Message to beginners and intermediates

#1
I'm teaching again. I do so regularly at our local club. I always talk about connection and staying relaxed why that is not a contradiction. It is difficult things to explain, and it doesn't seem to sink in.

I can spend ten minutes or so with a person, tell her what she does wrong, and make her do the right thing. And get a clear improvement there and then. One week later it is all gone. That is frustrating.

Now I want to tell the class attendees the two or three things (max, too many things will confuse them) that I want them to remember and focus, and that will help taking them from the level of beginners and make them actually start dancing.

And I am thinking of something else than connection, because that doesn't seem to work. And they can hear that everywhere else.

So here is what I want to say:
Leaders:
- Dancing is about moving the body, not arms and feet. When leading, there should always be a connection with the lead and the center of the body
- Leading is not an impulse. When changing the direction of the follower, that is something that takes time. Spend the time needed, and make it smooth

Followers:
- Dancing is about moving the body, not arms and feet. When lead, let the energy move the center of your body. Don't let your arm go, don't fall over, but move your body center. The job of your legs is to be under your body and support it.
- Follow every movement through. When walking, walk until stopped. When turning, turn until stopped. Don't stop, turn towards the leader and wait.

Both:
- Don't be tense. Relax in both your mind and body. Try to make everything flow in one long smooth continues motion.

That's it. So what do you people think?

If you are a beginner reading this, does it make sense to you? Can you understand with your body what your mind reads?

If you are an experienced dancer/teacher, do you think these points make a good key understanding of dancing technique? Are there things you would change? Or are there other things you would focus on?

I teach Lindy Hop. But I think the points should be equally valid for West Coast and East Coast too, as well as most partner dancing where leading and following is vital.
 
#3
Now I want to tell the class attendees the two or three things (max, too many things will confuse them) that I want them to remember and focus, and that will help taking them from the level of beginners and make them actually start dancing.
If that's your goal, I'm pretty certain that focusing on technique is a mistake.

Additionally, it seems to me that you are using the wrong tool (classes) for this job.


Leaders:
- Dancing is about moving the body, not arms and feet. When leading, there should always be a connection with the lead and the center of the body
I don't like this one too much. Partly because I think it confuses two ideas, also because I think it lacks an anchor in the current understanding of the student.

Leading is not an impulse. When changing the direction of the follower, that is something that takes time. Spend the time needed, and make it smooth
This is a place where you should be talking about follow through.

- Dancing is about moving the body, not arms and feet. When lead, let the energy move the center of your body. Don't let your arm go, don't fall over, but move your body center. The job of your legs is to be under your body and support it.
I would try to simplify this one - "the lead is telling you where to put your torso".

Follow every movement through. When walking, walk until stopped. When turning, turn until stopped. Don't stop, turn towards the leader and wait.
I don't think I like this one so much. "When you don't know what to do, everything is right"
 
#4
Thanks for your comments Dancelf.

If that's your goal, I'm pretty certain that focusing on technique is a mistake.
Maybe you misunderstood me. What I meant by "start dancing" was in contrast to "walking around in the patterns".

I had this revelation myself many years ago when I was a beginner. One time it just suddenly clicked, and I understood what dancing was. Maybe you have to be me to relate. :)


I don't like this one too much. Partly because I think it confuses two ideas, ...
What two ideas?

... also because I think it lacks an anchor in the current understanding of the student.
I'm worried about that myself. But I feel it is very important to teach the students how to put their body behind what they are doing. Not just moving the arms around. It's a difficult one.

I don't think I like this one so much. "When you don't know what to do, everything is right"
That one stays. Stopping too early is the one big thing beginner followers do wrong. It breaks connection, and it breaks the flow.
 
#5
"What two ideas?"

I may have misunderstood you....

Dancing is about moving the body, not arms and feet. When leading, there should always be a connection with the lead and the center of the body
The first sentence I read to refer to the dance of the body versus the painted footsteps on the floor. Which of itself is entirely separate from the second which is really trying to associate the lead to the body mass.

Rereading that section, now I'm even less sure that I like it - because lead is all about the arms and feet! Which leaves you something of a problem, because it's not about the arms and feet the way that beginners use them, so you have to find a useful lie to unblock them.

Or a different approach. Depends on what you are really trying to achieve.

If you are trying to start them dancing, then you should be postponing connection and lead follow and concentrating on body movement (ie the dance is the body, not the feet).

If you are trying to develop lead follow, your lessons should be directed there, and ignore the body movement.

Westie disclaimers apply, but trying to teach your students to pat their head and rub their belly seems to me a waste of their time.
 
#6
The first sentence I read to refer to the dance of the body versus the painted footsteps on the floor. Which of itself is entirely separate from the second which is really trying to associate the lead to the body mass.
I see them as the same thing. Both focuses on moving the body.

Rereading that section, now I'm even less sure that I like it - because lead is all about the arms and feet!
I don't agree. Arms and feet are secondary. They are actively used, yes, but they are mainly there to help the communication between the bodies, and support the weight of the bodies.

But I see that I might have to find a different way of getting this point across.

Which leaves you something of a problem, because it's not about the arms and feet the way that beginners use them, so you have to find a useful lie to unblock them.

Or a different approach. Depends on what you are really trying to achieve.
What I want to achieve is for them to put their bodies into waht they are doing.

If you are trying to develop lead follow, your lessons should be directed there, and ignore the body movement.
We seem to disagree here. I think body is all important when it comes to lead and follow.

Westie disclaimers apply, but trying to teach your students to pat their head and rub their belly seems to me a waste of their time.
???
 
#7
We aren't communicating yet.

I see them as the same thing. Both focuses on moving the body.
How you see them probably isn't nearly as important as how your students do.

Ultimately, we want dancers to be dancing with their bodies and lead following with their bodies at the same time. But it's a long jump from there to the idea that the best approach is to ask them to both when they don't yet know how to do either on their own.

But they are almost certainly two different things - after all, you can practice how you translate your body above the floor without a partner.


Here, we are communicating:

I don't agree. Arms and feet are secondary. They are actively used, yes, but they are mainly there to help the communication between the bodies, and support the weight of the bodies.
Yup, you don't agree. Do you want to take time to explore that?
 
#8
When talking about technique and leading/following, the body needs to be in it. The leader needs to use his body to support the lead. The follower needs to let her body be moved, not just her arms. She needs to let her body decide where the feet go, not the opposite around. The body is important, the communication goes from one body to the other, if not the dance falls apart.

I appreciate your input, Dancelf, but I don't see this going anywhere. You aren't being specific enough for me to understand what you're disagreeing with, and why.
 
#9
MultiFaceted, that is a good exercise. Maybe especially for Argentine Tango, where it has more direct application, but also for Lindy and general body awareness.

It is easy to take body awareness for granted when you are an experienced dancer. But every time I try to follow, I get reminded how lacking my own awareness is, as soon as I am doing unfamiliar things.
 
#10
My daughter studied with the Schwimmers. There studio is 10 min. away.
You become "relaxed" once you have gotten your technique down. It isn't
the other way around.
Dancelf knoweth what he/she is talking about.
 
#11
"What two ideas?"


If you are trying to develop lead follow, your lessons should be directed there, and ignore the body movement.

Westie disclaimers apply, but trying to teach your students to pat their head and rub their belly seems to me a waste of their time.
Don't understand this...I thought proper movement of the body/center is essential to lead and follow. All of my WCS classes/teachers emphasize this.
 
#12
My daughter studied with the Schwimmers. There studio is 10 min. away.
You become "relaxed" once you have gotten your technique down. It isn't
the other way around.
I don't agree. It is not one way or the other, it is a growing process.

Yes, it is difficult (impossible?) to relax and lead with confidence before the technique is down. But there are also quite many who tense up unnecessary, which hinders them from leading/following properly and finding the right feeling.

Some people needs to get past this in order to be able to progress further.

Dancelf knoweth what he/she is talking about.
So do I. :)

What I am struggling with is finding the best way to help some beginner/intermediates to understand what they need to do to progress and be better dancers. And that is a communication challenge.
 
#13
And I am not going to say too much about relaxing, because I know many will misunderstand this, and loose connection. Instead I'll try to focus on smoothness and flow in the movements.
 
#14
Beginners and intermediates should be concentrating on syllabus and technique. Once they feel comfortable with their skill, they will relax. Connection is another
subject that deserves a thread unto itself. (Displaying a good connection is partly learned/technical and partly natural.) When a dancer is uncertain about their skill, it is natural to tense up. (insecurity) Just work the insecurity out of them, that's what I say. It is "easier" to draw from what is natural in oneself once you have a resevoir of skill to draw from. You can't be a good comedian if you don't know any jokes, no matter how funny you look.
 
#15
I know what you're saying barrefly, but still I know people who has been dancing for years and never really gets past the mistakes that holds them back.

So while what you're saying is right, from learning the skill comes security. But leading and following is skill too, and that's what I'm going to work on. But from a slightly different angle this time: smoothness, body awareness and finishing the movements.
 
#16
You become "relaxed" once you have gotten your technique down. It isn't
the other way around.
Yes, I have had a brilliant coach who teaches similar (for Standard, though, not Swing, but I think it still applies). He says start with an effort of 10 (meaning be as tense as you want) but be focused and get it right. Then work your way down. Ultimately you want your performance to be 10 and your effort to be 2 or 3.
 
#17
Yes, I have had a brilliant coach who teaches similar (for Standard, though, not Swing, but I think it still applies). He says start with an effort of 10 (meaning be as tense as you want) but be focused and get it right. Then work your way down. Ultimately you want your performance to be 10 and your effort to be 2 or 3.
Thanks for agreeing ireniecat,
Being a "dancers dad", it's good to know once in a while that I may
just have my "head on straight".

P.S. I will have to read your "ballroom on a budget" when I get the chance. I have been learning how to get the most "bang for my buck"
regarding my daughter's dance training. i.e. Don't require that a coach
be present at every practice. (duh). They should learn to practice on there own. Keep their privates for training and being taught choreo.
Also, if you are doing pro/am, find a big studio that uses pro/ams to promote their studio (contracted pros?) and does not charge the dancers (other than rehearsal time and entrance fees) a fee for having the pro. partner them. My daughter found such a studio and her pro. is a blackpool champion.
I heard that pro. fees can be quite high.
 
#18
Yes, I have had a brilliant coach who teaches similar (for Standard, though, not Swing, but I think it still applies). He says start with an effort of 10 (meaning be as tense as you want) but be focused and get it right. Then work your way down. Ultimately you want your performance to be 10 and your effort to be 2 or 3.
What does "get it right" mean in this context, when "right" is not "right technique"? Does your coach mean good techniques just comes along by itself, as long as your effort is good enough?

If so, I don't think that can be transferred to Lindy, which is almost all about lead and following skills.

Edit: After thinking about it, ireniecat, your coaches advice makes much more sense to me when learning a new routine. Am I guessing right, if I'm guessing that is the kind of class you went to?
 
#19
This thread never became what I intended, which was how to find the a new way to communicate some ideas.

Anyway, since there is some disagreement about the ideas themselves, which might mean either that I am wrong, or that I didn't communicate them properly, I found this post about using the body.

I don't agree. Arms and feet are secondary. They are actively used, yes, but they are mainly there to help the communication between the bodies, and support the weight of the bodies.
....
We seem to disagree here. I think body is all important when it comes to lead and follow.

The muscles in your arms should not be purposefully engaged. If you are trying to stiffen or tone your arm muscles I'd bet dollars to donuts that you are doing it wrong (as in too much). Concentrate on the tension of the muscles that connect the arm to the torso. Those are the ones which will have the biggest impact on how movement of your body will translate into movement of your followers body. It is dancing/leading from your center and it is the best way. Dancing arms, pulling and pushing with your arm rather than moving your body is going to take your follower out of sync with you. You'll speed up, slow down, or change the angle of movement of your follower in relation to your own body.
This is essentially much the same thing I've tried to say. But probably much clearer.

I was trying to stay away from the phrase "dancing from the center", though, because I think that won't mean anything to most beginners and intermediates. Focusing on the muscles that connects arm to body, though, is something I'll add to my plan.

The thread itself is a very good read. http://dance-forums.com/showpost.php?p=545279
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#20
I don't think that can be transferred to Lindy, which is almost all about lead and following skills.
The old timers have said that back in the day partners spent much time practicing their moves together. Frankie Manning, et al, were professional dancers who didn't want to be thought of as professionals.
So, how is it that we have ended up thinking of Lindy as almost all about lead and following skills?
 

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