"Women Have No Choice But to do the Right Thing"

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by Generalist, Feb 27, 2014.

  1. Dancing Irishman

    Dancing Irishman Well-Known Member

    This phrase actually came up in group class today, with sliding doors in rumba as the example, no less (granted, it was in the "by the book" version which uses mostly a double hand hold). The point wasn't so much that the follows had no choice as much as that a follow who was familiar with the walk/action building blocks of the step (checked back walk, hip twist, cucaracha, forward walk turning) and who was attentive to cues from the leader to change direction would find that doing the correct step took very little mental effort (ie it was easy to follow) as long as both partners were aware of the principles behind the step.

    When you get into exotic syncopations or awkward transitions, though, you start going beyond the realm of what you could expect a follow to do as led without any foreknowledge to full speed music.
  2. Jag75

    Jag75 Member

    Another question to ask - Why are there students in the class who are struggling with the patterns taught? It seems they are not at the level of the class, so it could mean one of two things:

    The instructor isn't clear about the expected level of the students in that class, and don't take it upon themselves to recommend or not recommend each student to take that class, or

    The students don't care and have never been taught the value of staying at the lower levels until they become very familiar with the fundamentals of the lower levels. This is common, and in my opinion instructors should be firm with students who they believe really shouldn't be doing that class as it's beyond them.
  3. Jag75

    Jag75 Member

    I do agree with what you're saying regarding the line that it's always the men's fault. This does not apply, as far as I'm aware, to classes - not from my perspective anyway. In a class setting where I teach I always break down the leads steps and the how to lead the pattern, and my partner breaks down the follows steps and how to follow the pattern. Of course we explain what the follow should do, and answer both the leads and follows questions. I tend to drip feed technique each class as well, and I will drip feed proper lead/follow technique whilst breaking down the move.

    In my understanding the line "it's always the leads fault" (not men's, as it's not always a man leading) applies strictly to the social floor, because the lead should dance to the follows level. If something doesn't work, that's not making a mistake, that's trying something and it not working, so you try something else. The reason I believe in that line on the social dance floor is that some leads will get frustrated when trying to lead something. This is *not* the essence of dancing. Dancing is to have fun, so dance to the follows level and enjoy, simple.
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  4. Hedwaite

    Hedwaite Well-Known Member

    In our instance, levels indicate the type of material being taught. Level 1 is introductory- the format never really changes, because it covers basics for total newcomers or what we'd call 'beginners', and it's more or less walk-in friendly. Level 2 is for people who have had the beginner classes a few times, understand that material well enough that we can introduce variations and other figures as a preparation for things like silver footwork, syncopations in latin/rhythm, VW, QS, etc.

    We tell people wanting to take level two+ whom we personally don't think are ready for it that we aren't going to kick them out of a class, but if they take level 2, 3, whatever, they should be able to keep up. If they find themselves struggling, it's their responsibility to keep up, that we can't slow the class down for them. We try to help them all we can without cutting into other aspects of the class.

    If everybody in a class seems to be getting something, we keep it at that pace. If a LOT of people aren't, then we adjust accordingly, but if we have twenty people who can dance a telemark to a throwaway oversway and we have one couple who asks "Okay, what's the basic for this?"... that's their problem for not reading our material and finding out it clearly says "Level X". Instructors can only "safeguard" so much against stupid before it's on the student. The type of student who gets in over their head is the type who generally doesn't care what the level is, they're going to bypass caution and courtesy, and don't really care if they're holding someone up or not.

    Once, we did an experiment. We had levels "beginner" "intermediate" and "advanced". Nobody showed up for beginner. Beginners showed up for intermediate, and beginners showed up for advanced. On the flyer, things were explained clearly. Nobody understands where they truly belong, but if we'd kicked those people out of our advanced class, we'd have been kicking our dollars out the door, so since EVERYONE in advanced was NOT advanced, then we adjusted the material for them, and everyone went away happy.

    I don't believe in telling somebody "you're not welcome in this class" unless there's a very good reason. Some beginners can really surprise you, just as some Gold Level Amazing Dancers can really disappoint you.
    Jag75 likes this.
  5. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Call it a technique class and the beginners won't show up. The advanced dancers will.
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  6. Hedwaite

    Hedwaite Well-Known Member

    ROFL- then NOBODY would show up. We have to call it "polishing".
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  7. Generalist

    Generalist Active Member

    It never ceases to amaze me how oblivious instructors can be. Even if almost nobody is getting the pattern they keep plowing through the lesson. They are not willing to backtrack because they are determined to do X numbers of patterns in the time allotted.

    It goes without saying that many students are so weak on basics that they jump to classes that are too difficult. I'm not sure what can be done because clubs would lose money if they tried to enforce some kind of levels in the group lessons.
  8. Generalist

    Generalist Active Member

    So, maybe the instructors should tell us men that the ladies will get our lead better if we point and grunt more.
  9. Hedwaite

    Hedwaite Well-Known Member

    It beats scratching and farting, I guess?
    twnkltoz likes this.
  10. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member


    Er, the point has been made and I agree: if the class you are taking has material that is above you ("too long and impossible to remember combinations", I think is how you phrased YOUR issues) then you are in the wrong level class. Yes, everyone should be challenged in a class, but it is a GROUP class - a GROUP of people. The group is not homogeneous but simply whoever signs up. If too many are, like you, finding they are in over their head, it is not always the best thing for the instructor to 'dumb it down' since the dancers who signed up for their correct level will feel slighted. And if 'plowing thru for the time allotted' is how you see it, then you most certainly need to rethink what you expect from a group. Maybe it is time to start taking private lessons that can slow down to your speed at your whim...
    Larinda McRaven and danceronice like this.
  11. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    I've had several followers scratch and fart in response to my pointing and grunting. It was all good.
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  12. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    I have taken classes places that enforced the levels. Yes, some people left because they were told that they weren't ready for the next level, but i would guess that more people stayed because it helped the overall quality of the classes.
    nikkitta and twnkltoz like this.
  13. tancos

    tancos Active Member

    My worst case scenario (which happens occasionally) is when the follow is ahead of the music and tries to start doing a figure before I have had a chance to lead something.
    Dancing Irishman and IndyLady like this.
  14. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    WCS is definitely a dance where the lady needs to know the basics well before she can be led in a lot of stuff.
    Hedwaite and IndyLady like this.
  15. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    Was leading a waltz amalgamation last night during a class, and the follow somehow managed to close her upper body to me on my signal, but leave her lower body in PP. I know I'm a new (and infrequent) leader, but even as a follower I couldn't figure that one out... pretty sure that one was not my fault :)
  16. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Most of us "more experienced" WCS people will only try something a couple of times, then move back to something really basic; which is true for other dances, too. But, yeah, sometimes it IS the leader's fault when things don't work. Lots of people new to WCS are baffled by 8 count moves. As far as foot work goes, I hope you get exposed to the great freedom both partners can enjoy in this dance.
    And to repeat something that's been said at least a couple of times now:
    "In the 1970's West Coast Swing became known as one of the educated dances." - Blair
  17. Jag75

    Jag75 Member

    100% agree. One of my pet peeves are when I'm teaching a workshop and many students whinge that it's too hard - when the level required has been clearly spelled out.

    Intermediate is not 3 months of salsa, it's actually about 2+ years as a minimum, and that's where hard training and weekly dancing is concerned.

    I think one issue is people's expectations of what a level is. Many believe that because they've been dancing for over a year, they must be intermediate. In my mind they are still at a beginner level, advanced beginner maybe, but beginner nonetheless. Sorry if that sounds harsh - I've been dancing for 8+ years, have been teaching for 4, and only just consider myself advanced. It'll be another 8 years of hard training before I consider myself expert, and even then I'll have trouble doing so.
  18. Jag75

    Jag75 Member

    Exactly the same can be said of salsa. It's not commonly known among dancers, but to dance salsa at a high level does require a very good grasp of high-level technique. Sure salsa is easy to pick up for casual dancers, but the level one takes the dance is entirely up to the individual, and the best in the world train easily as hard as the best ballroom dancers, or WCS dancers.

    I do refer to x-body salsa - NY style being my fave. The way it's danced by hard-core dancers is actually quite strict where the slot is concerned, the frame, correct application of tension (or non-application where needed), how moves are led, how the basic is stepped, the timing, syncopations, footwork, correct Cuban motion (the salsa version is a bit different to the ballroom, but just as involved), etc. It's true that follows need to have a very good grasp of all the fundamentals in order to follow well, and to respond to what is lead. In a group class, where the expectation is that the students are at a certain level, it's important for the leads to look at their leading technique first throughout, and if a move doesn't work, to start with themselves. If all fails then of course the instructor can look at the follow as well to troubleshoot.

    In a social dance situation, without exception it's the leads fault. Why? The lead must adjust to the follow, and if the follow can't follow a move, try a different, simpler one. You can't blame a follow for not having a certain amount of knowledge, but you can blame the lead for not dancing to a follows level.
  19. Hedwaite

    Hedwaite Well-Known Member

    WCS is such a strange creature, I'll admit. I started out with A Bad Experience, and I had a lot of Do as I Say, Not As I Actually Lead until we started having to teach it ourselves (we didn't want to, one guy was the freakin' Johnny Appleseed of it around here, and then when he got himself some steady meow, he bailed on dance, thankfully, but everyone was curious until it died down)... so yes, I do have a Block in my Head about it. It's getting a bit less painful when I remember, though, that not everything has to be quite so neat and tidy, and that sometimes, the leader CAN hear music so yes he DID mean to do this or that. For the most part, though, locally, WCS is still "I'm yanking this cow down the line then throwing her back out like I'm shark-fishing" so I sticks with my tangos and my foxtrots. Someday, I'll nut up and go to a real WCS meet, and I will take the beginner level so I can learn the current trend from jump, instead of "But I learned it THIS way, and THIS is different..."
  20. Signature

    Signature Member

    On "Fault":
    The first time I heard a statement similar to that, it was regarding men's (in)ability to stay on the beat. According to that instructor, beginning men had difficulty staying on the beat, and women usually didn't.

    By the time I took my first dance class, I had already been singing in choirs for 18-20 years. Keeping the beat was easy for me. Most of the follows that I danced with had no difficulty with the beat either. But there were exceptions. And thanks to this instructor's statement, those followers assumed that the leaders were the ones to blame. As long as you're convinced that your mistake is the other person's fault, you're unlikely to figure out how to fix it.

    How good instructors teach:
    A good instructor will point out the common mistakes that leaders can make which will cause a problem, then they will point out the common mistakes that followers can make which will cause a problem. (Or they'll do the same in the reverse order.)

    What a good leader can't fix:
    Connection. It only takes one person to screw that up. If that person is the follower, even a great leader can't fix it.

    I once watched a pro try to dance with a woman who has poor connection. I wanted to see if he would be able to do any better dancing with her than I did. Despite his skill, it was still a train wreck.

    Even the simplest social moves can/will fall apart without connection.

    Too low level for the class:
    When it comes to dance classes, I've seen two types of attitudes. There are some people who will observe a more advanced class, they will focus on the best dancers in the class, and they will be convinced that they aren't good enough to join the class. There are other people who will observe the same class, they will focus on the worst dancers in the class, and they will be convinced that they are ready to join the class.

    The people who rush in and join when they are near/at/below the bottom end of the class tend to stay there ... even after they've been in the class for years. The ones who stay in lower level classes until they're finally persuaded that they're ready to move up, they quickly move to the top of the class.

    Why students rush ahead:
    I think many dance students fundamentally misunderstand what makes the difference between a good/bad dancer.

    Beginners want to learn:
    more moves
    complicated patterns
    fancy footwork
    styling
    acrobatics

    Advanced dancers prefer partners who know:
    frame & connection
    rhythm & timing
    smooth leads
    balance
    technique
    (optionally) musicality

    No beginning dance teacher ever explains that. If they did, beginning dancers might be more interested in frame/connection and less interested in footwork and complicated patterns.

    On rotating:
    I'm a big fan of it. Dancing with one partner is a sure-fire route to developing bad habits. Instead of quickly discovering that they're doing it wrong, each partner adapts and covers for their partner's bad habits. As soon as they dance with someone else (who isn't accustomed to their bad habits), it's painfully obvious how poor their dancing is.

    There's only two kinds of dance classes where I'm not a fan of rotating:
    Acrobatics (they're not social moves)
    "Dirty"/intimate/sexy moves (they're not social moves either)

    Generalist,
    If a follower doesn't know how to do a whip step, she's more likely to follow a well executed reverse whip, as long as you start from cross-hands. She get's the opening walk-walk from your prep. Even if she doesn't prep, you can still get her to do the 180 turn as you accelerate her into 3&4.

    By &4 you're in closed, so you just have to decelerate as you reverse her momentum into the next walk-walk. Even if she's expecting a triple-step, she's still highly likely to do a walk-walk because:
    she's in closed position
    you've slowed her down
    you're leading her with your own center of gravity
    you're doing a walk-walk

    After that, the only thing she can screw up is the anchor.

    A beginning follow is more likely to mess up on a regular whip step. They can sabotage the timing of that one by breaking frame as you try to turn them on(/before/around) 2.

    Jag75,
    I would like to give an exception that occurred during social dancing. I was out at a country western club, so I asked an occasional two-step partner if she knew how to waltz. She said she did, so we went out on the floor.

    It quickly became a train wreck. We had trouble with twinkles. We had trouble with circle turns. We had trouble with basics. Finally I just asked her:

    Me: "How much waltz have you taken?"
    Her: "I've never learned any waltz, but you're a good lead, so I figured you could just lead me through it."

    I can blame a follow for not having a certain level of knowledge.

    She bought into this myth. Because of that, she thought she could dance beyond her level ... with a good enough lead.

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