Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cape Breton Part II

Let's see now, I think I left off with me whining and moaning about what Step Class had done to me. Really, folks, I gotta tell you, it wasn't all pain. And actually, I found that going to the dance classes made the pain go away...for a while.
At the College
Apart from all the frenetic networking and getting to know everyone and the classes (I took Piano Accompaniment, Advanced Bodhran (that's drum) and Beginner Step), there was excellent food served up by the cafeteria staff. This was like no cafeteria food I'd ever had. Three solid squares a day that made us all gain weight and a schedule so full of exciting stuff to do and people to talk to, we were starved by the time the next meal rolled around. Luckily, the balance to all this eating was, yes, you guessed it, more dancing.
Don't it Make You Feel Like Dancing
Just about any night of the week (except Sunday...you gotta rest some time, I guess) there is a dance to go to. This strikes me as a fabulous way to get your exercise. Monday night is Brook Village, Tuesday night is Scotsdale, Wednesday night is Normaway Inn, Thursday night is Glencoe, Friday night South West Margaree, and Saturday is West Mabou. We went out to the Monday night, Thursday night and Saturday night dances and would have gone on Friday night too had we not had ourselves a little rest that turned into a 12-hour sleep. Seriously, we were so burned out, when the alarm went off for us to get up and go to the dance, I wanted to cry. Luckily, we were both that toasted and felt very refreshed the day after.

Unlike going to a dance here in Ontario, be it a wedding or a club, or other social event, most people mill about and drink for a while and talk/shout over the music. Not so in Cape Breton. As soon as the fiddler is done tuning up his strings and puts his bow against them, this is what the dance floor looks like. I know, it's dark, but who has a dance with the lights on full?
(OK, so the video won't upload...picture a packed community hall, darkish for dancing with a dance floor so full, you can't get from the door to the bar! Seriously, it was something else.)

And it was like this at every dance. In fact, we hovered at the West Mabou dance to see how close to the front we could get. This is where the floor boards are most worn and the real experts are. This is a bonus as Cape Breton dances are not your average fare. No, its square sets all night. This is not to be mistaken for some form of Country Music, heaven forfend! This is Cape Breton Celtic music at its best and the dances that have gone along with it since the Scots got off the boats. And don't be fooled: it is a real work out. The men who come to these dances (and who actually dance) bring at least 3 spare shirts for a very good reason. It gets damn hot in the community hall (it being Summer and all) and you just smoke through the dance steps. And the dancing starts at 10pm and doesn't stop until 1am! The best dances are the ones that don't serve alcohol because frankly you never want to quoif a cold refreshing beer and then do 2 jig sets and a reel set. Beer well-shaken is a one-way ticket to heartburn. Or worse. Don't worry though, I held it together and switched to water.

I was really swept up in the great feeling of community participation at these dances. There were people of all ages (some of the dances invite families, ergo the dry dances). There were couples from their teens to their 80's cycling through chains and promenades. By the end of the week, there were people I'd seen every dance we'd gone to. And the sets allowed for meeting new people as partners spun off in different directions (somewhat unexpectedly sometimes as we new recruits caught on). And although there was a fair bit of concentrated looks as we figured out what we were doing, overall, there was a general sense of joy in the music and it was impossible to sit still, even when you'd just finished up a set and could barely stand.

And every night we went out, we were came home to shooting stars from the Perseids meteor shower. Can this week get any better.

All good things must end and what a way to go!
On Thursday night, there was a Student Ceilidh where we showcased what we'd learned.

This is me with Myron, my drumming teacher, and our new friend Cindy Butineau-Thompson. She step dances just to take the edge off and OMG are her feet fast. Myron and I moved as far out of the way as possible!!! Oh yeah, she's also a professional fiddler. I saw smoke come off her strings!

To show everyone that I really did touch a piano (the dust on the one at home will attest that this does not happen often), I accompanied Bruce and InBobNeato to Coilsfield House after being given about an hour or so to practice the piece. It was a pretty intense couple of minutes in front of about a hundred people, but we did really well. Singing and drumming are no problem for me, but I think I'm still having Kiwanis flashbacks from when I was seven and performing piano in front of groups still makes me sweat.
After the ceilidh ended, we headed back up to our dorm room to shoot the breeze, have a celebretory drink and convince Cindy that she had to come out to the Glencoe Dance with us.

Now the Glencoe dance is located in what could be called God's Country. You have to take a road that is easily missed, is unlit, unpaved and after the rain their had been a few days before, as easy to drive as one covered in deep slushy snow. We left behind powerlines and crawled along with the anticipation building to silly extremes as Bruce (our intrepid dance guide) told us tales of the ladies from college who took a turn too hard last year and ended up in the ditch at 2 in the monring. We swore that when we got back to paved road, we'd stop the car and get out to kiss it. I would almost say that the ride to the dance was more fun than the dance. However, this is just a plain lie because we had 3 hours of solid foot-stomping fun along with a bunch of others from the college who had come out for a good time too.

More on the after college part of the trip to come. Stay tuned.

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