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What Do I Look For In A Good ROQ Dance?

by Bob Ensten 

First, I listen to the music to see if it is appropriate to the dance being done. I don't like doing a Cha Cha or Foxtrot to Two-Step music. The choreographer should be able to recognize the difference. Then I ask myself if the music is the type I would really like to dance to. Does it have a good, recognizable beat? Is the beat consistent throughout the entire song? Does it have complete phrases, or are there partial phrases or, as we called them in a Waltz, any bastard 3s? If the music is boring, inappropriate for the dance, or overused, I will reject the dance. 

Then, I will read through the cues to see if I can recognize the figures and to see if they are "standard" or modified. I look for body flow and continuity of the steps. I want one phrase to flow into the next one without too much change in body attitude. I also look to see if the dance level is as the choreographer published. (We recently had a dance submitted for our local Phase III ROM that was actually a Phase IV.) Then I put the choreography with the music to see if they match. The music should tell you what to do, not the choreographer. So, at this point, rejection can come from the dance being at the wrong level, the dance not flowing with the music, or choreography that cannot be done without extensive class time. 

Next, I look at music availability. If the music is available only from the choreographer, I go no further. If the choreographer says that the music is available on the Internet, I will go to Wal-Mart and iTunes to see if it really is available. If it comes from a round-dance record label, I assume that the record is available. But I want to know the label, the artist, the manufacturer's record number if possible, if it is on-line, the length of the recording as there might be several different ones, and the name of the album it is available on an album. Too many times there are multiple recording by the same or different artists, and I don't want to purchase ten recordings in hopes of finding the right one. 

Lastly, I look at the quality of the cue sheet. If the choreographer has made gross errors, perhaps by naming one figure in the head cues and using the description of a different figure in the details, I will not consider the dance. This happens rarely, and is usually easily corrected by dancing the choreography to see which one fits. However, I might rank the dance lower if it has this sort of error. 

The final question I ask myself is whether the people for whom I cue would enjoy this dance. They are my customers -- the ones I have to please. If I throw something to them that causes them to walk off the floor, I have not done my job. So far, I have done fairly well. But occasionally a new dance will not be accepted as well as I thought it would be.

Features Of A Good Dance (from RAL) —

Choreography -- Do the figures flow nicely into each other with respect to both feet and body position? Is the choreography creative, innovative? Are there no awkward spots that would cause difficulty for the average dancer at that phase level (excluding a gimmick or two and figures he or she may not be familiar with)? Are there, in your opinion, only a small number of modified or unusual figures? Does the choreography have contrast and change of pace (e.g., some but not too much syncopation)? 

Music -- Does the choreography fit the music? Is the music enjoyable to dance to? Is the rhythm easy to hear? Can a dancer hear the cues and feel the rhythm with the vocals present in the music? Is the music orchestrated well? 

Head Cues -- Are the choreographer’s head cues easily understood? Can the routine easily be danced to the head cues (excluding a gimmick or two and figures you may not be familiar with)? Are non-standard cues used that detract from the routine? 

Technical Considerations -- Is the cue sheet laid out in a manner that is easily read & understood (head cues, timing, fine print, record & header information…)? Does the cue sheet follow RAL standards? 


Bob Ensten is a cuer, teacher, choreographer,
and RAL Round Of the Quarter committee member from Windsor, CA.
This essay was taken from a post to the Round Music discussion group
and was published in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, March 2010



If you would like to read other articles on dance position, technique, styling, and specific dance rhythms, you may visit the article TOC.

If you are not a member of DRDC, do consider joining. The group sponsors quarterly weekends with great dancing and teaching, and the newsletter is one of the most informative available.

Past DRDC Educational Articles by
Jim & Barbara German, ca. 2000-2001
Chris & Terri Cantrell, 2001-2005
Harold & Meredith Sears, 2005-present

Some articles and dance helps by
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Gert-Jan & Susie Rotscheid


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