Our Round Dance Classics
by Mick, a
dancer in Arlington VA
Note: A participant in the Weavers Round Dance Discussion List asked if one could write a new dance to the music of a RAL
Classic or Golden Classic. Mick replied:
Speaking as one who
loves the Classics, like Apres L'Etreinte (Dahl), The Homecoming
(Ward), Till (Moss), and Spaghetti Rag (Gniewek); speaking as one who
wishes that they would be taught to every new dancer as they move up
in level . . .
What difference does
it make if we reuse this music!?
If the great old
Classics are no longer taught . . . why not use this great music for
The real question is,
"Should we teach the great Classics, or should we toss them in
the wastebasket of history?" From what I have seen, it looks
like most leaders no longer do most of the classics. (Particularly
the Two-Step routines.) If the dances are not going to live on, why
waste the music?
The Classics were from
a completely different time, and they had a completely different
reason for existing. They were meant to be danced frequently enough
so that you could learn to feel the relationship between the music
and the choreography.
When I first joined my
local Round Dance Clubs, the Classics were taught every few years so
that the new dancers could learn them. Lessons were limited to 1/2
hour and the rest of the time was spent actually dancing, so that one
could learn to "Feel" the music. The Classics were like old
friends that we enjoyed every time we did them.
Many of the best dances
had to be done frequently to do them well.
Today, many leaders
strive to teach for an hour, and often the lesson goes well past an
hour. (After fifty minutes or so, my brain turns to mush and dumps
whatever I might have learned in the first 45 minutes.) An hour and
twenty, or an hour and a half, is far to long for some of us.
We don't have nearly as
many clubs, and the clubs we have teach more and more (of the
allotted time), and they dance less and less (of the allotted time).
You simply can't experience all that a great dance has to offer if
you only dance it once every few months, and there are so many new
dances that the dancers can't possibly dance them all frequently
enough to feel the art of the dance.
The old classics were
an art form that was meant to be sipped slowly like a great wine.
They were never meant to be gulped down like we must gulp down a new
dance these days.
If we are not going to
dance the old classics enough to "Feel" them . . . we
should release the music, and hope that someday someone will
choreograph something approaching the quality of the original art
form. In my opinion, no one will ever write a dance that could begin
to unseat the classic Maple Leaf Rag. If the old dance was still
taught, you could write all the dances you wanted to, to the same
music, and very few people would choose your art over the original.
(If people did, your art should win out because it was better
. . . not because it was newer.)
If the original is not
going to be taught anymore, why waste the music?
a Weavers post (with permission), November 2013, and reprinted in DRDC newsletter, May 2014.