Swing Discussion Boards > Dear leaders, (letter from a newbie)

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Peaches, Nov 12, 2010.

  1. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Peaches, that's one thing you can transfer from your AT experience to WCS...the idea that the leader and follower don't mirror each other.

    In any case, you're 100% correct that leaders should dance at the level of their follower. I've had the same issues during the newbie phase - with WCS, with AT, with salsa, etc. etc. Certain leaders (not all) are dead set on executing their favorite steps/patterns or some cool variation they just learned, without any regard to whether I can handle it. Then they get annoyed with me (!) for failing to do the pattern to their satisfaction.
     
  2. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Defending the leaders just a little bit here - most of them haven't learned how to do that. Westie would be much more fun if this skill actually got some emphasis.

    Alas.
     
  3. ldavila

    ldavila New Member

    Wow - this is a very interesting thread!

    By coincidence I started trying to learn WCS only three weeks ago, in group lessons with rotations.

    I have been totally lost with the footwork and the timing (as leader, it feels very confusing and frustrating, which I'm sure is being felt by those I danced with), so I'm just trying to ignore the awkwardness and enjoy the moves.

    There have been a few minutes about the footwork and timing at the start of each lesson, which did not go very far - but the explanations that Steve Pastor gave above are great! (not that I understand it all, but it makes sense to me to end a move with a well defined/easy to sync point of resistance, before beginning the next, and now I can make more sense of the moves we've been learning).

    So thanks!
    Laz.
     
  4. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I think that a lead should dance in a way that makes the dance accessible to his/her follower, regardless of level.

    The most satisfying dance I ever had was a waltz with a gentleman who'd been dancing waltz since the big band days of WWII. This was ten(?) years ago and I was a noob. He danced just the basics that I could follow, but he danced at his own level -- beautiful, smooth and experienced, but choosing to use only basic patterns. It was awesome!

    I don't want to start one of those extremely tiresome semantic arguments, but I do think that the patterns a leader chooses is a separate issue from what "level" he/she dances at. And I think that both may be missing the point Peaches is getting at, which is, unless I miss my guess, "please give us newbies a recognizable home base to collect our thoughts while we learn this dance." But I don't know everything, or even very much. *shrug*
     
  5. plugger

    plugger Member

    I wonder if looking at his inexplicable feet might be part of the problem. Both leader and follower can do all sorts of anchor step variations without affecting their connection. If these are done on the 5&6 (or 7&8 for whips) and then he leads you out clearly on the following 1 with a good connection, the odd looking anchor ought not matter.

    OTOH, if he throws hitches or rock-and-go leads into the mix, that certainly might confuse a beginner. The former tells you to rock back on the "and" before coming forward on 1, and the latter eliminates two steps - the last one of the anchor and the first one of the lead forward. It takes some time to get comfortable with those.

    Third, if he entirely cuts off the anchor from all, or even many, of his steps, he's doing something freakish. I don't know of any WCS done that way.
     
  6. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    I had a longer post in mind, but in the course of writing it, I found the point that stood alone for me:
    A good leader adjusts his lead to his partner. If he can't or won't do that, he is not a good leader.
     
  7. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member


    I have no doubt that looking at his feet was almost 100% of my problem. :lol: Back then I didn't trust myself enough to know what his lead was supposed to feel like. Eh. Live (or dance) and learn.
     
  8. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Nah. If I watch anything, it'll be his chest. AT habit. I'm just very used to orienting myself to my leader and maintaining distance. It doesn't occur to me to watch feet. Likewise, the leader syncopating while I'm doing something else doesn't phase me. Again, I'm very used to that from AT. I don't give a fig what he's doing with his feet, or even really his body. It's the leads that I don't understand that get me flustered.

    What stands out in my mind was one leader who I swear kept walking towards me. Watching him with another follower I got that he was extending things before anchoring or doing something else, but the walking me back i found very confusing...and after the third or fourth time I screwed it up, I was really kind of getting annoyed that he kept doing it. At least I'd have preferred a hint, like "just walk back with me" or some such. I'm cool with that. When all else fails...verbal lead and follow!
     
  9. plugger

    plugger Member

    Some other possibilities.
    There are, as you probably know, patterns that don't have an anchor. For instance, whips ending in outside spins. The spin takes up the two beats that would normally be the anchor. Followers often have some trouble collecting their balance and stepping out on 1 immediately after the 1 1/2 spin.
    You mentioned him walking you back and then forward for several steps. He can indeed do that -- he can even lead hops, skips and jumps -- but he should convey by the lead and body language that those things are a brief interlude between normal patterns. It would also be thoughtful if, after walking you backward as far as he likes, he would to pause in place for a couple of beats, reassuringly, before reversing direction. And then he probably should lead you just two steps forward into a regular pattern, although it's OK to lead more than two forward if the follower isn't spooked by that.
    Also, the leader can take you down the slot on the first four steps of a side pass, then lead you back up the slot on the next four steps in what amounts to a second side pass, all adding up to an 8-beat whip without an anchor. I doubt that's what's happening, though.
    Several followers have told me there's a local dancer who almost never allows them to anchor. He's not doing any of the above; he just yanks them into the next pattern. They all hate it. He's been around since the disco era, so he might be trying to mix hustle memories in with his West Coast.
     
  10. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Oh wow. That explains so much. Thank you!
     
  11. megeliz

    megeliz Member

    That said, I think a good leader conscientious of his follower should be able to pick up on that, and allow an extra 2 beats for an anchor if she's not ready to go.
     
  12. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    That, or he's gotten himself locked into "rock and go" as a habitual movement.
     
  13. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Just wondering...

    I don't think I was EVER exposed to the man doing what is basically a rock step while the woman does her walk walk until I was exposed to GSDTA/Skippy Blair's West Cost 101.
    Turns out, though, that this rock step for the man, while the woman walks forward forwards, was VERY common in written descriptions of Western Swing/West Coast Swing in the early 60s.

    When I now dance those basic patterns, on the second "slow" step, I am moving towards my partner. And I wonder if they, too are thinking, "What the heck?"

    And I'm wondering if that's what you are seeing, Peaches?

    My usual dance place is still closed, so I plan to go back and take another lesson at the other place. It's interesting to compare and contrast what I had learned originally (and is still being taught the same way!) with what I got from Skippy last March.
     
  14. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    (With the caveat that it's been a few stressful days between then and now...)

    No, that's not it. I mean, instead of an anchor, getting walked backwards (forwards for the lead) for...several...???...beats. Or similar. I think. Like I said, it's been a while and my mind has been elsewhere.

    Once I saw him do it with someone else it made sense, at least from an AT-maintain-your-distance-and-orientation sort of perspective. But at the time...not so much.

    ETA: And again...he could have been leading it absolutely beautifully. I just didn't get it. As a beginner...t'was just over my head.
     
  15. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Have my own stress filled days going on! Deadline today so it's almost over.
    Anyhow, last night I was listening to something and thinking how similar triple two step and West Coast Swing are. If you don't do tripple tw0, though, which I'm guessing most people don't...
    I had one partner for quite a while with whom I could pretty seemlessly change from one dance to another, including two step to East Coast. There's a couple of other women around that I can do that with. (Funny, now that I think of it, they were around then, too. I'm thinking maybe the two facts are related.)
     
  16. megeliz

    megeliz Member

    Are you talking about after the 3&4 of a push break, and does he eventually anchor? If so, it's a simple pattern extension, lead by maintaining a compressed connection instead of going into extension for the anchor. It's useful for moving the slot.

    If you're just talking about him walking forward on 6 of the anchor...well, then he's just a sucky leader. ;)
     
  17. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I couldn't tell you; I just don't remember.

    Good to know that that's the interpretation for when a compressed connection is maintained!
     
  18. Frodo

    Frodo New Member

    Wouldn't a beginner lead be most likely to extend a pattern by simply not leading the follower to anchor.

    Extended the pattern with a compressed connection seems unlikely to confuse an experienced dancer in other styles.


    Whereas the follower being expected to move away of her own accord (thereby giving space for the leader to walk towards her if he wants), may not be so natural elsewhere.
     
  19. megeliz

    megeliz Member

    I find that beginner leads are more likely to cut patterns short by pulling the follow out of her anchor early than extending them unintentionally.

    The thing is, we don't really know what is going on or the level of the leads involved. And now that I think about it, even an experienced lead can confuse a new follow if he has a light enough lead. I remember when I first started much preferring heavier connections because then I could tell better what they wanted me to do, as I couldn't read the subtle leads.
     
  20. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    This happens all the time! Either the leader gets a little too anxious to start the next pattern, maybe he doesn't hear the beat, or maybe even he hasn't been properly taught to anchor with the right connection.

    Ditto here as well...though I will add that a good lead can be both light and clear, at the same time. However, a beginner follower may need it more heavy.
     

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