Archive for the ‘leading’ Category
My struggle with learning to lead continues. I’m making deals with myself about how many times a night I have to ask a girl to dance. And I’ve gotten to the point where I now have a small, select group of follows whom I’m not terrified to try and lead.
As nervous as I am about leading “real” follows, oddly enough I’ve never been timid about leading guys. Maybe it’s because I’m just more used to dancing with guys in general. Plus, when a girl leads a guy, it’s naturally sort of funny. The sight of a girly little lady trying to muscle some big brute around the dance floor is full of comic potential. So if something goes badly awry, everyone just laughs and goes on. Whereas when a girl is leading another girl, it seems like the leader has to actually be serious and lead properly. After all, we’ve complained about bad leads for years – the last thing we want to do now is become known as an arm yanker or creepy hand tickler.
I’m starting to process this notion that if I’m ever going to get to be a really good lead – beyond the level of “Isn’t that cute, two girls dancing together” or “We do this because there aren’t enough guys” – then I’m going to need to start thinking of myself as primarily a lead, not just a part-timer.
So I’ve been poring over videos of the Decavitas. Rebecka Decavita is my current dance hero. And now I’ve got a weird question:
Does it matter what you wear?
It seems like most of the time when Rebecka leads, she’s wearing pants. Is there a reason for that?
I know this sounds like a dumb question. But after all, the follows are the ones who are spinning around a lot, and girls wear skirts partly to emphasize those spins. Is there something about the solidity of legs in pants versus the mobile quality of skirts that makes this dance look better? Is there something objectionable about the look of two skirts swishing around? Or would that look even cooler?
Part of the problem, as always, has to do with shoes. I struggled for years to find shoes I could dance in that also looked good with skirts. Now I’ve found my perfect dance heels, and I’m so used to them that I feel awkward dancing in sneakers. Yet I’m pretty sure flat shoes are better for leading. Well, there’s no way I’m going to try convincing myself that my buttery old Aris Allen oxfords should be worn with dresses. That would be too hideous. Do I now need to begin the hopeless quest for a decent-fitting pair of pants?
I had this idea for years where if you’re dancing with a guy and he’s wearing a hat, if you want to steal the lead from him, you snatch off his hat and stick it on your own head. Then you wear the hat as long as you’re leading, and when he takes the lead back he gets the hat back as well. Isn’t that cute?
So I’m pretty sure that what you wear should have something to do with what role you’re playing in the dance. But I’m just not sure what that means. And I’m not so devoted to learning to lead that I’m willing to become a full-fledged cross-dresser to do so. Pants make me look nine feet wide. But sneakers-with-a-skirt makes me look like Alice from the Brady Bunch. So what do I do?
I got so disgusted with my leading last night. See, here’s the problem…
Normally, I’m a follow. So when I try to lead things, if the person following me doesn’t follow me just perfectly, I tend to revert right back to my normal role. Then I start following my follow and doing whatever she was inadvertently backleading.
I know I need to just press manfully on with what I was trying to lead and give the follow a chance to pick up on it. But in order to do that I have to overcome a whole bunch of training. See, followers are trained to be responsive, and that’s not such a helpful skill when you’re trying to lead something.
I’m sure it’s exactly the same thing, in reverse, with leads who try to follow. As soon as their leader gives them any sort of opening, I’m sure it’s very easy for them to just jump in and start leading things without waiting to be led. Am I right?
Now, it just doesn’t make sense that as a leader, the only people I can lead are the ultra-accomplished, super-responsive followers. I should be able to lead normal followers or even beginners. I really want to be able to do this. But beginners who try to follow me just end up getting confused.
Yet I don’t want to overcompensate and turn into some kind of roughhousing armbreaker. Just as, I’m sure, leaders learning to follow don’t want to turn into passive noodle-armers.
Anyone else having this problem? Does anyone out there have any good advice?
When I was just starting out dancing, I was terrified to ask guys to dance, and I was terrified if they asked me. I wasn’t so terrified with the guys in my little East Coast Swing class; I knew they didn’t know anything about dancing either, so it was chill. But when I started going out to social dances with people I didn’t know, I was terrified basically the whole time.
Then it started to get easier, and I wasn’t so terrified when a guy would ask me to dance. That got sort of comfortable. But it took me awhile to get over the fear of doing the asking myself.
And this whole time I’m talking about me as a follow.
Well, by now, as a follow, I’ve pretty much conquered my fear of dancing with guys. I’ll basically dance with any lead who asks me.
But now, as I’m trying to focus more on leading, I find that I have to start the whole process over. Now I’m terrified to dance with followers.
Why should this be? It’s like I have two separate brains, a following brain and a leading brain. My following brain knows, for example, that it’s much nicer to be led a million basic steps for the entirety of a song than to be yanked through a bunch of crazy maneuvers by a lead who doesn’t know how to lead them well. But my leading brain is convinced that I need to do a bunch of crazy maneuvers or I’ll be a boring lead. What’s with this dancing schizophrenia?
What’s weird is that I’m actually more comfortable leading guys than leading girls. Even though most of the guys I dance with are really hard to lead, while the girls are nice and comfy. Maybe it’s because if a guy is not a good follower, I figure he’s not going to judge my leading skills; I know the girls know the difference between a good lead and a bad one, and I’m well aware that I’m not a good one. Or maybe it’s just because I’m more used to dancing with men than with women; I’m used to how men feel and how they move, while women feel and move a lot differently. And it could just be because I’m used to dancing with these particular individuals, and not with the others.
But I know that my leading won’t get any better if I don’t try dancing with followers who know what they’re doing. And that’s just a really scary thing for me. Just like when I started out dancing as a follower, when I lead, I’m terrified to ask girls to dance, and I’m terrified when they ask me. There’s maybe two or three girls in my scene with whom I’ve danced enough not to be terrified of them. But going up to some random stranger of a follow and asking her to dance? Terrifying.
Well, I know what I need to do. I just need to make myself do it. I need to make a deal with myself to ask at least one follower I don’t know to dance, at least once during the evening. I need to remind myself constantly that it’s better to be boring than to be rough and awkward. And the other thing I need to do is keep learning new things to lead.
It’s almost like I’m a new dancer. So leads, you can chime in here any time. What’s your best advice for someone who’s just starting out as a leader?