Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Crystal Ball

Crystal Ball turned out to be a good event. I learned several new dances at this event, including some Scottish country dances, which are a relatively new style for me; we generally don’t see a lot of Scottish country dances in Meridies. The Mistress Althea taught the Angus Reel, Road to the Isles, and Dashing White Sargent. Not all of these are actually authentic (as Mistress Althea pointed out). Road to the Isles is an SCA invention that includes elements of several Scottish dances, not all of which are even close to period, but that’s not really strange -- SCA inventions are often more concerned with looking period to the untrained eye than actually being authentic.

I must say that I was rather remiss, in that I never did catch the name of the lord who was teaching the English Country Dance class that I joined. Bad Runolfr! He taught Chestnut, Hyde Park, and Jenny Pluck Pears. Chestnut and Hyde Park are fairly easy dances for three and four couples, respectively, that I had not danced previously, and they were the reasons that I took the class. I thought Jenny Pluck Pears was a no-brainer, but it turns out that the vagaries of Inter-Kingdom variations caught me there. In Meridies we do a little trick with the chorus that isn’t done in the Middle Kingdom, so I caused a minor train-wreck on the first chorus. Honestly, I think the Meridien variation is more fun, but a quick peek into a nearby copy of Playford’s The English Dancing Master showed it to be less authentic. That said, I’ll have to add that to my list of dances to discuss before the music starts when I’m dancing in a mixed-kingdom set.

After lunch I took Lady Tsire’s class on pavans and galliards. I’m no stranger to pavans, and they’re generally so slow that you can figure out what to do from cues or hints from your partner as long as you know the basic pavan steps. Documentation-wise, pavans are more of a style than a specific series of steps; detailed choreographies are mostly SCA inventions. Lady Tsire taught Entre Courante, Carolingian Pavan, and the Earl of Salisbury Pavan, which are all SCA choreographies that vary in their stylistic authenticity. Entre Courante was the only one that was new to me, but I was in Lady Tsire’s class for the galliard segment, anyway (that and to chat with Tsire, who is just a bundle of fun). Galliards, like pavans, are a style rather than a specific choreography, and there aren’t any specific SCA arrangements that I know of, possibly because galliards are so... aerobic. Nonetheless, I wanted to refresh myself on galliards, and I found that a galliard set was planned for the ball following the Carolingian Pavan (historically, a galliard often follows immediately after a pavan).

My final class of the day was Master Sion’s 15th-century Italian class. He taught Leoncello Vecchio, Villanella, and Anello. Leoncello Vecchio and Villanella were both new to me, and they’re also good because they’re not "big set" dances, just any number of couples dancing as they want (which usually means dancing in a "race track" circle). I have to check my music collection to see if I have appropriate recordings. If I do, my students have something to look forward to (or fear, as the case may be).

We were bad kids and skipped the last class period to go back to our hotel, rest, swim a bit in the pool, and change into our evening garb. We attended feast at this event, which had good and bad points. On the good side, they had live entertainment which was actually quite entertaining. On the down side, the feast itself was un-thrilling. According to several regulars, that’s the usual situation, so we’ll be skipping feast on any future visits.

Following feast was a Baronial court that lead directly into the ball. On the upside for the ball, there are a lot of dancers of both genders in the hall, and the great majority know what they’re doing. On the downside, a basketball court is not the most romantic venue for a renaissance dance, and there was no real effort to try to dress it up.

Crystal Ball is arranged in six sets of about ten dances each. That’s a huge dance list. I’m a major dance geek, but it was after midnight before the third set was over, and I had to drive eight hours the next day, so I didn’t make it to the fourth set. Even half of Crystal Ball is more dancing than you’re like to see in Meridies at anything but Saltare.

EDIT: The missing camera reappeared. Fjorleif was opening the car trunk, and it practically fell at her feet. Apparently it somehow got caught in a cavity of the trunk lid during our drive to the hotel. Anyway, we have no pictures of the ball itself, but we had one picture of the Scottish Country Dance class (seen at the top, now) and a couple of short videos that I'll have to host somewhere eventually.

This pretty much concludes my 2005 (Anno Societatus XL) event year. My next planned event is Mid-Winter Arts & Sciences in the Barony of South Downs in February.

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