Last week’s article focused on three basic rules for Follows that help them minimize mental clutter while dancing. (see: Eliminating Mental Micromanaging For Follows February 21, 2010).
This week, I’ll focus on the same for Leads. In the world of partner dancing, the list of responsibilities for Leads is longer than the list for Follows. Leads have to be responsible not only for their own footwork and patterns, but also for initiating and communicating patterns to their partners while remaining rhythmical and maintaining safe floor craft. Leads have to be relaxed, as well as clear and consistent with their leading and timing. Some of the questions that a Lead has to address:
– What is the rhythm of this song?
– How do I want to interpret the music?
– What patterns that I know work best for this song?
– Am I maintaining my posture properly?
– Is my frame engaged but relaxed?
– Am I holding on to my partner too tightly? Not tightly enough?
– Are my steps too big? Too small?
– Am I leading clearly? Too early? To late?
– Am I looking where I should be?
– Are my shoulders creeping up to my ears?
– Am I styling everything the right way?
– Am I getting too close to others on the dance floor?
and on, and on, and on…
An instructor can easily overwhelm Leads by bombarding them with technical and stylistic elements, making the Lead feel like a plate spinner from a vaudeville show. Everything a Lead is responsible for can be reduced to three rules that can help Leads minimize mental clutter, execute their patterns effectively, and feel empowered to dance with calm, clarity, and confidence.
1. Keep the Rhythm. All partner dances have a base rhythm, and beginning and intermediate patterns tend to maintain that rhythm. The sooner the Lead can stop thinking about which foot goes where and on which beat, the sooner he/she can focus on other more complex elements of the dance. At the same time, Leads have to make sure that his/her partner dances with consistent timing and pace. This skill becomes even more important for advanced Leads who learn rhythmic variations beyond the basic timing.
2. Communicate clearly through your frame. Partner dancing is a form of communication, a three minute conversation set to music. The Lead uses his/her body movement and arms to communicate patterns. There are partner dances that use a constant dance frame, as well as those that allow changes in arm positions that result in spatial changes between partners (with and without turning for one or both partners.) Developing the proper posture and arm control technique prepares Leads to better communicate rhythm, direction, and style to their partners.
3. Keep your eyes up. Looking up at each other is a very practical way to reconnect to continue dancing, particularly after a spatial change or turning pattern. It also helps Leads avoid collisions with Follows’ feet and other dancers, or inanimate objects, such as columns, walls, stages, sound equipment etc. Looking up also has psychological benefit — it helps Leads instill confidence in partners. (Imagine looking at the floor constantly over coffee with a friend or during an interview.)
Refer to these rules when working with Leads. They provide a strong foundation, especially when teaching more challenging patterns and rhythmic variations. Also, just as with Follows, have your Leads know these rules. They are the basic foundation for Leads that will help them reduce mental clutter and prepare him/her to avoid miscommunication, accidents, or just a plain ol’ lousy time dancing.