From Where We've Come
& Dan Finch
Round dancing is rich and interesting because it is a blending of the
best of all dance forms. Rooted in the old barn dances and tied to
square dancing, our self-described “choreographed ballroom dancing” has
grown from the schottische, the mazurka, and the varsouvianna to
incorporate elements from the swing world and international and
American style ballroom.
Our figures early on were mostly two-step and cowboy waltz; then the
Arthur Murray/Fred Astaire form of social foxtrot (SQQS) came in. Our
first manuals incorporating mostly dances of the era were
published in the 1950s.
The English had led the world in standardizing figures, beginning in
the 1920s with the first ISTD manual for waltz, English foxtrot, tango,
and quickstep. The Latins emerged from South America and the Caribbean
in the 1950s, migrating to America and England, where two separate
styles of standardized figures were developed. As late as 1962, the
world’s dance organizations were still siding with either America or
England on which form of rumba was the right form.
In the mid-1960s, round dancing found ballroom. A couple who had won
the London championships, John & Jill Morton, had arrived in Los
Angeles and opened a studio called Westmor. Several other English
dancers came this way too and opened similar studios. Eddie Palmquist
was among the Mortons’ early students, taking the medal tests in
International style through bronze, silver, and gold. When Audrey
joined him in 1964, she went through that Morton training as well, and
the International style was unleashed.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Eddie & Audrey put the first developé
in a dance, the first ronde and the first double reverse spin. Charlie
& Nina Ward introduced the first International foxtrot (Maria
Elena, 1972), and Eddie & Audrey brought out the second one six
months later (September In The Rain). During this period, the Wards
also gave us Tango Capriccioso (1973), and the Palmquists wrote
Annientamento Tango (1975), the first international style tangos. Chick
& Ieleen Stone gave us international quickstep—Let’s Dance (1964)
and Boo Hoo (1963)—matched by the Palmquists’ I Wanta Quickstep (1967).
Frank & Iris Gilbert wrote the first manual for round dancing
incorporating international figures.
International style created much dissension between leaders who wanted
to keep the old style and those introducing the new. So much so that
Roundalab (RAL), the professional teachers organization, formally
incorporated as the International Association of Round Dance Teachers
Inc., dropped the word “international” from the front of its manual in
the mid-1980s, lest anyone think it was only about that new technique.
From there, the gates were open. In 1984 the Humphreys gave us the
first west coast swing (Hurricane Swing). Bill & Carol Goss brought
slow two step from American ballroom to round dancing in 1990 (Are You
Still Mine), followed a decade later by the Shibatas’ Adeline (2000).
Brent & Mickey Moore borrowed bolero from American style ballroom
in 1993, creating an entire new section of the RAL manual with Sleeping
Hustle (also discofox) has appeared from the swing dance world from
time to time but has not taken hold. In 2015, the Worlocks’ hustle You
Owe Me One from 2005 was voted as the Oldie to be taught at Roundarama
(Purdue), so you never know where we are headed.
International ballroom is known primarily for its emphasis on technique
and correct footwork. American style ballroom is known mainly for its
expressiveness and open work. Both have nestled comfortably into round
Because of cueing, dancers can learn an expanded repertoire of
material. Leaders still lead but much like exhibition dancers, they can
enjoy the beauty and flow of choreography already put together, being
artful and knowing their partners don’t have to guess what is being
From a club
newsletter, October 2015,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, October 2017.