First steps

Yep, and we’re still on Hawaii.

A pre-dancing breakfast is underway when we eventually clamber up to the Eugene and Harriet Ichinose Dance Palladium. I’m not sure whether Aloha wear was encouraged this morning, but since they’ve got this treasure theme and we spotted two skulls among the floral arrangements on the snacks table last night, April has assured me that wearing a pink t-shirt decorated with silver guitars and skulls with my checked slacks would be entirely appropriate. From the looks from the assembled breakfast eaters, the Honolulu branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society do not agree. Even my tartan Converse don’t seem to be much of a concession in the eyes of my morning’s dance partners. I’m the only one in sight not wearing a voluminous skirt of some sort, including the men.

I chat to this morning’s Bruce, seemingly a compulsory name for Scottish country dance instructors on the island of Oahu. This one is a musician from the Unpronounceable Fish and Strathspey Society Band. He seems to like my t-shirt slightly better than the other dancers. Word has gone round and about half of the 30 or so people seem to know that the only one with a Scottish accent in the dance pavilion this morning has never done a step of Scottish dancing. Soon we’re inside and straight into strenuous exercises and practice dance steps, stretching upwards, leaning forwards, lurching one way, galloping the other.

Hawaii’s state tartan was recognised in 2008 and I spy it on a sprightly woman who turns out to be Mrs Herring, mother of Douglas Herring, the Hawaiian tartan designer. The designer’s dad is also here. I manage to step on both their toes during the opening bars of the first dance of the morning. I’m hurtled from one dancer to another. It’s like being a colt, paraded round one way, then another. Soon Lillian comes to be my partner, saving other people’s toes from being trodden on by my inappropriate footwear. “Try to dance on your toes. See I’m already giving you refinements,” says Lillian encouragingly.

There’s some skipping in pairs in a wide circle, then some skipping back and forth opposite a variety of people, several wee curtsey skips and a significant amount of sideways skipping. Then it gets complicated. I find myself dashing round the third man opposite, pelting off in the opposite direction and attempting not to crash into other dancers. Mostly I just flail about and dance circles round anyone unlucky enough to pause even momentarily opposite me. If you sketched out the dance steps and directions of this bit of the day’s first taught dance, Jenny’s Gentle Jig, it would look something like a nice floral pattern with neat pearl stitches. My version looks like a five year’s old first mangled scarf for their granny. I am just as proud. When I stagger through the first chunk of my first jig, I am exultant—I know where the pointy end is!

As soon as I’ve memorized one set of moves, fish band Bruce adds another. Then another. Just when I think I’ve got the hang of all jig manoeuvres and where I’m supposed to advance, retire, cast, gallop in a panicstruck manner round the second gentleman substitute, do a reel of threes with the first and the third woman, two more people join the group and I’m lost. My version of Jenny’s Gentle Jig ranks somewhere between a bewildered three-legged race and how I might look had I stumbled barefoot onto a patch of particularly prickly pineapples. After a few more friendly shoves, points and yet more galloping and uneven lurching round people, I realise that I have triumphantly done my first Scottish country dance. There is a huddle of people congratulating me. A couple of others sidle over to see what the fuss is about and seem genuinely surprised on hearing that that was my first ever attempt. I take this as the finest praise possible.

The fiddles start tuning up again. I look at April and back at the dancers assembling for another three and a half hours of dancing, we say our goodbyes and head off into the scorching hot Honolulu morning.

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4 Responses to First steps

  1. Tony Docherty September 5, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    Jeez, Bruce’s kilt’s waaaay higher than his belly button. I think he needs a lesson on how to hang his sporran.

    Bluddy hell, why am I saying this?

  2. ed ichinose July 21, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    sorry for taking so long to reply.

    yes they were dancelicious!
    arrgh yes yes

    ed ichinose

  3. ed ichinose June 7, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    my name is edmund ichinose. eugene and harriet ichinose were my grandparents! im glad to see things are going on.

    • thescottishambassador June 9, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

      Ahoy Edmund! Your grandparents have a fine dance pavilion named after them! Were they keen dancers?

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