"*Leaders: Watch where you place (swing out) your partner in a crowded dance floor. You should be constantly aware of the dancers around you and make great efforts to not bang into other dancers. The responsibility is only slightly on the follower's side."
Where should you look while dancing? A safe rule of thumb is: Always look where you're about to put your partner. Obviously we want to avoid injuring others at least as much as we want to avoid injuries. So each partner should be aware of nearby dancers, what they're doing, what they're likely to do. There are some Leaders near whom I will not dance. There are some Followers who, when they're dancing with others, I try to avoid. There are other times when I'm very concerned about the nearby dancers and simply _can't_ look at my partner out of fear.
As a Leader, my primary concern is our safety. My secondary concern is to dance and lead well. Leaders must not only be aware of who's nearby, but must predict what they're likely to do, where they're likely to go/be, and simultaneously keep the couple out of the way of those flying across the room. That's a lot of looking around for someone who's not supposed to be wagging his head back and forth like a spectator at a tennis match!
The Followers who know and trust me tell me that they sometimes close their eyes. But I'm always appreciative of the backlead that keeps us out of trouble.
When dancing Swing while surrounded by dancers I trust, my eyes are upon my partner.
I have always taught to look before you lead. The followers can also stop if they see a collision about to happen. So a pattern is lost... the WCS police are not going to come out and give you a ticket :-) I tell my students that having fun and NOT running into someone is far more important than the almighty pattern, therefore if they have to abort a pattern at any time, they abort it.
Dancing isn't just about moving well - it's also about not moving when you shouldn't. The ability to smoothly and inconspicuously abort a move to avoid a collision is a very useful one. Practice being able to go naturally into hesitations at any point in a move in the traveling dances. Your partner will thank you for it. In east coast swing/jitterbug, if you're going to send her out from a cuddle position, for example, look before you do it. In salsa, look to the left before you lead the second half of a cross-body lead.
In smooth dances such as waltz and foxtrot, look over her right shoulder, and watch out for collisions when you're going forward. She should also look over your right shoulder, and watch for collisions when, as occasionally is the case, you're going backwards. Basically, it's the job of whoever's going forward to give an abort signal before a crash. The Follower should not worry about where they're going unless the Leader is dancing backward. With traveling dances in crowds, you might need to look around for converging traffic. How much you need to look around depends on the traffic density and the skill level of the other dancers. In beginning crowds, you may encounter people who have trouble leading and looking where they are going at the same time. In advanced crowds, you may encounter couples who will make that exact 3/8ths of a turn, no matter how many people they have to run down to finish their amalgamation. It is the Follower's responsibility to be aware of impending danger when it's not in the Leader's line of sight. Some Followers are mistresses of the gentle backlead; what a pleasure to dance with them on a crowded floor!
In social dance, there's looking at, smiling at or even flirting with your partner. Many nightclub partner dances and swing dances lend themselves to this kind of thing.
Partners usually don't look at each other when they're dancing Ballroom (aka Smooth, Modern, Standard). For the most part, except the occasional sly look at each other in the Tango, the eyes are focused at spots in the room - necessary for proper movement and flight. You must be able to see where you are going and this is the responsibility of both the man and the woman - it is a partnership! Since the partners are "in each others arm" and very much dancing together - by feel, they don't need to look at each other. However, there are opportunities for eye contact. These can occur during the development of picture lines or during moves that make big changes to the relative body positions. In the open American style which incorporates a 'breaking' of the closed dance position, there is even more opportunity for eye contact (underarm turns, free spins, etc.). Eye contact is necessary for spotting.
I (Enio) use a simple method to show why you don't look at your partner. Your feet track the way you look. In an offset position take four steps back starting with mans L ladies R. By the fourth step, the ladies R foot is usually turned slightly just enough for the man's right foot to catch her right foot. As the foot goes, so goes the knee. If the knee bends now, it will hit the inside of the ladies knee. Secondly I like to kid that I don't talk into your nose, I talk into your ear, so if I'm going to make small talk it would make sense to keep my head straight ahead. Thirdly, "standard or smooth" are traveling dances while Latin or Swing are spot dances, just as you drive your car looking forward the man must keep eyes forward to protect the lady from running her into other persons or objects.
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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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