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  • RSCDSSD

    RSCDSSD Feb. 28, 1995, 9:06 p.m. (Message 1126)

    Jean Milligan

    I apologize in advance for the length of this posting, however, some of these
    ideas have been brewing in my brain for quite a while.  I have been
    researching the history of SCD for a few years now and intend to present my
    conclusions in published form.  To be blunt, anticipated criticism from the
    establishment has contributed to my procrastination.  So this is perhaps a
    preliminary foray into the void and an attempt to overcome fears.  I first
    met Miss Milligan when I was 16 years old and even then I realized how
    profound her personality and influence was.  It has taken much time and soul
    searching to accept the notion that I disagree with some of her decisions.
     But I disagree with respect and admiration for what she did and for the
    legacy she left.  I cannot accept that respectful differences of opinion are
    heretical.
    
    The current discussion about Jean Milligan, her personality, influence and
    scholarship reflects the inevitable re-evaluation that occurs when a strong
    and charismatic leader has been gone for some years.   Her influence
    certainly did not end with her death in 1978, however, we now have a
    generation of dancers who had no opportunity to meet this awesome and
    powerful personality.  It is perhaps not surprising that people might now
    question some of her conclusions and decisions.  This is not necesarily a
    negative process.  Dancing changes constantly and one of my growing concerns
    as a teacher/dancer/researcher is encountering the attitude that there is
    only one way to do "fill in the blank", or we cannot change the way we teach
    "fill in the blank."  We dance and teach based on many of Jean Milligan's
    conclusions, and many of them have proven to be succesful, popular, and
    worthwhile.   Her profound influence as a teacher and formulator of 20th
    century Scottish Country dancing cannot be underestimated.  As has been
    noted, she could command a roomful of dancers with the wave of a hand.  But
    to accept without question or investigation, worse yet to ignore historical
    evidence, is not worthy of our dance form and its complex and fascinating
    history.  We have an enormously successful modern form of Scottish Country
    dancing.  For that we have to thank Miss Milligan, and others.  But it evolved
     from dance forms older and different than what we practice today, and to say
    that today's is "correct" to the exclusion of all others leaves us without
    the chance to learn and adopt from the past.  Many of our accepted methods
    were presented to us as "correct" supposedly from historical evidence and in
    fact were modified without being so noted.
    
    While it is not possible to detail the evidence in this posting, readily
    available historical evidence can show that a number of our dance figures
    were amended when adopted by the Society (based usually on Miss Milligan's
    conclusions).  But, corner/partner/corner/partner, the poussette, double
    triangles, among others, have been danced differently in the past.  While
    there may have been good reason for the changes, I am chagrined by the fact
    that none of the early Society books admit to the reconstruction.  The dance
    and figure instructions are presented as though no modifications were made.
    The briefest of citations at the bottom of the dance instructions would lead
    one to the conclusion that the dance is presented as it was in the old
    books/manuscripts.  Not so.  Many changes were made, at times there is
    virtually no resemblance.  Perhaps more problematic is the significant
    adjustment to the flow of a dance when a figure was adopted in a form very
    different from the earlier versions.  One of the clearest is the origins and
    changes to the figure Double Triangles.  This needs it own article and, while
    I have presented my conclusions at several workshops, it has yet to be
    organized in written form.  
    
    Mention has been made of the work of Thomas and Joan Flett, Hugh Foss, Hugh
    Thurston and others, and of the fact that their writings and conclusions are
    ignored by, or unknown to, many RSCDS teachers.  I agree that this is
    omission is troublesome.  From comments by teachers and dancers in Scotland
    who were active during Miss Milligan's time it appears that she brooked no
    dissention.  If you disagreed with her you were not welcome into "the body of
    the kirk."   Hugh Thurston appears to have little disagreement with accepted
    practice, yet even his important book "Scotland's Dances" is omitted from the
    bibliography in the latest RSCDS manual.  The Fletts, Allie Anderson, and
    Hugh Foss chose to disagree with many of Miss Milligan's conclusions and the
    acrimony is legend.  This is not scholarly nor collegial.  Even today, those
    who dare to find any fault with Miss Milligan are subject to angry responses
    (I am aware that what I have to say here will not please some).  Why should
    this be necessary?  Can we not praise her for her accomplishments and her
    contributions to all of our lives and still respectfully disagree?  She was
    an outstanding teacher, a physical education teacher.  That fact, and the
    methods she chose to train generations of physical education teachers,
    affected the manner and technique we dance today.  Not necessarily a bad
    influence, but our dancing style is much more athletic than it appears to
    have been historically.  We can accept that, and then look at the history for
    alternative styles.  Miss Milligan was not a scholar nor academically
    trained.  She relied on instinct and oral history and came to her own
    conclusions.  Those conclusions were accepted and institutionalized by the
    RSCDS and are now our methods.  But if curious dancers look back at the old
    books, dance manuals, and publications and find information that differs, is
    it unacceptable to ask, question, and re-consider?  I sincerely hope not.
    
    With apologies again for the length of this posting I have appended a file
    containing a selected bibliography I have compiled on the history of Scottish
    Country Dancing.  It includes several articles by the Fletts from the Journal
    of Scottish Studies.  They have never been cited by any RSCDS source that I
    am aware of, and they are a fascinating look at the history of our dancing.
     I would also note the book reviews of the two well-known George Emmerson
    books.  While Emmerson is listed by the RSCDS bibliography and his work must
    be read by any serious student of SCD history, there appear to be some
    questions about his research and conclusions that one needs to note.
    
    Selected Bibliography of sources on the History Of Scottish Country Dancing
    
    Anderson, Allie, and John M. Duthie.  A Complete Guide to Scottish Country
    Dancing.  Commemorative edition. Kitchener, Ontario: Teacher's Association
    (Canada), 1990.
    
    Emmerson, George S.  Rantin' Pipe & Tremblin' String: A 	History of Scottish
    Dance Music.  London, Ontario: J.M. Dent, 1971.
    
    Emmerson, George S.  Scotland Through Her Country Dances.  2nd ed.  London,
    Ontario: Galt House, 1981.
    
    Emmerson, George S.  The Scottish Country Dance (A History).  London,
    Ontario: Galt House, 1992.
    
    Emmerson, George S.  A Social History of Scottish Dance: Ane Celestial
    Recreatioun.  Montreal, Quebec, and London, Ontario: McGill-Queen's Univ.
    Press, 1972.
    
    Flett, Joan.  Social Dancing in England from the 17th Century.  Leaflet No.
    18.  London: Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, English Folk Dance & Song
    Society, n.d.
    
    Flett, Joan, and Thomas M. Flett.  "The History of the Scottish Reel as a
    Dance-Form: I."  Scottish Studies: Journal of the School of Scottish Studies,
    Univ. of Edinburgh 16:2 (1972): 91- 119.
    
    Flett, Joan, and Thomas M. Flett.  "The History of the Scottish Reel as a
    Dance-Form: II."  Scottish Studies: Journal of the School of Scottish
    Studies, Univ. of Edinburgh 17:2 (1973): 91- 107.
    
    Flett, Joan, and Thomas M. Flett.  "The Scottish Country Dance: Its Origins
    and Development: I."  Scottish Studies: Journal 	of the School of Scottish
    Studies, Univ. of Edinburgh 11:1 (1967): 1-11.
    
    Flett, Joan, and Thomas M. Flett.  "The Scottish Country Dance: 	Its Origins
    and Development: II."  Scottish Studies: Journal of the School of Scottish
    Studies, Univ. of Edinburgh 11:2 (1967): 125-147.
    
    Flett, Joan, and Thomas M. Flett.  Traditional Dancing in Scotland.  1964.
      London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985.
    
    Flett, Thomas M.  Book Review of A Social History of Scottish Dance  by G. S.
    Emmerson.  Scottish Studies: Journal of the School of Scottish Studies, Univ.
    of Edinburgh 18 (1974): 136- 139.
    Foss, Hugh.  Notes on Evolution in Scottish Country Dancing. Dumfries: S. &
    U.N. Ltd. (Standard Office), 1973.
    
    Foss, Hugh.  Roll Back the Carpet.  We Agree to Differ.  Castle-Douglas:
     Forward Press, n.d.
    
    Hood, Evelyn M.  The Story of Scottish Country Dancing: The Darling
    Diversion.  Great Britain: Collins, 1980.
    
    Lockhart, G. W.  Highland Balls and Village Halls: A Look at the 	Scot and
    His Dancing.  Barr, Ayrshire: Luath Press Ltd.,  	1985.
    
    MacFadyen, Alastair.  An Album For Mrs. Stewart.  Edinburgh: RSCDS, 1988.
    
    MacFadyen, Alastair and F. H. Adams.  Dance With Your Soul. Edinburgh: RSCDS,
    1983.
    
    Milligan, Jean.  The Scottish Country Dance.  Festival Booklet No. 14 (1924).
     Facsimile Reprint.  Edinburgh: RSCDS, 1986.
    
    Milligan, Jean C. and D. G. MacLennan.  Dances of Scotland.  New York:
    Chanticleer Press, 1951.
    
    Munro, Ailie.  Book Review of Rantin' Pipe and Tremblin' String: A History of
    Scottish Dance Music by George S. Emmerson. Scottish Studies: Journal of the
    School of Scottish Studies, 	Univ. of Edinburgh  17:1 (1973): 85-87.
    
    Peel, Barbara.  Dancing and Social Assemblies in York in the Eighteenth and
    Nineteenth Centuries.  Surrey: Univ. of Surrey, National Resource Center for
    Dance, 1986.
    
    Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.  The Manual of Scottish Country
    Dancing.  Edinburgh: RSCDS, 1992.
    
    Sharp, Cecil.  The Country Dance Book, Parts 1-6.  1909, 1934. Carshalton,
    Surrey:  H. Styles, 1985.
    
    Thurston, Hugh.  Scotland's Dances.  Reprint edition.  Kitchener, Ontario:
    Teacher's Association (Canada), 1984.
    
    
    Prepared by:
    Marjorie McLaughlin
    4754 Vista Lane
    San Diego, CA 92116
    (619) 280-5855
    (619) 280-5933 (fax)
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