Wednesday, January 17, 2007

kilts and auld lang syne

The last major event of my trip to the States was the New Year’s Ball of the Chicago branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. This was my first time to go out Scottish dancing (I’d attended a couple of evenings of practice before), and I was rather pleased with myself by the end of the evening. No, I didn’t get all the dances right, but I did dance all of them (18 in all, plus the waltzes) and I never felt like I was struggling much more than the average dancer. It was a lot of fun. It’s a dance form that’s occasionally demanding intellectually, and it’s not as accessible to the casual dancer as some other styles of social dancing (contradance in particular), but I think I’ve developed a taste for it.

The conventional wisdom, as explained to me by Hannah and Mike (who loaned me the outfit I wore) is that every man looks better in a kilt. So that you can decide for yourself, compare this image with other times you’ve seen me:
(It’s no fair to point out that Hannah still looks better than me, even though conventional wisdom is also supposed to hold that Scottish events belong to that rare category of times in which the men shine and strut while the women accessorize them.) That’s a military jacket I’m wearing. The blue tassles near the tops of the stockings are called “flashes”, and they’re held on by a band that actually functions to hold the stockings up. The pouch in front is called a “sporran”, and it functions as a purse. Quite useful when one wants to inconspicuously carry around the directions for the dances. The kilt’s a bit longer than it should be (not bad for being borrowed, however), because the knees are supposed to be visible.

Despite being nearly a fortnight past December 31, this was a New Year’s event (scheduled as it was to allow other year-turning activities to run their course and not interfere with the dancers’ attendance), and so we sang “Auld Lang Syne” at the end. Also, that’s just appropriate for any time a group is celebrating Scottish culture. They sang two verses, skipping about on the second, which I didn’t know at all (I saw a couple others “loo-looing” with me, as well). The evening ran much later than Hannah and I expected, but was exhilarating the whole time, so I never felt tired. My calf muscles took a couple of days to relax, though; Scottish dance requires you to be on your toes, pointing and bouncing incessantly. The styling is part of the fun.

I heartily encourage all to get out and dance (in whatever style) when the opportunity arises. It’s social, it’s fun, and it’s great exercise.

1 comment:

Luke said...

You do look pretty damn spiffy there. I'd be inclined to say you even outshine Hannah, but I've always liked kilts.