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Our Round Dance Classics

by Mick, a dancer in Arlington VA

Note: A participant in the Weavers Round Dance Discussion List asked if one could write a new dance to the music of a RAL Classic or Golden Classic. Mick replied:

Speaking as one who loves the Classics, like Apres L'Etreinte (Dahl), The Homecoming (Ward), Till (Moss), and Spaghetti Rag (Gniewek); speaking as one who wishes that they would be taught to every new dancer as they move up in level . . .

What difference does it make if we reuse this music!?

If the great old Classics are no longer taught . . . why not use this great music for new dances?

The real question is, "Should we teach the great Classics, or should we toss them in the wastebasket of history?" From what I have seen, it looks like most leaders no longer do most of the classics. (Particularly the Two-Step routines.) If the dances are not going to live on, why waste the music?

The Classics were from a completely different time, and they had a completely different reason for existing. They were meant to be danced frequently enough so that you could learn to feel the relationship between the music and the choreography.

When I first joined my local Round Dance Clubs, the Classics were taught every few years so that the new dancers could learn them. Lessons were limited to 1/2 hour and the rest of the time was spent actually dancing, so that one could learn to "Feel" the music. The Classics were like old friends that we enjoyed every time we did them.

Many of the best dances had to be done frequently to do them well.

Today, many leaders strive to teach for an hour, and often the lesson goes well past an hour. (After fifty minutes or so, my brain turns to mush and dumps whatever I might have learned in the first 45 minutes.) An hour and twenty, or an hour and a half, is far to long for some of us.

We don't have nearly as many clubs, and the clubs we have teach more and more (of the allotted time), and they dance less and less (of the allotted time). You simply can't experience all that a great dance has to offer if you only dance it once every few months, and there are so many new dances that the dancers can't possibly dance them all frequently enough to feel the art of the dance.

The old classics were an art form that was meant to be sipped slowly like a great wine. They were never meant to be gulped down like we must gulp down a new dance these days.

If we are not going to dance the old classics enough to "Feel" them . . . we should release the music, and hope that someday someone will choreograph something approaching the quality of the original art form. In my opinion, no one will ever write a dance that could begin to unseat the classic Maple Leaf Rag. If the old dance was still taught, you could write all the dances you wanted to, to the same music, and very few people would choose your art over the original. (If people did, your art should win out because it was better . . . not because it was newer.)

If the original is not going to be taught anymore, why waste the music?

From a Weavers post (with permission), November 2013, and reprinted in DRDC newsletter, May 2014.


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