General Dance Discussion > Social Dancing with More Advanced Dancers

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by Wyndstorm Huntress, Dec 15, 2007.

  1. I've been taking group classes in ballroom and west coast swing for three months now. It's been recommended to me that a good way to improve my skills is to attend social dances, and dance with as many different partners as I can.

    When asked to dance, or when I ask someone to dance, I always tell them right up front that I'm just a beginner. The majority of guys I've danced with have been very gracious about this, and the practice is helping me get better at following leads for things that I haven't learned yet.

    Occasionally, I get the guy who dances to his level, not mine, and it's way more than I can handle. For example, last night at a studio party, one lead in particular had me trying to do so many advanced steps that about mid-way through the song, we were tripping over each other's feet practically every measure. His solution was to hold me right up to his body, and to try and lead me by pushing my legs with his legs. I should mention this was a waltz, and the solution didn't work very well.

    I mentioned a few times when the tripping started, "I haven't learned how to do that yet." Oddly, he'd still try to do the same step, and we'd trip again. I just wasn't getting it. Even when he was doing a pattern that I was familiar with, such as a change step, he was adding these twists and direction changes to it that got me disoriented with what my footwork was supposed to be.

    So what do I say or do when this happens? Clearly I've communicated that I'm a beginner, and that there were patterns he was trying that I was unable to do. Should I just try my best to just endure the rest of the song? I've been told that a large number of the dancers who frequent my studio's parties are silver and gold level dancers. Is it difficult for someone who is that advanced to dance at a beginner level?
  2. mamboqueen

    mamboqueen Well-Known Member

    Hi there....and welcome aboard.

    He may be earnestly thinking he's helping you out by getting you to do something...or perhaps he is bent on trying to lead it properly. In any event, if you've made it clear (and it sounds rather nicely) that these steps are uncomfortable for you until you learn them, then perhaps just saying "please stick with basics" is the next step. If he persists, honestly, I'd walk off the floor (but that's just me -- I have zero tolerance for someone completely disrespecting my wishes).

    Usually a person will adjust accordingly once you tell them you're a beginner. They should not keep doing things that are going to make you uncomfortable. It's pretty rude. If they want to dance advanced steps, they probably know who in the room is able to handle them. And no, it shoud not be difficult for someone to adjust down. It's not like they got to advanced without doing the same things you're doing.

    On the upside, if you are really fortunate enough to have a lot of advanced dancers at these dances, you will probably learn very fast. Honestly, it may seem somewhat intimidating at first, but I think in 6 months, you'll be amazed at how far you've gone.

    Enjoy yourself -- and if there are people who are making you completely uncomfortable while dancing, and disrespecting your wishes, simply decline.
  3. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    he could either have a messianic complex or simply be trying to be helpful...either way, I wouldn't worry much about all learning, in a social or private setting (b/c learning does happen at parties whether one sets out to or not), it is going to be bumpy at first ...hang in for whether or not it is difficult for an advanced dancer to dance with a newb...if it is an advanced dancer, not just a dancer who knows lots of fancy steps and fancies themselves to be advanced, it is quite easy...b/c an advanced dancer who wasn't trying to teach you something, but rather simply enjoy dancing with you, would know how to dance at your level and to make adjustments to aid in the comfort of the advanced dancer would leave you thinking you are better than you really are, not worse...just my 2 cents
  4. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Absolutely, 100% spot-on.

    Unless they guy's just a jerk. In which case, he could be perfectly capable of dancing at your level and helping you out, but chooses not to. But...that just makes him a jerk.
  5. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    IME, the guys who do that are not actually very good dancers. They may look advanced to beginners because they know a bunch of patterns, but as you progress, you'll often find that they don't have much technique and don't actually lead very well. Certainly, clamping onto you and shoving your legs is nobody's idea of good leading!

    Where I dance, there are a quite a few people who dance silver who don't seem to know bronze steps in American smooth. In some cases, that's because they have been dancing for umpteen years and have forgotten the bronze they learned at the beginning. In other cases, I think they somehow jumped into silver without ever really learning bronze. When I started going to dances, my pro taught me a few "survival silver" steps to make it easier to follow those dancers. It helped a lot. If you get to know one of the more considerate leaders, perhaps he would take a minute or so to slowly lead you through some of the silver steps so you can get a feel for how they work. Once you get the hang of continuity steps in waltz and foxtrot and adjust to the different timing between bronze and silver foxtrot, those dances will be a lot more comfortable.
  6. etp777

    etp777 Active Member

    Man, glad I don't dance with MQ, too scared she'd walk off the floor on me. That'd be embarassing. :)

    On rest, agree with what's been said. No matter how far I progress in syllabus, I've always tried to keep at least a couple steps at any level (esp beginner level, as I feel as a regular at the studio I should help get new students out on the floor) so that I can dance with someone of any level and they should feel comfortable with what I'm leading. I will try stuff I think is a bit beyond them once, or even twice, if it seems they're doing well, but if it doesn't happen by second time, I won't do it again, will jsut enjoy the dance. Or at least the conversation, if the dance isn't that great (and not trying to be mean there, som epeople, for whatever reason, are just not a pleasant dance, whether it's something on their part, or a lack in my lead). But you should never have to deal with a "lead" like that (the close hold and shoving your legs around).

    I wouldn't suggest walking off the floor, but definitely feel free to gracefully turn down any further invitations to dance.
  7. DennisBeach

    DennisBeach New Member

    There are 2 independent teachers who I have seen at dances, that fit your definition to a T. They make all their partners look better. There are some teacher want a be's that do the opposite, they seem to frustrate most of thier partners. The worse are guys who are not even good and try to lead difficult moves that are beyond their ability. Than they look at the lady like it's her fault.
  8. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Yeah, that's just rude. But I'll admit that, like etp777 said, I sometimes like to push my follows just a little bit. I'll try one step that is just a bit past her level. It's great when a follower does something she hasn't done before and her face lights up! It's the sort of thing you have to be careful about, though; you can't push too far. The other reason for doing it is that you can get information about where you stand as a lead that you can't get any other way. Sometimes you don't really know for sure if you are leading a step properly until you try it with a follower who isn't familiar with your repetoire. Your instructor or regular partner might have unconsciously adjusted to something that you are doing wrong. If it crashes and burns when you dance with a new dancer, you just might have some work to do.

    Sometimes the follower almost does the step but not quite, and then she'll ask me for advice on it. Danger, Will Robinson: you have to be careful not to give her advice that contradicts what her instructor is teaching her. I know all the instructors at our studio and and what their philosophies are on various things, so I can avoid that problem when I'm at home, but if I go to another studio I sometimes have to just keep my trap shut.

    And then occasionally I'll try something with a beginner and a train wreck results. If I can isolate what I did wrong, I might try it one more time during that dance. But two attempts is the max.
  9. At our socials there is a fairly large range of levels, and we have one regular advanced standard lead who will drag his followers around the floor even if they can't follow (I've been a victim). I'm not sure if he's trying to do his routines or if he just doesn't realize that it's not fun when you're getting flung around. I think etiquette demands that you stick out the dance with someone like that on the floor, but you can decline future dances and you don't have to talk to him about it. It is also true that some advanced level dancers don't keep up (or maybe never had much of) their social dancing skills, but you'd be less likely to see them at socials.

    Generally speaking though, I love dancing with the higher level ppl even when I'm faking steps to generally match the flow of what's going on- it just gets easier as you keep on going to follow socially.
  10. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    The line between something wonderful vs a really nasty thing to do to someone else can often be very thin in description, yet huge in the difference in how it feels to experience. The reality is that dancing someone beyond the level of their previous experience can really be a wonderful dance, when it works. On the other hand, when it doesn't work, it's really inconsiderate.

    A few weeks ago, I was talking with a newer dancer and we spent a while discussing frame and connection. Standing there we worked a lot on establishing a comfortable and secure sense of "home" in each other's hold. It turned out that a foxtrot was playing, so without too much thought I just started dancing it with her... and it worked quite well, really much better than it would have if we had set out to dance a foxtrot, because having the attention focused on the sense of self position relative to partner let the feet simply sort out themselves. I wouldn't say that we did anything particularly complicated (though even basic international foxtrot is quite complicated to explain), but because we were so distracted from worrying about the details, it was actually quite easy to dance it at a higher level of foxtrot-ness than would normally be possible. Sort of don't think, just feel.

    The problem is that you have to both have the measured audacity to assume that it will work in the situations where it will, and also the judgment to not try it in the situations where it won't. Situations which depend as much on current focus of attention as they do on actual level of dance skills...
  11. jwlinson

    jwlinson Member

    IMHO most advanced guys who attempt to lead beginning follows through their advanced steps are only trying to show off how much they know. I've witnessed this quite often, and more often than not the guy will earn a very bad rep. We have one such guy in our area, and no one wants to dance with him (to the point they learned which perfume he is allergic to, told the other ladies which perfume it is, and now wear it just SO he stays away from them).

    It's the leader's responsibility to be sure he is able to actually LEAD the step with the particular follow he's dancing with. Social dancing is about having FUN dancing, and it's no fun for either the follow or the leader when they can't get around the floor without tripping over each other's feet, running into each other, etc. The times when I'm dancing with someone other than my regular partner I'm conscious of the level of the lady, and usually have an idea of what I can and cannot get away with.

    I'd much rather watch a couple at an open social party doing very good basic moves around the floor, than the couple crashing and burning while the leader attempts to lead his lower-level follow through advanced steps.

    You're much more likely to put that smile on a beginning lady's face by dancing the steps she knows, and dancing them very well (with perhaps one or two she's capable of but doesn't know, and you're capable of leading well) than you are trying to lead her through more advanced steps.
  12. jwlinson

    jwlinson Member

    Well said.
  13. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    there *are* some folks who for whatever reason remain rigid in their choice and execution of figures who do not fall into any of the previously stated categories.

    rather than ascribing motives to another's behavior, i suggest that you leave it at that if you experience discomfort/unease dancing with a particular person, and if you've verbalized and clarified exactly what actions caused your discomfort and these actions don't change, don't dance with them any more.
  14. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    What sort of categories do you feel they fall into, then?
  15. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Stuck in choreography, or similar. They may not be attempting the exact same routine every tiime, but it's guaranteed that they are only dancing the small subset of steps that are present in their current choreography.
  16. WorksForShoes

    WorksForShoes Member

    Yes, one never knows if these gentlemen are truly trying to be helpful, if they have an inflated sense of their own dance abilities, if we as followers just aren't ready to dance with them, or what. But these sorts of leads are all over the world, and some dance survival skills include:

    1. If all else fails, keep your feet moving according to the rhythm of the dance, following at least the direction the gentleman is leading you. I've missed following any number of unexpectedly-led waltz developes, leans, and spins, but if my feet are moving 1-2-3 in the same direction my partner is going, we both get out of the move alive.

    2. Concentrate on your own balance and dance frame. This will minimize any accidents and make you "easier to lead," so that maybe the gentleman will have more success and won't resort to leg pushes, etc. (Which is just wrong, IMO, but this wasn't supposed to be a comment on his manners.) I've also found that a good frame sends a signal to those guys who lead by thinking you "know the same patterns" and want to dance with a floppy hold.

    3. Strongly set parameters when he asks you to dance if you plan on accepting. "Please keep it basic for me." or "Please no spins." or whatever the biggest problem is. That will at least remind him that you are more annoyed than thrilled when he pushes you through something and then happily declares "That was Gold 7 on the syllabus!"

    4. If all else fails, decline the dance. While you can get away with a certain amount of "I'm not energetic enough for quickstep tonight," it might be better to be honest while seeming to do him a favor. "Our last waltz didn't go so well, and I think you would enjoy it more if you picked a more experienced partner."

    5. Finally, if you do get pushed out there onto the floor and feel embarrassed (as I always do in these situations), just remember that skilll level mismatch has happened to everyone, and everyone understands what is going on and doesn't think any worse of you for it.
  17. tanya_the_dancer

    tanya_the_dancer Well-Known Member

    Maybe he just learned these steps and he wants to try them no matter what. Sometimes guys don't understand that nicely lead basics feel a lot better than the latest fancy amalgamation shown in a group class the day before :) . OTOH, too many fwd-fwd-side-together are not exciting either, so there should be some sort of balance there somewhere.
  18. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    As a slight defense, I will point out that instructors sometimes push their student leads to do that. You don't really know if you are leading a step properly until you try it with a follower who doesn't know in advance that you are going to do that step. (That's one of the problems with group classes, and we've discussed it before -- it's too easy for both partners to just walk through their own steps, without any connection, because they know in advance what step they are doing.)

    However, there is a definite limit to this sort of thing -- once per dance, or twice as the absolute upper limit. If you can't lead the step after two tries, you aren't going to lead it without additional practice and/or instruction.
  19. tanya_the_dancer

    tanya_the_dancer Well-Known Member

    Yeah, one needs to know when to give up. It could also be the follow's fault, too, when she does not get the leads (i.e. she lost her connection to you), so rather than keep increasing frustration levels, why not go back to basics.
  20. WorksForShoes

    WorksForShoes Member

    I don't have a problem with that, Cornutt. Just from reading your posts, I'd say you sound like a pretty considerate lead. It is never a problem for me for a guy to try something a couple of times, then maybe say "Oops, thought I could lead that new step, but I need a review." It is the leads that do that and then say, "Don't you remember that one?"

Share This Page