See also the section on running the dance event.
If you've been asked to write a dance programme - Congratulations!
Many people have a legitimate interest in your programme:
The group that asked you will want a programme that attracts people to the event (for base mercenary reasons) and, maybe, the group itself (for the sheer joy of human companionship). They will probably vet the programme you devise, so be ready to be flexible.
All the dancers will want an evening'’s enjoyment in return for the price of a ticket.
The band will want information about any unfamiliar tunes. They may also want to offer advice about running order, given that some tunes are particularly difficult to play well when the band are not yet warmed up or are really tired. They should also be able to tell you whether a given strathspey will be played as a slow air or not. Be nice to your band, the success of the evening hangs on them more than on any other single factor (including your programme).
You will want to produce a programme with some of your own favourite dances on it and sufficiently memorable that you’ll be asked to do the job again (assuming you enjoyed doing it).
However, unless unfamiliar dances are put on dance programmes (and danced!) both personal and group repertoires tend naturally to shrink - so a balance has to be struck. A look at previous programmes should give you a feel for what is familiar to the group.
Obviously, a programme for an RSCDS branch will be expected to have a large majority of RSCDS dances on it.
Dances fall into three broad categories - which dance falls in which category varies with place and time.
"Not this one again" - which may well be your reaction and that of your friends. However, many dancers welcome these as a guarantee of not messing it up / having a good time / a chance for a bit of fun. These dances are not danced over and over again because they're poor dances - a great many people enjoy them. Committees may question using them (since many committees have very experienced dancers on them) but can be reminded that less experienced dancers (who also pay to come) are often reassured by the presence of such dances on a programme. Experienced dancers can also use this opportunity to help a real beginner through a popular dance.
"I haven't done this for a while" - these are definitely part of the local repertoire (all repertoires are to some extent local) but they may not be done very often or they may just not have been done much recently. Committees and bands usually accept these without difficulty.
"What?" - these are pretty much unknown (except to you) and should be used sparingly. It does not matter how easy these unfamiliar dances are - people who are likely to be discouraged will not find this out. Your group may well rely on just such people to come to their dances and to keep them solvent. How many unfamiliar dances you use depends a lot on the people you expect at the dance - young / old, experienced / beginners, timorous / adventurous etc. Be ready to supply original directions / music for unfamiliar dances and allow time in the running order for a walk-through or two. Often you'll have to select just a few that you really want on the programme and save the others for another time (particularly if a certain amount of restraint increases the chance of there being another time).
It also depends on what advance warning is possible - if the programme is on the original notice of the dance then people know what they're letting themselves in for, but if the paying public is getting a pig in a poke it will be your job to provide a well-known and widely-acceptable pig.
[by Peter Hastings]
It is a good idea for program devisers to realize that there are many subcategories of jig, reel, and strathspey. The most cited example of this is the slow air masquerading as a strathspey. Try to make sure that you have some actual strathspeys on your program. Other subcategories are the march masquerading as reel or jig, the two-step masquerading as jig, etc. It is a good idea to vary these, not only for musicians but for dancers, which will benefit from the variety. If you have the option, consult the band that will be playing to run the program by them for potential issues/opportunities missed.
Other TALLER orders:
[posted to the Strathspey mailing list by David Knight]
See also Kent Smith's notes on planning a dance.
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This page is maintained by Ian Brockbank
Last modified 8-10-02
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