Brent Moore – June 28, 2003
Bob Brundage – Well, hi again. This is Bob Brundage and today is June the 28th, 2003. Way back in 1999, Brent and Mickey Moore were awarded the Silver Halo Award from Roundalab, and I just managed to catch up with Brent finally today.
We’ve been going around and around a couple of times and now we’re talking by phone. I’m in Albuquerque and Brent is in his home in Knoxville, Tennessee. So Brent, let me ask you, as I usually do, tell me about where you were born and brought up and give me a little idea of what your life was like before square and round dancing.
Brent Moore – OK. I was born in Gadsden, Alabama, raised in Attalla which was a suburb of, and I spent the first twenty-seven years there. Went to high school there and to Auburn University and worked for the Department of Defense in Anniston. Then, when NASA was moving all of it’s systems out of Huntsville and we were a support organization for that, my group was training people in missile systems and electronics. We were getting the Houston force and I had the opportunity to help with building Oak Ridge and so we moved to Oak Ridge in 1970. It was there that I encountered square dancing. People that worked with my wife’s husband was involved in square dancing. He eventually became a caller and they were starting …. he and his wife were to take the basic class and wanted company so he talked my wife into going and so, that’s how we got involved in it….
BB – There you go.
BM – …. back in 1974 .
BB – OK. So, you started out in a square dance class and I guess that’s just about the way everybody gets involved in the activity at first.
BM – Well, not everybody. In fact, as time moved along we found that more and more people get involved in round dancing through other avenues….
BB – Yeah. I’m sure.
BM – …. In fact, that’s how we got introduced to round dancing. We had never seen it before. At the half-way dance, at the square dance class, we saw it for the first time and immediately joined the class and pursued that more avidly than we did square dancing. We did continue to square dance for several years but really concentrated on our round dancing.
BB – Yeah, well, that’s interesting and where did you say all this took place – excuse me, but you’re a little bit weak ….
BM – That was in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
BB – Oh, there you go. OK. That’s better. All right. Tell me about who some of your mentors were along the line.
BM – Oh, I’ve had quite a few, both in round dancing and in ballroom dancing. I would say probably my most dominate mentor in round dancing was Eddie and Audrey Palmquist. They were very close friends and really guiding light, especially in our early years of development. I also have to recognize that Irv and Betty Easterday were important in our career along with quite a few others in the movement. We were all kind of coming along together but those had there quite prominently early on and were really looked upon by us as potential to understanding and developing as round dance teachers.
BB – Right. What’s the time frame in connection with Roundalab. When did Roundalab get started ?
BM – Roundalab actually started before we played. It started in 1977 at the same time the Universal Round Dance Council started.
BB – Oh, yes.
BM – As a point of interest, we also received the Golden Torch Award in 1996 with URDC. We also were Presidents of URDC and just this past weekend were elected Chairmen of Roundalab. We’ve been Chairmen of the Dixie Round Dance Council a number of times, or we were maybe three times so, all the major round dance activities we’ve really been involved in for thirty years.
BB – Right. Well, you and Mickey I guess had been married some time before you got involved in the activity.
BM – Yes. We were married several years before that. In fact, the children were going to leave home and were really the primary motivation for getting involved in it. In fact, Mickey came home from work one day and said, “You know, in a couple …. a couple or three years these girls are going to be gone …. we had two daughters …. and we’re going to be sitting here watching TV and we don’t want to do that”. So, she came home a couple of weeks later and said, “Well, we’re signed up for bridge lessons on Thursday night and square dance lessons on Wednesday night”….
BB – OK
BM – …. and I said, “Fine” and as it turns out …. she came from a family of bridge players. She was …. Her mother was a Life Master and her sister was a Life Master and, with all these bridge players, it turns out I can’t play cards worth a hoot…. Both laugh…. but we both enjoyed dancing a lot so that changed the focus of the bridge.
BB – Right. Well, I know you’ve been involved in a lot of round dance teaching in the way of schools, etc. Tell me a little bit about them.
BM – Well, not actually formal schools as such. We have been and still are involved in teaching at festivals and weekends all across the world. We’ve taught in Germany, Japan a couple or three times, Australia, Mexico, Canada and almost everywhere in the United States that have major festivals. So, we’ve been involved in that aspect of it more than in schools for teachers. Our main forte was in teaching techniques and advanced techniques rather than teaching rounds and the methods. We did have an interest in that and still have continued to be.
BB – Right. Well, that was basically what I meant. I know you do a lot of weekend things together all around the country. One thing just occurred to me. Do you have any trouble in non-English speaking countries?
BM – Not as much as you would imagine. English is the universal language for round dancing as it is for square dancing and so when we go to other countries that doesn’t present as significant a problem as you might think. Also, we find that it’s more of a barrier in explaining things when we go to Japan. However, they are remarkably strong visual learners. They can just show things very carefully and it’s amazing how quickly they can pick things up just from the visual showing of the figures and the combinations and the sequences. Usually when we had …. we always had interpreters if we needed to really explain something that wasn’t obvious from moving through the technique. If something had to be explained we always had an interpreter to explain in Japanese. It wasn’t quite as much of a problem in Europe because they speak English as a separate language in almost every place. When we taught in Canada, of course, it was no problem at all except for my accent.
BB – Laughs. Well, isn’t there one of the international round dance teachers…. Isn’t he Japanese?
BM – Oh yes. There are several. In fact, they taught at the convention, Kenji and Nobuko Shibata. Actually now, they live in the United States and Manabu and Reiko Imamura, have taught at URDC.
BB – Right. Well, you must have been involved in quite a few festivals around where you handled the round dances.
BM – Oh yes. Quite a few. Most of the major …. almost all the major round dance festivals we’ve worked through the years. Some of the major square and round dance combinations. Our area of expertise falls mainly in the more advanced round dancing. We didn’t work a lot of square dance …. square dance and round dance advanced. We’ve done a few – Silver State and Delaware Valley and Tucson and some like that. Some state festivals but our main efforts have been on the purely round dance events.
BB – Right. Well, how about National Conventions?
BM – We taught at a few National Conventions. Not too many. Most of the time when we were working, the vacation time limited what we could do so we would take URDC because we were heavily involved in the effort and the National Square Dance Conventions when we had time to go. Usually what we would do would be to schedule events and when we ran out of vacation, that’s when we stopped scheduling unless we had a paying event that’s when we did that rather than going to a volunteer event like the National. One time we …. the first time we came to the National Square Dance Convention in Memphis we were on the round dance committee and we MC’d and monitored for that.
BB – Well, you probably don’t get a chance to square dance very much then.
BM – Very rarely. Very rarely. Usually I’ll drop in on squares for non-square dancers and mess them up. It’s surprising how quickly things come back. If I’ve got a good square they can kind of help me out when I get in trouble. I do pretty good on Mainstream. Maybe a little Plus but that’s about it.
BB – How about contras? Do you ever get involved in contras?
BM – I never got involved in contras.
BB – You know, I’ve always had a feeling that contra dancing should appeal to round dancers primarily because you’re always dancing to the phrase of the music. Do you have any thoughts about that?
BM – Yes. If you’re dancing to phrases that does help round dancers but it’s still a different kind of dancing just like square dancing is. In square dancing you’re dancing to position and in round dancing, and so with contras, you’re dancing to a position rather than developing the mechanics to dance with a partner and rotating and turning and doing the different moves with a partner is a different kind of system in addition to dancing with the music. That’s one of the challenges that people face when they come out of square dancing or contra dancing into rounds is making that transition … (tape clicks off my a moment) ….and they have to learn another method of movement.
BB – I see.
BM – For some, it’s a difficult transition. Others don’t have much problem with it. My feeling is, the sooner you get people moving through those sequences where they don’t really develop habits about …. or muscle memories that are very strong about certain things the better off you are because their bodies are ready to receive more information. If they stay in one place too long the habit becomes so ingrained that it’s very difficult to get them to change.
BB – Yes. That’s interesting. Well ….
BM – That applies to ballroom dancing as well. If you develop one mode of dancing instead of developing …. continuing to develop, you’ll reach a point where habits become very difficult to overcome.
BB – OK. Well, what’s been your involvement in ballroom?
BM – Well, we started taking ballroom lessons a couple years after we started round dancing mainly, and it’s always been the focus to improve our round dancing, to learn more about the body mechanics and techniques of ball …. Of dancing and then apply them to round dancing. That’s always been the primary driver because the social atmosphere, the camaraderie, the feeling that you have when you are involved in the round dance area is quite a bit different and it‘s really something that intended always to maintain. Never, even an inkling of moving over to ballroom as a full time thing.
BB – Yeah. Well, I remember when I interviewed the Easterdays, back a little while ago now, that was one thing they pursued too. They felt that their involvement in ballroom, and going to ballroom things, greatly improved their abilities as round dance teachers.
BM – Ah, it does. There’s no question about it. You learn so much more about how the technique works and how body mechanics works and you run through it much more rapidly because you’re getting one on one feedback. It’s expensive but for a teacher we think it’s critical, especially if you’re trying to improve your teaching.
BB – Have you ever gotten into competitive round dancing – ballroom I mean.
BM – Oh, we competed early on when we were taking lessons. I like to say we competed twice. The first and last time. We didn’t like competition. Really, that wasn’t a good driver for us. We would rather work on our round dancing. It kind of changed our focus instead of working on our competition routines and just round dance and make it better to understand what’s going on in the field. Then we really started making a lot of progress, I think.
BB – Have you done many …. I probably should apologize that I don’t know this but have you written some round dances yourself?
BM – Oh yes. Quite a few. There are five or six of them in the Hall of Fame, the URDC Hall of Fame, and one just came onto the Golden Classics list for Roundalab this year. Going on these things has been one of the things I think has been an important driver in our success in round dancing as an important yardstick. And also, we’ve introduced rhythms in round dancing that hadn’t been done in round dancing before and that was probably what got us the Golden Torch Award. We brought the Bolero into round dancing. In teaching Bolero …. several people had tried to introduce Bolero into round dancing before but were not successful because, in my opinion they started too high. They were more advanced techniques and without really not training people in the fundamentals. So, we kind of posted, from our models, a very accomplished approach and that was the right choreography and to present material that trained people in the basics of the rhythm first and then you can get more leverage in choreography. So, that was the model we followed and got the rhythm really founded in round dancing.
BB – OK. You probably don’t have much time for it but do you pursue any other hobbies?
BM – Yes. If we have time, I’m a competitive runner for a while. I kind of stopped that, I’d say, about ten years ago as competition. We love gardening so we do a lot of gardening and things like that with projects around for that and I still walk each day. I’m not running right now but I intend to get back to it a little bit. That’s about it.
BB – I’ve been asking most of the people I’ve interviewed, looking back, do you have any regrets? Anything you wished you’d done a little differently?
BM – Not really with the rest of the thing, no. I can see in the movement some mistakes that we’ve made in our movement ….in the round dance movement … and probably in square dancing too that, if we had paid more attention to it that we probably would not be facing some of the problems that we’re faced with now in declining numbers and things like that. We forgot the connectivity that’s required between all dancers as we …. especially in round dancing, and I know it applies to square dancing too, as we become more interested in the more complex aspect s of the dancing that we kind of isolated ourselves away. I think that happened in squares too, the development of the phasing system, I think led to that and the divisions that were developed in square dancing – creating the Pluses and A1’s and A2’s, C1’s and C2’s and all that, I think, created a division that really didn’t maintain that strong social sense that keeps people connected. I think dancers tend to become selfish. They want to do the more advanced stuff and weren’t willing to tolerate or accept people who were just coming into the movement and to provide that social connection that keeps them interested and keeps them coming.
BB – Yes. Well, that’s interesting. That kind of leads up to the next question I’ve been asking. In your opinion, where do you think round has been, and where is at, and where do you think it’s going?
BM – Well, I think that round dancing has made tremendous progress over the last …. over it’s projected origins and developing it’s techniques and the skill levels of the dancers and the teachers. You’ll see remarkable differences on the floor and that is part ….. the down side is that aspect of becoming isolationist as you move up the ladder instead of providing those connections all the way across the spectrum. The future of the movement …. I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball. I’m not sure which way it’s going. As we try to attract people to the movement, I’m not sure we have the right kinds of programs in place to do that and we’re trying to …. I know round dancing is trying to attract people, not necessarily from square dancing… (tape clicks off for a moment) …. traditional programs for teaching are set up to attract people from square dancing and we’ve not quite made the transition as a whole for the entire group to do that. I don’t think we’ve got things in place to train them and to bring them into the activity cleanly. Some people will because some people are determined to learn and they’ll learn in spite of what ?? says and they’ll join the activity. But it’s not good to just bring people in in large numbers. And, then again, another aspect of it is kind of strange in that if we do that, we start bringing people in in large numbers again and get really going again that may indeed change the movement itself. Almost everyone that I know that’s involved in round dancing, and probably square dancing too, I don’t know any more now, but everybody that’s involved …. In fact, they were hand picked to be a part of this activity. They were your friends. They were people you needed and that’s one reason that the quality of the people in the movement are really outstanding because they were hand picked and has a different character than just people coming off the street because of an ad in the paper. It’s in a different …. a different connected …. differently connected people into the movement.
BB – That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought of it in that light and that’s great. Well, I know somewhere along the line, and you’d probably just as soon not talk about it, but I know you lost your wife, Mickey….
BM – Yes, I can talk about that because we had a wonderful relationship and a wonderful marriage and a wonderful career together but I’m a kind of a time person and if something passes, it passes and you go on to the next thing. It was great while it was there and I can say that we had a terrific relationship. She was devoted to the movement too, extremely so and, in fact we were teaching up until a month before she died.
BB – I see. Well, you’ve been fortunate to find another partner that’s ….
BM – Oh yes. I will …. I count lucky stars every day for my entire life for having Mickey and for finding Judy. It’s an absolutely amazing thing.
BB – Well, that’s great.
BM – She’s a remarkable dancer. She was a U.S. champion at one time several years ago in ballroom in the professional catering for Fred Astaire She was twice the Fred Astaire National Champion. She was a finalist in the United States Ballroom Championship.
BB – Well, that’s great. Well, you’re fortunate to get paired up. Well, I think we’ve just about wound down on this. Do you think of anything else you’d like to add for posterity?
BM – Well, I’d will say one other thing about Mickey that Mickey’s love of this movement and, in fact has been recognized and the Dixie round Dance Council has created an award in her honor that symbolized her givingness and her willingness to help other teachers come along. She would have other people come and stay with us over a weekend and we work with them as they were developing as teachers and doing schools, that’s kind of what we do as a no fee basis. You just come and we’ll talk about it and we’ll see what happens. We’ll work on our technique and make suggestions like that. So, the Dixie Round Dance Council created an award that goes to teachers who have that kind of spirit to give of themselves to other teachers to help them along. We just awarded the first one this past spring and Peter and Beryl Barton were it’s recipients.
BB – I’m sorry. Where was that?
BM – It was done at Fontana, North Carolina, a week long event there and Peter and Beryl Barton were teaching there. That was their final teaching engagement on the road. They were not going to teach on the road any more. They were just going to teach at home so they were presented that award. Unusually enough, Judy is a graphics designer in part of her experience and she designed the award. So that kind of united us all.
BB – Well, that’s beautiful. I assume that’s going to be a continuing thing then.
BM – Yes. I don’t know whether it will be annual but it will be fairly frequent, I imagine.
BB – Well, that’s beautiful. Well Brent, unless you think of anything else, I guess we can call this a day. I appreciate your being at home a lot of times so that I could get a hold of you by phone.
BM – Well, I ‘m very happy that we were able to connect.
BB – Thank you very much.
BM – All right.
BB – Well, I hope to meet you around the square, as they say, somewhere.
BM – OK. I’ll look forward to it.
BB – OK and give my regards to your wife.
BM – OK. I will.
BB – Bye, bye.
BM – Bye bye
BM – Bye, bye.
(Tape clicks off. End of tape –
End of interview with Brent Moore)