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Round Dancing -- The Best Is Yet To Come!

by Irv & Betty Easterday

The Round Dance activity began as an integral part of the Square Dance world sixty-plus years ago. Contra and Round Dancing were used to “fill in” the breaks between Square Dance sets. Short Round Dance sequences were memorized by the dancers and were repeated many times throughout each melody played by live musical groups. After World War II, the Square Dance activity was booming! “Modern” electronic equipment and vinyl records were readily accessible, and nearly every U.S. town – large and small – had its own square dance caller. Family recreation and entertainment was at its peak and so was DANCING!

Exciting dance music became available in the new rhythms brought to the U.S. during the 30s, 40s, & 50s. Round Dance routines became more intricate, and Square Dance callers found that their busy schedules meant there was insufficient time to adequately prepare for the teaching of both Squares and Rounds. And so, the birth of the Round Dance Teacher!

Round Dancing has been strongly influenced by many dance forms: Folk, Ballet, Tap and Jazz, and International and American Ballroom. Musical rhythms have also helped to shape the Round Dance programs. In the early days, only waltz, two step, and polka were danced. In the late 1950s the foxtrot was introduced and shortly followed by the tango and the Latin rhythms: cha cha and rumba. It was not until the 1970s that swing entered the activity. Currently, bolero, mambo, merengue, slow two step, paso doble, quickstep, and samba are popular dance rhythms.

In 1977, the International Association of Round Dance Teachers, Inc. was formed. This “legal not-for-profit Educational Corporation” is referred to as “Roundalab”. The purpose of Roundalab is to “promote, protect and perpetuate, through education and standardization, Round Dancing as a unique activity but also as a complement to the Square Dance movement.” To this end Round Dancing will continue to grow.

Roundalab has implemented a tremendous influence upon the education of its teachers and dancers. Standards for rhythms, figures, music, teaching techniques, and skills have been published and made available for the general public. Professional videos/DVDs and a website are available. Techniques and descriptions of foot placement for over 1000 dance figures are immediately obtainable. This professional teacher organization is strong in its belief that education is the strength of the activity.

Round Dancing has a firm footing as it moves into the 21st century. Its roots are strong and its goals are reachable. As long as there is music and movement there will be dancers! The best is yet to come!


Irv & Betty are Charter Members of ROUNDALAB. This article is from clinic notes from a past convention. It was reprinted in the DRDC newsletter, July/August, 2014.


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