The Improvers Block – Stop Holding Yourself Back Please
Thought I’d share some thoughts on this while it was on my mind. I see this happen way more than I would care to admit.
I think it happens when you get to a certain level at the improver stage, then all of a sudden, you think you know how to dance, you get this false sense of confidence, and your learning curve drops.
To make it easier to understand, I’ve broken it down a little into patterns that I’ve noticed over the years:
1. The “I’m Perfect” Dancer.
Those are the ones that feel they know how to execute the moves; the hammerlocks, outside turns, they know a few cool moves that they learnt in class, a festival, or from YouTube, and end up leading the moves really lazily because they think they are too cool for dance school, and haven’t developed the solid foundation that you learn from good classes.
The worst part about it, is that they dance with other improvers or beginners who they feel they are better than, and if the follow doesn’t pull off the move, then it’s their fault, and you blame them for not knowing the move. They stop going to classes, because obviously they know it all already and don’t need to learn anymore.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if someone doesn’t pull off the move you are trying to lead, there’s a good chance that you’re missing the skills, technique and nuances to effectively execute the move, so the follow understands what you are asking or inviting them to do.
2. The Ragdoll Leaders
Next there’s the “heavy leaders”, the ones that are such a strong, forceful lead, that they have to throw the follow around the dance floor like a ragdoll, in order that they do the move they are trying to lead.
When, in reality, they should be politely asking them to do the move through clear signals and invitations. We always stress in the Academy, “A Strong Lead is a Clear Lead”. If you are having to use force to execute a move, I’m afraid it just means you are overcompensating for your own lack of knowledge and technique.
3. The Trickster
Before I move on, please note, I’m not trying to bring these things up to annoy anyone, but it’s in the spirit of learning. There’s nothing worse than watching a lead stand in the middle of the dancefloor and explain to a follow why its her fault because she doesn’t know the move.
Sometimes, it may be the case, that the follow needs to develop certain skills, but any good lead will dance to the follows level.
That’s why you may see a teacher dancing with someone and think to yourself, “Hey, they dont even look that good to me, they are nothing special”. It’s because they are just doing simple moves, not fancy ones.
More bearer of bad news, if you are a follow and the leads aren’t doing fancy moves, its probably because they don’t think you have the skillset just yet for it. That’s okay by the way, it just means you need to work a little on fundamentals a bit.
If they are a good lead, they are probably trying to create a beautiful dance for the follow, not impress them with cool tricks and dips.
The Trickster is the one who tries to impress follows with the cool moves they learnt in class or from YouTube, and they try to pull off moves that the follow just isn’t ready for.
There’s also the other side of this, sometimes it can be a compliment because they think you are capable of it. It depends on the lead and their intention behind trying to do the move with you. I’m sure you will know which is which.
4. The Super Sexy Styler
This one’s mostly for the follows. It may stem from Social Media and the dance performers. It makes for a good video, but it’s not always practical for social dances.
When the styling affects the leaders ability to lead, then it becomes an issue. I’ve danced with follows before and although they can move their body and style well, sometimes I find myself twidling my dance thumbs, waiting for them to finish so I can carry on the dance. Or… what happens is, they are styling so much, they lose the connection.
Styling should be mostly an extension of the body and the movement being lead. Dancing, remember, is a communication between 2 people.
If a leader doesn’t give the follow opportunities to style, then it’s maybe a one-sided conversation, in the same way that if a follow over styles, then the conversation is all about them, and it gets a little boring.
Again, Im not writing this to annoy anyone, but its in the spirit of learning. Its always good to check your ego at times, both as a lead or a follow, and its also to remind myself of some pitfalls to watch out for.
Sometimes, I’m dancing with other teachers and I can tell at times that she may be trying to guess what I’m asking her to do, and she backleads a little to compensate, or throws some styling in to mask the uncertainty of rhe move I’m trying to lead. I’m not prideful, I get it, I’ve a lot to learn myself.
What I do in that case usually, is wait until the end of the dance, and politely ask for feedback. “That move I lead, was that not clear?”. “Is there anything I can do to lead that a little better?”.
Always leave yourself open to learning. I think it’s a healthy way to grow. With teachers especially, they have a wealth of knowledge locked up inside their socially dancing sweaty heads. Don’t take that for granted, especially in classes, where they are there for you, to help you learn and grow.
Try not to become a lazy “I’m Perfect” dancer, especially with your leading, and think you know it all, as you will find your dancing stagnate. I’ve seen people who have been dancing for over a decade, and they haven’t changed at all!!
That makes me sad a little, because I see people’s potential and what they could be capable of, if only they could get rid of their egos and be a little more vulnerable or humble.
I think its one of the most admirable things, that there are certain dancers that have been on the scene a long time, and they are still willing to learn and be open to new information and techniques, to grow and refine their dancing.
The best dancers at the Acadmey, that I’ve seen, are the ones that still come to classes (even the beginner ones!), because they are always open to learning and they are constantly learning new things and refining their dancing.
There’s always something to learn in each class. And they enjoy that, they appreciate it, and they come away each class happy and grateful that they have learnt something new or had the opportunity to refine something that they were working on.
Anyway, just thought I’d share my thoughts, I wasn’t expecting it to be that long, but I guess I had more to share than I realised. I hope it helps and I’d encourage everyone (myself Included), to keep up the learning and to enjoy the many depths that’s available in learning to dance.
There’s always a next level, and that’s the beauty of it, that’s the fun of it.