Hints and Tips for SCD - Being beginner-friendly
This page gives hints, tips and pointers on how to help and encourage beginners to learn and enjoy SCD,
and to keep coming back for more.
- Just because a dance is familiar, and therefore easy, to an experienced dancer does
not mean a beginner will find it easy. You may be able to do "A trip to Bavaria"
or "Mairi's Wedding" in your sleep, but these are minefields to the uninitiated.
- The beginner has to learn how to "chunk" - get the steps right before putting them into a formation,
then learn the formation properly before putting it into a dance or varying it in any way,
- A good dance for a beginner should have 16-, 8-, or at a push, 4-bar phrases. 2-bar phrases
are too short (eg set, cross, cast, turn LH to corners) - once the beginner has psyched him-
or herself up to do whatever it is, remembered the movement, got the feet to comply, etc, the
moment has passed. No half-movements, either - full rights and lefts, wheels, reels,
etc. Setting twice rather than once is also better.
- It's good to have down the middle and up, or cast off for four bars and back to place, etc,
in a dance - a "fallow" 8 bars where the first couple can pay minimal attention to the formation
and think about steps, music, partner, what comes next, etc. The other couples can take
a break and get ready for the next phrase.
- Having introduced a formation, do several more dances with the same figure to "ram it home"
and dispel the idea that this formation only occurs in this dance. Repeat dances too, so
that the dancers can get to know them, relax into them and enjoy the feel of the dance without
worrying about remembering it.
- When integrating slightly more "busy" or complex moves such as turn corner, partner, corner,
partner, or ladies' chain, etc, it can help to do it in strathspey first (with adults at any rate)
to sort out the geography, then put it into quick time.
- To introduce progression - do a 2-couple dance in a 3-couple set first, to introduce the idea
of a "rest turn" at the top or bottom. This way first couple has two goes without an extra
couple to worry about or the problem of first couple needing to slip to the bottom after two goes.
Having that established, extend it to 3-couple dances in a four couple set.
- Encourage partner-swapping between dances - raw beginners may think you're meant to stay
with the same one.
- Shouting and pushing, however convenient, are frowned upon and make the beginner feel in the
wrong/harrassed/a nuisance. Encourage the beginner to make eye contact, then gesture, give a
helping hand where possible and speak in their ear as they pass.
- Some groups find ribbons, badges, ties, etc a help to distinguish between people dancing
man or lady, in groups with a large imbalance in the numbers of men and women.
- At social nights or classes with mixed ability, it's okay to have one dance (or maybe more)
where beginners are asked to sit down and let others dance. Beginners may welcome the chance
to rest and watch - there's no time to watch if they are thinking about dancing. Experienced
dancers may be more willing to help beginners if they get one dance to relax and let their
hair down without them.
- Encourage beginners to listen to music and the fact that it (usually) goes in 8-bar phrases
- like the dances - so the dance should fit the music, the tune changes when the couple
changes (sometimes) etc.
- Finish on a "high" with something really easy/familiar to leave them wanting more.
- Attracting the student age-group is a specific challenge in its own right.
Here are some notes from
people who have tried it.
wrote an article for Toronto Branch newsletter
on integrating beginners into general social dancing.
Here is a copy, with his permission.
See also the other hints and tips sections:
Return to the Scottish Country Dance home page.
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other original work) is licensed under a
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This page is maintained by Ian Brockbank
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Last modified 8-10-02
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