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revisiting Dolphin Reels

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  • ...

    Peter Price June 27, 2006, 11:42 a.m. (Message 45668)

    It has been several years since I have been a subscriber to
    Strathspey- I am back and I am back with a hot potato.
    
    I put "Dancing Dolphins" on the April 2006 Kilts and Ghillies ball
    program, visited several other class and was very disturbed by what I
    saw and heard. Almost unanimously, the other teachers used the term
    "tandem reels" to describe Barry Skelton's reels.
    
    I searched the Strathspey archive, read most of the resulting threads
    that date back to 1999, and found that in every one of those posting
    the reels were refered to as tandem reels. I was astonished at how we
    all referenced the same dances - I was also astonished how every one
    missed one crucial point. The reels in Dancing Dolphins are NOT tandem
    reels and we do our dancers a real disservice if we use that term.
    
    I have written the following which I intend to submit to our teacher's
    newsletter and I relish the comments I know are coming-
    
    
    **********
    
    Dolphin Reels - a controversy
    
    I have been involved in a friendly disagreement with other teachers in
    the New Haven Branch over the proper naming of the reels in Barry
    Skelton's Dolphin Book. One teacher in particular insists on calling
    them "tandem reels", and in her view quite properly, since Barry
    himself uses that term. I submit that Barry Skelton himself is
    misusing the word.
    
    In his words (from the contents page of The Dolphin Book, Barry
    Skelton, Auckland, NZ, 1994):
    
    
         1.	8 X 32  Jig		Dancing Dolphins
    		    All the dances in this book have a type of tandem reel that people
                  thought looked like Dolphins chasing each other through the waves.
                  I was told that this one looks as if they were dancing.
    
    and in Bars 9-16 from the instructions for that dance-
    
            9-16	First couple in tandem, dance a right shoulder reel of
    three with second and third lady.*
    
    I believe that the use of the word "tandem" to describe these reels is
    incorrect and, worse, misleading and is in fact contradicted, first by
    the more detailed directions in the notes to the dance and secondly in
    the dance directions themselves. This may be due to a general
    misinterpretation of what is meant by the word "tandem".
    
    From Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English
    Language, unabridged, second edition, The Publishers Guild, NY, 1964
    
         tandem: adv. [orig. punning use of L. tandem at length (of
    time).] in a single
                        line, one behind another; as, horses driven tandem; also, in
                        electricity, in series; not abreast.
    
    and from the dancing directions for "Dancing Dolphins":
    
         1-8	First couple, cross with the right hand and cast off one place.
                  (Second couple step up on bars 3 & 4.) First couple turn
    each other
                  with the left hand 11/4 times. First couple finish
    facing the lady's side,
                  THE MAN HAS HIS PARTNER ON HIS RIGHT.***
               (my emphasis)
    
    That wording implies, and the diagram at the bottom of the page shows,
    the first couple to be abreast of one another in direct contradiction
    with the definition if the reels are tandem reels. To be tandem one of
    the dancers would have to be closely behind and following the other -
    not along side.
    
    The note at the bottom also contradicts the tandem nature of the reels:
    
         *** Note: First couple should begin parallel with the side of the set and
         remain parallel with the set throughout the reel. This will require good
         covering. First couple must be aware of their partner especially on the
         turns. First couple cover with each other not just follow each other.
         Where the directions say follow also read cover.
    
    In the diagram first couple are clearly abreast of each other at the
    start of the reel, and on the end of the reel where they are both
    singly turning by the right. By extension (remember those words - "and
    remain parallel") they will be abreast of each other every time they
    dance across the sideline of the set- that is in the middle of the
    reel (the crossing point) and at both ends. Clearly not in tandem.
    There are, however,  four points in the reel when first couple appear
    to be dancing in tandem (and I will return to this point later) but
    those moments of "tandemness" are only incidental to the nature of the
    reel and not a primary characteristic of it. It is the parallelness,
    the abreastness of first couple that is the primary characteristic of
    this kind of reel and why I do not classify this as a tandem reel even
    though it has those tandem moments.
    
    So lets take a decidedly brief and incomplete tour of the reels that
    we dance. First, I'd say, would be the simple or straight reel - three
    dancers on a figure of eight track. Right shoulder, left shoulder,
    mirror, across the set, on the sides of the set, on the diagonal, in
    six bars, in eight bars and half reels in four bars - "straight" reels
    one and all. Toss in the reel of four for good measure, in all the
    standard variations - these too would qualify as simple or straight
    reels.
    
    We can add a dancer and have reels of three for four dancers- if two
    of the dancers dance together in promenade hold. The Luckenbooth
    Brooch (Glendarroch #28) is a dance that immediately jumps to mind. I
    would call them promenade reels but again classify them as simple
    reels. Please note they are not tandem reels because the couple are
    beside each other, no one is following or dancing in another's track.
    
    Then there is the Shetland reel - three couples on a figure of eight
    track, each couple dancing in tandem - that is one dancer closely
    behind and following their partner- and each couple dancing the role
    of a single person in a straight reel. An example of a Shetland reel
    is in John Drewry's dance Tickle My Fancy (32 Jig for 3 couples)
    published in The Rondel Book.
    
            9-10	1st couple cross over, giving right hands.
    
           11-12	1st, 2nd and 3rd couples set on the sides.
    
           13-14	1st, 2nd and 3rd couples turn Petronella-wise to form a
    straight line down the centre of the
                             set, with 1st man and 2nd and 3rd ladies
    facing down, and 1st lady and 2nd and 3rd men
                             facing up.
    
           15-16	All set to partners, but on the last step each lady turns
    pulling right shoulder back) to finish
                             just in front of her partner with her back
    towards him. each man puts both hands on his
                             partner's waist.
    
           17-24	A reel of three down the centre of the dance in pairs.
    1st and 2nd couples pass
                             by the right shoulder to begin.
    
    A modified Shetland reel can be found in John Drewry's Ferla Mor (The
    Big Gray Man) in which the first couple only is dancing in tandem and
    reeling on the diagonal with first corners and then with second
    corners. (See The Deeside Book Part One). Both these examples are
    tandem reels and also straight or simple reels, and their primary
    characteristic is that the dancers are all on the same track. You
    could say they are dancing in each other's footsteps as, in Drewry's
    words, "…1st man follows his partner as closely as convenient."
    
    Barry Priddey, in two dances from The Capercaille Book of Scottish
    Country Dances, has created a variation of the tandem reel that
    appears to be the forerunner of the reels in  Barry Skelton's Dolphin
    Book. From the Barry Priddey's dance The Capercaille-
    
              5-8	1C turn with left hands 1-1/2 times to finish with 1W
    facing 2M and 1M close
                          behind her and ready to follow. 4C turn
    similarly to face 3M.
    
              9-12	1C & 4C dance half a diagonal reel of four with 3M &
    3M. After passing the men,
                         1C & 4C turn right about singly to continue the
    half reel with 1M & 4M in the lead.
                          At the end, the dancing couples pass by the
    left, 1C to face 3W, 4C to face 2W.
    
    Here, for the first time that I know of, we have a tandem reel with a
    lead change. The dancers are clearly in tandem everywhere but at the
    ends where, by dancing a little wide (or long), space is created for
    each dancer to individually turn right (or left) about and allows the
    following dancer to neatly take the fore. It is unfortunate that Barry
    Priddey failed to date the dances or the publication of the book. I do
    not know which came first, The Capercaille Book or The Dolphin Book,
    but I strongly suspect that Barry Skelton had Barry Priddey's dances
    to play around with.
    
    	We now come full circle and return to the reels found in The Dolphin
    Book, and they are unlike anything we've seen so far. The first thing
    to note is that these are not the simple, straight reels we have
    looked at so far. First couple is dancing together but not on the same
    figure of eight track. They are instead on their own individual
    tracks. (See appended diagrams). In a tandem reel one dancer would be
    dancing in the other's track so these reels are not tandem reels.
    Notice also that second and third women are not dancing on either of
    these tracks but rather on their own figure of eight and that theirs
    is the standard track of a normal reel- and none of these three tracks
    coincide with any of the others. These separate but overlapping tracks
    make this a "complex" reel. It is certainly not straight forward!
    
    	The defining characteristic of these reels is the overlapping but
    separate tracks of first couple attained by THE COUPLE holding
    parallel to the side of the set. And here is where I need to come back
    to something I said earlier- that the moments where first couple
    appear to be dancing in tandem are only incidental to the nature of
    these reels. That was a deliberate misstatement to make a point. In
    truth those moments are absolutely essential to the nature of these
    reels and it is the way in which first couple appears to morph from
    the parallel to the tandem and back again that makes these reels
    unique and such a joy to dance. In this case appearances are
    everything!
    
    	So, to return to the initial controversy, what do we call these
    reels? They are not tandem reels, they are not shadow or Shetland
    reels, they are not promenade reels. But what are they? I think that
    this question is something of a Gordian Knot, and I would solve it in
    a similar fashion. Since they are found in The Dolphin Book, I would
    simply call them "Dolphin" Reels, brush my hands, and be done with it.
    
    ************
    I apologize for not being able to attach the diagrams or the pertinent
    dance instructions. I will mail them to all who want them.
    
    Peter Price
    xxxxx.xxxxxxxxx@xxxxx.xxx
  • ...

    mlamontbrown June 27, 2006, 1:19 p.m. (Message 45669, in reply to message 45668)

    Peter Price wrote about the use of the word "Tandem" to describe the reels which
    occur in such dances as Pelorus Jack and Flight of the Falcon.
    
    While I have a great deal of sympathy with what he says, unfortunately I think we are
    too late to influence the discussion. 
    
    The latest edition of the RSCDS Manual has a section 6.23.4 on "Reel of three in
    tandem" which is pretty clear that this is the term to be used to describe these
    reels;
    
    I quote:
    The pattern of the reel is the same as that already described with the following
    difference: when the dancers in tandem loop round the ends of a reel, the leading
    dancer dances slightly wide to allow the dancer behind to take the lead.
    
    This does leave us with the problem of what term to use for reels where the dancers
    dance the reel with the couple in tandem (i.e. one behind the other) with the same
    person leading for the entire reel (as in "The Dancing Master").
    
    Malcolm
     
    
    Malcolm L Brown
    York  (UK)
  • ...

    Lee Fuell June 27, 2006, 1:36 p.m. (Message 45670, in reply to message 45668)

    Malcolm,
    
    Yes, we have noted that problem with the new manual and discussed it
    in a New Manual Discussion Group earlier this year.  Ferla Mor is, I
    think, another dance with tandem reels where the leads do not change.
    However, I don't think there are any RSCDS-published dances with that
    figure.  So now if the Society ever chooses to publish The Dancing
    Master or Ferla Mor or any other dance with "tandem reels without lead
    changes," they are going to have to come up with some cumbersome name
    for the figure.  It is disappointing that the authors of the new
    manual did not anticipate this problem and name the "dolphin reels"
    something else, like "tandem reels with lead changes."  Any chance of
    a page change update to the new manual?  Anyone from RSCDS management
    lurking out there and following this?
    
    Lee Fuell
    Arlington, VA and Beavercreek, OH, USA
  • ...

    Iain Boyd June 27, 2006, 1:51 p.m. (Message 45671, in reply to message 45668)

    Unfortunately, the 'Society's' decision to name this sort of reel as
    'tandem reels' causes many more problems than it solves.
       
      As usual, the compilers of the 'Manual' have considered only what
      the Society has published and have not taken into account the wider
      world of Scottish Country Dancing.
       
      As the only 'tandem reels' published by the Society are of the 'swap
      over / change over' variety these are what the compilers have
      described.
       
      This type of reel is merely a subset of a general type of reel which
      could be described as 'tandem reels' - the reels in "The Saint
      Nicholas Boat" (which Peter Price describes as 'Shetland reels' and
      others as 'shadow reels') and those on "The Dancing Master" where
      only one couple dance 'in tandem'.
       
       
      Regarding the origins of the reels in "The Dolphin Book", these are
      derived directly from the reels in "The Flight Of The Falcon" by
      Barry Priddey.
       
      Barry Skelton was introduced to them by Ian Simmonds (a local
      Wellington teacher) who taught "The Flight Of The Falcon" at a
      weekend school in Auckland.
       
      Regards,
       
      Iain Boyd
       
       
       
       
      
    
    mlamontbrown <xxxxxxxxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx> wrote:
      Peter Price wrote about the use of the word "Tandem" to describe the reels which
    occur in such dances as Pelorus Jack and Flight of the Falcon.
    
    While I have a great deal of sympathy with what he says, unfortunately I think we are
    too late to influence the discussion. 
    
    The latest edition of the RSCDS Manual has a section 6.23.4 on "Reel of three in
    tandem" which is pretty clear that this is the term to be used to describe these
    reels;
    
    I quote:
    The pattern of the reel is the same as that already described with the following
    difference: when the dancers in tandem loop round the ends of a reel, the leading
    dancer dances slightly wide to allow the dancer behind to take the lead.
    
    This does leave us with the problem of what term to use for reels where the dancers
    dance the reel with the couple in tandem (i.e. one behind the other) with the same
    person leading for the entire reel (as in "The Dancing Master").
    
    Malcolm
    
    
    Malcolm L Brown
    York (UK)
    
    
    
    
    
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  • ...

    Mike Mudrey June 27, 2006, 5:39 p.m. (Message 45673, in reply to message 45671)

    A wothless two bits from me...
    
    
    Why not call them chipmunk reels?
    
    A tandem reel is a descriptor that is not culturally bound by 
    proximity to the sea coast.  Here in Wisconsin we have no dolphins, 
    but there are tandem trucks, etc.  My choice for all dance 
    terminology is for global terms.  Tandem reel is inclusive and with a 
    short modifier to convey the loop and cut off.
    
    In English Country Dancing there is  a growing tendency to refer to 
    what we once called "Hole is the Wall Crossing" as "Front to Front 
    (or belly to belly) crossing).  One must know Hole is the Wall as a 
    dance before one can use the term.  Similar, if one has never seen 
    dolphins, how does one describe the figure...a tandem reel with the 
    following partner cutting infront of the leading.
    
    mm
  • ...

    Volleyballjerry June 27, 2006, 5:38 p.m. (Message 45672, in reply to message 45668)

    I agree with what seems to be a developing consensus so far:  that the RSCDS 
    description of "dolphin reels" simply as tandem reels is surprising, 
    inaccurate, unfortunate, and worthy of change as soon as possible.
    
    Particular dances published by the RSCDS aside, of the dances generally "out 
    there" and being danced (certainly by RSCDS groups as well), there seem to be 
    more of them with what we appear to agree that the term SHOULD describe than 
    with "dolphin reels."  Another among them is The Huntsman, on our (San Gabriel 
    Valley) branch's current annual list.  Furthermore it does not strike me that 
    in this neck of the woods (Southern California) I personally have heard the 
    term tandem reels used to describe anything other than reels and three with two 
    dancing as one and without change in the leader-follower circumstance.
    
    In my own class I have on occasion used "overtaking tandem" to describe 
    "dolphin" reels in terms of what actually occurs, but my dancers would never assume 
    the "dolphin" aspect if I simply said "tandem."  Another difference is that 
    "dolphin" reels more typically have a "cloverleaf" aspect than do ordinary 
    tandem reels.
    
    Robb Quint
    Thousand Oaks, CA, USA
  • ...

    Iain Boyd June 27, 2006, 11:39 p.m. (Message 45683, in reply to message 45672)

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx@xxx.xxx wrote:     
      Another difference is that "dolphin" reels more typically have a
      "cloverleaf" aspect than do ordinary tandem reels.
    
    Robb Quint
    Thousand Oaks, CA, USA 
    
      
     
      I thought this aspect of 'swap over' reels was laid to rest at the
      end of the last debate about this type of reel.
       
      'Swap over' reels should NOT be danced as 'cloverleaf' reels! They
      are two normal reels of three where one has been overlaid over the
      other and shifted apart slightly.
       
      The reason they turn out like 'cloverleaf' reels is because dancers
      do not appreciate 'light and shade' and can not apply it to their
      dancing. All they can do is dance at one speed. This is what makes
      'cloverleaf' reels out of normal reels.
       
      The so-called 'cloverleaf' reels in "Mairi's Wedding" are caused by
      dancers who are unable to dance reels of four properly.
       
      Regards,
       
      Iain Boyd
       
       
    
    
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  • ...

    Jim Healy June 27, 2006, 6:32 p.m. (Message 45674, in reply to message 45668)

    Greetings!
    
    Peter Price gives a lengthy argument that the the reels in Pelorus Jack and 
    as described in the Manual are not 'tandem' based on a single dictionary 
    definition starting "in a single line, one behind another;". I was not 
    involved in the writing of the Manual but in defence of the description, I 
    note that my current version of the Concise Oxford Dictionary also offers a 
    definition of tandem as
    
    "a group of two people or machines working together".
    
    Jim Healy
    Monaco and Perth
  • ...

    L. Friedman-Shedlov June 27, 2006, 7:46 p.m. (Message 45676, in reply to message 45668)

    I was very dismayed when I got the new manual and saw that RSCDS had 
    defined tandem reels they have.  Personally, I prefer to avoid the term 
    "tandem" altogether, since its definition seems to have become hopelessly 
    confused.
    
    I call reels where one person chases the other throughout (without 
    changing the lead)  -- as in Ferla Mor -- "shadow reels"
    
    I call reels where one person chases the other and they change places as 
    they go around the ends of the reel -- as in Pelorus Jack -- "swap-over 
    reels" or "dolphin reels."  I like "swap-over" better, because I think it 
    is more descriptive of what is actually happening, where the term "dolphin 
    reels" relies on knowing the reference to a particular dance.
    
    I really hope there is a chance this can be corrected/clarified in the 
    RSCDS manual.
    
    / Lara Friedman-Shedlov
    Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
    
    
    ********************************
    Lara Friedman~Shedlov               "Librarians -- Like Google, but
    xxxx@xxxxxxx.xxx                       warm-blooded"
    ********************************

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