History / Dancing

Our Patron is Mrs Julia Johnson of Llanvihangel Court.  Her parents, Col and Mrs Hopkinson, founded the Club over 60 years ago.   Col Ted Smeeden, Hon Patron for many years, used to say that it was founded in memory of Julia's sister, who died in November 1956.   A nice idea, but not quite true.   The Club's first meeting was held in April 1955.   Llanvihangel's Visitors Book shows that members of the band, Old Etonian friends of Col Hopkinson's, stayed there then.   Inspired by the Oban ball in 1954, the Hopkinsons wanted to liven up the winter scene in Monmouthshire by dancing reels.   Throughout the decades since then our friendly members have come together during the gloomy dark nights of winter.   And we still dance at Llanvihangel.

For some years members enjoyed just a handful of dances in hotels and the homes of founder members.   As enthusiasm and the membership grew, the Club was increasingly characterised by a unique mix of formality in dress and fun in the dancing, interpreting the RSCD Society’s instructions to suit its members’ inclinations.

Over the years the Club has produced its own dance instruction booklets.   A Canadian member, Keith Dixon, who looked after the music for many years, and his wife Diane published Monmouthshire Reel Club Pictorial Dance Descriptions in October 1990 (with additional dances in September 1990 and November 1994).   The introduction notes that “In committing this to paper a number of anomalies have become evident between the dances as (variously!) practiced by members of the Monmouthshire Reel Club; the energetic descriptions in 'THE SWINGING SPORRAN' (by Campbell and Martine, Edinburgh 1973) and the authoritative publications of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.

“The Monmouthshire Reel Club has grown up to love the dances as practiced and taught by our Founders, the late Colonel and Mrs Hopkinson; as representative of general practice in social, military and Highland Ball gatherings.   Where significant differences have been found, the descriptions follow MRC practice, with a footnote to that effect.”

In other words we have quite a strong tradition of our own.   Keith's somewhat quirky style is exemplified in his description of the second half of the Foursome Reel, the Reel of Tulloch: Bars 9-16 … “During the last 4 Pas de Basque the men may raise their arms above their heads; and oft emit primeval sounds...avoiding the odd thunderbolt from the gods of the RSCDS.”

A revised version was printed for members in 2010 but this is no longer available and plans to update it are on hold.   Meanwhile dance steps can be found in publications by the RSCDS and Edge Reels (see Links) and in The Swinging Sporran (see above).

The Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary https://www.scottish-country-dancing-dictionary.com/ offers dance cribs and Youtube videos. We will provide links to the videos from the booking forms for each private house party or other event, including practices, so that it is easy for you to check the dance beforehand: with the caveat that the MRC way of dancing it may be slightly different from what you see in the video. But the video will give a good impression of the overall shape of the dance.

The MRC's present repertoire is listed here.