Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Flowers of Edinburgh - the Expanded Edition

In last week's dance analysis post, as you may remember, I wrote of the utter boringness of Flowers of Edinburgh. I found fault with the severely limited number of steps , the all-too-easy and predictable layout of the steps, and the complete impossibility of carrying on a conversation while dancing it. I also mentioned that I was experimenting with expanding on the basic theme of the dance to give it some degree of challenge, making it worthwhile as a mind puzzle if not as an opportunity for socializing. The spring of inspiration has been drained, the drawing board has been filled, the possibilities have been explored. Having done all I can for the time being, I present for your evaluation and revision, Flowers of Edinburgh - the Expanded Edition! (Note: not all of the information given in this post is absolutely necessary. However, most of it is relevant.)
Flowers of Edinburgh - the Expanded Edition
Dance formation: triple minor longways
Music: 2/4 timing, Major key
A1: 1st couple skip a figure eight down through the 2nd and 3rd couples
A2: 3rd couple skip a figure eight up through the 2nd and 1st couples
B1: 2nd couple heys for three with other couples, 2nd lady up and 2nd man down
B2: While all two hand turning, perform a pousette progression
The goal in rewriting this dance was to add a level of difficulty and a layer of interest to a rather insipid and insignificant dance. Having recently been made aware of the triple minor formation, I immediately selected that as the beginning point for the expansion. After all, the more people there are involved, the more people there are needing to be aware of what's going on and performing their part!
The beginning of this variation is fairly similar to that of the original in that both begin with figure eights. However, while the original starts with only one person at a time doing the figure eight, in this version everything is done with at least two people at a time. The first couple jumps right in to the figure eight together, crossing in the middle with the lady going first as usual. They separate; the lady passes the 3rd man by the right shoulder, goes around the back of both men, and passes the 2nd man on his left to meet her partner and cross in the middle again before completing the figure eight on the ladies' side and returning to her original place. Meanwhile, the 1st man is doing the same thing, with a few minor differences due to his coming from the opposite side.
In the second part of the A music, the 3rd couple skips the same type of figure eight up through the group - crossing in the middle, looping around one side, crossing again, and looping around their own side to end in place.
The beginning of the B music marks a slight change; the 2nd couple, rather than doing the same thing the others  have done, instead begin two separate hey for threes. These are essentially expanded figure eights themselves, and thus are entirely in keeping with the style of the original dance. As said before, the 2nd lady skips up and passes the 1st man by the left shoulder to begin her hey for three with the 1st couple; the 2nd man does likewise, moving down and passing the 3rd lady by the left to start off his hey for three with the 3rd couple. With the heys completed, everyone ends in their home place.
For the all-important progression, everyone will begin by taking both hands with their partner and two hand turning to the right (clockwise). The 1st and 2nd couples will change places counterclockwise, still two hand turning, moving in opposite directions (1st couple to the man's side, 2nd to the lady's) in order to avoid collisions; meanwhile, the 3rd couple may two hand turn in place. With the 2nd couple in their progressed position, they merely two hand turn in place while the 1st and 3rd couples make their exchange. This is done in a similar manner to the first, except that this time the movement will be clockwise, with the 1st couple heading to the lady's side and the 3rd moving to the man's. This entire portion will resemble the sort of pousette in the "heddle" portion of the Danish dance Weaving. As I do not know what this move is properly titled, I am calling it a pousette progression.
Clear as mud, no? :)
Now, with regards to the ends. This is where things get tricky, and I'm going to admit right away that I am fairly lost in this area. Having danced only one triple minor thus far, I do not have enough experience to know the following for sure, but I believe that most (if not all) triple minors have the 1s progress down only one place, not two. This means that the 2s and 3s must switch roles each round. I myself find this aspect rather difficult to keep track of, and even slightly irritating at times. Therefore, I wanted to write this version in such a way that the 2s will remain 2s and the 3s will remain 3s all the way up the set. This has been accomplished by the pousette progression. However, this arrangement does bring up another issue: what about the people who are out on the ends?
Supposing we start with nine couples, there will be three sets dancing for the first round. The 1s all progress down two places, leaving one 1st couple out at the bottom and a 2 and 3 out at the top. This is fine; it is to be expected. On the second round, we have two sets dancing while the three aforementioned couples are catching their breath or chatting briefly or something of that sort. All is well. The 1s progress down two places again, leaving two couples out at the bottom - but now there are four couples out at the top. Obviously, three of these couples will be able to begin dancing for the third round, but it will not be the three closest to the top. The couple that was previously the 3rd will enter as a 1st, leaving the couple at the top (formerly a 2) to wait for a second round of the music before joining in again. This is not necessarily a problem, but could potentially lead to some confusion, since the common expectation is to wait out one round before jumping right back in again. Now, then, there are two sets dancing the third round; the 1s progress down two places, sending a 1st couple to join the two former 1s at the bottom, thus completing their set, and sending a 2 and a 3 to the top to complete the set of the former 2. All three sets are now dancing the fourth round, as any mathematician (or dancer!) would expect!
Now, this is going to sound really odd... but... even though I've just written this modified dance... I've already thought of an embellishment. :) It occurred to me, why have the groups of two couples out at the top just stand there? If we're going to complicate things, why not go all the way? So, I wrote up a plan for what could be done if the inactive foursome is desirous of still more motion! It is essentially irrelevant to the workings of the remainder of the dance, and thus is optional - to do it or not is determined by the foursome themselves.
A1: 1st couple skips a figure eight down through the 2nd couple, ending in place
A2: 2nd couple skips a figure eight up through the 1st couple, ending in place
B1: Beginning with partner, four changes of a circular hey (rights and lefts without hands)
B2: Couples two hand turn around each other counterclockwise, ending in place
When done this way, I suppose the dance would be called Flowers of Edinburgh - the Extended Expanded Edition!

So - what do you think? Is this an improvement over the original Flowers of Edinburgh? Do you have ideas on how this could be further altered to make it still better? Please comment with feedback - I'd love to hear it!
Also, if any of you wish to try this thing out and see if it actually works with real people, that would be great! Thus far all the testing has been on paper, and I'm interested in finding out if it's actually doable! :)
Finally, for the sake of including a picture of some sort - and because I myself am fond of "behind the scenes" sorts of things - here's the "drawing board" paper I wrote up while arranging this dance. Like nearly everything I write, it is in extremely small print and far too wordy... :)

These little 8-by-5-inch pages don't even take into account the computation involved for the whole "what happens on the ends" issue, which was only resolved by drawing several hundred little figures in progression diagrams all over a 17-by-21-inch sheet of paper! :)


J. Andrew Wong said...

Wow, that’s impressive that you went through the work of choreographing an extended version of the Flowers of Edinburgh. It was cool to see the “behind the scenes” images of your notes. It certainly is so much easier to visualize the dance through those little diagrams. If you think about it, it’s very similar to playing a game of chess.
Here are a couple of the thoughts that went through my mind:
The triple minor set has a couple of drawbacks, even though it does add some variety amongst an evening full of duple minors. Unfortunately, people may be less familiar with the triple minor set - or at least I am - especially when it comes to progression and the ends. It’s also harder to do a triple minor set with a smaller group of people, because a larger percentage of people are left “out” when initially forming the sets and later on when an extra couple has to wait on the ends. (Unless, of course, they implement your expanded, extended edition!)
I like how the hey adds an amount of intricacy and the impression of complexity - without really being that difficult to learn. (Though a little difficult to teach.)
Personally, I’m not a fan of the “pousette progression” via the two-hand turn because it seems a little too obvious in my mind and also requires more space (because the lines of the longways set have to be further apart.)
Well, there’s my $.02.
Great job thinking through the pros and cons of the Flowers of Edinburgh - thanks for posting!

Zoë said...

Many thanks for taking the time to look this over and for leaving such an extensive and helpful comment!

Yes, you are entirely right about the triple minor format being one that we are not familiar with, and which is therefore more complicated for us. I get the feeling, though, that we may be learning more of them in the near future, at least once we've mastered The Young Widow. (Well, maybe that won't be the *near* future after all!)

And yes... about the more puzzling progression process and the "out at the ends" enigma... certainly the triple minor format has its disadvantages. Of course, these are some of the more distinctive features of the format itself. Would it be accurate to say, then, that you are not overly fond of triple minors?

"An amount of intricacy and the impression of complexity" - that is an important statement. For, of course, that is essentially the nature of this entire revision: it is merely an expansion of the original dance - an expansion in which nothing is truly changed, only made bigger.

Difficult to teach? Really? You honestly think it would be difficult to rattle off a paragraph and a half at the beginning of each stanza? :) Perhaps some "shortcut calls" could be devised.

As to the "pousette progression" portion... okay, you have a point. It is not, shall we say, the most creative element in this revision. :) I could not think of anything better, though. I was trying to retain the two hand turns to be in keeping with the original dance (and because, for pity's sake, there has to be SOME partner interaction in this thing!), and none of the other methods that came to mind allowed for the turning. Sooo... this is what I settled upon for the progression. Do you have any ideas for an improvement? Something a bit more original, but still in keeping with the style of Flowers of Edinburgh?

Oh - and as to needing more space between the longways sets: another good point, and one which had completely escaped my notice; thanks for pointing that out!

And for all this, you're charging only two cents? What a bargain! :] Again, thank you for your consideration!