Students trade books for dancing shoes with Scottish dance club

By Mohan Xu

When college students go dancing, many head for the club. A few University of Maryland students headed somewhere a bit different this week—to the Mathematics Building Rotunda.

On Wednesday, Oct. 2 students met for a Scottish Country Dancing class led by Howard Lasnik, a professor in the Department of Linguistics and certified Scottish Country Dance teacher.

“I’ve been doing Scottish country dancing since 1967, and have always enjoyed it,” Lansik said.“I started teaching this kind of dancing in 1991, partly as a way to pay back the community.”

Lasnik has been teaching this particular group at the university for about 11 years. He originally co-taught the class with Ellen Ternes, a former university employee. The class meets every Wednesday evening that school is in session.  

There are three kinds of dances being taught during the class —jigs and reels, which are fast dances, and strathspeys, which are slow. Lasnik said two kinds of music are used for these dances. The first kind is “The Lea Rig,” used for the slow strathspey. The second, “Corn Rigs,” applies to fast dances. 

“The steps in jigs and reels are called skip change of step, pas de basque and slip step,” shared Lasnik. However, it is different in the strathspeys. “In strathspeys, the steps are strathspey traveling step and strathspey setting step.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Lansik said the slower dance is usually a little harder than the faster ones, though “there are a few dozen basic figures that occur in all these rhythms.”

Students paired up to practice dancing, interacting with own partners, but also other pairs. They faced each other and moved  around a square. Finally, it forms as geometric pattern. 

Lasnik shared that the process is like American baseball. Students should go to the first base, second base, third base and home base. 

 “The biggest reason I came here to dance is because I am from Scotland and it is a culture thing,” linguistics graduate student Craig Thorburn said. “It is a fun thing to do here, though my technique probably isn’t great.”  

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