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.

COVID Safety Policy

UPDATED 31 October 2021:

Here’s an update on what you can expect for our classes and other events at Tapestry and elsewhere:

  • Masks are required, and N95s are recommended when possible
  • Proof of vaccination must be provided upon request.
  • Proof of vaccination requirement extends to children, i.e. kids too young to be vaccinated cannot attend our events until further notice (this is Tapestry’s guideline)

Tapestry’s ventilation system for the studios is extremely good, which makes them relatively safe places to be indoors–the air is exchanged frequently so there is no buildup of particles in the air.  The hallway does not have that same air circulation, so Tapestry is discouraging everyone from spending time in the hallway.  Bringing a water bottle is encouraged!

Thank you for being flexible as we navigate these ever-changing circumstances!

RSCDS 2020: The Pandemic Year So Far – Summer

Renfest Saga Continues During the Summer

The plan was to get through the AGM and then classes would resume as usual. But as spring blossomed into summer the COVID-19 caseload continued to climb, and Tapestry’s doors remained locked. Instead we “rezoomed” online meetings. Here’s a run-down of what went down.

June 1st. We looked to resume online gatherings with various kinds of content. “What content?” We shared ideas in a brainstorming session in advance of planning the upcoming classes.

June 8th. Chandi taught some SCD dances (dancing with ghosts) with post-it notes on the floor to mark out the set. New Year Jig, Bedrule, College Hornpipe, Catch the Wind.

June 14-15th.This was a real treat. We hosted a special class on a “Short History of Scottish Country Dance Music in the 20th Century” by Susie Petrov. Susie is an SCD teacher and musician based in the Boston area, who played for our Grand Ball 2016 along with Calum Pasqua.

The class was held in two parts: The main lecture (with slides, video, and audio clips!) was on Sunday, 1pm so that that SCDers world-wide could attend. That was followed up by a Q & A session at our regular branch class on Monday.

Susie showed us how Scottish country dance music has changed over the years, by playing some examples from the 19th & early 20th centuries; notably Strathspeys used to be lively jig-like dances.

When the Scottish Country Dance Society was formed in 1923, one of its founders was a director of the Glasgow music publishing house of Pattersons. He arranged for Beltona Records to record twelve sides of dance music for sale by the Society.  This was to help new branches that couldn’t afford to pay musicians, and raise funds for the Society.

Note: James Gray’s grandparents bought these records and used them when they held dances for their children in their home after WWII!

The Society expanded rapidly and so well did these acoustic records sell that in 1927 fresh recordings were made. The Society received a royalty payment for every record sold.

Note: This might be one explanation for the preponderance of recordings rather than the development of musicians over the years!

One unfortunate result of the influence of the Society would be an obsession with strict tempo that was a rather dead hand on most Scottish country dance bands. Bandleaders liked to play fast, but always slowed down if Miss Milligan was in the room. Susie posited the heretical idea that dances were modified to fit onto records: Two 2-minute quick-time dances on one side of a 45-rpm vinyl record and one 4 minute strathspey on the B-side, for which, coincidentally,  the Society received royalties.

June 22nd. Lara reviewed some setting steps and taught a couple of dances that needed “ghosts”. We started with a short and little known but traditional SCD that uses an unusual step called “cross jumps,” Miss Murray of Ochtertyre, and also danced the Garry Strathspey and the Drunken Sailor.

June 24th. News from Andi and Jeremiah that Sabine was born June 24. She was welcomed with an unparalleled, drive-by, social distance-y baby shower.

June 29th. Katie Brady taught us all about bagpipes, and addressed burning questions, including, “what exactly ARE all those bagpipers doing at the highland games?” She went over the instrument itself, some information about the music, and an explanation about bagpipe bands and competitions. This lecture was recorded. Contact Fer for a copy.

July 4th. Along the theme of “Vaguely Scottish Things in the 1700s,” we held an Independence Day weekend social hour, featuring a pub quiz. We grabbed a snack (or dinner), favorite beverage, paper and writing implement for: “Things Fer Found Interesting or Amusing While Messing Around on the Internet”

July 13th. We started an every-other-week review of the old/current performance repertoire with the 2-couple act – just in case RenFest was still on.

July 18th. Scottish Fair – the in-person highland games was canceled but we still got a taste of pieces of the Fair this year, even some parts you always missed since so many things usually happen at the same time! This year’s McCracken Pub shirt featured a Highland coo (masked). Chandi & Jacob led a dance from their backyard. And Fligmagearie performed … masks on a hot & humid day. As soon as the camera stopped they tore off their masks to gulp fresh air.

July 20th.  Everything you wanted to know about FODing & Fooling was presented by Bill Brown. The FOD is the Facilitator of the Day – the person in charge of running a performance. Whether or not you ever intend to FOD, it’s useful to know what’s involved so that you can help your FOD and be a source of joy rather than stress. The Fool is a master of ceremonies who introduces the dances and tells a story that connects the acts, to keep the audience’s attention while the dancers are changing over.

July 20th. We officially switched over to the new site! A HUGE thank you goes to Joe Dolson and Dan Friedman-Shedlov for working with Lara to make this happen. Joe was instrumental in getting the structure of the site set up and getting things to look how we wanted them, not to mention answering a million and one questions from Lara. Dan did almost all the work to find and set up new (free!) web hosting and to create the new online membership form that integrates payment.

July 21st. we had been waiting all year for an announcement about RenFest. Normally we would have started rehearsals the beginning of July

“Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Mid-America Festivals is pleased to make the following Royal Proclamations!

…….Mid America Festivals decided to change the dates of our 2020 Festival to September 5, 2020 thru October 4, 2020 (weekends plus Labor Day)….

And from Fud, the entertainment director:

“Entertainers – Let me assure you that no one is more aware of the fact that the Festival is scheduled to open in 39 days.  Thank you so much for your patience. I understand that the lack of communication has been frustrating; unfortunately there just hasn’t been any new and reliable information to pass along.

The covid-19 pandemic has created a variety of challenges that are compounded by the countless and complex subtleties and nuances of the Festival’s somewhat unique situation.  I have been working with management to clarify plans, especially as they pertain to entertainment and entertainers.

As soon as there is accurate information I will pass it along to you.”

July 27th. RenFest review. We used the “Retro Act” of the current performance repertoire to talk about reels of 3, reels of 4, and some strategies for envisioning how to do them when no one else is around. And then for fun, we risked set and link for 3 solo style – no one can tell which end of the line you’re on, so of course you got it right!

Aug 3rd. This Monday we had a special presentation from piper Dick Hensold! He described it as follows: Dronology: a short potted history of the bagpipes, as illustrated by several different types of pipe. And a few tunes, if desired. In lieu of any sort of monetary donation, he wanted help with some yard work. He needed people to move tiny decorative rocks from the alleyway to his backyard.

Aug 10th. We used the “3 couple act” of the current performance repertoire to wander around our living spaces and explore how lost one can get in only 12 bars while attempting a solo 3 couple rights and lefts. 

Aug 17th. Fer’s first dancing love was International Folk Dance, casual “village” dancing from around the world.  Think ceilidh dancing from places that don’t speak Gaelic.  She picked some dances from her IFD repertoire that lent themselves to warming up, cooling down, with some bouncing around to fun music in the middle. We tried out a new style of dancing in a venue where no one other than your cat could judge your “spontaneous variations”.

Aug 19th. Finally, the news we had been waiting for, Ren Fest had been cancelled! FUD, the Entertainment Director, stated that running a festival of the volume and scope of the MRF was not feasible while taking the precautions necessary to protect both the performers and patrons from Covid19. This was good news for us, as we could only raise enough dancers for one set on one or two days.

Aug 24th. We finished our review of the current performance repertoire with a look at the “interval” dance Harry Gordon.  It’s a medley of strathspey and reel with some of those fancy setting steps we worked on in the late spring.  Lara helped us to remember the fancy setting, and when we got to the figure La Baratte it really did take two to figure out what to do with your hands.

Aug 31st. Meg Newswanger hosted a Scottish vacation slide show.  We saw photos from Lara’s time as a student in Edinburgh including a “gentle walk” in the “hills”; Chandi & Jacob climbing a mountain in the rain and drinking with her cousin in the oldest pub; Fer’s dawn to dusk walk and her dream heather garden; Brian & Frances’ stunning photos from Skye; Meg & Rick’s trip to see their daughter; and Bill’s underwater photos of conger eels.

RSCDS 2020: The Pandemic Year So Far – HQ DSAH

Really Scary Covid-19 Disease Shutdown

Across the seas in bonnie Scotland, the RSCDS HQ came up with its own online programs.

Mar 27th:  SCDS launched the 1st edition of the newsletter “Dance Scottish At Home” containing:

  • A musical podcast by RSCDS Music Director Ian Muir.
  • The Thursday Challenge, inviting us to post our dancing stories.
  • A social media round up, with impressive virtual performances.
  • What’s Behind The Name, of dances and tunes.
  • A Moment In Scots History.
  • Quizzes and Puzzles.
  • The latest online class.

In my opinion this is the best publication the society has ever produced. Do you have a favorite section?

April 8th:  The RSCDS launched the first online class.  We will join a different RSCDS Teacher each week for a mixture of basic movements, warm ups, technique and steps, to keep active. Live every Wednesday at 19:00 UK time, (1pm Minnesota time) the class gave us the chance to dance with RSCDS members around the world at the same time. Classes have been watched by over a thousand people all over the world. Each week, the class will be recorded and shared through Dance Scottish At Home.

April 24th:  DSAH Issue 5: Twin Cities branch members were featured in this week’s RSCDS Dance Scottish at Home newsletter! Did you spot Brian and Frances Shirley in the photo from 1964? And Lara Friedman-Shedlov at her first workshop weekend, in costume for the demo team’s performance at the 1990 IVFDF Newcastle performance.

May 15th:  DSAH Issue 8: another Twin Cities branch connection. This week’s RSCDS online class teacher Ron Wallace (co-founder of our Twin Cities Branch, teacher, & bagpiper) took the class from Santa Rosa, California. He was joined by pianist Jared Bailey and dancer Gary Thomas (Twin Cities Branch teacher, Blue Ribbon editor). Ron took the class clearly through “Merry Meghan” – giving dancers a chance to manage a complete solo step dance.

In the “At Home PodcastRon Wallace took us behind the dance “Da Rain Dancin’” which he wrote for a tune by Muriel Johnson (11:01 – 18:39).

May 29th:  DSAH Issue 10: Ron Wallace and Gary Thomas were guests on “At Home Podcast”. In the first set (11:50 – 15:45) they played “The Oyster Gatherers”, “Amicitia” (Latin for “friendship”) and “Santa Rosa Welcome”. For the second set (31 – 35)  they played “Pounce De Leon” written for the dance Jezebel’s Jig, “Volga and Kazanka”, and “Rain On The Roof”. You must listen to them, they are amazing!

June 5th:  DSAH Issue 11: Ian Muir managed to lose 2 bars in editing Ron & Gary’s set, so this week in the “At Home Podcast”, he played the complete recording of “The Oyster Gatherers”, and “Amicitia”. Prizes to anyone who can spot the missing bars (9:33 – 13.28).

Sept 18th:  DSAH Issue 22: This week teacher Jamie Berg (Twin Cities Branch teacher) and her musician husband James Gray (played for us several times, most memorably the Blizzard Ball of 2018), were in Oslo, Norway bringing a lively mix of warm ups, dancing and balance exercises. 

James was playing old and new tunes, from “Humber Jumber”, recognized as the tune for The Frisky, through to more recent compositions by himself. Jamie tasked dancers to have 2 chairs and a drink and then used the chair both in her recently devised dance and her stretching cool down.

Challenging the dancers to name her dance, Jamie had a lot of ideas to choose from including “Chairish the Dance”, “Norwegian Wooden Chairs”, “10 legs and a musician”, “10 legged Jig”, “Reel Of The Wooden Chairs”, “The Lonely Goat Chaired”, “Addressing The Chair”, & “Chairman’s Jig” (James’ father is a past Chair of the RSCDS), “Jiggin’ Jamie with Joyful James”, “Viking Rag”, and “Finn’s Wake” (Three-year old Finn was asleep in the next room and let’s admit it, we all wanted him to come wandering in during the middle of the class).
Dancers also commented on how much fun they had in the class including Joanna who said “most of all, I totally forgot this is an online class! Thanks James and Jamie!”

***Breaking news: the winning name is “Norwegian Wooden Chairs”***

Watching Jamie and James was bittersweet, a reminder that our loss is the Scottish dance community’s gain. They are a talented couple who compose, teach and perform their own dances and music……the future of the RSCDS is lookin’ good!

RSCDS 2020: The Pandemic Year So Far – Spring

Really Scary Covid-19 Disease Shutdown

It has been six months since we last gathered on March 9th for in-person, group, social dancing – or as we used to call it, a Monday night class! As we watched reports of a new respiratory disease spreading through China, few people expected it to impact us. Then Wuhan province was “locked down” for 11 weeks, and the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in the USA in Washington State on Jan 21st. We became alarmed in February, as New York became the epicenter for the disease with hospitals and mortuaries overwhelmed, and a lockdown was imposed.

After Fer Horn taught the class on March 9th , there was a blizzard of emails between board members and teachers discussing what to do. Tapestry Folkdance Center spared us from making a decision when they closed their doors on March 16th, for at least three weeks. The next decision was to cancel the Grand Ball scheduled for 18th April. We have held a ball every year since 1976 and never missed a single one (although the Blizzard Ball of 2018 came quite close). It was clear that it would not be safe to dance, and it was fiscally prudent to cancel before we had to pay out for the food and the hall. Our musicians, Waverley Station (David Knight, fiddle and Liz Donaldson, piano), are willing to play for next year’s Grand Ball (April 17, 2021 – put it on your calendar now!).

We couldn’t update our website to reflect all of this information as our webmaster, Lara Friedman-Shedlov, was stuck in Israel without either a flight home or the right tools at her disposal. She had to send Stuart McKernan the password and instructions. At this point, Tapestry closed through the end of April, so there were no more in-person classes until at least May (little did we know then that it would be much longer). Our teachers had to explore what kind of classes we could have online during the next few weeks while we were unable to meet up in person.

March 30th : Lara (now safely returned from Israel) decided to focus this first class on stepwork, rather than trying to do dances with only one or two people (and possibly extremely limited space in your home). She reviewed Scottish country dance setting steps and started teaching some highland setting steps that are occasionally used in SCDs (especially our performance “interval” dances).

April 6th : The second week Lara reviewed highland setting steps and the Highland Fling.

April 13th : Lara offered a class on how to read dance diagrams, and thoughts on what goes into devising a Scottish country dance. This lecture/discussion was open to other Scottish country dancers around the world. The highlight was The Pandemic Reel, composed by Marla
Bright, for which Keith Rose had to create some new diagram symbols.

Pandemic Reel dance diagram

Grand Ball Day, April 18th : In honor of the Grand Ball we dressed in our ball finery (or other festive clothing) for a virtual grand march piped by Dick Hensold, with marches of our own devising. Our special guest musicians, David Knight and Liz Donaldson joined our online party to play a few tunes and give us a taste of what we were missing. This was followed by a pub quiz, with Chandi McCracken-Holm and Lara Friedman~Shedlov
providing the trivia questions, you supplied your own beer! The event finished with a Zoom hang out.

April 20th : Chandi McCracken-Holm led us through the Highland Fling and Janet McKernan taught social dances: Gay Gordons, Deil Amang the Tailors, and The Pandemic Reel (there is no record of how much beverage was consumed).

April 27th : Our special guest teacher was branch member Janna Kysilko, who lead a fitness session that she has, adapted from her equestrian fitness classes. We didn’t know that horses and dancers were so similar.
Q: Why are horses fitter than dancers? A: Because they are on a stable diet.

May 4th : Janet invited us to compose a dance by poll. We voted on 4 figures to include, then strung them together by committee. The result was “Knot On My Own.”

Knot On My Own
32S for 1 person or up to 2 couples
1-4 1C half figure of 8
5-8 Advance and retire
9-16 1C lead down (RH), turn 1W under 1M’s arm, lead up
17-24 1C, 2C dance the knot, turning extra at end to end in a line up and down the dance (W facing down, Man facing up)
25-32 Reel of 4, ending on sidelines in progressed position

May 11th : Was going to be our end of year social. We will be unable to gather in person, but we tried a little dancing. This included the premier of Knot on My Own, along with Hugs and Cuddles (J), featuring Hamish the Teddy bear and Floor-a MopDonald.

May 18th : In yet another “first,” the AGM was held virtually, after the Board first approved a resolution to hold the meeting online. The big decision facing the branch this year was whether to dance at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival this year (if it proceeded). The decision heavily impacts our finances as RenFest performances bring in half of our income and many new members. Bill Brown, former RenFest co-chair and professional bio-medical researcher, presented a risk assessment and offered safety recommendations to keep in mind when making personal and group decisions about performing at RenFest during the current pandemic.

At the the time of the AGM, very few dancers felt they could commit to rehearsals and to performing at the Festival. While no final decision on RenFest was made at the meeting, we did decide that if we do perform we would reuse last year’s repertoire, as this would need fewer rehearsals. The final decision about RenFest participation was deferred to mid-July, when we would need to start rehearsals.

This brings us to the end of an extraordinary season which brought unprecedented challenges. Our teachers and members responded with unique online programs which would not have been possible just a couple of years ago. Many thanks to you all!

Check out our new look!

Welcome to our new website! Take a look around and make yourself at home. We’re especially excited about the new online membership form, where you can pay your annual dues with ease (hint hint!). Some content is still on its way, so check back soon. Be aware that if you have pages other than the home page bookmarked, you’ll probably find the links no longer work.

Screen shot of old RSCDS-TC website
Farewell to our old site that served us for 21 years!

Membership Dues Time

It’s that time of year…annual membership dues are now due. In these uncertain times, please help us keep the branch going by renewing promptly, if you can. We try to keep rates as low as possible. That said, keep in mind that, as always, we do not want ability to pay dues to be a barrier to membership. Scholarships and payment plans are available. Contact the branch treasurer (registrar [at] if you need information on these options.

Non-Verbal Communication

The following article by Linda Mae Dennis is reprinted with permission from The Scottish Country Dancer (publication of the RSCDS Southwest Washington State Branch), vol. 29, #6.  Good food for thought and helpful tips as we move into our performance repertoire rehearsal season.

There was a bit of a buzz on the Strathspey Server in December about communication on the dance floor. Many good points were made. The main one was that help given on the dance floor needs to be non-verbal. That certainly gave me something to think about, as I am very guilty of talking both to my partner and others in the set during dances. The audio channel should be reserved, most importantly for the music, and also for the teacher, coaching rhythmically as needed. And as needed is quite key.

It was noted that if help is given constantly, the people who need the help never learn to actually dance for themselves. One comment was, “This is what Hugh Foss called ‘learning to dance the way a tennis ball learns to play tennis.'” It was suggested that even non-verbal help should be limited. In fact, I was talking with a dancer just last evening who learned Scottish Country Dancing as the only beginner in a group of experienced dancers. He told me he didn’t really learn anything for a very long time, because people would show him or shove him constantly. He was never allowed to make the mental connections that lead to good dancing.

Bruce Hamilton said, “The reverse of obtrusive helping can create a virtuous circle. If help is given only when needed, and then lightly, the less experienced dancers watch more closely for the cues. That is, they pay careful attention to the faces and bodies of the people they’re dancing with (who pay careful attention to them, trying to discern whether they need help). When that becomes commonplace, the cues can become even more subtle. The dancing gets more and more musical, the dancers pay exquisite attention to each other, the touching becomes as much ‘listen’ as ‘talk’ and the whole thing just takes off.” I think this is a good goal to give only non-verbal cues and give those subtly and only when really necessary. So here are some suggestions for those who may need help and for those who wish to help:

Need Help:

Watch your partner very closely, particularly their eyes, hands, even their fingers. Keep in mind that you will almost always be either mirroring your partner or going the same way they are going, so even if you’re facing out of the set, turn your head to see what your partner is doing. Keep an eye on the faces of other dancers in your set. If their eyes move in the same direction as a tilt of their head, that’s probably the way you’re supposed to go.

Try your best to learn the lingo and try to remember the dance in manageable chunks, for example, Cross and Cast and Half Figure of Eight (one chunk) is easier to remember than Cross with Right Hands. Cast off One Place and Dance a Half Figure of Eight (3 chunks, but exactly the same thing.)

Wish to Help:

Be sure you are remembering the dance correctly before offering help, and dance well, with good handing and phrasing. This is often more helpful than just getting the figures right. Watch your partner very closely, particularly their eyes. If the eyes say ” I know what’ s next!” then enjoy the music and the dancing and let your partner do the same. Try to give hands on the phrase (not before). Try to make any helping gestures more and more subtle as you progress through the dance.

We all need to keep in mind that making mistakes is part of dancing, and that a good mistake enhances the enjoyment of the dancing better than any amount of shouting or shoving or even loud talking and wild gestures ever will. Mum’s the word!

Branch Award

At last night’s AGM it was my distinct pleasure to present Lara Friedman-Shedlov with a RSCDS Branch Award on behalf of the Twin Cities chapter for her tireless and outstanding contributions to our organization. We are all truly fortunate to have her as a fellow member. So congratulations again, Lara, and thank you for being so relentlessly awesome.

Notice of the Annual General Meeting

The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society Twin Cities Branch will hold its Annual General Meeting on Monday, 14 May at 7:30pm at Tapestry Folkdance Center, 3748 Minnehaha Avenue South in Minneapolis.

All members are strongly encouraged to attend. The agenda and the slate of nominees for the 2012-2013 board are below. Please follow the links to the RSCDS Twin Cities Branch Yahoo Group for details on the bylaws changes and the 2011 minutes. If you are a member and cannot access the Yahoo group or are having trouble downloading documents, please contact the chair (chair [at] to have documents sent to you directly. If you cannot be present at the meeting, there is a proxy ballot you can print out and give to another member to submit at the AGM.


  1. Approve 2011 AGM Minutes
  2. Year in Review
  3. Treasurer Report & Proposed Budget
  4. Recognition
  5. New Formal Performance Attire
  6. Renaissance Fair Participation
  7. Branch T-Shirts
  8. Bylaws changes (see here and here)
  9. Any Other Business
  10. Vote for new Board Members


  • For Treasurer (for one year term) : Tom Harris
  • For Member-at-Large  (one year terms): Bill Brown, Andrea Helebrant, Angie McCracken, Stuart McKernan

Remaining on the Board for 2012-2013:
Eric Salo, Chair
Janet McKernan, Vice Chair
Sharon Stephens, Secretary

Leaving the Board:
Gail Fagerstrom, Member-at-Large