From Where We’ve Come

by Sandi & Dan Finch
October, 2015

Round dancing is rich and interesting because it is a blending of the best of all dance forms. Rooted in the old barn dances and tied to square dancing, our self-described “choreographed ballroom dancing” has grown from the schottische, the mazurka and the varsouvianna to incorporate elements from the swing world and international and American style ballroom.

Our figures early on were mostly two-step and cowboy waltz, then the Arthur Murray/Fred Astaire form of social foxtrot (SQQS) came in. Our first manuals incorporating mostly dances of the era were first published in the 1950s.

The English had led the world in standardizing figures, beginning in the 1920s with the first ISTD manual for waltz, English foxtrot, tango and quickstep. The Latins emerged from South America and the Caribbean in the 1950s, migrating to America and England, where two separate styles of standardized figures were developed. As late as 1962, the world’s dance organizations were still siding with either America or England on which form of rumba was the right form.

In the mid-1960s, round dancing found ballroom. A couple who had won the London championships, John & Jill Morton, had arrived in Los Angeles and opened a studio called Westmor. Several other English dancers came this way too and opened similar studios. Eddie Palmquist was among the Mortons’ early students, taking the medal tests in International style through bronze, silver and gold. When Audrey joined him in 1964, she went through that Morton training as well, and the International style was unleashed.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Eddie & Audrey put the first develope in a dance, the first ronde and the first double reverse spin. Charlie & Nina Ward introduced the first International foxtrot (Maria Elena, 1972), and Eddie & Audrey brought out the second one six months later (September In The Rain). During this period, the Wards also gave us Tango Capriccioso (1973) and the Palmquists wrote Annientamento Tango (1975), the first international style tangos. Chick & Ieleen Stone gave us international quickstep—Let’s Dance (1964) and Boo Hoo (1963), matched by the Palmquists’ I Wanta Quickstep (1967). Frank & Iris Gilbert wrote the first manual for round dancing incorporating international figures.

International style created much dissension between leaders who wanted to keep the old style and those introducing the new. So much so that Roundalab (RAL), the professional teachers organization, formally incorporated as the International Association of Round Dance Teachers Inc., dropped the word “international” from the front of its manual in the mid-1980s, lest anyone think it was only about that new technique.

From there, the gates were open. In 1984 the Humphreys gave us the first west coast swing (Hurricane Swing). Bill & Carol Goss brought slow two step from American ballroom to round dancing in 1990 (Are You Still Mine), followed a decade later by the Shibatas’ Adeline (2000). Brent & Mickey Moore borrowed bolero from American style ballroom in 1993, creating an entire new section of the RAL manual with Sleeping Beauty.

Hustle (also discofox) has appeared from the swing dance world from time to time but has not taken hold. This year, the Worlocks’ hustle You Owe Me One from 2005 was voted as the Oldie to be taught at Roundarama (Purdue), so you never know where we are headed.

International ballroom is known primarily for its emphasis on technique and correct footwork. American style ballroom is known mainly for its expressiveness and open work. Both have nestled comfortably into round dancing. Because of cueing, dancers can learn an expanded repertoire of material. Leaders still lead but much like exhibition dancers, they can enjoy the beauty and flow of choreography already put together, being artful and knowing their partners don’t have to guess what is being suggested.
Where Might We Go From Here?

by Sandi & Dan Finch
November, 2015

Our Roundalab (RAL) Manual of Standards gives us 15 rhythms as standards for our activity. We easily recognize them from the ballroom or swing world: waltz, tango, foxtrot, quickstep, rumba, jive, west coast swing, cha cha, bolero, merengue, mambo, paso doble, samba, two step and slow two step. The “standard” rhythms of 60 years ago have for the most part disappeared: the mazurka, polka and varsouvianna.

The waltz was new 200 years ago; fads come and go. Is there a new rhythm waiting for us? RAL does not rule out innovation. In fact, our manual provides a category called “unphased” material that allows new figures and new rhythms to develop. If they catch on, they eventually get standardized. Bolero was accepted as a new rhythm in 1993; slow two step slipped into the manual as a new rhythm the same year. Single swing was spun off from the other swing rhythms in the past decade to have its own set of standards.

Even waltz has seen a “new” twist in recent years. Kay & Joy Read reached back to 1910 to give us a hesitation canter waltz (combining early waltz variations).

Ken & Marion Scholtz have just written a dance in a new rhythm called “blues foxtrot.” Ken describes it as a social dance rhythm from Europe that uses foxtrot style walking steps but changes the basic timing from slow-quick-quick to four even beats per measure. That makes it easier to learn. Their World On A String could be step-cued as a phase III two step.

“We feel it should have a place in round dancing as a new rhythm.” they wrote in their dance notes. “It opens the possibility of a wider choice of music for easy and intermediate dancers. In addition to its inherent value as a dance rhythm, it could provide an early introduction to passing steps in Banjo and Sidecar that are required for phase IV and up foxtrots.”

Rey & Sherry Garza went Latin with the introduction of bachata in 2003. The rhythm came from the Dominican Republic, almost a Latin equivalent of the blues foxtrot, with a little merengue. Its basic is counted 1,2,3 and on 4, touch.

Bill & Carol Goss, who gave us the first slow two step in 1991, also gave us a Lindy, called In The Mood in 1999. The Lindy is fast, acrobatic, improvisational street dance, called the mother of swing.

Kenji & Nobuko Shibata have tried introducing salsa, an exuberant form of mambo (Salsa Cafe), and hustle (Be My Lover).

The hustle periodically reappears. It is a fast swing dance, done mostly in a slot like west coast swing, with lots of inside and outside turns for lady. You know it by the Saturday Night Fever-kind of disco music. Its timing varies, depending on the style.

The first hustle to appear in round dancing was Hustle-A-Round by Charlie & Nina Ward, released in 1978. It was danced to the Bee-Gees “Staying Alive,” the undeniable disco hit of that era. The Wards were primarily known for their efforts to bring International smooth styling into round dancing (Maria Elena Foxtrot) but their hustle was done regularly in Southern California for several years.

Hustle is a street dance, evolving in the early 1970s. American hustle is the most basic—counted 1234. Rebecca Sorenson came up with an old book showing many forms of hustle no longer done, but LA hustle or street hustle is still a local club favorite and more basic, good for crowded floors, she said. New York hustle (called also syncopated hustle or three-count hustle) requires more training, combining Latin and smooth techniques. The basic hustle foot pattern is simple—rock recover, walk, walk (think quick, quick, slow, slow).

Jim & Bobbie Childers recently put us onto Brick House, written in 1979 by Bennie & Dixie Humphryes (Hurricane Swing, the first west coast swing) in collaboration with dance teacher Peggy Freeman, to the Commodores song of the same name. The cue sheet says they adapted several forms of hustle and a little samba to make a dance appropriate for round dancing. The sections spell out samba, swing, line dance hustle, LA hustle and American hustle, with a four-measure ending of mostly point steps and a lunge. Bobbie says she has several records, if anyone is interested.

The Shibatas’ Be My Lover came out in 2001 at that year’s URDC (ICBDA) convention, having parts of three-count hustle (&123) and four-count hustle (1234). Curt & Tammy Worlock tried their hand at hustle in 2005 with You Owe Me One, which was voted to be this year’s Oldie teach at Purdue. They combined four-count hustle (four even beats in a measure) with cha cha to the ABBA hit “Thank You for the Music.”

Michael & Regina Schmidt of Germany wrote two dances to the European social dance rhythm called disco fox (Self Control, 2006, and Street Life, 2009). Disco fox was known as the European version of hustle. They used jive figures with rolls and a tamara wrap to a three measure sequence count of 12&34; 1&234&; 123&4.

Curt described four-count hustle as introductory hustle using figures that can later be danced in three-count timing as dancers become more proficient with the actions.

It’s hard not to like hustle music—Hot Stuff, That’s The Way I Like It, Oh What A Night. Will we come to like the dance too?