Round Dancers vs. "Good" Round Dancers
by Frank & Carol Valenta
Being Round Dance instructors is very
challenging and a challenge that we thoroughly enjoy. It is always
rewarding to see a group of dancers, especially those we have
instructed, executing choreography in a fairly proficient manner and
enjoying themselves doing it. These are "Round Dancers." We
teach them to dance each week, and each week they learn a little bit
more. Over time, to one degree or another, they learn to be dancers.
However, between lessons each week they do all sorts of things, but
rarely do they think about dancing, or for that matter, do they give
any thought to the need for practice.
The real rewards (satisfaction not
monetary) come when a student couple decides to become "good"
Round Dancers and begins to ask for special help to improve their
skills. This may even follow with the discussion about, or the
request for, taking private lessons. It is important to note the
operative word here is "good," and that it is not
synonymous with the words "high level." The ability to
dance at a high level comes with being "good" but not visa
Let us take a look at what the minimum
guidelines to being "good" Round Dancers include:
First, there must be a willingness
to be content with dancing at an appropriate comfort level while
striving to improve dance skills. The meaning of dance skills here
refers to the proper techniques of figure execution in conjunction
with the proper use of body mechanics and not just a larger
repertoire of dance figures. The comfort level will rise, quicker
than one would imagine, as the dance skills improve.
Second, there must be a strong
desire to learn and to seek out quality instruction over and above
the weekly group sessions. When involved in such specialized or
private instruction there must be a realization that it is necessary
to keep an open mind while listening carefully to instructions or
observing a demonstration. It is important to note that, when trying
to emulate the demonstrated figure or dance pattern, couples may
think that they are doing what they saw, but most often they are
not. This is very true when it comes to the subtle body movements
and styling executed during the demonstrations by the instructors.
This is when there must be a willingness to accept the constructive
criticism and any corrections provided by the instructors. If there
is any lack of understanding, it is very important that questions be
asked so the instructors can clarify and reinforce the original
Third, and equally important,
there must be a dedication to a significant amount of practice
between lessons. The only way to improve any skill is to practice.
The best time to practice something new is very soon -- within the
first twenty-four hours -- after taking instruction. Partners should
practice both alone and together. Practice both with and without
music and/or cueing. Practice in front of a mirror if possible,
especially when working on figures that require emphasis on things
like body rotation, sway, stretch, etc. Memorize cue terms and
figure definitions, but do not try to memorize choreography.
Forth, and last, DANCE, DANCE,
DANCE! Dance at every opportunity and of course, employ the skills
that have been developed whenever possible, and there will be the
satisfaction of looking good and executing correctly. However, it
should be remembered that Round Dancing is a social activity with no
competition, and no one is on a stage. So the dancing should be for
pleasure and enjoyment first and foremost.
Couples who can adopt and adhere to
these simple guidelines are "good" Round Dancers and in
time may even become "very good," high-level Round Dancers,
if that is their ultimate goal.
From RAL Journal, Fall 2000; reprinted DRDC Newsletter, January 2012. Visit Frank at Dancing Creek.