By Bernie Bell
It’s been a reasonable year for harvest, here on Orkney. The summer weather was kind to us, and folk mostly got their crops in before the October winds hit. And so, soon the Harvest Homes will be happening. The Harvest Home traditionally consists of a good feed, a few speeches by local worthies, then a good dance. If the harvest has been good, celebrate. If the harvest has been poor – forget about it for an evening and have a good time.
When we first moved to Orkney, we lived in Stenness, and went to dancing classes in the school on a Saturday evening. As we learnt the dances, I wrote them in a note book – being optimistic, I wrote “Dance! Dance! Dance!” on the front of it. We learnt enough to be able to go to Ceilidhs, and dance the easy ones.
Step forward a few years, we live in Rendall parish, and Mike works at ICIT. Each year students from ICIT like to come to the Rendall Harvest Home, and they love it. A real taste of Orkney life. Many of them are from far-away places, and don’t know the dances, so it falls to the ‘old hands’ to show them what to do. There are also the new arrivals to Orkney, as we once were, who would like to dance but don’t know the steps. So…I thought I’d do a short series of easy dance instructions, enough to get by with and have a good night out. They are what I wrote in my notebook, so they should be easy to follow, as I’m no expert myself!
I should mention, that different islands, or even parishes, sometimes have slightly different steps for dances of the same name. At one dance, I requested a Westray One-step as we were there with some folk from Westray, and the man on the band, knew it as something else. My instructions use the steps I learnt in Stenness. If folk around you are doing something slightly different, my advice is to keep stepping and smiling, and folk tend to think you know what you’re doing anyway! The main thing, is to have a good dance.
Here’s the first one.
The Eva Three-Step
Clasp partner round waist or hold hands, side by side. Dance forward for three steps, kick. Person on the right hand side ( for the sake of ease – let’s say the ‘lady’) passes in front of the person on the left hand side ( the ’man’) They both clap. The ‘lady’ passes back to the right, behind the ‘man’. They join hand again and go backward for three steps. They then both dance along the line of the dance, turning out and twirling round as they do so. Then they do a quick waltz round, along the line of the dance. If you don’t know how to waltz – just twizzle round, until you learn!
Dancing – one of the oldest and most wide-spread ways for folk to enjoy themselves – and get to know each other!