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An in – depth study of the
Modern Sequence Dancing Bird
An evolutionary process has been taking place over the last few years, which, although unnoticed by the majority, must be of absorbing interest to naturalists and others. I refer of course , to the increase in the species known as the Modern Sequence Dancing Bird.
Normally there is little to distinguish them from the average domestic type except possibly for certain sureness in their movements and an aura of ‘joie de vivre’. [That’s French for the “ Joy of Living “]
It is at their ‘Meetings’, where these birds flock in their natural habitat, that they can be seen in all their glory. The “Meetings”, often called Dances or Classes (depending on what the charge is for admission) are usually held in School Halls, Church Halls, Community Centres, Working Men’s Clubs and even Ballrooms. It is here that the flocks indulge in the activity from which they take their name, i.e. Modern Sequence Dancing.
The size of the meeting place seems not to he important as the flock, probably relying on a instinctive use of some form of Parkinson’s Law, adjusts its size to fill the space available. There are two essential requirements, a GOOD floor and a PERCH for each member of the flock. The PERCH is actually more important than the floor, which may surprise the casual observer given that so little time is spent on the PERCH compared to time spent on the floor. Careful observation however reveals that intense communication and social intercourse takes place from the PERCH. Having a PERCH is one of the prime rules of the species.
It could be assumed that a member of the flock may take any PERCH but further observation reveals that each bird perches in the same place each week and will resist strongly any attempt at encroachment on their territory. Observe the experienced stranger on his first visit to one of the colonies and he will be seen to carry out a curious routine. He will present himself for admission some ten or fifteen minutes after the flock has assembled. Should a dance be in progress when he enters the hall he will stand perfectly still and admire the decor, read a notice on the wall, tie his shoe lace, or visit the toilet, until the dance has ended. When all the dancers are back on their perches he will settle on a PERCH well away from the rest. On no account will he remove from any PERCH a scarf, shoe, handbag, cardigan or such, for by that sign he will know that that particular PERCH has been reserved for an absent member of the flock. A count at one meeting revealed that when the dance began, although there were only 15 members of the flock present, 47 perches were reserved.
An M.C. who the flock accepts as their natural leader governs the dances. The M.C. tells the flock which dance they are to do and, with the help of his mate, shows them how it is performed. Having persuaded most of the flock onto the floor the M.C. will often leave his mate and take up one of the hen birds that still remain perched. When the dance ends all of the flock return to their perches to chatter to each other whilst the M.C. looks at a Script to see how to do the next dance.
Dances, although differing from each other, have one thing in common, they must be performed in a laid down sequence and all pairs must do the same part of that sequence at the same time. To make sure that no one is in any doubt, M.C. moves amongst his flock uttering cries of Whisk! Feather! Twinkle! Telemark! Fishtail! which although so much gibberish to the untutored, it serves to bring his flock into line and helps to enhance his leadership role. Individualism is frowned upon; M.C. quickly puts any offender in their place, and persistent nonconformists are escorted back to their perches, there they sit for a while ostracized by the rest of the flock, finally they conform.
Whilst the M.S.D.Bird is remorseless towards those who will not toe the “party line’, it is just as ready to help those who show the least inclination to “have a go’. Every breast in the flock seems to swell with an urge to impart knowledge to the ignorant and many a seasoned member can be seen explaining to a following pair a particular routine or step presumably to convince the novices that the M.C.’s cry of ‘Fishtail!’ was not meant as an expression of opinion or as personal abuse.
The mating habits of these birds seem to follow a pretty general pattern, even if somewhat Victorian in nature, in that most cock birds dance most of the dances with the same mate. The exceptions are Progressive Dances where partners change at regular intervals, gyrating madly in a ritual orgy, each dancing with the other, which usually ends up with all concerned drinking vast quantities of tea. Occasionally the most promiscuous cock bird can be seen choosing a different partner for each dance but he soon becomes known as a cuckoo in the nest. The only one to indulge regularly in such
behaviour is the M.C.
Dances are performed to the accompaniment of music usually provided by a music centre but occasionally by musicians. Music centres are generally preferred because they are cheaper and also because of the timing, which can be adjusted by the M.C. to suit the needs of the dancers, who will often complain about the speed of the music. Dancers generally dislike musicians because they do not seem to have a good knowledge of 16 bar sequence phrasing of the music, and often appear to be playing for their own entertainment. Occasionally their presence is welcomed but this is only because the Flock and the M.C. can then unite in joint complaints with regard to tempo, volume and the like.
This tendency to complain appears to be inherent in the species. Regularly heard comments include: “It’s stuffy or draughty in here”. “They are not very good dancers”. “I wish they wouldn’t pose so much”. “This floor is too slippery”. “The floor is so sticky”. The music is too fast or too slow or loud or quiet or has no beat! Etc. etc..
New sequence dances are collected with the same enthusiasm that Red Indians collected scalps and usually for the same reason, so that they can show off their prowess to their less capable or less adventurous colleagues. Some members of the flock often travel vast distances to learn a new dance i.e., Blackpool, Bridlington ,Stoke on Trent,
,Scotland, or “ down South “ or the Midlands, and on their return to the home meeting place, will use every trick in the book to persuade the M.C. that they should demonstrate their newfound knowledge.
In so doing they will earn the admiration, or envy or derision of the rest of the flock. The M.C. usually stays ahead of these cocky birds with a device known as a “script”, which, bristling with PP. CBMP. BOF. BWF. and the like; is nearly as easy to decipher as the “Dead Sea Scrolls”
To say that the characteristics of the MSD bird are intolerant,// demanding,// inconsistent,// extroverted // and quick to take offence! (Traits not unknown in the human species) would be less than fair. Unlike Modern Ballroom and Latin dancers, they really do enjoy their dancing for it’s own sake and not as an excuse for drinking alcohol.
Not only do they enjoy their dancing but also they can be seen to be doing so if one looks beyond the frowns and grimaces directed at the band or the M.C . Furthermore they are very generous, and will support any worthy cause that they are made aware of. They also revel in the spirit engendered by ‘Fancy Dress’ and will join in with gusto on any such occasion.
In conclusion, it must be stressed, that while the facts presented in the foregoing are substantially true, taken and revised and edited from an anonymous article of many years ago [with acknowledgments to who ever it may concern] ---- it is possible that the impressions that I have offered, after only 40 years experience, are totally wrong, because I am, after all,
only a Dance Teacher.
Fen . M, IDTA. M . UKA.