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RSCDS London branch eUpdate 3 May 2020

Dear fellow dancers

This week we have another glimpse into the dance archives, some more 'favourite dances', this time courtesy of Chris Hood, plus links to Dance Scottish at Home including puzzles, music and links to the latest online class. 

At this time of year, many of us would be planning a visit to Scotland to see family and friends later in the year.  Whilst that will remain a challenge for some weeks at least, there is still scope for virtual visits to Scotland's beautiful places, literature. music and media.

Less obviously to do with Scotland - but still fun - here are some COVID-19 variants of well loved songs, from the  Jungle Book  and Mary Poppins

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

This week's video is another historic film, Scotland Through Her Music, that gives us a selection of Scottish songs accompanied by photographs taken around Scotland by John Drewry in the 1950s and 1960s which have been arranged to illustrate the words of the songs.

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


RSCDS Dance Scottish at Home.
Week 6 of the 'Dance Scottish at Home' newsletter included a interesting article about Scottish composer William Marshall, some background to the dance Loch Leven Castle from RSCDS Book 21  and much more. Click on the newsletter link above for more music, dance, podcasts, puzzles and challenges from around the world of Scottish Country Dance.

Previous editions of the RSCDS newsletter, Dance Scottish at Home are available here  Week 5Week 4Week 3Week 2Week 1
The Dance Scottish online class, now in its 4th week, attracted 1250 logins and came all the way from Australia  where Diana Hastie took us through the basics of step technique. Due to the time difference, the class was recorded with Angela Young providing live responses to the questions and chat. The format worked well, even allowing time for Diana to share the lovely waterside view from her Sydney window, and the class again attracted attendees from all over the world. It's clear a massive amount of work is going into the preparation and delivery of each weekly class but the ever increasing numbers joining each session must surely show just how much they are appreciated. 

Diana's  lesson was a great introduction to step and progressed swiftly through the basic steps necessary to dance 'Blue Bonnets' in full. I fell over my feet a lot and am grateful that the recording of the session is available for me to revisit and try to improve (click here).

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.
Angela Young
Mervyn Short
Dave Hall
Diana Hastie
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
Click on the link to try a jigsaw puzzle based on this week's RSCDS online class.
Three of my favourite dances – Chris Hood
Following last week's selections from Melanie Rowland  (Catch the Wind, Pelorus Jack and The Dream Catcher) - this week we are pleased to share dances selected by Chris Hood.

There's no shortage of Scottish country dances in general - folk often say there are too many. There are remarkably few dances with Gaelic names, though. And they are the ones I like best. Here are three of the them for you. 

Bratach Bàna - Reel
A dance made up in the 1960s by John Dewry who heard the tune on the radio when camping at Strontian beside Loch Sunart. The dance would be nothing without the tune, which is a Gaelic irorram (rowing song) at least 400 years old. The full title of the song is Mhic iarla nam bratach bana ('O son of the earl of the white flags), and it goes responsively, with the person at the helm and the rowers singing alternately in the verses and chorus. The song is about an amazing boat (some sort of ancient superyacht, with a goldern rudder, silver masts and ropes of Galway silk). The late great Calum Kennedy used to sing it as a port a beul, and I've always wanted to dance it to music from a singer. MCs rarely pronounce the name correctly - the 'a's in the first word are both short, but the ‘à' in ‘na’ should be long.

Clutha - Reel from Bk31 No 2
square set dance devised in the 1980s which is quite fun and not too hard, although there’s often some confusion as to whether one of the turns is long or short. Clutha is the Gaelic name for the river Clyde (I don’t think we know where ‘Clyde’ comes from, but I believe a form of Welsh was spoken in Strathclyde before Gaelic came). There was also a fleet of ferries called Clutha operating in Glasgow up to the early 1900s before the modern bridges were built. My granny remembered using them as a young girl, and the dance reminds me of her. I have never heard an MC pronounce the name of this dance correctly - the 'th' must be silent.

Seann triubhas Willichan - Strathspey from Book 27 No. 9
A graceful strathspey published in the mid-1970s (RSCDS Book 27). When I see it on a programme, it brings back happy memories of dancing it in the old church hall in Anderston in Glasgow (long since torn down to make way for the futuristic buildings that are on the site now) to Mrs. Moore’s amazing piano playing. The name means ‘Willie’s old trousers.’ (Actually there is no ‘w’ in Gaelic - the Gaelic alphabet only has 18 letters - so it should strictly be Seann Triubhas Uilleachain.) It’s also the name of an old highland dance with double shuffles in it and of at least one old song said to date back to the great Gaelic poet Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir. The highland dance is often said to represent highlanders kicking off their trousers after the repeal of the Disarming Act in 1782, but, needless to say, that interpretation is disputed.


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

Stephen Webb

The Starrie Eyed LassieSleepy Maggie  and Up in the Air 
Meryl Thomson
The New Rigged ShipThe Rakes of Glasgow and The Montgomeries’ Rant)

Melanie Rowland 

Catch the Wind, Pelorus Jack and The Dream Catcher)


NHS advice on keeping yourself well:

Government advice here:
RSCDS Blog here:

We look forward to dancing with you soon.
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