Musical May

CPT to MLK via ORD, MSN and LHR

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Milwaukee in Wisconsin for work and this afforded me the chance to pack my ghillies and dance my way there and back.

I was due to arrive in Chicago on Saturday 7th May, the day that a Spring Dance party was being held but unfortunately too late to make my way to Racine in time to join the dance. It seemed like it was going to be a case of being in the right place but not at the right time and that I wouldn’t get a chance to dance on this trip.  Further enquiries however resulted in info that dancing takes place in both Chicago and Madison on Sunday evenings and it was suggested that  I  contact John McCormick who regularly drives through from Milwaukee to Madison to attend the Madison class.

After a brief email exchange it was arranged that John would kindly fetch me from my hotel and we’d travel the couple of hours together. John is a qualified dance teacher and dance devisor and we were able to happily chat about our shared passion for SCD on the journey.

Madison Scottish Country Dancers are also known as John Muir (Wisconsin) Branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.

The class on Sunday 8th May was capably taught by Kate Deck and Janice Lacock. Kate and Janice are diligently preparing and practicing for their Unit 5 teacher exams later this month. Based on their well-prepared lesson and confident teaching I’m sure they’ll both pass without a problem.

It took me a while to realize that the music playing while we were getting ready to warm up was in fact ‘Sarie Marais’ played on the bagpipes and that this had been specially arranged by class musician Mike Briggs to welcome the South African in their midst.

The second dance on the programme was Mrs Stewart’s Jig which I always enjoy dancing. Mike reminded us all of whom Mrs Stewart was and her founding role in the RSCDS, I was able to add to the account that she retired to Fish Hoek in Cape Town where I currently teach SCD.

Other dances taught that evening were: Machine without Horses, The Birks of Invermay, The Whistling Wind and to honour the mothers in the class as it was Mother’s Day  - The Highlandman Kissed His Mother.

I was delighted that attending this class afforded me the chance to meet up with Mike Briggs a "virtual" friend whom I had met on the Strathspey Server (a forum for Scottish dancers on the net) and who had generously written tunes for us in Cape Town for use in our Birding Day Fundraising Dance last year.   

My return journey via London would have required a lengthy layover in Heathrow airport waiting for my connecting flight. Rather than be stuck in transit for most of a day I decide to delay my journey home by 24 hours, spend the time in London and go dancing.

This coincided with the RSCDS London Branch dance ‘ Dance to the Musicians’. Angela Young was conducting a musician’s course on Saturday 14th May which culminated in a dance that evening where dancers got to celebrate the musician’s achievements and dance to music provided by them.

The venue for the dance was St Columba's Church located on Pont Street in Knightsbridge. I decided a recce to the venue was required in the afternoon with an obligatory detour for shopping / browsing in Harrods. My husband back home wasn’t convinced that this was entirely necessary.

When I arrived at the dance later that evening I was warmly welcomed at the door by the Rachel Wilton who I’d met at Summer School in St Andrews and later by the branch Chairman Jeff Robertson.

I was one of three international visitors attending,  Jon Friend from Toronto and Susanna Page from Madrid were the other two.

The well-balanced programme included 18 dances, some of which were well-known to me – Hoopers Jig, Links with St Petersburg, Ladies Fancy, Miss Gibson’s Stathspey, Mrs Stewarts Jig and Jean Martin of Aberdeen.

John Williamson will be pleased to hear that the fare at the interval included sausage rolls although I don’t recall seeing any tablet.

I had the opportunity to learn a new dance on the fly Perth 800. This reel devised by Linda Gaul of Pitlochry fame has music composed by Angela Young to accompany it - “The Octocentenary”. The dance was devised to celebrate the 800th ‘birthday’ of Perth.

Andrew Hodgson and Peter Macfarlane would have been interested to observe Stephen Webb’s technique first hand. I’m referring to his nimble footwork combined with taking pictures. Dancing and visually recording the evening’s activities were carefully phrased together; no sitting out a dance to take photos is required.

The last dance of the evening was the Duke of Perth and I thoroughly enjoyed twirling and birling my way through this reel.

I was impressed by the friendliness of the dancers and appreciated the effort of all who asked a stranger to dance.

If you are ever in London I would recommend that you ascertain if the RSCDS London Branch are offering a dance, dance event or class during your stay as I’m confident you’ll be warmly welcomed. Events which are held throughout the year are publicized well in advance to help with planning.

I have once again returned home with a whole set of memories due to dancing and new dancing friends.

Heather Hodgson

May 2011

Photos courtesy Stephen Webb, RSCDS London Branch