Rob Ewart is a veteran Rock’n’Roll* tragic and the president of the Victorian Rock’n’Roll Dance Association, the state umbrella body for the popular dance genre. We recently spent 10 minutes with Rob, chatting about competitive dancing, the Death Dive and who is really the king of Rock’n’Roll.
Ausdance VIC: Thanks for your time Rob, it’s great to catch up.
The Victorian State Championships are on in a couple of weeks. How do you judge a Rock’n’Roll dance, isn’t it just the most fun you can have with your shoes on?
Rob Ewart: Certainly, those of us who love the music just cannot sit still when those songs are playing. The dichotomy is that Rock’n’Roll dancing is not about competition but, yeah – nah, it kind of is. Competitions help us to maintain high levels of competency, they inspire other dancers to expand their skills, and they help advanced dancers to assess their progress.
In judging, the big make-or-break factor is timing; moving to the tempo of the music. Next comes the level of connection demonstrated by the dancers; that they work well together, integrating the moves and interpreting the music. The third factor is technique. How well they deliver their selection of technical moves and how complicated those moves are.
Ausdance VIC: What’s the most difficult dance move in competitive Rock’n’Roll dancing?
Rob Ewart: The most difficult thing in Rock’n’Roll dancing is remembering what moves you know and then remembering how they start.
Seriously though, probably the most difficult move is a lift where the follow is dropped headfirst from above the lead’s head, down their back and is scooped up through their legs to emerge safely and still in tempo to continue dancing. Some people call that a “Death Dive”. Young dancers are not permitted to include it in competitions.
Ausdance VIC: Yikes! I didn’t know Rock’n’Roll could be so risky. So the advice is “Do not try this at home”?
Rob Ewart: Definitely! Only under competent supervision and after years of training.
Ausdance VIC: How many people do you think are out there rocking away every week on the dance floor somewhere in Victoria?
Rob Ewart: Thinking of community clubs, classes, dances and other live gigs, I am guessing, maybe several thousand.
Ausdance VIC: Who’s the king of Rock’n’Roll? Elvis Presley or Bill Haley – or somebody else?
Rob Ewart: Wow, you just pressed the button marked “Tirade”, but I will behave. This is a “10-minute” interview. We real Rockers have an Elvis doll hanging from our rear-view mirror. We have visited Graceland. But the Elvis story illustrates what can happen to a talented performer who falls under the control of big business.
To me, the earlier “boy from Tupelo” Jump Blues and Rockabilly Elvis was so much better than the Las Vegas pop music version. So, officially the King is Elvis, but there are so many essential performers of the 1950s and 1940s to choose from; Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens etc, etc. Then there were all the Black musicians we never even knew about until perhaps the 1970s, because their recordings were “Race Records“, like Elvis’ mentor Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup.
Ausdance VIC: How can people get involved with the VRRDA?
Rob Ewart: We are the umbrella body for Rock’n’Roll dancing in Victoria. First, people should get involved with their local community Rock’n’Roll dance club or school. There are plenty of these clubs and schools on Facebook and many have websites too. Ask Mr Google for help. There is also the website vicrock.com.au, provided by a dance enthusiast. It has a news section, a gig guide calendar and a forum.
The VRRDA is on Facebook under the full name of Victorian Rock’n’Roll Dance Association and our website, which is loaded with info, is vrrda.org.au. We do have a Links page, but keeping that up to date can be a bit like herding cool cats. Message us from the Facebook page or send us an email.
Ausdance VIC: Are there still tickets available for the State Championships on 20 May?
Rob Ewart: St Savas in Greensborough is a big hall which we sell out each year. Right now there are still some tickets left but don’t muck around. Everything can be done online from our website. Tickets are never available at the door.
Ausdance VIC: Thanks for talking to us Rob. Time to lace up my blue suede shoes and back-rock-chasse-back-rock outa here.
Rob Ewart: Cheers Marty, keep on rockin’.
*[Editor’s note] Rob insists that the only correct way is capital Rs and the ‘n’. So officially Ausdance VIC style is now “Rock’n’Roll”.