Scottish Country dancing holiday June 2003
in picturesque Castel Montjoie in the hills west of Grenoble.
We welcomed dancers from nine different countries, all of whom turned out to be wonderful friendly people ready to make the best of less than ideal conditions and enjoy themselves and each other's company.
They joined in the dancing with remarkable energy, in spite of the incredible heat-wave -- temperatures such as I have never even heard of in France! -- and accepted being herded around the countryside to see as much as possible in a short time.
Ken Martlew and Barbara Manning provided excelent music, giving wings to our weary feet with a great range of sound and a huge collection of different tunes -- some composed for the occasion.
On the ceilidh evening, we were treated to
French songs and dances, Swedish mid-summer rituals,
These people were all so nice, they did not even complain (aloud), when I had them dancing on hot tarmac near the park in Echirolles.
"The Scots have reached Echirolles!"
(translation of the article
that appeared in the local newspaper 24 June 2003)
Scottish Country dancing
We welcomed dancers from 8 different countries, the majority coming from England this time.
Here are a few of the highlights of our dancing week – just so that you know what you missed!
We arrived at the hotel to find that the previous night’s wedding party had not yet vacated the hotel rooms or dance hall, and, when our guests began arriving, we just had to sit around and wait until the rooms could be allocated. Since there had not been enough time for the rooms to be cleaned and checked properly, we had a litany of complaints about broken keys, lamps, taps, towel racks, and lack of towels, for the next two days.
A good meal, however, followed by Ken’s wonderful music got the dancers into a better frame of mind and raised our spirits, even though everyone was feeling pretty tired from early departures and long journeys.
Teaching sessions and evening dances all went off very well (I just can’t believe how lucky we are to have a pianist such as Ken, providing joyful jigs, energizing reels, and tuneful strathspeys – non-stop throughout the week – some 500 different tunes!), and very quickly people relaxed and were ready to enjoy themelves. The outings were fairly successful, though turning up at a castle where we had booked a visit (Menthon, overlooking lac d’Annecy) and finding the place locked and deserted was a bit frustrating. Extra time wandering around Annecy made up for that; it’s the sort of place that everyone likes.
The visit to Chambery started badly, too – no sign of the petit train we had booked to take us around the town centre! It turned up about half an hour late, by which time, half the narrow streets were blocked by delivery vans, so I’m sure we did not see as much of the old town as we had hoped. The visitors still seemed to be in a good mood, and there was much laughing and joking the whole time, so the rest of the day – lunch at Aix and a boat trip across the lake was most enjoyable.
The Tuesday was our wedding anniversary, for which I had concocted a new dance with a story, and it was well received. Originally “Genevieve’s Jig” had been on the program, but as the Brits seem to find it too difficult, it was dropped after consultation with the musicians. Great was our surprise, however, when a team of 8 took the floor and peformed for us “G’s jig” – not only the version published by the RSCDS, but the original one that the publications committee had rejected!
The week ended with another wedding party.
On our return from the boat-ride from Aix, we found some strangers at reception, fuming and furious that they could not get into the dance hall to decorate it. We learned there had been a double booking, and they were expecting to have the exclusivity of the hotel on the Saturday night. The bride was in tears, and her father obviously expected us to move out there and then; they had 80 guests on the way (I had only 50!) The hotel proprietor had been taken ill and was in hospital, and the staff were at a loss to find a solution. After much negociating, we kept the dance hall, but gave up some bedrooms (the staff phoned round to find other hotel rooms not too far away), everything sorted itself out, and we were able to enjoy a last evening dancing together. I was feeling ashamed to ask some of our dancers to move out for a night, but had a laugh when they returned and said what lovely comfortable places they had been given!
It had been a week fraught with little problems, but everyone was so wonderfully friendly and helpful, we had had more enjoyment than worry, and were sorry to see our friends, new and old, setting off for home again. They were all enchanted with the mountain scenery and cool fresh air and delighted with the music and the company – some were even ready to book again for next year.
Scottish Country dancing holiday 2005,
at l'Escandille, Autrans, in the Vercors, at 1000m above Grenoble,
Ken Martlew and Christine Moos provided wonderful music, together for the evening dances, or solo for morning classes.
Malcolm Brown and Shirley Butterfield introduces us to a number of interesting new dances. Our thanks to all four, without whom the holiday would not have been so memorable.
Since nothing went seriously wrong this year, there is not much to report. Feeling cold in a cave at 7°c is hardly surprising. A few visitors from the distant north were somewhat put out at finding 34°c an hour later, when we descended from the plateau of the Vercors into the Drome Valley, and not many ventured to explore the old town of Die, going no further than the nearest café.
Tasting sparkling Clairette in the local winery put us all in a brighter frame of mind.
The gardens and castle of La Sone were a pleasure to visit, though we found the guide at St Antoine's Abbey rather too verbose (her interpreter was more concise!), and as we returned exhausted to Autrans, I felt there would not be much dancing that evening. I was wrong; after a good meal, everyone was on their feet again – including our octogenarians.
Could this be the energizing effect of Scottish music beautifully played?
For a break from dancing, we had a song or two, mouth organ music and watched highland dance. Not everything was Scottish: 4 Japanese fishermen mimed the traditional gestures to accompany Noko's song.
Not until the last day of the holiday did we hear any real grumbles. The weather changed, and we froze looking round the shops and narrow streets of Villard de Lans, and had to cancel entirely the hike up on the ridges overlooking Grenoble. This was replaced by an easy afternoon in the spacious lounge, Ken giving a recital of piano music, while we relaxed, listened, danced or played cards.
All in all, a very dull holiday!
Let's hope next year's holiday will be just as dull
***Photos of 2005 ***
Scottish Country dancing
Ken Martlew and Ian Cutts kept us on our toes and smiling with joyful jigs, exciting hornpipes and melodious strathspeys.
Ian Barbour from Guisborough joined me for SCD classes on three mornings and performed all the MC-ing for the evening dances, allowing me to dance much more than I had other years.
New and unusual dances kept our minds alert, while old favourites allowed us to relax and enjoy each other's company and the excellent music.
We had outings to visit the caves at Choranche, the narrow gorges of the river Bourne, the village Pont-en-Royans‚ all in the Vercors mountain area; a walk on the eastern ridge of the Vercors to admire the views of Grenoble and the Alps; a visit to the historic centre of Grenoble‚ on a miniature train; a guided visit to the Chartreuse distillery –with samples -- and finally a look around a traditionally run farm,where the owners entertained us with home-made produce and an insight into a few of the problems small farmers have to contend with today; then we entertained them with an Eightsome Reel.
The participants from around the world – even a few from Scotland! – brought their energy and good humour, making the dancing and the touring a pleasure for all.
The week ended with an old dance, "Ye'll aye be Welcome Back Again" which well expressed my feelings about such a friendly crowd.
*** Photos of 2006 ***
Country Dance holiday 2007
For the first time in 5 years, no-one could complain of the heat – and no-one dared blame us for the rain, which did rather spoil the visit to Annecy (luckily the arcades of the medieval town afforded some shelter for us to run from one café to another, and the churches were open to provide seats for the foot-weary tourists), and we even got wet inside the Chateau de Menthon.
The visit to the little museum of local traditions and costumes in Sevrier (a lively English-speaking guide and a well-made amateur film, along with a myriad of small tools and fine embroidery) was most enjoyable. One of the mornng classes had to be interrupted when I learnt that, if we hurried, we would be able to watch the casting of bells in the Paccard foundry, another exciting and unexpected visit. To remind me that I had dared interrrupt hs class, Ian later presented a new dance called "The Bells are Calling" (with plenty of "tea-pots", a term I like, but which he has always avoided using, to describe 3-hands-across).
By the end of the week, the clouds cleared away, and the trip to Chamonix and Mont Blanc was more enjoyable than I had feared. The views of the snowy peaks were breathtaking. The ice cave re-opened just half an hour before we boarded the rack-&-pinion train up the mountain, whereas I had been told it would still be closed for security measures. We did not get to dance outside on the grass, but at least everyone went home with some memories of blue sky and sunshine. Some even asked when and where the next dance holiday would take place.
Dancing to Robert's music was most enjoyable, good pace and a variety of tunes. To give the dancers a rest, we watched some amusing ceilidh items; Lesley & Alan gave us an interpetation of the Shepherd's Crook, the third dancer being a remarkably talented broom-stick; Ken & Noko gave us a glimpse of traditional Japanese theatre... The company was good, and I even found time to have a chat with some, and get to know our first-timers.
*** Photos 2007 ***
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