The Teaching of Dance

by Lady Cailtidh nicFhionnlaigh bean Cato

[ This article appeared in volume 1 of the Letter of Dance. ]

I know that many of us love to dance. Even "non-dancers" like to dance. However, the most frustrating thing is to be told, "Oh, this dance may be too difficult for you because you don't know dance terminology." This, in itself, is a fallacy. I can do some very intricate dances, and though I have been dancing in and out of the SCA for over eleven years, I still do not know the names of some of the steps or dance sequences. This "lack of knowledge" has not stopped me yet from learning (and teaching) the dances to others.

In order to teach dance one should know dance. I am not saying that one should have formal training in classical ballet, but just a knowledge of how a dance is danced. For instance, if Lady Mary has attended every dance practice and can do Sellenger's Round backwards with her eyes closed, then she is a good candidate to teach Sellenger's Round. Although milady may not know all the dances, knowledge of one or two can be helpful to a dance master/instructor during those evenings when dance practice seems to be lasting forever and his voice is dying due to screaming dance instructions over the music to that one couple who always seem to go left when they should go right and go forward when they should go left. (No one laugh, we've all done it.) One of the only ways to know if you can teach a dance is to try teaching it. I will sometimes review dances that I have not done in a long time while listening to the music. I even do this before I teach the dance just to be sure. Dance masters/instructors should encourage new persons to teach, even if the dances they teach are the most simple dances. I feel a little honored when someone requests to teach a dance. It makes me feel that I have done my job well as a dance instructor.

I realize that not everyone will know how to dance. This is why I came up with "Cailtidh's guidelines to teaching dance." They are as follows:

In Service to the dream,