Recently I was at a dance event and happened to be on a table dominated by women. I mean numbers wise, and not personality wise. Part of the conversation got on to leading and following. Specifically on how some women find the instructions about how to follow that are given to them by their teachers are sometimes unclear.
They were told things like ‘Just let go’ and ‘You feel heavy’.
I am sure that these things make sense to the teacher saying them, but they were not to the students. The first thing that I would think is obvious is to simply look your teacher in the eye and say ‘What does that mean?’
I suggested this to the women I was talking to, but we also thought that we might as well try dancing and see if we could make sense of what these women had been told. So the dancing started. And we came up with some pointers that might be worth sharing with you.
Chances are you have been told all this by your dance teacher before, but maybe reading it here will trigger different parts of your brain than when your teacher tells you. This might make things click for you.
Hopefully you have an ‘ah ha’ moment or two when reading the following.
1. You feel heavy
Do you need to be pushed or signalled?
It should be the second. You are meant to move yourself. The lead should give a signal, and you will then move yourself in accordance.
When starting some male instructors will push their students to make it clear what is expected. Some will also push to help correct movement when it is less than ideal. This certainly makes you look better on the floor, but it is not the way it’s meant to be done.
Focus on moving yourself.
2. Just let go
One you get a signal, how much time do you spend working out what you’re meant to do?
If you have to spend much time at all, then you will be behind the beat and probably back to feeling heavy. Or it will seem that you’re apprehensive. Go with what you feel first and see what happens.
If you’re dancing socially, then the lead will assume it is his mistake – trust me; I do. Even if it’s not – just to be polite. If the lead gets annoyed, then he is not someone to worry about.
If it is in a class, then it’s a perfect time to work out if you have any misunderstandings about what each lead means. This can become especially important as you learn more figures. Each has a different lead; often with only subtle differences. As you learn more figures you need to pick up these subtle differences. You can also report back to a teacher if you had issues when dancing socially.
The more mistakes you make and points of confusion you find, the more of them you fix. And the more you fix, the better you dance.
So in summary:
- Do not expect to be pushed
- Move yourself when you feel the signal
- Do not spend time trying to work out where you are meant to go
- Move where it feels you should
- Do not stress if you go the wrong way
- Mistakes either are not a big deal or a chance to become more amazing
- Don’t guess what your teacher means when talk to you about following
- Communicate clearly by asking when working on becoming more amazing
One last note: men are told that a strong lead is not about pushing with force (although this is what that can mean to them when they first here the word strong). Instead it is about having a clear idea in their head about what they want to see happen. If you respond to signals like they are clear instructions, then you will get a chance to understand what a signal means or what the right signal should be or a little of both. Regardless of the case, at least someone will benefit through improved understanding.