strathspey Archive: "Natural" highland dancing?

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"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2744 · Susan Self @ignite · 16 Oct 1995 22:17:36 · Top

A recent thread mentioned the unnatural positions of highland dancing.
Last Friday I saw the dancers with the Black Watch currently on tour.
These men dancing seemed much more human and natural than the little
girls I have seen at the dance competitions. A friend told me that the
men were not dancers in their youth, necessarily, but were simply picked
and trained to be dancers in the service. After the performance, I heard
a man whose young daughter is a competitive highland dancer say that his
daughter was critical of the dancers because they were not very precise.
She considered herself a better dancer than the men, with all of her
6 years of age. This makes me wonder if we have relegated the ability
to do highland dancing only to young girls, if young men learning it
are to be sneered at if they are not top notch competitors. Is this the
way a culture is to be confined? I found that the local highland dance
teachers refused to teach adults, unless one agreed to join some of
the dance mothers in a little session on a workday afternoon, when
professional people cannot attend. My only chance to learn highland
has been a one-hour class tagged onto a SCD institute weekend once
in a while. The evolution of dance is most interesting!

Susan Self
San Diego, CA
susan@thomsoft.com

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2745 · GAYLE_KOYANAGI · 16 Oct 1995 23:32:31 · Top

Item Subject: "Natural" highland dancing?
I also saw the Black Watch come through on tour. The dancers
had all our sympathies, as most of them are taught their
steps just before the band leaves on tour!

On the subject of highland teachers & adults: some I've
encountered are more interested in students who might
compete, since their reputations are based
on the success of their students.

Gayle Koyanagi
SF Branch

gayle_koyanagi@hpatc3.hp.com

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2750 · Raymond A. Brown · 17 Oct 1995 06:12:56 · Top

On Mon, 16 Oct 1995 GAYLE_KOYANAGI@HPATC3.desk.hp.com wrote:

> Gayle Koyanagi
> SF Branch

Query - "SF" as in "South Florida" or "San Francisco"?

I used to (and I think still do) belong to Helen Welch's South Florida
Branch. <smile>

_Ray_

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2754 · Iain E. Garden Richardson · 17 Oct 1995 11:43:45 · Top

Susan Self wrote:
> I found that the local highland dance
> teachers refused to teach adults, unless one agreed to join some of
> the dance mothers in a little session on a workday afternoon, when
> professional people cannot attend. My only chance to learn highland
> has been a one-hour class tagged onto a SCD institute weekend once
> in a while. The evolution of dance is most interesting!
>
This is indeed a shame. I would, however, like to put in a "plug" for
those Highland dance teachers who are keen to teach adults and who
enjoy the opportunity this gives to bring Highland dancing to a wider
audience. I attend a weekly class (for adults) near Aberdeen. It is run by Pam Dignan who
has endless patience with those of us who didn't learn Highland as
six-year-olds.
On the subject of "precision" in Highland dancing, I once saw a very
old photo of a Strathspey being danced by a set of Gordon Highlanders
(my father's old regiment). Even from the photo it was clear that the
dancers' positions would be classed as "sloppy" by today's exacting
standards. However, this is where much of the tradition came from !

Iain.

-------------------------------------------------------------------
Iain E. Garden Richardson
Lecturer
School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering
The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland, AB9 1FR
Telephone 01224 262428 Facsimile 01224 262444
Email i.g.richardson@rgu.ac.uk
World Wide Web http://www.eee.rgu.ac.uk/Comms
-------------------------------------------------------------------

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2755 · Alan Paterson · 17 Oct 1995 12:41:54 · Top

Iain Richardson has just broadcast a plug for Pam Dignan as a Highland
teacher.

Pam also diplays her willingness to teach us 'Oldies' by taking the
men's highland optional class during the first fortnight of the St.
Andrew's summer school. We indeed have a lot of fun at her classes and
age is no barrier. (It's not easy though. We have to work)

She also comes to Germany and Switzerland to teach similar classes.

Note also that Pam's young girls are very successful in competitions
so she can obviously handle both worlds here.

----------------------------------
Alan Paterson
Berne, Switzerland
alan@paranor.ch

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2757 · king maghi · 17 Oct 1995 15:38:30 · Top

I can't resist telling everybody that the oldest dancer in the Geneva Highland
workshop is well over sixty and didn't start doing highland until she was sixty.

Several others of us are not spring chickens either!

I think the give away was the person who said (sorry, can't remember who it was)
that everything depended on whether the teacher was trying to make a reputation
by producing succesful competing dancers: such people are not going to want
to waste their time (as they see it) on late starter adults.

Maghi

Maghi King | Internet: king@divsun.unige.ch
ISSCO, University of Geneva | X400: S=king; OU=divsun;O=unige;
54 route des Acacias | PRMD=switch;ADMD=arcom;C=ch
CH-1227 GENEVA (Switzerland) | UUCP: mcvax!cui!divsun.unige.ch!king
Tel: +41/22/705 71 14 | FAX: +41/22/300 10 86

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2758 · Gerry Gray · 17 Oct 1995 20:00:13 · Top

>first off, Highland dance (until the 20th century) has always been a MEN's
>dance (at least the solo stuff).

Have you ever thought that this just might be a myth? It is unlikely Peacock
or any of the other 'dancies' would have turned down any custom simply
because the students were daughters rather than sons of the local gentry or
that they refused to teach the daughters as well as the sons of the towns or
villages they practiced in. Or do you really believe that these dances
(Highland Fling, Sword Dance, Sean Truibhas...) were created on steaming
battlefields by wild highland men?

>Highland dance makes one do things with his(her) muscles that really require
>a certain amount of developement that only happens in puberty and afterwards.
>The stuff that i'm doing now I wouldn't have been able to attempt even when
>i was 16 to 18...

I can't think of what that possibly could be. I personally was at my peak at
that age and that is why I turned professional at that time. I may have
become more refined and possibly more disciplined later but I doubt if I
ever danced with more strength.

>The "artificial" look to girls dancing it is two-fold in origin. First, as
>said above, is the factor that the muscles that are supposed to doing most
>of the work aren't ready to, so they are "faking" it with what muscles they
>have that do work.

Ladies, if you let this go by...

>watch girls do a "strathspey and reel"...you know that they don't care about
>the other dancers in the set except that they want them to know where
>they're going so they're not in the way...disgusting attitude.

I have to assume this is a try out for yuk yuks (where's the hook?)

>you watch men dance the "strathspey and reel" and you see something very
>different...they're attentive to the others, they smile/smirk; even though
>they are concentrating on their own steps during the settings, they still
>show the "partner" that they are impressed with the other's setting choice
>and style as well...they dance for themselves and with each other.

Can't dance but they sure do look cute!!

I can't let this go. I trained as a Highland Dancer both here in Canada and
back in Scotland (where I was born). Teachers included Molly MacGregor, Joan
Waters (Doran), Gladys Forrester, Sandra Bald Jones, Bobby Watson... While
never was a champion I was sufficiently good to beat champions (adjudicated
by JL MacKenzie) and was not afraid to share the professional stage with
champions (Victor Wesley).

I also trained in other aspects of dance including ballet and was
sufficiently good to have a professional career spanning fifteen years and
which included two ballet companies (Les Grands Ballets Canadiens & Scottish
Theatre Ballets).

Having had these experiences I can make this observation. While exceptions
do exist, because of their existance as a rare breed, males have a easier
time than females in the world of dance. Females have to compete at a much
higher level because there are so much more of them to beat - whether that
be for a medal or a job in a show. Because they don't have to compete so
fiercely, men tend to train lazy and rarely reach the levels of the ladies.
The attention men (or boys) receive may help them get involved in the first
place but doesn't encourage to work too hard for their praise - or to work
at all without it. I'm sure that will set some comments to happen.

>When you dance for "performance", your "perfection" isn't important and
never >will be.

Finally something I can agree with

>>This makes me wonder if we have relegated the ability
>>to do highland dancing only to young girls, if young men learning it
>>are to be sneered at if they are not top notch competitors. Is this the
>>way a culture is to be confined?

If it weren't for young (and not so young) girls doing Highland Dancing,
Highland dancing plain and simply would not exist. The ladies do it, and
have done it for a very very long time. It is their's. We men (and boys) are
a rarity in that field and, because of that fact, often receive more
attention than we deserve, often being less capable than we would like to
think.

>there are several changes in highland dance that occurred because of the
>girls...the fact that many steps have been lost (or at least not
>practiced, so they only exist in written records).

Interesting!

>E.g., the Glasgow Highlanders setting step was actually a step expected to
be >danced by women in the "strathspey and reel", and was also acceptable to
dance >as a step in the fling when performed by women... the girls probably
don't even >know it exists...its a social step, not a "perfection" step.

Are you saying that the Glasgow Highlander's Setting Step has been lost and
exists only in written records? Does that mean that the step we do in
Glasgow Highlander's is NOT to step we should be doing but something
entirely different? I would like a copy of this step and the others you
speak of as lost except in written records. They truly would be a treasure.

- Gerry
-----------------------------------------------------------
Gerry Gray
90 Kinlock Road
Stratford, PE
Canada C1B 1C6
gegray@peinet.pe.ca
-----------------------------------------------------------

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2760 · Joe Shelby · 17 Oct 1995 21:18:08 · Top

you do tend to read more into what i'm saying that i actually write...

> >first off, Highland dance (until the 20th century) has always been a MEN's
> >dance (at least the solo stuff).
i have backed down on this statement in private email already.

ok, so dances were done in mixed company, of "all" ages...what is "new" is
the 100 to 1 ratio of females to males that exists today...if anything, it
would probably have been much closer to 1 to 1 in the past.

> Or do you really believe that these dances
> (Highland Fling, Sword Dance, Sean Truibhas...) were created on steaming
> battlefields by wild highland men?
you take me for more of a fool than i think i deserve. keep criticism as
just that: CRITICISM.
this group can do without flames or insults like this.

you claim to be a Scot, yet you use your own culture's negative stereotype
to try to refute my arguement...interesting approach...

> >Highland dance makes one do things with his(her) muscles that really require
> >a certain amount of developement that only happens in puberty and afterwards.
> >The stuff that i'm doing now I wouldn't have been able to attempt even when
> >i was 16 to 18...
>
> I can't think of what that possibly could be. I personally was at my peak at
> that age and that is why I turned professional at that time. I may have
> become more refined and possibly more disciplined later but I doubt if I
> ever danced with more strength.

some of us aren't "built" like athletes. is "strength" the most important
part? for myself, it was not "strength", but endurance and muscular
discipline that didn't exist in my muscles at that age and came much later.

> >The "artificial" look to girls dancing it is two-fold in origin. First, as
> >said above, is the factor that the muscles that are supposed to doing most
> >of the work aren't ready to, so they are "faking" it with what muscles they
> >have that do work.
>
> Ladies, if you let this go by...

read my other postings...i'm refering to the younger girls (before puberty
hits), where they really don't have the calf muscles that do most of the
work in late-teen/adults.

> >watch girls do a "strathspey and reel"...you know that they don't care about
> >the other dancers in the set except that they want them to know where
> >they're going so they're not in the way...disgusting attitude.

> I have to assume this is a try out for yuk yuks (where's the hook?)
what was that comment for?

i'm being perfectly serious...that's what i see and hear from dancers in
competitions here in america. i just watch them and i can see that attitude
in their faces...again, not all are like that, but too many for my tastes...

my point was that the "social" aspect of what that dance used to be in the
18th century and earlier doesn't exist anymore except in very isolated areas
(cape breton, e.g.).

> Having had these experiences I can make this observation. While exceptions
> do exist, because of their existance as a rare breed, males have a easier
> time than females in the world of dance. Females have to compete at a much
> higher level because there are so much more of them to beat - whether that
> be for a medal or a job in a show. Because they don't have to compete so
> fiercely, men tend to train lazy and rarely reach the levels of the ladies.

is what some of the girls reach for as important? as i and others have said,
"technical perfection" is not dancing. dance is an art form, and the
artistry (which is style and creativity) must rank higher than the
"technique".

if painting were judged by this same "Textbook-technique" approach, then all
art would be like Bob Ross and "Joy of Painting".

> The attention men (or boys) receive may help them get involved in the first
> place but doesn't encourage to work too hard for their praise - or to work
> at all without it.

then these men or boys need better instructors. my instructor is just as
critical with me as he is with his other students (who are girls, but aren't
ready or planning for competition yet), and just as patient. that's a gift
he has for teaching that i'm very happy he has. i will not take praise for
dancing that didn't deserve it.

> >>This makes me wonder if we have relegated the ability
> >>to do highland dancing only to young girls, if young men learning it
> >>are to be sneered at if they are not top notch competitors. Is this the
> >>way a culture is to be confined?
>
> If it weren't for young (and not so young) girls doing Highland Dancing,
> Highland dancing plain and simply would not exist. The ladies do it, and
> have done it for a very very long time. It is their's. We men (and boys) are
> a rarity in that field and, because of that fact, often receive more
> attention than we deserve, often being less capable than we would like to
> think.

my point is that we (men) were not a rarety until very recently (late 19th
and early 20th century).

there are many outside of scotland who feel that the scots have "wimped out"
by letting the victorian and post-victorian stereotypes and reinventions of
their society become accepted as the real thing.

it was not "theirs" (the woman/girls) to dance exclusively 150 years ago.
it was a dance for all scots. if you want to give it to them, that's your
choice...some of us feel that there are aspects of scotland's past that
shouldn't be left to the limited world it now exists in.

i did say why the girls and ladies continued to dance in larger numbers than
the men...there weren't nearly as many men left after the wars. Morris
dance went through a similar revolution in England with ladies dancing,
again because there were villages where the entire male population that went
to war never came back, or because the women truly believed that the dances
needed to be done each year, regardless of who danced them (ritual dances
tend to "call" people to dance in this way)...some colleges lost their
entire graduating classes from 1914 to 1918...Irish dance also had a
female-dominated resurgence after the wars, and some dances that were
originally for both sexes (slip-jigs to give an example) are now exclusively
female.

irish dance for years had undergone that an emotionless attitude where speed
and technique were more important that beauty and art, and it was only for
"little girls", similar to scottish dance. Fortunately, that attitude is
finally being disputed worldwide. "Riverdance" changed the world in ways
that we're only just now discovering. after that 5 minute dance peice at the
Eurovision'94 in Dublin, the world will never view irish step dancing the
same way again...

> >there are several changes in highland dance that occurred because of the
> >girls...the fact that many steps have been lost (or at least not
> >practiced, so they only exist in written records).
> >E.g., the Glasgow Highlanders setting step was actually a step expected to
> be >danced by women in the "strathspey and reel", and was also acceptable to
> dance >as a step in the fling when performed by women... the girls probably
> don't even >know it exists...its a social step, not a "perfection" step.
>
> Are you saying that the Glasgow Highlander's Setting Step has been lost and
> exists only in written records? Does that mean that the step we do in
> Glasgow Highlander's is NOT to step we should be doing but something
> entirely different? I would like a copy of this step and the others you
> speak of as lost except in written records. They truly would be a treasure.

that is NOT what i said at all. i'm saying its use as a step in the fling
or "strathspey and reel" is what has been lost.

and the instructions for "glasgow highlanders" just say "set for 8 bars".
the step is presented as a step one can use, but it is not the only step one
can use for that dance.

--
joe

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Joseph Shelby : Software Engineer jshelby@autometric.com
5301 Shawnee Rd. Alexandria, VA 22312-2333 (703) 658-4071

"Is it not strange that sheeps' guts should hale souls out of men's bodies?"
--Much Ado About Nothing 2:3
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2764 · Mulligan,Martin;Biochem;s3023a · 17 Oct 1995 22:36:01 · Top

On Tue, 17 Oct 1995, Joe Shelby wrote:
>
> irish dance for years had undergone that an emotionless attitude where speed
> and technique were more important that beauty and art, and it was only for
> "little girls", similar to scottish dance. Fortunately, that attitude is
> finally being disputed worldwide. "Riverdance" changed the world in ways
> that we're only just now discovering. after that 5 minute dance peice at the
> Eurovision'94 in Dublin, the world will never view irish step dancing the
> same way again...
>

I'm glad that Joe mentioned "Riverdance". Growing up (mostly) in Ireland,
I had come to dislike Irish step dancing for its apparent rigid formality
and the apparent lack of enthusiasm or spirit. That changed a bit, when I
saw some 'retired' Irish step dancers perform at a small folk-festival
just outside Pittsburgh. The dancers actually smiled and looked as though
they were enjoying themsleves. To me, that was how it should be.
"Riverdance" is the same and more. I went to the show in Dublin this
summer. It was wonderful - almost 2 hours of dance and music. The whole
country has been captivated by this show and what it has done for Irish
dancing. (Well, except for the purists) It captures the excitement, thrill
and spirit of the dance. It's supposed to open in New York next spring
and, although I've read that there have been disputes recently with the
star male dancer, you should go see it, if you can. It's worth it.

Martin Mulligan
St. John's (Newfoundland) Branch
mulligan@morgan.ucs.mun.ca

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2766 · SMiskoe · 18 Oct 1995 03:22:09 · Top

First let me say that I am not a highland dancer, just a country type.
Martin talks about the rigidity of Irish dancing. Yes, it is rigid, but
what about the Highland competition dancing? Its rigidity can compete with
the Irish. At least I have never seen an Irish parody of the Scottish
dances. To me, the competition dance where they parody an Irish jig is
offensive. The dance tries to create the depiction of an ugly, uncouth,
angry person who can't dance properly. I am amazed that something this
anti-ethnic is fostered, especially onto children.
Sylvia Miskoe, Concord, NH

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2767 · Gerry Gray · 18 Oct 1995 04:08:56 · Top

>> Or do you really believe that these dances
>> (Highland Fling, Sword Dance, Sean Truibhas...) were created on steaming
>> battlefields by wild highland men?
>you take me for more of a fool than i think i deserve. keep criticism as
>just that: CRITICISM.
>this group can do without flames or insults like this.

The rebuke is warranted. I do apologize. How can I claim to find something
offensive if the method I use to protest is likewise offensive. I disagree
with most of what you have said on this topic. Let's leave it at that.

- Gerry
-----------------------------------------------------------
Gerry Gray
90 Kinlock Road
Stratford, PE
Canada C1B 1C6
gegray@peinet.pe.ca
-----------------------------------------------------------

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2771 · Mulligan,Martin;Biochem;s3023a · 18 Oct 1995 14:16:34 · Top

On Tue, 17 Oct 1995 SMiskoe@aol.com wrote:
> At least I have never seen an Irish parody of the Scottish
> dances. To me, the competition dance where they parody an Irish jig is
> offensive. The dance tries to create the depiction of an ugly, uncouth,
> angry person who can't dance properly. I am amazed that something this
> anti-ethnic is fostered, especially onto children.

It's funny that you should mention this, Sylvia. I had never considered
the offensive nature of the irish Jig until this past summer. Perhaps,
its because I have not been to a Highland games in quite a number of
years. But, after watching the dancing competition at the Isle of Skye
games in Portree this past summer, I have to agree with you. It's
offensive. Mind you, my reaction may have something to do with the fact
that there were two male dancers in the competition. I don't remember
seeing males dance the Irish Jig in competition before. One look at
their costumes was quite enough. I cannot imagine ever wearing such a
get up! Perhaps it's just as well that my Highland dancing career was
fairly short and did not include this dance.

Martin Mulligan
St. John's (Newfoundland) Branch
mulligan@morgan.ucs.mun.ca

Song: "Johnnie Lad"

Message 4484 · Hugh Goldie · 5 Aug 1996 07:01:03 · Top

I have transcribed the following lyrics for a song entilted "Johnnie
Lad" from a book of Scotish ballads compiled by Ewan MacColl ("Personal
Choice, E. MacColl, Hargail Music Press). I think I got the book from
the Fiddler's Crossing store.

I would like to get an explaination of the "man in Nineveh" who was
"wondrous wise". Jonah went to Nineveh in the bible, but I don't
understand the reference in the song. Can anyone enlighten me?

Hugh Goldie, Saskatoon Scottish Country Dancers
goldie@duke.usask.ca

I bought a wife in Edinburg
For ae baw-bee (ae baw-bee = one bob or one shilling)
I got a farthing back again
To buy tobacco wi'. (I'm sure Edinburg women are worth more
than that ;-)

Chorus

And wi' you, and wi' you and wi' you
My Johnnie lad
I'd dance the buckles off my shoes
wi you my Johnnie lad.

(changed the last line of the chorus from: "Drink the buckle o' my
sheen" I prefer the former version.)

When auld King Arthur ruled this land
He was a thieving king}
He stole three blows of barley meal
To make a white pudding.....................Chorus

The pudding it was awfu' guid,
'Is was weel mixed up wi' plumes (plumes = plums)
The lumps o' suet into it (thooms = thumbs)
Dere big as baith my thooms. ...............Chorus

Sampson was a michty man (michty = mighty)
And focht wi ' cuddie 's jaws [fought with a donkey's jaw bone - (in the
Bible)]
And focht a score o' battles
Wearing crimson flannel drawers..........Chorus (drawers = underpants)

There was a man in Nineveh,
And he was wondrous wise
He lowped into a haethorn hedge
And scratched oot baith his eyes.........Chorus

And when he saw his eyes were oot
Be was gey troubled then
He lowped into anither hedge
Anl scratched them in again..............Chorus

Napoleon was an emperor
He ruled by land and sea
He was King of France and Germany
But he never raled Polmadie..............Chorus

One Sunday I went walking
And there 1 saw the Queen
Playing at the fit-ba' (fit-ba' =the world's greatest sport)
Wi' the lads on Glesca-Green.............Chorus (Glesca = Glasgow)

The captain o' the ither side (ither = other)
Was scoring wi' great style,
So the Queen she ca'd a polisman
And stuck him in tbe jail................Chorus

Johnnie is a bonnie lad,
He is a 1ad o' mine
I never had a better lad
And I've had twentynine...................Chorus

Song: "Johnnie Lad"

Message 4486 · Jim & Marilyn Healy · 5 Aug 1996 15:41:22 · Top

Hugh (and any others interested)

A couple of points on your words

A bawbee is a ha'penny (half an old penny) not a shilling. This
explains the farthing back as a a ha'penny was two farthings

The "biblical verses" you quote are known to me from a
schooldays song with the now totally politically incorrect and
unacceptable title and chorus of "The Darkies' Sunday School".
This was a communal song and individuals took turns to sing
a "story" or one verse. The big difference is that the verses
were twice the length of those in Johnnie Lad and thus, for
example, the Samson verse went on:

> Now Samson had a brother and he was strong as well
> Samson went to heaven and his brother went to ..
(straight in to chorus of

> Young folks, old folks everybody come
> join the Darkies' Sunday School
> get oot yer sticks o' chewin' gum
> An' squat upon the floor
> An' Ah'll tell ye Bible stories
> That ye've never heard afore

This probably explains the lack of the our favourite verse which
does not break neatly in two

> Now Moses was the leader of the Israelite flock
> And when they wanted water he just struck upon a rock
> But when he struck upon the rock, there rose a mighty cheer
> For it wisnae flowin' water, it was flowin' Ushers beer

The "Niniveh verses" then make more sense to me as they would
be one verse and represent one "Bible story" which would be sung
by one person.

That doesn't answer your question about why Niniveh but I would
guess at the most simple explanation. The composer (sic) needed
a three syllable place name and picked one that sounded Biblical.
Prosaic but I suspect not far from the truth.

Hope this helps

Jim Healy

Song: "Johnnie Lad"

Message 4487 · Ian Price · 5 Aug 1996 20:52:52 · Top

Hugh Goldie writes...

>I bought a wife in Edinburg
>For ae baw-bee (ae baw-bee = one bob or one shilling)
>I got a farthing back again
>To buy tobacco wi'.

> (I'm sure Edinburg women are worth more than that ;-)

The gentleman has obviously never heard the expression, "Fur coats and nae
drawers" :-)))

The Corries used to run this song out with a couple of different topical verses
every performance in the 60s and 70s

My favourite (from before 1968 when the situation in Ulster stopped us joking
about it) was...

The Catholics have our sympathy,
They really must be ill;
How can you love yer neighbour, when
The Pope has banned the Pill ?

... but that's closer to Glaswegian humour.

... and just to keep on topic, the tune is most suitable for practising your
three-beat pas-de-basque.

Regards,

/
/
/ __ ,__.
/ (__\/ (,

Song: "Johnnie Lad"

Message 4489 · ERBRUNKEN · 5 Aug 1996 23:24:46 · Top

In a message dated 96-08-05 13:03:18 EDT, you write:

>
>The gentleman has obviously never heard the expression, "Fur coats and nae
>drawers" :-)))

You are right. I had the pleasure of meeting Hugh Goldie at Pinewoods this
year, and he was indeed the emitomy of a gentleman, who, even if he was
familiar with the above quote, would never have repeated it. (She says
tongue in cheek) All the Edinburgh lassies are not guilty of the above.....
I've been accused of many things in my life, but never of "pittin' in on".

To translate..... It is a common misconception that Edinburgh ladies put on
false airs and graces, to the point that they would have a fur coat, but be
too poor to afford underwear!

This notion of course was construed by the folks on the west coast! And
anyone who saw, ' The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' !

Elaine

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2746 · Joe Shelby · 16 Oct 1995 23:49:38 · Top

this reply is a bit long, and mostly deals with highland dance, but has a
message about dancing in general hidden away in there...
--
> A recent thread mentioned the unnatural positions of highland dancing.
> Last Friday I saw the dancers with the Black Watch currently on tour.
> These men dancing seemed much more human and natural than the little
> girls I have seen at the dance competitions.

first off, Highland dance (until the 20th century) has always been a MEN's
dance (at least the solo stuff). Women learned some settings and learned
the reel steps required for an eightsome reel or the "scottish reel" (now
referred to as the "Highland strathspey and reel"), but otherwise were not
as active in solo dance until the developement of "Step-dancing" (refered to
as "National dance" by some). The women (and through them, the girls)
picked it up in the aftermath of WW1, when the number of men left in the
British Isles was tremendously small compared to its past.

Highland dance makes one do things with his(her) muscles that really require
a certain amount of developement that only happens in puberty and
afterwards. The stuff that i'm doing now I wouldn't have been able to
attempt even when i was 16 to 18...my body really was not ready to do that
at that point in time. Morris dance in England is the same way, it uses leg
muscles that for a boy really don't exist in a usable form.

The "artificial" look to girls dancing it is two-fold in origin. First, as
said above, is the factor that the muscles that are supposed to doing most
of the work aren't ready to, so they are "faking" it with what muscles they
have that do work. Second, the "competition" factor which can destroy
almost any dance form...more on that in a bit.

> A friend told me that the
> men were not dancers in their youth, necessarily, but were simply picked
> and trained to be dancers in the service. After the performance, I heard
> a man whose young daughter is a competitive highland dancer say that his
> daughter was critical of the dancers because they were not very precise.
> She considered herself a better dancer than the men, with all of her
> 6 years of age.

"Perfection" is not "beauty". "Perfection" is not "grace". Dance has
always been a combination of "Beauty" and "Grace", adding to that the music,
and the love of the music that drives it all. Girls in competition probably
don't understand this. They have been told since they started dancing that
they need to dance "perfectly", meaning "no flaws". This enforcement can
come from their "coach" (it ain't a teacher if they're learning it just to
compete), or from their parents ("win win win"). Part of this drive to be
"perfect" or "precise" came from the dance in the military (which also
affected piping to a great deal).

(note, i do know that there are exceptions to this like in all competition
forms, but children being psychologically berated to be "winners" is one of
the older forms of abuse that still goes on quite often...too often for my
tastes...)

I've seen a "flawless dance" that to my eyes was absolutely awful. i've
seen dancers make small mistakes in the most beautiful dance i've ever
seen...the difference is in the heart and always will be.

watch girls do a "strathspey and reel"...you know that they don't care about
the other dancers in the set except that they want them to know where
they're going so they're not in the way...disgusting attitude. The
strathspey and reel was a social dance, from its origins to the end of the
19th century (over 350 years by my reckoning). it merged with country
dancing into the "Glasgow Highlanders" in the late 19th century as a kind of
"highland" outlet for border region or highlanders getting into country
dance. The Gerry Strathspey is also a highland-reel-meets-country-dance
merger...

you watch men dance the "strathspey and reel" and you see something very
different...they're attentive to the others, they smile/smirk; even though
they are concentrating on their own steps during the settings, they still
show the "partner" that they are impressed with the other's setting choice
and style as well...they dance for themselves and with each other. the
judge can do what he will, it almost doesn't matter to them...

what is natural to dance is to dance with beauty and grace...this can only
come from a love of the dance and a love of the music. The men in "Black
Watch" do not dance 'cause they're good at it (tho they probably are). They
dance because they love the music so much that it drives them to move...and
as long as they're moving, they might as well move in a certain way, hence
learning the dance forms...

i can try to dance for "perfection" and be absolutely awful. when you dance
for "performance", your "perfection" isn't important and never will be.
your passion for the dance is what you need to feel and what your audience
needs to know...and they're only gonna know it if you show it in your
dancing...

same goes for SCD demonstration teams!

> This makes me wonder if we have relegated the ability
> to do highland dancing only to young girls, if young men learning it
> are to be sneered at if they are not top notch competitors. Is this the
> way a culture is to be confined?

its not "culture" anymore...its only culture if you know why your doing it.
i really don't think they do.

there are several changes in highland dance that occurred because of the
girls...the fact that many steps have been lost (or at least not
practiced, so they only exist in written records). E.g., the Glasgow
Highlanders setting step was actually a step expected to be danced by women
in the "strathspey and reel", and was also acceptable to dance as a step in
the fling when performed by women...the girls probably don't even know it
exists...its a social step, not a "perfection" step.

2-beat pas-de-basq (which if I recall a past posting was once refered to in
1881 as "slapshod and lazy" according to MacIntyre North; q.v. Kent W.
Smith's posting of Jan 20th) appears to have become a highland dance
standard because the girls had trouble doing 3-beat pas-de-basq "correctly"
(again, that case of muscle control that isn't there because the muscles
themselves aren't there). even the "coupe-pas-de-basq", "balance and set"
as its refered to, is done by girls using two-beat, even though the
"textbook" says use 3-beat.

> I found that the local highland dance
> teachers refused to teach adults, unless one agreed to join some of
> the dance mothers in a little session on a workday afternoon, when
> professional people cannot attend. My only chance to learn highland
> has been a one-hour class tagged onto a SCD institute weekend once
> in a while.

this i find most distressing...i am very fortunate to have in our area (DC
and northern virginia) a highland teacher willing to take on beginners, and
willing to teach adults...AND he's a certified country dance teacher as
well, so he knows the difficulty country dancers will have in adapting
highland (particularly the 2beat vs 3beat issue). he teaches the dance
because he loves it and wants it to go on, so it doesn't matter who he
teaches it to as long as they are willing to learn and work for it...
i'm sorry that that attitude isn't found elsewhere...its a real shame...

--

A movie to see...check out your local Blockbuster, West Coast, or Hollywood
video to see if they've got it: "Strictly Ballroom".

its an austrailian film about a competition ballroom dancer who meets a girl
in the dance studio who's hispanic and her parents know "the real thing"
about spanish ballroom dance...so he basically learns how to dance all over
again, but in doing so he's no longer following the "standards" that he was
expected to keep and his parents (well, mother really) berate him for it the
entire movie (sounds to me a lot like the older SCD crowd's gripes against
the young who throw highland steps into dances)...however, the audience in
the competition love it, because he's able to give them the passion more
strongly than any level of "perfection" could ever deliver. It may be
oriented towards spanish ballroom, but its message over what's important
about dancing is universal.

Scottish Country Dance is a living dance form, thanks to Miss Milligan and
her co-horts...there is a set of guidelines to follow for technique and
arraingment, but within that set there is room to move and expand...there
are new figures (Drewry creating 4 that i've seen so far, Mel and Ellie's
"Slip Knot", and more), and new dances showing up all the time...there is
room for individualism, by learning "proper" technique, then by learning
extentions to that technique for "flirting" or "showing off" (within reason
of course...)

Highland dance is dying as a dance form. The entire fact that its primary
document is called a "Textbook" (i hate that word) instead of a "Guideline"
is killing it more rapidly than anything else...Textbooks always say (at
least imply) "this is it, this is right, anything else is wrong". when you
learn dance like that, where is the love? where is the beauty? where is the
grace?...

where is the passion that drives one to dance? that passion will lead one
to do it right because the dance itself deserves it!

oh well...i'm done now...
joe

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Joseph Shelby : Software Engineer jshelby@autometric.com
5301 Shawnee Rd. Alexandria, VA 22312-2333 (703) 658-4071

"Is it not strange that sheeps' guts should hale souls out of men's bodies?"
--Much Ado About Nothing 2:3
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"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2753 · Anselm Lingnau · 17 Oct 1995 10:27:07 · Top

Joe Shelby <jshelby@ais.autometric.com> writes:

> first off, Highland dance (until the 20th century) has always been a MEN's
> dance (at least the solo stuff).

This can't be right -- there is ample evidence in the literature that points
to the contrary. In _Memoirs_of_a_Highland_Lady_, Elizabeth Grant refers
to her learning various Highland steps as a child. I don't have the exact
date with me, but this must be some time during the beginning of the 19th
century. From what we know about the dance teachers during the 18th and 19th
centuries, they certainly taught Highland dancing (and not just reels) to
the girls as well as the boys. You can check Thurston's _Scotland's_Dances_
or the Flett's _Traditional_Dancing_in_Scotland_ where this is examined
in considerable detail.

Also, various 18th and 19th century dances such as the Earl of Errol or
Flora MacDonald's Fancy are usually thought of as women's dances (although
they are of course also done by men).

> Part of this drive to be
> "perfect" or "precise" came from the dance in the military (which also
> affected piping to a great deal).

This is certainly at odds with Susan's original observation that `perfection'
was not evident with the Black Watch dancers?

> I've seen a "flawless dance" that to my eyes was absolutely awful.

I've had the occasion to watch some Highland world champions do the
Scottish Lilt. It was terrible -- they were showing off their technique
to an extent that you wouldn't have recognized the dance if it hadn't been
for the music. If *that* is `perfection', I'll stay imperfect, thank you
very much.

> Highland dance is dying as a dance form. [...] when you learn dance like
> that [from a `textbook'], where is the love? where is the beauty? where is
> the grace?...

It's all in the mind. Why would you have to care for the letter of the book
unless you're going to compete (where a firm standard seems helpful for
adjudication of `technical perfection')? Since you mentioned ballroom
dancing, let me point out that there are worlds between competitive and
`social' ballroom dancing as well. Competitive ballroom dancing includes
stuff that you could never, ever do in a `real' ballroom, even to an extent
that there is a whole *dance* that is very seldom actually found outside
of competitions! I bet that there are `textbooks' about competitive ballroom
dancing. There are for sure kids who are encouraged to compete at an early
age, and still nobody claims that ballroom dancing `is dying as a dance
form'.

Here in Germany, there are no children doing Highland dancing, there are
no competitions, and still there's a happy community of Highland dancers
that organize workshops, invite teachers from Scotland and so on. We may
not be all that many people but we have never scared anybody away because
they were adult or their technique was `imperfect'. Whose isn't, anyway?

Anselm
--
Anselm Lingnau ......................... lingnau@tm.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de
Maybe Computer Science should be in the College of Theology. --- R. S. Barton

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2761 · Sandra Rosenau · 17 Oct 1995 21:28:43 · Top

IMHO, one of the worst things that has happened to Highland dance is
that it's been relegated to young girls. Children can be trained to be
incredibly precise and physically fit; that's why 12 year old girls are
winning the world championships. But the dance form as performed by
adult men comes from a completely different place, a different level of
energy and drive, based on what the dance probably was originally
about: a celebration of physical strength, stamina and power.

To me, youngsters in Highland dance look like children playing the part of
adults in a school play; cute, but they are not adults and can't bring the
strength of adulthood into the role no matter how perfectly they know
their lines.

In the meantime, it's fun to learn something beyond the 5 basic SCD
steps!
Sandra Rosenau, Dayton, Ohio, USA
sjrosenau@tasc.com

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2776 · Seth Major · 18 Oct 1995 18:45:20 · Top

Greetings,

What impresses me about this exchange is that (roughly) attitudes towards
the highland dancers sound remarkably like their attitudes towards
country dancers; both seem to lack a real understanding of the other.
As a dancer in both worlds (mostly in America though I've danced
Scotland as well) I'm happy to report that I've found lots of wonderful
people and fabulous dancing in both communities. All that seems to be
required is a willingness to work. Why not _work_ to bring these
communities together? Chat, dance and learn.

Happy dancing,
Seth Major
seth@phys.psu.edu

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2809 · Jim & Marilyn Healy · 20 Oct 1995 01:38:06 · Top

I am not a Highland Dancer. When I was a boy, it was considered an
activity solely for girls. The only coverage in the local press was
announcements that Mrs. McTavish-McTaggart had just been required to
purchase a third display cabinet to house the dancing medals and trophies
of champion daughter Fiona, aged six. As a youth, I could not see the
point in a dance form that did not let you hold, at least, the hands of
attractive girls. As a young man, I had already decided that the
expression "competitive dancing" is an oxymoron. Now, less young and
more challenged aerodynamically, I refuse to subscribe to Chestertons
view that "a thing worth doing is worth doing badly".

So, I shall offer some expert commentary on this already lengthy thread -
but not mine own. In October last year, there was a two day conference
in Stirling on The Diversity of the Scottish Tradition of Dance under the
auspices of The Scottish Arts Council. Eminent speakers were present
from all of the official dance bodies including RSCDS and both Highland
bodies plus Step, Shetland, Hebridean, Cape Breton and others spoke on
aspects of Scottish music and dance history.

The transcripts of the speeches from the official representatives on
Highland Dancing include the following:

In favour of standardisation

"During my earliest years as a competitor I travelled around central
Scotland, dancing at outdoor events and Highland Games during the
Summer months and at some indoor competitions during the winter. As I
grew up I also travelled further afield and came in contact with dancers,
teachers and judges from many different areas and backgrounds in
Scotland and many expatriate Scots teachers and dancers, some being the
second and third generations of Scots traders and settlers..........
I was thus exposed to many different ideas on how highland dancing was
meant to be performed but had to alter my style of dancing to meet the
expected standards of the different areas. In some cases I danced softer
with less aerial flamboyance, in others I concentrated on the flow and
grace of the movements. In almost every area there were certain steps
and movements which were the recognised competition ones for that
district.............
I could not understand why I should have to amend my performance to
suit all those ideas and local requirements if I was to gain prizes. Surely it
should be the same wherever I competed in Scotland..............
Now all around the world dancers are judged on the same technical basis,
to the same standards and within the same competition structure, thus
allowing dancers to compete on equal terms over regional and
international boundaries.
This would not have been possible without the Scottish Official Board of
Highland Dancing, now celebrating over 40 years of successful
administration of all aspects of highland dancing........."
Billy Forsyth, SOBHD

Against standardisation

".... what todays spectator actually observes, or so it seems, are four
clones, each of whom are performing like robots, as a result of being fed
data from identical microchips!...............
Can I say, as a qualified, knowledgeable Highland Dancing adjudicator
with 30 years experience and judging regularly at many of the countrys
top gatherings, that the Highland Dancing world today is a most boring
spectacle from both a judging and spectator point of view.
I watch the performances of todays dancers and what do I see -
mechanical performances, replicating each other - too scared to deviate
from the data-chips that have been fed into them over the years and that
is Im afraid exactly what todays dancers have turned into - robots who
cant think for themselves. Good dancers, but no individuality."
Alex McGuire, Scottish Official Highland Dancing Association

In another part of his speech, Mr McGuire gave the new ten
commandments:
"1. Thou shalt not be allowed to think for oneself!
2. Thou shalt all attend the same hairdresser!
3. Thou shalt agree 100% with every obstructing new rule that suddenly
appears!
4. Thou shalt not execute traditional steps of thy choosing!
5. Thou shalt not be allowed freedom of choice in selecting competitions
and Highland Games which you may wish to attend!
6. Thou shalt not be allowed to voice a democratic opinion on Highland
Dance matters!
7. Thou shalt not recognise experienced and fully-qualified adjudicators
from dancing associations other than ones own!
8. Thou shalt purchase dark underwear only from M&S!
9. Thou shalt stifle your talents to satisfy your masters!
10. Thou shalt monitor events organised by free-thinking bodies and
report back anything untoward to headquarters!"

There was also the view of the man from Mars (well, Sweden)

"In Highland Dancing people admire the dancers athleticism, the
colourful tartans, the bagpipe music, the pretty little girls in cute dresses,

they are amazed by the dancers technical ability, and are equally amazed
at the lack of enjoyment the dancers display. People think that Highland
Games Dancing is too athletic to be traditional. People wonder why the
dancers look like clockwork dolls all doing the same steps over and over
again. Why do the dancers not smile - is it no fun? Why are there so few
men or boys dancing - after all, there are plenty of women and girls
dancing? Is it a womens sport? If not, in that case, why has it become
one?..................
A Highland Dancing teacher in Canada once expressed the view that it
takes a certain kind of stupidity to do the same dance in the same way for
45 years or whatever number of years it takes to win a
championship......"
Mats Mellin of Stockholm
speaking on research carried out over an eight year period

More interestingly, to turn to the Black Watch Dancers who were the
subject that started this thread. Mr McGuire again

"On the subject of that key element, tradition, lets consider an
organisation that has continued to spread the word of Scottish Dancing
to all corners of the earth. I speak, of course, of Her Majestys Forces.
No matter where you travel in the world youre sure to come across a
display of kilted military men performing an Argyll Broadswords over 4
naked blades, and this is the picture conjured up in the minds of the
uninitiated - the sight of kilted dancers executing traditional movements
that have been taught by the military teachers over the centuries - steps
that in content and style havent changed one bit to this day. And what a
pleasant spectacle they make - ambassadors for Scottish Dancing -
passing on tradition."

Somewhere in the speeches on the subject of Highland Dancing is a
wonderful expression and I regret that I havent been able to find it again
to either quote it accurately or pay tribute to the phrase-coiner. Roughly,
however, it goes - "Is it dancing, or ethnic aerobics?"

Happy dancing (Whatever form you take it in)

Jim Healy
Perth, Scotland

"Natural" highland dancing?

Message 2911 · Gerry Gray · 29 Oct 1995 18:09:22 · Top

>I don't remember seeing males dance the Irish Jig in competition before.
One >look at their costumes was quite enough. I cannot imagine ever wearing
such a
>get up!

I remember doing the jig in competitions in the late 50's. It was common
enough at that time here in Canada at least (or as common as is possible
with such low numbers of boys dancing as then was the case). I also remember
dancing it in competition in Scotland but I have some vague recollection
that it may not have been as common over there.

- Gerry
-----------------------------------------------------------
Gerry Gray
90 Kinlock Road
Stratford, PE
Canada C1B 1C6
gegray@peinet.pe.ca
-----------------------------------------------------------

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