Swing Discussion Boards > Lindy hop: lead/follow and rhythm help?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Lyndee, Apr 1, 2009.

  1. Lyndee

    Lyndee New Member

    Okay, so my boyfriend is really interested in swing and has been coming with me to the swing dances the swing club at our school puts on.

    I've been doing swing dancing for almost four years now (I started with East Coast swing, and learned lindy hop about a year later). My boyfriend is pretty new to it - maybe a couple months.

    Anyway, here's my question: he's really having trouble with leading (I suspect my following skills aren't what they once were, as well - it isn't all his fault) and also with rhythm and his basic lindy step in general.

    I've been trying to train him as I can, but he's been so used to dancing at punk-rock shows and ska concerts that he can be pretty rowdy on the dance floor ha ha. :p

    So, what can I do to help him with swing? We need help with arm tension and weight distribution, posture etc, but mainly with getting the rhythm down and the lead/follow basics. Should I teach him east coast swing to get the basic principles down, then apply those principles to lindy?

    (Sorry for the long queston!)
  2. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    Go for Lindy, it shouldn't be more difficult to learn good leading skills in Lindy than in ECS.

    It is not possible to learn to dance and lead and follow from reading, but I can try to give some tips.

    Rhythm is learned from listening as well as dancing. Listenenig to the kind of music you're dancing to will familiarize you with the rhythm and how tunes are built up. The brain learns to understand the music.

    When it comes to both leading and following, the key thing to strive for is being relaxed and having connection. The connection should also be relaxed. It may sound like a contradiction, but it is truly not. The difference between a relaxed connection and a not relaxed connection is the stiffness. When you're not relaxed you are using more muscles than necessary to have connection (antagonist muscles), and this makes you arm tense up and become stiff. And also all movement should be as relaxed and fluid as possible. As I said, this is the same for both leading and following.

    As a follower, do not lead yourself. This is very important. If you lead yourself the leader will never feel the connection that is necessary for good leading, and thus he will never learn to lead well.

    And finally, dance with others. Go to classes and social dances. If not you will learn only to dance with each other.

    This is in my oppinion the essence. It is not easy, it takes time to learn, because your body (muscle memory) needs to learn how to do this. Intellectually the principles can be learned. But without practice over time, the body can never learn.

    Good luck, and feel free toask questions. :)
  3. Albanaich

    Albanaich New Member

    I went from West Coast Swing to Lindy and found the transistion a lot easier than the other way round (which I'm told is quite difficult), I think because the anchor and the rhythm in WCS is more clearly defined than Lindy.

    That's just subjective experience though. . . .
  4. RickRS

    RickRS Member

    It may be he's overloaded. You did say he was still having trouble with his basis Lindy steps.

    As a beginner I found that I had to get to the point that basic steps were automatic before I could do a decent job on lead. When learning WCS and every other dance I've worked on (still haven't tried Lindy), I have to practice, by myself, doing basic steps, then basic steps to music until it was drilled in to my skull. Sometimes this took quite a lot of hours. Then I could finally work with a partner to develop steps together and lead skills needed for that dance.
  5. Wolfgang

    Wolfgang Member

    Listening to the basic beat is the key.
    Make sure he gets the basic steps down to the point where he can do them by himself at 3 a.m. upside down in his jammies uphill in a blizzard without even thinking about it.
    Step 1 complete........
  6. Captain Jep

    Captain Jep New Member

    Have just done two classes in Lindy Hop now so I am probably in a similar position to your boyfriend.

    Personally I am finding other dances get in the way. I find at the moment an almost irresistible urge to move my hips (salsa). It's also very peculiar doing two step when Im used to single step motion, and the kick step well I'm not even trying that just yet!

    Probably it'll be OK if you're patient. Im hoping that will apply in my case!
  7. Albanaich

    Albanaich New Member

    Whooooa. . . .someone venturing into the realm of Swing.

    Salsa and Swing do not go together, you'll have to fight that single step action.

    Speaking from my personal experience its not like Salsa, Ceroc or Tango in that improvement is not incremental. Most people, even experienced dancers, find the rhythm difficult to pickup when they start.

    You know you are getting it right when you have this strange feeling that you are 'off time', then after about (in my case 2 months) you'll have this sudden 'ah-ha' when your body (rather than your brain) figures out what is happening and you get the whole 6 - 8 beat sequence together.

    The tendency is to think of learning and understanding the patterns as being made up of smaller components. You have to learn them as a complete unit.

    I'm probablly getting you confused here, but you have to concentrate on maintaining the rhythmic compression - tension pulse and more or less forget about what your feet are doing in the early stages. The rhthym is held in the arm tension - compression rather than the hips/legs in Salsa and the chest movement in Tango.

    Once you have the rhythm under control you'll discover why Tango and Swing go together, in Tango the compression - tension comes from the chest, in Swing its the arms.
  8. bjp22tango

    bjp22tango Active Member

    What is being danced the most in your swing club? Lindy or EC Coast? Teach him what he will start out dancing the most. And make sure he dances with many different follows, not just you. If he is just dancing with you, expect the learning process to take much longer. It's not about you, it's just that he has to learn how to lead (instigate) movement in general, not how to lead you specifically.

    Have him practice basic movements by himself (over and over and over and over)
    Have him practice the basic movements with you as above
    Have him practice the basic movements with other follows as above

    Rinse, repeat, until as stated above he can do the basics at 3am upside down, etc.

    If he is relying on you to be much of his remedial catch up help then you are going to have to switch hats while dancing with him from teacher to pure follower. Be as quiet and responsive in your following as you can be to allow him to see what works and what doesn't in his leading. Only give him feedback if he asks for it. If things fall apart, then separate and go over the basics again, showing him his part. (I am assuming that if it is Lindy you are teaching him, you know both parts)

    Good luck. Welcome to Dance-forums. Let us know how the progress goes.
  9. Captain Jep

    Captain Jep New Member

    Thanks for all the good advice, Alba. Yes I forgot to mention the "funny" hand hold. Initially I was holding the hand feather light (as in salsa) and was told that I needed to be much firmer. Of course I then started to over compensate. There's obviously a fine line between shoving and push/pull in swing - and I dont think Ive found it yet! Another thing to work on (sigh)...

    Going to a tea dance Sunday just to see what lindy looks like when danced socially.

    Have you started working in the tango Desert yet?
  10. Albanaich

    Albanaich New Member

    Yeah - you've got big issues with momentum in Lindy, so everything has to be pretty 'full on', compared with AT or WCS. When you go from Lindy to WCS, follows go into mild state of shock because if you are used to a Lindy whip you can really hammer (whip!) them round.

    Some well grounded Lindy follows take over 10 lbs pressure before they move. If you try to do a light lead the reaction will be 'is there anyone there?' The better follows simply won't move - which helps you learn the correct leverage (which is massive compared to AT)

    'Well Grounded' is a term used to describe a follow who knows how much momentum is required to complete a move at speed. She'll sit back and let the energy build before letting go, only then will her body mass have enough momentum to fly through the pattern.

    Lindy is a fabulous way to learn about how to handle momentum in dance, its not so obvious in other dances. You can ratchet it down quiet a bit once you get the hang of it, (its all in the timing) but at the beginning you need to be pretty heavy to compensate for the poor timing.

    It's pretty inevitable you will 'push - pull' at the beginning because you won't understand how to use the momentum. It's sort of like pushing a heavy trolley, you've got to use just enough to get it moving, then back off or it runs away from you.

    When you get it right the momentum sort of pulses in time with the music - which is what makes the dance fun.

    I'm in the desert, but there are few hopeful signs, I've found a few people who have done AT - I'm thinking of doing a practica and teaching Ceroc - I had to travel over one hour last night to find the only MJ venue in Cumbria.

    It was quite amusing - they had only started a month or so ago and were delighted to find someone who could actually dance, so as to bring on the beginners.
  11. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    I got the same hint from several directions including our very own Dancelf that really helped. Break the dance down into two beat segments.

    Granted, swing in Scotland sounds like a totally different dance. However, in the US we are taught to lead swing with our centers. So both compression and leverage come from moving our bodies and not from the arms.
  12. Albanaich

    Albanaich New Member

    WCS in Scotland is pretty much the same as the USA, (we have 2 or 3 people compete in the USA) though on a social level there is a lot of influence from Lindy. Swing dancers often do Lindy and WCS alongside each other - they are not isolated dance forms as they appear to be in the USA.

    For instance if my WCS class is closed I'll go to a drop in Lindy class and the evenings (in the Ceroc mode) dancing that follows it. Lindy folk do the same with WCS.

    The lead is taught from the centre - but the lead is not the rhythm, to get the whole dance on beat you actually step back ahead of the beat, the connection is a fraction of second later when the follower feels the tension required to move.

    It's the 'connection point' that holds the beat/rhythm - not the lead. Similarly as the lead steps off ahead of the beat so the follower is behind the 'connection point'

    If the leader was always exactly 'on beat' the follower would always be significantly 'off beat'. If both were exactly on beat, there would be no connection. (you can see what happens when both dancers are onbeat in the video of Chinese dancers doing Jitterbug)
  13. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    The dance has to be pretty different. We might be the same dancers, but just the speed of the music splits WCS from Lindy/ECS around here.
  14. Albanaich

    Albanaich New Member

    I don't know there's Glenn Miller stuff (Tuxedo Junction, Frenesi,) that can be danced to both Lindy and WCS, the slow Glenn Miller stuff is fabulous for WCS.
  15. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    A String of Pearls by Glenn Miller 131.33 bpm (according to MixMeister)
    Recommended by Lauré Haile in the 1950s for what was then called Western Swing (same step descriptions, same dance as WCS).

    Another song she listed was Be-Bop Spoken Here by Les Brown at 127.42 bpm.

    Would you dance Lindy to songs that "speed"?
  16. Albanaich

    Albanaich New Member

    Glenn Millers 'Tuxedo Junction' can be danced as either slow Lindy or fast WCS.

    The Lindy scene in Scotland is heavily into 'retro-music' while the WCS is not, though they are familiar with it.


    The 'Swing music' era stuff (Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey) is fabulous to dance to, mainly because the music has so many breaks and variations - completely unlike the modern stuff.
  17. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    theoretically true but in reality, body lead as i understand it can not induce an open break because the result is bodies moving *away* from each other; the tension in the arms is what transmits the signal. the trick is not to rely on that when body lead *can* transmit the intent.
  18. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    That's probably why I never use that move in Lindy. It doesn't lead well. It doesn't feel right when I have to push with my arms.

    What you can do is open up, that is shift the body weight back and not push but stretch out forward. From a static position this is not much leading, but with the help of some dynamics (the follower is already moving in that direction), it probably can be lead.

    I will have to try.

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