Swing Discussion Boards > beginner lead

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by css, Oct 3, 2005.

  1. css

    css New Member

    I recently started learning swing from a club at college but they're only teaching moves and not technique.

    Does anyone have ideas on how to learn to lead without an instructor?
    Is this even the right question?
  2. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    You might want to split things into two parts to practice at different times:

    1) drilling your own body actions so that you don't have to think about them all the time

    2) thinking only about what the girl is doing and how she would get from what she's doing now to what you'd like to lead next

    Eventually you'll be able to do both things automatically and let your attention shift back and forth...
  3. chachachacat

    chachachacat Well-Known Member

    I don't know how one can learn to lead without private lessons. You're right, group classes are not the way to learn leading, following or much technique. There are many benefits to groups, but private lessons are the fastest, least frustrating way to learn dancing.
  4. huey

    huey New Member

    Finding a teacher who will teach you how to lead (whether from private lessons or groups lessons) will be useful.

    You could also try the following -

    1. Talk to leaders you admire and ask their advice.

    2. Find a dance friend and work on things together. Experiment leading and following.

    Here's a useful link all about lead and follow -
  5. macha

    macha New Member

    You know, 4c, that really hits home, and I'm glad I heard it from someone else besides everyone inside my head.

    I know my beloved beau is trying very hard to learn to lead- just as hard as I'm trying to learn to follow- especially in swing and salsa, but sometimes- ok, USUALLY, it doesn't "click" right off. He doesn't know how to lead me to do what he wants, and I don't know how to follow the cues he gives me- it's like Stevie Wonder and Helen Keller dancing.

    I don't want to NOT take groups- we learn new things there, and it's a lot of fun- BUT, it's good to hear someone re-affirm the need for privates to polish up and fix what you learned in group.

    Would you also suggest that we take individual private lessons and THEN private lessons TOGETHER? That's another of my theories...
  6. luh

    luh Active Member

    i totally disagree. someone can learn very well from group lessons how to lead! i can disprove you anytime - wanna dance ? ;)
  7. luh

    luh Active Member

    hey css, welcome to df!
    Cool that you started. I know the problem, i had completely the same - just that i never really considered leading until i came to a different teacher ;)

    Things you might wanna get an idea about:

    frame - search for it here on df, and you'll find a very nice thread of d_nice !
    counter balance - already advanced - but very interesting

    what you always have to keep it in mind is, that the follower won't do anything differently until you move her. (maybe some beginner followers won't get that - but that is the theory and good followers will do that)

    a typical mistake that happens to beginner followers in the swingout is, that they'll go forwards on 5. But as leader, you really have to stop her, going into the direction and give her the lead in the forward direction. Normally, she'd go backwards, because she still has the move into that direction. focus on moving out of the center. Keep your shoulders parallel to your feet. Build up some tention between your partner and yourself. (both highlighted stuff are things to get informed about). Tention is neccessary, because it's the only way a follower will notice your leads. Also get informed about connection - you don't have to be connected by your hands, but maybe also shoulderblade of follower to right hand...
    get an idea? hope it helped. if you have any further question - feel free to ask :D
  8. luh

    luh Active Member

    just got some things i found at wikibooks - haven't read it till now - but maybe it'll help!


    have fun reading

    also very good thing to do is, to get some video clips. good lindy dancers often have some on there websites, like kevin and carla.
    there is a thread containing plenty of links to websites with swing dance clips! also how2dance has some instructional videos. (i'm not sure if they are still without sound), and of course, there is a HUGE collection of swing clips at ftp://poy.no - where there is also a wiki with favorite clips and stuff you might wanna check out first, because i think it's something like 30 GB of swing clips. (my favorites on that server are those from barswingona - but that might be just a personal preference - they are not instructional)
    when you watch non-instructional movies, keep thinking about technique. (why does the girl go there - was it leadable?). There are some choreographies, where it's obvious that it isn't leadable - don't do those moves if you are a beginner.
    A very good dancer, who fascinates me most atm, considering technique is Andrew Sutton. Get some vids of him!

    Often favorite lindy hoppers travel and give workshops. go to them - they help!

  9. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    I learnt to lead in group lessons, as have done many that I know.
  10. luh

    luh Active Member

    same with me
  11. huey

    huey New Member

    Me too :wink:

    But I think chachacha has a point. Private lessons are probably a useful shortcut. I have never had one (although am thinking of doing so soon). But the most useful group lessons I have had in terms of technique are those that allow time for individual feedback from teachers and fellow students. The classes I have had like this were more like workshops than classes. The teachers in these workshop classes come around and spend several minutes dancing with me and watching me dance. Other students provide useful positive help.

    Many group classes concentrate on the 'what', not the 'how'. They just don't have time to show each individual how to execute a move. And I don't think they spend enough time on technique. Group classes can be great fun though, and give you an opportunity to practice your ability to connect with lots of different dancers. I also love doing jazz routines, and these are best done in groups.
  12. heartgrl2k

    heartgrl2k New Member

    Another good thing about group lessons and social dancing is that you really get to see if you're a good lead or not because every follow is different - different connection, weight, tension, reflexes, etc. You have to be able to adapt to them. Some follows need a stronger lead than others, some are able to immediately respond to the slightest lead. If you're taking privates and only dancing with a teacher, or even social dancing with the same person (and I think this is ESPECIALLY true for swing dances) I doubt how much true leading you're going to learn.

    In any case, you need to be perceptive about if the follow is 'getting' your lead or not, and don't be afraid to ask her what felt good or bad about the lead. A lot of people aren't going to offer their opinions unless you ask them.
  13. css

    css New Member

    Thanks for all the replies and the links, I'm still reading through them and so far they seem to help answer a lot of my questions but I still have a few.

    That first link http://www.eijkhout.net/lead_follow/ mentioned leading with the body instead of the arms. I'm not sure on the difference. In east coast you are only connected to your partner by your hands (at least in the moves I've learned).
  14. wcsjon

    wcsjon New Member

    What they are referring to there is once you have your frame, your arms are pretty much set, and when you move with your body (take a step etc.) that moves your arm along with your body and that creates the lead. You don't want to use the muscles in your arms to do the leading. It's really hard to explain in writing, lol.

    Good luck!
  15. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    Yeah, it can be a confusing concept, because you do use your arms a lot while leading. But the point is, when dancing you have two bodies dancing together, connected through the arms. You have one body leading the other body, transmitting this information through the link that is the arms. (But also through visual cues etc.)

    What it translates to in practice is that the leader should move both the body and the arm while leading. The body should not be static while the arm is moving. Just like the follow should let her body be moved, and not just her arm, when being led.

    So what you need is a good frame that can convey the movement from the leaders body to the followers body. in swing dancing, this means tension, but not rigidity. Also a conecpt that can be hard to grasp while being a beginner. It means that while there is tension, there's also flexibility. So there is constant dynamics going on.

    So the arms may move all over the place, the amount of strength used in the tension constantly adjusts, but it never goes totally away. And the reason it never goes aways is so that there's always a connection between the bodies, so that leading and following can be done between the two connected bodies.

    Even more confused now? :shock:
  16. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    I would...its more costly but you each get individual attention and you both learn how it should feel more quickly, plus theres the "not taking your frustration out on your SO factor" that I think is well worth the money
  17. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Try this experiment: find a secure anchorage - a doorknob will do, if you are sure the door will stay put. Or a pole, doorframe, fire escape - something that is going to move less than you will if you pull on it.

    Grab the doorknob with your hand, with your body at a comfortable distance - your arm should be straight, but relaxed.

    Now pull on the doorknob, by holding your ground and contracting your bicep. That's an arm lead. Relax to your original position.

    Now lean your body away from the doorknob (more precisely, use your legs to push your torso further away from the doorknob, without moving your feet. Ideally, your shoulders should be directly over your hips, but your hips are no longer directly over your feet). That's a body lead.

    In both cases you are increasing the tension between your body and the doorknob. With the arm lead, you are creating the tension by shortening the arm. With the body lead, you are creating the tension by increasing the distance bridged by the arm.

    Saying the same thing slightly differently, the body lead creates the tension by moving the shoulder away from the doorknob, rather than by shortening the arm.

    Second experiment: find something you can lean against - a closed door works fine here. Put your palm on the door, with your arm bent at a comfortable angle.

    Press against the door by contracting your tricep (ie - push). That's an arm lead. Relax to your original position.

    Now, paying careful attention to holding the angle of your elbow still, lean against the door. That's a body lead.

    Aside from the physiology, there are two differences that leap immediately to mind. First is that the body lead is more comfortable to follow. Second is that using the body to lead allows the arms to be more consistantly relaxed, allowing faster, cleaner arm movement.

    I'm no longer sure how important this latter point is in ECS and Lindy, but you get a lot of mileage out of it in WCS and hustle, with all the wraps, folds, headloops and so forth.

    Disclaimer: I'm a westie - lindy hoppers should take all of this with a wife of salt.
  18. luh

    luh Active Member

    meaning, they want nothing that would throw the follow off-balance. It's coming over again. Flat shoes has a lot of stuff i already wrote. tension, frame, center,.... you really have to know those things (and _do_ them while dancing) - don't be scared, it takes longer than the basic of ECS. (so don't be scard if it'll take you some time. I hope you searched for frame in this forum, there are also some exercises written in there.

    Your arms should never be disconnected from your body. it's a lot of things that play together, which really takes some time to learn! So don't be confused, but maybe find a swing dancer, who knows those terms we used, and ask him/her to teach you.

    You should really read the stuff we write! It's good stuff what people write in here! (compliment to all the others - i really enjoy this thread - it's not drifting away from it's subject!)

    you'll find it maybe hard to get the tension at ecs. But you should definetly have tension when going back on count 5! . The follower should go back, because you show her to, (a little pressure, just enough - not throwing her offbalance!!), and she should come towards you because you are slightly pulling (actually it's jsut having tension in the right direction). Pulling/pushing are the wrong words for this - tension the right one.

    I really compliment you if you understand all said here. It would sound pretty cryptic to me! I learned all this in lessons - and you should get someone as well. group lessons are fine, - but sometimes college swing clubs have not the best teachers!
    keep dancing!
  19. wcsjon

    wcsjon New Member

    I don't want to confuse anyone here, or be hard to get along with, just want to point something out.
    If you move the shoulder away, without stepping, that's not a full body lead. This is the way it has been taught in the past and MANY people have learned this way, just to get to relearn down the road.
    If you just pull the shoulder back, you are using your lats (muscles) to lead, the lead (in WCS, as well as MOST, not all, but most dances) should come from the movement created by your feet.
    So, with that being said, go up to the door, UNlatch the door, stand on the side where it will open towards you. Take the door knob in your left hand, and take one step away from the door, with your arm in a fixed position to your body. The door should have moved at the same rate as your whold body, not faster, not slower. Now step back into the door, the door should close at the same rate as you moved towards the door. This is a full body lead, it starts with a step, keeping your body centered over the foot you are stepping onto (as you should take full weight onto that foot as you step in ECS, WCS, lindy but not in dances such as waltz). A full body lead gives you more control, and the follower more feel of what you are doing because you are connected all the way to the point that movement starts. This way, your foot movement can/will set the size of you and your partner's steps as well as the speed/energy.
    Hope that helped and didn't confuse/offend anyone!
  20. chandra

    chandra New Member

    Isnt it center more than feet? But center goes as feetgo... Cause your center moves before your feet... (I guess thats a point of contention... and maybe more for follows?)

    errmm... yah...Never mind.

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