That's me on the left in blue, Lisa in front wearing white, in the early 1980's

This mini-memoir is for the Red Dress Club prompt “rhythm.”

Hornpipe shuffles are exactly opposite of Seann Triubhas shuffles. They go out-in instead of in-out. All those years of Highland Dance, all those hours of practice, all the work of mastering the Fling, Sword, Triubhas, Strathspey, two different reels and several national dances, all in anticipation of finally being allowed to learn the Hornpipe and Jig… and I have to re-learn shuffles all over again.

It was hard enough getting them down in the first place. A Scottish Highland shuffle is not a sloppy, casual move. You have to start with your foot extended all the way out, and the position has some overly long name like mid-fourth-aerial-low. When you brush your working foot inwards, it has to come exactly into third position before it goes back out again. Yes, you have to hit the outer position, and the inner, and then the outer again, all in the space of one beat of music, and you only get one jump. Once you’ve got that, then you have to learn to do several in a row, and you have to be able to either do them all on the same foot, or switch back and forth. And jump high. And turn out. And don’t drop your heels. And… and…

A hornpipe shuffle is supposed to give the impression of being casual and free, but it is just as precise as a highland shuffle. Besides being out-in, you don’t actually start in a tight third position. You start above it. You don’t have to do a bunch in a row, but you do have to combine it with other movements. A shuffle-over-the-buckle goes “Hop down, shuffle, beat-beat, shuffle.”  Read that with the emphasis on the second syllable in each pair. “Hop down, shuffle, beat-beat, shuffle.” The break goes “Hop down, shuffle, hop down, shuffle, hop down, step, close.”

Worst of all, it’s syncopated. When the music is going by at what seems like breakneck speed, the count isn’t da, da, da, da, it’s ba-da, ba-da, ba-da, ba-da. Most dancers end up combining the down and the shuff in “Hop down shuffle.” You can tell a good dancer by their ability to fit in every movement, exactly on the correct beat.

Good dancers are in sync… syncopation.

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I’ve never tried embedding a video in a post before. Let’s see how it works! For those of you unfamiliar with Scottish Highland Dancing, see if you can identify when they all do the break (at the end of every step) If you can do that, see if you can catch the syncopation in the second step, which is almost all shuffle-0ver-the-buckle. You can tell when they get to the third step, because all the dancers chose different steps to do.  This video was uploaded to Youtube by Heather Zox, Queen Mary Scottish Dance Championship 2011, Long Beach, California, Featuring U.S. champion dancer: AMY MARIE HURWITZ (#168, white on right)