So many wonderful memories from the Ralph Page Weekend. The memories that will stick with me longest though all involve dancing the chestnuts. The RPDLW is probably one of the only places that the chestnuts get danced with quite this much enthusiasm.
About halfway through the dance on Friday evening we did our first chestnut -- Rory O'Moore. First time I had to dance it with this kind of group -- a group of dancers, many of whom had been dancing the chestnuts (and many other dancers) for years. It isn't that the dancing was absolutely perfect from a technical standpoint -- my shadow gent was actually having trouble with it for the first little bit. The dancing was joyful, connected and just so much fun. While we were the active couple, I think that my favorite moment in the dance was finishing the partner swing, stopping for a moment, and then just as the tune started again giving each other a nice tug by to head down the outside of the set.
As many different examples as I come up with, I've been having trouble finding words for exactly what it is about the dancing this weekend that was so wonderful. Failing at finding the words, I'll share a bit of someone else's words...from the "Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter" (quoted on the RPDLW Wesbite):
The dancing is harder to describe. We dance a combination of the old favorite dances and the more modern dances. People tend to dance in a somewhat older style, especially with the chestnuts. But most importantly people dance their best, dancing to the music, dancing with each other, keeping a friendly community atmosphere for the most part, dancing a bit more smoothly (although enthusiastically), generally paying more attention than usual. All of that makes it so everyone has more fun dancing together. Where else could you dance Money Musk for more than 20 minutes to superb music and when it’s over wish the band had kept playing another five or ten!
And then, indeed, there was Money Musk. Now I have the double challenge of trying to describe what it is that is so wonderful about the dancing and what it is that is so wonderful about this particular dance. I'm pretty sure that Money Musk was the first triple minor dance that I ever danced -- at Pinewoods on my first trip up there. I didn't know what I had gotten into. Here I was doing this dance with hands 6 rather than hands three, the wrong number of beats in the dance/tune and only 4 moves in the dance -- none of which were circles or swings. What kind of dance is this??
That first time, I made it through. The next year it made much more sense. A few years after that, I called it for the first time, and this year, I felt like I could dance it without even having to think about it. Which meant that I could pay more attention to the other things around me. Smiling faces. Amazing fiddling. The rhythmic sound of feet hitting the floor on the "forward 6" -- once at the end of the phrase, and once at the beginning of the phrase. My partner's wonderful smile (and all the other smiling faces) all through the dance. The amazingly connected feeling of a good same gender "no hands" Right and Left Thru, when you pivot together as a unit only needing to hold on with eye contact.
More than anything, though, is the tune. That wonderful, notey, joyful tune, that is fitted so well to the dance. It's really hard to avoid the desire to dance to it if someone is playing. So hard, that on Sunday after lunch, when I was sitting around and talking with a group of callers, and we heard the musicians jam start into Money Musk, we looked at each other and almost as one said "We should go dance!"
Money Musk needs 6 dancers to have one minor set, so we took the 6 of us over and started dancing in front of the musicians. By the time we were ready to progress, two more couples had joined us.
As we went another time through the dance, calls were heard to move chairs and tables out of the way. By the time the musicians stopped playing, more than 10 minutes later, we had a line of dancers across the room.
It was a magical moment, and one that would happen very few places other than at the Ralph Page weekend. I can't wait until next year!