Different folks, different strokes

23rd March 2009

(More Next Steps articles.)


Dancing with different followers, of different levels of experience and ability, requires different leading skills. It's good to have all these skills, and to practice and develop them. None of these skills are optional, they're all good.

However, it's also good to know which ones to focus on at which times... So here are some "good to focus on" skillsets, which I think are helpful to prioritise with different levels of follower.

Simply the best

Dancing with the top followers requires innovation and creativity.

Your own technical weaknesses will matter less, as the dance goddesses will be able to compensate for these to an extent - if you're a bit off-balance, or if your lead is not totally clear, then the lovely partner can adjust for that.

(Absolute clarity of lead is always a good thing, of course, but I think you can get away with a bit more "waffle" for the sake of experimentation when dancing with an advanced partner, because you're confident that she'll be good enough to read you even if you occasionally sacrifice clarity for innovation - and even if you fluff it up, she'll usually find a way for both of you to style your way out of it.)

However, your partner cannot give you musicality, or innovation, no matter how good they are. So you need to inject those elements yourself.

Middle of the road

Dancing with intermediates requires on-your-toes lightning reactions to ensure you can adjust to unexpected surprises.

Intermediates often suffer from the "little knowledge is a dangerous thing" curse. They sometimes assume you're doing one thing, based on a pattern they're familiar with, and may anticipate that pattern.

For example, you may do half a giro, with the intention of changing it into an ocho, but then find your partner stubbornly wishes to continue the giro sequence for a couple of steps more. If so, this needs to be managed.

So you may need to expect the unexpected.

Just getting started

Dancing with beginners requires complete clarity and focus.

The good news is, they won't run off and do weird patterns without you leading them. The bad news is, they're totally dependent on your lead; so if you're not 100% clear and authoritative, it'll go horribly wrong.

It's also worthwhile keeping things simple, not attempting any embellishments. Some steps are very difficult to lead on people who don't know them - for example, ganchos. Whereas anyone can step backwards and sideways.

(In converse to the Advanced follower, yes, it's good to be innovative and creative in all dancing - but if you go OTT with this when dancing with beginners, you may put them off. So focussing on clarity at all times is a high priority with beginners.

Finally, try to project confidence in your dancing - to be reassuring to your partner. Beginners need confidence and reassurance, even more than the rest of us do.

 - David Bailey, 23rd March 2009

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