Thursday, 4 December 2008

Put it on your T-shirt

Missing a lead is just a mistake, anticipation is bad dancing.

[Yikes - I'm channelling Limerick]

7 comments:

Johanna said...

Seems like your side of the pond has gone philosphical, Ms. H!

Game Cat said...

Ms H - I completely agree....personally I have no problem with followers when they miss a lead (probably it was indecision on my part). But I would rarely ask a serial anticipator for another dance.

Interestingly, for some followers, I've noticed that how they've been led in the last 2 tandas is often a good indicator of how well they are going to follow your lead. E.g. those who have been "arms led" will be a little more heavy-armed. Is it just me? Any thoughts?

And practically speaking, any suggestions on how to gently encourage an anticipator to follow more when you're already on the floor? I'm curious to hear what followers especially think.

Foxy said...

Game Cat, Your observation is a good one. Every follower is different in the amount and type of lead she needs to understand a movement. Even a skilled leader, after dancing with a follower who leans heavily or needs more active directing, is liable to lead too heavily for the next partner, if she is skilled and prefers more more subtle leading. It takes tremendous self-awareness and sensitivity for the leader to realise this and adapt quickly to the partner in his arms and not be still dancing with the one before. If he doesn't, he will not only make her uncomfortable, he will also likely end the evening with pain in his back or shoulders.

How can leaders encourage an anticipator to wait for the lead during a dance? (Without speaking of course). IMHO the solution is less force, not more. Try this. When she takes a step by herself, or keeps on going in perpetual ochos, stay still and release the embrace - only a little so your arms are still generally around her (as you must continue to protect her from collisions) but with the contact momentarily broken. She will then have to find her own balance (if she was leaning on you) and she will realise that you are not leading the movement she is doing. Wait till she has finished & come to rest, re-connect, and re-start slowly and deliberately making sure she is following your next move before you execute it.
If you try the same step again and it still doesn't work, forget it. Or try it again from a different point of entry.
Or better still, forget the steps you were trying to do and just walk with her to the music.

Johanna said...

Game Cat, I agree with Foxy. Definitely soften the force of the lead. When I receive a forceful lead, I must exert twice the amount of energy just to stay vertical, which also puts a lot of compensatory force into the execution of my movements. Just like with a speeding car, the stronger the lead, the longer it takes me to "stop".

This may also be an opportunity for you to play with rhythm (slow way down, then speed up - with the music, of course), which may prevent the anticipating. However, anticipating comes from experiencing "not knowing what's next" as fear, or a measurement of one's skill, since by appearances, really good dancers "look" like they know what comes next. More than likely, dancers who anticipate (leads can do it too), are dancing in their head, and not experiencing the dance in their body, where they can react to each other's movements.

msHedgehog said...

@Gamecat - I agree the only thing you can do that is likely to work, eventually, is probably what Foxy said. Because that's what allows her to know the connection has been broken. Of course it relies on her realising there is supposed to be one. There are all sorts of reasons why people miss that, but they can definitely include a preoccupation with the look of the thing.

It's a slightly different problem if the woman has already learned some other dance in which she is supposed to keep the footwork going, in time, like salsa or jive, or ceroc. In that case she probably realises she is supposed to follow, but she won't know exactly what to follow, she will have skills that enable her to follow the wrong thing, and she may not realise she should stop moving completely when there's no lead. That can all take quite a few weeks to sort out and she would probably keep changing feet by mistake every now and then for a quite a while. I suppose that would produce a few weeks or months of really messy dances and then a nice dancer.

Someone who has been dealing with mowing arms will have tired arms, and - I don't know how else to put this right now - her back may be frightened. Snuggle her up and start with a lot of walking is the best I can suggest but I have no real idea if that would help. Maybe!

Game Cat said...

Thanks, all, for the good thoughts.

I think Foxy's suggestion to disconnect then reconnect is good because of the signal it sends to the follower (assuming as Ms H points out that she will get it). 9 out of 10 times this "reset" has worked for me.

It's also interesting what Johanna said, that a root cause of follower anticipation is the fear of "not knowing what's next", leading to "dancing in their head". I like both suggestions from F and J - 1) changing the point of entry and 2) varying the rhythm.

On reflection, I think it's about trying to signal to the follower that there are going to be not set patterns, however

1) She will experience familiar steps (so no fear)
2) They can come about in different circumstances (so you have to listen)
3) I'll ensure they will always be in the right place and time (so relax...you'll look good).

Of course, as the leader, I'll have to really deliver...

Ms H - From my experience, walking a lot in the first song with a new follower, or at least in the first round of the room does seem to help reassure a frightened back. The connection feels appreciably better after that, sort of like a period spent in the decompression chamber for both people after their previous partners. I suspect followers benefit more from this then leaders, especially the ones who keep getting asked to dance non-stop!

MistaToms said...

Ha, I have been a bit off the scene lately, but on this particular subject I think i can contribute a little.

There appears to be this assumption of a mere two way process (he leads, she follows) but as a matter of my experience it is a three way process in order to satisfy the demands of a true bodily conversation.

I would propose: (1) He leads by suggesting with his torso, (2)she responds with her step (3) which is 'followed' by his foot. (then go to 1)

If this three way process is observed, the fact whether he leads with indecision or whether she follows in anticipation becomes less relevant.

Only with the third phase included the bodily conversation goes full circle. Also in verbal conversations, it is often not enough to just say something with the expectancy it will be understood. It is equally important to double check whether what has been said has also been understood.

I would even suggest, it often does not matter what has been said as long as a new, shared direction can be found. Threfore following her step before leading the next phrase is as - if not more - important than leading harshly or following sheepishly.

Including the 'third step' concludes a complete feedback loop. As soon as the follower trusts that she will be followed eventually, there is no more sense of 'getting it right or wrong' and therefore less fear and consequently more chance she interprets the initial suggestion as it was meant in the first place.

So all in all, a good leader is a good follower and the milongas would benefit greatly if the traditional roles would swap during practicas more often.

Whenever I am lead i realzie how incredibly difficult following is and how incredibly crude many leaders are ;-) but i am certainly learning greatly for my own leading and i develope greater appreciation for the followers' task.

I remember very blissfull (but rare) dance moments in which both roles were temporarly exchangable.

Tom

PS: In more practical terms, introducing moments of patient suspension (previously refered to as 'reset') I also regard as the best measure in the face of run-away followers. Certainly more competent than pushing/pulling or verbal exclamations. So on this point, I also completely agree with your views! With serial anticipators I simply slow down to such an extent that if they don't stop anticipating they either fall over or walk off the dance floors themselves ;-)