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Roseville couple discovers round dance

Style an alternative to more difficult ballroom dancing
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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They're not intentionally keeping their hobby a secret.

In fact, they wish more people knew about their favorite pastime and would try it out for themselves. But, for now, that well-kept secret is something called round dancing, which uses ballroom dance moves but the songs are choreographed in advance.

A "cuer" announces each move, or "figure," as it comes up. The choreography is designed to move couples slowly around in a circle, hence the name, explained Roseville resident Jean Zimmer. She and her husband, Paul Zimmer, began round dancing nearly two years ago.

"With round dancing, you never get bored. You never have time to get self-conscious," Jean Zimmer said. "You just focus on doing what the cuer says and before you know it, you're dancing."

Paul Zimmer says he flunked out of ballroom dancing, but round dancing is just right. People without any dance background can pick up the basics of the style after a few weeks.

"It's so interesting that with all the interest in ballroom dancing, no one's heard of this," he said.

The Zimmers joined a round dance party at Veterans Memorial Hall in Roseville on June 16. The day's hot weather - the venue only has swamp coolers - kept some people away, but about 20 couples attended. Dancers came from Roseville, Rocklin, Auburn, Jackson and Meadow Vista.

The Zimmers happened upon round dance during a square dance. In between the square dancing, there'd be round dancing and the couple found they enjoyed this style, too. Paul Zimmer discovered he could actually handle this alternative to the much-harder ballroom dancing.

"With round dance, you concentrate on the steps and beats and leave the choreography to somebody else," he said. "Round dance takes the stressful stuff away."

Instructor Gordon Sil said male dancers tend to like that the dance is choreographed because "they don't have to think." The cuer gives directions to the men, so "forward" means "backwards" to the women.

Round dancing is categorized by rhythm and by difficulty, also called phase. There are six phases, and 11 rhythms: waltz, two-step, foxtrot, jive, cha-cha, rumba, bolero, mambo, west coast swing, slow two-step and tango.

The cues are standardized in English and are the same anywhere in the world. Round dancing is already quite popular in Europe and Japan, said instructor Marie Hathaway. She also came to this style through square dancing, when a caller needed her assistance.

"He gave me a microphone and I never gave it back," Hathaway said.

That was 20 years ago. She soon met Sil, one of her students who became "teacher's pet."

The Mavericks Square Dance Club of Roseville will host beginning round dance lessons starting in July. Couples and singles are welcome, and the dress code is casual to fancy. Most dancers prefer wearing leather-sole shoes, which make sliding on the wood floor easier.

Hathaway says round dancing is becoming more popular - she's even seen its description on Wikipedia and videos on YouTube. Jean Zimmer enjoys being part of its local growth.

"I just wish we discovered it years ago," she said.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Beginning round dance class

What: Level 1 to 3. Weekly class hosted by the Mavericks Square Dance Club of Roseville.

When: 5:30-7 p.m. Wednesdays, starting July 18

Where: Veterans Memorial Hall, 110 Park Drive in Roseville

Cost: $5 per person

Info: Call Ruth Moore at (916) 783-4964 or visit www.mavericks-squaredance-club.org