Salsa > "How does it make you feel?" - Leaders

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by africana, Mar 18, 2006.

  1. africana

    africana New Member

    So leaders I've been wondering about this issue because I think it explains why leading is hard for me focus on and learn, to care to about learning it...

    We've all heard the quote/phrase "the leader is the frame, and the follower is the picture" used alot by salsa instructors, but how true is this? Or better yet, how true should it be? Does it feel confining? restrictive?

    How does it feel to always be the one directing the dance? Do you feel like you're actually dancing? Or does leading feel more like directing traffic? :lol:

    I mean, it seems that following allows more expression, more artistry, more sensuality, more playfulness, more enjoyment of the music and exploration, and seems more fun to me...

    SO what do you do when you're really feeling the music??? What does the music do to you? Is it frustrating to be "required" to keep your head and direct the dance?

    I don't think that just partnering and moving around on a dancefloor counts as *dancing*, not until the music takes over the body you know, distorting your spirit in some way, achieving that "mambo nirvana",

    It just seems more difficult to get to that state as a leader, especially if one isn't used to salsa music or isn't relatively advanced

    ok that was a longer question lol but I'm quite curious how guys feel about dancing to the music versus leading a dance
  2. Jamie

    Jamie New Member

    Hi africana.

    I think any canned phrase such as "leader is frame, follower is picture" can be restrictive.

    I find that when I'm dancing at my best, it feels to me more like following than leading, even though I'm in the 'leading' role.

    Leading with softness and sensetivity, I follow the music, I follow my energy and spirit, I flow, I even follow the follower! adapting my level and style of movement to her capabilities.

    I think if the lead comes effortlessly, not contrived and with to much thinking, but with letting go and 'feeling', this is much better.

  3. genEus

    genEus New Member

    Actually, I don't think I would ever want to be a follower. I do it for fun sometimes but only with one or two guys that I know can lead well. But, if the leader sucks, a follower can't do much about it. If he doesn't let you style or shine because he constantly keeps spinning you, you're stuck. The biggest thing I hate is not having control in a situation. So, to me, leading is really what I love to do... Lead ;)

    I don't feel at all restricted or like I'm directing traffic. I feel that I'm directing a dance ;) I can stop a girl when there's a brief pause in the music, look deep into her eyes, and savor that 8-beat count, knowing full well that in a split second the congas will take over us again, I can let go of a girls hand when there's a shine break, etc, etc. A follower can never control those moments, unless she's brave or knows the guy well enough to take over the dance.

    just my 2c.
  4. Ron Obvious

    Ron Obvious New Member

    Hmmm, yes, I think it's more like directing a choir than directing traffic (even though we act as traffic police sometime too). Sometimes I wish I would be a follow, because I'm sure follows are more able to spice up a dance. However, at some points leaders can do that too, e.g. in open position there are lots of things a leader can do. And, actually, it's those parts of a dance I like most - not the complicated patterns but the interactive parts.

    Anyway, dancing is teamwork. Even if I can't myself do a lot of improvising and spicing, I get enjoyment when my follower does so, because it is (or can be) the result of my leading. And you kind of feel rewarded when that happens.
  5. alemana

    alemana New Member

    i get the sense as a follow that leads who really want to 'feel it' at a certain point in the song break away to shine. many do not have the considerable skill it takes to create a *two-person* expression of emotion. most can adjust tempo, but that's it. so their range of feeling is limited to the rather superficial difference between fast and slow.

    when you find one who can, however, it's fantastic.
  6. genEus

    genEus New Member

    Can you explain that a little more? (for the remedial group, aka me)
  7. alemana

    alemana New Member

    bbsure... which parts in particular?
  8. africana

    africana New Member

    wow beautiful! If you don't mind my asking, how did you arrive at this state of dancing?? It's quite rare, and IMO more potent than being advanced at just leading patterns
    what was the process, how did you start out? Did you grow up listening to salsa/mambo? Was this something any of your teachers talked about? i mean, drawing inspiration or feedback from the follower and the music

    this reminds me of a friend who prefers "unruly" followers because he says they redirect his energy and intentions making a dance more interesting :) he always encourages me to cut loose and feel what I feel, especially since my follow got more responsive (i.e. less "unruly" ;) )
  9. africana

    africana New Member

    that's true that leaders have the "power", can make us look/good or bad (if we allow it) but is it really enough? Is it fulfilling nd satisfying? Does it free you to express the music the way you feel like you would like to?
    Or does leading keep you preoccupied with making the follower do things, and not quite getting to dance and enjoy the music as much?

    Btw, some of us followers do have certain resources to shape a dance the way we want ;) depending on the lead's skill, his level of expressiveness and the song. I would never "throw down" with a beginner the way I do with the more advanced very musical leads (some of which include guys that I have never met), it intimidates them. they need to feel in control and practice their moves

    But the days of dominating/rough macho leads ruling the earth are long gone, at least in my universe :p

    So very true! that was the scariest part of learning to follow well. Styling and freestlye and shines are fun/easy, but giving up the control (given how in control and aggressive I naturally am) was tough, still is sometimes, for various reasons
    But being in control sometimes requires some level of being up-tight, keeping it together at all times, not distracting or perturbing the thing one is controlling (in this case the follower).
    I'm just curious if leaders feel the same compulsion to let go and really get down, ya know? And how does that affect the dance?

    I think alemana has a point, some guys do break off into shines when they're really really feeling the song. And I actually love watching that! because it means they are achieving joy in a way that could be more cathartic than leading
    So is doing shines one of the few ways a lead can express him (or her ;) self? Is self-expression even important? So far I've been assuming that it is
  10. africana

    africana New Member

    totally agree!That's why I'd like to know how leaders like Jamie learn to dance at that level of sharing & expressiveness
  11. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    hmmm...isn't it a matter of learning just like how one learns as a follower to let go and respond to a leader while expressing yourself. Being able to express yourself as an individual within the framework of moves that a leader suggests? As a leader I also suggest moves within the framework that a follower suggests such as our connection, ability, how they show their preferences to what is suggested. Practice has allowed me to often do this while being "free" and not thinking, just as practice allows a follow to eb expressive while doing the moves.
  12. Jamie

    Jamie New Member

    Hi Africana,

    I'm really not that special (I only know 3 salsa moves, well, maybe 4). I have a background in Tai Chi, so that's where the smoothness and continuity of movement comes from, and also the thing of being receptive to the partner, waiting and feeling and responding.

    It's just synergy, connecting with the partner, and I'm very sure a lot of dancers do it.

    It's funny though, when I'm dancing, I enjoy the feeling, the connection, the fluidity of movement from one move to the next, but I often get quite anxious trying to remember more than 4 turn patterns, so for now I'm just doing the same few moves over and over, and seeing how they play out on different followers.

    (hmmm, ok, I probably know a few more than 4 moves, on a good day!).
  13. africana

    africana New Member

    tai-chi nice! like I said there are more potent skills than just leading fancy patterns, like responding to and being moved by the music (and also follower).

    I get the feeling that these questions I'm asking are just too much, and generally not "applicable" to most schooled leads who don't have some sort of music background, that in general leaders/men are pretty simple in their needs, in what they want out of a dance. Making a lady "look good" is enough to give them some pride & satsfaction, and that does seem noble to me but I just feel bad for most guys I watch, missing out on a whole dimension of dance

    I asked a friend about this stuff and he said he just likes to admire his followers, and spin them a lot :lol: and he leads very well, is always on beat (either on1 or on2), is fun to dance with, but if the song is highly-layered and rich I prefer something more sublime than just keeping time and performing tricks even if it means dancing alone (I actually prefer that in these cases)
  14. alemana

    alemana New Member

    there's a guy in my scene who i always have a dance or two with at each party. he's not a salsero, but some kind of modern dancer (a professional dancer, mind you) who's picked up some rudimentary salsa moves by coming to socials and watching.

    unlike most of the people i dance with, he is admittedly fascinated with actual give-and-take during the dance, especially when it comes to expressing the music through your body. whatever little move i do that strikes his fancy, he riffs on it, making it fit to what is happening in the music at that moment. he doesn't always riff in a 'salsa' way - but he has both the physical and musical gifts necessary to react to me freely, as well as to interpret the music spontaneously. as a trained professional he has more of a bodily repetoire than i do, but that's not what matters between us - he's secure enough in his own dancing to cede some control (by not compulsively leading every single second) which allows us to have more of an emotional conversation during the dance than i can normally achieve with the typical lead.
  15. SurfSalsa

    SurfSalsa New Member

    I think THAT is one of the biggest stepping stones in salsa (and I guess it is 10* more complicated in ballroom-style pattern-taught Latin dances) where you have reached the stage where you can react to the music while still leading a good dance, make the follower look great and give her opportunity to react similarly (or what about nirvana - in unison) to the music.

    Maybe for some people it happens naturally, but for many of us, I suspect it comes from training - spending hours on the dance floor, focussing on doing exactly that, and de-focussing from completing last week's lesson's complicated pattern if it doesn't fit in.

    One of my goals is to train myself to dance on semi-automatic pilot, so as not to concentrate too much on the moves, but concentrating on listening to the music. Hell but so many times it is so frustrating - by the time you realise that you are slam-bang in the middle of a spectacular break, it is too late to lead anything in it... you've blown the opportunity (and worst still, sometimes you even know the song very very well... so, subconsciously you must have known it was comming, but you weren't focusing on it.) I guess (still very far from there yet) leader-nirvana would be when that focus also happens semi-automatically. The few times a night that "on-it" with the music happens is so great; you almost want to abandon the song and jump for joy... but of course you can't, 'cause you want to repeat that high at the next break, but with a different action...

    (Partly copied and extended from my post in the "dud" thread, but it makes even more sense here too, so bear with it:)
    I found dacning with beginners a good practice ground for this. So even with a beginner I might not do an actual break, but I can imagine it, or just lead differently, change to another form of basic, whatever, or just stall or hasten the dance, or intensify or relax the lead depending on the music. It gives me opportunity to imagine/plan moves to music while actually dancing, which is way more realistic to do than to do it just sitting down and listening or even than to dancing solo (hope that makes sense?).
  16. Sabor

    Sabor New Member

    Clint Eastwood directed and acted in the same movie.. he got an Oscar

    to some.. the two roles feed each other in a spiral.. to most it relatively takes away or caps one or the other..

    what does it?.. talent, practice and open perception
  17. cjb

    cjb New Member

    That's where I got to recently, and I like it a lot :)
    It takes a good follower to make this work, because I'm going to bend the timig rules to fit the track - she has to be listening in properly to be able to follow this. So unfortunately, this dance heaven is only reached when we are comfortable with each other's lead and follow, and know the track or can guess where it's heading.
  18. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Breaking the rules...and not stepping exactly on each beat as in the basic opens one to more expressive communication, for sure. Syncopate across and with the clave, or even against it, follow one instrument and then the other...

    There are many ways to move along the river of music. How it happens depends on you 'n your partner.
  19. africana

    africana New Member

    I guess that's why leading is just harder, there are so many skills to acquire and combine in order to reach that level of supreme satisfaction

    It reminds me of learning to play the keyboard/piano as a child (and why I eventually gave it up), I had so visions of my head, so many aspirations to take off on these great creative trips, but to get there would require years of practicing and practicing very boring things, learning to read music, acquring training, and other not-so-hot stuff. So out of frustration I gave that up. Same with learning to play a drumset

    At least you guys don't give up at all the stagnant or boring stages of your dancing, we followers appreciate that.
    But don't forget what the end goal is ;) "Mambo Nirvana"
  20. DennisBeach

    DennisBeach New Member

    I agree with you about dancing to the music. But I don't think being a leader
    prevents you from doing that. That is one of the reasons I dance mostly
    with my wife. We learned together and I can focus on dancing to
    the music, rather than trying to figure out if my partner can follow a move.

    A few times I have danced swing or latin mixers and because I do not know
    what my partner can do, I find it to be a lot like you described. I seem to
    be focus on figuring out my partner and not on dancing. When I do
    smooth mixers, I just do basic steps, because I can dance to the music.

    Frame and all other elements of technique are something both leader and
    follower have to do well. So that part is really a push. I find that good
    technique allows us to dance to the music effectively as a team and really
    enjoy dancing. As someone keeps mentioning, first you do steps and
    than eventully you start dancing. We will set out some songs, just
    because the music does not make us want to dance. I find the better
    the music, the better we dance.

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