pennsicdance: Terminology and Parties

Catherine Dean catherinedean at
Thu Aug 25 06:24:13 PDT 2005

Well, I went to bed last night vowing to send out a long e-mail to the list asking us to define our terms and respond to some of the party critcisms and, when I wake up this morning, I find that you've mostly done it all for me!

That said, I'll reiterate the point that I was going to make earlier, albeit more briefly.

We need to all be clear on our terms here.  Justin just posted a really excellent analysis of SCA choreography and whether it is appropriate for the SCA.  I tend to come down on the side that SCA choreography should be for performance only, not social dance, because in general (as Justin points out) it doesn't hold up well over time, but that's a personal decision and not one I'm willing to shove on other people.  My point?  There was some lack of clarity during the discussion in the tent about what is/is not allowed under the midnight rule (which I am completely in favor of continuing exactly as is, by the way).  My understanding is this (and correct me if I'm wrong here): SCA Choreography in a reasonably period style = in (so, Herald's in Love, Quen Quer Que, Saltarello la Regina--three specific examples that came up as things that the mythical "they" were trying to prevent from being done in the barn--would be fine as well as things like Carolingian Pavane, Maltese Branle (SCA), and Nika Nika).  Goop/Baroque/other Genre = out (Korobushka/Hole in the Wall/Road to the Isles/Posten's Jig/Laendler, etc.)  (I leave out for a moment a few problem children--Mannschaft Pavanne, say--that could fall in either category).  Within that very broad set of limitations I have always assumed that it was up to the individual teacher to decide (in consultation with the musicians and/or his or her own collection of recorded music) what would and what would not be danced.  Disagreements?

Next, in response to the problem that people are being scared away from attending dance parties, Patches wrote:

>Interesting. It hadn't occurred to me, but I can see folks thinking that 
that term implies a sort of exclusivity. (To many people, you need an 
invitation to come to a "party".) That's a good point, and implies that 
we should think about our terminology.

I couldn't agree with this more.  Let's look at our terminology.  If party is too strong, we have lots of period and non-period descriptors to use: "Revel" "Ball" "Dance" "Dance event" "Night" (as in "Arbeau Night").  

What I don't agree with (and this has been put forth by several different people both on the list and at Pennsic) is that we should cancel the parties all together.  There will always be people who are intimidated by what they perceive as an exclusive dance situation, even if that exclusivity is entirely perception and not at all real.  If we do everything in our power to make everyone feel welcomed (and I think we're doing a pretty good job of that with the listingsin the A&S book, the push to hand out invitiations, the announcements in classes, etc.--although I love the idea of advertisments in the Pennsic Independant as an add-on) then that should be enough.  

I, and many people I know, really look forward to the dance parties--they're a highlight of Pennsic and a chance to dance a smaller repetoire of dances without a lot of waiting around for the musicians and dancers to get ready.  Adele and I did have a nice conversation about how we could "stack the deck" so to speak so that there would always be something very beginner friendly on a given night (some thoughts--put more inclusive party formats like Arbeau, Playford, or pre-1602 revels on nights when there is court in the barn and put the more specialized formats like Italian or Dancer's Challenge parties on nights when open dance can take place simultaneously int he barn).  

What other ideas do people have for keeping the special event format but continuing to make the dance tent and the dance community a place where beginners are welcomed and intermediate and advanced dancers continue to be challenged and allowed to grow?


"Virginians are of genuine Blood--They will dance or die!"
    Philip Vickers Fithian
    August 25, 1774

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