The view from a double-duty dancer.
What is it that draws you back out there for a second day each weekend?
How do you keep the different dances straight in your head?
What draws me back is that I want to be somewhere that I can dance all day, and be in a different world than I am in most of the time.
To keep dances straight I simplify them as much as possible. For the RSCDS dances I remember them in a way that works no matter which side of the dance I am on. I only have trouble confusing the Terpsichory dances with RSCDS dances, when I am doing the Irish dances that Terpsichory does; the steps being so similar and the paths of the dances also being similar makes those harder. They almost live in the same part of my brain.
I knew some versions of the English Terpsichory dances before I danced with Terpsichory. I will once in a while fall back to the original way I learned those dances, luckily for me it does not cause too many problems (because almost everyone tries to pretend that everything was as expected).
The best way to remember the dances is to trust the people you are dancing with. Connect with as many of them as possible. One of those people will know what you should be doing if you forget your part and can lead you to where you should be. The important thing is to figure out when you have forgotten the dance. The next important bit is to not panic. Then just keep dancing.
A way to remember the dances is to always watch what is going on in the dance even if you are not “dancing” during those bars or that dance.
The view from the bagpipes
What is it like to be a piper at Fest, and how is that different to dancing?
The hardest part of being a piper, compared to being a dancer, is that there’s no one to cover you if you get off the tune. With dancing, we can help each other out with eye contact and subtle gestures (or sometimes with panicked glances and a firm hand hold to keep you from wandering away in the set). But with piping, there’s not a lot people can do in the moment to help you get back on a tune. Thankfully the dancers are skilled enough to soldier on in the face of the occasional breakdown!
In general, learning to do Scottish country dance has greatly informed my piping. Having knowledge of the dances has saved me so many times when I’ve had slip ups. And learning to dance has definitely made my piping more musical!