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!

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

My View of The Recent Scottish Ceilidh

My View of The Recent Scottish Ceilidh
by Ed Stern

I heard about it via Andy McCracken’s email to the Branch “. . . see the Gunn Slingers in a free concert at Celtic Junction. . . If you have never been to a Scottish Highland Ceilidh this is a must! It is a night of dancing . . .
Neil Gunn is a young accordion player that has recently moved to the Twin Cities from Scotland and has been playing for ceilidh dancing since he was a child.“ It was held on December 17th; I was intrigued; I went and was glad I did.

I had a lot of fun dancing, and I watched some amazing spontaneous “performances” during the band’s breaks. The dances were all very approachable; several were variations on dances we do in the Branch (Dashing White Sergeant, Strip the Willow, Gay Gordons), but done in a fashion I think would be more familiar to those who grew up in Scotland or who have lived there for some time. One fun dance was introduced as “Hooligans’ Reel” and had four people in a single straight line; as soon as Neil Gunn started to describe what we were supposed to do I recognized it as a variant of the Reel of Tulloch, an alternation
of swinging in pairs and of setting; another name for this dance is the Hullachan Reel which I imagine easily evolved into Hooligans’ Reel. Not totally limited to Scottish dances, we also did a Virginia Reel, and the Cumberland Square Eight which is English.

The one thing lacking was Branch dancers: less than half dozen current Branch dancers were there, plus a few others who had danced with the Branch some years back. On the other hand, since it was at Celtic Junction there were scads of Irish dancers who made it very interesting because they all used Irish steps and styling. It was a raucous Celtic mixture of wonderful impurity. Since it was a Scottish band leading Scottish dancing, it would have been nice to see a higher proportion of Scottish dancers. The next time
one of these comes up it would be great to see lots of Branch members in attendance, helping to show the Scottish styling off a bit more. Be mindful, though, that it’s not the formal atmosphere of an RSCDS Ball, and they are likely to do quite a few couple dances (Canadian Barn Dance, Military Two-Step). But if you let your hair down I’ll bet that you’ll have a great time. I know I’ll be going back for more Gunn Slingers Ceilidh fun.

Notice of Annual General Meeting

The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society Twin Cities Branch will hold its Annual General Meeting on Monday, 16 May at 7:30pm at Tapestry Folkdance Center, 3748 Minnehaha Avenue South in Minneapolis.
» Agenda
» Slate of Nominees for the Board
» Proxy Ballot (for use if you cannot attend in person)

All members are strongly encouraged to attend. The agenda and the slate of nominees for the 2011-2012 board are below. Please follow the links to the RSCDS Twin Cities Branch Yahoo Group files section for relevant reports. 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. Please note that at this time we do not have a full slate of candidates for the open positions on the board, so we expect to be taking nominations from the floor.

Meeting Highlights:

  • Bylaws Changes
    Of particular importance this year are several proposed changes to our branch bylaws the board is proposing. There are two main categories of changes:

    1. Changes reducing the minimum age for membership in the Branch to 12.
      These changes are proposed to implement recommendation #1 of the committee on children, which released its report this past January.
    2. Changes to the structure of the board
      The board is recommending these changes to make it easier to fill board positions and to encourage and make it easier for vice chairs to become chairs.

    Please see the document detailing the proposed changes (via the Yahoo Web site).

  • Donation to Tapestry Folkdance Center
    As many of you know, Tapestry was offered a grant that would match up to $10,000 in donations. In recognition of the value of our long-time partnership, the Board authorized a modest donation of $500 from the RSCDS Twin Cities Branch as a contribution to this campaign. As part of the treasurer’s report, we will also be asking for your input on the possibility of an additional donation.
  • 35th Anniversary Recognition
    As has previously been announced, 2011 is our 35th anniversary as an RSCDS Branch. We’ve reserved some time on the agenda for a discussion on how we might mark this milestone, so bring your ideas.

NOTE: Bring your checkbooks! At the AGM we will start collecting dues for the 2011-2012 membership year. No change in dues is proposed, so the same bargain rates will apply.


1. Approval of minutes from AGM 2010 (via the Yahoo web site)

2. Treasurer’s report
    a. Report on membership and finances for 2010-2011
    b. 501c3 application update
    c. Donation to Tapestry Matching Grant Fund – discussion of possible additional donation
    d. Proposed budget for 2011-2012

3. Reports from committees (presented for information), followed by 10 minute Q & A
(All reports will be made available via the Yahoo Group before the meeting. They will not be read at the meeting, although paper copies will be available for review.)
    a. Teachers report
    b. Webmaster
    c. Blue Ribbon
    d. Socials
    e. Performances (non-RenFest)

4.”The Year in Review”

5. Recognition

6. Announcements
    a. RenFest Committee (rehearsal schedule, etc.)
    b. Summer Dancing
        – June dancing schedule
        – Performances at Southwest Center, and River Falls, and Stratford.

7. Bylaws changes (via Yahoo web site)
    a. Changes to Articles III and IV concerning minimum age for membership
    b. Changes to Articles IV and V concerning board structure

8. 35th anniversary recognition plans

9. Open Forum

10. Election of Officers


(as of 2 May 2011)

Chair: Eric Salo (2-year term)
Vice Chair*: [no candidates] (2-year term)
Secretary: [no candidates] (2-year term)
Members at Large: (1-year terms)
    Bill Brown
    Gail Fagerstrom
    Andrea Helebrant
    Angie McCracken

*Although Eric Salo’s term as vice-chair technically does not expire until 2012, we expect the position of Vice Chair to be open as of the AGM. Whether the proposed bylaws change (changing the years in which vice chairs are elected to the same year as that in chairs are elected) passes or not, the only way we won’t be needing a new vice-chair for 2011-2012 is if Eric is NOT elected to the position of chair, which seems highly unlikely, as he is the only candidate. Since we anticipate the position to be open, we felt it would be best to give the membership the opportunity to participate in the election of a new vice-chair. However, under the terms of article 4.5 of the bylaws if the position is unfilled after the AGM, the board can simply appoint someone to serve until the next AGM.

Learn Dances from Online Animations

Many of us have dreamed of the day it might be possible to enter dance instructions into a program and see an animation of the dance showing you how it looks. Now that day is nearly here! While it isn’t quite as easy as typing in the dance instructions and pressing “go,” Linda Mae Dennis, from the SW Washington State Branch, has created software that allows the creation of what she calls “DancieMaetion Movies” with just a bit more work. The software is still in the testing phase, but Linda Mae has created animations for an entire program (dance scheduled for April 30th if you can make it out to Vancouver, WA that day) which are available online.

While the videos are “smart phone-friendly” we do advise that you restrict viewing to times between dances, since, as one recent “texting while walking” incident proves, it create some unintentional entertainment!

“DancieMaetion” of “The Wind on Loch Fyne”