Posted July 31, 2012on:
There’s this thing beginner leads in my scene do that absolutely drives me crazy.
Maybe they do this everywhere, or maybe it’s just a Portland thing, I don’t know. But what they do is, after sending you out into a swingout, instead of letting you continue the momentum they’ve set up, for some reason out of nowhere they suddenly yank you forward on that last triple.
It always ends up as a yank. Because everyone knows that last triple is where you settle back. It’s the “out” part of the swingout, and it’s the only place the follow can really do styling or whatever. As a million instructors have told us, that last triple is where the follow gets to shine. And then out of nowhere, this professional arm-wrestler is yanking you forward. Ouch!
I was discussing this with a friend of mine not too long ago, and she said she thinks it’s because they’re trying to “body lead.” They’ve been told they’re not supposed to jerk you around with their arms, but instead somehow use their bodies to move you. But they still carry their body weight too high, so what it translates to is that they lean back with their shoulders in an effort to get you to move without using their arms. Of course, they always do give a little extra value at the end of the maneuver by bending their arms anyway.
As I used to tell my kids when they were little, that may be an explanation, but it’s no excuse.
I remember this one time when I was taking a workshop from Naomi Uyama. I was complaining to her about leads who yank on your arm, and asking her what to do about it. She invited me to show her what I meant. So I led her in some swingouts, and tried to imitate the kind of arm yanking that I so often feel on the dance floor.
And you know what? I couldn’t yank that girl no matter how hard I tried. Every time I jerked and tugged on her arm, she just floated. I was getting worn out, but her lovely smile never left her face for a minute; you’d a thought I was Fred Astaire or something.
It actually made me kind of mad. “How do you DO that?” I spluttered.
“Well,” she said patiently, “you just follow.”
So I was thinking about this whole thing with leads who yank you forward on seven-and-eight. And I realized what I should have seen long ago: the problem really isn’t them. It’s me.
The only reason I get my arm yanked in these situations is because I believe, mentally, that I’m supposed to “triple away” on those last two counts. It’s my right and privilege as a follow. After all, that’s where I get to do my styling.
And you know what? That ain’t following.
I know for a fact that if Naomi, or any other brilliant follower, was getting led forward on that last seven-and-eight, she would simply triple forward. She wouldn’t get into a wrestling match with the guy by insisting on tripling away. If I get my arm yanked, it’s because I was tripling away without being led there.
It’s called “actually following.”
I’m gonna have to try that sometime!