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RSCDS London branch eUpdate 10 May 2020

Dear fellow dancers

This week, as celebrate VE Day, our films from the dance archives focus on "Dancing for Victory" and in particular "The Reel of the 51st Division". We also have more 'favourite dances', this time courtesy of Rachel Wilton and links to Dance Scottish at Home including puzzles, music and links to the latest online class.

Continuing on last week's theme of virtual visits to Scotland, we thought you might enjoy this short animation commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage for the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 Message in a Bottle.

Also, some fun items reflecting how much a Scottish dancer's life has changed since Covid-19. Will this become an essential part of the discerning Scottish dancer's attire? Tartan Face Mask. And will solo dancing become the norm? Murrough Landon shares his video project for a newly devised dance All Shall Be Well - which Murrough walked rather than danced to ease the video editing, as he explains at the end of the video.

Please do let us know if you find something to share with fellow London dancers. Quizzes, favourite dance videos and memories of dancing in times past - all welcomed.  

Scottish Dance Videos
In connection with the VE Day celebrations, our offering this week is two films and a website with accompanying text. The first film is called "War Dancing - the reel of the 51st" and is a 28 minute film about the origins of the popular Scottish country dance.

NB: This link will only be available to subscribers for 48 hours from the release of the eUpdate.  
There is also a link to a website "Dancing for victory" which gives background information along with short clips from the same film.

The other film is a 2 minute short British Pathé film of the Victory march of the 51st Highland Division (1945). 

If you would like to find out more about the Reel of the 51st Division, then you might be interested in an article that appeared in "The Reel" Issue 307.  
We would ask, if you feel able, to give a donation to Help the Heroes

Thanks again to Peter Knight and to Meryl and Ian Thomson for sourcing and making available these lovely films.

RSCDS Dance Scottish at Home.
Following the VE Day celebrations theme, this week's 'Dance Scottish at Home' newsletter included highly evocative memories and photographs from 8 May 1945. The newsletter also features Muriel Johnstone, who has recorded 2 new tunes to commemorate Captain Thomas Moore's 100th birthday, and the history of the place name Waverley.

Those of you looking for a challenge (but perhaps not quite ready to emulate Murrough Landon's achievements in the video above) might consider creating a compilation, maybe with your class, local dance group or other or friendship group dancing? Ilona Brown from Glasgow, featured in this week's Dance Scottish from Home, used TikTok to bring together a group of socially dispersed young Scottish Country Dancers, Watch them here (and feel free to send any compilations to

Previous editions of the RSCDS newsletter, Dance Scottish at Home are available here Week 6Week 5Week 4Week 3Week 2Week 1
The 5th  Dance Scottish online class again attracted over 1250 logins and, this week, came from Dumfriesshire as William Williamson welcomed us to his sun drenched home in Amisfield. William took us through a vigorous marching warm up then launched into the medley Cauld Kail from RSCDS Book 9.  It felt like a great treat to dance a full dance and Cauld Kail was beautifully suited to dancing in small spaces. At the end of the lesson William, joined by his wife Linda, encouraged us to cross arms to the music of Auld Lang Syne. Hundreds of people across the world did just that.  Click here for William's lesson.

An innovation this week was some lively music playing at the beginning and end of the class whilst time was made available for attendees to chat with each other. 

Next week's class, with a different teacher, will be at 7pm on Wednesday and available via this link (same link every week). Grateful thanks to RSCDS, the teachers and the technicians who make this weekly class possible.

To revisit any of the classes so far simply click on the relevant image below.
William Williamson
Mervyn Short
We will continue to include links from Dance Scottish at Home but, if you'd like your own personal copy simply visit, scroll to the bottom of the homepage and complete your details in the ‘Sign up for the RSCDS eNewsletter’ section. It’s quick and easy! There is also a DSAH webpage where you can access previous issues of the Dance Scottish At Home eNewsletter and view all of the Zoom online classes to date – visit
RSCDS Online class puzzle

Try the jigsaw puzzle below, featuring this week's RSCDS online class teacher William Williamson.  Here William is acting as Ceilidh MC at the 2018 summer school in St Andrews.  There are a number of London branch members in the audience - see who you can spot! 
preview32pieceWW at Summer school
Three of my favourite dances – Rachel Wilton
Following last week's selections from Chris Hood  (Bratach Bàna, Clutha and Seann triubhas Willichan)    - this week we are pleased to share dances selected by London Branch President, Rachel Wilton.

Rachel says, "When I was choosing the dances I realised once again that it is the music that makes the dance and how skilful are the musicians who choose alternative tunes to complement the original tune. One of the few good things about this lockdown is the opportunity to listen to the musicians on Facebook, Take the Floor, Ian R Muir’s podcast in Dance Scottish at Home. We are so fortunate, we dancers, to have them with their skill, knowledge and enthusiasm".

Flowers of Edinburgh Reel - RSCDS Book 1 No. 6

It is a very straightforward dance with a great tune, – its ‘magic’ bit to me is arriving back in your partner’s place JUST in time to set and then repeat the first 8 bars. Down the middle and up has always been one of my favourite formations – how far can you go and still be back in time to let the 2nd couple in to change places with a poussette, another of my favourite formations – find a partner with whom you can really dance in time and the whole dance is a magical experience – and then you can do it a second time!!

The source music is also called Flowers of Edinburgh; on his recording of RSCDS Book 1 Bobby Crowe has chosen 6 beautifully matching tunes.

Jennifer's Jig  Jig -  The Silver City Book of Scottish Country Dances by John Drewry 1968

I enjoy the way this dance moves so smoothly from one formation to the next; from the start when 1st, 2nd & 3rd couples take hands on the sides, a quick look at each other and off we go – set, cross right, set cross right, then the 2s stay facing out while the 1s cross down into the double figure of 8, then the 3s can join in as all 3 couples dance Inveran reels. Then finally the progression – John Drewry’s instructions are very precise – 1s and 2s lead down for 3, begin to turn on bar 4, complete the turn while moving up on bars 5 and 6 and then 2 bars to dance up and out to new positions

In an interview in The Scottish Country Dancer no. 19 pianist Jennifer Wilson recalls that the morning after dance devisor John Drewry had heard her play the tune that band leader Drummond Cook had written for her – Jennifer’s Jig – he presented her with the dance at breakfast, a good night’s work! Lots of dancers will remember the packed Common room on the last night at Summer School when Jennifer was playing and Bill Ireland was MC, and a spellbound audience in the Younger Hall when Jennifer and Derek Haynes danced while Bill sang.

My favourite recording of Jennifer’s Jig is of Jennifer herself playing it on ‘A Dancing Master Remembered’ where she plays 7 other tunes to match.

In 2019 Jennifer was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to Scottish Country dancing and charity. She says ‘it’s just a wonderful feeling to be rewarded for something you love doing’

Midsumer Common Strathspey - RSDCS Bk 49 No. 3

Devised by Tom and Lindsey Ibbotson. Another lovely flowing dance where you meet your partner, leave them, pass them as you turn your first corner, and then the magic bit – as the first couple turn their second corner and move towards the small circle there is an instant when they can look at each other. I watched Tom and Lindsey dancing this together and realised what a special moment in the dance this is. Face each other, set, petronella turn to the side and then finally you are with your partner again for the poussette right round.

The glory of an 8 by 32 bar strathspey is that you can enjoy it twice, usually with a different but carefully selected tune; if you made a mistake first time you can correct it and derive even more pleasure second time. On the RSCDS recording of Book 49 Jim Lindsay has chosen some great tunes to match the original which was written by Lindsey Ibbotson. Lindsey tells that she wrote the tune, called Riding Through the Dark, while cycling through Midsummer Common in Cambridge on a cold wet night, and then she and Tom wrote the dance to fit the tune.

Whether you have been dancing a long time or just started, please do tell us what YOUR choices would be? Email to tell us about them.

Previous weeks' selections
Simon Wales
The Dancing MasterAutumn in Appin and John of Bon Accord

Meryl Thomson
The New Rigged ShipThe Rakes of Glasgow and The Montgomeries’ Rant

Stephen Webb
The Starrie Eyed LassieSleepy Maggie  and Up in the Air 
Melanie Rowland 
Catch the Wind, Pelorus Jack and The Dream Catcher 

Chris Hood 
Bratach Bàna, Clutha and Seann triubhas Willichan 

NHS advice on keeping yourself well:

Government advice here:
RSCDS Blog here:

We look forward to dancing with you soon.
Copyright © 2020 RSCDS London Branch, All rights reserved.

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