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Our first dance rehearsals for 'The Pheasant's Eye' showcase on 9th June...

Last week, we had our first full rehearsals for our brand new project, ‘The Pheasant’s Eye’. In our first showcase concert on Saturday 9th June, we’ll be offering our audiences the chance to join us on stage through the medium of dance! Those who take part in the afternoon workshop will learn 2 short dances (no experience required!) and then (if brave enough) can perform them, led by Kathleen, at the end of each half – accompanied of course by the full ensemble!

So, to prepare, we hired a dance studio for a few hours, where our Highland dancer Kathleen Gilbert showed us the amazing dances she has choreographed to our Scottish Baroque dances. It was very important for us to try out the Highland steps ourselves, and to get a feel for the workshop experience! So here we are, having great fun learning a few of the basics….

The music for these dances will be two catchy Scottish dance movements. The first is from a sonata by John Reid, an Edinburgh-based composer, who was part of James Oswald’s mysterious ‘Temple of Apollo’ in London. Like so many Scottish composers of the eighteenth century, Reid has really written a Scots jig, masquerading as an Italian Baroque movement. It’s fantastically catchy, perfect for dancing. The other dance piece is some fantastic variations by Robert Bremner, which have an earworm of a melody which is guaranteed to get stuck in your head for a week or two…

The link between music and dance in Scottish ‘Baroque’ is exceptionally strong – and there are actually two types of Scottish dancing: Scottish Country dance, which you might be familiar with if you have been to a ceilidh in Scotland – and Highland Dance. Both can be social dances, but it’s Highland which is perhaps the dance you might first think of, with the brilliant tartan costumes and sword dances. We won’t have any swords next Saturday… but our workshop participants will have the opportunity to learn some basic steps with Kathleen. Here’s our harpsichordist, Tom, learning the ‘shedding step'.

Highland dance has a fascinating history – one of the dances our audience can learn is based on the ‘Blue Bonnet’ – a dance which wives of Scottish soldiers used to dance as their husbands departed for war, waving until they disappeared. How romantic! And then, there’s the Hornpipe – in our James Oswald air, ‘The Tulip’, there is a Hornpipe movement, to which Kathleen has choreographed a fantastic solo Sailor’s Hornpipe!

The rest of the programme will be a feast of delights from the Scottish Baroque – all new repertoire with our good friends and new ensemble members Dominika Feher (Baroque Violin) and Florence Petit (Baroque Cello). Highlights include gorgeous trio sonatas by the Earl of Kelly and William McGibbon, as well as some new James Oswald airs, now with a second part!

Tickets for both the workshop and concert are available from the Stroud Green website: just follow the links below to book your ticket:

Click here to book for the Highland dance workshop

Click here to book for the evening concert

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