2.10 On Tips For Followers

1 Clear your mind and concentrate on your partner. Especially at the beginning of the dance, listen to the music generally but avoid counting beats or analyzing the music until you get started. Stop analyzing anything except the signals your leader is conveying. Don't think of anything specific - if you have to think consciously about step patterns, you are not yet at the level of thought process that enables you to follow "effortlessly". Open your mind to the messages that are being sent to you by your partner, first and foremost. (If you are not getting any messages you've got a problem!) One aspect of dancing is communication: if the lady "has beans in her ears" she cannot follow no matter how clearly the man "speaks". A follower "listens" many different way to her partner: his body motion, hand pressure at her back/side, visual cues from his feet and where he moves a free hand; that is a tremendous amount to keep track of and respond to in a short time. In addition to the body leads and signals coming through the arms and hands, signaling happens with subtle movements of eyes, head, etc. As women gain dance experience and knowledge of their partners, they tend to pick up the finer signals and respond without even thinking about it. A good follower will compliment the dance style of the leader she is dancing with.

2. Once the dance starts and you are reasonably comfortable with the fact that you are following be on the lookout for 'CHANGE". do not get complacent to the fact that you are following a particular pattern - keep your mind completely open to the next (logical) thing that your leader will convey but do not anticipate either the change or the new pattern that is coming. A follower must have a "receptive" state of mind; no heavy thinking allowed. Keeping your mind ready and open so you can follow takes practice. It is particularly difficult if you have had a disturbing event happen immediately preceding your dancing. Passionate thoughts do not help your following... avoid them at all cost! I made a large leap when I began to trust leaders more and learned that it was not the follower's role to "know" every pattern. In fact, thinking that I knew this stuff was almost more a handicap than dancing with the assumption that I *didn't* know what was coming up.

3. In addition to the above mental state of mind, you must be constantly balanced so that you can respond to your partner's lead (needless to say, the state of being "balanced" is one of the absolute criteria that enables you to respond when your partner leads.) Balance is very difficult to teach to a student who lacks it. Dancing independently until you are capable of keeping your body moving easily, and wearing sufficiently flexible, well fitting, comfortable dance shoes will help. The best way to keep from sliding when coming onto a foot is to already have the body weight over the foot when the foot stops moving. In other words, when you step forward, move forward with the body, rather than sticking the leg out first. Then, just place the foot underneath where the body ends up.

4. In her workshops, Beth Emerson recommends committing your weight immediately each time you step on a foot rather than having your weight split between feet for a moment, which is what we tend to do when walking. This makes the follower much more ready to follow instantly.

5. In ballroom dances, a good follower uses her eyes to make herself keenly aware of alignments in the ballroom. She uses her current alignment to narrow the logical choice of figures available while simultaneously keeping her mind open to the leader's next choice of figure - it is a technique the leader uses also.

In summary, there are THREE LAWS for Followers:

  1. Never hold on
  2. Never let go
  3. Don't think, do it.
I think we need some refinement of the laws specifically for WCS
1a.) Never hold on
1b.) Never let go
2.) Don't think, do it... but use some common sense
3a.) Spot down the slot
3b.) Keep an eye on your leader

The leader has to think about floorcraft, choreography and musical interpretation. On the contrary, the follower must learn not to think about those things independently, but rather to follow. Suspending the impulse to worry about where you are going and what you are doing and how the timing ought to be is the first great challenge in learning to follow.


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This file is part of the lead/follow FAQ list. These are articles compiled from the newsgroup rec.arts.dance by Mark Balzer. Html-isation by Victor Eijkhout, victor at eijkhout dot net. See also the Rec Arts Dance FAQ list Copyright 1996/7/8/9 lies with the compiler, the maintainer and the contributors of various parts.

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