, as most
of the more experienced dancers are ready give a helping hand, and the
spirit of cooperation remains dominant.

I also have a separate beginners' class, but only because I was asked to
run it in a local social centre. It's not my ideal, and the dancers there
are not making the progress they would surely make in a mixed-level class.

My wife, Genevieve, sometimes tells the story of her first visit to St
Andrews summer school (before which she had learnt some stepwork and that's
all), when the organizers arranged a special beginners' class just for her.
The other dancers were not beginners, and some of them did nothing to hide
their displeasure.
My wife felt uncomfortable and discouraged and wondered why she had come.
Luckily, by midweek, it was decided that the beginners class should be
dicontinued and she was placed with the intermediates. After which she
began to enjoy her dancing, progressed, and has never looked back. If she
had remained in the so-called beginners class, she would have wasted her
whole stay in St A, and might well have given up SCD all together.

>From this experience, Genevieve sometimes relieves me of the task of
pointing out that we were all beginners once, and only ceased to be
beginners thanks to the patience and understanding of our fellow dancers.
It's a pity that such reminders are necessary, but some beginners can be
discouraged so easily by impatient gestures and remarks from others.

Without new blood, small groups such as we have here would be doomed to die.

Martin,
Grenoble, France.
------------------ http://perso.wanadoo.fr/scots.in.france/
Cycling, country dancing ...

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