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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Last Dance

(Post held til 3pm. Rumor had it that Patrick wanted to talk to me but I've gotten no email or phone call and he has both forms of contact information, so here's what happened.)

It was a good night at the Plough last night. I missed the lesson because I was trying to finish a comm plan, so I arrived after the class had formed. Patrick said they were just talking about me and how I didn't like Laura's Jig. I reminded him that that was Emily last week who said that. I like Laura's Jig. Terry wrote it for Laura Evensen a lifetime ago. It's not as pretty as things like Bronwyn, but it's not bad. They had a full set, so I stopped and talked with Rachel and crew who were working on a performance for PEERS. Then I headed back to the car to get Cynthia's pin from Disneyland and the music CD for Rachel.

This little tortoise-shell kitty was sitting on the sidewalk between me and my car. I asked, "Are you going to run, or are you a friendly kitty?" The kitty walked towards me and solicited attention. So I petted it and it purred and then it saw a couple of teenagers coming and spooked and ran into the street. So I went on to the car, got the stuff, and headed back. As I was walking back, it ran up to me again, so I knelt down and proceeded to pet it some more. Meanwhile Josh parked and Sarah walked up. Josh made a little joke about me and cats. The kitty had a red collar with a bell, but no tag, so I don't know who he/she was. Just friendly and sweet.

Back outside I helped out with the arches in the Galway reel. It's a good dance for performance if you get everyone doing it the same way. Rachel was thrilled with her music CD. I went inside and Josh was talking to a guy named Rex who was at the Plough for the first time. Josh was explaining about the lesson. Rex recognized me from Friday Night Waltz. I gave him the spiel about how the Plough is great for beginners, because even without the lesson, he'll be able to do 2 out of 3 dances tonight, because it will go Dance for Everyone, Dance for Those Who Know, and a waltz. He seemed a bit relieved. I made a mental note to remember to waltz with him later. His daughter was also there for the first time, she just two weeks shy of her 18th birthday, clearly concentrating on the lesson. I gave Cynthia her pin and she seemed very pleased. I wandered back outside to see how the lesson and the performance practice was going.

After a little more there, I wandered back in and played a hand of Fluxx with Elonwy and her friends. I won on the first turn using a special "Hebrew Knowledge" card. The second hand was a bit longer. I grabbed a half pint of cider from the bar, and Francis mentioned that she was raising money to send John to Ireland. She was going to book a nice bed and breakfast she found tomorrow. I thought about contributing, but didn't have more than six dollars on me at the moment.

And then there was dancing. Waltzing with Dave followed by a rather slow-paced High Caul Cap. During the break, Rachel went over 2 Hand Jig with the folks going to PEERS so that they'd all be doing the same pattern. They'd asked one of the musicians to play a short jig, and they'd said sure. She asked me to watch from the front to check for issues. Just as the musician was starting up, John said, "Okay break's over." I crossed back to the sideline where Jennifer said, "Well it's hard to believe the timing there wasn't intentional." The Laura's Jig went up and we couldn't find enough people to fill the set. Apparently most of the class had gone home. Quinn agreed to try it as long as it was called, but it had been a long time. So I grabbed Patrick who was planning to call from the side and told him he was in. We managed to get through it. The set below us did Hallucination. They made it through, but not one of the people dancing there had attended lessons in years. I made a snarky comment to Patrick about wishing folks would attend lessons. He agreed, pointing out odd footwork issues and such. Rachel cheered that she made it through. I rained on her parade, which wasn't kind. She made a bunch of defenses about the lessons and having learned it all, which is true, and yet not the point. In the last six months the class sizes have gone from small to barely able to muster a single set outside for a combined intermediate/advanced class. If we who think we know it don't show up, there's no way to bring up the level of dancing of the group, and no way to teach and learn new dances like Quinby's Farewell and Tracey's Tricycle Jig. Sam said a few months ago that I was the only woman who called polka sets. I looked at him like he was a space alien, but thinking it over, I'm the only advanced level woman who shows up regularly.

John called Fairy Reel. This is one of the very first Irish ceili dances I ever learned, fifteen years ago. Still love it. It's pretty and elegant. It's easy enough for beginners without being tedious for experienced dancers. Our first set was a bunch of advanced dancers, so we were goofing off and playing around and having fun while John did the run through, always staying on time, but being playful. Patrick joked with Quinn about Irish dancing, and we discussed placing the stick, no wait, 2x4 firmly up his butt. The band started up and we danced through the first segment. We were out after that, so I tapped Bob and we started doing a Night Fever line dance on the side while we waited for the next set to come through. John leaned over and said, "If you don't knock that off, I'm going to stop this dance right now." I was stunned. He went on, "There plenty of other places to do that crap, and this is a night of traditional Irish dancing and I hear about this from the owners all the time. They're a nice family from county Clare and this is just disrespectful." I haven't been spoken to like since... well, ever. I can't even remember my parents being that brusque and paternalistic. I decided it was time to go before I said something rude. He went on some more, further making his case about how we were rude and there was no place for this at the Plough and how this was traditional Irish dancing. I grabbed my sweater to go, but then realized that it would be terribly rude to leave my partners without a third to finish the dance. So I finished the dance. And then I left.

I've tried to wait out the nonsense of the past six+ months, hoping that things would smooth over, that we could all find some common ground. In theory, we all love the Plough and love the dancing, but John holds the power and he just doesn't want us there. At this point I think it would be better if he went around and hand picked who he wished would go away and just told us to our faces so that we didn't have to guess. And as far as being traditional, John even said last night that Laura's Jig was one of his favorites, and it's not traditional. So fine, be traditional, but then don't dance Chutney, Bronwyn, Laura's Jig, Lee's Demand, Quinby's Farewell, Hallucination Jig, Tracey's Tricycle Jig, Ironhand, or Berkeley Polka sets ever again. For thirty years, the Plough has bloomed and thrived on innovation in dancing. It's not strictly traditional Irish dance, trapped in a little orange book; it's a living, growing tradition that's founded on the traditional dances of Ireland, but which has grown into something more, something that only exists in Berkeley, while this sort of dancing has almost completely died out everywhere else. That innovation comes from people like Bob and Sam and myself who study more than one type of dance and synthesize from one form to the next. It comes from folks like Rachel and Alex who know the dances well enough to know where they can be played with without hurting the basic pattern and function of the dance. It comes from Patrick and Cynthia who are willing to take the elements and figures and put them together in a new way to make new dances. Meanwhile, John runs things operationally, managing the sound board and setting up tables and teaching the basics to the beginners and calling the dances, but I can't tell you the last time I really saw him dance and love it the way that those he despises love it. We love this dancing and we love dancing in general, and that love of dance comes out in our dancing. And I'm just so sad that the love of dance is not welcome in his world. But ultimately it is his world, and though I've been visiting it for the years since Terry died, I've clearly overstayed my welcome. It's time to go.


  • John's got a huge fucking stick up his ass, and always has. I'm not surprised that he's pulling this bullshit. Many years ago, when I was complaining about the need for an advanced class, and discussing it with Lee, he sent me one of the rudest emails I've ever received, and Lee backed up his nastiness with her own special breed of backstabbing nastiness. Since then, I've had no respect for either of them, and I'm not in the least bit surprised that they're ruining the Plough experience.

    By Blogger Anthony, at 3:45 PM  

  • I confronted John after the last waltz and told him that regardless of what any of you had done, he had handled it poorly. He vehemently disagreed saying that this was now a traditional venue. When I said that was beside the point, he should have handled better, he went off on how he was so tired about "poly people" and how they "touched people's arms...".
    How there were children in the pub when you did your line dance. And how if I didn't like it I could go elsewhere. I probably approached too strongly to expect any other reaction, but it seems clear from that interaction, that this has been brewing for quite some time and instead of John simply running interference for the bar owners. This is a very personal thing for him

    By Blogger Chrisfs, at 7:25 PM  

  • It makes me very sad

    By Blogger Chrisfs, at 7:26 PM  

  • A dude would have to be at the very least slightly unhinged in some way in order to seriously yell at you, Chris.

    By Blogger K, at 11:10 PM  

  • *sigh* this makes me sad. I try so hard to see the best in people, but I find I'm not surprised that he behaved this way. Ranting on poly people is a bit surprising, yelling at Chris even more so. Makes me reluctant to go back, myself.

    Hugs to the Ammster and hoping another ceili opportunity presents itself or develops.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 7:07 PM  

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