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!