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How To Write A Step Description

Somewhere back in the mid-1990s, Don Deyne at the Information Super Dance Floor, Peter Blaskowski at Kickit.to, and I agreed through numerous emails about "how" a dance should be written. Don wrote it up and put it on his site at http://homepages.apci.net/~drdeyne/ . We never did. However, things have changed and we decided it was time to do so since so many new choreographers have come on the scene who don't have a clue about how to write a dance. Hopefully, if folks pay attention and start following these guidelines, it will make our job of editing the dances just a little bit easier and we will be able to get more dances on-line, faster. We would like to credit Don with this idea and these descriptions. He told me along time ago I could "steal" his page, so I finally did. We've taken his basic idea and added our own thoughts but have left much of what Don wrote as he wrote it. Thanks Don!

First, PLEASE remember to keep it simple! Keep it as simple as you can without sacrificing clarity. This applies to both the words you choose and the formatting of your word processing file. A Shuffle is a Shuffle, not a Chasse in our world. And you may cross one foot over another but you certainly don't "Cross-Cross". Remember that many folks reading your step sheets are beginners so don't confuse things by being flamboyant with wording. That doesn't prove a thing.

Keep these points in mind when writing:
     1.  Write it like you say it when teaching it. Do you say "Right step behind on ball of"? Don't
          think so... Write "Step RIGHT behind Left"

     2.  Do you ever step on any thing but your foot? On purpose? Then why use the word?

     3.  In most instances the words "to" "on" and "the" just take up space and don't really add meaning

     4.  "Step to the right side on the RIGHT foot" OR "Side step RIGHT"... They say the same thing

          but "Side step RIGHT" takes half as much space

     5.  "Side" with no other indication is to the side of the referenced foot

     6.  "Across" or "Over" means cross in front, "Behind" means cross in back. You don't step to the left
          with your right, you step across or behind

     7.  Use the word "diagonal" instead of using clock positions

     8.  Use "left" and "right" as opposed to "CCW" and "CW". It's not a matter of understanding, it's just
          that we are used to them and our brains process them

Punctuation: toss proper sentence structure out the window

     1.  ";" separates whole beats of music (1,2)

     2.  "&" Indicates a half beat (as in a shuffle 1&2)

     3.  "and" indicates simultaneous action (as in "turn 1/4 and step back on...")

     4.  Don't end a description line with a "," or a "." or anything other punctuation mark  

FOOT MOVEMENT: If you are moving your foot CAPITALIZE it. If you are moving one foot next to, behind, across, or whatever a secondary foot, Capitalize only the first letter of the secondary foot (RIGHT behind Left). When moving in a direction leave it all lower case. For example  "Turning 1/4 left, step RIGHT behind Left" (You are turning left and stepping with your RIGHT foot and placing it behind your Left)

DANCE TITLE: We try to discourage issuing dance descriptions with an AKA (or also known as) name included with the title of the dance. There's enough confusion in country dance without adding more from the beginning of a dance's life. And PLEASE keep the title down to one or two words. We did not include a dance in our files because the title was 14 words long!

CHOREOGRAPHED BY: Include the following:

     1.  Name (if you use a "nickname" include your real name, ie: Stephen "Razor Sharp" Sunter).
          Even if you are known to most of the universe by a single name or a knickname, please
          include your first and last names so we can build our database

     2.  Address including zip or postal codes and the country (if we don't know better and you
          are Scottish, don't get upset if we stick you in the UK!)

     3.  Phone number. All your fax numbers, work numbers, cell phones, and pager numbers are not
          needed, just a phone number so folks can call and ask questions or heaven for bid, compliment
          you on your dance...

     4.  Your E-mail address
     5.  A Homepage or web site URL

SOURCE: This is for the person submitting the dance. Please include your name, phone number, and email address. Sometimes we might need to contact you to clarify a step.

1.  TYPE: Is it a 4 wall, 2 wall, 1 wall, contra, mixer, or circle dance? How many walls you
          face, at count 1, before restarting the dance at the original wall

     2.  RATING: Novice, Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Easy Intermediate, Intermediate, Advanced
          Intermediate, or Advanced. Remember not just your class or dancers but what about the rest of
          the world. What is Easy Intermediate in Australia may be Intermediate in America. Think of the
          average dancer. Don't rate a phrased dance with two sections of 64 steps and a gawdzillion "&"
          counts as Easy Intermediate!

     3.  COUNT: This is the number of beats of music to complete a single repetition of the dance
     4.  STEPS: Add the "&" counts in one repetition to the count. Not necessary, but a helpful
          thing to know. We've seen dances listed as Easy Intermediate that were Cha Chas with
          64 counts and 96 steps!

     5.  SEQUENCE: Only applies to a phrased dance, but be sure to include it.

MUSIC: First try to remember that some people teach in country music clubs that do not allow non-country music. Be sure to include a country alternative for those folks. The same holds true for those folks who write dances for a local band or some obscure artist. Include a mainline country selection or your dance might not ever get done by anyone but you. Here is an example of how to list your music:

"Wake Up Screaming" - Gary Allan (88 bpm / CD: Used Heart For Sale)

"Only A Whisper" - Mindy McCready (96 bpm / CD: If I Don't Stay The Night)

"Memphis Women & Chicken" - T Graham Brown  (112 bpm / CD: Wine Into Water)

DANCE STEPS: Rather than try to describe how each line should be set up, here's an example:


33,34  Side step LEFT; Touch RIGHT beside Left & clap
35,36  Kick RIGHT forward two times
37,38  Step back on RIGHT; Touch LEFT toe back
39,40  Step 1/4 turn left on LEFT; Scuff RIGHT heel on floor

The BOLD line at the top is the "cue" line or "call" line. Keep it simple. This is the line the teacher should be using to "cue" the class when calling out steps. We've seen eight counts on four lines with 4 lines of cue line exactly duplicating what's in the step description! WRONG!

Triple steps or Shuffles should be written:
1&2   Step RIGHT forward; Step LEFT next to Right; Step LEFT forward

Don't do one step per line, that rolls over onto multiple pages. Remember to keep it short, sweet, and simple. There's an old system that we live by called the K.I.S.S. system which stands for Keep It Simple Stupid.     

UNKNOWN: Please do not send us dances from that most prolific of choreographers "The Great Unknown". We've already got hundreds of his (or her) dances and most of them have problems and we can't get in touch with the person for clarification of a series of steps.

We reserve the right to edit dances, correct obvious mistakes to clarify the step description, and to typeset the dance into the Country Time Dance Lines format. We reserve the right to clarify the steps for easy understanding by the reader/dancer. We promise to make every effort to retain the intent of the choreographer, and if necessary will contact the choreographer for approval of any changes before posting the dance to these archives.

One negative by-product of the success of Don Deyne's Information Super Dance Floor, Patti & Don Brown's Dancing Deep In The Heart Of Texas site, and the Country Time Dance Lines site is that we get more dances sent to us than we can keep up with. Don says "With only 24 hours in a day, and for some strange reason I keep wanting to sleep for at least a few of them, time is a major concern. Effort is another." Well put Don! What seems like a simple thing, when multiplied by the sheer number of dances we receive becomes too much to handle and for this reason Don & Patti Brown and Gloria Johnson and I are sharing editing chores and swapping finished dances from one site to another. At Country Time, a dance that arrives in near perfect condition for posting takes between 5 and 10 minutes to prepare in text file format, and another 10 to 15 minutes to build the .html page, add the dance to the New Dances page and link it, and add the dance to it's alpha menu page. Dances that are not so near perfect can take much longer. The average is somewhere around 20 minutes to set up the text file and 10 minutes to do the .html work. Working 8 to 10 hours a day, we can usually upload 20 to 30 dances per day.