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

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

  1. BugBear

    BugBear New Member

    Well sometimes I do feel like I'm directing a movie. And not only that - it's like directing a movie with small children or animals. Don't get this the wrong way :) It's just that no matter how much I try I can't get her to do what I originally intended. Sometimes we end up laughing at the goof ups and having a lot of fun, but sometimes I just get really worked up about it and things just don't work out :(
    But when everything is going nice - the music is great, the mood is good, there is a connection between me and the lady - I feel like I'm not giving signals at all. It's like she knows what I want to do before I do it. And at the end I'm usually like :rolleyes:
  2. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    And the follower feels the same way. I love a dance where I don't feel like I'm getting signals, I'm just somehow always just where I need to be because the communication is that instantaneous and subtle. It's practically a religious experience!
  3. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Well, that's a pretty good analogy. And yes, acquiring all of the skills to be a good leader takes time and patience; we've had threads recently on how followers progress faster as they are learning and sometimes wind up leaving their leader-partners behind.

    But, if one has a taste for complicated things, :shock: and can get oneself into the proper mental state, there is nothing more satisfying. The connection between the lead and the follow can be compared to the connection between one's own mind and body. First, there's the stage of "I have to move my foot here". At that stage, what is being done can scarcely be called dancing, but it's a necessary step along the way. At the second stage is the "I'm going to lead a crossover here" level of thinking. This is an improvement, but there's still a lot of mental distance between hear-the-music-feel-the-parter and move-the-body. At the third stage, you can get rid of the mental words. You decide to do something, and your body does it without having to consciously think about it too much.

    But it's the fourth stage that makes it really worthwhile. At this stage, a complete and direct feedback loop exists between the leader's mind and the follower's mind. Not only can the leader lead his own body with the barest of mental touches, in the same way that his body can lead the follower with the slightest of movements, but the reverse is also true: the leader is aware of everything that the music and both of the bodies do, without having to consciously think about it, and can play off of what is happening. And all of sensory and motor coordination can take place while the conscious mind concentrates just on the experience. In this state, the conscious mind can almost watch as if disembodied. At this point, leading isn't really a concern so much as it is a spice, a flavor to the whole experience.

    There is a comparable state for musicians that I've heard guitarist Robert Fripp describe as "you are no longer playing music; rather, music plays through you". I'll have to admit I don't often reach this state (yet, anyway) as a dancer. (But, I doubt that even championship level dancers achieve it every time they dance.) But I enjoy trying to get closer to it, and I really get a kick out of the occasions where it happens. And yes, leading is a part of it to me, because... well, I like complicated stuff. If I danced as a follower, I think I would get bored with it.
  4. alemana

    alemana New Member

    nicely said. i've only gotten to that symbiotic nirvana a couple times, but i remember every moment of it... it's priceless.
  5. BugBear

    BugBear New Member

    Thank you for sharing this! Really made my day :)
  6. africana

    africana New Member

    I had a dance like that 3 weeks ago. I was smiling and glowing the entire dance!!! couldn't stop tripping about it for a while

    It wasn't anything physical, he was not even a regular in 'the scene'. It's just that we were in that state without trying, magic happened with compromising the feel of the music for the purposes of partnering. There was technique, stability, centeredness, spins, all that but without my being conscious of it or feeling like I'm trying. The music was just so rich, and mellow I couldn't believe I was having a dance that felt just right for it
    I hardly ever feel like smiling for an entire song/dance, but I couldn't help myself. I was so happy I could cry

    I was gonna post about it but just had no words to express that dance
  7. salsamale

    salsamale New Member

    Before salsa, I was never really comfortable with partner dancing, and the only music that got me to "get up offa that thing" was funk, and who needs a partner to groove to funk? For me, learning to salsa was all about partner dancing. Salsa lessons, from a leader's perspective, are often more about "learning to lead" than they are about "learning to dance". Even if the instructor stresses musicality in every lesson, this does not imbue us novice leaders with the ability to dance musically.

    In the early days, and even now, I want to learn new moves. These moves have a starting and ending point, through which the leader and follower assume varying shapes with their bodies. I've heard this phrase, "make a shape", I think from some ballroom dancer. Different music suggests different shapes, rhythms, and patterns. As my musicality improves, I am better able to interpret what shapes the music suggests, and if I have enough skill and repertoire, I am able to suggest these shapes/ moves to my partner, to fit the music. Is this leading or dancing?

    When the instructor leads us through shines, I am beginning to understand that it is more than just about the steps. It is about teaching our bodies to move in ways that we are not accustomed. It is about building new muscle memory, a new repertoire of shapes. Some of these shapes are useful for leading certain moves, but some of these shapes are just for us, to use as we please. I think this part, along with musicality, is "learning to dance". I'll leave the topic of sabor for the discussion of "really dancing" and other volatile threads :).

    Leader and follower are often viewed as separate, independent entities, where one suggests, and the other accepts. It may already have been suggested, but I'd like to suggest here that another way to view 2 people dancing, is as if they were 1 organism, joined at the hands. An organism that, as a whole, makes shapes to fit the music, like some funky octopus. This reminds of that clip of Yanek, where he's dancing with 4 women. Following this logic, I will know that I am really dancing, when I feel like an octopus :).
  8. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    The original intent of that phrase, was to imply that the lady should be shown to her best advantage, and not let a very expensive " frame " be placed around a print . In other words, dont out shine the lady .

    The frame, in a techn. sense , tho. it has strong merit , seems to have completely obscured its meaning .
  9. quixotedlm

    quixotedlm New Member

    dancing to the music vs. leading a dance..hmm...

    how about ... dance = leading to the music?

    i can't isolate leading and music, they somewhat go together. of course, about half the song will be leading to the basic rhythm (clave), but the rest will be reacting to melodic changes, breaks etc.

    at some point, we start leading organically and don't think about learned patterns much. when this happens, there is more brain-bandwidth to listen to the music beyond the rhythm and react to it. the whole leading-organically stage is just a function of learning, practice, experimentation and a pinch of creativity.
  10. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Shouldn't the idea of what dancing is be different between sexes? Just take typical conversation. Women share and express a lot more than guys. Women talk for hours about everything. As guys, all I need to know about the other guy can be answered with Yes or No.

    If a lady dances with all kinds of body styling and flowing arms, everyone watches and thinks it is beautiful. If a guy did the same styling, it just looks weird.
  11. Swannie

    Swannie New Member

    I completely agree. If I can listen, the music leads me, and I lead my follow. If I am caught up in technique, or the lady I am dancing with :p I don't tend to listen so well.

    For myself, it is frustrating to hear musical elements, but not having moves to express that with. This is why I think learning isolations and mens styling is important. Unfortunately most mens styling classes seem to be about shines.

    Personally, when I watch a guy spinning a girl on an accent in the music, and he's there, just standing, rock solid, arm pumping around, I'm thinking "lots of spins. *yawn*" where as if he's there, hitting the same accents with foot work/arm/body styling I'm thinking "Niiicccee".

    The Cobo brothers have it pretty much nailed, and Frankie M, and a bunch of others who I've seen on YouTube too.
  12. tj

    tj New Member

    Btw, swannie - I don't think I've mentioned this before. Welcome to DF (the other side)!

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