Ha Jolly Ha

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pattern Dancing

Modern dancing reflects modern culture. It is sensual, chaotic, individualistic and undignified. Put on a throbbing Techno tune and everyone gyrates madly; put on a crooning Pop ballad and couples pair off to cling and sway; put on a jarring Rock song and they'll jump up and down, yelling incoherently.

Let me present the civilized alternative. Pattern dancing. Couples form two lines and dance a specific pattern with the couple next to them. Often, in each group of four, the couple nearer the head of the set performs a different dance pattern from that of the couple nearer the foot. After completing the pattern, the bottom couple in each group of four has progressed up the line, and the top couple has progressed down the line, to dance in a new set of four. Once they reach the end of the line, each couple enters again and progresses back the other way, performing the other dance pattern.

A few benefits of pattern dancing:

1. It is an agreeable way to acquire a sense of rhythm, proportion, and good posture.

2. Catchy fiddle tunes and lively dances preserve fitting decorum and order without oppressing an energetic crowd.

3. The complex progression of the dance provides a pleasing and elegant scene for those merely watching on account of indisposition, derth of partners, old age, etc.

4. Young men and women can become better acquainted in a communal and formal setting, discouraging improper intimacy and providing set forms of behavior which distinguish the proper roles of men and women.

5. Some of the loveliest folk music falls into this genre.

5. The dances are such jolly fun!

I most enjoy the English Country Dances. They are danced to a particular song, often to a waltz tempo, and the evening always closes with a series of "regular" waltzes. For those who prefer a more "aerobic" dance, Contra dancing and Irish set dancing offer a rollicking alternative.


Anonymous TheresaMF said...

This past summer I called a dance for a homeschool highschooler's birthday party. She called me up because she had come to another dance I had called. Her backyard swarmed with children of all ages, and a good number of smaller ones joined us--maybe 9 or 10 year olds, up to her fellow highschoolers of 17 or 18, plus some of the parents. We had a blast! To my amazement even the smaller children caught on right away and the sets never got confused.

All the highschoolers I've called for (both my sisters friends, homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers, and other groups) love the dance we used to do at Christendom to "ChimChiminee," the one where the couples are in a circle like spokes of a wheel, and the girls get flung out and then in to the middle.

So, just voicing my agreement. :)

1:55 PM  
Blogger Raindear said...

Hullo TMF,

Congratulations on your exciting news!! I just read it this morning.

Folk dances are surprisingly teachable, particularly when you have a sympathetic group and a few experienced dancers.

Aaahhh, the circle dance. And of course there is also the perennial favorite, Lady's Chain. The Bonny Cuckoo is another simple and lovely dance - the one with four couples where you start out in lines and end up in a circle.

2:21 PM  
Blogger David L Alexander said...

What is described here is also recognized as English country dancing, which appears as both opposing lines of men and women (called "proper), and opposing lines of alternating men and women, each dancer facing the opposite sex (called "improper"). Some forms of Irish ceili dancing are done similarly. The dance was exported to New England and became known as "contra dancing," which is distinguished from its Old World counterpart by livelier tunes and routines. The most popular such routine among American schoolchildren in years past was known (if I'm not mistaken) as "Haste to the Wedding," better known in the Midwestern USA as "The Virginia Reel." As the dance traveled west, it essentially "merged" with quadrille and cotillion steps of the South, and the "running set" of the southern Appalachians, becoming what we know today as "square dancing."

4:50 PM  
Blogger David L Alexander said...

I typed out the above before I got halfway down the article, so it seems repetitive. Sorry about that.

Still works, though.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Raindear said...

Thank you David. That was a nice summary.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Cusack said...

I couldn't agree with this post more! One of the loveliest things about going to Scotland for university was the fact that there was plenty of traditional dancing at student events (though to be fair there's plenty of the modern rubbish as well).

5:22 PM  
Blogger Raindear said...

Traditional dancing at a university - that is very uncommon indeed and I am glad to hear of it! Did you do a lot of Scottish Country Dancing? It looks quite charming, though as of yet, I have little familiarity with the steps beyond the strathspey I learned at an Alasdair Fraser concert.

10:04 AM  

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