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RSCDS London branch eUpdate
11 October 2020


Dear fellow dancers

We seem to be hurtling through autumn, already 2 weeks since the London branch AGM and ceilidh on what should have been the day of our new season dance.  We may not have been able to dance together but it was heartening to have so many people join the AGM, 56 attendees in total, interacting via the Q&A function and staying on for the ceilidh items afterwards. We missed seeing everyone in person, and know that a number were unable to join due to technical issues, but a silver lining was that members living far from London were able to join the meeting. Whilst we hope to be able to hold our 2021 AGM in person we will definitely try to include some form of virtual link to continue this opportunity for engagement.

Simon Wales had collated a great programme of ceilidh items and we are grateful to Neil Esslemont, Ian Robertson, Amanda Esslemont, Craigellachie Band, Strathallen and Catriona Bennett for sharing their talents with us so generously. The enjoyment of this lively programme of music and dance was beautifully evoked by one member who commented that she was ‘inspired to dance up and down my kitchen to the lovely music’ – she was surely not the only one! We’ll have a more detailed report on the AGM and ceilidh in the forthcoming Reel.

Meanwhile, some fortunate groups have made a tentative return to dance. The Gay Gordons and the Surbiton & District Caledonian Society both completed the rigorous assessment process necessary to ensure a COVID secure dancing environment and restarted classes from the end of September (see notes and photo below). As Cathy Daldry, Chair, Surbiton & District Caledonian Society commented in her full report on Surbiton’s return to dance ‘if only Boris was a Scottish dancer, he would surely have made it a "rule of eight"’. How to dance together enjoyably yet safely distanced is undoubtedly a challenge but never underestimate the innovative nature of the Scottish Country Dance community! Indeed, the September meeting of the SE Region Teachers Association (SERTA) included a discussion of dances which might be adapted for non contact. With socially distanced sets the norm and touching forbidden, maintaining eye contact with partners will become more important than ever.  

London Branch Management committee met this week and sadly acknowledged that the current COVID restrictions will make it infeasible for us to hold our much anticipated Christmas dance.  However, please do keep the 19th December in your diary. If we can’t meet in person, we have some ideas for a virtual event – more information as plans develop.  Despite restriction we are still hoping to restart at least some classes in the New Year and will share more details in future eUpdates.

We are all only too aware of how much our lives have changed since the beginning of this year.  Whilst there are chinks of light, such as the return to classes mentioned above, it is clear that there is a long way to go.  Whilst we wait, we have an opportunity to reassess and adjust what we do and how we do it.  We propose to run a members’ survey, gathering information about London branch members and what they would like to see from the branch. The survey will be launched in the next edition of the Reel and will also be available for completion online.  Please do look out for it and share your thoughts

As noted in previous newsletters, the RSCDS Autumn Gathering has had to be cancelled but the society AGM will also be held online, hosted from 12 Coates Crescent on Saturday 7 November at 2pm.  More information available here.  

Until we meet again, please do keep sending your links, quizzes, favourite dance videos and memories of dancing in times past - whatever you have that you think may be of interest. Whether you have been dancing all your life or just began recently, if you're a teacher, musician, beginner, demonstration team member or simply enjoy the occasional social dance  - we'd love to hear from you.

Masks on, get set, go  - 
Surbiton is back! 
We are delighted to bring you this report by Cathy Daldy, Chair of the Surbiton & District Caledonian Society on Surbiton's resumption of dancing in September. A fuller version of this will be published in the next edition of "The Reel" where Cathy explains just how long and rigorous the preparation and planning were.  

Finally, after all that preparation, practice and planning, we were back! The first 12 brave dancers donned their face coverings and made up their sets and after some much-needed warm-up exercises to jog the muscle memory, that familiar chord played for the first dance and they were dancing! Guided by teacher, Judith Jones, through some of Surbiton’s favourite dances but all with a social distancing twist, everyone did fantastically well at not only adapting to the formation changes but also at coping with the challenge of getting back to place in time in an extra-wide, extra-long set, not to mention having to do them all as 3-couple sets, mostly without a rest! It turns out that face masks do wonders for improving our eye contact during dancing as well, although several members tried out face visors as an alternative. We did miss our social break over a cup of tea and Surbiton’s favourite, the fig roll, but we factored in plenty of short breaks to take a breather outside, effectively managing to keep the two sets apart by using the different doors and outside spaces available at each end of the hall.

It has been amazing to be able to bring live dancing back to Surbiton and although we will no doubt have to review and revise what we are doing on a regular basis to ensure we continue to meet all current government advice, it is worth it. I would like to acknowledge and thank all my Surbiton committee team who have worked so hard and so well together to make it happen.

Cathy Daldy (left) seen with teacher Judith Jones. 
Photograph courtesy of Brenda Horwill
The Branch Puzzle: 2019 Day School Evening Dance
Unfortunately, the Branch's Day School which should have been taking place on 17th October has been cancelled. In this week's puzzle we look back to last year's event held at St Helen's School, Northwood. The photo was taken at the Day School Evening Dance and we hope it brings back some happy memories for some readers. Click on the image to begin the jigsaw puzzle.

RSCDS Dance Scottish at Home.
Since our last full eUpdate there have been 4 weekly classes and a great range of content in the RSCDS Dance Scottish at Home fortnightly newsletter.  The 25th edition of Dance Scottish at Home is fast approaching and the editorial team has decided to focus on “The Flying Scotsman” as part of a special issue. Do you have memories of the famous steam train, the dance or the band?  If so, please do get in touch with the editorial team.
Recent editions of Dance Scottish at Home may be found here:
Issue 23, 2 October,  
Issue 22, 18 September

If you’ve wondered just who has been organising the fabulous RSCDS output and how – there is a great article about it all on the RSCDS website. Click on the link to learn more about the society’s own Lockdown Heroes. To see the latest updates on how the society responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, click here.

The 7 October class came from Budapest, in Hungary, courtesy of Gábor Turi with the assistance of his wife Szilvia.  Gábor used a great range of musicians including Keith Smith during the warm up then formation practice with James Gray and Susi Petrov , and Muriel Johnstone’s ‘With the Music, Ready…. And!’
The featured dance was “Teviot Bridge”, a 24 bar jig from RSCDS Book 5.  Gábor concentrated on the Ladies’ Chain and the modified poussette which is specific to this dance.

On the 30 September we had the 25th RSCDS Online Class led by Ellie Briscoe in Alexandria, Virginia near Washington DC, with musical accompaniment managed by her husband Mel. Ellie emphasised the importance of music on the interpretation of the movement using a range of different tunes including The Entertainer, Alley Cat and Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory for the dance, The Braes of Breadalbane from RSCDS Book 21. The class finished with everyone dancing to the RSCDS recording by John Renton.

We were taken into the heart of Coates Crescent on the 23 September when John and Ruby Wilkinson took the online class from the RSCDS Office in Edinburgh, accompanied by non other than Marian Anderson.  John and Ruby warmed us up with the Eva Three Step before changing tempo to waltz time and the Waltz Country Dance from RSCDS Book 4.
The globetrotting online class visited Oslo on 16 September where Jamie Berg and her musician husband James Gray brought a lively mix of warm ups, dancing and balance exercises, with James playing old and new tunes, from “Humber Jumber” recognised as the tune for The Frisky through to more his own more recent compositions. Jamie tasked dancers to have 2 chairs and a drink and then used the chair both in her recently devised dance and her stretching cool down. That did cause Kate in Crieff some concerns as she said “All my chairs have wheels – I’m in the office!”

The Wednesday 14th October class will again be at 19:00 BST via this link.  Please remember that, as Zoom has changed its security advice, there is now a Passcode for the class. Passcode: 249430.

Grateful thanks to all teachers, musicians, technicians and organisers involved in the delivery of these classes.
To revisit any of the classes so far simply click on the relevant image or name below.
Angela Young, Mervyn Short, Dave Hall, Diane Hastie,William Williamson, Ron Wallace, Graham Donald, Atsuko Clement, Fiona Mackie, David Queen, Debbie RoxburghRebecca Blackhall-Peters, Sue Porter, Trish NichollsSamuele GrazianiRobert McOwen, Andrew Timmins, Alice Stainer, Andrew Nolan, Fred DeMarse, Margie Stevenson, Yoshiki Oyama, Jamie Berg, John&Ruby Wilkinson, Ellie BriscoeGábor Turi
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

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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