From Monday just gone, I am being Demo Lady in the new absolute-beginners' course at the Crypt, Farringdon. Tom, who requires an extra assistant1, seems to think I'll do. [Edit: due to the awkward dates and the website being offline for nine days, I'm no longer required.]
This is quite an adventure for me. I've never done it before. My job is to dance neatly in the demonstrations, to watch the students and dance with them and encourage them and help to work out what their problems are, and I to pipe up if I have something useful to say.
I don't intend to do a lot of talking. I am not qualified to say very much, and I've been on enough conference calls and in enough rambling meetings to know the value of keeping my mouth shut. I said almost nothing on Monday, only pointing out that I was collecting my feet, but not changing weight until it was led, because you can't really see that by watching, and it seemed like the right time to say it.
I want to talk mainly to the followers. I think it's important to them that the Demo Lady talks sometimes. But I'd rather say too little than risk talking balls, because these are absolute beginners and my advice - the quality of which they have no way of evaluating - is more important to them than my experience deserves. If I'm not certain of it, I'm not going to say it at all.
Most have never ever danced before, but some have done one kind or another, such as lindyhop or jive.
So here's a question for you. What, as a follower, is the most important 'obvious' thing you really wish you'd had spelled out to you in week 1? Or what, as a leader, do you really wish had been spelled out to the followers, or repeated more? Or is there anything well-meaning and sort-of-true you were told, that set you off on the wrong track?
What I have in mind so far is:
- Take whatever step you need to take to stay in front of him at a constant distance.
- Stand on one foot at a time, with your feet together, but
- Don't change weight until it's led.
- Collect your feet when your body (centre of gravity) moves, don't rush.
- Keep your feet close to the ground.
- Keep calm.
Practical tips and 'homework':
- Pick a shirt button at a convenient height and concentrate on it. (In the first few lessons the students start in practice hold, then in an open hold, while they get their balance and so on, then close embrace comes later in the course).
- Practice standing on one leg with your feet together.
- Practice walking with your feet close together.
- Practice walking down the stairs without looking.
We started the class with a little demo dance to the lovely slow tango Tom always uses for teaching. It consisted only of elements that the students should be able to do at the end of the course. I must have felt like a little bird for the first few seconds, quivering with nerves, but I just breathed and concentrated on the music and I don't think it showed. Now I think about it, I suppose it was practically a performance. But I wasn't nearly as nervous as I had been six hours earlier, trying to eat my lunch.
1 Michiko is away for some weeks - so Diana is teaching the class with Paul. The website is offline right now - some sort of ISP issue I think - so I'll say here for anyone who needs to know that you can still come and join the beginners' class on Monday 7th April, pay for just that, and then decide whether you want to take the rest of the course. After that it's too late to join this one. The rest of the course is a further 10 weeks and £60. At the Crypt, Farringdon - map here and directions in this post.