A competition was held and, after the winning dance had been chosen, a dance-through was arranged to determine which other dances should be included in the book. I was pleased and flattered to be invited to join the judging panel as the independent external assessor.
I travelled up on Friday evening, reading the 19 dances on the train and marking with comments and pink splodges anything I didn’t understand or particularly wanted to look out for.
Aileen met me at the station and, as the Branch Committee was meeting that night, handed me over to Helene, who would take me to Ballylesson class. Despite a whole set being at the committee meeting, there were still 14 couples dancing – that’s more than twice as many as we usually have in Dublin! We danced eight dances in the two hours, of which four were completely unknown to me and one I hadn’t danced for a number of years. Two were danced in seven-couple sets, with the top half ‘borrowing’ a couple from the bottom half. I was made very welcome and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
Helene delivered me back to Aileen, who took me to Lucy’s for refreshments and a discussion of the plans for the next day, then home to Aileen’s to sleep.
Saturday saw around a dozen dancers assembled to test the submissions, called by Lucy, Lynn and Ronnie. The four judges sat at tables at the head of the set, watching avidly and conferring from time to time. This was a completely new experience for me as, until now whenever I’ve been involved in a dance-through, I have been one of the dancers for most, if not all, the dances. I did ask to join in a couple of times, in order to clarify the instructions or test whether a particular sequence felt ‘odd’. With a break for lunch, we had seen all the dances a couple of times through by around 3:30pm so we finished by dancing the strathspey given to the Branch by John Wilkinson, which will also appear in the book.
After the dancers had left, the judges went into a huddle to go over our notes and discuss which dances should be included. Patrick had videod each dance and it was very useful to be able to go back and look at the recording when one of us could not easily explain to the others a point we had noticed. On the whole, we were in agreement and it was interesting to see how our views compared with those of the dancers (they had been asked to indicate ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ after each dance).
Although I had been tempated to accept Aileen’s invitation to stay Saturday night and dance at Lucy’s class, I had refused and opted to return to Dublin that evening to have the whole of Sunday with Jack. So, after a bite to eat, Aileen returned me to Lisburn station armed with some beautiful roses and a box of chocolates by way of thanks for my time and ‘expertise’. Although it was mentally exhausting, it was a very interesting and enjoyable day and I was glad to have been able to help. I look forward to seeing the finished book, dancing these dances and generally joining in the celebrations.