About Dancing

Generalizing Followers

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GENERALIZING FOLLOWERS
The Next Generation Swing Dance Club was having its monthly dances at a studio that, on most Saturdays, features Ballroom dancing. At about 9:45, the focus changed from Swing to Ballroom. Most, but fortunately not all, of the dancers also changed.
  The Ballroom dancers were a mix of International and American (such as I) styles. Those Next Generation dances have afforded me the opportunity to confirm an observation that I thought I'd made but couldn't really confirm;
Swing Followers are better than other Followers because they:
 • present a more comfortable frame with better compression and resistance

 • apparently realize that “it's just dancing” so have fewer hangups about being
  close to their Leader

 • have a much lesser tendency to anticipate (if at all)

 • have greater trust in their Leader's skill

 • have greater trust that their Leader will protect them

 • are better at back-leading for the sake of safety

 • are much quicker to adapt to traffic-avoidance “mistakes”

My attention became sharply focused on these revelations the first time The Next Generation Swing Dance Club had its dance at that studio. It was during a Waltz mixer that I was astonished at the differences between the dancers. Although it was my first dance with a few of the Followers, I'd been dancing with many, if not most, of them over many years. I apparently had just accepted their Following for what it was without comparing it to others.
  Although I'd had the suspicion for years, I don't recall having ever mentioned it to anyone nor having had such an excellent opportunity to confirm that suspicion. But I didn't jump to the conclusions above:
  I've reöbserved and re-confirmed my observations with a great many Followers over quite a long time. I can therefore confidently cry:
Gimme a Swing Follower regardless of the dance the music dictates!
And I'll even generalize that
Swing Followers are better than other Followers
regardless of the dance their Leader chooses to Lead.
Gawd how I love 'em!

From The Mighty Flyer's Volume III, Issue 6; June, 2004
… Sometimes I'll just listen but mostly the best dances are like relationships, you can finish 
your partner's sentence because you're on the same page. – Katie Lyon, Southern California

Click for others' comments on the above.

HOW TO FOLLOW
LAWS TO FOLLOW

Never Hold On
Never Let Go
Follow Your Hand
Wait For The Lead
Don't Think!

Pamela Marshall suggested «don't try too hard to follow»
Don't be concerned with what you're doing rather than paying attention to your Leader and to what the partnership is doing.

Terry Rippa advised trying «to dance more loose/relaxed»

Kelli Kilgore added «tring to be relaxed and comfortable with your body and the way it moves, just letting go and dance.»
Experienced dancers agree that, in Kelli's words, “the more time you spend social dancing the more at ease you’ll be” and learn to “to embrace the dancer” you are.

Pamela Stergios said «Your ultimate goal is not to do your basics, but to move where your lead PUTS you, wherever that might be. So don't “try to do your basics”, as you will look like you are “trying” to do them … and be stepping through the motion of the pattern which may be contrary to the lead you're receiving and cause you to look out of sync with your partner.
  «It will take a couple years to develop a soft connection in your lats and allow compression and expansion to become natural to you and a natural reaction. Relax and don't fight the force he is putting on your body – rather react to it. be easy to move around – Do not tense up, ever, simply hold your posture and keep your balance over the balls of your feet. The movements and direction changes are up to the lead.»


Others' Comments on
GENERALIZING FOLLOWERS

_________________________________
From: Emily Trites (swangoem@*.com)

> Swing Followers are better than other Followers
Amen to that!  Having been a follower at one time or another of a multitude of partner dances, I can't begin to count the number of shocked and ecstatic grins on the faces of men who have little faith in the ability of the average “newbie.”
  Thanks to all I have learned on the fly in WCS, I can survive virtually any ballroom/country/salsa/hustle dance with relative aplomb.  What's more, by the second time I showed my timid little face at an Argentine Tango function here in Sacramento, I landed the partner all of the other tangueras were jockeying for.  We have been dancing 3+ years together, have done exhibitions and shows, and I honestly believe I owe the majority of my swift rise through the ranks to the more than solid foundation offered by WCS. 
  When we started, he was enchanted by my ability to hold my own weight AND keep my balance as we whirled around the floor through a wild gauntlet of bodies.  The cool thing is, he continues to be every bit as amazed today as he was all that time ago.
  Next time you feel utterly frustrated by the thought of yet another compression excersise, or think you're going to retch if you ever hear one more discussion of center and balance, please think again.  There is little else in the dance world that offers so very much!

> Gawd how I love 'em!
I love us too!!!

_____________________________
From: Lusty Wench (lusty@*.org)

Emily Trites <swangoem@*.com> wrote:
> Thanks to all I have learned on the fly in WCS

You left out the part where you mention that you are truly an amazing dancer.
____________________________________________
From: Jerry Cipriano, Santa Monica (jerryci@*.net)

I partially agree … and I am very happy with the frame, resistance, and adaptability of the average WCS follower.  However, I have encountered enough exceptions to cause me to wonder if a general rule such as you advocate is true.  I have danced with a number of women who have ballroom or ballet backgrounds whom I thought were exceptional dancers and easily adapted to new styles.  I've had a regular WCS and salsa partner for years who was a very good dancer, though not professional.  She made a quantum improvement in some areas of following and balance when she learned Tango.
  Perhaps it is an individual thing.  Emily – I don't know you, but based on other postings, you are an excellent dancer.  Perhaps the positive reactions you got from leaders would have happened regardless of your WCS background.  Perhaps it was simply because you are very talented.
  I had a hustle partner in 1979/1980 named Adele Canetti who had lots of training (ballet, jazz), but she would have been an incredible follower regardless of her ballet background.  Her abilities were due to individual talent.
  Nancy Beth Orr is incredibly talented not only at styling and performing, but also as a versatile and adaptable follower.  Besides being schooled in WCS and hustle, she is also extensively trained in ballet.  Her abilities are due to individual talent more than anything else.
  I danced swing with Joby Vasquez of Salsa Brava at last New Year's Palm Springs dance.  Joby has a jazz and salsa (of course) background.  I had to twist her arm because she said she had never danced swing before.  She danced and followed phenomenally well.  I love dancing with Joby.  After that dance, there was a mile-long line of WCS men asking her to dance.  Joby is a great follower and she had no WCS training at all.
  Again, there is the factor of individual talent.  I could continue on with the list to include many top advanced and professional dancers, but the point is made.  I wholeheartedly agree that WCS training is invaluable for followers – and so is ballet, ballroom, tango and perhaps jazz and salsa. Many people without a ballet background might not understand the inclusion of ballet.  Ballet emphasizes the importance of a strong and proper frame MORE THAN ANY OTHER DANCE.
________________
From: mcl2@*.edu
"Jerry C."  writes:
> In summary, I wholeheartedly agree that WCS training is invaluable for
> followers -- and so is ballet, ballroom, tango and perhaps jazz and salsa.
> Many people without a ballet background might not understand the inclusion
> of ballet.  Ballet emphasizes the importance of a strong and proper frame
> MORE THAN ANY OTHER DANCE.

I ahve to disagree here.
  I have studied a lot of modern and some ballet and I know a lot of dancers from the “arts dance” community.
  So of them are really great followers, but a lot of performance educated dancers never learn to follow well, because they never are willing or able to share the frame.
  I have found that when introducing a new ballet-modern person to couple dancing  it helps to mention the words “very gentle -Graham type contracture” and emphasize that the balance is shared with another person.  It also helps to point out that (in lindy at least and I think other couple dances) that you never completely extend your elbow.
  I do Lindy and ECS, and I know these are less extended than WCS, so there may be  some differences here.
  It is a measure of how far couple dancing is from ballet and modern, that even though there are profound diffeerences between the two, to a couple dancer a modern background is pretty much the same as a ballet background.
  I have seen some truly horrid couple dancers with degrees in dance.
Michael Young Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
_______________________
From: Mikalai mcl2@*.edu

"Jerry C."  writes:
> So of them are really great followers, but a lot of performance educated dancers never
> never learn to follow well, because they never are willing or able to share the frame.
>... or they are unwilling to assume this ridiculous unnatural posture the leaders forcing them into? :-)

Please be careful with negative generalizations.
  In my very long history of dancing with ladies of non-ballroom dance training I've noticed that the most fundamental root of trouble with them (if it happens to be) is their arrogance to assume that since they are so good in, say, ballet, they don't need any beginner's private ballroom lessons and jump right into advanced.
  Once a lady is smart enough to recognize differences in techniques and willing to spend some money and efforts to cope with them, she learns lightning fast. And her formal training (in this infamous ballet :-), as well as an acquired habit to WORK HARD, helps her immensely.
   (Even if this training was only because her loving mommy forced her intowhen she was in her tiny-weeny ages.)

>"Jerry C." writes:
>> Ballet emphasizes the importance of a strong and proper frame
>> MORE THAN ANY OTHER DANCE.

Yes, it is, but most important of all, ballet training provides [an] AWARENESS of your body: posture, movement, accents, etc.,  (and all this in relation to music, partner(s), choreographer's moood :-).
  I realized for myself that the body awareness is a key in dancing after a curious event when our university wrestling team decided to take ballroom lessons. To everyone's surprize these chunks of hard meat and wide bones were progressing much faster than the rest of male half (actually, male one third :-). We decided this was because they learned how to move with respect to other person in contact, be AWARE of this other person “on the subconscious level”, and be aware of their own body parts.
  It could have been a staticstical glitch, but it did impress all of us.
________________
From: mcl2@*.edu
In article <aimc83$oc3$1@*.atl>, "Mikalai" <mik_ka@*.com> writes:
> <mcl2@*.edu> wrote:
>> "Jerry C." writes:
>> So of them are really great followers, but a lot of performance educated dancers never
>> never learn to follow well, because they never are willing or able to share the frame.
>
> ...or they are unwilling to assume this ridiculous unnatural
> posture the leaders forcing them into? :-)

I'm not sure what you are talking about here.  I certainly never try to force a woman into any posture, unnatural or not.  I was just talking about the frame for various kinds of couple dancing.

> Please be careful with negative generalizations.
I was.not  overgeneralized.I believe my statement was accurate and properly qualified.

> In my very long history of dancing with ladies of non-ballroom dance training I've
> noticed that the most fundamental root of trouble with them (if it happens to be)
> is their arrogance to assume that since they are so good in, say, ballet, they don't
> need any beginner's private ballroom lessons and jump right into advanced.

I was not talking about ballroom, which always strikes me as (you say) “ridiculous unatural,” but that is just how it strikes me.  It certainly has postures that are similar to ballet.

> Once a lady is smart enough to recognize differences in techniques and willing
> to spendsome money and efforts to cope with them, she learns lightning fast.

This would certainly be true.  I was thinking of things like simple swing and things like contra dance in which spending money is not a hard-prescribed part of the process.  The unwillingness of some formally trained dancers to recognize they need to learn some for couple dances is exactly what I was talking about, though.

>And her formal training (in this infamous ballet :-), as
> well as an acquired habit to WORK HARD, helps her immensely.

I don't do competition, and in social dancing the next pitfall that can hit ballet dancers (after that pitfall of believing that they do not need to learn it) is this:  the acquired habit to work hard at dancing ("This isn't supposed to be fun") can seriously interfere with good social dancing.

> (Even if this training was only because her loving mommy forced her into
>  when she was in her tiny-weeny ages.) partner(s), choreographer's moood :-).
>
> I realized for myself that the body awareness is a key in dancing after a
> curious event when our university wrestling team decided to take ballroom
> lessons. To everyone's surprize these chunks of hard meat and wide bones
> were progressing much faster than the rest of male half (actually, male one
> third :-). We decided this was because they learned how to move with respect
> to other person in contact, be AWARE of this other person "on the
> subconscious level", and be aware of their own body parts.
>
> It could have been a staticstical glitch, but it did impress all of us.
I don't believe it was a glitch.  They not only have body awareness, they have movement leaders and followers.  Since their training is to attempt to do the former and avoid the latter, they might be considerably slower at learning to follow.
  I think of taking Aikido and I fanasize that I would be fairly fast at learning it, since I already know how to lead.
  I was attacked in a bar once by a drunk.  he could not hit me and tried to wrestle some. I easily deflected his attack.  I was quite frightened at first, because I have not been in a fight since Jr high, decades ago.
  Somewhere in the middle I thought “Good thing this guy doesn't know how to lead.”
  The wrestlers were probably astonished at the idea of having willing followers.  The crudest of them might naturally consider things like “I could take them down right now” which are inappropriate to consider even in the most cut throat dance competitions.
Michael Young Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
_______________________
From: Brick (brick@*.com)

>>> a lot of performance educated dancers never learn to follow well,
>>> because they never are willing or able to share the frame.

I have introduced several " theater" dancers I've met in Jazz,  Ballet & Modern class to WCS, and I stumbled across something that is a good indication of “follow tallent.”
  I ask the (ballet, jazz, modern....) dancer how they remember the coreography for their combinations. Do they “count” the rhythm (one, two, three & four), or do they “sing” the rhythm (dah, dah, dee-dee-dah)?
  The ones that count have a hard time following, and the ones that sing seem to  take to it naturally. This might have something to do with “thinking vs feeling the music” but that is just a guess.
  I don't have a huge sample, but so far this is batting 1000.
  All IMHO, YMMV.

_____________________________
From: Ron Nicholson (rhn@*.com)

mcl2@*t.edu wrote:
> "Mikalai" writes:
>>...or they are unwilling to assume this ridiculous unnatural posture the leaders forcing them into? :-)
>
> I'm not sure what you are talking about here.  I certainly never try to force a woman into
> any posture, unnatural or not.  I was just talking about the frame for various kinds of
> couple dancing.
Different schools of dance value completely different things.  What you think of as a normal dance frame is something completely unnatural and uncomfortable to some ballet trained dancers . . . but once they learn to appreciate movement as a couple, they adapt to this strange posture quite rapidly, since they have much greater awareness of the muscles in their torso and arms than complete non-dancers.
  IMHO. YMMV.

_______________________________________
From: Richard Maurer (rcpb1 maurer@*.com)
> Swing Followers are better than other Followers because:

I wonder if swing was the first dance you felt comfortable with? All the above can still be true of course, but the first developed dance is likely to affect the idea of “most comfortable frame” and the “best amount of connection and damping”.
Richard Maurer Sunnyvale

Richard Maurer wrote:
> > Swing Followers are better than other Followers because:
> I wonder if swing was the first dance you felt comfortable with?
Although I don't remember, probably not as I learned Swing a few years after m'mother taught me to Waltz, FoxTrot, and dance Eastern Swing.

> All the above can still be true of course, but the first developed dance is likely to affect the
> idea of "most comfortable frame" and the "best amount of connection and damping".

Perhaps I didn't state clearly that the frame while dancing Waltz with a Swing dancer is what focused my attention to make careful observations before stating my conclusions. I don't remember when the first Next Generation dance at this particular studio was, but it was that night that the spark was struck to make careful observations even though I thought I had long been aware of the apparent phenomenon.

______________________________
From: Michael Young (mcl2@*.edu)
Ron Nicholson writes:
> Different schools of dance value completely different things.  What you
> think of as a normal dance frame is something completely unnatural and
> uncomfortable to some ballet trained dancers ...

Well, yes, but if it takes years of training to make something “unnatural”, I'm skeptical of the use of that word.

>... but once they learn to appreciate movement as a couple,  [insert]
Aye.  There's the rub.  Some pick up couple movement quickly (in the first minute or so).  Others can couple dance foryears and never begin to appreciate movement as a couple.
   (it also took a few years for *me* to begin to understand “frame”.)
  It's hard to know what percentage have this problem, because if they pick up the frame they become great dancers and are not easy to pick out as someone with ballet training.  If they never learn about the frame, they are always identifiable as “ballet dancers”

> ...they adapt to this strange posture  quite rapidly, since they have much greater awareness
> of the muscles in  their torso and arms than complete non-dancers.

Yes, they can move with astonishing finesse.
Michael Young Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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