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Lots of Dances or Good Dancing?

by Roy & Phyllis Stier
July, 1987

We have just returned from the pageantry and emotions of the Blackpool Dance Festival, the most prestigious ballroom and latin competition event in the world. Nowhere, with the exception of the Olympic Games, is the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat more evident. Years of training and fine-tuning are climactized on the floor in relatively few minutes. One can't help but reflect how protected we are in round dancing from this threatening environment. 

One thing we can learn from these amateur and professional competitors, however, is the high priority they place on performance with an attendant lesser amount on choreography. This may seem like a departure from an enjoyment of dancing, but if we consider such factors as self esteem, pleasure in accomplishment, body mechanics in music interpretation, coordination with a dance partner, etc. — we may be missing the boat. 

In our travels we run across the common complaint that too many dances are being presented, and the feeling of being on a treadmill is more or less commonplace. In other words, we live in a choreography-oriented world where prestige is based on how many dances we know. Cueing gives one a sense of security, but it also adds greatly to the number of round dances that a given couple can crank out. We have to ask ourselves — is this the way we achieve the maximum enjoyment from our avocation? 

Consider how many times you have found yourself on the floor unsure of which way to face, out of position for the next figure, perplexed about timing, off balance, feeling the need to horse the lady around (or if a lady — being the horsee) to get into position, feeling awkward with a body line, embarrassed about coordination of hands with the body, etc. These things and others are a result of putting all your eggs in one basket, the choreography one. It would seem to us that there is more enjoyment in feeling good about yourself on the floor because you know that you have the control and ability to respond to the flow of the dance correctly. It would also seem to us that an endless mastery of routines is a form of competition in itself. 

More round dance leaders than ever before have taken some training in dance techniques and are capable of working with others. The trouble lies in the demand by the dancers for quantity and not quality. If we can believe the long lists of dances that are allegedly taught each month by groups as reported in the publications, the load would be a staggering one for professionals, let alone the average dancer. You may find yourself in agreement with this dilemma; if so, then make it known to your round dance leader, or if you are the leader, you may want to be a little innovative and try a more clinical approach. How about a renaissance of enjoying dancing because numero uno is out doing his or her thing with the confidence that should be inherent? 

Stay tuned …

This column comes from a series published in Cue Sheet Magazine between 1987 and 1992, and is reprinted with permission. The full series is collected in an 86-pg booklet, available for $30.00 plus postage. E-mail Fran Kropf at This article was published in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)  Newsletter, September 2008.


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