First of all, let me state that I'm an amateur dancer and I don't pretend to be a professional, much less a dance teacher. On the other hand, I've noticed a few things since I've started dancing in 1991 that might make things easier for you on the dance floor. These are only suggestions so feel free to ignore them. This is an on-going piece of work so I'll add to it from time to time.
This article is a separate piece from my dance ettiquette feature because some dancers wanted to discuss how to dance better so they could have more fun.
Lately, though, I realized that it might not be the guys' fault!! As I learned the Lindy Turn, it was taught that the woman/follower was suppose to walk towards the man/leader on beats 3-and-4 while the man was suppose to make room for his partner. I found that many women who didn't quite hear all the instructions will try to walk around their partner. The man/leader will also be raising his/her right hand to put the hand on the partner's back during this maneuver. If the follower is walking towards the leader, the leader's right hand will slip between the follower's arm and body and end up on the follower's back. If the follower is walking around the leader, the leader will be reaching out to the right for that gap between the follower's left arm and torso, but the leader's right hand will end up on the follower's left breast! Try it! (Actually, don't!)
An alert leader will make a hasty maneuver to move the hand away in time, but this interrupts the lead and the leader will have to make up the time in order to stay on the beat. Also, this save is not always successful so the guy ends up looking like a jerk. Followers: please take note!
There's an easy way for the guy to avoid this problem: always face your partner! On beat 2 (recovery from the rock-step and stepping forward), turn your upper body so you're facing your partner at all times. This prevents you from "running around" your partner and from putting your right hand where it shouldn't be. The follower should be walking towards the leader on the 3-and-4 beats. The leader should be backing up (like around a pole on the leader's left side). If the leader doesn't back up, the follower should mow him down; it'll be his fault that he didn't get out of your way.
When dancing it's the woman (or follower) who determines how close the couple will be to each other. The man (or leader) offers their hand or the frame and the woman will fit themselves into it as she feel comfortable with it. Some women like to snuggle up close if they know you or they don't want to get close to you at all (think B.O.). If it's a closed position, the man offers the frame, the woman steps into it, and then the man takes the hand and/or puts the other hand on her back. At the same time, don't take offense if the follower doesn't want to snuggle up close to the leader. Be a nice dancer for your partner and they may feel more comfortable with you in the future.
Hint: Personal hygiene (sp?) is sometimes a factor in how close your partner will get to you. I suggest a shower and clean clothes when going dancing (and deodorant). I'm not sure I know anyone who wants to get close to someone who has sweaty skin or clothes.
Same thing with the feet, though it's for a different reason. In a Flick-Ball-Change or the Mooch, for example, you're suppose to kick out with your foot. I've seen many people move their leg instead and let the foot hang off the end of the leg; there's no energy in the foot. When kicking your foot out, move the foot: you have better control over what it does and where it goes. Take the leg along for a ride with the foot, instead of the other way around. At the very least it produces a much cleaner leg line and makes it look like you're placing the foot or the step on purpose. You're also less likely to kick someone.
As for the followers, do not count on your partner to help you along on this move. Dance on your own and work on your own balance so you can do that turn or spin without any external help.
One particular tip for beginner leaders: move your feet more often. Do some syncopations. Swap your rockstep for a flick-ball-change. Do turns and spins. Try not to do single-step swing; do triple-steps when possible or at least a double-step/tap-step and keep your feet moving. Look alive and don't be just a prop around which the follower dances.
And keep your weight on one foot at a time. Never stop moving with both feet planted on the ground. If you have your weight spread out between both feet, it becomes harder to move in *any* direction because you always have to move to one foot anyways in order to move anywhere; that slows you down. You can have both feet touch the floor but most of your weight should only be on one foot.
When taking any step, be aware of where your center of gravity is; it should be over your feet. One big mistake many followers do is to take a rock-step *past* their feet on beat 1. You can see it clearly if they also lift their left foot off the ground between beats 1 & 2. What happens here? The follower is leaning, off-balanced, in the wrong direction. In order to get onto beat 2, they have to *pull* on their partner to get their weight on their left foot. Sometimes the guy isn't that strong; many times it interfers with the lead and the leader gets a sore arm quickly. It certainly slows down the leader, however miniscule. Instead of thinking of the next move, the leader is bracing himself to pull the follower back to her feet. Regardless of who does it, be completely aware of your center of gravity is in relation to your feet. If your balance is over your feet at all times, it becomes much easier to move in any direction that you need to.
My preferred "rock-step" has my free foot moving slightly backward so that
my toe is about parallel with the heel of my other foot. There is not a
3 foot space between my feet at the end of beat 1! What are the benefits of
a small rock-step?
Copyright © Benson Wong, 1997, 1998, 1999. All rights reserved by the author. This article are intended for the reading pleasure of the DanceNet On The Web readers. Duplication or use in any other medium, including but not limited to print publication, another web site, or downloading to a storage medium on CD, floppy disk, hard drive, zip drive, or tape, without the written permission of the author is prohibited.
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