The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
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Information: Bruce Hamilton, teacher of Scottish country dance.
Bruce began Scottish country dancing in 1967, at college, and immediately fell in love with it. He is particularly fond of its simultaneous power and elegance, and also its music. He was one of the founding teachers of the San Diego Branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, and moved to Mountain View in 1976. Bruce Hamilton is a thoughtful and energetic teacher of English and Scottish country dancing. He started dancing in college, and took up teaching in the early 1970s. He founded the San Jose English dance and has taught English country dancing all over the United States and abroad.
Bruce also loves and teaches English dance -- country, morris, and sword. He is a founding member of the Deer Creek Morris Men, a regular participant in The Christmas Revels, and serves on the board of the Country Dance and Song Society, the umbrella organization for English dancing in North America. Bruce is president of the Country Dance and Song Society.
Bruce helped start the Mountain View / San Jose English Dance series in the late 1970s, and started the Berkeley Experienced English Dance in 1988 as a regular English dance based at Oakland's Glenview Schoolin early 1989. Unlike the other regular English dances that the Bay Area Country Dance Society (BACDS) operates, this dance assumes that dancers are already familiar with the basic vocabulary of English country dance figure. This implies that dancers will have a more enjoyable time at this dance if they have attended a couple of regular English country dances beforehand.
Bruce has been focusing on non-choreographic elements of English Country Dance (ECD): how to move well, how to be musical, how to recover from slips, how to be a good partner, body mechanics, and the social and mental aspects. He doesn’t teach many new or complex dances (claims he can’t remember them!) but instead focuses on skills that apply across all dances. He carries this focus into his sought after callers’ classes, which he’s done for the last couple of decades. Training ECD teachers is relatively unexplored territory and it's very exciting. Learning to teach takes years, but even in a weekend or week-long mini-course he's been able to point students in useful directions, and some have made great strides.
Bruce has taught English and Scottish country dancing in the Bay Area for many years. He has become one of the country’s most popular English dance leaders, with invitations to many festivals and summer dance camps each year. In the spring of 1993, Bruce was featured dance leader with the band Bare Necessities on a sell-out dance tour of England. He has served on the board of directors of the Country Dance and Song Society since the 1990s and is the current president of the organization.
Bruce and his wife Jo have trained several of our local teachers, and occasionally teach workshops outside the Bay Area.
By day, Bruce is a computer scientist at Hewlett-Packard. He doesn't have any hobbies besides dancing -- not enough nights in the week!
He has taught at the Mendocino Folklore Camp, the Pinewoods English Dance Week, the Family Week at Timber Ridge, and the Stockton Folk Dance Camp.
In an e-mail received from Bruce he says, "I work from a collection of about 500 dances (with new ones arriving all the time) and teach whatever seems appropriate for the group in front of me. I'm interested in how the dancers move, how they give weight, how they match the music, how well they work with their partners, etc. In a workshop setting I also review the fundamentals of turns, heys, Rights and Lefts, and other figures. I pick dances that will help these people work on those skills. When the event is over, a few people will ask for the directions to a few of the dances but that’s not the point. Mostly people thank me for broadening their perspective, for showing how gate turns really work, for getting the group to use the space, etc. With folk dancers I'm missing the foundation that I build on when I teach a country or contra dance group, so we go much slower, of course. Stockton Camp's recommended pace of two dances per hour was about right, and I know that people want to take home dances to teach their classes, and I am happy to provide names, directions, teaching tips, and anything else."
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