Putting the Extra in Extracurriculars

Dearest Readers,

People go to university for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s to make more money later. Other times it’s to learn something new or receive necessary training for a certain job. Others go even because they feel they need to. Society puts a lot of pressure on people, after all.

But regardless of the underlying reasons for going, there tends to be one goal: to learn.

That can be learning from their classes. Or from their sports teams. Or their sororities or fraternities or clubs or even their friends at parties. Those things are equally important, and I’ve always heard the main reason for that is communication and networking skills mixed with a bit of discipline and time management.

They’re missing some things, though, and intensely transferrable skills are one of them. In fact, extracurriculars teach as many if not more transferrable skills than the actual classes.

I’m learning that pretty quickly with the help of my Scottish Country dance teachers.

Yup, my dance teachers.

I’m getting run through a bit of a training to be a future dance teacher. I would need to go through the certification, of course, but the skills needed for that as well as the actual teaching are being gone through with me and some others. I’ll even get to actually try to teach (brilliant, right?).

The transferrable skills I’m using in my masters are things I learned in undergrad that are being honed – research, writing, condensing, discussion, creating evidence-based arguments, and picking the important bits out of lots of information, for example.

This teaching aspect of dance, however, is adding to my transferrable skills – how to communicate information effectively to a group in multiple ways (visual, auditory, kinesthetic), observation skills, assessment skills, and if I’m around long enough, planning and prepping things to teach, adapting to class environments, and effective behavioral management.

That’s a lot of things to learn stemming from a decision to go to a dance class.

Will it be a lot of work? Sure, but that just means I need to watch less Netflix, knit less, and get enough sleep to be ready to face every day.

Easy enough, right?

It’s amazing the kinds of opportunities that appear by doing something because it seems fun and personally fulfilling.

Plus, having extra stuff to do is just a part of uni, right?

Right!

Your Bonnie Celtophile,

Dani

SUSCDF 2016: Dancin’ and Laughin’ in Edinburgh

Dearest Friend,

I had the lovely pleasure to participate in this year’s SUSCDF last night, which is the Scottish Universities Scottish Country Dance Festival. It was held in Edinburgh, and my Glasgow group was late due to traffic, but it was a splendid night and a LOT of fun.

There were three stages to the night, at least for me.

Stage One: The Nerves

SUSCDF was a new experience. There were many new people in a room and mixing partners was encouraged. I only ended up partnered with people from my group (by design), but we still danced with people from other groups. It was interesting not knowing who knew what was going on and who didn’t, but also interesting mingling with so many new faces and so many men in kilts.

My nerves were partially because we weren’t there from the beginning and our slot for our dem (which I was in) was moved, so the dances were ones we hadn’t done at all and I was busy trying to figure out just what my new schedule was. It was also because I was nervous/excited for the dem, and that combined with all the new people made me a bit jittery for a while.

Stage Two: The Dem

This was amazing. I was a cheerleader for 12 years, but since I graduated college I haven’t had any sort of performance like that. I loved going back to it. There’s just something amazing about working to learn something, doing it (even if not perfectly), and then having applause rush through the adrenaline and music and heartbeat.

And it was pleasing that my teachers were pleased, as well, because they worked really hard to choreograph and get halls for rehearsal and work on refining our steps and getting us to turn our feet out like ballerinas because it’s so unnatural.

And then, of course, came the drop in adrenaline and the knowledge that it was 1- time for the more difficult dances and 2- time to go to Stage Three.

Stage Three: The Crazy

With more difficult (aka more FUN) dances up for grabs at the end of the night and a bunch of giddy dancers, there’s a lot of goofy, a lot of mess-ups, a lot of social dance screwing around, and overall a lot of sticking with people you know because they’re the ones that will introduce new people to all the ways you can mess with a dance.

I was pulled into a set made up of all dem people to do Midnight Oil, one of the hardest dances on the program and an overall good time that got crazy very fast with people jumping in and out of figures as they pleased (one of the social dance moves).

I danced my favorite, High Society, with one of my teachers and she introduced all sorts of places to spin that aren’t actually in the dance, leaving us dizzy and giggly.

My set for the last dance of the night, which was done two times through, was full of overtired, laughing Glasgow dancers, a whole bunch of mistakes, and a lot of goofing around, and it was one of the best dances all night (High Society being the best, of course).

I can’t wait to learn and get to practice all the social dance moves, like spins and claps and high fives. In dances that revolve around steps and timing like Scottish Country, even the goofing around has timing that needs to be learned so it’s optimally fun and chaotic.

Anyway, those are the three stages of my night at SUSCDF, and I totally recommend people getting involved with Scottish Country Dance if they can. All the ballet feet-turning stuff isn’t important if you’re just doing it for fun and don’t care about getting that perfect, and without that the steps are easy to learn. And there are thousands of dances and variations, so it doesn’t get boring.

(I’m obviously biased, but really. It’s a fun, multi-generational activity. There’s music, it’s social, AND it’s exercise. What’s not to love?)

 

Your Dancin’ Celtophile,

Dani

Ceilidh + Ballet = Scottish Country Dance

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My first pair of dance shoes in a very long time.

Dearest Readers,

Yesterday I learned the difference between three types of Scottish dancing, courtesy of one of the teachers of my uni’s Scottish Country Dance Club.

Ready?

Ceilidh Dance: for drunk people and people that think they have two left feet. Can be taught fast, grace doesn’t matter, and as long as there aren’t any major collisions, it’s a success. Also easy to teach in any major gatherings.

Scottish Country Dance: Ceilidh Dance mixed with ballet. More graceful, uses these things called “first position” and “third position” and “step change,” and adds fancier things like many moving parts people where Ceilidh Dance wouldn’t. Also has an element called social dancing, which adds claps, spins, and other shenanigans that make the dances more interesting/fun for the dancers, especially at gatherings of dancers from different places.

Highland Dance: This, according to my country dance teacher, is more “aggressive”. It’s war and fighting dances, historically used for warriors to show their strength, speed, and agility while keeping up morale. Also, their third position is higher than in country dance.

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Although I have tremendously enjoyed Ceilidh Dance and will continue to enjoy it when the opportunity presents itself, I must say I like Scottish Country Dance much better.

For one, it’s a good place to learn some basics before I have the opportunity to learn Highland Dance (because who doesn’t want to do something called a Sword Dance?). First position (and all the ballet stuff) is a foreign concept to me, and the soreness in my calves proves it. Feet are not meant to be kept heels together, toes as far apart as possible. It does, however, look super elegant.

Secondly, I gained a fond appreciation for being part of a group of people moving in perfect synchronicity to create something entertaining and/or beautiful during my twelves years of cheerleading. The dancing is one of the few things I miss about cheerleading (the other being throwing people in the air in ways that defy the laws of sanity).

Being in class yesterday doing steps in time with everyone else felt like coming home.

It’s also a really awesome way to relieve stress caused by having a pile of articles to read, reflect on, and consider as an essay topic every week.

Do you have experience with any of these dances? What differences do you think there are? Which do you prefer?

Your Bonnie Celtophile,

Dani