May 2012       A NEWSLETTER           No. 129


In his remarks on his dance “The Extra day” in the last Broun’s Reel, Malcolm Frost noted that many dancers, and especially less experienced ones, found difficulty in dancing in ten-bar phrases, and so in his dance all the 10 bar phrases might be seen as “8 + 2” bars.  This coincided with some thinking I’ve been doing lately on the importance of phrasing, of listening to the music, and of dancing to the music.

It’s not the “tricky” phrasing that concerns me so much, as when figures that would normally take10 bars (for instance, cross, cast, cross, cast and lead up to corners in “College Hornpipe”) have to be danced in 8 bars.  Anyone can get these wrong! (That’s me, too.) No, what I’m really bothered about is the phrasing of a lot of the standard figures, and the fact that we don’t always pay enough attention to these.

I’d been dancing a long time before I learned that there was a correct method of handing in a grand chain for three couples  - 1 bar RH, 1 bar LH, 2 bars RH, 1 bar LH, 1 bar RH, 2 bars LH, if you too have missed out on this. Round Reel of Eight is a bit more complicated, with half a grand chain for 4 in 6 bars and then set, but you can dance it that way instead of chain in 4 bars, loiter for 2, and then set, if you think about it.  All the other common figures have similar set phrasing, and good phrasing helps not only when the figures included in a dance are standard, but also when the figures have variations.

One of the really obvious places where you need to be aware of phrases is in dancing reels, and you need to know if it’s a reel in 6 or 8 bars.  Half way is then 3 bars or 6 bars, and you can work out precisely where you need to be.  Similarly, a promenade without progression will be slightly different to one with progression; if the lead couple turn to go up the middle on bar 4 instead of bar 5, then second couple have a much better chance of reaching their intended destination in good order.

But why does it really matter?  It’s possible to complete an allemande in strathspey time in 5½ bars, and in reel time in 7 bars: we’ve proved it!  You can do a reel in quick time in 6½ or 9 bars, but most frequently in 7.  What’s the problem if you do finish your reel in 7 bars and have a bar to rest?  After all, you get there in time, so it doesn’t really affect anyone else.  Likewise, don’t you think people who refuse to take your hand to turn you on bar 4 and insist on taking it on bar 5 are just pernickety?

I’ve written previously in Broun’s Reel about the importance of team-work in dancing, and about the social and aesthetic importance of dancing as a group. Obviously, then, those are my first reasons for stressing the completion of given figures in the set number of bars.  Other reasons are perhaps more important.  Frequently – and especially in more modern dances – one figure leads directly into another: the position you complete one move in is the one you need to start the next figure in; the direction of travel needed for the next figure is often only clear from the one you’ve just finished. Stopping and facing inwards often will destroy this logical sequence.  Frequently the momentum from one figure is needed to provide the impetus to move into the next, and again is lost if you halt after 8 (or 7) bars instead of dancing through the phrase.

So how can we improve phrasing? While I recognise that sometimes, under pressure in an unfamiliar or difficult dance, we pay more attention to the patterns on the ground than to the music, I believe that it’s possible to train yourself to notice and to respond to basic cues in the music.  First, always listen for that strongly –accented first beat in the bar – and be balanced and ready to move on it.  Secondly, learn to identify “phrases”: the end of a musical phrases usually coincides with the end of a standard figure.  When you read cribs, or learn dances, pay attention to how many bars are needed to dance your reel, or down the middle and back, and so on.  Finally, at dances, if the MC makes sure that he or she makes the 8 bar phrase clear in the recap, all can become clearer!  And then you’ll all dance beautifully – won’t you?

Joyce Cochrane

Scottish dances have such wonderful names that it seems a shame they don’t have wider use. It’s easy enough to write silly stories incorporating them as they stand, like the one about Fair Donald in winter*, but maybe it would be more interesting to skew things a little bit...


As he walks along Fair Donald is so absorbed in watching the whooper swans jigging lightly in the air that he fails to notice the Minister and they collide and tumble into the loch. The wild geese laugh so much that they can’t fly, and fall on top of Rogie who is mightily indignant but can’t do much as he’s immobilised under a massive duvet.

Meanwhile a dripping Donald has escaped from the loch and is climbing the nearby black mountain. He makes a fine target for a falcon flying overhead who’s waiting to catch the next gust of wind and swoop down upon his prey. But he’s scared off by Rover, an Irish setter, who’s following me home. ‘Please, go back to Ben,’ I say, ‘ach, surely, he’s your real master.’ But then I think, ‘He’ll be dancing, burning the midnight oil, and the poor dog’s not welcome in Dufftown.’ But Fair D’s grateful to him and they’re both happy to meet the Minister who is stumbling back towards his warm fireside, which, oddly enough, is in Bavaria. Suddenly, our Donald trips headlong into a bog.  

It’s awfully difficult to rescue people well ensconced in bogs: Willie appears, strips off his tartan trews, gives one end to Donald and pulls, but all that happens is that Willie is left trouserless, holding a belt. Bob weighs in but can’t shift him. It’s reported Maxwell ran to get help (and hasn’t been seen since). A group of Royal Scots pass by but they’re reeling with drink and not very helpful at all. So poor D isn’t found for about a thousand years – but he’s amazingly well preserved and all over he’s exactly the colour of peat before it flames into fire.

*If you don’t know this story you could ask for it for the next Broun’s Reel, but I warn you it’s pretty trite.

Veronica Wallace, York

And how many dance references did you find? [Ed.]

The following article was written in response to the editorial in February’s Broun’s Reel:


Yes, Joyce, SCD really is great fun, even though difficult. There's nothing

like it for taking your mind off things (the intense concentration required

makes sure of that); for introducing you to a whole new set of people (or

many sets, especially on live music nights); and for giving you some good

CV (thinking of the more frantic dances, though even a “gentle”

Strathspey taxes the old leg muscles). It must be better for the grey

matter than bridge or crosswords too.

However, SCD should come with a health warning – or is it only us who

find it seriously addictive? Here I am, eating my porridge at 7.15 am and

poring over the new “Broun's Reel” to see what's on. Pen in hand, I mark

any dates that are vaguely possible. Can we re-arrange our holiday to go

to that dance? Shall we change our plans for that weekend so we can go

to the Spring Social? Maybe the enthusiasm wears off in time (we are

relative newcomers), though to hear and see some of the longer term

dancers, I rather doubt it.

There's one thing that puzzles me though. Joyce's Editorial (February

“Broun's Reel”) refers to looking at other dancers and smiling at them,

but in my, admittedly limited, experience this doesn't happen very often -

unless of course you're watching a demonstration set on YouTube, when

they do it all the time.

Can anybody explain what the “rules” are about looking at/smiling at

fellow dancers? I feel sure there must be a “Guide to SCD Etiquette”

(maybe a companion edition to “the little green book”), but I've yet to

find one. Are we just too British to risk making too much eye contact,

especially with members of the opposite sex, in case it's misconstrued? If

you risk it, how long do you maintain it, and who stops first? A whole

gamut of unwritten social rules, and a veritable minefield.

The same with smiling. Personally I can't help having a big (inane?) grin

plastered on my face when I'm dancing, and many others do the same,

but some people look so serious and scarcely glance at the other

dancers. They're probably not being unfriendly, (maybe it's just that

they're concentrating on that difficult new dance), but I know that when I

dance in a set where others are smiling and at looking at one another, it

adds a definite je sais quoi to my enjoyment.

So come on, fellow dancers, let's do more of the smiling and looking at

each other, and let's all have the most possible fun while we dance the

night away. Talking of which, this morning my feet and legs ache, and my

eyes are heavy, but last night's live music was definitely worth it. Now,

when's the next one....?

Carol Hazell, York Branch


The officers and committee for the branch this year are as follows:

Chairman -     Chris Hare

Secretary -     Malcolm Brown

Treasurer -     Rita Eastwood

Minute Secretary-Lynne Brooks

Also:     Iain Keegan

    Ken Wallace

    Norma Wheeler

A particular welcome to Lynne, Iain and Ken, all on the committee for the first time.


At the February meeting the Board received an update on how the change to a “Company limited by guarantee” was progressing, and it was emphasised that we were on very tight timetable if we wanted to bring this to the AGM this year. It is intended that branches should be sent both the proposed Articles and Rules shortly after the May meeting. As far as branches and members are concerned there should be no change to current arrangements.

Arrangements for the 2012 conference and AGM in Aberdeen are fairly advanced, with Aberdeen City Council planning to provide a civic reception. The ball this year will be held on the Saturday night, with the social dance on the Friday, a change from previous years.

As members will know, the Manual is currently being reviewed and updated, with many people throughout the world being involved in the work. The Board considered a paper showing that the likely costs of producing a DVD to accompany the Manual would be substantial.  

At the end of last year members were asked to submit new dances, with the intention of publishing a new book in 2013.  It was reported that 320 dances had been received, and that it was now intended to evaluate approximately 160 this year and the remainder in 2013, publishing the resulting books in 2013 and 2014.

The A5 book containing the dances in books 19-24, was released at Winter School and is now available from Headquarters.

Although the first week of Winter School had been judged a success, the second week was cancelled because of the low number of applicants.

Membership Services committee had held a meeting involving Keith Bark who took part using Skype from his computer in Canada.  This was judged to be a success, showing that overseas members can take part in the management of the Society, and the Board approved his co-option to the committee.

At the last AGM approval was given to split the Education and Training Committee and form a Youth Services Committee.  An interim committee has been sent up and has already held its first meeting. Roy Baines is the Interim Convener until elections can be held at the next AGM, and he has been co-opted onto the Board.

As well as the February Board meeting, we have heard since the meeting that the “Day Rate” imposed by the University for people attending summer school but not staying in university accommodation would be waived for 2012. This has resulted in a reduction in the original rates posted on the website.

Slightly fuller notes from the February meeting can be found on the Society website, in the “Branch Mailings” section.  

Malcolm Brown, York


Our Branch walk this year will take place on Thursday 7th June, meeting ready to set out at 9.30 a.m from the car park at Wharram Percy, the deserted mediaeval village by the B1248 between Malton and Wetwang. As last year, we have two routes – a longer route of about 7 kilometres (4½ miles) (with a possible extension to 10 km if people are really fit and raring to go!); the second route shares the same track but can be cut short easily, giving a total distance of 4 km or 2½ miles maximum. The walk has been planned and will be led by Jean McInnes and Joyce Cochrane.

We anticipate having lunch at 12.30 at the pub in North Grimston – the Middleton Arms, I think – Jean and I will confirm this.  menu details will be given to class teachers, or contact either of us by phone or email.  Please let us know if you intend to come on the walk, too!  We had a great day last year – we can’t promise that the weather will be as good, however.  Our contact details are: Jean (01482 649161) or Joyce (01482 871790), We both have answerphones if you don’t get us in.  For SatNav users, the pub’s postcode is YO17 8AX.


On Sunday 20th May, you have the opportunity to attend a rather different day of dancing, at Dunnington Sports Club, led by Rod Downey from New Zealand.  The day begins with registration from 10.00, with classes from 10.30 – 12.30 and from 2.00 – 4.00; a sandwich lunch will be provided, and the cost for the full day is £10.  

Rod Downey has written two collections of dances, “The Cane Toad Collection”, and “Somebody Stole my Wife From Me Last Night”, and will teach some of the dances from these. The dances range from simple dances for beginners to challenging dances with new formations and novel ideas.

If you are interested, please contact Malcolm Brown (01904 488084) or


The charity dance this year will be held on Saturday 30th June at the Community Centre in Driffield.  Entrance will be by ticket (£5 to all, available at the door); if you cannot go but would like to contribute to the charity, please buy a ticket in advance: they are printed and available now.  

The dance begins as usual at 7.30 and you are asked to bring contributions to a faith supper (paper plates preferred).

This year’s chosen charity is the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.  Remember that all money raised on the night goes to the charity, not just profits!  Each group is asked to contribute one good prize to the raffle, for which tickets will be sold on the night. The programme, danced to recorded music, has been drawn up by Rita.                           


The first dance of the 2012-2013 season will be held on Saturday 8th September at Willerby Church Hall (venue to be confirmed) , beginning at 7.30.  Usual entrance prices apply - £4 members, £5 non-members.  You are asked to bring the usual contributions to a Faith Supper.

The programme has been drawn up by Iain Keegan and will be danced to recorded music:


I need to apologise for some errors / omissions in previous Broun’s Reels, usually due to trying to do too many things in too much of a hurry.  Any omissions this time are due to my being taken ill last week. My apologies.


Philip Ashworth has been a stalwart of the dancing scene in York and North Humberside for many years, and many people will be saddened to hear of his recent death on 25th April from bowel cancer.  Philip had been complaining of feeling unwell since January, and was admitted into hospital late in March.  He was still dancing up till then, although on his last couple of sessions he was only able to do strathspeys; I have an email from him dated 12th March, over that evening’s programme, and I think that on that evening he coached one of the dances for me.

Philip was born in the West Riding on 10th October 1932, and first met Mary aged about 5!  Mary, who died in 2007, is still fondly remembered.  Philip and Mary married in 1957 and came to settle in Willerby, Philip working as an engineer for what evolved from Blackburn’s into Hawker Siddley and then British Aerospace. After retiring from there, he worked as a consulting engineer, giving testimony in court and inquiries on a range of engineering issues.  All his life he was a keen model maker, and some of these models were on display at Willerby Manor after his funeral – we were amazed at the professionalism of the model Ferrari and the imagination in the Heath Robinson-like Lego contraption sending little balls round a perpetual circuit.

Philip and Mary took up Scottish Country Dancing in the 1970s – Philip couldn’t remember exactly when – in first George Thomson’s class and then George Crosbie’s in Kirk Ella. I got to know Philip and Mary when they joined our group in Cottingham, and Philip threw himself into the class as he seems to have done with everything he was ever involved in.  He and Mary were enthused by the weekend schools at Cober Hill (they attended the very first one) and at Harrogate, which Philip actually organised at one time.  Philip once told me that he’d love to have taught Scottish Country Dancing, but that his feet were too old and wouldn’t do what he wanted.  He attended the Unit Zero course run by Helen Russell, and then helped by taking part in teaching my classes at Cottingham. On one occasion when I was unable to be there, the others helping had to drop out, and at short notice Philip did the whole session on his own.

Philip was for several years the treasurer of my Cottingham group, and did sterling service looking after the finances and organising the bookings. He was also well-known throughout the York and North Humberside area, and was very involved at Branch level.  He first joined the Committee in 1999, and then served on it a further 8 times in total, as Treasurer on three occasions and as Chairman in 2008-2009.   Most people will remember him from dances in the area as he liked to attend as many dances as he could.

Philip was a big presence on the dancing scene, but will not only be missed there.  He was a very committed member of the Hull Male Voice Choir and of the Probus club.  He attended Willerby Methodist Church and devoted a lot of time to the Helping Hands club there, giving older or less mobile people lifts to the doctor’s or to dental and hospital appointments among other things. Family was terrifically important to him; he and Mary had five children and twelve grand-children, and big family holidays were the norm.  He was terrifically proud of his first great-grandchild, born last autumn.

When I saw him in hospital some ten days before he died, I was most impressed by the courageous way he was facing up to his impending death, the continued sense of humour, and his ability to count his blessings and reflect on the good life he’d had.  Our condolences go to his five children – Robin, John, Blair, Sarah-Jane and Jenny, and their families. He will be missed, and he will be remembered.

Joyce Cochrane


Sadly, we also have to report the sudden death of Vera Svenson, another familiar presence at branch dances throughout the area.  Vera, a member of the Willerby class, died earlier in April.  I hope to bring you a full obituary in the next Broun’s Reel.