strathspey Archive: Cadgers

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Message 46209 · · 25 Sep 2006 18:58:20 · Top

Maybe it's because I'm a biologist, but I love the diversity fo dances, as long as they feel good -- and Cadgers as we do it (which certanly wasn't how they did it in olden times, or how we'd publish it today) is great fun and very social. In earlier talks about reels, Sylvia Miskoe talked about the delights of reels where 1s go flying into the reel entry -- possibly one of the reasons that cross over reels for the 1s are in lots of popular dances but Last of the Lairds is seldom done. Cadgers and Red House take that one more step by having one of the 1s fly while still be dancing with their partner. Maybe there is a 'best' way to do reels, but odd variants add flavor and diversity to what might end up being an indistiguishable soup of dances. So Gie Us TullochGorum, and Cadgers, and West's, and Gates -- hell I'll even take Braes of Atholl if we can do it Sylvia's way.

Now about Johnny Groat's House...

Bruce Herbold

SF Branch
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Message 46217 · · 25 Sep 2006 19:54:40 · Top

Bruce´s "I love the diversity fo dances, as long as they feel good"
gets into another issue.

As the years since 1923, pass there has been a growing disconnect
between RSCDS dances and dancers, and the population of Scotland at
large. Mind you there are a lot of reasons for this, my point below is
just a thought.

In the dancer tradition of Scotland, prior to the Society, and
currently in unstructured local social dances which include country
dancing, the repertoire has always been small, there was no need for
classes to learn new dances because from one dance event to the next
changes in repertoire were relativly small. As a result more people
could be involved because they knew pretty much what to expect.

Today, if one does a head count, I suspect two things to be the
result, a smaller proportion of the population of Scotland only sees
SCD as a spectator sport, in which they never or hardly ever
participate. At the same time the proportion and influence of non
native Scots in the activity is growing in relation to the native.

Related to this the demands of the dancers have also changed. Where
before dancing was simply a part a community´s activities, and often a
part of an event that had nothing to do with dancing. Now, the
community is created by those who want to dance, many of whom have
nothing else in common. With this change in focus, there is a related
change in repertoire resulting in a larger number of dances, requiring
a larger number of more and more complicated figures. Scotland is not
unique in this. In the U.S. when I worked on a ranch in New Mexico, in
my late teens, there was a square dance at the "big house" most
Saturday nights, the caller was local, the band, ad hoc. This was a
gathering of a community that already existed outside of the dance
context. Since that time, in my early 20´s, I was at events that also
included square dancing, and found that I could get by by faking it, in
most square dances in other parts of the U.S. based on what I learned
during that first summer at age 16. Some time between age 21 and 30, I
noticed that there was a change. All the square dancers sort of dressed
a like, they had "special" more complicated steps and calls, and if the
dance was large enough to host people from several "clubs" dancers
often danced in sets with their own people, because the variations
would not throw them off. Since I was 30, I am not 66, I have been to
very few of the possible square dances, mainly because I can´t be
bothered to join a club and learn their particular ritual. The last
time I went was several years ago, in London, sponsored by C# house. I
had a good time, I knew no one there (I was between planes), but was
able to fake what I did not know, simply be being alert to the body
language of the others in my set.

On another London layover, some years back, as I remember chating with
Bill Ireland, and Andrew Gillies. The dance was at St Columba´s, and
yes, there were a few dances, where, without a cue book, I did not have
a clue. But by and large I could get through the program with little
effort, which allowed me both to enjoy dancing and the company, many of
whom I had known over the years at St Andrews. Looking at some of the
dance programs of today, this would not have been possible. My nose
would have been stuck in some cue book while I sat out one dance to
prepare for the next.

I guess what I am saying is that the claimed need for diversity is
being driven by those whose goal is the dance itself, and not the
spirit of community in which it originated.


Message 46228 · Anselm Lingnau · 26 Sep 2006 00:07:21 · Top wrote:

> Bruce´s "I love the diversity fo dances, as long as they feel good"
> gets into another issue.
> [...]
> I guess what I am saying is that the claimed need for diversity is
> being driven by those whose goal is the dance itself, and not the
> spirit of community in which it originated.

This is great if you're in some village in Scotland in the 19th century but it
no longer seems to work that way. At least hereabouts, the SCD community
doesn't define itself as »the village crowd« (all the lads and lassies, of
various ages, who till the soil together during the daytime), but those
people who are looking to SCD as their way of getting some exercise (mental
and physical) in a social setting, and do not necessarily all work in the
same office all day long (let alone all live within 10 miles of the actual

In the old days, dancing was basically the only social recreation on offer.
Everybody participated since staying at home and watching TV wasn't an option
(especially when you wanted to meet girls). In urban Scotland today there are
so many other ways of having a good time of an evening that SCD can no longer
be expected to be the natural thing for everyone to do -- and what about SCD
groups in places like Germany, where there is no »village« tradition of doing
SCD? (We are often asked why we do Scottish dances as opposed to German
dances. My answer is that German dances are much less known, much less social
and tend to bore one stiff. German dances today, at least the figure dances
that are most similar to SCD, are pretty much like Scottish dances in the
late 19th century, but without the social element; they're mostly done for
display. What they would need is a thorough refurbishment à la Milligan and
Stewart, which would change them into something completely different but
nicer, but there probably wouldn't be a market.)

The result of this competition for participants is that, as people wander off
to find other ways of keeping themselves amused, those that stay with SCD
tend to be those that enjoy the dancing itself rather than the sense of »all
together now« that made dancing popular in the village. The dancing has
become an end in itself rather than the means to an end (doing something,
anything in fact, nice with everyone from the village while also building
closer acquaintances with any qualifying people with rowan-red cheeks and
star-bright eyes), and in due course mutated from something that had to be
simple enough for everyone to be able to do on the spur of the moment to
something that could afford to require some instruction in order to promise
greater intellectual satisfaction in the end. (Which, of course, is a
slippery slope; the repertoire now consists of a broad spectrum of dances
ranging from the very simple to the very complex, where in the old days the
curve would have been much fatter at the »simple« end. And there is still
ceilidh dancing.)

This theory is corroborated further by the observation (to be found, e.g., in
Hugh Foss's writings, but possibly even more appropriate today) that many
dancers will prefer doing difficult dances badly to doing simple dances well.
The latter would certainly enhance the »group spirit« of accomplishment,
while the former suggests that for many it is indeed the dancing that counts.
Hence, diversity.

Anselm Lingnau, Frankfurt, Germany .....................
Microsoft knows that reliable software is not cost effective. According to
studies, 90% to 95% of all bugs are harmless. They're never discovered by
users, and they don't affect performance. It's much cheaper to release buggy
software and fix the 5% to 10% of bugs people find and complain about.
-- Bruce Schneier, »Secrets and Lies«

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