The dance figures for these dances are described in the printable online handout that goes with this workshop.
Our theme for this weekend is choreography, a word that I use to describe how we dance so that the figures flow to the phrasing of the music, and so that the dancers are in synch with each other as a group. When the choreography of the dancing is beautiful, the dancers have a deeper, more joyful experience of the dancing.
La Bastringue in NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk
Some teaching tips: “Shake and take” is a simple way to get into the hands-crossed-in-front promenade position (right in right and left in left). While promenading: inside person is the moon/peanut butter/gent, outside is the star/jelly/lady. Four steps of making a circle from a promenade: “Hang on to partner stop walking, hang on to partner face the center, drop hands, take hands.”. Dosido (gents start on inside, ladies start going outside) flowing into two hand turn flowing into promenade.
I showed you the two ways of doing this dance that are in your online workshop notes. We did a variation that I made up for this workshop. Note that your Neighbor is the dancer on the other side of you from your Partner. In other words, if you are facing your Partner, your Neighbor is behind you.
Peter’s Variation on La Bastringue mixer:
A1: Forward & back twice.
A2: Circle left and right.
B1: Dosido Partner, Allemande right Neighbor 3/4 into promenade.
B2: Promenade this same Neighbor, who now becomes your new Partner.
A good way to teach the B1 Partner Dosido into the Neighbor Allemande Right is:
Everyone face your partner. Now turn your back on your partner and say “Hi Neighbor, I’ll be Allemanding you soon, but not yet.” Then turn back and face your partner. In slow motion, dosido your Partner while looking for your Neighbor: “Neighbor? Neighbor, Neighbor?” Then Allemande Right your Neighbor into the Neighbor (now your New Partner) Promenade.
Some choreography moments to take note of are
* Having the Partner dosido flow into the Neighbor Allemande
* Having the Neighbor Allemande flow gracefully into the Promenade with this same Neighbor.
* Having the Promenade flow into the opening Foward & Back of the next time through the sequence so that at the very first beat of the A1 the circle is beautifully round and each dance takes the first step of that Forward & Back on the first beat of the phrase. (Gents have to back up into the circle out of the promenade in order to make the circle big and round.)
Alabama Gal in NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk
Teach this as an a cappella singing game before trying with the CD which, as you found out, goes pretty fast. Here is a quick way to teach the cast-off-under-the-arch figure:
* In a demonstration longway set have top and bottom couples remain where they are and the other dancers move out of the way. The Top gent, by himself, casts alone to the left, skipping down and back up through the arch. Then the Top lady, alone, does the same thing, casting to the right. Then they both cast at the same time, taking one hand with partner before going under the arch and back to place. Then have the other dances come back into place, and simply have all of the dancers follow the Top gent and the Top lady, single file in a cast, skipping down, and taking partner’s hand before going under the arch and back to place.
OTHER TEACHING POINTS:
* When the top couple sashays down and back, have the dancers follow the phrasing of the music, not necessarily stopping at the bottom of the set, but sashaying down right past the bottom of the set until the music tells them to sashay back up to the top.
* SKIPPING! Demonstrate skipping. Have different students demonstrate skipping, while the other students say what they like about their colleagues’ skipping. Look for relaxed skipping, hands swinging by sides, skipping to the beat.
* Encourage students to, as a group, time the skipping cast off figure so that it ends just as the phrase ends.
Lucky Seven in NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk
The grand right & left exercises: First all promenade to determine inside/outside gent/lady or moon/star roles. Then all face partner. Ladies crouch while men weave around circle, starting on the inside. Then Men crouch and assist ladies as they weave around: right hand for outside, left hand assist for inside. Then all stand and face center and do a stationary grand right and left just with the arms, counting up to seven. Repeat that, but this time stepping in place (two steps per arm reach). Then face partner and ‘repeat after me’ some of the rules: ‘I will not turn around, I will not go back, I will only take a hand when I say a number, I will only say a number when I take a hand”. Tell them that it always takes seven times to get it right, and make sure, when it doesn’t go right, that they all go back to where they started from (rather than trying to fix it in the middle of the grand right and left figure). Level one: Wait 8 beats on 2nd half of A2 music. Level two: dosido partner on 2nd half of A2 music. Level three: At end of grand right and left allemande right the 7th person into a promenade.
* Most challenging part of the dance is not the grand right and left, it is flowing from the finale promenade into the opening circle left of the next time through the sequence so that (this is a repeat of notes for La Bastringue above) at the very first beat of the A1 the circle is beautifully round and each dance takes the first step of that Forward & Back on the first beat of the phrase. (Gents have to back up into the circle out of the promenade in order to make the circle big and round.)
* We do Level Three only when there are students who are dancing Level Two so well they could use an extra challenge. In Level Three, in the grand right and left you change your hand position as you approach #7, “cocking” your arm and hand so that elbow is down, hand is up, right hand thumb around thumb, fingers over wrist, and give weight as you allemande right. Going from the allemande into a promenade takes some adjustment particularly on the part of the Lady who has to change direction. When dancers do this allemande into a promenade gracefully it is deeply satisfying.
Grumpy March in Sashay the Donut
I wrote this dance to go along with Jay Ungar’s tune “Wizard’s Walk”, which is the cut on “Sashay the Donut” we like to use for this dance.
* After demonstrating the opening sequence, you might have your students just say the words first before executing them: “Grump, grump, grump, turn, together, right, together, left. Grump, grump, grump, turn, together, right, together, left.”
* You will need to practice, even drill, the moment where, after the final clap of the “Grump” figures, the group “snaps” into a long skinny circle to start the Circle Right of A2.
* A choreographic moment is when everyone is skipping back the other way; dancers shoud flow right into skipping around their partners. Picture how beautiful this would look from above; the moving long skinny circle transforming into a line of moving little circles (partners skipping around each other).
* In a community dance I make the swinging, twirling, skipping sashay optional for safety reasons, but in when teaching children in schools I encourage them all to try swinging their partner around while skipping down the middle. Encourage the dancers to “stay vertical”.
Galopede in Chimes of Dunkirk
I often use this engaging, accessible and easy-to-teach dance to end a community dance. The final surprising cascading sashay figure is a great way to end a festive evening of dancing with your family, friends and neighbors.
* In the A1 forward and back, when you pass right shoulders with your partner, keep going forward past your partner’s place, then turn and come back for the 2nd forward (high ten clap) and back. Time it so that you always keep walking and moving. Same thing on the second crossing over, this time back home.
* Teach the children to “trim your lines” so the lines are straight as they go forward and back and sweep across. I mention this, but I don’t make a big deal out of it. When children do get it, it is beautiful.
* Special Cascading Sashay ending: on the very last time through the dance, as the top couple sashays down the other couples move up the outside, then the 2nd couple sashays down. Dancers continue moving up the sides and sashaying down the middle until the music ends. We have added an extra C music to the very end of the last time through on one of the “Galopede” tracks on the “Chimes (revised)” CD to allow for this Special Cascading Sashay ending.
We think it is a real gift to children to teach them how to choose their own partners. I like to frame this in ‘Kings’ and ‘Queens’ language to help the children get over their self consciousness over choosing partners.
I start with a story about how Kings and Queens realized that it might be more fun to dance with more than just their own spouses, and so they needed to devise a polite and efficient way to choose other partners. “And the method they came up with was so good we still do it today.”
I have them all practice the words: ‘May I please have this dance?’ ‘Yes thank you.’ and then practice answering me, and then practice asking me. Then I demonstrate what it looks like to ask a partner to dance, by asking one of the ‘Queens’. Then, I have that Queen sit down, and I ask her again, showing the 10 steps: The approach. Eye contact. The question. The answer. King puts out his hand. Queen stands and takes King’s hand. They hang on to each other’s hand and walk to the top of the hall. If there are two Queens then there is a Queen on one side and a Queen on the other side. If there are two Kings (you know the rest). If it is a King and a Queen, the King stands on the King’s side, the Queen on the Queen’s side and they face each other, nose, toes and bellybutton, taking two hands. Then they drop their hands, and, voila, there they are.
Kings and Queens in Sashay the Donut
In NEDM’s Sashay the Donut collection We used ‘On the Danforth’ from NEDM’s ‘Other Side of the Tracks’ CD for this dance. You might also use our other version of ‘On the Danforth’ which is on our ‘Sashay the Donut’ CD.
Before we teach this dance we will dub each child a King or a Queen, and talk to them (sometimes while the music is playing to help sustain the mood) about what it means to be a King and Queen: They have royal posture, they never rush, they make good decisions, they are very attractive; basically describing the ideal King/Queen or, which, in my mind is being the very best person they can be. Then I “dub” each child a king or a queen, making sure they have their royal posture before I dub them. This is in the style of an historic English country dance (e.g. dances done in Jane Austen’s time).
* I often teach this with the music playing, to set the mood of the dance.
* I demonstrate and then have them try with me doing a forward and back with my fingers, in time to the phrase of the music.
* When teaching the dance, in B1, when the Top Couple sashays down and back up to the top, I tell them to hang on to their partners’ hands when they get back up to the top, then “Open like a book” to face down, holding handy-hand, to promenade down while others bow to them as they pass. I model this when I teach it as a solemn moment, rather than a parody of a king & queen walking, so that the students can get the full impact of being honored by their peers, though I do not make a fuss when some of them have fun doing a parody of a king & queen promenading.