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What Do We Want From Our ROQ Programs?

by Annette Woodruff 

What is the purpose of the Roundalab, and other, Round Of the Quarter programs? What are we trying to do? We recently considered this topic in our Round Music discussion group, and I want to thank the many teachers and dancers who participated.  Being on two ROQ committees, I was really keen to learn more about their concerns, and I thought other readers would be interested in considering the topic, too. 

It was gratifying to read that, like me, others don't much like new dances written to old music. A couple of participants felt defensive about that but shouldn't have: it is not the odd re-use of a tune that bothers us (I've done that too) but rather the systematic use of music to which previous choreos have been written, often in the same rhythm and even sometimes at the same phase level. It is a real thrill when a good choreographer picks out and introduces us to a new and original piece of music. Many ROQ Committee members probably do not mind, or we wouldn't find that a significant proportion of ROQs are second or third dances written to the music. This being said, I have occasionally voted for such a dance myself because it was the best dance of the lot, period. Let me be clear: an original piece of music is great, but remains a secondary concern. 

My first concern is to have a very danceable dance that fits the music well and comprises figures that are consistent with the phase in which the dance is competing. Clarification: if looking for a phase IV ROQ, I want a dance which is NOT a phase III in disguise NOR a phase V in disguise. It needs some phase IV meat and if the routine uses some of the lesser-known phase IV figures, like Cross Swivel or Cross Hesitation, the better. If there are “lesser-known" figures, it is simply because we don't dance them enough, so ROQs featuring such figures are welcome, as far as I'm concerned. Gimmicks: many mentioned them but honestly, they are not used often, although, of course, it all depends on how we understand "gimmick."

I know that in one response we had someone who prefers dances that don't require a teach and I can understand that point of view but personally I tend to look for a teaching value in every dance. 

About the music availability, I mostly want to see that the music is available somewhere, somehow, at CD-quality. I'll still vote for a dance even if I can't get the music right away (as you know, Walmart and iTune are out of non-US citizens' reach) -- I figure the choreographer will send it to me if everything else fails and I ask nicely. :-) 

Cue-sheets: I don't check the whole cue-sheet in detail before voting. I use the headlines to dance (in my head) to the music. If the headline is not what I consider as the better cue, I don't worry about it as it can be changed at the time I write my cue-card. If I discover errors in the fine print when preparing to teach the dance, it is too late for it to influence my vote, which may well be a flaw in my method and I'll have to give it some thought. 

One teacher pointed out that his dancers enjoyed a "mixture of rhythms" and he quoted waltz, foxtrot, rumba, cha and two step. Yes, those are the rhythms that are danced everywhere, but I'd like to see more rhythms being taught, and a ROQ could be one opportunity to get your dancers started in jive, mambo, samba, tango, bolero, slow two step, paso doble, west coast swing, single swing . . . 

Three participants indicated which dances they had taught, among the 48 recent ROQs that I had tabulated. It is interesting to note that these three teachers had only five dances in common: Forrest Gump, Memory Rumba Am I Blue, El Reloj, and Carnival. 

Let me say a word about the "voting for ROQ" process: at each phase, there are more or less 20 couples voting. This in itself is a guarantee of non-bias. We receive "blind" cue-sheets, i.e. cue-sheets from which the choreographer's name has been blanked out. We vote for a maximum of 5 dances (from a list of about 20 dances), giving 5 points to our first choice, 4 points to our second choice, 3 points to our 3rd choice, 2 points to our 4th choice, and 1 point to our 5th choice. In at least some of the committees, we may  vote for fewer dances, and just give 5 points to one dance, 3 points to another, and stop right there. Generally however, my problem is the opposite:  I wish I could reward more than 5 dances.


This essay was taken from a post
by Annette Woodruff to her Round Music discussion group
was published in the
Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, March 2010

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