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Friday, October 9, 2009

How to Lead & Follow with Confidence


"What's the signal for that move?"

"So, if he lifts his arm that's my cue to go under it, right?"

Our students know that we cringe when we hear the words "Signal" or "Cue" in relation to leading and following. Why? Because we believe that there are no signals or cues, only clear leading and following.

For instance, if the leader lifts his arm and the follower interprets this as the signal to go under it there might be a collision if he goes under it at the same time she decides to. Signals and cues are open to interpretation and, therefore, misinterpretation.

My favorite comment a follower once made in class was: "I know when he's going to lead the move because he makes this I'm concentrating really hard face so I know it's coming."

From my personal experience, you cannot read minds or faces accurately. Years ago when I was just starting out and dancing with a very good dancer he shook his head the entire time we were dancing together, which I interpreted as "everything I'm doing is wrong," when in fact, that's how this particular dancer got into the groove of the music.

So what is the difference between signals and cues and true leading and following?
1. Signals and cues are filtered through your mind.
2. Leading and following comes from your body.

Since we want our dancing to be a zen-like experience, we want most of our leading and following to be kinestetic. In order for that to work you must depend on your frame and connection, not on your mind.

Depending on your mind leads to anticipation. But using your frame and connection allows followers to dance to moves they don't even know. And since there are as many moves and variations as there are leaders, this is crucial to the enjoyment of both the leaders and followers.

What Makes a GOOD Lead?

LEAD verb 1. to guide someone or something along a way.

A good lead GUIDES the follower through the move. When we say use your body to lead, we mean your frame not your muscles. This ensures you are guiding and not pushing, shoving or jerking. A good lead/follow is like a good converstation, you don't need to yell. If you move from your center to engage your arms, instead of moving your arms independent of the rest of your body you will offer a smooth and clear lead. Just remember that leads start in the body, not just the arm.

Be aware of your follower. Where is her weight? What foot is she on?

Be aware of your hand connection. Are you clasping her hands? Are your thumbs pressing down on her delicate flesh?

Be aware of your follower's dance experience. Partner dancing is not about showing off all your cool moves in two minutes. It's about having a great dance. So always be aware of your follower's level of experience and dance accordingly to ensure that both of you have a great time.

What Makes a GOOD Follow?

FOLLOW verb 1. to go, proceed, or come after.

Just as a good lead guides, a good follow is always slightly behind not ON TOP OF the lead. Not anticipating a move is probably the most difficult skill to build for followers, but the more you learn to improve your frame and connection, the better your ability to follow will become.

Be aware of where you keep your free hands. If you drop your hands to your side or hold them near your chest they are going to be difficult for your leader to use.

Don't hold on, don't let go. Dance frame extends to the fingertips. Don't grasp or clutch your partner's hand. At the same time, don't straighten or relax your fingers. Don't reach for your partner. If your arms are extended and you are using your frame, you will always be available.

Don't anticipate. Don't anticipate. Don't anticipate. Wait until you feel the lead.

Go in the direction you are sent until redirected. Don't hit a spot on the floor and stop or turn yourself. Keep going until your combined frame redirects you.

Having good frame and connection will greatly enhance your ability to lead and follow anyone. But developing good frame and connection is certainly a "Goldilocks" experience. What's too rigid? What's too soft? What's just right? To help you experience it for yourself, we'll be offering a Frame & Connection Technique Clinic from 5:30-7:00 before our next dance on Oct 10 at the Reformed Church of Port Ewen.

OCTOBER EVENTS
Technique Clinic: THE POWER OF FRAME & CONNECTION, Saturday, Oct 10
PORT EWEN SWINGS + PERFORMANCE, Saturday, Oct 10
DORRIE & CHESTER PERFORM, Sunday, Oct 11
NEW CLASS SERIES KINGSON, POUGHKEEPSIE, HIGHLAND, Oct 12, 13, 14
PERFORMANCE CLASS BEGINS, Tuesday, Oct 13
NEW CLASS SERIES STONE RIDGE, Tuesday, Oct 20
CHESTER'S COOL CATS & KITTENS PERFORM, Oct 10, Oct 24
BALBOA WORKSHOP, Sunday, Oct 18
AMERICAN LINDY HOP CHAMPIONSHIPS, Oct 22-25
HALLOWEEN SWING DANCE, Saturday, Oct 31