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small favor: Arthur's Seat 31-32

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  • ...

    e.ferguson Feb. 26, 2018, 4:22 p.m. (Message 69471)

    Hi All,
    
    A discussion has again arisen on bars 31-32 of "Arthur's Seat":  does 1c 
    Petronella to the sidelines or do a 3/4 turn RH?  We diagram makers (like 
    Keith Rose) and crib writers (like Minicrib and myself) want to "get it 
    right", because often our interpretation is what dancers see on the dance 
    programmes.  As David Haynes says, different sources and different 
    interpretations exist.  I do not think it is right for _us_, the diagram and 
    crib makers, to decide how to solve ambiguities in original descriptions and 
    traditional interpretations.
    
    I expect the number of such ambiguities to be small; they will mainly appear 
    for "traditional" dances, as in the past descriptions were often formulated 
    less precisely.
    
    I propose that the RSCDS could ask one of its committees to act as "advice 
    centre" on how to resolve these unclear texts.  The dance will usually go well 
    whatever alternative is chosen, as long as all dancers do the same.  The such 
    "authoritative advice" would be a great help.
    
    Any comments?
    
    Happy dancing,
    
    Eric
  • ...

    Jerome Reinstein Feb. 26, 2018, 4:57 p.m. (Message 69472, in reply to message 69471)

    I agree with your proposal.
    
    Jerry
    --
    Jerry Reinstein
    Vice-Chair & Teaching Coordinator
    Chiswick Scottish Country Dance Club
    15 Sydney House, Woodstock Road
    London W4 1DP, United Kingdom 
    Tel +44 (0)20 8994 2890
    Mob 077 1218 2587 
    
     Chiswick Scottish Country Dance Club <http://www.chiswickscottish.org.uk/>
    
     
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    On 26/02/2018, 14:22, "x.xxxxxxxx@xxxxxxx.xx" <x.xxxxxxxx@xxxxxxx.xx> wrote:
    
        Hi All,
        
        A discussion has again arisen on bars 31-32 of "Arthur's Seat":  does 1c 
        Petronella to the sidelines or do a 3/4 turn RH?  We diagram makers (like 
        Keith Rose) and crib writers (like Minicrib and myself) want to "get it 
        right", because often our interpretation is what dancers see on the dance 
        programmes.  As David Haynes says, different sources and different 
        interpretations exist.  I do not think it is right for _us_, the diagram and 
        crib makers, to decide how to solve ambiguities in original descriptions and 
        traditional interpretations.
        
        I expect the number of such ambiguities to be small; they will mainly appear 
        for "traditional" dances, as in the past descriptions were often formulated 
        less precisely.
        
        I propose that the RSCDS could ask one of its committees to act as "advice 
        centre" on how to resolve these unclear texts.  The dance will usually go well 
        whatever alternative is chosen, as long as all dancers do the same.  The such 
        "authoritative advice" would be a great help.
        
        Any comments?
        
        Happy dancing,
        
        Eric
  • ...

    Anselm Lingnau Feb. 26, 2018, 8:30 p.m. (Message 69478, in reply to message 69471)

    Eric Ferguson wrote:
    
    > I propose that the RSCDS could ask one of its committees to act as "advice
    > centre" on how to resolve these unclear texts.
    
    Speaking entirely for myself and certainly not the RSCDS, I'd say that this is 
    unlikely to happen, for at least two reasons:
    
    1. As a rule, the Society doesn't deal with dances that haven't been published
       by the Society. This is not to say that the Society doesn't acknowledge
       that such dances exist and can be fun and/or instructive – it's just that
       it would open endless political cans of worms that the Society, on the
       whole, would prefer to remain closed.
    
    2. There is a general tendency even within the Society to move towards less,
       rather than more, prescriptivism. As you know, I happen to be in charge of
       the committee that publishes RSCDS dance books (for another 9 months,
       anyway), and we have had extensive discussions over how to deal with the
       seemingly unavoidable ambiguities and omissions in our dance descriptions.
       We acknowledge that too much regulation tends to stifle the enjoyment of
       our dances, and that while there should be enough detail and clarity in
       RSCDS dance descriptions to enable people to figure out how to do a dance
       from the written word alone, in many cases if there is an ambiguity there
       are several ways to resolve that ambiguity that can coexist without causing
       immediate catastrophe, and we do not need to pounce on one particular
       method and declare that the only officially sanctioned one.
      
       Much of the bad reputation that the Society has in some circles (especially
       in Scotland) is less to do with its insistence that people strive for
       excellence in their dancing (which is not a Bad Thing) and more with a
       perceived notion that the Society is all about Right vs. Wrong. While
       people generally enjoy being right, it can really put a damper on the fun
       you're having if you're constantly being told that you're wrong, and so we
       would very much like for there to be less of that, please. Adding further
       detail to dance descriptions will clearly be helpful to some people, but to
       other people it will just afford more opportunities to be told that they're
       wrong, wrong, wrong, and this is not really something we would like to
       encourage.
    
       So whether you do a turn right hand or a petronella turn at the end of
       Arthur's Seat is a definite issue mostly if you're training a high-powered
       display team which is going to perform in front of a bunch of famous
       people who all learned Arthur's Seat from Jack McConachie himself. If, as
       it will be for most of us, you are not in that particular situation, and
       there is no RSCDS Technical Advisory Panel to take recourse to, then you
       listen to your teacher or MC and do whatever they tell you to do (it
       might be something in X's class today and something else at Y's social next
       week, but that is hardly the end of the world). If you yourself happen to
       be the teacher or MC, you pick one and/or tell people that there are two
       choices and let them pick one or try both (they have two tries after all).
       Huge deal.
    
    Having said that, if people would like to empanel a committee to pronounce on 
    that sort of thing for non-RSCDS dances (assuming that the RSCDS TAP is there 
    to take care of RSCDS dances), no power in the 'Verse can stop you from 
    rolling your own (if you don't think you're qualified, try to find some 
    qualified people and incentivise them suitably to take part). If your 
    committee's rulings are reasonable then people – at least those people who are 
    interested in committee rulings on details of dances – will probably accept 
    them. And in most cases it's not as if anyone really knew better, anyway.
    
    Anselm
    (again, NOT speaking for the Society)
    -- 
    Anselm Lingnau, Mainz, Germany ......................... xxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx.xxx
    Never trust a computer you can't throw out a window.          -- Steve Wozniak
  • ...

    e.ferguson Feb. 27, 2018, 2:37 a.m. (Message 69480, in reply to message 69478)

    Dear Anselm, Hi All,
    
    I am not surprised at Anselm's reply, but I beg to differ.
    
    1.  The central aim of the RSCDS is to support SCD.  Nowhere does it say 
    "Supporting SCD as long as people are dancing RSCDS dances".  Publishing 
    dances is a [very useful] "service to dancers".  But why ever should the 
    RSCDS - except by what is in my opinion a short-sighted tradition - limit its 
    actions to its own dances only, in fact saying "RSCDS dances are more equal 
    than others".  Just look at the "dance lists" on SCDDB and see how important 
    non-RSCDS dances are in the SCD community.  The RSCDS should decide to support 
    ALL SC dances as and when that is useful.
    
    2.  When dances have different "variants" (often older dances), these are 
    often equally "danceable", but it is decidedly disturbing when different 
    "variants" coexist;  the dancers in a set may not discover their different 
    traditions till in the dance itself.   it is wise for SCD groups to ask for 
    advice on which variant to prefer, for if we all choose one variant, it 
    improves joy for everyone, at no real loss.  The only place with the 
    expertise, data sources and prestige to give such advice is the RSCDS.  If the 
    Society does not help us for all such dances (not RSCDS dances only, I feel 
    let down.
    
    3.  We agree that the RSCDS should not "prescribe" or "act as authority".  I 
    ask the Society to "give advice".  To me it is evident that such advice will 
    be made in cooperation with any dancers who can contribute usefully (whether 
    members or not).   The result is not "Only this is right" but "If we all do it 
    this way, it will be the most joyful for everyone".
    
    4.  I see no reason to fear "cans of worms".  If all discussants can join in, 
    they will usually reach a joint preference.  But even if two versions become 
    "common" (as for instance the Lsh and Rsh passes in Mairi's Wedding") it's 
    better than nothing.
    
    5.  We diagram and crib makers do our best.  Our cribs and diagrams on SCDDB 
    should agree mutually.  That is what dancers get from the SCDDB downloads. 
    But when (as often happens) organisers also make their own crib sheet, the 
    dancers on the floor may be reading conflicting instructions.  That is only 
    counterproductive.
  • ...

    Anselm Lingnau Feb. 27, 2018, 4:05 a.m. (Message 69481, in reply to message 69480)

    Eric wrote:
    
    > The RSCDS should decide to support ALL SC dances as and when that is useful.
    
    It's probably just as well to remember that the whole issue concerns only a 
    very limited part of the repertoire, namely dances that are so old that there 
    is no “living memory” associated with them. Most of these dances are actually 
    RSCDS dances because not many people other than the RSCDS have even bothered 
    with dances from old manuscripts (Jack McConachie's “18th-century dances” book 
    is a very rare exception).
    
    Today, almost 95% of the published repertoire of Scottish country dances 
    consists of “modern” dances, meaning dances that have been written after the 
    Society was founded in 1923. For many of these dances, the devisers are still 
    around and available to answer questions. For many others, there are people 
    around who learned the dance from the deviser and are probably better placed 
    to give stipulations as to the deviser's intent than the Society.
    
    The Society, after all, has published only around 1000 dances altogether, 
    which is a tiny part of what is out there. However, simply keeping these 
    dances in good repair, answering questions, etc. is in fact keeping the 
    Society quite busy. Now you're asking it to serve as a clearinghouse for 
    another 18000 dances, most of which the good people of MSC, E&T or the 
    Technical Advisory Panel are likely to have never heard of, and about which 
    any “advice” the Society can give is likely really not any better or worse 
    than that which any experienced dance teacher should be able to provide. At 
    RSCDS HQ we do not have access to special arcane knowledge or insight that is 
    hidden from ordinary dancers and that would enable us to make a better 
    judgement than anyone else. We also do not operate ouija boards. On the whole 
    it is probably a much more productive use of our time to encourage dancers to 
    develop “common sense” that will help them deal with many dances than to try 
    to sort out every little ambiguity in every single dance out there one after 
    the other.
    
    It should also be mentioned that even if we look only at old dances where 
    devisers (or people close to the devisers) cannot be consulted, many 
    ambiguities do not create actual problems. For example, the official RSCDS 
    version of Seann Triubhas Willichan, on bars 17-24, has 1st couple lead down 
    giving right hands, turn right hands, lead up giving right hands, and cast 
    off. It is a very common variation to dance down with nearer hands, turn both 
    hands, and dance up with nearer hands again. Many people (including myself) 
    find this nicer than what the RSCDS book says, but even if the RSCDS book 
    didn't specify which hands to use it would be trivial to establish a consensus 
    with one's partner on the fly. Many of the dreaded “ambiguities” in older 
    dances are like that. But we don't need a committee to tell us what we like, 
    and for all we know that was how the dance was originally intended, anyway, 
    and the Society just managed to mangle it dreadfully during the 
    reconstruction. The Society certainly does not have an exclusive right to 
    decide what people enjoy.
    
    > 2.  When dances have different "variants" (often older dances), these are
    > often equally "danceable", but it is decidedly disturbing when different
    > "variants" coexist;  the dancers in a set may not discover their different
    > traditions till in the dance itself.
    
    So what? I wonder what the worst that can happen will be. Do people actually 
    collide at speed on a regular basis because they can't agree on which shoulder 
    to pass between half diagonal reels of four? My guess is that the vast 
    majority of such “mismatches” will be sorted out “dynamically” and at worst 
    lead to a good laugh.
    
    Could we please – by way of illustration only – have a few real-life examples 
    of descriptions of dances that are actually being danced socially, that are so 
    ambiguous that not promulgating and adhering to a common definite third-party 
    resolution leads to actual *problems* (as opposed to brief flashes of 
    hilarity) on the social dance floor? I've been dancing for more than 25 years 
    now and I find it difficult to remember any such situation. (One might think 
    of questions like who makes the arches in Postie's Jig or which shoulder to 
    pass in Mairi's Wedding, but these are in fact explained quite unambiguously 
    in the authors' dance descriptions if people could be bothered to read, so 
    these don't count. Actual examples please.)
    
    If you ask the Society to pronounce on what is the “correct” way to do bars X 
    to Y of dance Z, you automatically imply – whether you want it or not – that 
    not doing it this way is “wrong” or at least inferior, and this will be taken 
    out on people who, whether by ignorance or personal preference, adopt the 
    “wrong” method – even if that method appears to work equally well. I have on 
    many social occasions been booed and hissed by busybodies of the informal 
    “dance police” for doing something “wrong” – whether these people were in fact 
    correct or not is immaterial, but this attitude poisons the social atmosphere 
    and turns people off SCD, which is the very last thing that we want. 
    Therefore, as long as we can't eradicate the informal “dance police” (which in 
    my book should have a MUCH higher priority than any fixes to individual 
    dances), we should not create more opportunities for people to be “wrong” by 
    fixing problems that do not in fact desperately need to be fixed. This is 
    counterproductive not just because of the right/wrong issue but also because 
    there are enough acctual problems that deserve being tackled, and there is 
    only so much time available.
    
    Anselm
    -- 
    Anselm Lingnau, Mainz, Germany ......................... xxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx.xxx
    Liquid tungsten is so hot, if you dropped it into a lava flow, the lava would
    freeze the tungsten.       -- Randall Munroe, _Extreme Boating_ (what if? #50)
  • ...

    Mike Briggs Feb. 27, 2018, 5:42 a.m. (Message 69482, in reply to message 69481)

    Excellent. Anselm, you are the king of common sense! 
    Mike Briggs
  • ...

    Andrew Smith Feb. 27, 2018, 10:53 a.m. (Message 69483, in reply to message 69481)

    Anselm asked for an example of ambiguity.
    
    Admittedly, in this case there is no ambiguity in the instructions, but 
    many, many years ago now the habit had crept in for the final all-round 
    poussette in 'Bonnie Anne' for the 1s & 2s and 3s & 4s to be done as 
    ordinary progressive poussettes. There were three couples in the set who 
    knew nothing other than the 'bad' habit. The remaining couple were very 
    serious dancers, who incidentally almost invariably danced together, who 
    must have known the correct version. All was well until the final eight 
    bars. Anselm's "guess is that the vast majority of such “mismatches” will be 
    sorted out dynamically” and at worst lead to a good laugh." was way off the 
    mark in this case, certainly for the 'serious' couple. The light-hearted 
    attitude to chaos of the other three was disapproved of so vigorously that 
    the atmosphere became really poisonous. It sticks in my memory solely 
    because it cast such a shadow over the rest of the evening.
    
    Incidentally, I was checking my spelling of 'poussette' in my 2006 edition 
    of the Society's "Index to Formations and Movements ...", and 'Bonnie Anne' 
    does not get a mention. A quick random selection of titles I have danced 
    socially seems to indicate that MacNab dances might be beyond the pale as 
    far as this 'Index' is concerned?
    
    Andrew,
    Bristol, UK
  • ...

    Anselm Lingnau Feb. 27, 2018, 11:08 a.m. (Message 69484, in reply to message 69483)

    Andrew Smith wrote:
    
    > The light-hearted
    > attitude to chaos of the other three was disapproved of so vigorously that
    > the atmosphere became really poisonous. It sticks in my memory solely
    > because it cast such a shadow over the rest of the evening.
    
    Yes, but as you note this has nothing to do with ambiguity in the 
    instructions. It is really more of an “informal dance police” issue.
    
    It is probably upon us as teachers to (a) note that competing versions exist 
    in certain dances – and I can agree that the end of Bonnie Anne is one of the 
    places where there is at least a danger of people colliding –, and (b) stomp 
    down hard on people who take it upon themselves to give other people a bad 
    time on social occasions.
    
    We don't seem to do Bonnie Anne as much as we used to, so the idea that there 
    are competing versions and that a set might agree in advance on which version 
    to do is not established as firmly in people's minds. But I have certainly 
    been in situations where a set went into a brief huddle to figure out whether, 
    e.g., to do a three-couple poussette at the end of every other turn of 
    Muirland Willie to make life easier for 4th couple becoming 3rd couple. I 
    contend that this is a much more positive approach to the issue of “ambiguity” 
    than to ask the TAP (or a similar body for non-RSCDS dances) to declare which 
    way is “correct” (what do you expect them to say, anyway?) or tsk-tsk-ing at 
    dancers or sets who prefer the convenient (and considerate) method over the 
    official one in the RSCDS book.
    
    > Incidentally, I was checking my spelling of 'poussette' in my 2006 edition
    > of the Society's "Index to Formations and Movements ...", and 'Bonnie Anne'
    > does not get a mention. A quick random selection of titles I have danced
    > socially seems to indicate that MacNab dances might be beyond the pale as
    > far as this 'Index' is concerned?
    
    I can't speak for whoever did the 2006 edition of the Index to Formations and 
    Movements, but the 2018+ edition, once it is finally ready, will probably not 
    cover the MacNab dances, either, simply because most of them are really 
    speciality items that don't show up that often, and they include weird stuff 
    that appears in no other dance. I'm open to debate from the other side (under 
    a new subject heading please, or in direct e-mail to xxxxxxxx@xxx.xxxxx.xxx).
    
    Anselm
    -- 
    Anselm Lingnau, Mainz, Germany ......................... xxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx.xxx
    Anyone who creates his or her own cryptographic primitives is either a genius
    or a fool. Given the genius/fool ratio for our species, the odds aren't very
    good.                                                        -- Bruce Schneie

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