strathspey Archive: Historical insight!

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Historical insight!

Message 28397 · Ian McHaffie · 26 Nov 2001 17:47:14 · Top

From Priscilla:

In the early 1900s.

> Traditionally I believe 2 or 3 couples would get up, dance once through,
> and then a new couple would join the bottom of the set each time though,
> until the band got bored, or the original first couple died of
> exhaustion.

I think this was the custom around the beginning of the 19th century.
________________________________________________________________________________

Maybe this is the real reason why SCD was dying out in the early
1920's (ready for Miss M. and others to rescuscitate) ‹ it was
becoming generally known that too many "original first couples died
of exhaustion" ‹ and without a first couple it's pretty difficult to
get a set together. :).

Ian.

Historical insight!

Message 28404 · Pia Walker · 27 Nov 2001 07:15:44 · Top

I did this at a Ceidlidh recently, called Shetland Strip the Willow - our
"set" was about 40 couples long - I was great fun, although I couldn't speak
afterwards - I must add my partner and I did it twice through.

Pia
----- Original Message -----
From: Ian McHaffie <mchaffie@sympatico.ca>
To: <strathspey@strathspey.org>
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2001 4:47 PM
Subject: Historical insight!

From Priscilla:

In the early 1900s.

> Traditionally I believe 2 or 3 couples would get up, dance once through,
> and then a new couple would join the bottom of the set each time though,
> until the band got bored, or the original first couple died of
> exhaustion.

I think this was the custom around the beginning of the 19th century.
____________________________________________________________________________
____

Maybe this is the real reason why SCD was dying out in the early
1920's (ready for Miss M. and others to rescuscitate) < it was
becoming generally known that too many "original first couples died
of exhaustion" < and without a first couple it's pretty difficult to
get a set together. :).

Ian.

Strip the Willow

Message 28433 · Martin.Sheffield · 27 Nov 2001 20:01:07 · Top

Pia wrote about the Shetland Strip the Willow

As it happens, we did this at a celidh last Saturday -- and ran into
trouble when the few that had danced before tried to do the RSCDS version
or the English version, resulting in illegal overtaking, bottlenecks,
tailbacks, but, surprisingly, no accidents.

Oh, why do people ask for this awful dance?

Martin,
in Grenoble, France.

http://perso.wanadoo.fr/scots.in.france/scd.htm
(dance groups, events, some new dances ...)

Strip the Willow

Message 28439 · SMiskoe · 27 Nov 2001 23:53:46 · Top

Oh Martin -
it isn't an awful dance but you must forget the precise phrasing RSCDS
suggests. Use a 9/8 tune and a running step. Get into the flow and drive of
the dance, start the next stripping as soon as the first couple has passed 2
couples, use longer than 4 couple sets.
Try again!
Sylvia Miskoe, Concord, NH USA

Strip the Willow

Message 28450 · Alan Paterson · 28 Nov 2001 09:10:10 · Top

SMiskoe@aol.com wrote:
>
> Oh Martin -
> it isn't an awful dance but you must forget the precise phrasing RSCDS
> suggests.

I just can't let that one go. It is exactly when one uses precise phrasing that
the dance has a chance of working. The pleasure from dancing this comes when the
turns are EXACTLY timed. If either the dancing person or standing person is a
bit off the beat, then the turns are awkward and uncomfortable.

(a lot more than 2-cents worth)
Alan

> Use a 9/8 tune and a running step. Get into the flow and drive of
> the dance, start the next stripping as soon as the first couple has passed 2
> couples, use longer than 4 couple sets.
> Try again!
> Sylvia Miskoe, Concord, NH USA

Strip the Willow

Message 28454 · mlbrown · 28 Nov 2001 11:13:06 · Top

Alan wrote:

> I just can't let that one go. It is exactly when one uses precise phrasing
that
> the dance has a chance of working. The pleasure from dancing this comes
when the
> turns are EXACTLY timed. If either the dancing person or standing person
is a
> bit off the beat, then the turns are awkward and uncomfortable.
>

And just what precise phrasing are we talking about?

My two early editions of Book 1, (the earliest listing only books 1,2 & 3 on
the back cover, the next one going as far as mentioning Book 15 in a pocket
edition) only go as far as bar 12 in defining what people are doing when!

My most recent edition lists the instructions completely for a 40 bar dance,
(but only shows / annotates 32 bars of music)

Malcolm

Strip the Willow

Message 28459 · Adam Hughes · 28 Nov 2001 14:06:58 · Top

Alan Paterson wrote:
> I just can't let that one go. It is exactly when one uses precise phrasing that
> the dance has a chance of working. The pleasure from dancing this comes when the
> turns are EXACTLY timed. If either the dancing person or standing person is a
> bit off the beat, then the turns are awkward and uncomfortable.

Like you say, I can't let that one go... Strip the willow is nice when
danced phrased, but I'd rather dance it unphrased if there are people in
the set who are going to dance late, which you always get at a public
event.

The best thing about dancing to a slip jig is waltzing gently while
standing around at the ends...

Strip the willows are traditionally unphrased, for the simple reason
that doing the dance phrased is much harder. If you want a really hard
exercise for a class, dance a phrased Strip the willow without hands...

Adam
Cambridge, UK.

Strip the Willow

Message 28455 · Martin.Sheffield · 28 Nov 2001 13:22:11 · Top

> It is exactly when one uses precise phrasing that
>the dance has a chance of working.

Thank you, Alan.
StW is one of the hardest dances to get right; why it is regarded as a
beginners' or even non-dancers' dance beats me.

I'm quite willing to give it another try, Sylvia, but first, lend me some
of your expert dancers !

Another ceilidh on Friday (in a restaurant -- heaven knows what the public
will be !), so fervently hoping no-one will ask for StW. If they do, I'll
just take a longer time to enjoy my (free) haggis.

Happy St Andrew's day !
Martin,
in Grenoble, France.

http://perso.wanadoo.fr/scots.in.france/scd.htm
(dance groups, events, some new dances ...)

Strip the Willow

Message 28457 · Ian Brockbank · 28 Nov 2001 13:27:03 · Top

Hi Alan, Malcolm,

> > I just can't let that one go. It is exactly when one uses precise
phrasing
> > that the dance has a chance of working. The pleasure from dancing this
> > comes when the turns are EXACTLY timed. If either the dancing person or
> > standing person is a bit off the beat, then the turns are awkward and
> > uncomfortable.
> >
>
> And just what precise phrasing are we talking about?
>
> My two early editions of Book 1, (the earliest listing only
> books 1,2 & 3 on the back cover, the next one going as far as
> mentioning Book 15 in a pocket edition) only go as far as bar
> 12 in defining what people are doing when!
>
> My most recent edition lists the instructions completely for
> a 40 bar dance, (but only shows / annotates 32 bars of music)

And of course, if you're dancing to 6/8s instead of 9/8s, you really
need 56 bars per time through (see
http://www.scottishdance.net/ceilidh/dances.html#StripTheWillow ).

Ian
(who once looked at the RSCDS transcription for StW, thought "that's
not how it goes and will never work" and sticks to the version he
learned in school...or the Orcadian/Shetland version, longwise for
as many as will, new couple starting every 16 bars, or as soon as
there's space for them)
--
IndigoVision Ltd http://www.indigovision.com/
The Edinburgh Technopole, Bush Loan, Edinburgh, EH26 0PJ
Tel: [+44] (0)131 475 7234 Fax: [+44] (0)131 475 7201
Personal: ian@scottishdance.net http://www.scottishdance.net
Feed the world: http://www.thehungersite.com/

Strip the Willow

Message 28458 · Andrew Buxton · 28 Nov 2001 13:35:17 · Top

Martin Sheffield wrote:

> Thank you, Alan.
> StW is one of the hardest dances to get right; why it is regarded
as a
> beginners' or even non-dancers' dance beats me.

I think this says a lot about our attitude to SCD. Do we want
beginners/non-dancers to "get it right" or to enjoy themselves? I have
found it very popular on non-dancers' programmes even when they get it
"wrong" - and a source of much hilarity! The only objection I can see is if
getting it wrong leads to injuries.

I appreciate that the enjoyment of any dancers in the set may be
reduced by people "getting it wrong" but to me this is outweighed by
non-dancers enjoying taking part.

Andrew Buxton
Brighton

Strip the Willow

Message 28460 · Leslie Henderson · 28 Nov 2001 15:23:23 · Top

Hear, hear! I for one have never seen Strip the Willow done 'phrased' or
'correctly,' but then I have never seen it attempted! It's often not done
at formal dances/balls, I think because people think of it as a ceilidh
dance (which I would agree it is), and it's a ceilidh dance because it's
SO MUCH FUN! (if exhausting)

Leslie

--- Andrew Buxton <A.Buxton@ids.ac.uk> wrote:
> Martin Sheffield wrote:
>
> > Thank you, Alan.
> > StW is one of the hardest dances to get right; why it is regarded
> as a
> > beginners' or even non-dancers' dance beats me.
>
> I think this says a lot about our attitude to SCD. Do we want
> beginners/non-dancers to "get it right" or to enjoy themselves? I have
> found it very popular on non-dancers' programmes even when they get it
> "wrong" - and a source of much hilarity! The only objection I can see
> is if
> getting it wrong leads to injuries.
>
> I appreciate that the enjoyment of any dancers in the set may be
> reduced by people "getting it wrong" but to me this is outweighed by
> non-dancers enjoying taking part.
>
> Andrew Buxton
> Brighton
>

=====
Leslie Hastings
of Edinburgh UK

Skagit Scottish Country Dancers: http://www.skagitscd.org

__________________________________________________
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Strip the Willow

Message 28473 · SMiskoe · 28 Nov 2001 23:47:25 · Top

One reason that I said it should be done unphrased is that often you will
have several sets and they are different lengths so each set is doing the
dance to accomodate their own size. It is up to the MC/teacher/leader to
simply keep an eye out for injuries and to start the top couple at an
appropriate time. There are several versions of the dance. I'm not
advocating putting it on programs all the time but when you have a mixed
ability crowd and the dance is requested, the beginners will have a great
time.
Cheers,
Sylvia Miskoe, Concord, NH USA

Strip the Willow

Message 28474 · John P. McClure · 28 Nov 2001 23:54:12 · Top

For people who like this kind of thing, I think that Barley Bree is a good
alternative, and as easy (if not more so) for beginners or non SC dancers.

Peter McClure
Winnipeg, MB

Strip the Willow

Message 28476 · ron.mackey · 29 Nov 2001 00:50:57 · Top

> Hear, hear! I for one have never seen Strip the Willow done 'phrased' or
> 'correctly,' but then I have never seen it attempted! It's often not done
> at formal dances/balls, I think because people think of it as a ceilidh
> dance (which I would agree it is), and it's a ceilidh dance because it's
> SO MUCH FUN! (if exhausting)
>
> Leslie

Hi,
We used to dem. this as a nice change, especially if any ECD'ers
were in the audience. In practise we danced it quite slowly so we
were able to make sure of the timing and get everything well grooved.
Then, when at the Dem. the adrenalin set in the upped speed was taken
in our stride.
So, my advice is try practising it as slowly as you like and don't
let the band run away with you in the performance. They are inclined
to with that music!

Cheers, Ron :)

< 0 Ron Mackey,(Purveyor of Pat's Party Pieces)
'O> Mottingham,
/#\ London. UK.
l>
Ron.Mackey@btinternet.com

Strip the Willow

Message 28485 · Pia Walker · 29 Nov 2001 09:39:02 · Top

I also think it is one of the most difficult dances to do - because of the
control you have to execute only to yourself, but for other people youself -
One of the most funny incidences I have had, was going from a BALL at Blair
Castle, to my hotel, where other dancers were staying too - the hotel had a
ceidlidh on, and some of us decided to have a drink and look at the
dancing - a rather inebriated gentleman - make that man - came over to where
I was standing in full ball rig-out, with a gentleman in highland dress by
my side - looked at me up and down - turned to the gentleman beside me, and
said "Can Ah Dance wi' your partner" - the answer was - "you can ask her" -
me being me, and always dying to dance, accepted gracefully :>) and was led
to the floor, where my new "dance partner" looked at me and said : "Do ye
Birrrrrrrllllllll?" - and then I found out it was Strip the willow - with 7
people in hobnailed boots, several pints well over the limit and my did we
birl - so control is what is needed at all times. - I survived.

Pia
----- Original Message -----
From: M Sheffield <martin.sheffield@wanadoo.fr>
To: <strathspey@strathspey.org>
Sent: Wednesday, November 28, 2001 9:57 AM
Subject: Re: Strip the Willow

>
> > It is exactly when one uses precise phrasing that
> >the dance has a chance of working.
>
> Thank you, Alan.
> StW is one of the hardest dances to get right; why it is regarded as a
> beginners' or even non-dancers' dance beats me.
>
> I'm quite willing to give it another try, Sylvia, but first, lend me some
> of your expert dancers !
>
> Another ceilidh on Friday (in a restaurant -- heaven knows what the public
> will be !), so fervently hoping no-one will ask for StW. If they do, I'll
> just take a longer time to enjoy my (free) haggis.
>
> Happy St Andrew's day !
> Martin,
> in Grenoble, France.
>
> http://perso.wanadoo.fr/scots.in.france/scd.htm
> (dance groups, events, some new dances ...)

Strip the Willow

Message 28487 · Bryan McAlister · 29 Nov 2001 11:35:15 · Top

>
>Oh, why do people ask for this awful dance?
>
Definitely NOT an awful dance. Having played it as our customary last
dance of the evening since about 198something It looks great, is enjoyed
by everyone and when we change into 4 time and speed up the effect is
amazing....
Bryan McAlister B Arch RIBA ARIAS
Web page www.bryanmac.demon.co.uk
Email bryan@bryanmac.demon.co.uk
Mobile phone 07801 793849
FAX number - 0870 052 7625

Strip the Willow

Message 28488 · Peter Hastings · 29 Nov 2001 11:45:23 · Top

The dance is neither awful nor not.

Circumstances and company make it a delight or a disaster.

I know how it is usually done and decide to do it or not.

Peter Hastings
Royal Observatory
Edinburgh
:)

-----Original Message-----
From: Bryan McAlister [mailto:Bryan@bryanmac.demon.co.uk]
Sent: Tuesday, November 27, 2001 22:35
To: strathspey@strathspey.org
Subject: Re: Strip the Willow

>
>Oh, why do people ask for this awful dance?
>
Definitely NOT an awful dance. Having played it as our customary last
dance of the evening since about 198something It looks great, is enjoyed
by everyone and when we change into 4 time and speed up the effect is
amazing....
Bryan McAlister B Arch RIBA ARIAS
Web page www.bryanmac.demon.co.uk
Email bryan@bryanmac.demon.co.uk
Mobile phone 07801 793849
FAX number - 0870 052 7625

Strip the Willow

Message 28512 · SallenNic · 29 Nov 2001 23:45:05 · Top

In a message dated 27/11/01 10:54:50 pm, SMiskoe@aol.com writes:

>Oh Martin -
>it isn't an awful dance but you must forget the precise phrasing RSCDS
>
>suggests. Use a 9/8 tune and a running step. Get into the flow and drive
>of
>the dance, start the next stripping as soon as the first couple has passed
>2
>couples, use longer than 4 couple sets.
>Try again!
>Sylvia Miskoe, Concord, NH USA
Hear.Hear! It is enormously popular at weddings here.
Nicolas B.. Lanark. Scotland.

Strip the Willow

Message 28518 · res009k3 · 28 Nov 2001 02:31:41 · Top

I agree with Sylvia, the stress is usually caused by dancers stuck in the rigid, untraditional, RSCDS mode of dancing.

These dancers have the strange idea that phrasing, covering, and style are important when this is not the tradition in social ceilidh dancing.

Incidently, while the RSCDS was correct in publishing the dance to a 9/8 slip jig, this is only one of many traditions since there is no official "Strip the Willow" tune. I have noticed that in some dances in the borders, the musicians may indicate the start of a new top couple by using a slow hornpipe (or fast schottische if you like). Some dance a two step, while others just step hop. A common popular tune for this is "Siemsa Bhierta" [pardon my spelling as I have never seen the words written but the sound is similar to |SIM-za VI-ER-ta|. Some claim that Jimmy Shand wrote it as he published it under the name "Blue Bell Polka."

I do not recommend the step hop style as it is very tyring, but a skip change [two step] can be a nice alternative to the running step.

Goss

R Goss
[richard.n.goss@gte.net]

Strip the Willow

Message 28530 · Martin.Sheffield · 30 Nov 2001 15:29:07 · Top

Since a number of writers have attributed my dislioke of StW to a desire
for RSCDS-type precision, Iell have to write back and say:
1) they don't know me very well (me? an RSCDS type?)
-- and it's nothing to do with 6/8 versus 9/8 or whether you need 40 bars
of 56.
2) Unless a dance such as this runs smoothely, each person turning with
one arm then the other without a break, supporting dancers being ready with
the correct arm, I can't see much point in doing it. If there are breaks
and hesitations, it's just a mess.
3) It's a very awkward dance, since the man going down the ladies' side
must turn 1&1/4 with each lady while his partner is turning only 3/4 with
each man. 1st man then has farther to travel to turn his partner and find
the next lady, than 1st lady who should find herself just in front of the
next man with no effort.
(whichever variant you may do, you get this kind of imbalance)
If you compound this with non-dancers that can't remember whether they are
traveling up the set or down ...
It's one of the rare dances when I don't mind staying up on the stage and
off the floor.
Martin,
in Grenoble, France.

http://perso.wanadoo.fr/scots.in.france/scd.htm
(dance groups, events, some new dances ...)

Strip the Willow

Message 28536 · Miriam L. Mueller · 30 Nov 2001 17:36:54 · Top

When I was growing up I learned the turning portions of StW as (the
"reel") part of the Virginia Reel. Everyone knew what was coming, and we
simply made it flow because it was much more fun that way - you got a
great elbow turn alternately with your partner and another dancer on that
last reel down the set. When I do StW with SCDers I really miss that
whirl. So few dancers seem to catch on.
When I was dancing that version of Virginia Reel, we were dancing mostly
old-time squares and Russian and Polish folk dances. None of us (alas)
had heard of Scottish or English Country dance.
Miriam Mueller - San Francisco

Strip the Willow

Message 28550 · res009k3 · 1 Dec 2001 01:41:23 · Top

One Scottish equivalent of "Robbing Peter to pay Paul," is "what you win on the swings, you lose on the roundabout."

I feel this applies to the discussion regarding "Strip the Willow."

When on chooses the gospel according the the RSCDS as one's religion, one chooses not to accept the conventions of paganism or other religions. One who is happily at home in the RSCDS is that way for many reasons, one of which is the predictability of a rigid style and its universal application allowing devotees to be at home dancing anywhere in the world, except certain places where Scottish people dance.

So when traveling in the bush of paganism, explorers should be cognizant of certain tactics that are more successful when dealing with the natives. When apporaching natives in their habitat, hang back, observe, learn the social conventions that work as the less you stand out as a stranger the more enjoyable your stay.

As regarding the TRADITIONAL "Strip the Willow", the explorer from the RSCDS will notice that there is a singular lack of consistency in matters of style, figures, and phrasing. This is because the dance is native in this environment, there is no need to use it to validate one's belonging by dancing it. Therefore the sheer enjoyment of dancing an old dance in the pre-RSCDS way comes from the interaction among friends in their native habitat. They don't have to go to classes to be Scottish.

Dealing with this particular dance, you will notice that the emphasis is on having a good time in getting through the figures, although it is not too important if you are in time with the music, phrase, of figure. Strip the Willow is a good dance for this as, with many traditional dances, it has many escape valves where errors do not become disasters.
So, it does not matter if you are on time. If you are an inactive dancers, the important thing is eye contact and sensitivity to the oncomming dancer, if offered, turn the person who approaches, if not, don't. If you are the active and you feel a need to begin with the beginning of the repeated tune, do so, as it does not matter if the previous actives are finished as long as they are 2 couples below you. If you find yourself behind at the end of your music, try to be far enough along as to be 2 couples below the new first coupel so they can begin when they want to. If you are descrete about your need to dance on the correct bar or phrase, or in a rigid RSCDS style, no one will care if your RSCDS style is a bit different, and no one will suspect that they have an anal retentive in their midst. This is because in this Eden, one has a suppressed sense of sin and most are understanding of individual differences.

Goss

R Goss
[richard.n.goss@gte.net]

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