Swing Discussion Boards > the hardships of learning to lead/follow

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by chandra, Feb 1, 2006.

  1. chandra

    chandra New Member

    Alrighty guys, what do you think are the hardest parts of learning to Lead VS. Learning to follow (assuming male learning lead, female learning follow, not when someone decides to learn the other role like most of us here have.)

    I have some thoughts Ill post later, just wanna see what you guys have to say.
  2. heartgrl2k

    heartgrl2k New Member

    I think one of the most difficult things (speaking as a follow, but this is probably true for leads also) is adapting from lead to lead - some are very forceful, some are so subtle that you can't figure out what you're supposed to do next. Knowing the "steps" doesn't help when you can't interpret the connection.
  3. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    I think maybe the thoughest for a beginner lead is to get out on the social dancefloor with a very limited set of moves, limited ability to lead them well and lots of experienced dancers flowing around effortlessly.

    Beginner followers can have a decent dance with a good leader, but it's very though for a beginner leader to have a smiliar experience.

    I think this is the main reason so many guys quit early. They need to stick with it for half a year or more, and there are many who don't have the patience to do this.

    When it comes to technique I think the main problem is smoothness, of both movement and connection. I see most beginners moving around on the floor with everything else but grace. And when it comes to leading, I've witnessed a lot of classes who doesn't focus on this very much. It's the odd lead-follow exercise, which I personally do not put very much value in (but that's me, I know lots of people disagree here), but the quality of describing the lead-follow dynamics when teaching a pattern is often lacking.

    To summarize, I think the main problems are socially and getting out ont the dancefloor having fun, and smoothness of movement and lead/follow.
  4. Indiana_Jay

    Indiana_Jay Active Member

    I agree completely with Flat. In fact, I've written on DF about my experiences in that regard. And even now, I'm reluctant to invite anyone other than my wife to dance, for concern that my limited repertoire of leads will bore a more advanced follower to death.

    To me, what's difficult about learning to lead is being able to think far enough in advance about what I want to lead next, while still executing (with luck, correctly) the current step. And if a follower tries to have a conversation with me during a dance, forget it! Something's gonna suffer.

    Secondly, it's remembering when to execute the lead so that it's not too late to be effective. Finally, it's remembering what leads I've learned and how to execute them. Sometimes I remember that I learned something, but can't remember exactly how to lead it. Sometimes I can't even remember what I've learned! But then my brain has a lot more cobwebs in it than those of any of you younger dancers!

    My LW commented this week that what she found challenging about learning to follow was forcing her self not to anticipate what my next lead might be. It has been challenging for her to just "live in the moment," always ready to go in whatever direction I choose.

    Hope this helps.

  5. hepcat

    hepcat Member

    The hardest part for me (speaking as a lead) in the beginning was the connection. It took me awhile to figure out where and when I should have springyness/tension/resistance versus free range of motion (in my joints). That was the thing that felt the most foreign to me. The thing that took me the longest to learn was softness in the connection. I unfortunately used to be one of those rough leads. Thank goodness I eventually eliminated that! It's embarrassing that I used to be considered rough. But it just sort of clicked one day at an event and I learned how to generate a lead softly without a loss of clarity. I think it was traveling to various events and dancing with so many good follows that helped me figure it out. Part of the reason I had trouble with these things was dancing with beginners who also did not understand the connection. So these problems were exacerbated by the fact that I've always been intimidated by dancers better than me and rarely asked them to dance.

    Maintaining skills and not falling back into various bad habits can also be difficult when one dances with a lot of beginners. There's an awesome follow I know who I noticed awhile back had reverted to walking into the swing out at an angle. She claimed it had to do with frequenting this one dance that a lot of the good dancers tend not to go to because they don't like the rock-a-billie music. Likewise, if I'm not careful, my lead can edge toward being a little too forceful when I dance with a lot of beginners. I'll usually catch myself though and correct it.

    A more advanced aspect I have been slow to learn has been simply ad-libbing. I'm gradually getting better in that department. I think this comes naturally for a lot of people, but for me it has been something I've had to work hard on and really think about. I'm a patterns person by nature and I'm extremely good at interpretation. I can do very well at making things I know/learn better by adding my own interpretation, but ask me to make something new up on the fly and I look pretty silly (at least - it feels like it looks silly).

    As a follow, the toughest thing to get used to was when to tripple step versus single step (note I already understood connection when I started following). When the pattern changed from 8 count steps to 6 and back, that's when I would end up bobbling my footwork.

    The thing that I still can't get and fear I never will is the left handed snap. ;) My right hand works just fine, but I fear I'm left-hand snap challenged. :cry: One of the intructors here likes to teach things that accentuate moves such as snaps, claps, etc. and I complain whenever it includes a left handed snap! Everyone gets a big laugh out of that.
  6. hepcat

    hepcat Member

    I hear ya. However I think a truly good follow makes the most of what they're given and are not bored in any circumstance. They can steal and spice things up with various forms of styling. As long as you have a good solid swing out, you should have nothing to fear. There are follows out there who complain about being trapped in swing-out hell. I know a few. They're good dancers and nice people, but their displeasure at being bored does come through and I find that unfortunate. They don't try to look bored, but you can just tell and it can be disheartening and make the experience worse as sort of a negative feedback phenomenon. That doesn't happen to me anymore (unless I happen to just be in a bad mood and am not dancing very well).

    There's one thing that Marie (of Hasse & Marie) said at the last camp hollywood that really inspired me though. She said something to the affect of "Dance every dance as if it was the best dance of your life". If your partner is a beginner or is nervous or not very good, you can inspire and encourage them if you yourself appear to be enjoying the dance. It will ellicit the best from them and in return make the dance genuinely more enjoyable for yourself as well. The main thing is, you have to generate your own "good time". Don't depend on your partner to be your only source of fun. You can make the dance fun whether you're leading or following no matter who you dance with.

    So consider that IJ. I have the same issue with dancing with more advanced dancers, so I need to take my own advice here... Don't worry about boring your partner. Just think about having fun.
  7. Indiana_Jay

    Indiana_Jay Active Member

    This is an extremely good point and should be taken to heart by all new leaders! Get over any embarassment associated with being a beginner, get out there and dance with the more accomplished followers! I wish I had read Hepcat's point on this six months ago.

    For what it's worth, I only just now realized that I'm in the Swing forum, so I think I should make clear that I'm mostly a ballroom guy, for whom ECS is one of about six or seven dances my lw and I have learned since last summer. So my observations might not be as applicable as those of people who are more focussed on various forms of swing.

  8. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Warning: Standard westie disclaimer applies....

    In my experience, the hardest part of learning to follow is the simple fact that there is nothing to follow until the leads start leading (as opposed to walking through the motions).

    The hardest part for leads? Call it crisis management - the fact that there's sooo much to think about, and there just aren't enough hamsters to move the hands and feet AND keep the wheel turning. [I see the same in followers who try to cross over, and in advanced leaders from time to time "hey, your dancing sucks tonight, what's up?" "oh, I went to a workshop this weekend, and I got something new to think about" "that sucks, dude!"]

    To borrow from Mario Robau Jr "You're doing the same five cheesy moves every song. She's doing a different five cheesy moves every time she changes partners."

    Limited repertoire is not a handicap. You just need to have good cheesy moves. In this context, good means that they provide your advanced partners a good platform for improvising - i.e. basics that give partner a lot of freedom, and lots of opportunities to pitch her two cents in. Get those to a point where they are on a firm foundation, and that you are comfortable enough with them that a variation isn't going to bring the whole house of cards tumbling down, put on a smile (positive reinforcement - because we want to encourage them to do the work for us, L-A-Z-Y spells leader), and enjoy the ride.
  9. huey

    huey New Member

    Dorry and Sommer's free online videos are useful for learning lead-follow aspects of basic moves ...
  10. Lesh

    Lesh New Member

    Well, this is again from a ballroom perspective, and I'll give a little background on where I'm at with my dancing right now and what I find to be the hardest part.
    I've been dancing about 4 or 5 months learning a bunch of dances and focusing mainly on technique in them. I don't know very many steps for most the dances, but feel my connection frame and leads are solid excluding certain steps (shoulder check in NC2S, tucks in WCS, double corte in tango, and leading multiple turns taking up extra counts in cha cha, salsa, and NC2S.) I dance at the social dances at the studio and have try to dance with just about everyone.
    My biggest hardship is when the studio plays a specific dance regularly and I've done it with most of the follows there. I know they've danced with me before to this song tonight and in the previous weeks and I know most of the other leaders do most of the same steps (I would say that about half the regulars are very similar in the steps they execute.) So I find it hard trying to get energized knowing I'm probably boring the follow.
    When I first started social dancing it was floorcraft and having enough gumption to just ask for a dance. From there it moved onto just remembering the steps, and then onto getting my lead to an ability to make it comfortable, now it's guilt that I may be boring them. Occasionally I'll have to do the basic a great deal before I remember something but I have more moves on "cruise-control" now so it's not bad =].
    I really enjoy the technique focus of the classes, my instructor does teach me steps to keep it from being boring, and I really enjoy stringing together different moves in fluid ways, but can really only do that when I'm really into the music or just love the dance.
    Certain dances have different hardships for me - and I'm going to write them out (mostly for my benefit, but others may find it usefull.)
    Waltz - everyone comes out for a waltz so the floor is always crowded, I usually practice in a very open floor so my biggest difficulty is trying to inject energy into this dance with the limited space available.
    WCS - my favorite dance at the moment, right now I need to work on not letting my anchor get weak halfway through the dance, and I've been working on trying to encourage the follow to try new things. Also I have no idea weither the stylizing I've been doing looks retarded or not I just kinda improvise to the music and hope it turns out well.
    ChaCha, NC2S, samba, ECS - It feels very repetitive, so the hardest part is making it feel fresh
    Tango, Foxtrot - I have a hard time adding energy and synching with the music if I don't find the music inspiring of a certain feel.
    Rumba, Salsa - I still have to focus on the music sometimes to stay with it, so the hardest part is doing that while talking leading and keeping an eye out for foreign invaders (floorcraft)

    P.S. I've been keeping a dance journal with notes for every social dance, class, and good practice since I went to my first social. I was planning on adding notes and sharing it after a year has passed in order to try and help other beginning leads - does this sound like a decent idea? At the moment it mostly helps me focus on certain aspects and make sure I target what I need to when I practice.
  11. chandra

    chandra New Member

    I agree with this entirely!
    (oh, as dancelf said "insert standard westie disclaimer")
    I think leading is alot to do with getting comfortable, so that you dont have to freak out about everymove, trying to remember how to do it, it just comes naturally. It took alot of social dancing as a leader to have the 6 or 7 really basic patterns down to the point of noth thinking about it. (sugar push, whips side passes) Now I have to think about fancier moves, but I can think while Im leading those basics, so its easier.
    As a follower - a word of encouragement to leads:
    Often I love it when a lead will dance nothing but really really basics. (sugar pushes, and side passes) Far from boring me, this gives me an oppurtunity to practiseall the cool stuff my teacher keeps on telling me to do. Its great. If I could have a practise dummy robot, he wouldnt lead all sorts of fancy moves, hed just lead basics. If you can lead your basics relatively solidly, Ill really enjoy a dance with you. Less stressful for me alot of the time than someone who leads fancy moves, but ambiguosuly or poorly. "that fancy move I learned in a workshop-let me try it on you" dancers are far more obnoxious than dancers who just lead basics.
    The hardes part of learning to follow for me, other than frame (GAHH) has been how much improvisation is too much, and whats too little. And then just styling in general...
  12. Shooshoo

    Shooshoo New Member

    This point I find very valid, talk about smoothness of movement and following.
  13. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

  14. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    One aspect. Frame. The concept of connection and frame is extremely difficult for a beginner to understand. A follower that has mastered this will be able to follow anything. This encompasses all the comments on not anticipating etc. We spent some time on thsi yesterday night and the differnce was remarkable between those who could and those who couldn't.

    Leader? hmm...I would say...let's stop talking about moves an limited repertoire. To do the basic well so it makes a person melt is all one needs. I have said that many times. This idea of moves etc is really limiting IMO. To dance to me means being able to entertain with the basic and a few other moves. Granted I don't have much enthusiasm for swing and so that prevents me from doing that with this genre...but on the few occassions that I do and when the mood catches me? hah!
  15. Swingless

    Swingless New Member

    Hmmm, hardest part of learning to lead...where to start? Along with mastering the steps, the leader is required to provide the partnership with the rhythm, compose spontaneous choreography, make sure neither he nor his partner collide with anyone, avoid putting his hands where his hands shouldn't go and not get his sweat all over his partner. Add to this the fact that most guys don't get much dance experience growing up and you can see why it's hard to turn a newbie guy into a proficient leader. Plus, I think it's fair to say that at most venues it's usually the guys who do most of the asking for dances, and that's incredibly intimidating for a beginner.

    Right now, the thing I'm struggling with the most is not colliding with other couples. It's very embarassing. That's one of the reasons I've been doing more and more bal.
  16. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Might simply be a case of semantics, but I disagree. I feel that at every moment a follower is following. If not that is when a follower cannot respond to a lead. Even when stationary, in frame, a follower is following.
  17. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Hm-m-m-m-m . . . don't know if I entirely agree.

    You see . . . we have connection, frame, smoothness, mastering the steps, floor etiqutte . . . all have been mentioned above, but unless the lead is proposing an option for the follower to take . . . there is no lead, no follow. Standing there is not proposing "something."

    I think it is imperative for the lead to give an option to the follow . . . a proposal, if you want. Just because he steps back ct1, and raises his left hand ct2 indicating he wants R-side pass with a turn. All the lead did, was propose something. What if the follow doesn't want to do that?

    Now the leader has to get tough, add more muscle, and force his follow to execute the rest of that move????

    WRONG! We, as leaders, do not force a follow to do anything . . . we propose an option . . . which can be taken, can be changed, and in some cases, the move can be hi-jacked!

    When we, as leaders, learn to relax, plan ahead - vs. "thinking" of your next move . . . our followers will respond to our leads.

    If you think ahead . . . you're not dancing to the music! What if you "think" a certain pattern (move), and the music (a song you never heard before) stops on ct2, what do you do? Do you break, dance through it and be off phrasing, accent it, etc???

    Dancing to the music, listening to the music . . . helps you to relax, be smooth, and "give great leads."

    Standing is not dancing. Being flat-footed and the weight even distributed on both feet is, well, looking like some of the stars on DWTS!
  18. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Not semantics, I think, but a misunderstanding - I (unlike Vince A) agree with this point.

    However, during lesson #1, the leads aren't leading yet - they are intending to lead, true, but the amount of signal in the connection is naught compared to the noise. There may be enough information to distinguish which of the patterns taught up to to that point are being led, but seldom is there enough information present to distinguish two truly similar patterns from one another.

    Until the lead has evolved to the point that differing patterns have distinct leads, the followers aren't following but are merely going through the motions.
  19. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Ever lead a break? I'll agree that not leading is not proposing something, but "stop" is a leadable verb.

    I call BS. The music is more than happy to tell you where it is going to be going next, given a minimum amount of polite attention. Easily enough advanced warning to think and plan.
  20. hepcat

    hepcat Member

    I agree, however different dances, such as salsa, have somewhat different frames. I find that salsaras doing swing break frame a lot, specifically when it comes to putting their arms behind their backs. That's a no-no unless specifically lead in swing (with a gentle rotating of the wrist combined with swinging the arm out). The motion is often referred to as "asking permission to put the follow's arm behind their back". Salseras often do it without my "having asked". (Note, this move is somewhat precarious, so I wouldn't suggest any beginners attempt to try it from my inadequate description. This isn't something I'd recommend learning without an instructor.) Although perhaps the salseras I've swing danced with are not great salseras - I don't know about that.

    It's funny, you can immediately tell when a dancer is a salsa dancer trying to do swing. After a swing out or two, I often ask, "So where do you salsa?". They usually smirk and say "How did you know?". It's the hip motion, upright frame, high arms, twisty spotting, and discomfort (for lack of a better word) with a shared center that gives it away. Not to dis salsa - my point is that I don't think the concept of frame is universally compatible with all dances. For the most part, it is, but there are subtle aspects that confuse things. Salsa dancers are better than beginners in the realm of swing, but there are certain things they have to "unlearn" to be a good lindy hopper.


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