A week in the life...

Hi there! My name is Kat, and I really like dancing. It's pretty much my favourite thing in the world, and I do some sort of it four or five times a week, every week. Sometimes I squeeze in the other good things I like --mathematics, teaching, writing, circus arts1-- but mostly, my main form of social interaction and joy acquisition is to go dancing.

Most of the dance forms I do welcome beginners. If you're interested in trying any of the below, please let me know and I'll help you get set up! My typical week looks something like this

Monday night: Scottish Country Dance in Watertown. SCD is a kind of set dancing, where short lines of couples repeat choreographies to move throughout the room. It differs from most other well known set dances (contra, square dance, English country) by having steps --you aren't walking, you're skipping! It is very energetic, infectiously joyful, and the style I have put the majority of my dancing energy into over the last eight years.

Tuesday night: Modern Western Square Dance at MIT. Tech Squares is exactly the sort of dance club you'd expect at MIT. We're doing square dancing (like you learned in elementary school gym class) only harder, faster, and restructured as a multi-person realtime puzzle. It's the most mentally challenging dance form I do, though not particularly physically intense.


Blues Dancing in Cambridge. This is a bit of a misnomer really, since I've only been to Bluesy Tuesy about three times in the last two years, but I'm trying to get out there more often (in between and after weeks at Squares). Blues is a very close couples dance, that focuses on slow movements. I like it for the opportunity to do improvised leading, and, let's be honest, because it's kinda sexy and I'm an often-unpartnered2 twenty-something.

Wednesday night: Highland Dance in Arlington. Highland is a solo performative style. It's extremely bouncy, extremely precise, and extremely difficult. If you've seen a person in a kilt performing a dance while leaping over a sword, that's part of Highland. I've only been taking lessons since September of 2014, which means I am still extremely rubbish. I may never be what's considered "good" at Highland, but I do hope to be passable someday.

-followed by-

Excess or Allure, in Boston. These are nightclub events, that run from 10pm-2am. They involve a lot of flailing around like a fool, gothy arm-waving, and sometimes a spot of swing or blues. Given how late they run (and that I have a pretty strict midnight curfew) I don't make it out often, but I enjoy it when I get there.

Thursday Night: This is my night off! I use the time to clean my room, hang out with friends, and sleep. I love dancing, but by the time I hit Thursday, I'm always ready to relax.

Friday-Saturday Nights: Assorted dance styles in assorted places! I don't have anything regular on the weekends, but there's inevitably some sort of event going on --SCD, contra, blues, and more!

Sunday: SCD Demo Team practice, in Arlington. This runs "many" Sundays from September-April(ish), and is where I get my serious SCD technique and footwork practice. We do two major performances a year (the SCD Boston Branch fall concert and NEFFA), and several minor ones.


Contra dance in Cambridge. The BIDA3 contra is my favourite of the *many* contras set in the greater Boston area. Contra is another kind of set dancing, only with much longer lines of couples --you may well dance with 40 or 50 other people in one dance! It's plenty enthusiastic and very beginner friendly. I go as often as I can, but between demo team and other adventures, that's only about once every 4-5 months.

Whew! And that's not even getting into festivals, or balls, or dance camp, or...

1: Which, I mean, many circus arts are extremely close to dancing anyways. They are very physical activities, often set to music, and require a lot of practice and skill. I juggle, hoop, and stilt-walk (poor-to-mediocre) and have done the barest bones of silks and acro-yoga.

2: I mean outside of dancing --usually, it's pretty easy for me to find a partner for any given dance form. I use "unpartnered" rather than "single" very deliberately --I have several partners at any given time, but the majority of them are nowhere near me geographically.

3: BIDA = Boston Intergenerational Dance Advocates = Good People!


So I've found my life's passion...what next?

My friend Tamra looked at me a couple times while she was visiting, and pointed out that I get really passionate when I talk about dancing. Like, she can tell it's important to me --tell that it's one of the most important things in my life-- because of the way I light up, and start moving, and stumble over my words in my haste and enthusiasm to explain everything I love about it.

Dancing is important.
Dancing is incredibly important.
Dancing is, if not the single most important verb in my life, certainly in the top three1, and my life would be radically, shatteringly, different (and worse) without it.

Dancing is an activity that has significant connections to freedom, sex, kink and power dynamics, kinesthesia and body awareness, gender, GENDER, costuming, teaching and learning, performance, mathematics and patterns, joy, flirtation, and fun. That list is basically the complete "things wot Kat will perk up for", minus the spiders and board games, and both of those can be found in spades at Pinewoods.


I am passionate about dance. What can I do with this. How can I --for lack of a better term-- monetize my passion.

(It's not about making money. It's about creating a world for myself where I can spend as much of my time as possible doing things that make me wave my hands around and physically bounce up and down. There are two ways to find this world, and one of them involves finding a method of capital acquisition that I love so much that I feel genuine joy participating in it2.)

How can I work out my world so that, at the very least, I get to engage, and meta-engage, in this most wonderful activity as often as possible.

How can I bring my passion to other people, how can I find other people with similar minds, how can I better do teaching, and outreach, and gosh I don't even know.

Dancing is important. How do I bring it to the rest of the world?

1: It ranks behind writing and ahead of teaching, but then we get into verb-combination and sometimes I get to teach people to dance.

2: The other involves finding a method that will get me as much capital as possible, in as little time as possible, and then spending all of my non-capital-achieving hours engaging in activities that bring me genuine joy. There's a third method, but I'm no good at dismantling capitalism.




I told myself that the very first place I would share this news would be here, because damnit, I am neglectful and I am arbitrary but this is my dance blog and the thing I am about to share is the most relevant piece of dance news I have gotten pretty much ever.

I have completed, and passed, my Teaching Certificate Part 1 to become an officially certificated teacher of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. All three Units.

Forgive me if I forget the normal propriety I pretend to have on this blog:



Words that I have excised from my vocabulary that could now theoretically creep back in:

In Candidate Class, one of the things that is tested for your Unit 2 is your ability to brief the dances before performing them. However, these briefs must be manual-perfect, which means there's quite a few SCD colloquialisms that have dropped from my vocabulary lately, lest I become too comfortable with them and forget myself during the exam.

(As an aside, I actually had an interesting discussion with Jeanetta McColl about this, due to my originally putting "widdershins" into my exam lesson plan. Her reasoning, which is very sound, is that due to the truly international nature of Scottish Country Dancing, having standardized language that is used and shared by everyone across the world is much easier than hoping people will understand your alternate terminology.)

The classic example is "Hello-Goodbye Setting", which in official parlance is better known as "Set to Corners and Partner1", but even something as mundane as "corner-partner-corner-partner" has a more official briefing as "turn corners and partner". There's a lovely woman who runs the Salem class who you can make scream if you call right hands across at the top and bottom "teapots", and quite a lot of contra dancers who will understand what you mean perfectly well if you call them "stars", but neither term is remotely correct. And of course, we never do a double anything, we do the thing twice.

(Which is honestly the biggest shame --the rest of that is fiddly, but "double crossover mirror reels" is dead simple to say, and evocative in a way "1s dance reels first with opposite sides then with own sides, crossing down between the 2s and 3s to begin" just isn't.)

Of course, all eyes are going to be on me2 for the next few years as I find my footing as a teacher and start my unit 4 portfolio3, so we'll see whether I can actually loosen up my tongue. And who knows? If I'm ever calling a dance in South Africa, I'll be quite glad I've the experience of being able to brief something everyone would understand.

1: Not set to corners and partnerS, as I continually flubbed. There's definitely a polyamory joke in here somewhere...

2: Not actually true, I don't think, but our tutors liked to emphasize the fact that as new teachers, everyone would be looking to us as role models.

3: Assuming I passed my units 2 and 3, oh gods, the waiting!

Tookus Long Enough

Tookus Long Enough is a 32 bar reel for 3 couples danced in a 4 couple set. It was mostly written by Laura dC, with contributions from the rest of our candidate class, Beth, and Robert.

(Note: "Tookus" in the title should be pronounced as the hebrew word "tuchas")

Bars 1-8: 1s cross down into second place, 2s stepping up immediately on bars 1 and 2. 2s, 1s, and 3s dance a six bar chase clockwise once around the set. On bar 5, 1s meld into the center of the set and turn once around by the right, giving a "twiddle" to end in back to back in the center of the set facing own sides, ready for double triangles.

Bars 9-16: 1s, with 2s and 3s, dance inverting double triangles. (set for 2, 1s move to the outside of the set facing in while 2s and 3s move to the inside of the set facing out, all pulling right shoulder back, set for 2, all move in or out to end with 2s and 3s on the sidelines as normal, and the 1s in the center facing out their own side.

Bars 17-24: 1s dance solo figures of eight, first man up with the 2s, first woman down with the 3s, passing the person on their right by the right shoulder to begin. 1s end facing their first corner.

Bars 25-32: 1s dance set to corners and partners, ending by pulling right shoulder back and doing a petronella turn into second place on their own sides. All dancers may clap as appropriate at the start of bar seven.

This dance is dedicated to Andy Taylor-Blenis. It is an actually good dance, we are sorry for making it into an extended butt pun (not actually sorry).

End Notes: Andy has a talent for helping us stretch out our whole bodies and for emphasizing where our good posture should come from --including that we should, at all times, keep our tuchas tucked underneath us (especially for things like hello-goodbyeset to corners and partner.

Mack Gregor's Reel

Mack Gregor's Reel is a 32 bar jig for 4 couples. It was mostly written by me and Laura dC, with help from the rest of our candidate class.

Bars 1-8: 1s set and cast off one place, 2s stepping up on bars 3 and 4. 1s and 2s turn partner by the RH one and a half times in four bars. 2s end that turn in the center, both hands joined, 1s use that turn to move down the set to third place, ending back to back in the center facing opposite sides, 3s stepping up on bars 7 and 8.

Bars 9-16: 1s, with 3s and 4s, dance Double Triangles from a balance-in-line formation WHILST the 2s dance the "Mack Truck" figure, slipping down the middle of the set and back up, between the backs of the dancing 1s. 1s end facing first corners, 2s end on opposite sidelines.

Bars 17-24: 1s, with 3s and 4s, set to and turn their first corner. While turning, the second corners perform the "Smart car progression" and slip back to back diagonally across the set to end in each other's place. 1s set to and turn the person in their second corner position. While turning, the first corners perform the "Smart car progression". All end on opposite sidelines, in the order 2-3-1-4.

Bars 25-32: 2s, followed by 3s, 1s, 4s, cross up and dance down the outside of the set, 3s 1s and 4s dancing up the set to begin. End on own sidelines, in the order 4-1-3-2. The dance concludes with the wheels on the truck going round and round; 4s with 1s and 3s with 2s dancing right hands across.

This dance is dedicated to Gregor Trinkus-Randall.

End Notes: Gregor has a tendency to tell his students to keep their backs close together when back to back in the center, lest a "mack truck" be able to be driven between them. As our candidate class progressed, we were rewarded with smaller and smaller vehicles, including pick-up trucks, the aforementioned smart cars, and eventually matchbox.



In 2007 I was introduced to Scottish Country Dancing by MarcMagus, due to the juxtaposition of a fried hard drive and a shitty breakup. This is flat out the most important thing to ever happen to and shape my life.

Somewhere in the 2012ish range, I decided I actually wanted to get actually serious about being a good dancer, and started conspiring to get onto the demo team, where I would get a chance to further refine my footwork. That summer, I determined that the way to do it was, in fact, to ask the ladies who are in charge of the demo team if I could join.

I am not exactly sure when the rumblings started, but in late 2013/early 2014, there were all these mutterings going around about candidate class and training up some more teachers. The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society is delightfully bureaucratic, and so there is an actual double-leveled certification process to become a teacher. By Pinewoods 2014, it was confirmed that I was gonna be in the class, we had had our initial interest meeting, and I was beginning to _no really_ start looking at my footwork.

The first level of the certification is three units. Unit 1 is a written exam on the manual of the RSCDS, it includes questions on history, music, footwork, and figures. Unit 2 is a dancing exam, where we have to show ability to talk through and perform 12 pre-selected dances. Unit 3 is a teaching exam, where we are given a 16-bar lesson plan to teach.

From September to now, I have been dancing at least every other Saturday, for five(plus) hours, to prepare. This was an 80+ hour course, not counting time spent practicing, writing lesson plans, rehearsing dances, doing homework, and driving. It is one of the most intense things I have ever done in my life, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Scottish Country Dancing is a hugely important part of my social life and my emotional happiness. It is the number one thing keeping my in the Boston area right now --if I want to have remotely the same level of competence and options as I do here, I can go to Philly, SF, or Seattle. That's it. No where else has the music (live music every week, at least in Watertown!) or the teachers (so many, and soon some new ones!), or the dancers (we actually have young dancers participating!)

When it's working right, it feels like flying.

It's a puzzle to be solved, and a flirtation to be winked, and a physical challenge to be overcome. And one of my base states is "teacher", it is important to me to be able to share this joy with the rest of the world. So there's a system to become thus officially? Great, that recognition can only make it easier to accomplish what I want.

Unit 1 was in October for 4/5ths of us, and February for the last. We've all five passed, yay!

Units 2 and 3 were today. Our examiners were a pair of women, one from Seattle (who I hear is guest-teaching at Monday night Scottish in Watertown, oooo!) and one from Aberdeen, yes, the one in Scotland. They sat at a table at the top of the hall and assessed us cooly as we demonstrated our dances, as we demonstrated our teaching.

(They stared with some amusement when we presented our gifts to our tutors, a pair of dances we had written.)


Now we wait.

Seriously. Six to eight weeks, we wait. We should all know by Pinewoods, and it sounds like Susie (the last of the five) is gonna come to ESC1 week with us (yay!) so we can have a congratulations/commiserations party then.

But six weeks is a damn long time. More than enough time to go through every possible combination in my head of "which of us failed which units?". More than enough time to review my entire lesson, in meticulous detail, and cringe at the bits I forgot.

(I have not read an assessment sheet while thinking about it yet. I'm a bit scared to do so.)

Eventually we find out we all passed everything (THIS WILL OCCUR, DAMNIT. BRAINWEASELS CAN BE STOMPED.) and then we begin teaching beginner classes and easy level dances and keeping perfect track of everything. Why? Because in about a year, we'll be submitting our Unit 4 portfolios of lesson plans. Registered mail to Scotland, obviously.

And two years from now, I'll be sitting in this same anxious stir, waiting to hear back about my Unit 5, the second-level teaching exam. At that point, I will be finished forever, because despite all these stringent guidelines about who can teach in the first place, once your in, you're never evaluated or retrained or checked up on.

And then, you know, I can start a class of Scottish Country Dancers whereever I go. No matter where I am located otherwise, I will lead the dance.

It's a good feeling.

1: Quick shill: Do you like English, Scottish, and or Contra dancing? Do you like relaxing in the woods and swimming in ponds? ESCape to Pinewoods this summer, for a session full of ridiculous young things being wonderful!