2.7 On Force Level
The best dancers, *regardless of style*, teach LIGHTER leads! Simon Selmon and Steven Mitchell teach that the leads for Lindy are incredibly light; it’s an *illusion* that the dancers are flinging each other around! (Mitchell would repeatedly yell out “Don’t Pull!”) To quote Robert Cordoba’s maxim which he made us repeat several times: “Maximum results with minimum effort.” When I took private WCS lessons from Maxwell Ho & John Festa, they both encouraged me and my partner toward lightness in leading *and* following. Debbie Ramsey has a whole exercise in which partners purposely attempt to be alternatively heavy or light–that teaches them the possible range and how to find what’s comfortable.
Many dancers have delicate/sensitive shoulders. They are perfectly capable of following most leads on their own, but dancing with a brute will cause them to ache for several days afterward (or, in the worst case, actually dislocate someone’s shoulder–this HAS happened). Guys, if you wonder what women talk about in the ladies room and other all-females environments, they frequently grouse about leads that are unnecessarily strong. Women consider a roomful of brutish leaders to be sheer hell.
“*Do not yank and crank, just INDICATE when leading. Minimum force is needed to indicate to a follower which direction to go or which figure to execute. This makes dancing MUCH more pleasurable, and also if a follower does not respond to a figure, picking another one is simple because the follower is not forced into an irreversible position.” The follower is your partner in a mutually enjoyable activity, not a rag doll being tossed around. “*Also the follower can be active and do whatever syncopations/variations she feels like doing without being constrained by an aggressive leader who does not compensate and will not let the follower do her thing. Be forgiving leaders… if the follower is not responsive to the lead for a particular figure , just do a different figure and show her the figure she missed after the dance. Do not force the follower into the figure. A poor leader will force her through the figure. A good leader will compensate.”
It is very irritating to watch a couple dance where it looks like the man is pushing the lady around like piece of furniture. Men, stop trying so hard! If the lady doesn’t do what you want her to she probably doesn’t know how. Pushing her through it makes her feel uncomfortable and awkward and will end up giving you a case of bursitis. Remember men, if you were pushed what would your response be. Let me guess… PUSH BACK – right? Just think about that when your leading a lady next time. You don’t look bad on the dance floor if you have a good lead and your partner doesn’t follow – you do look bad if you’re throwing her around the dance floor in an attempt to “get her to do her part. Guide them there by using your body/frame and not your arms and they generally will respond much better.
It is surprising, with ALL the man has to do in couple dancing (lead, think of the next steps, avoid collisions, adjust to different partners, do his own steps, keep his frame, etc.) that he so often wants to do the lady’s part for her as well by pushing her through it! Men, let the lady do her own dancing. Your job is to “open the door” for her and have fun. Some men, in response to this say, “Yeah, but what if she’s not doing her part?” These men need to ask themselves “Is she going to learn her part if you do it for her?”
Ken & Donna, generally accepted to be the best jitterbug instructors in the Washington, DC area, recommend a firm, definite initial lead to establish momentum followed by a feather touch to “follow through”. There are exceptions, of course, depending on the move, like when the lady’s arm is behind her back (she might get injured).
Followers, be responsive and quick; don’t hesitate or the leader will be forced to crank to get through the figure and stay on time or he will have to abort it. Usually, only a slight force is necessary unless the movement is very fast. However, it usually takes a lot of practice to get to the proper arm-body connection with a light force. You need to pass momentum back and forth between partners. Passing that momentum is usually going to take more than a few ounces of connection. (When you dance with “air”, it’s hard to do a Powerwhip!) At the same time, you don’t want your partner putting several pounds of pressure on you when you are doing something flashy.