Swing Discussion Boards > Dealing with bad follows

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by jwn57030, Mar 5, 2013.

  1. jwn57030

    jwn57030 New Member

    When I go dancing I occasionally get a follow who is basically leading. Most of the time its due to the fact they are very new to dancing and they have just learned the steps and some moves without any theory on how to be a good follow. In that case its very easy for me to be able to give them tips to help, and most people who are new are very receptive to helpful suggestions.

    The biggest problem I have is with some follows who have been dancing for a bit of time and think they are good follows. At that point I find they are not very open to suggestions because they believe they are doing everything right. I have gone to the point of completely stopping dancing and they will just keep dancing. At that point its really obvious they do not know how to follow. Occasionally they do pick up the hint when I do that, but most of the time they seem not notice at all. Then usually I just will not dance with them again.

    I am curious if anyone has a more subtle approach or suggestions on how to deal with this?
  2. juwest333

    juwest333 Active Member

    A couple of things...

    On the social dance floor, unless your partner is actually physically hurting you, NEVER offer suggestions to your partner unless they actually ask for them, no matter how new or advanced they may be. Do you have any specific examples concerning your second paragraph? I would never just stop dancing with my partner during a dance. It would come off as either arrogant or very rude.

    I don't know what your level of dancing is, but a really good lead can make even the most beginner of followers do amazing things. If her moves are predictable, then anticipate her moves and surprise her with something new. Make it a game. Communicate with your partner. Tell her that you were working on a new move and that you wanted to try it with her. Or tell her that you want to practice being a really good lead and ask her to close her eyes and see if she can still follow what you are trying to lead her to do. You are dancing; have fun with it. There are a lot of moves and instances in swing dancing which are open to all kinds of variations. Be creative with it.

    There has to be few advanced follows at your scene, right? Focus on doing your more advanced stuff with those follows only. I can't really say much else without an actual example.
  3. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I agree, juwest. I've rarely seen anything other than hurt feelings accomplished by teaching on the dance floor, however good the intentions. I think it's much better for me to work on my dance than to critique other people's. If the other person is doing something unbearable/dangerous, I always have the option to not dance with them again.
  4. mjnemeth

    mjnemeth Member

    What type of swing dance are you doing? ECS,WCS, lindy shag or something else? In Carolina shag class, we men were told , if you get out of sync stop dancing until the rock step. So I could understand
    why you stopping might be ignored. Second point , you almost have it with " to be a good follower",
    They may have learned the steps well but not the lead well.
    As to giving tips on the floor; I agree with both of the above, not a good idea.
    You MIGHT try saying something like "oops was trying to lead a ..." and smile.
  5. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Laughing Out Loud here because I can SO identify with this, but much more in Argentine Tango than swing!

    Will be watching this thread carefully, because this is about where I end up!
  6. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    I think this is an over-generalization. While I myself don't teach and I have been able to amaze a beginning follower of what she can do, there are definitely exceptions.

    Such as the graduates from "classes" which are "taught" at a local gym. These are basically teaching leaders and followers to do patterns in a loose practice hold. There are some "graduates" of this class who don't have the slightest clue as to what following is.

    While I am forgiving and can deal with some pretty bad technique, there needs to be a minimum commitment to a partnership. Some ladies just don't get asked again.

    The same for some competitor "follows" who launch off on some figure their pro taught them. Hello. I'm not your pro. If you want to dance with me, then dance with me and not your pro.

    Before anyone launches off in a criticism of my ability, let me state that I am more willing than most of the leads where I socialize to do that with the new people.
  7. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    It's long been my observation that most beginning follows go through a stage in which they are doing steps by rote. It starts a few months in and lasts for maybe a year. While they are in this phase, if you are dancing with them, you can initiate a step, but once it's initiated the follow will dance the pattern she's been taught, and there's nothing you can do except ride with it until you are back to the basic. To be honest, I don't understand why it happens, but apparently it's inherent in the process of learning to follow. As a lead, all you can really do is bear with it, answer any questions if she asks, and just keep dancing with her until she gets past it. Advanced follows danced with me when I was a clumsy beginning lead, so I think of it as returning the favor.
    pygmalion likes this.
  8. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Yeah. Not sure about the exact time frame, cornutt, but what you say makes a lot of sense to me, from both sides of the learning curve.​
    I think the duration of this stage may well depend on how/by whom you're being taught. One of my earlier teachers was a stickler for not teaching patterns as much as insisting that I get my weight on the correct foot. Ultimately, I ended up dancing the pattern, whatever it was, but he didn't let me get away with dancing it by rote. He put me on the foot he wanted me on. I could cooperate or we could talk about why I was on the wrong foot. Trust me. If you knew this teacher, you would understand why, early in the game, I learned to just cooperate and get over the correct foot if at all possible. :D
    That's a digression in any case. What I started to say was that this reminds me of the time, many moons ago, that a friend and for-a-while practice partner decided to lead me through bolero, the new dance that we were both learning (from two separate instructors, obviously.) It was a total train wreck. I only knew the patterns my teacher had taught me and my teacher's style of leading. My friend only knew the patterns his teacher had taught him and the (IMO very unclear) leads that he knew. OMG. At least we were good enough friends to get a belly laugh out of it.​
    I say all that to say why take it so seriously? The world as we know it will not come to an end tomorrow if I lead a [blah] and the follow misinterprets my lead and dances [blah1] instead. It's dance, not rocket science (unless the quorum of dancing engineers over in ballroom get their way lol.)​
    Why not talk with (not at) the "bad" follows in question? Not teach. Talk. "Oops. that didn't work. I intended to lead a [fill in the blank.]" might elicit a helpful response, such as "Oh. Sorry. I couldn't tell because [fill in another blank.]" You never know. You might learn something, if not about leading overall, then certainly about how to lead this particular follow.​
    At the end of the day, I don't think anybody is out there, especially on a social dance floor, intentionally following (or leading) badly. We're all there to learn and have fun. To me, this thread isn't about objectively good or bad follows or leads. It's about how to communicate in a way that maximizes the chances that everybody will get along, dance well together and have fun. Isn't that what it's about?​
    twnkltoz, cornutt and Mr 4 styles like this.
  9. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    amen sister!!!
  10. jwn57030

    jwn57030 New Member

    Wow, I have a lot of great posts to reply too. I apologize in advance because this will most likely be a very large post. I want to try to address all of the posts at one time. Hopefully this way I don't have to repeat myself if I were to reply to each individually.

    I may not have put enough explanation in my post in order to keep it brief, but I definitely do not give any advice unless they somehow indicate that they want feedback. I find very new dancers will tend to ask how they were. I am not just randomly giving advice unless as you said I believe I or my partner is in danger of physical harm.

    To give you a better example of what I am talking about I first need to discuss what I see as the 3 different levels of follows that I encounter. First the very beginners who barely know the steps and have to watch there feet. I usually find them to be naturally good follows because they really don't know any moves and have no choice but to follow. After that I notice a period where they then start to learn some moves and get the basic steps down well. In that period some continue to be good follows, but most will then start anticipating moves and do the basic steps without being led because they were taught to follow that pattern. Those I don't usually have an issue with at all because I understand they are still learning. Lastly after that they tend to take more lessons and learn how to follow and grow out of anticipating and are great at following.

    The type I am talking about are follows who from talking too have never had lessons, but have just learned moves on the social dance floor. Or sometimes I do see some never really grow out of stage 2 and sometimes get worse. Either way both have been dancing for some time but have slipped through the cracks and have never gotten instruction on leading/following theory. It's always to the point they are actually leading because they are forcefully swinging my arms while doing the basic steps, and I really have no choice but to follow them. They of course still expect me to lead the moves, but they do not follow my lead when doing the basic steps. 99% of follows I have no issue with, its just this select few. I should also mention that anticipating moves has nothing to do with the problem I am presenting. I can easily deal with someone anticipating moves. Hope this explanation helps.

    I really do want to thank you for your response. It really did make me think and I think one piece was really great advice. I would call myself intermediate I regularly get compliments on my leading and instructors have told me I lead well. I do however see those leads you speak of that can make even the worst follow look like a professional. I am definitely not at that level. I think you were right when you said make it a game. After thinking about it, if I can coordinate following someone else's basic steps while still leading moves that would make me a more skilled lead. Also great suggestion about me telling them I want to work on my following.

    My original explanation may have not been good enough, but I was not talking about getting out of sync. This is very easy to deal with. When I was a beginner I had a huge problem keeping with the beat, so I understand and expect beginners to have that problem. In this case they are usually following me but just forget to a step. Its easy for me to skip a step or add another step to keep with the pattern they are expecting.

    Steve Pastor:
    Glad I'm not the only one, and somebody understands.

    Thank you. Exactly what I am talking about.

    This I usually have no issue with because I understand they are still learning, and they will still basically follow when I do the steps. I really think they go through that middle stage because there is little focus on leading/following theory early on. I have learned swing at 2 different schools. One did not mention leading/following at all in the beginner classes, the other one on occasion does bring up and teach lead/follow skills in lessons. In the class that teaches the skills I tend to notice the problem less or they grow out of it faster. I think its just a push to get beginners on the dance floor sooner. If they taught it at the beginning they wouldn't have the time to teach the basic steps to get them on the dance floor that night and they might not come back.

    I agree this suggestion works well when you are talking about leading a specific move. I do this quite often with beginners who usually ask me to lead them through the move I was trying to do when they are unsure of what they were supposed to do. Great comment on communication!!! Dance really is silent communication. Great leading is communicating what you want your follow to do without saying a word.

    Again thank you everyone for your great comments. As well as getting advice on my problem I was also hoping to get some discussion on the swing threads as I see very little. Both were accomplished.
  11. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I'm glad you clarified. The last man who tried to teach me on the floor was trying to get me to dance INCORRECTLY. He is famous for it, actually. I haven't danced with him since, and that was well over a year ago. There are a couple other guys who will corner girls for like an hour and teach them. The girls are too polite to do anything about it. Sigh.

    Anyway, you got some good advice already, and it sounds like you're on it. Grin and bear it, answer questions kindly and as helpfully as possible, lead what you can, try to enjoy it anyway, etc.
  12. jwn57030

    jwn57030 New Member

    It's great you mentioned bad leads. I know that can be just as big of a problem for follows. I have seen the same thing, leads who look completely horrible on the floor trying to teach. I cringe when I see that. I especially love when I see leads that are practically ripping there follows arms out of the sockets. A couple of time I have almost been tempted to go over and stop them because I thought they were going to injure there follow.

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