Learning to lead Part 3 of 3
In Learning to lead Part 2 of 3 I got over the beginner "hump" and began to get more comfortable with leading my small repertoire of moves.
Now that I have been dancing for a while, some of the "mystical" things that good dancers were talking about when I first started now seem to make more sense eg "connection", "musicality", "style" and "flow".
The connection with every person I dance with is slightly different. Whenever I dance with someone I haven't danced with before, I start just by a few "in & outs" or a hand jive to search for a connection. Where the dance seems to work well is where my partner is also searching for a connection and we try to feel and understand each other's style, to make the dance work. Sometimes there isn't much of a connection; perhaps one of us is nervous or tired or doesn't particularly like the music, maybe one person prefers to be slightly ahead of or behind the beat. Some followers prefer a strong lead, some prefer a lighter touch. Sometimes, within the first bar of music, the energy flows between us and we almost instantly begin to move as one. This, for me, is a large part of what makes me want to get up and dance time and time again; I can, albeit occasionally, start dancing with a complete stranger and within a few seconds have connected with another human and spend a few joyous minutes together.
It makes me think that if more people danced together, perhaps there would be less conflict and tribal "us v them" mentality in the world, it transcends language, culture and age; a great connection is possible with anyone.
Most of the time when dancing I have my stock moves that I use; these are the ones that somehow just stuck when I first learnt them. Some moves I really love, some don't seem to gel and I never use them again. However, sometimes when everything is coming together, perhaps when music I really love is playing and/or when I am dancing with someone where there is a really good connection, the way I dance slips into a different mode. Rather than me consciously choosing a next move, the music seems to suggest moves to me or to put it another way, a particular move and/or style seems obvious to use in that moment. There is far less deliberate thought and much more being part of the music and dance.
This being "in the zone" is elusive, sometimes I will slip into it and then suddenly realise it has happened. Unfortunately, that realisation pulls me right out of it and I tense up a little and have to make a conscious effort to choose a next move. Many factors have to all combine to dance like this:
- I have to be completely relaxed, if I have had a stressful day it is unlikely to happen.
- If the dance floor is too busy and I am concerned about collisions, this also seems to inhibit the flow
- The music definitely has to be "right". This is very much mood related, if I have loads of energy and something like the bongo song comes on I'll jump right up and immerse myself in it. At other times, that is just too crazy and something slow and smooth pulls me up to dance.
- But most importantly there has to be a good connection with my partner
Musicality & Style
Last November, we attended a great weekend in Munich at mjive, where Thierry and Emma did a really clever workshop; they taught a basic set of moves at the beginning of the class but then played different tracks, with widely different musical styles, from tango to rock to a very slow, smooth track. The idea was to practice using the same "moves" but injecting different styles to match the music. Just learning how to do a first move, tango style vs disco style was a huge eye opener and really got me thinking hard about trying to dance "in" the music. So now a big part of my challenge when leading is both selecting moves that match the music but also injecting those moves with the right "flavour", perhaps with a pause for slower music, more pronounced edges to moves in more dramatic music, maybe slightly larger or smaller steps. Experimenting with this is huge fun, sometimes it goes really pear-shaped and I just laugh, other times it absolutely works and feels completely right.
The more I dance, the more I realise how much there is to discover and experiment with and the more I enjoy it. I look forward to dancing much more over the coming years for the joy it brings me and the friendships it creates.