Swing Discussion Boards > Biggest mistakes by beginner dancers

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by McArtor, Jan 28, 2010.

  1. McArtor

    McArtor New Member

    This is a list I have created from experince as an instructor and dancer. I have found that once these topics are resolved in beginner dancers, their dancing takes leaps and bounds:

    not leading from center (push and pull)
    not providing momentum and direction
    Over dancing
    not sharing the slot
    not anchoring
    LEADING the entire pattern
    No hip rotation

    not anchoring (moving forward prior to 1)
    adding lilt
    not waiting to be led
    Pushing and pulling
    over or under rotaing turns
    stepping turns vs. pivot turns
    stopping/redirecting their own momentum

    I'm sure you may have more and I would love to discuss what others would add or subtract from this list?
  2. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Hmm - I look at those lists, and they seem... well, kind of erratic. For instance, it seems to me that "leading from center", "providing momentum"[1], "leading the entire pattern" aren't really three independent problems; at the very least, these three descriptions have too much overlap to be treated as discrete elements.

    Lead the pattern, the whole pattern, and nothing but the pattern is one that belongs, although this might more succinctly be spelled "everything that touches, leads" (although in practice it is broader than that).

    I personally think "follow through" belongs somewhere, because of the vast difference between following a leader who does and doesn't follow through, but I'm not sure I can guarantee leaps and bounds improvement after this is understood.

    Proximity (establishing the correct relative position between leader and follower) is a huge one.

    It's really hard for me to believe that none of the entries in the list relate to listening to the music. (Remember: "timing, technique, and teamwork".

    Another that I want to toss into the pile is the relationship between center and support - it's almost covered by "leading from center", except that it also applies to follower, and it helps explain a number of contradictory signals leaders give. In other words, it's a bit more fundamental, but consequently harder to explain, especially to beginners.

    Side note: we haven't really defined here what we mean by "beginner dancers"

    It would never occur to me to put "over dancing" in the pile. "Out dancing partner", maybe, but I'm inclined to think that's really about boredom, and the fact that beginner leads learn patterns without context, and are trapped into dancing them that way.

    For followers, correct arm tension and over rotating turns are so big, I almost don't think you need any of the others. Relative positioning again belongs here, as it is one of the easiest ways a follower can improve the lead she gets from a beginner - I'm almost convinced this should subsume "not anchoring".

    There's probably some spelling of "posture" that belongs as well....
  3. McArtor

    McArtor New Member

    You made some great points and definitely some stuff I left out about timing and positioning. on the above listed topic though I will explain how I believe they are all very independent of each other.

    Leading from center: This is a huge focus on positioning and getting leads away from the push/pull method. moving the center position without compromising the positioning of you or your partner. Keeping your weight over your support foot. moving your core and letting your feet follow.

    Providing momentum: I can see how this seems very similar if you are thinking of the first step in a pass or push break but think more about the 5 count in a whip. most leads don't lead that 5 down the slot and the follow has a weak 4 at best as the lead is crossing the slot. I'm a huge preacher of rotating the hips and providing direction and momentum. this can and should be done from your center but even dancers who lead from the center often forget to provide the momentum follows need at key points.

    Leading the entire pattern: This is one of those that in my opinion have nothing to do with the other two. Leading the entire pattern is not a good thing. Once the lead provides direction and momentum, he should allow the follow to "under her own power" complete the pattern with her won styling and footwork. As long as timing is maintained and neither partners movements effect the others ability to maintain timing, that is what creates the true 50/50 dancing that is WCS. lets just take a right side pass, the lead provides direction and momentum on 1&a2 and then allows the follow to finish the patter as she chooses until she feels resistance or extension which is the key to redirection. Bottom line, the lead doesn't need to nor should he pull the follow all the way through the pass.

    Thanks for your post, very good stuff, I agree with you on the timing and positioning a great deal.
  4. RickRS

    RickRS Member

    Leading the entire pattern I understand. I'm guilty of doing that when I first started. And I agree with your inclusion of this, it is a form of interference with the follower.

    Lost me on hip rotation as a beginner lead problem. Hip rotation where?
  5. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Ah. Well, I strongly disagree with that - the best leader I know does lead the entire pattern ("every weight change from may I have this dance to thank you very much, that was lovely"). It's the way he was taught, it's the way he teaches.[1]

    It's not the only way. There are at least two other schools of thought on how often leading is correct. One of them matches your description.

    I promise you that all three get good results.

    It's very odd though, that in one school a significant problem for beginners is that they don't lead the entire pattern, and in another school the problem is that they do. One might almost come to believe that they don't mean the same thing when they say "lead"....

    [1] When I started working with him, one of his initial comments to me was "don't lead louder, lead more often".
  6. Apache

    Apache Member

    Psst: While a good amount of these things apply to any dance you might want to consider posting this is mainly for Westie beginners.
  7. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    About "leading the whole pattern". My oppinion in this can be summed up in one world: variation

    Sometimes you will want to control the follower all the way through a pattern. Other times you can give your partner lots of room to improvise within the pattern.

    Both are good.
  8. utahswestcoastswing

    utahswestcoastswing New Member

    There is a lot of good stuff in this discussion.

    Taking the discussion in another direction, what can an instructor do to improve these issues? I am an instructor and I too face the same issues on the list, not only with beginners but also with our regular dancers. I have been pondering about these same issues for the past year and am having a hard time tackling each one as an instructor. I think there is a deficiency in teaching that is causing our beginners to dance the way they do. These issues seem to be consistent throughout all of WCS. Any suggestions from the discussion would be greatly appreciated because I would like to see all our good dancers of WCS become great dancers.

    On the flip side, I think some of the issues are fully dependent on the passion of the dancer to get better. Some dancers just want to have fun and feel they have learned enough. I have found it is those who are serious that want to correct overleading, rotation, centering, etc. I have found it hard to teach to those who do not want to learn.
  9. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    Thanks! This is so very insightful...

  10. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    have you considered role reversal? a good way to prompt people to change/improve is to let them experience these things from the perspective of their partners - and perceive why people will not want to dance with *them* if they do not correct certain flaws in their technique. also, i recommend that the leads learn the partner's movements and footwork, even if they can not master it, they are usually better able to figure out what they can do to facilitate that movement/figure for their partner.

    i have found that emphasizing certain definitions seems to facilitate understanding of more complicated subjects like connection , by starting with: dancing being about 1) leading and following 2) moving their *bodies* not their feet, a step being a shift in weight resulting in the weight being supported by the other foot - whether the foot moves or not, etc.
  11. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    Doing this has helped me, in all my styles of dance...

  12. chuck4788

    chuck4788 Member

    Good list but I think there is some overlap of issues.

    With all of the information a new student needs to learn it seems some things just take longer to learn. "not anchoring (moving forward prior to 1" is a big one and also includes not settling on the anchor so the partner can feel the anchor.

    In addition to items in your list I observe/experience the following in dancers:

    Lack of frame makes it hard to lead or sense your partners actions.
    Too much animation and vertical movements on smooth dances.
    Erratic gate when it could be smoother.
  13. Ecclesiastes3_4

    Ecclesiastes3_4 New Member

    May fit in with "over dancing" but I dance with SO many guys new to swing who jiggle and dip their upper bodies all over the place! Much more so than any other dances.
  14. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Here's one of my favorite form the late 30s observations...

    A young, white middle class man from suburban Pittsburgh, PA learned to dance jitterbug in 1939 by going to the black "Hill City" section of that city to watch dancers. They danced smoothly, without hopping and bouncing around the dance floor. "The hardest thing to learn is the pelvic motion. I suppose I always felt these motions are somehow obscene. You have to sway, forwards and backwards, with a controlled hip movement, while your shoulders stay level and your feet glide along the floor. Your right hand is held low on the girl's back, and your left hand down at your side, enclosing her hand."[7]
    When he ventured out into "nearby mill towns, picking up partners on location", he found that there were white girls who were "mill-town...lower class" and could dance and move "in the authenic, flowing style". "They were poor and less educated than my high-school friends, but they could really dance. In fact, at that time it seemed
    that the lower class a girl was, the better dancer she was, too."[7]

    ...probably because I'm from a mill town near Pittsburgh. I came across the man's name again, but haven't put it in the article.
  15. morgrob

    morgrob New Member

    I agree with Chuck!

    While I don't take lessons for competitions, I only dance socially. However, during lessons, especially group lessons, many of the ladies have a very sloppy frame. They are also often very limp. So, when offering CBM and stuff to get outside partner (we do American style), you get no response. My wife often finds that men also have the same problem when she needs a good firm base to do a spin or something, she finds that the men don't offer enough of a base. But I think that might lead to men becoming too rigid or too pushy for things, I think there needs to be a balance. They should be willing to be led, but also not so much that they are opposing it.
  16. kmaitland

    kmaitland New Member

    What about the music?

    To be honest I would step back for the issues regarding the steps (lead and follow) entirely. I don't know about you guys/gals but the biggest problems I have had with beginners include:

    1. inability to count
    2. inability to recognize rhythm(s)
    3. leaders/followers demanding that their partner teach them during the class *instead* of the teacher
    4. leaders/followers instructing their partner during the class *instead* of the teacher
    #3 and #4 are merely peeve of mine. But #1 and #2 to me are the most critical. We have dancers all over who can do all the steps but they cannot recognize the rhythm(s) or the beat.

    And it's not just the swing dance scene. I have talked to dance instructors in other disciplines (salsa, Argentine tango, even ballet and contemporary...) and they are seeing the same thing: fellow instructors who are not covering musicality.

    Worse yet, dance students in general are simply NOT learning their basics. Give me a leader who can lead clean passes, sugar push, an underarm turn and a basic whip over a leader who knows a mass of different patterns and can't lead them any of them cleanly any day.

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