Monday, March 28, 2011


After days of rain, it felt good to get out of a Sunday afternoon and attend our Calaveras Arts Council Ovations program in Angels Camp. The last of the season, the renowned Dunsmuir Scottish Dancers from the San Francisco Bay Area gave a two hour performance. My luck was a seat next to Amanda, the granddaughter of two Scottish Highland Dancers, Scot and Mary Maur. The program covers the history of Scottish dance in many forms from 18th century story dances, strathspeys and reels, to modern compositions.
The costuming, especially the women's changes, represented a swath of history, some formal, and others more folksy country clothing. The music is lively and the dancers do complicated reels and precision stepping.
Pictures were not allowed during a performance, but back stage, the dancers willingly formed a reel and demonstrated for the camera. It reminded me of square dancing as I watched them reel through complicated movements. Then I realized these dancers move without benefit of a caller. They memorized precise steps and placement on the floor; they never miss a beat or a position as they swirl at dizzying speeds .
The men had noticeably muscular legs and when I went to their website, they have more exciting pictures than what I could take. On the link below, their leader and teacher, Ron Wallace,  has a button you can press to hear a bit of the very lively
The music was live, back stage and we didn't get to see the musicians until the end. Someone should have tooted that bagpipe as a solo. They are pretty fascinating instruments we  rarely get to see.
The young girls in kilts did a lively sword dance, perhaps the Highland Fling? I thought it would have been nice to have an MC explain the charm and history behind the various pieces. You could tell a couple of the early dances were about a harvest or fishing. The costuming was fabulous, but still a mystery in time.
They gave the dancers, (I tell you, this is a strenuous activity), a rest,  and had three musical interludes. One of note was a ribald song of a man from Inverness who travels to his beloved mountains and proclaims, he is "...a wage slave on Mondays, but a free man on Sundays." The other two musical numbers were forgettable, but the dancing is what we came to see.
Amanda told me she wants to someday be a dancer like her grandparents. She was fascinated, as I was by the performance. I hope she follows through and it all works out. The website gives a glimpse of where the dancers will be next. Maybe in your area.

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