Swing Discussion Boards > What is a conversation

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by d nice, Jul 6, 2005.

  1. d nice

    d nice New Member

    I hear people always talk about dance as being a conversation... and I hear that as being used to describe all sorts of levels of interaction between leaders and followers, and used as all kinds of excuses for what I see as simply being a bad leader or follower.

    A literal conversation to me is one person talking to another, the second person making appropriate comments to the others statements until their is a pause. It is then there turn to share on the topic that was being discussed. There is a natural drift that happens as the topic morphs from one to another in a very organic way.

    I see an excellent dance being the same way. The leader initiates the conversation, chooses the topic and elucidates on the subject for awhile. The follower comments here and there, the dance equivalent of "No? Really? Yeah. I know what you mean." an extra hip movement here, a syncopation there, a glance or even turn of the head.

    The leader then allows the follower to comment and share. He becomes more suggesstive rather than directing. The follower then colors the moves and movements they way she feels fits the music, even going so far as to slow or speed up movements... as long as they still fit within the suggestion the leader has given.

    Why? Think on it this way. Have you ever initiated a conversation with someone and you could tell they weren't listening so much as just waiting to talk themselves. Worse when they do start talking it isn't related even a little bit related to what you just shared with them. It is a completely different topic. They have refused your offer to share, they have refused your intimacy and have essentially told you that they have no interest in what you were talking about, what they have to say is just more important. Not an enjoyable experience.

    If a follower backleads or chooses styling that has no relation to what the leader is leading or immediately starts tryin got collor or reshape whatever the leader leads it is a denial. It is the equivelent of a shouting match.

    If the leader cuts the follower off or refuses to ever back off enough to allow her to share her own ideas he is being a tyrant, overly controlling. HE is asking the follow to take dictation or listen to his speech rather than engage in a conversation.

    Learning how to distinguish between listening and talking, sharing and yelling is hard. Followers should learn to glorify in waiting. Assign themselves the task of relearning how to JUST follow. Once they have remastered (or finally mastered) this skill commenting on the lead rather than commanding the Leader they will find themselves having much more satisfying dances even with inexperienced leaders.

    Leaders have to learn how to listen, how to place the follower where she needs to be when she needs to be there, in a clear, concise manner. Once the leader has figured out how to lead exactly what they want, it becomes much easier to learn how to back off and suggest clearly, and stay relaxed and fluid enough to alter your own lead to encompass what the follower is adding to the dance or asking from you.

    Calling dance a conversation so the leader doesn't have to hold up there end and actually lead throughout the dance, or so the follower can stop following so she can do what she wants to do without regard to the lead and the leader, is just wrong.

    Instructors talk about the sharing and blending of the "lead", the Chi of Blues Class Heidi Fite and Charlie Fuller teach, the Lead/Follow technique class Paul Overton and Sharon Ashe teach, and the Connection and Communication class Ria DeBiase and I teach all focus on this. I think perhaps that some aspects of this have gotten blown out of proportion when it is time for practical application.

    The leader initiates a movement, the follower responds following it through. In the exercises we have the lines blur having the followers make suggestions actually repurposing the leaders movement (hands, arms, body) to match their desire. This is an EXERCISE. What we are aiming for is the next step where movement happens but no one is sure who is leading or following.

    When applied in real life the leader initiates a movement the follower follows the movement styling it, the leader feels/sees how the follower is responding and changes his next movements to take into account where she is and what she is doing, soon both dancers are truly dancing, there are no conscious moves or styling but both partners are reacting to each other and the music... the line blurs between who is leading and who is following and a true conversation takes place, smooth, fluid, organic.

    -Damon Stone
  2. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    This is a great post, d. Sadly, my brain is too fried for me to comment at an appropriate level today. But I'll be back when my synapses are firing. :wink: :lol:

    (btw, I'm still re-reading the jazz dance book you recommended. It's excellent. Thanks. 8) )
  3. Yes, excellent post and most informative. Great insight. I'll have to revisit this a few times to grasp all of this. Would make a great practice/lesson. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
  4. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    :notworth: :notworth: :notworth:
    Great post, d nice! Relevant not just to swing but other forms of partner dancing.
  5. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    actually i think more so where the dance is danced either primarily or a at least a substantial portion of the time in open position (vs. closed). otherwise it's more a case of the lead being: "this is the figure/footwork i'm inviting you to do - please join me in doing it together" which is much less a dialogue. in either case, the nuances of communication remain significant.
  6. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Actually the same is true of Blues, Tango (according ot the big-wigs I've talked to who do Tango).

    The follower still does a lot of shaping of the dance, she does not have fewer tools at her disposal she just has different ones. It requires a greater degree of skill for her to speak without interrupting the leader, and a greater degree
    of skill for him to speak without talking over the follower.

    The exercises I spoke of actually take place with a double hand hold or closer.
  7. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    perhaps it would be more accurate to further clarify that it would be any dance that has more of a formal syllabus where you have less leeway to deviate. regardless, as with any analogy, regardless of the amount of relevance, it breaks down eventually if you try to apply it universally.
  8. Medira

    Medira New Member

    Very interesting topic...

    *saves it to reread*
  9. africana

    africana New Member

    agreed 8)
  10. luh

    luh Active Member

    looks like an intersting topic. I'll post the answer after I'm finished with doing my homework, learning for my french exam, and creating the handout for the biology speech.
    dangit, looks if that it's gonna get late tonight.
  11. d nice

    d nice New Member

    It does break down when tried to be applied universally. IT is the reason I wrote it in the Swing board rather than in general or reposting it in any of the other boards on this forum.

    It is an examination of the idea of conversation as applied generally to vernacular dances with shared roots in West African culture, and specifically to Swing/Blues dances that hold to those roots. The further away from those roots the dance has become or is becoming the less it will apply.
  12. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    no argument here - it's good stuff - but i was replying to someone who had suggested that this applied to other dances. perhaps i should have included that quote in my initial reply for clarification.
  13. jhpark

    jhpark Member

    This is one of the things I have a hard time integrating into my dancing. Mainly because I have a hard time figuring out what move to lead next after seeing my follow make a suggestion. Usually my realization is limited to something like, ooh, she was asking for more counterbalance as she was styling and I failed to provide it, or, boy going into a swingout really forced me to pull hard on her, so maybe it would've been easier to just let her continue a bit, or do something else..?

    Also I get the sense that it's easier to do this sort of thing if you have a vocabulary of jazz steps or syncopations (kick ball change, + others) so you have a wider variety of things to work with. Jazz steps are my nemesis -- syncopations I could probably work on but just get lazy about.

    Or is it more a matter of watching what the follow is doing and trying to respond..? I'm lost as to what kind of responses are available and how to practice them.
  14. luh

    luh Active Member

    wow, that is a really good way of describing it d nice. I'm glad i took time to read it, and did not skip over it yesterday night before learning. I'm gonna work on integrating that in my dancing. I hope that makes my dance become more smooth.

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