Scottish Country Dancing in Dubai
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To the newcomer arriving in the Emirates, Dubai can be a confusing place and it is sometimes not that easy to make the connections in order to hear about the myriad societies and social gatherings taking place all over town. Dance groups are numerous and there are meetings one could attend every night of the week if one has the desire (and energy) to do so.
But one particular form of dancing may well be new to many expatriate visitors, albeit that it is now practised all over the world. Scottish Country Dancing has sprung up across the GCC in places as diverse as Riyadh, Muscat, Doha, Abu Dhabi and, of course, Dubai.
SCD is a form of social dance involving groups of usually 8 dancers tracing progressive patterns according to a predetermined choreography. It has its roots in dances of the royal courts of the Renaissance - becoming popular in the 18th century - and involves groups of six to ten people dancing to reels, jigs and strathspeys played on the fiddle, accordion, flute, piano, drums – or CD player!
Carole Binbrek runs two SCD groups in Dubai – one mixed on Sunday evenings and the other (for ladies only) on Wednesday mornings. She explains that Scottish Country Dancing is typically done in sets of 3, 4 or 5 couples, arranged either in two lines (men facing ladies) or in a square, and involves the participants dancing a sequence of set formations enough times to bring them back to their starting positions.
“SCD is a very social form of dancing, not only because you get to dance with seven or so people at once, instead of just with one partner, but also because there are workshops, balls and social dances being held in places all over the world,” she says.
Scottish country dances can be either fast or slow. Reels and jigs feature fast tempos with quick movements and have a lively feel to them. Strathspey, on the other hand, has a much slower tempo and a more formal, stately feel to it. Many of the dances have exotic or interesting names – such as ‘Wind on Loch Fyne’, ‘A Trip to Bavaria’, or ‘Reel of the 51st’ – some of which have an interesting story to tell in their own right.
“The main point about SCD is having fun,” Carole continues, “and while, for many dancers, getting the footwork right is a very important element, a much more important aspect of good SCD technique is to ensure that one is at the right place at the right time.”
In common with most SCD groups, Carole starts each dance by getting the participants to walk through their places, so that when the actual dance begins, everyone has a much better idea of what they should be doing. “There are well over 11,000 dances catalogued by the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, and it would be impossible for everyone to know them all. But there are only 4 basic steps and several basic formations such as a circle or a wheel, so after quite a short time, most people can fully participate in a dance.
“SCD is all about social dancing – interacting not just with a partner, but with all the other dancers. It is very much a team effort, and when you get to the end of a quite complicated dance, there is often a wonderful feeling of elation just for having got through it all and ending up in the right position,” she adds. “If a dance collapses occasionally then we also just end up having a good laugh.
“I am often asked if SCD is just for Scottish people,” Carole continues; “but in fact it appeals to all nationalities. You do need a sense of direction though, in order to be in the right place at the right time. Many engineers make excellent Scottish country dancers as they are used to seeing patterns. It’s also extremely good aerobic exercise and is the equal of any session you will get in an aerobic dance class or the gym - and much more interesting.”
A new study on the effects of Scottish dancing on retired people was done recently. One group learned Scottish dancing for 6 months and the other group did other forms of exercise. The group doing the Scottish dancing was by far the fitter at the end of the experiment.
There is also the added bonus that an SCD dancer can take off to the other side of the world and be welcomed by a local group almost anywhere. “What better way could there be of making new friends?” Carole concludes.
*Anyone interested in joining one of Carole’s sessions can get further details from her on firstname.lastname@example.org