Guest article by Iain Richardson
Why on earth would you head to a hill town in Tuscany to learn Cape Breton step dance? It turns out there are quite a lot of good reasons...
In September this year, 60 students and tutors arrived in the medieval hill town of Barga, sometimes described as the most Scottish town in Italy. The occasion was the second School of Scottish Music, Song and Dance, organised by piper and pipe-maker Hamish Moore with a bit of help from me.
Step dance tuition was provided by renowned Cape Breton step dancer Melody Cameron and by Scotland's Pat Ballantyne. We were extremely fortunate to have a fantastic group of tutors including Fiona Hunter, Kathleen MacInnes, Gary West, Fin Moore, Derrick Cameron, Sarah McFadyen and Hamish himself.
The aim of the School was to encourage cross-overs and collaborations. This led to a number of planned and unplanned outcomes. First, the step dance classes proved to be surprisingly popular with local Barga residents, of both Scots and Italian descent. Second, the guitar, fiddle, piping and song classes each had a go at putting their new tunes and songs into practice, playing or singing for the step dancers. As Gaelic song tutor Kathleen MacInnes put it, if you're going to learn Puirt a Beul, you might as well try it out on some dancers.
Each day of tuition ended with a combined session involving all 60 participants. Pat and Melody taught the three figures of the Inverness County Square Set. Contrary to expectations, even us pipers got up for a dance. Classes were followed by impromptu sessions in the bars and piazzas of Barga's old town and the week finished with an outdoor concert in the main square.
Artist and photographer Keane captured some fantastic images of a very memorable week:
Interested in finding out about future events? Give the Barga School Facebook page a like: