RSCDS 2020: The Pandemic Year So Far – Fall

Royal Scottish Cooking, Belly Dancing, and Sewing

Sept 3rd:  Kevin and Sarah announced the birth of Norah.

Sept 14th:  Meet an Old Friend Night.

Normally we kick off our fall season with Bring a Friend Night, a sampler class with live music.  Due to COVID, we couldn’t meet on the dance floor, instead we welcomed special guests Ron Wallace, Gary Thomas, Joy and Jim Gullikson, and Ed Stern to our Zoom room to share some stories about the early days of the RSCDS Twin Cities Branch and Scottish dancing in the Twin Cities.

Ron learned Scottish country dancing from his mother.  He remembers Florence Hart and George McCracken came to Mankato to teach a class while he was a teenager.  Florence invited him to join the Scottish country dance classes, even though this was a 3 hour round trip from Mankato.  He joined a class run by Sandy Gordon, which included dancers George McCracken, Florence Hart, Ann Tibor, Roberta Williams and Ed Stern.

At this time the group was not yet a branch, but an affiliated group.  Bill Young persuaded Ron, Ed and Roberta to train for the teaching preliminary certificate so that we would have enough teachers to become a full branch.  After a training workshop, Ron was so frustrated that he dropped out.  The candidates had to go up to Winnipeg to take the exam.  Ed had already bought the train tickets, so Ron was persuaded to come back, and they took the exam in April 1975.  The examiner was Miss Jean Milligan, who spent the whole exam chatting to Bill Young – apparently she could size up candidates very quickly.  We became a branch shortly afterwards that same year.  Two years later Miss Milligan visited Minneapolis to examine the candidates for their full certificates.  That was her sixth stop on a 21 city tour of North America at the age of 91.

Gary started dancing in second grade with square dancing and tap, then as he got older he moved onto ballet and contemporary dance.  In college he did theater and choreography.  Ron hired him to code documents into databases, and to relieve the boredom, brought him along to Scottish country dancing.  Gary got his prelim certificate in 1979 and the full certificate in 1981.  Ron and Gary left Minnesota in 1988 and moved to Santa Rosa.  They have written over 100 tunes which will soon be published as a book.

Ed has been a member of the RSCDS since 1969, learning from RSCDS teacher and examiner C. Stewart Smith.  There were no branches in the Midwest at that time so he joined the RSCDS headquarters in Edinburgh.  Thus he was an RSCDS member for about seven years before the formation of the TC Branch.  Ed moved here in 1971 and joined the group run by Sandy Gordon and others.  He soon got roped into teaching the class, and continued teaching for the next 45 years.  Ed has been active in a lot of different folk dancing groups.  In 1977 he created the Saltari Folk Dance Emporium. When Saltari closed in 1983 a group of its dancers kept the concept alive by founding the Tapestry Folkdance Center.  In 1997 Ed and Lara started the Fàilte Ball, originally called the Beginners Ball. It was an informal fun graduation party for folks at the end of their first year of SCD, blue jeans were OK and no one had to dress up in any way in order to attend.

Joy’s mother grew up in Edinburgh during the time the RSCDS was forming.  She was taught Scottish country dancing by Miss Allie Anderson (a contemporary of Miss Milligan) at Gillespie’s School for Girls (the school featured in the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie).  When they moved to Minneapolis in 1980 she found the branch and started dancing. She took up Scottish step dancing in 1984. Joy & Jim are one of the branch couples brought together by dancing.

Joy’s favorite season was ‘87-88.  She and Jim had just been married; Ron drilled her for the teaching certificate through her pregnancy; she danced her first step dancing performance up at Ironworld with Gary; with a two-week old babe in her arms she organized a concert with Alasdair Frazer and Muriel Johnstone, and the first step dancing workshop in March 1988. Another highlight was in 1998, when she represented the Twin Cities Branch at the RSCDS 75th Anniversary Celebration at Stirling Castle in Scotland and gave our compliments to our patron, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

Sept 21st:  Lara opened the new (virtual) season from her attic.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice 32J 2C.

Seann Triubhas Willichan / Seann Triubhas Willichair) 32S 2C (have a chair available).
Challenge dance: Forty and Counting 40R3C (use post-it notes to mark the corner positions).

Reinventing the Wheel 32J/R 3C.

Sept 28th:  Online pub night and chat.

BYOB and bar snacks :-).

Question of the week: What inspired you to start SCD and what got you hooked?

Oct 5th:  Cape Breton reel step.

This is the basic step that is used in both Cape Breton ceilidh dancing and also in solo Cape Breton step dancing.  This style of dance is traditionally done by people of all ages and is not nearly as physically demanding as highland dancing.  Whereas in highland dancing you are typically trying to hop high in the air and point your toes, Cape Breton dancing is traditionally done “close to the floor” and the body is more relaxed.

Oct 5th:  Chandi and Jacob introduced us to Fiona. She was born on Monday, October 5th at 9:26pm…and apologized for being late to class.

Oct 12th:  Fête champêtre!

A fête champêtre was a popular form of entertainment in the 18th century, taking the form of a garden party.  This was particularly popular at the French court at Versailles, where areas of the park were landscaped with follies, pavilions, and temples, to accommodate such festivities.

We needed:- Space to dance –yes, this evening involved dancing! — marked off for a square set.

For anyone who is interested in reviewing the dance, this video is a more accurate rendition of the dance than the one we used for teaching (the visual quality of the recording is poor). In the last figure, you do up back-to-back with your partner and you start the grand chain with your partner’s corner (position) using your left hand.

Oct 19th:  Lara and Dan’s 23rd wedding anniversary.

They chose dances with an appropriate theme 🙂

Kiss Under the Stairs 3C  32J  MMM.  (For Solo dancers Kiss Over the Chair  1 person, a mop / broom and a chair).

Trysting Place 2C  32S  RSCDS 35.

Challenge Dance: Love is in the Air 3C  48R  Eysseric.

Oct 23rd:  An evening of spooky Scottish tales!

“Bring your own tricks and treats, and a blanket to hide under if you get scared”.

Stuart gave us his rendition of the classic “Tam O’Shanter,” whilst Lara regaled us with “The Phantom Regiment of Killicrankie.”  If you are interested in Scottish ghost stories, check out the Project Gutenberg EBook of Scottish Ghost Stories, by Elliott O’Donnell online

Nov 2nd:  Scottish Belly Dancing.

Is there such a thing?  Well there is now!

We’re not used to moving our hips as Scottish country dancers, so we discovered some muscles we didn’t know we had!  Katrina gave us a short introduction to the tradition of belly dance. “Belly dancing is for all ages and all genders!  Wear loose, comfortable clothing and a scarf or sash (tartan optional) to tie around your hips can help”.  This class was recorded, contact Bill for a copy.

NB.  Not only is belly dancing a traditional birthing practice to help ease the pains of childbirth, it turns out that it is an ideal pandemic dance form – it can be performed solo, in isolation, and physically distanced from other dancers. I propose we change our name to the Royal Scottish Country and Belly Dancing Society.

Nov 9th:  Scones & Lemon Curd.

With the coming of cooler weather, it was a perfect time for Scottish baking with Jim & Joy.  Gosh what haven’t they done?  Between them: teacher, branch president, board member, treasurer, choreographer, archivist, performers.

They have an equally impressive catering record.  Joy & Jim helped to run the branch food booth at The Festival of Nations through the 1980s.  The archive has various menus which included Scots broth, haggis, meat pies, bridies, shortbread, Eyemouth tart, trifle, clapshot, crannachan, butterscotch and tea.  Does anyone have photos of the food booth?

Joy & Jim also ran a bakery and import shop called John McLean Company, in Galtier Plaza, St. Paul, from 1987-1993.  Anyone remember eating there?

Best of all, they made refreshments for the Fàilte Ball from about 1999-2010.  I met their catering at my first Fàilte Ball at Barton Elementary in 2008.  You could feel the table groaning: laden with mini sandwiches, pies, cakes, biscuits, scones and of course, tea.

Here are their recipes for scones, lemon curd, and raspberry butter.  The recipes are bare bones, you had to attend the class to learn the “tricks”!

PLAIN OR CURRANT SCONES:  4 C flour, ½ C sugar, 1 T + 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt.  Add 1 1/3 stick chopped cold butter.

Mix: 1 C milk, 2 egg.  Optional:  1 C currents.  Bake 340 oF about 30 minutes.

LEMON CURD:  In double boiler melt together: 3 sticks butter, 3 C sugar.

Add 1½  C lemon juice and zest  (5 large or 6 small lemons), 10 eggs beaten and strained.  Cook until spoon stands up in curd.  Note:  swap lemons for limes to make lime curd.

RASPBERRY BUTTER:  Whip together 1 stick butter, 1 jar raspberry jam.  Adjust to taste.

Nov 16th:  Ladies’ and Men’s chains and Schiehallion reels.

Eva Three-Step

Kendall’s Horpipe 32 J 2C

Gie Us a Hand 32 R CfC (this has a men’s chain, back-to-back, and quite a bit of setting in it)

Another Covid-19 Dance 48 J 4C sq

Bon Viveur S + R 4C sq

Nov 23rd:  “Wear a hat.”

We have all heard Andi urge us to wear a hat for RenFest performances.  Wearing hats is required by RenFest’s costuming guidelines, because going out in public without one at the time was Simply Not Done.

Fer demonstrated how to make the muffin caps she wears with her RenFest outfits. It was a demo rather than a sew-a-long, using a sewing machine and an iron, but she talked about how to do it with just a needle & thread.

Highlights included her late 90s decor sewing room, and watching her swear at her sewing machine/cat while trying not to stick herself with pins.

Nov 30th:  How to devise a dance.

We warmed up with the Hesitation Waltz and then devised a dance “by committee”.  This was an opportunity to talk about how dances are constructed, what makes them work, and what makes them fun.  The outcome was a dance we called “St Andrew And The Bear”, based on choosing a quick-time, 2-couple dance with back-to-back, hands across, and a poussette:


1-4       1C and 2C dance back-to-back with neighbor.

5-8       1C and 2C dance RH across.

9-12     1C and 2C dance back-to-back with partner.

13-16   1C and 2C dance LH across finishing in the middle, both hand joined with partner.

17-24   1C and 2C poussette. On the last 2 bars, instead of retiring to the sidelines, 1C finish in the middle, 1M behind 1W.

25-32   1C dance a shadow (optionally a swapover) reel of 3 across with 2C, passing 2W right shoulder to begin. 1C finish facing ready for the back-to-back at the beginning of the next repetition.

*Devised on St. Andrews Day 2020 by the RSCDS-TC class. At least one person was dancing with a bear*

Dec 5th:  Inaugural Fàilte-Zoom Ball 2020.

The 24th annual Fàilte Ball on December 5, 2020, drew 48 attendees on 36 screens. The virtual doors, opened virtually at 12:30 pm for a virtual Grand March led by Lara and Dan through 36 living rooms.

The program of dances for the ball:

1Eva Three StepX161RR
2Kendall’s HornpipeJ322/4L
3The Birks of InvermayS323/4L
5Strathglass HouseS323/4L
6General Stuart’s ReelR323/4L
7Hesitation WaltzW161RR

Social dancing was chased down with a selection of Nathan’s finest cocktails: Bath Tub Gin, and Nathan’s Vodka Sour. That got us in the mood for a zoom-ceilidh, quite unlike any ceilidh you had ever been to before:

  • Jamie and Fynn gave us gymnastics from Norway. 
  • Katrina shimmied some belly dancing.  
  • Rick sang bawdy drinking songs for/by/about priests.  
  • Bill’s kilt shopping veered off into a saga of King Forkbeard and Vikings.  
  • Helen played name that tune on the fiddle.  
  • Finally, Tiffany wrapped up with the Malaguena played on the accordion. This inspired the threat of a new branch trio combining accordion, banjo and bagpipes.

After all that, more cocktails were needed.  Nathan brought us Gimlet, and Novgorod Nog.  All of his cocktails were served in a coffee mug..….. the same mug I think.

Good preparation for Katie’s pub quiz, and finally Tiffany wrapped up proceedings by announcing the silent auction winners.

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