Salsa > Benefits of dancing with a less experienced follow

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by ticolora, Apr 29, 2017.

  1. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    Am I right thinking that dancing with a [much] less experienced (a beginner) follow is a significantly beneficial activity?

    Here is my reasoning. It requires way more clarity to lead a beginner, ergo it is a good way to improve my lead clarity.

    When I see a brand new dancer, I try to take the opportunity to dance with her, if only for the reason above.

    I know I've been wrong before, I'm asking so I don't embrace counterproductive practices.
    Jag75 likes this.
  2. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    I try to dance with beginners, but don't dance repeatedly with the same beginner. Or even repeatedly with the same person for that matter. Every one has their weak points, and if you dance with the same person you end up covering for their weak points, and that other person covers for yours. I prefer a variety.
  3. SoAndSo

    SoAndSo New Member

    You can see the question from different angles.

    Beneficial = good for you:

    - fun
    Well, having fun with a dancer that barely can move her feet, isn't my specialty. But as long as the basics are there i have had fun with many a beginner.
    I think the major part for this is the social connection, same as when dancing with partners far over my level.

    - learning to lead
    Yeah, you can become quite a clear lead when working with beginners. But this is only true for the basic stuff, as anything a bit higher is too much for them.
    But in general: you can learn leading best with someone who cannot compensate for your errors but is well capable of doing the move.

    - training your basics
    As you cannot dance anything fancy with them, you will do your basics again and again. And with that - given you actually are trying to - improve them a lot.
    BUT there are many beginners who are actually scared if your basics are on a too high level. And when scared they will block, getting into apology or shock mode. But well, when you reached that level, you are probably better of taking the advanced beginners and the intermediates instead of the real beginners.
    Both is true for followers by the way and I know many pretty followers who from day one on were only dancing with more advanced leads who have abysmal basics and are not aware of that, as the lead was always compensating for them.

    - experience many partners
    I try to ask at least 1, better 3 new partners every night out. Main reason for failure is, that there often times are no left ... I have broken the distance to many wallflowers and visitors thanks to that.

    Beneficial = social value
    - making new friends
    Self explaining i think.

    - integrating newbies into the scene
    As long as you do not scare them away, for sure.
    There are many beginners specialists around, who are actually hunting them down and who scare many away. Specially pretty and young beginners are falling victim to those a lot in scenes with a bit higher age (= more predators, less prey)
    But if you just ask the shy beginner for a dance once or twice a night and some others do that too, she will get her share of dancing.
    Btw, this is even more true for beginner leads, that often times sit around far more.

    negative effects:
    - creeping out beginners
    Specially the prettier ones get a lot of attention for their physical characteristics. Often times unwanted attention by dancers that are not capable and not interested, in making them feel safe on the dance floor but just want to get the fresh meat. In lead heavy or higher aged scenes this becomes a serious problem.

    - making beginners feel bad
    There are people, that can really shut down, when they cannot keep up with some imagined goal or ideal. And once they begin to go into this mode, the dance is wasted and sometimes even their evening - for something that is mainly their psychological problem. Even if i thought the dance with them was crap before, it is just 3-5 minutes, nothing to worry about.

    - breeding of overly greedy followers
    There are many followers who either by skill or by looks/age got their share of attention by far more experienced leads. I know whole subscenes that are made up by the ex-partners for 2 or 3 alpha males, who don't do much more than waiting for the alphas to take care for them, denying requests from other leads and then showing up less and less, while other "horses" take their position.
    For non beginner-hunter leads these girls often are completely useless, as they are only trained for the one style of dancing, often times heavily back leading the typical moves of their "trainers" while completely unable to improvise into other forms of dancing. Still they demand the attention of teachers, stars and alike, which they only get in share for physical attention.

    - slowing down your own improvement after a certain point
    There comes the time when your basics are great and you really should work on other stuff too (unless you want to become a "Basic and Happy" dancer). If most of your peers are on a far lower level than yourself, it is hard to train anything. Specially as most of the stuff the girls know, they know from dancing with you so they cannot give you new impulses.

    - making yourself lazy
    It is easy to be the biggest fish in the pond, if you only let the smallest ones in. I know many dancers who are in fact in a subscene, where they always get the reaction, that everything they do is great. They themselves think they are great, as long as they don't leave their little pond. Whenever they do this, they get bad reactions and then run back to their cocoon of mediocrity.
    Many of these leads are or become beginner hunters, fueling a dire circle.

    Dancing with beginners is of a high social value for leads and for follows to make friends and integrate newcomers into the scene.
    It is a great exercise to train your basics for both side of the game. For this even clearly more advanced dancers profit from taking these dances serious.
    Once you reached a certain point - the distance in experience is too high - the technical benefit for the more experience side shrinks and it often times really is becoming a "benefit dance".
    The highest benefit for both sides is given with relatively even partners.
    A specializing for much less experienced partners and unmixing of dancer pools should be avoided though.
    cornutt, bia and raindance like this.
  4. Newdancer81

    Newdancer81 Active Member

    I agree with most of the points above. Dancing with beginners allows a lead to see if they are leading clearly (or sometimes you are too light of a lead and you need to be a bit more strong).

    It also allows you to work on your basics as well and gives you the opportunity to meet new people.

    The only problem is you can't do advanced steps/patterns. I think at socials, your best bet is to dance with all levels.
    cornutt likes this.
  5. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    If the follow doesn't know how to give the right connection to the lead though, it won't really do you any good for your clarity in your leading. It would only be good if you want to learn how to force a newbie to move.
    PaulBunyon likes this.
  6. Patrick Pfavayi

    Patrick Pfavayi New Member

    Dancing with a partner at a lower dance level than you is beneficial to the partner and a good deed on your part , especially if the difference in dance level is huge, e.g beginner and teacher level...

    In Cuban salsa , successful leading or following really depends on your mastering of the basic Cuban step.
    Most people who think they are dancing Cuban salsa are really dancing a mixture of L.A , rueda de casino , Cuban salsa steps. It is extremely difficult to lead or follow such a partner.

    In Cuban salsa the follower DOES NOT NEED TO KNOW ANY FIGURES.
    The leader "directs" her to do those figures.
    Actually there is a problem if the follower "knows" a lot of figures.... She will tend to assume that the leader is gonna do figure No 5 e.g , do the figure on her own while the leader wanted another figure or a combination of other figures, and hence a confused result.

    And that is why in Cuban salsa (casino) , the idea of "leader" is not really correct, the idea of "driver" is more correct.
    The kavallieros "drives" the dama and so the kavallieros is actually a little "behind" the dama.
    "Leading" entails the kavallieros is a little "ahead" of the dama.

    A dama that has mastered the Cuban salsa step well will do wonders on the dance floor if "driven" by an advanced kavalliero ...
  7. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I hope you really do not believe that, " mastering" a basic ( in ANY dance ), is the solution to success of lead, or follow.
    vit likes this.
  8. Beth

    Beth New Member

    As a beginner myself, My main "fear" is that a much more advanced dancer will get impatient with me bc I'm still learning. Most ppl will tell me that they learned just my getting out on the dance floor and dancing. I'm in a small city where salsa isn't available. So I have to go an hour or two hours away to get the chance to dance. There are those who are great leads. Others are so advanced they intimidate me and it's hard to follow their lead. They so very advanced moves and they tell me "just follow" don't anticipate. I know the basics but when they want to do turn after turn, styling with hands, arms , etc that's difficult to follow- at least for me. I wish I had the availability to take lessons. And following a video isn't the same as having a partner to practice/take lessons with.
  9. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    Those aren't advanced dancers. The truly advanced will lead to your ability level. They might try something more complicated if things are going well, but if doesn't work, they'll back off - and generally, will blame themselves if it didn't work. They'll make you feel comfortable.

    The leads you are describing are likely intermediate at best... think they're amazing, want to show off, are "too good" to dance basics, and typically have sub-standard technique. If you watch closely, the advanced follows likely try to avoid dancing with them. They'll be sticking with the earnest beginners or the actually-advanced leads.
  10. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Sorry, but I will disagree with your posit. Cuban style Son,Salsa and Casino need to be taught from the very basic foundation concepts.

    "Lead " in dance needs be clear no matter the level of the partner, so no matter how much a follow may know, the leader still bears the responsibility for all aspects of motion i.e "lead" .

    Also, lead is ,to a greater degree,is an "invitation ". .To assume that an individual will automatically respond to a specific action ,as akin to Pavlov's dog ,is a pathway to confusion as leads can and do vary . And, yes, I'm well aware that certain figures leave little alternative, but to say that ALL figures are equally distinctive is very moot .

    I don't know if you teach, but I can tell you this ; taking a student who has a dance background in other salsa styles, is invariably a challenge unto itself, and if steps are not " taught " particularly at the beginning , then be prepared for a different response with no lead !
    Bailamosdance likes this.
  11. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Here is something I advise to all my beginner students ; if at a social always tell the prospective partner that you are a beginner .
  12. PaulBunyon

    PaulBunyon Active Member

    I have lately found myself frustrated dancing with beginner follows as it seems to be encouraging bad habits on my part. It is as Maggie said above,
    Examples of this:
    Every right rotation (left side forward) is interpreted as promenade so I just dance flat.
    Follower does an inside turn on every outside turn with a tuck, so just stop tucking.
    Frame caves in with the slightest push because of no concept of a "push/pull" connections.
    I find myself holding to tight and firm at the shoulder blade in a desperate attempt to keep the follow to my right (stop center drifting).
    Falling off the music by accommodating a 4 step 3 step turn (or other such technique gap, foot and half rock steps and such)
  13. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    I've found that there's a spectrum of ability in the newbie follows. And I think if I collected data somewhat rigorously, I could put them in a normal distribution, or a "bell curve". A very few are like refrigerators, or hang on you or pull and push on you to power their own movements. That's the bad side of the bell curve. The other end is like the newbie follow I danced with last night, her only dance lesson was the social bronze waltz lesson before the social. I was able to dance a rumba with her and she framed up nicely and pretty well followed my lead. That's the good side of the bell curve. Most of them fall somewhere in the middle, the hump of the bell curve. I avoid instruction as much as possible, I might point out my frame or suggest that they look at my right ear if they're the visual type and staring at my nose causes them to drift into the center. If they can't get the idea from that we may end up doing simple boxes for the whole song.

    To avoid impacting my own abilities, I dance with a wide range of follows as each one is different and has different weaknesses.
  14. Beth

    Beth New Member

    I always tell ppl im a beginner.
    Mr 4 styles likes this.
  15. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Er... I'm going to generalize here and it may upset some people, but... I've never met anyone who "learned on the floor", without any lessons or practice at all, who was a halfway decent dancer. Typically they think they are a lot better than they are. They may know patterns, but they don't understand movement, they don't understand connection, and they don't pay any attention to either their partner or to the music. So there. Take at least some group classes.

    As FF said above, a good lead won't dance over his partner's experience level. A good lead will suss out his partner's ability level (which may involve asking beforehand, if the partners have never met before), and lead patterns appropriate for that. And a good lead works to make his leads clear. One of the main challenges of leading is creating leads that are unambiguous but not overpowering.

    And as I think Tangotime pointed out, at the more advanced levels, lead and follow is really an interactive process. A good lead should be able to use that skill to accommodate when his partner misses a lead, and do something that works from the current position, instead of yanking and dragging his partner through the pattern he intended.
    IndyLady, RiseNFall and Beth like this.
  16. Beth

    Beth New Member

    I agree that a good lead should "accomodate" a less advanced dancer. Even though im a novice salsa dancer i have taken quite a few WCS lessons. I just dont have availability to salsa lessons which is what id like. I did find that comment "learn by getting out on the dance floor" had some flaws in it bc with WCS its no diff,you have to know how to make and feel the connection. The experience ive had in WCS has been a little more congenial, if you will, but i think its just bc of my personal experience with my bf. Thanks again for the input
    RiseNFall likes this.
  17. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I would surmise from this that you have not danced in a latino club. A good 90% have never had formal instruction and there are some amazing dancers ( these are the types on which t I honed my latin ) .That is not to say ALL latinos are great dancers, but there are a lot of exceptions.
  18. SoAndSo

    SoAndSo New Member

    Actually around here the Salsa instructors usually are that bad, that they actually prevent dancers from becoming better. Training is pure pattern teaching / skills for executing the pattern and the follow is a submissive puppet, who tries to do how she is ordered by leads who barely know, what they are trying to lead there anyway thus back leading is not only encouraged, it is expected!
    I have seen several follows getting worse from taking classes.

    The majority of great social dancers around here has had little to no formal Salsa training, but either come from ballroom/other partner dances or solo dance/show dance/body movement training and then learned the frame and the communication on the dance floor.
    At least as long as they try to improve their dancing and communicate with their partner within the frame - if they skip that, they stay bad.
    Bailamosdance likes this.
  19. Beth

    Beth New Member

    So which is better? To take salsa lessons or not? My bf's approach is to study patterns. So is that what salsa's approach is? To learn, memorize patterns and the lady just follows ? I'm a true beginner but my bf doesn't really teach me anything. There's no availability for to me to learn where I live other than just go to a club an hour away and dance. So I don't know how I'm supposed to learn if my bf doesn't want to teach me. I just want to learn.
  20. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    Study patterns. Hmmm. So is BF's idea of lead & follow that when he wiggles a certain body part (maybe his eyebrows for all I know), that you're supposed to dance your way through a certain amalgamation of moves?

    That's not my idea of lead-follow. Now I don't know a gazillion patterns but that's OK given that only 2 or 3 salsas are played at the social dances I attend. I stand up straight, give a good frame, and step clearly from foot to foot and most of the ladies I pick at random can follow. I start out with simpler patterns, a basic and then cross body lead and work my way up from there. If BF can't do that with you, then either you're an unusually untalented follow or he's not really a very good leader and I would bet odds on the latter.
    Beth likes this.

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