Emma, Mats and Jennifer in Dunfermline May 2022

Blog – ‘Dance Legacies of Scotland: The True Glen Orchy Kick’ by Mats Melin and Jennifer Schoonover

The Book Launch…

On Saturday 30 April 2022, Dance Legacies of Scotland: The True Glen Orchy Kick (Melin-Schoonover, Routledge, 2021) was, at long last, able to be officially launched in Edinburgh during Pomegranates, a two-day event co-sponsored by the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland and the University of Edinburgh which celebrated dance from around the world. This book, written with Jennifer Schoonover, was the culmination of off-and-on research and writing processes which started in 1990 in Sweden. At that time, I had already spent a few years researching Scottish dance traditions. I felt there was a gap of knowledge in the few books on Scottish dance there were at that time leaving out deeper representations of percussive Step dance. Over the years, I kept adding to a collection of information, waiting for a moment when the time would be right for me to write this dream project.

While I taught dancing all over Scotland, and, over the last 16 years, at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, I kept observing ways people move differently while dancing relative to place, context, and age. I studied, then taught, Ethnochoreology, which enabled me to have new perspectives in viewing and researching dance. My studies also gave me a strong foundation in fieldwork research techniques and library and archive research methods. Further analysis of published texts and written and oral recollections brought me to deeper levels of understanding the material I was engaging in. I came to look at historical representations of dancing from different angles and asked many more questions about what was actually being said and described.

By 2016–2017, I had decided two things; firstly, I was going to write this book — finally — and, secondly, I invited a co-author — Jennifer Schoonover. At this point in time, I was having a weekly Skype chat with a good dancing friend of mine — Colin Robertson — who was living in Oregon, USA. We discussed dance matters, a passion of the both of us. At some point Colin introduced me to Jennifer, who lives in Boston, USA. Jen has a deep interest in movement and dance and teaches Highland dancing, Scottish Country dancing and Step dancing among other things. She had helped me make final edits on One With the Music – Cape Breton step dancing transmission and tradition (CBUP 2015), as well as other books now available on my own research hub Not only did she agree to help me streamline my Step dance book writing, but she also added so many ideas and suggestions that it became natural for us to co-author the book. In fact, I am happy to say, that apart from one chapter based on my own fieldwork, the rest of the book reflects both our voices and ideas throughout. I am very happy Jen came aboard.

In 2019, Jen and I were offered a publishing contract with Routledge, with a timeline to publish in 2020. We were in the final editing process in March 2020 when I caught the alpha strain of Covid-19 (badly). At one point, I did ask Jen to finish the book if I did not make it. Luckily, I did make it. Jen took the lead in our final stretch towards publication, and Routledge formally published our book on New Years’ Eve 2020!

Many years have passed since I wrote the first-draft paragraphs of this book in Stockholm, Sweden. Many, many hours have been spent researching and writing the content. Some things that were not accessible back then, such as online access to newspapers, journals, and book archives, fuelled further research. My co-author added many great ideas and angles to the topics; the wonders of modern technology enabled us to write this book together in cyberspace, chatting weekly via Skype. However, at the end of April 2022, Jen flew over from Boston to attend the Edinburgh book launch — the first time that we met in person! I was also happy that my wife Emma came down from Orkney to join us. Without her continual support, I would never be able to do what I do.

Jen and I hope this book will be of interest and use to those interested in diving deeper into the meandering paths of Scottish dance traditions, seen here seen through a lens of percussive Step dance and its role in shaping Scottish dance. We would both like to offer our most heartfelt thanks to Wendy Timmons, Bernie Hewitt, Iliyana Nedkova, TDFS, and the Scottish Storytelling Centre for enabling us to officially launch our book!

Mats Melin, with Jen Schoonover