In my last post, I talked about my experience attending University of Atlantia’s 93rd session. In this post, I want to talk a bit about the classes I took and my overall takeaway from camping and the event itself.
University offered six one-hour periods, and I signed up for five classes (one a double) to fill them.
Introductory English Country Dance
I found the SCA in 1988 and probably did my first SCA dancing in 1989. I’ve continued to take every possible opportunity to dance since I lost my eyesight, and though that hasn’t been often, I was sure I could handle this class.
At the beginning of the class, I let my fellow dancers know I was familiar with the dances but couldn’t see and might need verbal direction rather than just visual cues.
The class turned out to be a mixture of English Country Dance and bransles. That was fine with me, since I enjoy those too!
We did Sellinger’s Ronde, Maltese Bransle, Official Bransle, and War Bransle. (There may have been another in there, but I can’t remember it if there was.) We walked through Gathering Peascods, but time ran out before we got to dance it.
This was a fun class! I ended up knowing all the dances we did except War Bransle. I didn’t quite pick up the somewhat complicated chorus on that one, but I don’t think I was the only dancer who had that problem!
Improvization for SCA Life
I expected this class to cover suggestions for staying true to one’s historical persona and perhaps speaking more “forsoothly,” using period words and speech patterns. Instead, it centered around a more theatrical kind of improvization.
The instructor encouraged us to build on what our partner had just said, to establish a conversational rapport with our partner, and to build a mental reserve of “bits of business” that could be pulled out when other material ran dry.
To finish the class, we did several improvizational exercises, which felt a lot like games.
We went around in a circle, each person contributing a word that fit a given category, like “Things in a Garden”. We made up a story sentence by sentence, each person topping the previous contribution with, “Yes, and” Finally, we played a game where one person would begin singing a song, and when they faltered or looked around the circle for help, another jumped in.
I really enjoyed the class, though I was quite overheated by the end and I think it showed. Several times I had a concept in mind, and absolutely blanked on the words I needed.
I realize everyone has those moments, but in my case I suspect there may be some lingering aphasia from the trauma my brain went through. Frustrating! But if that is the case, I think practicing improvization games is a good way to exercise that part of my brain and possibly decrease the effects.
Introduction to Bobbin Lace
This was the class I most wanted. I’d been trying to teach myself bobbin lace from instructions posted on the internet (Don’t laugh – I’ve taught myself both kumihimo and stick weaving that way since losing my vision!( but wanted to see how the concepts I was reading played out in the real world. I also had some questions about notation and how I might be able to follow it.
It was also the class I most dreaded. I knew from previous observation in my sighted life that bobbin lace involved a lot of fiddly little pieces – the bobbins and pins – and relatively fine thread. I wasn’t sure my fingers would be able to keep up, and I didn’t want to be a drag on the class or a burden to the instructor.
Several times I considered dropping the class in favor of something less challenging, but in the end I figured it might be a long time since I got another chance to learn this. In the end, I decided to go for it. If I didn’t keep up with the other students, I’d focus on learning as much as I could and applying the concepts at home.
In the end, the class was a mixed success for me.
The bobbins were indeed small and fiddly, smaller even than regular bobbins, and tended to unwind themselves unexpectedly. They also kept popping out of line so that it was hard to know which pair a loose bobbin belonged with. The patterns weren’t pre-pricked, so I had to ask my seatmates or the instructor for help placing each pin.
On the plus side, I was easily able to manage the movements and stitches once I had the right pairs of bobbins in my hands. I learned that there is a notation that goes with the pricked pattern and that I can follow. And we all left with the instructor’s reassurance that “as long as you’re twisting and crossing, you’re making bobbin lace!” So now I won’t get quite so hung up on the patterns!
The Classes I Missed: Basic and Intermediate Gresley Dances
As I mentioned in my previous post, by the time I finished the bobbin lace class, I was exhausted and overheated. I was able to rest and recover somewhat in the shade at camp, but every time the sun fell on me, I felt weak and exhausted all over again.
I might have been able to sit through a lecture class or do some basic crafting, but I knew dancing would be a bad idea.
Here’s what I remember about the Gresley dances from a class I took a couple years ago:
The Gresley dances are in the process of being reconstructed from a student’s dance notes jotted down in a ledger dating from the 1450s. Both notes and music are incomplete, and it’s not always clear which steps go with what music.
The dances I remember doing consisted of simple steps such as singles, doubles, and turns. They’d be great for dance beginners or teaching to kids at demos. I do hope that I get a chance to take the classes, perhaps in a setting with air conditioning!
I learned a lot from this University, and not just from the classes! Here, in no particular order, are some of my lasting thoughts and impressions:
- I like camping! The four of us had a great time,a nd have agreed that we want to do it again, though maybe in cooler weather.
- I am not at all acclimated to the heat and sun any more! I need a cooler outfit and a hat, and a sunshade for our encampment wouldn’t hurt.
- I seem to have or be developing an innate sence of direction which helps me learn and navigate unfamiliar areas. By the end of the weekend, I was navigating the bathhouse and our campsite relatively easily. The sun helped me keep track of compass directions, and I suspect that after a few more days, I might have started navigating the paths and roads solo. This far exceeded what I thought I’d be able to do and was a great confidence builder! That said…
- There was always someone willing to help. In our group, MrH and Z were always willing to take me places or describe things to me. D probably would have, too, but it didn’t really come up. In general, people were happy to help me get places, read or describe things for me, or help in other small ways I admit, I kind of expected as much at an SCA event, but again, it was a great confidence builder.
- If we go camping again, I’d like to get some kind of noisemaker to post on or near our tent to help guide me to it. I’m thinking either a tiny windchime or a buzzer or bell I can set off with a small remote. Whatever it is, it should be pleasant or quiet so as not to disturb any neighbors.
- This time around, I was content to let MrH, Z and D do most of the setup and takedown, but especially if MrH and I are going to go on our own, I’d like to be more involved. I think one of these weekends MrH and I should set up our own tent and mark the poles for front, back and center so I can ID them. I’d also like to learn to use the camp stove.
- MrH and I need to get out more! It’s been rough because of tight finances, but it was so great for both of us to have some time away from work, chores, and the same old same old.
- I need more projects! MrH took a bookbinding class, in which participants sewed together a small book with folded pages and a leather cover. As I felt it, I thought, “I could do that!” I spent most of the way home thinking of ideas for books and what I might be able to print in them.
- I can definitely do bobbin lace, though I may need to start with bigger materials so my fingers can see what I’m doing. I’m thinking of using cotton crochet yarn with peg-style clothespins for bobbins. If MrH will print out the pricking and make the holes for me, I should be able to work with it.
- I can also see the potential for doing more freehand bobbin lace. “As long as you’re crossing and twisting, you’re making lace!” may well become my new motto! lol
So as you can see, I had a great time at University of Atlantia! I’m glad I went, and I couldn’t have asked for better company.
How about you? Have you stretched your wings lately? Got any new craft ideas you’re excited about? Feel free to share in the comments.