by Tim Eum
Round Dancing is fun.
Round dancers spend time with their partners and friends, enjoying and moving rhythmically to great music. Round dancers participate purely for the fun of it--there are no competitions, no judges, no dance awards. Round dancers are rewarded with lifelong friendships.
Round Dancing is an exciting social activity.
Round dancers form clubs and gather together to dance at places like schools, community centers, church recreation halls, YMCA's and fraternal organization halls. Most clubs only charge $4 or $5 per dancer for the entire evening, and most allow spectators to watch for free. Often clubs combine to put on even larger and longer events. There are clubs, and round dance events all over the world. Round dancers can even spend an entire week round dancing at special mountain resorts or romantic ocean cruises.
Round Dancing is choreographed, cued couples dancing.
Round dancing is like ballroom dancing and uses ballroom figures, but there are two major differences--it is choreographed ahead of time and then cued to the dancers in a manner similar to the way square dance callers direct square dancers.
Choreographers choose wonderful music and then choose the different movements and figures to fit the music exactly. If the music swells and pauses briefly, then a dance step that rises and stretches is put into that place. If there is a little syncopation in another part of the song, then a quick little step is inserted. The creation of a piece of choreography is like designing the interior of a home, with every piece of furniture and artwork in just the right place to give the best feel and enjoyment. Dances have been choreographed to a myriad of rhythms--waltz, two-step, cha-cha, rumba, jive/swing, foxtrot, tango, bolero, mambo, samba, merengue, salsa, west coast swing, paso doble, quickstep and others.
The "Cuer" or Round Dance Leader, stands with a microphone and the sound equipment at one side of a dance hall. As the music plays, and just ahead of when the dancers must respond, the cuer names each dance figure of the choreography to be done in proper order. Since dances are cued, dancers need not memorize choreography and can thus dance hundreds of different routines. In a two hour club night, the dancers could typically dance over thirty choreographed dances.
Since all the dancers are doing the same figures in the same direction at the same time (or at least are supposed to), the choreography can become quite elaborate. The dancers can move great distances with many changes of direction without fear of running into other couples. ROUNDLAB, the International Association of Round Dance Teachers Inc., has defined six phases of dance figures with phase one (I) generally being the easiest in difficulty and phase six (VI) comprising the most difficult fisgures. Most round dance clubs do not try to do all phase levels and thus as a dancer you can choose clubs that cater to the level that you are most comfortable at.
Couples form up and generally progress counterclockwise in a circle around the dance floor--thus the name "Round Dancing".
Round Dancing is part of the Modern Square Dance Movement.
Modern Round Dancing grew along with Modern Square Dancing through the second half of the twentieth century. Although pure round dance clubs exists as do pure square dance clubs, there are many clubs that offer both in what is called a two by two program. A caller will call square dance patter for about 6 minutes and then sign a singing call for about 4 minutes. Then a cuer will cue two round dance routines, talking about 8 minutes. Then the caller comes up again. Then the cuer and so on until the evening has been fulfilled. There are State and National Square and Round Dance Conventions where both activities are conducted. Many local caller associations and round dance teacher associations are combined as one organization. There continues to be mutual symbiosis between square and round dancing. A great many square dancers first learn of round dancing from the two by two clubs and conventions and thus many round dancers were at first square dancers. Since round dance music is of all types (big bands, rock & roll, easy listening, and many others) it complements what is predominately the country western square dance sound at square dance events. Square dancers tend to retain the "whoop and holler" spirit of dancing, while round dancers tend to dance with greater precision and thus help to improve the overall smoothness experienced by all in the intertwining square dance movements. Round dancing really does "ROUND" out the square dance experience.
Round Dancing is healthy exercise.
Round Dancing is an active activity. Most of the time, you will be on the floor dancing. There are short breaks and most leaders allow you to rest whenever you want -- but the norm is to dance. The more you do it, the more you can do it. Not only does your heart pump, but your mind is also exercised in trying to remember how to do all the figures that the cuer cues.