Instructional Videos Reviews
The Red Thistle Dancers performaing at the DeYoung Art Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park for the National Galleries of Scotland Tour, 2015
"Scottish Country Dancing with
The Red Thistle Dancers Part 1"
Patrick Jordan, Scottish Country Dance teacher (retired), U.S. - Los Altos, California: 1 January, 2009
Thank you very much for the DVD. That is a magnificent video to demonstrate Scottish Country Dancing. Your voice, with your beautiful English accent, is great to listen to. You have done a great job with this video. All classes should have this DVD as it would show the dancers how to dance well, as there is always room for improvement!
Fiona Grant, Scottish Country Dance teacher, GB - Bristol:
" Lots to Learn About Dancing - an instructional DVD produced by the Red Thistle Dancers"
Are you a dancer with some experience who would like to know a bit more about the details of dancing technique? Are you a beginner who finds it hard to remember what was taught in class? Are you an aspiring teacher of Scottish country dance who would like to see an excellent presentation of all the teaching points necessary for passing your teaching exam? Then here is marvellous opportunity to watch and learn in your own time, as often as you want, and all in the privacy of your own home away from critical eyes.
"Scottish Country Dancing with the Red Thistle Dancers" is an instructional DVD illustrating the five basic steps, twenty-one common formations, and includes complete dances which demonstrate the figures and the progression within the set. Clearly and logically presented, with poised and accurate dancing, and marvellous music, this DVD has facts and information to add to any dancers’ knowledge.
The format is quite formal, but its simplicity and unhurried pace, makes the explanations and demonstrations unambiguous and appear attainable; although by the end of the DVD, the viewer is very well aware of how much goes into a beautifully executed Scottish Country dance. The use of freeze frame and a variety of camera angles draws the viewer’s attention to details explained in the clear precise narration, and much thought and preparation has gone into scripting and directing all aspects of the dancers’ performance. The dancers themselves have been very brave, knowing that many of the audience for the DVD will be casting a critical eye over their prowess: rarely have I seen such elegant teamwork in a demonstration team, and any teacher facing the prospect of coaching dancers for display could learn from this DVD. I would award the children’s set gold proficiency medals immediately!
The musical accompaniment is complementary to the dancers and the commentary: a variety of carefully chosen tunes are played in a sympathetic and strictly rhythmical way. If only we could have seen the musicians, and maybe a little of the interaction between musicians and dancers! But this would have been added pleasure as the musicians’ presence is evident not just during the dancing of whole dances, but for dancing the figures and short phrases described. Any musician aspiring to play for a Scottish country dance class could pick up more than a few hints from watching and listening to this DVD.
Many of us dance in clubs where learning dances is the usual way to pass a pleasant social evening, and dance technique is rarely if ever mentioned or taught. Newbies joining the club might never have any formal teaching, either because there is no qualified teacher in the group, or learning is expected to be by the well tried trial and error method of assimilating new skills. This DVD would be a marvellous present for inexperienced dancers who might appreciate an insight into how technique can make Scottish dance easier! It is a DVD any of us dancers can come back to time and again and learn something new on each viewing: a small correction to a step, another way to teach a figure, some hints about what it is that makes us love Scottish country dancing.
Copies available from:
Review: Fiona Grant, RSCDS Bristol, 17 Jan 09
Elinor Vandergrift, RSCDS teacher/examiner and David Vandergrift, U.S. - Washington:
" DVD REVIEW OF THE RED THISTLE DANCERS, Part 1 - The original video produced by the Red Thistle Dancers, a well known and respected performance group in the San Francisco area, was very useful. I watched the video many times and lent it to dancers in my classes. I was sure I would not be disappointed with this new production, and I was not. Jennifer Kelly, her dancers, and the production crew have created another useful tool for us all. This is a well-planned and professional DVD.
Teachers should think of this as an adjunct to their dance classes and their own teaching. Dancers should welcome it as a back-up to skills learned in class. We all know that hearing someone else describe new learning can "turn on the light bulb" and clarify everything. I am sure newer dancers, especially, will enjoy the reinforcement.
The formal ball was a great opener. Social dancing is what we are about. It was a lively scene with dancers obviously enjoying themselves and dancing well to a good band. For many this would be the culmination of the learning in class.
Foot positions, steps, and formations are clearly shown and described. There is much repetition of the basic elements, and with each repetition the narrator points out something new to observe. This will train any viewer’s powers of observation.
Jennifer uses many simple exercises for formation practices, including turns, hands across, stepping up and down, and circles. These practices get everyone moving in successive examples of the formations. For example, we see circles with the top two couples, the bottom two couples, the middle couples, and finally the whole set dancing. There is emphasis throughout of "turnout from the hip" and "finishing steps" when dancing into place. Even experienced dancers will get benefit from this clear focus on technique. The use of differing costume details is good for helping viewers to understand progression in the dances.
It was difficult to find things of which to be critical. We saw a grand chain beautifully phrased and danced with 4 couples early in the DVD. I think it would have been helpful to mention the change in phrasing for the 3-couple grand chain in Lady Lucy Ramsay. A couple of places, when the steps were broken down and shown in slow motion, the description did not match the movement. As an example, the men finished their strathspey setting steps a little higher than the descriptions on the DVD and in the RSCDS Manual.
The use of two different sets of young people is delightful. Their teachers are to be congratulated on the standards they are achieving in Livermore and Lafayette. The future of SCD appears alive and well in northern California.
All in all, this DVD will be a great investment for anyone who wants to take a fresh look at the basics of SCD. It will encourage dancers to watch for good examples of the things they want to emulate. Thanks to Jennifer Kelly and the Red Thistle Dancers for all the hard work that went into this production. I look forward to Part 2, which will cover more-advanced formations. "
"Scottish Country Dancing with
The Red Thistle Dancers Part 2"
Mary Murray, RSCDS teacher, CDN - Vancouver, British Columbia:
Congratulations on another successful venture for this enterprising group in producing a very useful tool for teachers and dancers alike. For teachers, this video provides lots of good technique ideas which can be adapted to suit the needs of various levels of classes. For dancers, it represents a good example of a high standard of dance technique to be emulated. I was impressed by the use of the "pause" feature at strategic places when demonstrating formations, as well as the drumbeat used to accompany the dancers when walking through the patterns of various figures.
The dances used to illustrate these figures and formations were well chosen and included some well-known RSCDS publications, as well as a few of Jennifer Kelly’s excellent compositions. The Red Thistle dancers demonstrated the dances proficiently, with emphasis on phrasing, covering and teamwork which, in my opinion, represent some of the most important elements in a well-performed Scottish Country Dance.
The very clear "voice-over" explanation of the steps and formations by Jennifer Kelly is a valuable feature in this production. Also, the very competent musical ensemble, comprising Michael Bentley (Bodhran & Percussion), Susan Worland Bentley (Violin) and Lyle Ramshaw (Piano), provided excellent accompaniment to engender the obvious enjoyment displayed by the Red Thistle Dancers in this video.
Peter McClure, RSCSD teacher, CDN - Winnipeg, Manitoba:
" The Red Thistle Dancers are to be congratulated on undertaking a sequel to their first instructional video. The dancers show a high level of skill, at the same time showing the enjoyment of the group interaction which is one of the best features of Scottish Country Dancing. Particular congratulations are due their director, Jennifer Kelly, for undertaking to select the post-basic elements for inclusion in the collection. While there will be a lot of agreement on what is basic to SCD, a selection of those elements which should be placed in the next tier is much less obvious. While I might suggest one or two variations that I think would have been preferable, I remain very impressed at the selection that has been made, and at the skill, both in dancing and directing, that is apparent in the final product.
A leaflet, or cover list showing which dances display which formations would be very helpful to the user; however, it may be that making such a list for oneself would be even better.
Good dancing, quite valuable to see for those who may not have regular opportunities to participate in an advanced class;
Throughout, a very good treatment of handing, both in the demonstrations and in the verbal descriptions;
... a good treatment of pas de basque with travel; retiring pas de basque was especially well done, and should be helpful to anyone struggling with that movement;
Overall, an excellent response to the challenge of selecting from and displaying the less common movements in SCD, so that dancers and teachers with limited opportunities may explore them.
Again, congratulations to the Red Thistle Dancers for having undertaken a very difficult task, and producing an excellent video. It should have the effect of encouraging dancers to review their own performance, and to seek out opportunities, such as workshops and summer schools, where they may work and exchange ideas with others. If it does, I'm sure the Red Thistle collective will feel well rewarded. "
Reviews of "Scottish Country Dancing with the Red Thistle Dancers Part 2"
Heather Sykes, RSCDS teacher, U.S. - Lady Lake, Florida:
" The whole package was so well done; it must have been quite something to have been involved in the making of it. I just sat in awe of the wonderful dancing and the cleverly put together transitions - I've just been playing it over and over again. I can't wait for our demo team to see it; they make a fuss when I suggest combining two dances - they have no idea what I have in mind for them now! I'm all fired up and ready to go!
The music is going to be so useful too - just exactly what I've been dreaming about for so long. We've been making CDs for demos, playing them three times through and then adding a chord on the end but they never sound quite right. I only had music for two different 3 x 32 reels so this has always been a problem. Now I have enough to keep me happy for a very long time!
Watching the video was like seeing my dreams come alive before my very eyes except that your dreams were even cleverer than mine! I always wanted to do what you did but never had the caliber of dancers, the number of good dancers or a way of doing the music like I wanted to do. I have to say though that your end result far exceeded anything that I've ever thought of doing - it was poetry in motion - absolutely great!
The video and book has given me lots of ideas and expanded my whole outlook on how to present demos in a more entertaining way and I can't wait to get going on it. Our group has even agreed to carry on meeting throughout the summer to work on some new ideas so I'm hopeful we'll make a major breakthrough here! If not, I'm moving to California! "
Jimmie Lomath, Director, Celtic Spirit, U.S. - Los Angeles, California:
" A Thrill to Watch and Learn From -
One can only watch and marvel at the level of perfection evident in the collection of dances performed by the Red Thistle Dancers on this video, a project led by dance mistress Jennifer Kelly which was two years in the making.
In lighting, costume, and makeup, the blend of colours results in a very “Scottish Tapestry.” The dance performance with so many simple figures executed so well all combine to produce such a beautiful harmony on stage, all of which could not have happened without the dedication and hard work of all involved.
It was a thrill to watch the love of and passion for the dance shine throughout. This video is intended to show how one can utilize SCD for performances at all levels and should provide both encouragement and a valuable tool to others in the RSCDS family. As a judge, I would give this project a 10. A perfect mark well deserved by all. This to me is a level we all strive for and few attain.
It is such a fitting tribute to Kim McGarrity, who dedicated so much time and work to this project. I sincerely hope it will be embraced by both the dancing and music community alike. I look forward eagerly to the next video.
Thank you Jennifer, Kim, and the Red Thistle Dancers for sharing your great talent. "