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Newcastle 2013 – German Team Display

Here’s a video of the German Team’s display performance at the 2013 Newcastle Festival, which I choreographed and directed.

Considering that 2013 is the Society’s 90th anniversary year, I decided to base the choreography on “A Brief History of the RSCDS”. Here’s a description of the different dances and how they relate to this basic idea:

This is RSCDS Book 1, Dance 1, and therefore, in a way, is “where it all starts”. Our performance begins with two dancers (Johanna and Martin), who are soon joined by two more (Marie and Faye) and proceed to bring in even more dancers to make up a four-couple set. This is how the Society got started with very few people but then grew fairly quickly.
Miss Milligan's Strathspey
It is impossible to show the history of the Society without referring to its founders, Miss Milligan and Mrs Stewart of Fasnacloich. We present a four-couple adaptation of Miss Milligan’s Strathspey (from the RSCDS Golden Jubilee booklet). Note the reel of four starting towards the centre – rather than the ends, as usual – on bars 9–16 (necessary to keep the idea of the dancing couple going down, or, rather, the dancing couples going towards the centre of the set) and the transition to two longwise sets across the stage during the Knot at the end.
Mrs Stewart's Jig
The “other” founder, Mrs Ysobel Stewart of Fasnacloich, is commemorated by this dance from RSCDS book 35, written by Frans Ligtmans of Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Frans was my tutor for the Preliminary Test and also taught me a thing or two about displays ;^) In our adaptation, the dance is performed by two three-couple sets going across the stage, with “top” on the respective outside. The Grand Chain extends across both sets and we have an extra ladies’ chain and advance-and-retire in the middle to keep things moving.
The Glasgow Highlanders
This is a bit of a break in the chronology since The Glasgow Highlanders, like Petronella, had already been around during the 19th century (way before the Society got started). However, the first meeting of the SCDS in 1923 did take place in Glasgow, so it is appropriate to commemorate that city’s dance tradition in this display. The dance – perhaps not quite as popular today as it used to be – combines elements of country dancing with formations and steps from the traditional Scottish social dance, the Foursome Reel, and was published in RSCDS Book 2. In this display, we use three two-couple sets in a “star” formation, with “top” on the inside (so the down-the-middle-and-up goes towards the audience) and form a big circle for the setting, followed by interlocking reels of four (which saves us from the awkward progression). There are eight extra bars of music at the end to provide a transition into …
The Reel of the 51st Division
This dance is notable both for the history of its conception during World War II and for the fact that it is the first “newly devised” dance that the Society published (in the “Victory Book”, otherwise known as Book 13). Our version is unusual in that it presents a “square set” adaptation of the dance, which nevertheless preserves its most important features. In particular, the “saltire” shoulder flash of the 51st Highland Division, seen only indirectly in the original, is a lot more obvious here. The music is taken from a recording by the late Bill Clement, himself inextricably connected with the history of the Society.
Neidpath Castle
After the War, the Society continued publishing more modern dances, of which Derek Haynes’s strathspey, Neidpath Castle, from RSCDS Book 22, is a very popular example (although again slightly out of the chronology). For the team it is an opportunity to show off their lovely covering during the initial eight bars and the half poussettes – unfortunately, the camera angle doesn’t quite do them justice!
In 1957 the Society acquired premises at 12 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh, to use as its Headquarters. We have Roy Goldring to thank for this dance (published in RSCDS Book 40), which made it easy to remember the RSCDS post code! The first eight bars, otherwise “down the middle and up”, are used to transition from the two three-couple sets down the stage to one five-couple set across, and we present a five-couple adaptation of the dance starting from both ends simultaneously.
The Flower of Glasgow
Here is once more a “quieter” moment in the display, with one three-couple set performing Ruth Taylor’s strathspey from Book 46 (which when I wrote the display was the newest RSCDS book published, thus closing the arc from Book 1 to the present). In the display, it stands for the fact that Scottish country dancing is an ongoing, “living” tradition where new material – dances and music – is constantly added to the repertoire.
Joie de Vivre
The full team is on stage for the final complete dance of the performance, which symbolises the spirit of fun and sociability that pervades Scottish country dancing – the “joie de vivre” portrayed by South African dance author Irene van Maarseveen and published in RSCDS Book 39.
Triumphal Finish
Completing the circle back to Book 1, the display finishes with a “coda” loosely inspired by movements from The Triumph and a big circle facing the audience. For many of us in the German Team, though most of us are not of Scottish extraction, Scottish country dancing represents an important part of our lives as dancers, teachers, and musicians. The efforts of the Society during the past 90 years have made Scottish country dancing into something to be reckoned with globally, with followers all over the world, that can be enjoyed on an international scale. This surely must be the “triumph” of the RSCDS, and we are enthusiastic to celebrate the Society’s anniversary with Scottish country dancers everywhere.

The Dancers: Anja Breest · Vivian Colbert · Judith Fingerhuth · Tim Hoffmann · Ute Hoppmann-Lacour · Johanna Leithoff · Martin McWilliam · Annette Mast · Faye Schmitz · Daniela Schröder · Ute Schüssler · Maria-Theresia Schwarz · Ilona Stitz · Norbert Weitzel

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You see things, and you say »Why?« But I dream things that never were, and say »Why not?«
– George Bernard Shaw