We are interested in feedback from dancers who participate in "Round Dancing", particularly how people first became interested in this dance form, what they enjoy about it, and whether they feel it is continuing to grow in popularity around the world. Information about the history of Round Dancing would also be of interest.
If you are a Round Dancer (or have other friends who are Round Dancers, please forward this message on to them), and post your comments here!
[ 12-04-2001: Message edited by: DanceScape ]
Location: Boston area
When I read your request for information about round dancing I wasn't sure what type you were referring to since I've encountered dances referred to as round dances in various places. After consulting with my resident expert, I figured I'd take a stab at giving some history.
According to Vernon and Irene Castle (ca 1914):
Despite the Castles' distain for these round dances they survived within certain sectors of the dance community. In the late 1930's, Lloyd Shaw wrote a book called "Cowboy Dances" in which he describes traditional round and square dances as they were done by oldtimers in the western US.
In the 1930's Lloyd Shaw also organized a group of students from the Cheyenne Mountain High School to perform the traditional squares and round dances locally. This group grew in popularity and became a national sensation. Eventually the round dances became more elaborate for performance purposes and began to involve specific choreographies.
Following WWII both square and round dancing gained in popularity as a burst of patriotism increased interest in all things American. In 1948 Shaw wrote "The Round Dance Book" which takes the traditional round dances and flavors them with the ballroom dancing then popular.
Lloyd Shaw is today remembered as the father of Modern Western Square Dancing and of Modern Round Dancing. Considering his influence, the title is well deserved.
|<Betsy & Chuck Berry>|
Thank you for taking interest in this branch of dancing, which some of us prefer to call "Choreographed Ballroom" (in contrast to Freestyle or Social Ballroom Dance). We have found that if we use the term "Round Dancing", most people imagine folk dancing in a big circle. No matter how much we tell them that we dance Ballroom rhythms and figures, the "Hokey Pokey" image sticks in people's minds.
We ourselves started Rounds after we burned out on Square Dancing. In the past, this is probably the path most people took. Nowadays, social ballroom seems much healthier and nearly all the dancers who have gotten into Rounds in our area over the past few years were originally Freestyle Ballroom or social dancers. All of us still do both Freestyle and Choreographed.
Many of us were first attracted to Round Dancing because of the more consistent figure names and definitions, and the choreographic elements which necessarily become obvious from the beginning. Granted, most of the names and definitions originated in Ballroom, but typical Ballroom teachers in our experience don't rely on them heavily, and consulting various video and written sources reveals much disagreement. In Round Dancing, on the other hand, knowing the figure names and how to do them is critical, and thus is emphasized.
Those of us with "checklist mentalities" are also addicted to working our way up through the structure (each figure and dance is formally assigned a Phase, from 1 to 6), and motivated to learn dances we now have to sit out due to lack of knowledge.
Freestyle Ballroom is nice because we can work on whichever figures we want to, and we HAVE TO practice leading and following. Yet even in Round Dancing, leading and following are important. The man doesn't make up the choreography, but CAN alter the timing slightly, the amount of turn, the arm work, etc. And it is important (more fun and nicer appearing) to dance TOGETHER rather than each dancing independently to the cues. Freestyle Ballroom helps us keep this in mind.
We like Round Dancing because during a 3-minute dance, we HAVE TO at least TRY 20 or 30 different figures. When doing Freestyle, we find we get in ruts, doing over and over simple figures we are already comfortable with; when Round Dancing we're forced to stretch and learn and practice to improve our weaknesses.
And on an "easy" dance we already know, we have a great opportunity to work on our technique and on staying connected rather than concentrating on creating what may be poor choreography and following what may be ambiguous leads.
It can be a long and boring night for the follower (usually the woman) in such situations. Whether she is stuck all night with one bad partner or a series of different ones, following poor leads and trying to hold up a weak frame can make for a frustrating evening. At a Round Dance, the woman can do her part and work on her own technique and still be intellectually challenged and enjoy the dance, even if her partner is struggling to maintain the rhythm.
A woman with a "good partner" (when both already know a particular dance) is free to relax as she performs it and can appreciate how well the choreography fits the music rather than staying attuned to her partner's leads.
And no matter what our abilities, when Round Dancing we don't spend nearly as much energy navigating around a too-crowded floor full of couples moving in different directions.
On a given night, we typically dance many more rhythms in Round Dancing than in Freestyle Ballroom. While this may not be true of all Freestyle situations, most of our local bands play mostly what they call "Fox Trots" but which really seem to be slow One-Steps to ballad-type music the singer enjoys singing. Some music they play we find difficult to dance ANY steps to. There are usually a few (too few) Waltzes, Cha Chas, Tangos, and almost never any Paso Doble, Bolero, Argentine Tango, West Coast Swing, etc. Of course, some people enjoy dancing to a live band, something we never have in Round Dancing.
But although it's merely recorded music (or rather, BECAUSE it is) the music for Rounds tends to be more appropriate for dancing than is the case at Freestyle dances. The musicians who play at our Freestyle clubs are in general not dancers themselves, may not really know one rhythm from another, tend to fill their music with random tempo changes and false endings, and do other things while playing which might be fun for them performing, or for people who are merely listening, but which we find frustrating to dance to.
The music we Round Dance to, on the other hand, is selected because it is danceable. If strict tempo is violated, the choreographer has incorporated a dip or picture figure which fits the music and is dramatic and fun to do.
Even in the introduction, the bridges, and the ending, the dance fits the music; this only happens by random coincidence when we dance Freestyle. After having so much pre-planned "success" in fitting the steps to the music in Rounds, a leader (usually the man) can be frustrated when he rarely accomplishes nice matches when leading Freestyle, and may tend to spend undue energy trying for such fits. On the other hand, when he CAN occasionally out-guess the band about when a piece of music is going to end and pulls of a perfect fit with his on-the-fly choreography, it can admittedly be quite a thrill! The follower can also get frustrated (often more so, because she is so helpless) at "missed opportunities" for great figures.
In Rounds as opposed to Freestyle, there seems to be more emphasis on the dancing itself rather than on costumes, hairstyles, lavish meals, etc. And there tends to be much less emphasis on alcohol, and smoking is seldom allowed. We personally favor this emphasis on the dancing itself, though others would disagree - - it is admittedly less romantic to dance in a school gym than at a formal ballroom or a country club.
Another major factor in favor of Round Dancing is the cost. Our local dances are $5.00 per couple for a 3-hour session, and people who attend two such sessions in the same week don't have to pay for the second. We recently returned from a week of Round Dancing, Sunday night through Saturday night, a total of 18 sessions, during which people learned as many as 16 new dances; had small-group Clinics on figures and technique; and many hours of "party dancing" to choreography we already know (or got up and TRIED to do "to cues" even if we'd never heard the particular dance before). The week was run by four couples, including some of the major teachers and choreographers in the hobby. The dance fee was just $90.00 per couple for the week, something like a buck an hour per person! The fact that these leaders were there primarily to celebrate their love of the hobby and to share this fun (rather than to make money) came through in their enthusiasm and made the week all the more enjoyable.
One final thing we like about Round Dancing is that it allows the partners more equality (this may appeal more to women) since there is less emphasis on leading/following and since the choreography is not determined by either of the partners. Women who find it irritating to be constantly doing what the man wants (especially when she hears a different rhythm or has a different style), may find Round Dancing a great compromise.
Wow! You must have hit a nerve! This got l-o-n-g, didn't it!
You might also try to attend a nearby Round Dance event in person. We could help you locate one. A fabulous opportunity would be at the Universal Round Dance Council ("URDC") Convention in San Jose from July 26 to 29. This is one of the year's greatest concentrations of talent (dancers as well as teachers from around the world) of the year.
Betsy & Chuck Berry
Location: Boise, Idaho, USA
My partner/husband and I met at Ballroom Dance Class in our teens. He later became a Square Dance caller X 30 years and when I saw Round dancing...WOW! I was sold!
We started learning 18 and teaching 16 years ago. We are members of Roundalab - web site <roundalab.org> and find that we can learn more amalgamations of advanced figures in Round Dancing than most Ballroom studios would ever teach you unless you first achieve Bronze ->Silver-> Gold status. The roundalab site lists 'cue sheets' for Classic Dances in Phases I-VI that are presently danced all over the world.
We enjoy Round Dancing socially, and find the cost=$5 - $10/couple/3 hours of instruction and dancing to be the best bargain on the planet!
International figures in all the Dancesport rhythms Plus Mambo, Salsa, WCS, Shag, Lindy, Merengue, Slow Two step=Niteclub and Square dancer's Two Step, Bolero and new this year - Hustle.
The Berry's complete description of how the Choreography fits the music, and how perfect the tempo is to dance to as well as the avoidance of having to lead while thinking what to do next on your feet and freestyle ballroom collisions pretty well sums up the reasons we love Round dancing.
The floor appears to be doing Dancesport Formation dancing as all couples are doing the same figures simultaneously.
The amalgamations used in Round dance routines are applicable to competition, but most Rounddancers prefer to dance socially. We also dance freestyle Ballroom at least once a month with USABDA. Many of the ballroom dancers are now taking Round Dance Lessons.
For information on finding a Rounddance Instructor in all 50 states and most foreign countries - call 1-877-YI DANCE.
Robin & Bob Young, in Boise, Idaho.
[This message has been edited by firstname.lastname@example.org (edited 06-11-2001).]
Location: Boise, Idaho, USA
As requested, here is a sample 'Head Cues' Sheet of figures for a complete dance:
BODY & SOUL (music)
TULLUS (Choreog)Seq: AB AC AB AC speed(44) (VI) FOXTROT
Head Cues are abbreviated 'prompts to the dancers, voiced with the music about a measure and a half ahead of the figure.'
Thanks so much for these latest postings and background information!
Would anyone have a video that they can send to us - we would love to be able to show a clip of Round Dancing so that others can visually see what it's all about!
Please explain how you interpret the Cue Sheet -- are these all standardized, or can they be created by any experienced round dancer? Also, are these the same steps as defined for the Ballroom Syllabus, or do you have your own Syllabus that may have adaptations of the Ballroom Technique/Syllabus.
Please continue to educate all of us on this wonderful dance form!
Location: Boise, Idaho, USA
Here is a complete cue sheet with the Head Cues in CAPS...Some dancers memorize complete dances!
PHASE VI MAMBO ROTHER-Choreographers of WA Dancers' cue-sheet by A. Woodruff in Belgium
Both facing Center, Shadow position (left hands joined). Both L foot free. There is no intro. We start with the third measure of Part A (1/4 Diamond Turn).
DIAMOND TURN 3/4 WITH HOPS
SEQUENCE: INTRO, A (3-16), B, C, A, D, C, A, Ending
Notes on some positions:
Thanks everyone for the information! My partner's private ballroom coach is an experienced round dance cuer and an award-winning round dance choreographer. I never really had any inkling of what that meant until today. More info please!!!!!
I (Chuck) am not very computer literate - - it's all I can do to write even a little e note like this. Betsy is tied up with something else, but will take a look and get back to you when she gets a chance.
The choreographer of each dance writes a "Cue Sheet" and distributes it freely so that others (cuers/dancers) who are interested can cue/teach/learn the dance. Many records ordered from Palomino or other record services include cue sheets automatically. At higher levels, teachers usually give copies of cue sheets to dancers when they teach the dance so the dancers can practice on their own.
Typically, there is only one dance written to a given piece of music. However, sometimes a choreographer (or two different choreographers) will write dances at two different levels to the same piece of music.
And if a dance "dies" (doesn't become popular, or disappears from popularity and is not done much for several years) the same piece of music may be resurrected with different choreography. In nearly all such cases, the dances will have have two different names to avoid confusion.
The cue sheet tells (or should tell, though some don't quite do an adequate job of it) everything one needs to know to do the dance. There are "Head Cues" which are the words the cuer says, and are all that the dancers hear when they perform the dance. There are in most cases also "Step Cues" which tell in detail the man's and lady's footwork (which direction they step, how far they turn, what the timing of each step is, etc.).
Sometimes there's a fine line between these, particularly in the case of higher phase dances. There simply isn't time for the cuer to say everything necessary to explain the dance, in the case of modified versions of normal figures, unusual facing directions, etc. To have success with a hard dance, the dancers must already "know" it well, and if they don't remember a tricky spot, will appreciate the cuer reminding them of some of the critical portions of the step cues in addition to the normal head cues (if he/she has time to do so).
But most of us have as a goal to cue and to dance with the minimum of "talking" to interrupt the music. In fact, some dancers memorize favorite dances and do the whole thing without cues. This is a wonderful idea for just a few dances, but most of us find it impossible for more than a handful, and must rely on cues for hundreds or thousands of others.
Also, some dances containing standard figures are referred to as "Cue and Do" dances. Dancers who know all the figures can have great success dancing them for the first time without a teach.
If you'd like examples of some cue sheets, we could certainly send you some. There are some places on the Web which post cue sheets, though in many cases there are only Head Cues and no Step Cues.
In general, what people wear wouldn't be considered a "costume", though on the Saturday night session of a weekend, or for performing a Demo for the benefit of everyone else in attendance, some people may put on pretty exotic clothes. But in most cases it's pretty casual. And we've seldom if ever seen the feathers and weird eye shadow and open leather vests which are often worn by Competitive Ballroom Dancers.
At the week-long event we mentioned before, I wore shorts and a short sleeve shirt to all the daytime sessions, as I tend to be too hot by nature. At night, I still wore a short sleeve shirt, but put on a tie a couple of nights to try to match whatever color Betsy was wearing. She, on the other hand, tends to be cold, and wore mostly pants and even a sweater during the day, but put on skirts or dresses at night. As we mentioned in our last note, we are much more interested in the dancing itself than in "costumes". We don't want awkward (or expensive!) clothes to take away from our comfort and our ability to enjoy a hobby we are doing for fun, and I think we're typical.
Hope this helps. We'd love more questions if you have them.
Location: Boston area
Wow, this is interesting. I had never heard of round dancing outside the folk dance scene until Dacescape brought this up. My husband's familiar with it, but even after we went over the history and such I was still thinking it was more a square/country dance thing than ballroom.
So these choreographies are done to specific pieces of music, right? That would get around my complaint about ballroom competition choreographies, that they have to be homogonized to fit whatever standardized piece of music comes on. Sounds like these would be able to highlight the phrasing and tempo of a piece and still leave room for improvisation. Am I understanding this correctly? Sounds like fun!
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