Erik Hoffman     

Old Time Music and Dance

From my book, Contradictations. If you are interested in purchasing this book, go to Ordering Information


Copyright (c) 1997, Erik Hoffman.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 4 | List of Dances

Chapter 3

Traffic Patterns and Round Dancing

First, some definitions: "round dances" are dances that are danced, "round the room." The couple dances most often done at contras fit this type: waltzes, schottisches, polkas, and hambos. Another classification of couple dances is, "slot dance." Swing dance fits this description. In swing dance a couple usually claims a bit of space on the floor and dances back and forth in a "slot." Contradancing is classified as a form of "set dancing." In contradancing you do have a partner, but you are dancing with the whole set. This means you are dancing with your neighbors (minor set), whole set (major set), and even the entire room. Actually, this "whole room" idea is true of swing and round dancing, too.

I've noticed lately, round dances at contras tend to be more of an obstacle course or bumper car dance than round dancing. As I waltz with a partner I encounter couples stopped, or going slower, or who knows? Navigating past these couples often means running into other couples. It seems to have become a sort of free-for-all. I'd like to encourage callers and dancers to remind others of an old rule, or guide, of etiquette, the traffic pattern of the dance floor.

Now, let's go back to your childhood. Did you ever go roller skating? Do you remember how there was a rule? Fast is on the outside of the rink, getting slower as you move toward the center. Fancy stuff that's static was done in the center. Well, the rule of etiquette for round dance is the same.

The basic guide to follow is, if you are passed on the inside, move more toward the center. This lets the speeders on the outside maintain their speed, and gives those who want to go slow a safe place to dance. If you want to do all sorts of fancy relatively stationary stuff, stay right in the center.

The other place where it's okay to "slot dance" is in the unused corners, out of the way of circulating dancers. This location is often good for beginners or teaching. Even here, though, I'd like to encourage the center. It's even safer, at least in a hall which adheres to this guideline.

Note that this is a general guideline, to make dancing more fun for all present. It's not a hard and fast rule. Still, I think it's a good one, and it's one that's getting lost. So callers, lets start teaching this at dances.


Chapter 4