Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Dark Island

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

The Dark Island
Reuben Freemantle  www.scottish-country-dancing-dictionary.com
Medley   (3 x S32 + 3 x R32) bars   3 Couple Repeat   3 Couple Set   Lengthwise Set
Strathspey:

  1-2   All turn partners by the right, finishing on own sides of the centre line, right shoulder to right shoulder, Mn facing up, Ls down;

  3-14 all dance reel of six up and down the centre line, finishing 1s 2s 3s as at bar 3;

15-16 3s take both hands, turn once round and dance out to original places finishing facing in, WHILE 1s 2s take both hands with partners and turn three quarters, finishing on the centre line, Mn facing up, Ls down;

17-22 1s2s dance the first six bars of highland schottische poussette;

23-24 2s complete the highland schottische poussette normally WHILE 1s turn with both hands 1½ times, WHILE 3s advance and turn three quarters with both hands finishing 2s in 1st place, 1s 3s on the centre line, retaining hold with partners, Ls above Mn;

25-32 1s3s dance highland schottische poussette, finishing 2s3s1s.

Reel:

  1-14 As bars 1-14 of the strathspey;

15-16 all take both hands and turn once round (skip change), 3s releasing hold and dancing out to original places finishing facing in, WHILE 1s 2s, retaining hold, finish facing each other on own sides of the centre line;

17-22 1s2s dance the first six bars of poussette;

23-24 2s complete the poussette normally WHILE 1s set, retaining both hands hold WHILE 3s set advancing to take both hands, finishing 2s in 1st place, 1s above 3s on own sides of the centre line;

25-32 1s3s dance poussette, finishing 2s3s1s.

(MAXICRIB, Scottish country dancing instructions compiled by Reuben Freemantle)


Dance Notes

Note that the Strathspey and Reel parts of a Medley with this format can be performed independently.

This dance is intended to flow seamlessly from one figure to the next as far as possible so that, at the end of every phrase, the dancers are facing in the correct direction for the beginning of the next phrase.

  3-14 With this starting point of the reel of six, all start and finish on own sides of the centre line, right shoulder to right shoulder, Mn facing up, Ls down.

  3-4   1M, at the top, 3L, at the bottom, dance clockwise loops to finish in the positions vacated by their partners at bar 3 WHILE 1L2M 2L3M pass giving left shoulder to finish 2M 3M on the Mn's side facing up, 1L 2L on the Ls' side facing down, 2M1M 3M1L 3L2L right shoulder to right shoulder;
all have now progressed one position clockwise around the set, finishing 2M3M3L on the Mn's side of the centre line, 1M1L2L on the Ls'.

  5-6   All repeat bars 3-4 from the new positions, finishing 3M3L2L on the Mn's side of the centre line, 2M1M1L on the Ls'.

  7-8   All repeat bars 3-4 from the new positions, finishing 3L2L1L on the Mn's side of the centre line, 3M2M1M on the Ls' (note that this is the halfway point in the reel of six).

  9-14 All repeat bars 3-8 from the new positions, finishing 1s 2s 3s as at bar 3.

15-16 In the reel, the turn with both hands is with skip change, not pas-de-basque.

17-     In the strathspey, 1M 2L change foot to start the highland schottische poussette.

23-     In the strathspey, 1L 2M change foot to start; 2s1s cover when turning with both hands.

24-24 In the strathspey, 1s3s cover when turning with both hands.

25-     In the strathspey, 3M 1L change foot to start the highland schottische poussette.

31-32 In the strathspey, 1L 3M change foot to start; 3s1s cover when turning with both hands three quarters.

(Dance Notes by the deviser, Reuben Freemantle)


Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams


Dance Information

The Dark Island (An t-Eilean Dorcha) is the name used in Gaelic poetry for Benbecula (Beinn na Faoghla), the island in the Outer Hebrides (Na h-Eileanan Siar) which is joined by causeways to North Uist (Uibhist a' Tuath) and South Uist (Uibhist a' Deas).

These three islands are nowadays linked by another causeway to Eriskay (Eiriosgaigh) and then via a small vehicle ferry to Barra (Barraidh). The dance is so-named because the main road in these five islands is shaped like a reel of six with a loop at either end (North Uist and Barra), joined by a spine road through Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay and the Barra ferry. Many parts of the road are single track with passing places, again reminiscent of the middle part of the reel.

The Dark Island is also the name of a Gaelic waltz (and a slow air) by the late Iain McLachlan, the great button-box player from Benbecula. In the early 1990s, shortly before his untimely death, he played at weekends in the bar of the, sadly now defunct, Clachan Beag Hotel in Castlebay (Bagh a' Chaisteil). The deviser and his wife have fond memories of dancing to Iain's music there on a "postage stamp" floor: The Canadian Barn Dance, The Schottische (also remembered in the strathspey part of this dance) and, of course, Iain's own, renowned Gaelic waltz.

Iain McLachlan Playing 'The Dark Island' - Video On YouTube

The Dark Island Image
View southwards over Loch na Faoilinn, Benbecula, with the distant hills of South Uist on the horizon.

Loch na Faoilinn is one of the myriad of freshwater lochs on the island. The Gaelic name means "The Gull Loch"; it should be pronounced as "Loch n~ Foeu~llinn" in English with stress on the first syllable.
Note that the symbol "~" represents the very short, indeterminate, vowel sound; note also that "ll" represents the long form of "l" as in "million" in English, "oeu" is pronounced as in "coeur" in French and ch is as in the normal Scottish pronunciation of "loch".



Dance Information by the deviser, Reuben Freemantle.
Image Copyright Barbara Carr under this Creative Commons Licence.

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