Swing Discussion Boards > WCS Following question?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by jennyisdancing, May 10, 2007.

  1. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    This is so true! It has been a good summer of dancing for me. So as I have progressed and the ladies feel confident the lead will be there, the better dancers really wait a long time before coming forward. Often, they are stepping forward almost at &2 instead of 1,2.
  2. DancinAnne

    DancinAnne New Member

    I like to delay my one for at least a half count as you said. More of an &2. But if I do that with a newer leader, they tend to stop, some have confused my delay with a highjack. But again, these are very new leaders. So, I'll minimize my delay and gradually increase it, until it's more where I like it and the new leads learn to go anyway. I enjoy dancing with newbies, because it gives me the opportunity to style and play... albeit carefully.

    That said, I like to dance with most anybody who wants to dance. Always an opportunity to learn and improve.
  3. opossum

    opossum New Member


    I don't know if they said it first or not, but this is how I heard it:

    "Ladies, you are responsible for the level of dance in your community." - Chris Jones

    Before you fire up a response...

    What this means to me & what I have understood Chris to mean is that if while in a classroom environment you know what the Leads are going to lead because the instructor has called out the pattern & then you back lead the pattern no matter what the Lead actually asks you to do, then when you meet them on the social dance floor you can't be too surprised when they try to lead the same thing & you have no idea what they are asking.

    In my opinion, once you progress beyond the 1st month of group classes then you should know some of the leads/follows by sight & name. If you don't, then start to because these are the people you will most likely see in the local scene & hanging out at dances with people you know increases the fun factor by a ton. Even hanging out a few minutes after class or arriving a few minutes before class can be the perfect time to strike up a conversation with the other students.

    Having said that, once you move into the 2nd - 5th or 6th month of group instruction you really get to know them better, because you should be at the stage that you have started going out & socially dancing (considering everyone progresses at their own rate & some never want to go out socially).

    If not after the first month or two of classes, then by the 5th - 6th month I believe you should have relationships built up enough & enough skill that you can say "Hey, that didn't work for me." or "That didn't feel right." to the partners you know & try it again.

    Also, at this point I would hope you have built up enough courage (some do/some don't) to go out socially dancing even if all you do is go with one partner & hide in the corner of the dance floor all night dancing only with each other; your skill will go up exponentially.

    I have been most fortunate in that I have built up relationships & even friendships in the local dance community. I now have friends who are not afraid to tell me in class or at a dance that what I just did was poor, however most of the time I know right when I do it that it was. However, Leads need to recognize that it works both ways & that we not only need to pay attention to where the Follow is moving, but their frame, timing & everything else that we are supposed to be doing ourselves & give feedback to them, if they are receptive.

    I have danced with Follows & watched Leads who are I know are new to WCS only to find out they have been taking lessons for longer than I have or almost as long; but then you have to realize that not everyone who dances WCS only dances WCS or puts as much effort into it as you (the reader of this) or me.

    When I'm in class, at a dance event, a private or practicing with a partner I expect feedback both ways, because I am working on my skill. When at a dance, I'm there to have fun; I just try to remember that not everyone has the same goal/idea about dance that I do & vis-a-vis.

    For me, taking Blues really helped in learning to Lead as several of the classes I have been in have reversed the Lead/Follow roles & there can be a huge amount of connection in Blues...huge. Another popular tactic is to being taking classes in the opposite position i.e. Leads take a class as Follows & vis-a-vis.

    One final thought, ask someone to dance, they just might say yes. I have never observed one of the Follows that I hang with at dances (I told you there were benefits to talking to classmates) turn someone down for a dance unless they have danced with the person several times before & have been injured or beat up on the floor by them.

    That goes for both Leads & Follows.

    Take care, enjoy, have fun & dance with everyone!

  4. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    I like the subtlety of the delay. It feels strange at first from a leaders perspective, but I am sure the leader playing around with 6&1 feels kind of strange to a lady the first few times as well?

    My progression has been
    1) I was too new for ladies to use the delay.
    2) I knew something felt kind of strange dancing with the better ladies, but didn't know what it was?
    3) It actually makes sense and feels right :)
  5. noobster

    noobster Member

    What's your definition of "a crappy leader"? These guys are not being very friendly or encouraging, but we don't know that they are "crappy leaders."

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but from your post I am getting the impression that you think you need to have seen the pattern before in order to follow it. That is absolutely not true, and even as a beginner there's no reason you shouldn't be able to follow patterns you haven't been taught. It's the leader's job to guide you through them; but you have to be willing to come where he's inviting you. You can't stop dead in your tracks when you encounter something unfamiliar. I can imagine that would be frustrating for a lot of leaders.

    It's true that in WCS the follower needs to know a fair bit more than she does in some of the other social dances (and in the interests of full disclosure I am not a Westie; I follow it occasionally when I get invited but I wouldn't say I "know the dance" - so feel free to take my advice with a grain of salt). But it sounds from your post like you do already know a lot of what you need to follow a reasonably large vocabulary of patterns.

    My best piece of advice is to take a single, one-hour private lesson with a male teacher and see if he can help you with the following aspect of things.

    My second best advice about following is to just wait and see what happens. Things usually become clear if you just follow what you feel at each moment and don't worry about the next one. He'll put you where he needs you to be.
  6. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Actually, I thought guys who insist on attempting to lead me through complicated patterns that I don't know, even when they know I am a beginner was pretty good definition.


    I would describe the conclusion of the above paragraph as precisely true, without being at all applicable to the situation at hand.

    Which is more likely - that these guys are leading the patterns properly and getting frustrated, or that these guys are leading the patterns improperly and getting frustrated? Bayesian probability theory - the math is left as an exercise for the student.
  7. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Well, I have no idea what Bayesian probability theory is. But I'll say this:

    Well, some of each, but primarily the latter.

    This is only true to the extent that the follower has sufficient knowledge and technique to do the moves that are contained within the pattern. For example, when starting out, I frequently encountered leaders who would try to have me do double turns and spins which I could not execute, or complicated footwork that I did not happen to know.

    Part of the leader's job is to assess the follower's level and work with it, no? My original post tried to make the point that some people don't do this. They are hell bent on showing off some flashy pattern they like, instead of dancing WITH their partner.
  8. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    No, that's false. If the leader is leading, he can guide you through movements that you don't have sufficient knowledge of. (Depending on the complexity of the messages to be sent, this may require a minimal level of skill at following - but not skill/technique specific to the movement being led).

    There are not many who lead that well - most are just going through the motions.
  9. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Sorry Dancelf, but there are moves that simply require certain technique that one would need to have learned prior. For example, it took me weeks and weeks of practice to do a traveling inside free spin with 2 1/2 turns, a move that seems to come up frequently in both WCS and salsa. I had to learn the spin technique and also had to learn to spot a turn that ends up facing the opposite direction of where you start. Even with a good leader, you can't 'just do' something like that on a social dance floor if you've never done it before.

    It was previously mentioned in this thread that perhaps some leaders are overestimating my ability because my dance training is apparent to them. Possibly they notice that I have nice posture, graceful arms and good rhythm, and simply assume I have all the other skills. However, my previous training is ballet and the technique is dramatically different from WCS. For example, I've had to learn turns and spins in a completely new way, which is well described on this site.

    My point remains the same, though. Leaders, please don't try out complicated patterns and moves unless you have assessed your partner's skill and have some reasonable belief that she can handle it. If she seems game, and tries the move, but fails, then please be patient and understanding, instead of getting ticked off at her. Dancing should be fun and relaxed, IMO.
  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Reading the last few posts, several things , some of them no doubt contradictory, come to mind.
    If I'm dancing with someone who is relatively new to WSC, I try to get them to step forward on their right foot after their anchor step, and, ah, that's about all I care about as far as their "footwork". What I care about is where you are and where you can go next.
    Now, I know for a fact that most of the guys where I dance lead patterns that are in their heads. And most of the women expect to dance patterns that are in their heads.
    I most often have something in my head that I expect to happen, too, but I've been doing this long enough that I can do something else if what I intended to do isn't working out.
    I wouldn't say that the pattern guys are crappy leaders, that's just where they are as leaders.
    One of the women I most enjoy dancing with still tells me that she doesn't like doing things on the dance floor that she hasn't "rehearsed" (she used to dance professionally in musicals, etc.). I would always point out to her that we never had a chance to "rehearse". Last time we danced, she said the same thing after I had led a bunch of stuff she didn't "know". Then, she said, little girl like, "Let's do it again!"
    You are right, though, jenny, that you gotta have the chops to do some of this stuff. I watch my partners, and when they stop smiling, I know it's time to back off. (West Coast is good for seeing your partner. In the beginning I found it quite intimidating.)
    (P.S. I've been taught that the man brings his arm down when he wants his partner to stop turning / spinning. Spotting makes your turns sharper and helps keep you from getting dizzy. If you come out facing the "wrong way", take a count or two to turn around and anchor. You MEANT to do that, didn't you?)
  11. pruthe

    pruthe Member


    I agree with your statement totally. Just wanted to let you know there are leaders who think the same way you do. I tend to try steps that are the most leadable (ie. less complex) first with someone new I am dancing with. Then, if I feel follower is up to it, will try something a little more advanced. If it doesn't work out, I may ask if partner if would like to try again. If it works, fine; if not, go on and not make a big deal of it.

    Good luck and have fun with your dancing.
  12. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    I tend to agree with Dancelf on this, and to something that Steve said - get them to step forward on their right foot after their anchor step, and, conversely - not to step forward until the leader steps back count 1 . . . in other words, insure that the follow is not anticpating moves. If a follow is not anticipating anything other than what the message is saying . . . a leader should should be able to get a follow to do new moves - obviously not 16 or 32 count multi-move with a whip, a tuck here or there, a dip and slide out all incorporated. And I think that is what Dancelf is saying.

    If you ever dance with Jason C . . . I guarantee you'll go where he puts you - new move or not! You'll do the move . . .

    I have lead a traveling inside free spin with 2 1/2 turns to slightly WCS familiar students to see how well they follow . . . most get the move . . . some do not . . .

    Just my 2(ents . . .
  13. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Yes, some 'slightly WCS familiar' students might just pick up and follow a complicated turn or something else difficult, but I would be willing to bet they have some kind of previous knowledge or skills to help them along. For example, there's a lady in my WCS class who told me that she had only been learning WCS for a few months. I found this hard to believe, because she does all the turns and complicated things perfectly, and looks very experienced. Later on, I was talking to her again and it turns out that although she was new to WCS, she had been studying salsa for 2 years! Believe me, that made a world of difference. I would say salsa and hustle are the only other dances that have some overlap with WCS techniques.

    Of course, I realize that a leader won't know the follower's background when on the social floor, and just needs to make the best guess as to her abilities.
  14. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    I agree that the leader won't know a follower's background when on the social floor, but an experienced leader should be able find out very, very quickly by the connection and body language of the follow. That experienced leader will (should???) dance to the level of the follower's abilities from there on through the end of the dance.
  15. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Colacino would probably be an awesome first private for someone with extensive ballet training.

    In my case, the compelling evidence was Mario leading me in a finger spin.

    If a digression from the main thrust of the thread is allowed, could you expand on this?

    I would normally expect a ballet dancer to look at the turn, identify it as a chaînés, and move on with life. But I don't think everybody teaches it that way (in part, not everybody agrees what's "right") and maybe it wasn't clear that the more familiar turn is a perfectly acceptable substitute. (Of course, not everybody agrees that it is an acceptable substitute. Ah, the joys of street dance....)
  16. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Dancelf, actually I did exactly what you said, and it was totally wrong and hindered my learning. I found out you cannot just plug in ballet techniques to WCS, it's too different. Ballet chaines are done on high releve with straight legs - and obviously they are also not led by a partner. I really had to unlearn my ballet training in order to get a handle on WCS. Some of my friends who don't have classical training seem to learn WCS easier, simply because they're coming from a blank slate where there's no muscle memory of anything different.

    I linked an article in an above post, but here is the relevant excerpt that explains the issue in more detail:

    Your weight should be on the ball of your foot when turning. Ballet dancers get the nasty habit of turning up on their toes. This makes you become three inches taller when turning (not good!). Ankle rise used to lift the heel must be absorbed in the knees and hips. Also, stylistically, it can be a detriment to look like a ballerina and tippy-toe around the dance floor on straight legs. (When we want to insult another swing dancer, one of the most scathing words we can evoke is "ballerina"! Ballet dancers switching to ballroom find that one of the most difficult habits to correct is coming down in their knees instead of standing tall and straight like a ballerina. The character of WCS is to dig into the floor - to keep your upper body gliding but low, so that your legs can bend, point, and do generally fancy footwork beneath you.) You can sometimes spot brand new ballroom dancers who came from a ballet background; you see a great topline and posture, but then you look down and notice that they spend a lot of time with straight legs, way up on their toes and that they show turn-out in unexpected places. Ballet and ballroom technique are different. For smooth dancing, heel leads, lowering, body swing and parallel feet are usually not instinctive.
  17. chandra

    chandra New Member

    OMG, but its such a cycle, first you learn to wait for the move, and then you learn to... can't even explain it anyway other way than well, not waiting for the move anymore.
    Its like your waiting, but your not, cause you have to wait sometimes, but you have to move yourself, and accelerate yourself, not be a dead weight. Like the car, you have to be a porsche - when the guy steps on the gas, you really accelerate - dont make the guy get out behind the car and push it!

    *screams high pitch dying scream*

    edited to add: err, I didnt read the post all the way before I quoted. Yeah - I experience the stretch of the anchor on count 1, cause of the relative lengths of the steps we take... That would be one of the places one REALLY waits, and finishes...etc...
  18. chandra

    chandra New Member

    LOL, I can attest to that. Not everyone agrees chaines (or "pull turns" as Ive been told some westies call them, and someone tell me now if its something different) are what one should be doing in WCS. Some pretty well respected dancers disagree fairly violently. Ive actually spent the last 2 hours in my living room trying to re-learn to sping... LOL
  19. chandra

    chandra New Member

    Dancelf, BTW, do I know you?? Were you in Dallas last weekend? Have I danced with you? Do you know me??

  20. leftfeetnyc

    leftfeetnyc New Member

    When this discussion veers towards technique of spins, we're no longer talking about following the average patterns you see out social dancing, we're talking about advanced moves outside of the scope of a pattern. Just because you are lead to spin doesn't mean you have to go on one foot and execute 8 attitude spins. The follower has options throughout the dance, and that can include keeping both feet on the ground for spins, or even aborting if more than one spin is too many. Yes, you need to learn good technique (which will be a little different from that of ballet) do the fancier stuff, but you ultimatly have control over what you choose to do with your body within the lead. All the lead is saying is "turn here" you choose how that is done.

    To become a good dancer, yes you need to know good technique, but patterns are not technique. Patterns are simply a way of teaching technique through one example of many options.

    A GOOD leader can lead pretty much anything with any follower regardless of skill level (physical limitations aside). They will tailor the dance based on what skill level they perceive the follow to be and then challenge the follow with slightly harder moves. They will also lead the body and the dance. But not patterns. This is why a rank newbie can dance with Jason C. and be amazed at all the "high level" stuff they can do with him but not with Joe Smith.

    Most leaders, however, are NOT GOOD LEADERS. The majority is mediochre at best. What they are leading is patterns, not dance. Despite some discussion of technique they are most likely leading the patterns incorrectly as well - making it difficult for the follower.

    The reason Jason C. can lead a person in anything is because he leads the body and the dance - NOT PATTERNS.

    Joe Smith dancer is probably relying on some patterns that fit the music in order to get a good looking dance. He executed them great in class, and most followers pick-up on it, so he doesn't feel the need to work on perfecting what he is doing. He saw Jason C. do something that looked cool and thus CREATED A PATTERN in hopes that it was the move that made him look as good.

    Notice again the difference between the GOOD dancer and the common dancer: The GOOD DANCER IS NOT LEADING PATTERNS! They are creating a connection and moving the follow's body with theirs. A common leader is imitating and as a result creating patterns.

    Now, you can argue that even with the top pro's you are learning patterns....which you are, but that's not what they are teaching. They are teaching you how to become a good dancer through the use of patterns. They are teaching less advanced dancers use to a concept of moving in different ways in relation to the music and partner. The common dancer goes in hoping that by simply learning the pattern they will become an amazing dancer.

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