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255Re: [CalontirDance] Opinions needed!

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  • Keith McClune
    May 20, 2002
      As an interested outsider who is unlikely to attend Lillies, I will
      respond and you may take it for what its worth. If you find wisdom in
      my words, you may please use it. If not, just ignore my feeble rants.

      I am a dancer who has been to several Pennsic Wars, a couple of Estrella
      Wars, and KWDS II & III. I work with our local musicians on occasion to
      coordinate dance music, so I will try to see their side as well.

      > What I want to know from the dancer point of view is,
      > 1. What is it that musicians do during balls that irritate dancers?

      I really haven't seen much, if anything, that constitutes
      irritating. I am immensely grateful to the musicians who play for us.

      The worst thing for dancers is an unpredictable beat, so musicians
      that hesitate over unfamilliar music can be irritating. Next on the
      list is a beat that's hard to follow, especially when other musical
      queues are absent. Bassa dances, for instance, need strong beats and
      tenor lines. Many dancers with limited experience rely on a specific
      known recording: dancers who can only dance to a familliar recording
      are not the musicans fault, though.

      > 2. What is just NOT funny coming from the musicians pit?

      Anything that seems to be deliberately disruptive, such as changing
      the dance without notice or otherwise making it impossible for the
      dancers to participate, is just NOT funny. I've never seen this, I
      mearly suggest that anything less than this MAY be funny.

      I guess my caveat would be: don't over do it. Try the fun stuff
      sparingly at first until you have a good feel for how it fits in. This
      works both on the level of learning from the experience of several
      events and on the level of the course of a single evening of dance.

      > 3. Is ANYTHING funny from the musicians pit, or is it only funny to the
      > musicians?

      Our local musicians harbour a propensity to speed up and slow down
      the music semi-randomly. They have been know to stand up and wander out
      amoungst the dancers. These actions could be irritating for new dancers
      or dancers with carefully rehersed performances, but our musicians are
      wise enough to avoid disruption in these situations. The first several
      repetition of the music are done straight; only when the piece is
      becoming boring (even to some new dancers) do they "play" with it so
      severely. When compelled to play endless repetitions of
      Hole-In-The-Head, they will signal that the dance is ending by wandering
      out amoung the dancers and generally being a nuisance. Personally, I
      find this endeering.

      > 4. What is more fun at a ball - an ambiance of regality and dignity, or is
      > it something looser,
      > and less refined? like more of a comradery sort of thing?)

      It depends. What is the nature of the event? At a Feast of Fools
      events, I would expect foolishness from the start. At formal event
      where great effort has gone into carefull preparation for the ball,
      dignity is the order of business. At a multi-day event, such as Lillies
      War, some days need not (and probably should not) be too serious. At
      least *some* time, however, should be serious for those who want or need
      it, even if its the first hour of the Saturday evening ball and no other
      time. Such diversity can be indicated in play lists and advertisements,
      so the dancers and musicians both know what to expect.

      My generic preference is to start with some dignity and
      predicatability and then become less formal as the evening pregresses.
      This lets performers and new dancers begin without fear of unexpected
      weirdness. It also alows a comradery to build as everyone gets used to
      each other, culminating in more casual fun as the evening winds down.
      From some descriptions, this coincidentally seems to be how the Inns of
      Court Revels progressed.

      > 5. Why do dancers dance? (I've tried it, but not much so I am curious)

      My interest in dance has grown over the last ten years to the point that
      I concentrate much more on dance then any other SCA activity (and I have
      many other SCA activities). I feel that dance should be a core activity
      for any serious SCA participant. I have thought long and hard about how
      to entice others to take up dancing. As yet, I have no idea why I find
      dance such a pleasing pastime, let alone how to convince others. Partly
      its the fliting, partly its the formal movement, but in the end I just
      don't know. I try to lead by example.

      > 6. What makes a musician pit good to dance to?

      The ambiance. The ability to taylor the performance to dancer's needs
      (instead of CD recorders' needs). SCA players can perform the correct
      repeat structure with an identifiable beat and, when sufficiently
      comfortable, can interact with the dancers in surprising ways.
      > >From the musicians, I would like to know,
      > 1. Is this serious stuff for you, or is it - something else? What else?

      OK, I can't really answer this, except to say that I have met some very
      serious musicians, and they often have the best sense of humor. The
      audience seems to be important to them (otherwise I suppose they
      wouldn't show up for dancing).

      > 2. Have you ever been talked into performing something in a certain way that
      > you regretted?

      I seek feedback from our musicians before, during, and after our
      dances. The only complaint that sticks in my mind is playing a dance
      that they have not been given sufficient opportunity to practice. I
      suspect that being forced to share instruments or go too long without a
      break would be issues.

      > 3. What makes playing for a ball satisfying for you (speak now or forever
      > hold your piece, I say!)

      Since I'm not a musician, I'll pass on this one (can't even answer for
      dancers, and I are one!).

      > 4. If you've ever had a bad time playing at a ball, what made it bad?

      The bigest complaint that I've heard was that visiting musicians were
      treated as beginners simply because the other musicians did not know
      them. Its not much fun for the two leading musicians from a kingdom to
      be told "here, play this bass line, we'll play the hard stuff," just
      because the others didn't know them. I suppose the best way to address
      this is simply to ask new musicians "what have you done before/at home,
      and what do you think you can do here?" Some music may be unfamilliar
      to the visitors, but they may also play unusual instruments beautifaully
      on the pieces that they do know. Just don't treat them as unwelcome
      guests after they travelled so far to participate at the War.

      OK, not exactly a short post, but not too bad for ten questions.

      I would add a personal request to try move away from Grosely Our Of
      Period dances. We have so many period dances that we could do, I hate
      to see them displaced by dances that don't especially belong in the
      SCA. I'm not asking that every non-period dance be instantly purged
      from our experience, just that, when deciding between which dance to do
      next, consider giving the period dance a higher priority (especially
      early in the evening). I think its unfortunate that many people do not
      know the difference, and I think it falls to the dance leaders to be
      honest about which dances are out of period.

      Enough rambling. Let's dance!

      Keith / Guillaume S:}>
      Denver / Caerthe, Outlands
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