Swing Discussion Boards > WCS Following question?

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

  1. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    That doesn't make sense to me. If Jennyisdancing is a beginner, she isn't going to get a whole lot of dances with someone at Jason C's level. Maybe a couple a weekend during late night dancing? The rest of the time she is stuck dancing with the rest of us still learning technique and patterns.

    Take a pretty common, at least in my area, social pattern like a whip with a double outside turn ending. There is a lot of technique the lady needs to know for a beginners class pattern. I don't think someone would be a pattern monster trying to lead it?

    Still, it is fun to try and lead the more difficult techniques and patterns that I know. The closer they are to my limits, the more often the lead is messed up. At the same time, sometimes those limits are more than the girl can dance and we get messed up. A good smile and laugh solves most screw ups :)
  2. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Yep. Frankly, I wasn't even getting a couple of good dances in a night. I stopped going to the only WCS venue close by because people there are cliquish and the advanced guys refuse to dance anyone beneath their level, such as me. I have gotten to know some other people and will go dancing in a group with them.

    Whether they're a pattern monster or not, the problem is, as you say, it's a lot of technique for a beginner lady. I would say too much, actually. I can do those turns now - after four solid months of lessons with an excellent teacher, plus attending several workshops with nationally known people. But I couldn't do it in my first couple of months.

    My complaint in the initial post stemmed from encountering leaders who insisted on trying complicated things even after it was quite obvious that I was not ready. And I would say very few total beginner ladies can do a smooth double turn unless they are experienced in other, similar dances such as salsa.

    That's the right attitude to have. I absolutely don't mind trying something new as long as both of us can be lighthearted about it and just laugh if one of us messes up. Some people take this stuff way too seriously.
  3. SD

    SD New Member

    Social dancing ain't easy, but it's worth it.

    Hi JennyIsDancing,

    Your posts are really nice to read because they bring up a couple of very important and very common themes of social dancing. In response to your original post I have to say this:

    1) You are probably right that most guys are not very good leads and it takes some doing to figure out how to have fun dancing with them. Being a guy, I don't get a lot of practice following so I haven't much advice to give on this subject. All I can say is it ain't any easier on my side of the equation.

    2) Very few dance teachers actually teach beginner dancers the fundamental elements that define each dance. In WCS, no matter who teaches it - My short experience includes a few famous folks but certainly not many – the defining feature of WCS is that the follower dances along a “slot” and that once set into motion the follower continues to progress until she(he) reaches the end of the slot. How does the follower know she has reached the end of the slot? Because the leader has redirected her. Redirection can mean leading a stationary spin, or leading a stop, or leading the follower to change direction. Every whip has a redirection in the middle and again at the end, for instance. So if you just stop dead in your tracks because you are confused then you have missed lesson 1 in WCS following: find the end of the slot and then perform an anchor step - unless you are led to do something other than an anchor, like in a whip, which is really two side passes with a stolen anchor. Stopping dead in your tracks is a very blunt way to communicate that a lead is in some way unsatisfactory but it also says “I am done dancing WCS here.” Learning how to be polite to a crappy leader means finding a way to always keep going. When in doubt turn toward your partner and anchor and smile and look cute. That is the followers job. And be glad that you don't have to learn the leaders' job: how to look gracious and keep a dance going when a lousy follower pouts because she imagines that she has somehow failed to follow a lead despite the fact that her excellent poise, balance, and ballet trained technique mean that it is almost always my (the leaders) fault if something feels awkward or doesn't go right. For the follower, a triple step and a smile fixes things 999 times out of 1000, even if the follower has no teeth. Sometimes we leaders can fix a screw up by quickly leading something else, but if the follower stops dancing then we have to come up with something uncommonly nice to say - and most of us learned to dance because we are afraid to talk to girls to begin with. Have some sympathy. And learn your part. Soon you won't get a chance to sit down.

  4. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Excellent, excellent point SD. I have found even with the best teachers, they usually teach in "an ideal world." That is, of course they tell you to do an anchor step at the end of the slot BUT they normally assume that the leading and following has been done correctly until that point. It would be really helpful to newbies to give us a backup plan by telling us what you said, i.e. "if you mess up and don't know what to do next, go to the end of the slot, face your partner and do an anchor step."

    I figured out that backup plan by myself eventually, but I really would have liked the teacher to just put it out there, it would have saved me some grief. Maybe they assume it's obvious, but it's not. The concept of slots or anchor steps are foreign to a newbie, and in fact are contradictory and counterintuitive to what I have done in non-slot dancing before.
  5. SD

    SD New Member

    Whose job to fix things?

    After the first step of the dance I have always considered it the leaders job to adjust. For one thing, I find that followers are better at keeping the rhythm than I am. (They have few distractions, worry less about planning moves or the 250 lb guy nearby who is slinging some hapless gal into an collision course, etc) But the fundamental thing is that if a follower is ever caught thinking "I think that last step I took was somehow a mistake..." or "I should really be standing on the other foot/stepping at some other beat" then she(or he) is not fully paying attention to what is being lead right now. And it leads to the temptation to take a step that hasn't been led to fix things. (Which is fine if you want to f*^% with the leaders head.)

    The nice thing about salsa is that, at least in the small city I live in, 99% of the time the timing is quick quick slow, repeat until song ends or until the leader clearly leads some other timing. As a leader I try to move my own feet in that timing if for no other reason than to act as a metronome for the follower, but if I end some series of moves and my follower is breaking back when I expect her to break forward I never worry about whether the music is on phrase 1-2-3 or 5-6-7, I just match her. I expect that an outside observer would notice that at least half the time it was me that made the mistake but it hardly matters, if I want it fixed I know how to lead a fix.

  6. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    In WCS, no matter who says it, that prefix to a declarative sentence is almost always wrong.

    Not wrong, but not universal by any means. Depending on how specific you want to be, there are three or four distinct assumptions about the follower's travel among the nationally recognized/touring instructors. Heck, there are others I haven't heard from, so there may be more than that. And you also have the fun of filtering what instructors say that they believe is true from what they say that they believe is the most effective way to get the desired result.

    Same problem here: not universal.

    Wha?? No. Not in any way that's true (though thinking about it that way may produce the desired result - see above).

    Edit: decided I wanted to clarify this. In west coast swing, there is such a thing as "two side passes with a stolen anchor" (though you don't see it very often). But it has little in common with a whip (the timing is different, the rotation is different, the footwork is different, it has a different fit with the music....).
  7. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    My thinking along this subject has changed a lot. I used to have a view similar to yours. Then, I realized that wcs perhaps more than most other dances requires each person to know the rhythm and where they are in it. One of the cool but super challenging parts of wcs is that each person can play with the beat individually. She might be doing some fancy syncopated anchor or even ask for a few extra beats. The anchor might not even be a triple. If I adjust my timing to her without mirroring her, like if I am doing my own fancy footwork, our timing can easily get off beat. I have to know when to set the post for the anchor and when the leverage of the anchor is achieved and then lead the next pattern.
  8. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    With the disclaimer that I suck at wcs--a few 4-week group classes, a couple of private lessons, and some basic social dances...

    I agree, in principle, that a follower does not need to know a particular pattern if the lead is good enough to guide her through it, so long as she has good following skills. But, to be fair, it can be very helpful to have at least encountered the pattern to know that such a thing is possible. That may mean a lesson, a group class, someone explaining it to you informally at a dance, watching another couple, or what have you.

    If all you've run across are some basic 6-count patterns, and all you're aware of is the 1,2,triple, triple (or however you want to call it) footwork, it can be very daunting to try and follow an 8-count pattern. Sure, if her following skills are good enough, you can argue that it shouldn't matter. But following skills take time. (I, personally, think wcs following is some of the hardest out there. Like the OP, I dance AT which is reputed to be extremely difficult, but I gotta say it's an absolute cake-walk compared to wcs. Or any other ballroom dance, for that matter, but whatever.) I doubt a girl would have advanced enough following skills to be able to follow anything, without having run across more advanced patterns.

    I'm just saying--very incoherently, apologies--that it can be very helpful to at least have an idea of what things are possible. If you don't know that it's OK/possible to switch footwork for an 8-count pattern, the default setting for a lot of us is to try and interpret the lead within the context of what we know to be allowable--the 6-count pattern, for example. Which...I can say from experience...makes following some things much more difficult.

    Hope this made sense...end of the day...I'm tired.
  9. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Heh...you sound like an AT dancer. ;-) :)

    As a (crappy wcs) follower, I have a question that's sort of related to this, that hopefully someone here can help me with. Sometimes I'll screw up a pattern/follow and end up on my right foot when I should be on my left. My usual tactic is to try and do part of an anchor step or something else to take up some time and switch feet...but the guy has already started leading me out. What's the best approach in this case. (Or, alternately with fellow beginners, they seem to lose track and will try to lead me out on the 6 instead of the one, which means I don't get to complete my anchor so I'm on the wrong foot.) Should I just do a very quick weight change (stumble) and catch up, or...???

    Oh...damn...what good advice.
  10. SD

    SD New Member

    The fancy way out is to Syncopate. (Instead of one step for the one do two quicks, or a touch-ball-change, whatever, to get you on the correct foot. Its easiest to fix it on the anchor of course, but being a guy and being trained by habit to anchor the other way I often start out on the wrong foot whilst following.)

    As you know from AT, pretty much anything you can do starting out on the left foot can also be done starting out on the right, its just that many things are A LOT EASIER when performed with the standard footwork. A Chaînés turn for instance is really bloody awkward if you start on the wrong foot. As a leader I am generally aware of which foot a follower is standing on and won't lead one the wrong way, but in WCS it can be hard for that awareness to keep coordinated with the other part of the brain that is planning and executing the lead...

  11. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    I agree . . . &1 is easy, and/or just play instead of sticking to just a specific count . . . or 'walk it out' to the beat, but will still need to syncopate!
  12. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Agreeing with this, but kicking (sorry) it up a notch...

    In most cases you will be better positioned to follow if you synchopate UP (a fancy way of spelling "adding weight changes"), rather than synchopating down. Quad rhythm is your friend if you don't abuse the privilege.

    In theory, you ought to be comfortable synchopating down on most patterns - he can lead to turn right, to turn left, or to go straight, and only one of the turns is awkward. Two chances out of three ain't bad. Unfortunately, the universe has it in for you. The leader's muscle memory will lead the turn at a point that is comfortable for the follower dancing on time... which is exactly at the moment that it really sucks for you.
  13. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "but the guy has already started leading me out.
    What's the best approach in this case. (Or, alternately with fellow beginners, they seem to lose track and will try to lead me out on the 6 instead of the one, which means I don't get to complete my anchor so I'm on the wrong foot.) Should I just do a very quick weight change (stumble) and catch up, or...???"

    If you keep a "proper" amount of tension and "bend" in the arm you are connected to your partner with, if he leads you to step forward before you have completed your
    an chor step, you could just let your arm straighten as you take that last step onto your left.
    One of my favorite partners does this on purpose every now and then. I'm not exactly sure why she does it, but, sometimes I'll play back, and lead a rock step, or two, or three with her at the end of the slot, before again asking her to step forward. She usually cracks up when I do this.

    The look on your patner's face if you do this (very purposely "throw off" the "count" by not stepping forward on the 1), will tell you a lot about where he is in thinking of WCS as as communication, and more of a partnership than "just" lead / follow. And you can always say, innocently, "Did I miss a beat there?"

    If I'm dancing with someone that is pretty new, I will tell them that they should learn to step forward on their right, but that they don't absolutely have to do it every single time.

    Also, if you realize that you are "behind", rather than "stumble" to catch up, catch up purposely. Keep your balance, axis, connection, etc. If your partner is good enough, and you clearly communicate to him where you are, the two of you will work it out. If he's not good, you are certainly keeping up your end of the partnership by helping him "count".

    Last week I ended up stepping back on my right foot instead of my left. I mentioned this to my partner, but within a few steps I was back to where I "should" be, stepping back on my left on 1. I am happy to report that there was no blood on the dance floor.
  14. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Heh. That's always my most basic definition of a successful dance. (Unfortunately, it hasn't always been the case. Extra unfortunately, the blood is usually coming from my--rather that the leader's--toe. Gotta love it when my toe nail gets ripped back, or off, or my toes get trod on extra hard.)
  15. uncle joe

    uncle joe New Member

    following techniques
    Dear Jenny,
    I have similar background and been dancing since 1949
    I'll give you three basic following tips and since you already must know that there are subtle to extreme shoulder rises and drops with a man's changing his weight from one foot to the other these three tips will be easy to apply:
    1) Always keep your following hand in a locked claw position so it never slips out from your partner's lead hand, even when he brings his hand over your head for turns;
    2) Keep your arms firm, not rigid nor limp, but with a locked elbow, so when you are pulled or pushed your arm does not stretch out or collapses into a fold; this firm arm will also help you to determine which foot his weight is on so you can synchronize your weight changes with his and thereby stay in step;
    3) when a man pulls you towards him, come into his right shoulder prepared to rotate conter- clockwise, and avoid coming straight into him and blocking his natural rotation.

    Now as for these complicated configurations that men try to lead you into:
    There are instructors who think it is commercial to teach complicated combinations of moves that go into 4 -5 bars of music to keep their students impressed, and really too often these fancy moves can be followed only if you are in the same class lesson with them.

    Instead of showing your frustration, give them a smile and ask them if they would teach you that specific step. And their ego will render them only too willing to teach you right there and then on the dance floor.
    Now with your background, you have to know you that you are a dancer, maybe you don't know these complicated 'un-leadable' moves, but you are a good dancer.
    My aka is Black Sheep and there are 332 posts under Black Sheep, in the Dance Forum archives.

    in 1997 I developed a 'Six count Lindy Hop teaching method described on my website called the 'MAGIC PILL' it is the authentic style of Lindy Hop we danced in NYC before WW II. check it out. <WWW.LINDYBYLANZA.COM> 'Nothing to sell, Everything to share'.
    Practice following a friend walking in your living room with your hands on their shoulder and your eyes closed keeping your arms firm.
    And Jenny, when you are good at an activity, you know your good !
    All rights reserved @ 1997 by Joe Lanza
  16. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Dear gawd don't do this. There is nothing worse than dancing with a WCS follower with a stiff arm. Thankfully WCS is so slow these days that you aren't likely to get hurt doing this, but you'll quickly find out how uncomfortable it is to lock your elbow while dancing (it is not the least bit natural).

    Lets look at this in a scientific way. Your elbow is one of the three major joints in the arm, the others being the wrist and shoulder. Of these three the elbow provides the greatest range of motion with the strongest muscles attached. These muscles and this joint are your bodies shock absorbers. They are meant to slow and reduce any strain, tension, or pressure before it adversly affects the much weaker shoulder. If you lock your arm you remove the natural shock absorber out of the equation and any pull or push rather than being tempered will be transfered directly into your body.

    Keep your arms loose and relaxed, supple muscles rather than stiff or flexed. This gives you the most amount of time for your body to be eased into the new movement for smooth trnasition of directions. You'll feel light and responsive rather than heavy and resistant.

    A better idea is to just do what he is leading. Trust your leader. If you start turning yourself rather than waiting for the lead you'll fall out of timing with your partner and are more likely to get off beat not to mention running into your partner or other couples on the dance floor.

    This is true... but there are also those instructors who teach how to link any 2, 4, 6, or eight count move with several others which end up making what seems like one long seamless pattern but is infact several smaller simple moves that you probably already know... just dressed up a bit.

    If someone has to teach the move to you or explain what you are suppossed to do, you are either thinking to hard rather than following or, more likely, they simply aren't leading it well enough to begin with.

    Which ballrooms were you a regular at?
  17. plugger

    plugger Member

    If a leader really dances so far off the beat that he gets farther and farther behind it, or farther and farther ahead of it, then the follower ought to excuse herself and sit down. But that's not what happens. Usually the "off the beat" leader is either leading slightly in front of the beat or slightly behind it, but in either case, he's probably doing it in consistently all through the song. In that case, the follower ought to try to stay with the lead, imperfect as it is. The other possibility, and it really is a problem, is a leader who meanders all over the beat, sometimes ahead and sometimes behind, etc. That can happens for all sorts of reasons -- he's busy thinking about what to do next, he's just "got no rhythm," he's nervous or had too much to drink, or whatever. Again, maybe she should just beg off when he asks again. But if his problem is rushing or lagging on a beat that's otherwise consistent, I think she ought to accept it and dance. Maybe someone could advise him later to talk with a teacher about it. I've been told by one teacher that it's best to be "a little bit late, but just in time." ... Thoughts on this?
  18. chandra

    chandra New Member

    Wow this is an old thread! Stopped by today on a whim, and was shocked to see a thread I recognized! LOL.

    Anyhew, regarding the above comment, used to think that whole debate was pretty interesting. I sorta found that its generally less painful to be off time for a whole dance then it is to fight with a leader. That is of course assuming its not a small timing problem which can be easily fixed.
    I find the question fairly moot now, because I can easily dance on time myself, and still follow an off time leader pretty subconsciously. Has to do w/ related rates of feet movement to beat and body movement with leader. I honestly can't recall the last.time I danced with someone so crappy that I had to sacrifice my personal timing to follow.
  19. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Hi, plugger, welcome to DF.
    I see SO many people who do not dance in time to the music. There is such a thing as being ahead of, or behind the beat. There are songs and places in songs that do that, too. There are SOME where it feels like th whole room is rushing the beat. (and this would be in country western partner pattern dances)

    The larger problem is, I think, is that people are almost never on the beat, except when is just happens to randomly overlap with the beat in the music, or when a pattern they know feels comfortable at the same speed as the music.

    I'm curious, chandra, how you pull this off in West Coast. I've watched women do it in waltz, night club, and two step, and even manage it for a while in West Coast. But only for a while. Do you fit an extra "beat" in the anchor step, or leave one out every now and then to be ready for his lead on the walk walk?
  20. MultiFaceted Dancer

    MultiFaceted Dancer Active Member


    West Coast Swing has timing changes (as does Samba) with 6 and 8 count patterns. It also uses a lot in arm movements(over your head-behind your back -even pretzel like movements) just like Hustle and Meringue.West Coast Swing dances in a slot(like hustle except hustle is a moving slot unlike WCS which is in a slot-with the lady actually dancing like she is on a balance beam,can be slow and sexy(sultre) or danced to fast music.WCS has a slight lean back to start and when they mention -going to the end of his arm so he can move you back- Its typically referred to as a sling shot or elastic type movement-Rubber band. The dance has elasticity to it. If you keep your timing as you follow with relaxed but not limp arms you will have no trouble moving through patterns that are unfamilar with. Most important is getting comfortable with your Timing-(Practice on your own) and relax as the more advanced dancer challenges you into patterns. Keeping the connection by keeping the slight lean back will help you feel where he wants you to go. There will be lot's of foot swivels with turn out and when someone is experienced at leading WCS, they will go from one pattern to the next but I agree with the posts-If while your dancing and you feel you didn't understand his lead-Ask him to show you ---Guy's do like to teach especially if you ask him. He'll understand that one-- you want to learn to follow him and two your interested in learning the dance better. Most Leaders will Oblige and Happily.

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