Hints and Tips for SCD - Devising
Here are some recommendations Pretoria Branch made
when soliciting new dances for a book.
- Ensure that there is music available to suit the dance.
- The dance should be enjoyable for all the couples, not only for the
- Consider the phrasing, ie how many bars or steps are needed for each
- Try to avoid "tricky bits".
- Give attention to the flow of the dance.
- Be original if possible, but within the framework of traditional
Scottish Country Dancing.
- Avoid making the dance so different or complicated that people won't
want to dance it - simple dances can also be fun.
- Be clear and specific in the instructions - who does what, where, when
- A good name adds to the appeal of the dance.
- Have fun!
And from my own experience:
- A dance should have something "different" about it - there are now over 9000
dances, so if it's going to get noticed/danced it has to have something extra.
Having said that, if there's too much different, it will take a lot of learning
and few people will consider it worth the effort.
- The brain "chunks". It can only hold 5-9 things in working memory at any one
time, so the larger the chunks, the more that can be remembered.
Remember we have this large repertoire of
figures to draw from. People already know [most of] these and can think of
them as one chunk. In other words, a dance which goes Rights and Lefts, Reels
of Three on the sides, Down the Middle and Up, Poussette is easier to remember
than Set, Cross, Cast, 1M turn 3L LH while1L turn 3M RH -
and it's 32 bars instead of 8.
- Dances are also easier to remember if what comes next flows logically. The first 8
bars of White Heather Jig (turn RH, cast, turn LH to finish between 2s, facing opposite
sex) leave you ready to dance a reel of four across, heading in the right direction.
If you were then to try to do an Allemande instead (apart from the fact that you're
not set up for it) people would be confused. Also dances which leave you in the same
place at the end of every eight bars (Midnight Oil is an example) are difficult to
remember - "Here I am facing my corners again. Which figure is it this time?"
- "Meanwhile" figures can be fun and add spice to a dance. If the whole dance is
meanwhile figures, though, it becomes a test of mental agility.
- Think about the "flow" of the dance - how you get from one figure to the next. Are
the dancers in the right place? Are they heading in the right direction? Will there
be any awkward changes of direction? Can the end of the previous figure be "tweaked"
sufficiently for dancers to get ready for the next one in time?
- Having said that... Flow is nice. Flow is good. But too much flow, and the dance
loses definition and becomes like wading through a bath of toffee yoghurt. Some
changes of direction and/or speed can add interest to a bland dance.
- Think about how long a figure takes. Will the dancers have time to get there? Will
they really have to dawdle to avoid overshooting? RH across in 2 bars is ambitious;
in 8 bars it's excrutiating (unless each arm has 2 people, in which case it needs 8
- Corners. This is one of my hot buttons. I think corners should be
positions. Positions stay put and are always where you expect them. But the
prevailing opinion seems to think corners should be people. So 1st man's 2nd corner
is always 2nd lady, even if she's in 2nd man's place, 3rd lady's place, or anywhere
else. And then next time through the dance, 2nd lady is a different person. When
corners are taught, they are taught as "face your partner's side of the dance. The
person on your right is your first corner; the person on your left is your second
corner." It's not until later that you are told "oh, remember who was in that position
when you started the dance, because by the time you get there they will be somewhere
else". As I said, I think corners should be positions. But there is a body of text
out there already which takes them to be people. Therefore, if the people in the
corner positions are not the corner people, make it very clear in your instructions
which you mean (eg "2nd corners, who are in partner's 1st corner position").
See also the other hints and tips sections:
Return to the Scottish Country Dance home page.
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Last modified 8-10-02
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