By Anastazja Kolodziej
The fiddler started to play when Guy Armantrout turned and bowed to his partner.
His partner, Helen Roth, curtsied back.
They entangled their hands in a position called the “promenade hold” and swung around to switch places with the couple behind them.
His kilt was longer than her skirt.
This was the start of one of the many dances featured at the 10th year anniversary celebration for the University of Maryland’s Royal Scottish Country Dance club. Some college students spend their Sundays doing homework or sleeping in. Others use the day to participate in traditional Scottish dances from the 18th century.
As the couple in front of them began their part of the dance, Roth caught her partner’s eye.
“Guy, what do we do next?” she asked. Her mind was blank.
Six dance groups from the Washington area traveled to the Colony Ballroom at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union in College Park Oct. 21 for the university club’s anniversary celebration. The club, and the other six groups, are all part of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society’s Washington branch.
The event was not a competition, nor was it a performance. Royal Scottish country dance is a “social dance,” which values teamwork and collaboration.
“One of the things about Scottish country dancing is that it’s very social and spouses are usually split up,” Bill Wallace, a member of the College Park class and the group’s substitute dance instructor, said. “Part of the social aspect is to help other dancers. A classic rule of Scottish country dancing — someone gives you a hand, take it!”
Bill Wallace and his wife Betsy have been doing Scottish country dancing for 13 years and have been a part of the club since it was formed 10 years ago. But they are not the longest-dancing members of the club. Not even close.
Professor Howard Lasnik has been Scottish country dancing for 51 years.
Lasnik, a professor of linguistics at the University of Maryland, is the Scottish country dance instructor for the College Park class.
“In 1990, I decided to give back to the Scottish dance community and took the year-long training course and exam to become a prelim,” he said. He became fully certificated three years later.
The classes at the university are unique from the rest of the Washington branch in that both students and residents of College Park participate.
“It’s a very positive way to hold someone’s hand and look in each other’s eyes,” said Kim Lugo, 58. Lugo dances as a part of the College Park group and is the president of the Greenbelt class.
“The music is very uplifting. People are a lot of fun. The patterns are amazing,” she said. “There’s 1,500 dances to learn, and I know about 10 by heart.”
Rhianna McConnell, the university club president, also participates for the social aspect of the dance. She started dancing two years ago.
“I saw it on the calendar, and I told my roommates, let’s just go, let’s just see what it’s like,” she said. “And then everyone was so nice, I just kept coming back.”
At the anniversary celebration, the members performed dance after dance for an hour and a half straight. As each dance ended, the dancers would stretch, drink water and talk, but once the band started to play again, everyone found a new partner and set themselves up on the floor.
As the fiddler began playing her tune, Lasnik walked up to the microphone to emcee the next dance. Along with several other members of the College Park class, he wore a bright yellow shirt. The back had written “Royal Scottish Country Dance Club” and a turtle with a tartan shell.
His shirt said “fear the kilt.”
Featured Photo Credit: Royal Scottish country dancers grab hands (Anastasia Kolodziej/Bloc Reporter).
Anastazja Kolodziej is a sophomore journalism and classics major and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.