Creignish

Traces of Old World Culture in New Scotland – Jigs and Reels

One of the best things about visiting Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia is experiencing cultural traditions that were transferred from Scotland to the new world with the emigrant wave of the 18th and 19th centuries. This is especially true since some of these same things have all but died out in Scotland itself.   Although I’ve been coming to the island every summer for the last 15 years, I have enjoyed experiencing these now familiar activities through the lens of the GreatScot! blog.

Among my favorite traditions are the almost daily Celtic Square Dances that are held in Parish Halls and Recreation Centers around the island. Almost any night of the week you can find a dance somewhere—Mondays are Brook Village, Thursdays are Glencoe Mills and West Mabou on Saturday nights. There are groups of people ‘from away’—as Cape Bretoners call tourists— and locals as well, who spend the week going from dance to dance to enjoy the fiddle music and take to the floor for a set or two. This year, a new community has joined the weekly line-up as Creignish has added a dance on Tuesday nights.  No one on the island seems to know quite how these dances migrated from Scotland, but they are common all around Cape Breton and even on mainland Nova Scotia.

Cape Breton Square Dances usually start fairly late by modern standards—generally after 9:30 pm. This is because in the days of farm laborers and fishermen, no one had time for a dance until after a full days work was finished. The dances also follow a fairly regular pattern, although the origins are somewhat shrouded by time. First the fiddler and the piano accompanist take the stage for a bit of a warm-up, then they launch into the first jig and couples take to the floor. Often fiddlers will trade-off playing as one tires and another takes over. Towards the end of the evening, when the dancers are tired as well, often the floor will clear and individuals will take the floor one at a time for a spot of step dancing. This is the chance for the good dancers in the crowd to kick up their heels and show off for a bit.

In the area of Cape Breton where I spend the most time (the western or Sunset side of the island), the dances consist of 3 figures danced to the tunes of two jigs and a reel and are known as Inverness County Square Sets. Couples form squares (which are often really more round) to perform the figures. Jigs are tunes that are faster paced and in addition to being used for the 1st and 2nd figures of the square dancing, are also often used for solo or small group step dancing.

I took some pictures and some short videos from the Creignish dance to give you a taste of what a traditional Cape Breton Square Dance is like. The musicians for this evening are Wendy MacIsaac on the fiddle and Mac Morin on piano. Notice that all ages and skill levels take part and that native Cape Bretoners are really good about helping people from away join in and learn what to do.

First Figure – Jig

1. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
2. Turn to your corner and dance
3. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
4. Turn to your corner and dance
5. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
6. Turn to your corner and dance
7. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
8. Turn to your corner and dance
9. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
That’ll be it–That’ll be all!

Second Figure – Jig

1. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
2. Dance with your partner
3. Promenade around to the right
4. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
5. Dance with your partner
6. Promenade around to the left
7. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
8. Dance with your partner
9. Promenade around to the right
10. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
11. Dance with your partner
12. Promenade around to the left
13. All join hands forward and back doing the Mabou Shuffle
That’ll be it–That’ll be all!

Third Figure – Reel

1. Right hand to your partner, half grand chain
2. Swing your partner
3. Left hand to your corner partner, half grand chain back to home
4. Promenade to the right
5. One couple takes the lead and promenades to face the music
6. This couple turns toward each other (lady on the left, gent on the
right, with gent’s left hand on the small of the lady’s back and his
right hand holding his lady’s right hand) then they turn to face the
lineup and split the couples down the middle.
7. When the head couple has split the couples, they cast off and
return to the music with the men following the men and the women
following the women.
8. Gents on one side and ladies on the other side, forward and back
a few times and show your steps.
9. Join with your partner and do a simple two step or show your
footwork. Everyone dances back to their home place & makes a
circle.
10. Right hand to your partner, half grand chain, swing your partner
11. Left hand to your corner partner, half grand chain back to home
12. Promenade to the right
13. Another couple OR the same couple as before promenades to
face the back of the hall.
14. Repeat number 6.
15. Repeat number 7 returning to the back of the hall.
16. Repeat numbers 8 & 9
17. Repeat steps 1 through 16
18. Right hand to your partner and do a grand chain (passing your
partner by and going all the way to home.
19. All join hands and show your steps!
That’ll be it and that’ll be all

Stay tuned…

Coming soon is a post about my visit to the Cape Breton Highland Village Museum—where I met a blacksmith named Jamie—as well as one on my upcoming visit to The Gaelic College for a Great Kilt demonstration and the opportunity to partake in a milling frolic.

 

 

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Who would have thought…. Exciting giveaway coming soon from Great Scot!

So, who would have thought when I started this blog back in February, that just five months later, Great Scot would be on the brink of 30,000 page views? I know I certainly never dreamed the blog would get that many views this quickly but Outlander fans are nothing if not amazing. I want you to know that I appreciate each and every one of you who has read the posts, retweeted, left comments, reblogged, and given me such wonderful encouragement! I look forward to continuing to share my Outlandish cultural musings.

But, back to the exciting giveaway. As of 11:30 pm EDT on June 25, Great Scot is at 28,900 views. Stay tuned for a very exciting giveaway I am planning for when Great Scot hits 30,000!  I’m not saying what the giveaway is just yet but let’s say it’s a little something I picked up in Seattle. As a matter of fact, two little somethings I picked up in Seattle. ;-)

I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.

 

DG2

By Any Other Name: Genre Gabaldonian

Guest Post for GreatScot!  by Laura Carmichael @LallybrochLaura

With a sigh of happiness, I finished re-reading Shakespeare’s Richard III — a play I have tickets to see performed again soon. After seeing peace restored to England, I closed the book, and slipped it back onto the bookshelf. I then went online, where I was delighted to see a link to an article about another beloved author, Diana Gabaldon, and her Outlander series of books. That delight was marred by a sense of vexation at seeing these works referred to, yet again, as “Science Fiction.” Although I’m accustomed to seeing Gabaldon’s works labeled as “Science Fiction,” or even “Romance,” I felt puzzled at the heat of my irritation. Why, I asked myself, is this still so irksome to me? After all, I am a long-time Gabaldon reader, well used to the haphazard application of these genre labels to her work.

The answer was right there at eye-level on my bookshelves in the well-thumbed rows of books by two of the authors I most love: William Shakespeare and Diana Gabaldon. I’ve recently been re-reading several of both authors’ works — in preparation for my upcoming attendance at several Shakespeare play performances, and for Gabaldon’s new book and upcoming TV series. There on the shelves was the answer: it is exactly as appropriate to label Shakespeare a Science Fiction or Romance writer as it is to so label Gabaldon. From a genre perspective, there is no difference or distinction between these two authors.

ShakespeareLet me explain. Both authors use varied plot elements to advance their characters into extreme, challenging circumstances. From these extremities both authors then skillfully reveal insights into What It Means to Be Human as the characters grapple with their challenges.  Sometimes those plot elements are Science Fiction elements, and sometimes they are Romance elements — or Political, Adventure, Mystery, Humor, or any of a number of other elements. Yet both authors cover the entire spectrum of human experience, from boredom to ecstasy, silliness to sublimity, confusion to single-minded clarity, and on and on. Both authors use myriad devices to get their DGcharacters’ stories in motion, and those devices are never constraining to these authors, nor are they ever The Point. The Point is how the characters feel, think, act, learn, and change with the layers in their stories; The Point is how that in turn makes us, their audience, feel, think, act, learn, and change in our lives.

“Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons” – As You Like It, W. Shakespeare

All right, well enough. All of the above duly noted, it is true the Outlander books use time travel to move characters into challenging situations. Given that, what is wrong with calling Gabaldon’s works Science Fiction? Or similarly, since they feature people in love, what is wrong with labeling them Romance novels? So what?

To answer that, let’s take Shakespeare as a comparison, starting with one example, Hamlet. Several of his greatest and most popular works rely on Science Fiction/Fantasy elements to get the characters in motion — including Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet.

You may recall Hamlet begins with the “dreaded sight” of an “apparition.” It isn’t a figment of Hamlet’s mind, which would make it merely a psychological device. Others see it first, and bring it to Hamlet’s attention. The apparition gets all of the action of the play in motion by calling on Hamlet to revenge what the apparition alleges is his father’s “murder most foul.” Hamlet and the audience never find out what this supernatural being, claiming to be the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Hamletreally is. A shaken, distraught Hamlet fears it may be a demonic force trying to trick him into horrible acts; this is partly why Hamlet is unsure what actions to take. Like most great Science Fiction devices, it ultimately doesn’t matter what the apparition is, or how it got there. Indeed, throughout the rest of the play, it makes only one other brief appearance — and that one Hamlet may be imagining. What matters is that this fantastical force catapults the unwilling Hamlet, and thereby everyone around him, into the rest of the action of the story.

Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Nights Dream, Hamlet — all of these rely on unmistakable Science Fiction plot elements to propel the characters into the situations where we see what stuff they (and we) are made on. Yet if we were to read news articles containing phrases such as “noted Science Fiction author William Shakespeare” or “Shakespeare’s greatest work, the Sci-Fi/Fantasy play Hamlet,” we would feel something was rotten. Why? After all, those descriptors are accurate, as far as they go.

And there’s the rub. While they are accurate as far as they go, they do not go far enough. This overly reductive labeling is inaccurate because of its ludicrous, woeful inadequacy.

It’s like explaining America to a potential tourist by only describing Las Vegas — which would create an odd, misleading image. When they later saw Yosemite, they would wonder why we’d spoken only of gambling and sparkling lights — or worse, they might never see Yosemite at all.

How Do I Love Thee? (Haute Bawdy & Hot Bodies)

HotGabaldon’s works have also often been labeled as Romance novels and stocked in that section of bookstores. And, like Gabaldon, Shakespeare wrote about humans in love and in lust — requited and unrequited, enduring and transactional, transformative and twisted. Both authors are superb at evoking these feelings in their audience, and generating empathies and insights we find so compelling we must come back for more.  They are also both superb at showing us the bawdy and comedic aspects of our species’ amatory activities.

Yet most Shakespearean aficionados would cringe to hear Shakespeare described merely as “Romance author William Shakespeare.” Why? None of his works, even those with the greatest couples, love scenes andBrannaugh quotable-quotes, is merely a Romance. While Outlanders love Jamie and Claire — much as generations have loved Benedick and Beatrice — Outlander is not merely a Romance, any more than Much Ado About Nothing is.

“What’s Past is Prologue” – The Tempest, W. Shakespeare

Although Shakespeare pre-dates Gabaldon by 400 years, they share the same wonderful predicament — they have each created their own genre. If Shakespeare started out today, he would likely be as mislabeled as Gabaldon is.  There is some indication he was mislabeled in his own time, and found it irksome: he pokes sardonic fun at the way his contemporaries classify works, as Polonius recites a silly litany of genres “tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited” to Hamlet. Continue reading

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The Outlander Effect or (in Gàidhlig) “Buaidh Outlander”

 Outlander and Scottish tourism

Now that a premiere date for Outlander has been announced, we are slowly yet surely seeing press coverage about the series tick up. One such article published recently got me to thinking. Outlander already has a large and loyal fan base. What impact has there been, if any, on Scotland’s economy and culture? And what can we expect to change after the series starts airing?

First, let me start with the article that intrigued me, published by a site called “We Love Soaps, who bill themselves as the “World’s biggest champion of scripted, serialized storytelling on TV & the web.” I guess the Outlander TV series does fit that description, although I would never call it a Soap! The bit of the article to catch my eye was this:

The fervent on-line fan base totals over a half-million and when the ‘first-look’ photo of Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser posted on the Starz social channels, it outperformed other introductions of lead characters for properties such as The Great Gatsby (Gatsby), Hunger Games (Katniss), Game of Thrones (Ned Stark), and NBC’s Dracula (Dracula). Additionally, when Sam was cast as Jamie Fraser, the fans took it upon themselves to make their voices heard and put him on E! News’ “Hottie of the Week” charts two weeks in a row (which is very rare, if not unprecedented). In addition, #Outlander trended (was one of the top ten things being talked about on Twitter) numerous times during NY ComicCon.  Starz Summer 2014 New Series: ‘Power’ and ‘Outlander’

It is apparent the size and fervency of the Outlander fan base has already been noticed and its impact noted. One example is the recent Twitter trending event held on May 19 for #WorldWideTVNeedsOutlander. The tag trended globally and the fact was highlighted in the introduction of Outlander during the L.A. Screenings event for international TV buyers that same day. You can see Diana Gabaldon author of the bestselling Outlander series of novels — tweet about that here:

Continue reading

Outlander

Updated 5/3/14 Bear McCreary hints at what we might hear in Starz’s Outlander Score

Unless you were under a rock today, you are probably are aware of the fact that Starz released a new longer trailer for Outlander today. This was after making loyal Outlanders jump through a few hoops though. (I’m pretty sure I’m going to be having nightmares about #WhereisClaire tonight)

If you were under a rock, congratulations on avoiding the carpal tunnel that most of the rest of us will likely suffer. You can enjoy the fruits of our labor. (viewable in the US only)

 

Of course, the excitement generated by the new longer trailer prompted some questions about the music that would be used in the show.  Luckily, Bear McCreary responded with some hints about what will be used in the show. I, for one, can’t wait to hear the results. It sounds like it is going to be fabulous and will include Gaelic chants!

Bear also tweeted the following:

Surely this has to be for Outlander! Here’s hoping for a new Gàidhlig music revival in the offing!

Is it summer yet?

Update:

Here’s a few more tweets from Bear today about the Outlander music.

And if that wasn’t enough, Chris Parnell just had to tease us too!