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Re: sher questions

Ah - my sher thread took root.  One reason I started
asking was because I have experience dancing square sets. 
I spent a lot of time in the 90's in Cape Breton which is
an interesting diaspora itself - populated by folks forced
out of Scotland during the Highland clearances, they all
ended up on this one island which had no bridge to Nova
Scotia (itself an island) until the mid 50's.  My teachers
(who were in thier 60's at that time, more or less)
remember growing up in the 40's without motorcars, and
without leaving thier own villages for the most part.

They brought with them a strong fiddle/dance tradition,
often condemned (but sometimes embraced) by the clergy,
and strong sqare set tradition.

You talk about square sets being "long".  A Cape Breton
square set will have variations from one village to
another - like I'm sure the sher had - but at the same
time if you went to the next village down the tracks you
would certainly recognize the general form.  A square set
consists of 3 figures.  A figure is a continuous playing
of music without stop.   It is up to the fiddler to decide
which tunes to play in which order, although villaegs have
traditions.  But it is in the selction of the sequencing
of different AABBAABB tunes that the fiddler can show
creativity (improv on tunes is a no-no).

A full set lasts a half hour easily.  The first two
figures are jig (6/8) sets.  The third figure is a reel
(4/4) set.  The are usually danced by 4 couples but (a) if
there are too many people for the hall it becomes a circle
dance and (b) there is always apoint in the reel figure
where all the circles line up for a skip down the hall
(often rather violent if there are a lot of young people
attending - they like to smash into the far wall).

OK - so my point is this.  This is not "recreational folk
dancing" and it's not done in a gym.  Usually in a church
social hall.  And although this is "Cape Breton Culture",
just as with "Jewish Culture" the vast majority of the
people of the island - three quarters of whom - literally!
are all named MacDonald - couldn;t give a rat's ass about
it.  It is a small cadre of people whose families have
kept thsi tradition alive even as it died out in Scotland.

So, how does the sher get rescued from the brink?  First,
is there any sign of it in the surviving Jewish
communities who did not trade in thier heritage for "must
see TV"?  Second - it will not be the social folk dancers,
I think, who will rescusitate it.  They've already turned
American square dancing into a parody.  It needs to be
people who are passionate not about dancing but about THIS
dance, and as dedicated to the music as the dance.  In
Cape Breton, that disconect never happened.  Dancers know
the music and the fiddlers.  Fiddlers are the kings of
music but know thier job is the "drive 'em" - make the
dancers want to dance, to go for the WOHOOO
moment (usually a modulation to the relative minor...)

Also, what of our American contra dancers?  These are
folks who also don't dance to records, but to live music,
who revere thier musicians and whose musicans know that
they exist at the pleasure of the dancers.  Do we have
bands like this outside the simcha orchestras and the one
man bands? Not really within the "revival", tho I think
the seeds and the interest are there.  The NE and NW
contra communities are very broadminded and dance English,
Scottish, French, Polish, Swedish etc etc - why not the
Sher?  I think perhaps if our New England comrades - who
seems to come from some of the same ultra-democratic
(small d) ideals as the folks in the contra community come
from - would take Jewish dance - the sher, yiddish hora,
freylach - into the contra community, there is a group of
people who could embrace it (tho they might feel obligated
to denounce Israel simultaneously).

OK - you're right.  I'm babbling.  I'll be quiet now.


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