I have just returned from the funeral of Emlen Cresson, a founding member of the Delaware Valley Branch, RSCDS. Emlen was there, with his wife, Ruth, at the McNair home in Swarthmore, on the night 41 years ago that a fun and friendly group of Scottish dancers decided to become part of the RSCDS (Ruth passed away in November). As I sat in the service, I realized that more and more of that old guard of founders are leaving us. A generation is passing on.
They loved Scottish dancing as much as we do and were incredibly dedicated to this hobby. The Branch was much simpler in the early days. There were classes at the Hurds, twice-monthly social dances at the McNair home, Hogmanay (which was then a McNair home party, with invitations hand-calligraphied in Gaelic) and spring ball. There was also a class at Bryn Mawr. That was it! No workshops, no Delaware or Chestnut Hill classes, no newsletter, no fees except for hall rental for balls, and of course, no website. It was just a group of people who were passionate about Scottish country dancing. A few took it quite seriously and attended to details of technique, but there was lots of silliness, mischief and general fooling around. Tea was a grand occasion after every class and party.
We’ve grown and changed over the years. New classes, new halls, new teachers, a budget, a publicity committee, a demonstration class, classes at three area colleges, three balls a year, a garden party, publicity brochures, a website and on and on.
The Branch has evolved, as organizations must, responding to the times, the demands of a bigger organization, changes in geography of dancers and teachers, and different levels of interest. What has not changed is the magic of the dancing itself and the music that drives and inspires the dance.
At the Emlen’s funeral, I encountered Ted Handy, one of the old guard, who was one of the most fun (and mischievous) dancers at the McNair house. He began to reminisce about the ‘good old days’ but was delighted to hear the Branch continues and grows. He kept saying, “It’s so great that you’re all still dancing.” We are “all still dancing.” The faces, halls and even many of the dances and music have changed. But the passion and enjoyment have not.
Thank you to those founders who started this Branch, and thanks to the many remarkable individuals who’ve kept it going along the way.