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How Figures Come to Be

by Sandi & Dan Finch

Each summer, the Roundalab (RAL) Standardization Committee finalizes a year of thinking through what changes -- if any -- are necessary for the advancement of our activity and presents its proposals to the RAL membership at the annual convention in June. This process is governed by almost 50 years of precedents and rules established by the RAL membership (voting at convention). It is not an easy process. Ideas are submitted by members (a change requires the endorsement of five teaching units), then pass through a phase committee or rhythm consortium, are reviewed by Standardization, and then proposed to the membership for voting at the convention. All changes have to be approved by 75% of those voting.

The evolution of a figure goes like this: Someone cares enough about an issue to do the necessary research to make an argument for change. One good example is the pending proposal by a Texas cuer to change the quickstep phase IV quarter turns & progressive chasse (again). The initiator recently presented his proposal summarizing his research in three pages to start the process for change in 2015.

Mind you, the RAL Assembly just changed the figure in 2010, making it three and a half measures (9 steps) beginning forward left (for Man) and ending with his forward left. That leaves the trailing feet free to do a maneuver side close. The old figure had 10 steps over four full measures (perhaps easier to cue for those uncomfortable with split measures). This left lead feet free, the default free foot for most figures.

The research began with a survey of all the quicksteps on the Mixed-Up Rounds (Cue Sheets From All Over) web site. Of the 254 quicksteps found, 191 had quarter turns & progressive chasse in the cue sheet, or 75%. If you dance quickstep, you are familiar with the figure and perhaps a bit confused by it. Some cuers refuse to recognize the 2010 change, which affects how the next figure is cued. Others feel the need to talk you into the figure by saying “forward quarter turns & progressive chasse”.

Of the 191 dances that use the figure, 150 of them followed it with a standard figure that required the cuer to add a “forward to” linking them. For example, quarter turns & progressive chasse & forward to the forward running locks” or “. . . forward forward lock forward.” Only 15 dances had a right turning figure (such as maneuver) following the figure. The new proposal would eliminate the need to say that “forward to...” in most instances, but it would then be needed where a right turning figure followed.

The new proposal also would change the name slightly, dropping the "s" in "turns". The name is a combination of two figures, the first being quarter turns. But the combined figure only uses the first half of the quarter turns, meaning it has just one of the quarter turns. With only one turn, the plural seems incorrect.

If change will come, it will be only if four other teaching units endorse his proposal, the quickstep consortium and phase IV committee approve it, Standardization sends it to the convention, and the Assembly in 2015 votes for it.

Want to be confused more? In the ICBDA TAC Manual, the figure starts with trail feet, so if lead feet are free, the cuer has to say “forward quarter turn . . . .” ICBDA also believes the name should be quarter turn & progressive chasse (without the “s” in turns). And, in that world, the figure is three and a half measures, ending with lead feet free, contrary to the current RAL ending.

As a dancer, get used to it the way your local cuer treats it, and know the figure that follows. That will tell you if you need an extra forward step to make it work. Whatever change comes will probably never satisfy everyone.

From a club newsletter prepared by Dan and Sandi Finch , July 2013, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, March 2014 and reprinted in the DRDC newsletter, September 2014.


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