Tuesday, February 28, 2012

re: Plight of Lindy Hop Followers

So, over at Rhythmic Rambling back in December, Rachel wrote of followers slogging through learning/skill plateaus:
Suddenly, after dancing for 6 months or a year, followers realize that they’re pretty much relearning how to do everything in order to dance with well with others.

She talks about how it can be more frustrating/ego-crushing for followers than leaders at this point (a year or so in) partially because the leaders get a lot of the ego-crushing "you know nothing" out of the way early. Whereas it is reasonably straightforward to be able to effect a basic level of following, which people can often pick up very quickly, so at the beginning, followers' egos have an easier time.

I totally agree with her, especially since I went through this you-know-nothing-relearning HARD in about that time frame in my dancing, and feel like I repeat it cyclically. I would like to add another thought to this discussion, also, that I talked about with one of the instructors at a recent weekend. I had booked a private lesson, and when they asked if I had specific questions or goals for the session, the answer was no, because...

When you are a leader and are trying to accomplish something specific in the dance, you know if and when you failed. And you know what you failed at. And it's even possible that you'll have an idea of what happened and whether it was your fault, because you saw the whole thing and you know what you were aiming at.

When you are a new follower, there is an age of innocence where every dance is bliss, that persists for a while. Even if you blatantly fuck something up, you just laugh it off in secure optimism for the future and keep dancing.  And why wouldn't you? You are improving really rapidly!

Source, I think? [Disclaimer: I don't agree with all that is espoused on that page, and it's a salsa forum, anyway.]
[And by "male" and "female" what they really mean on this graph is "leads" and "follow," respectively.]

"Beginner Hell," as labeled on this graph, is for leaders,
corresponding to what I'm calling the "age of innocence" for followers.
"Follow hell" comes later, nearer to the intersection of the curves, with the plateaus. 

As you go further down the rabbit hole and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad dancing, though, you go through periods where you'll dance with good dancers and you'll just feel like you're missing "something."

You have no idea what it is or how to to fix it though. Or possibly even when it is specifically happening. And you definitely don't get the information of what you messed up, because you're not telepathic and don't know what your lead wanted to do next.

You're just left with this vague feeling of "I'm fucking something up," without so much as the ability, sometimes, to even pinpoint it in time. Sometimes it's whole dances. Maybe you have what, to you, feels like a good dance with a good dancer, and you would be really happy about it, except you can tell that your leader, while being gracious and smiling and stuff, is not all in. He's not "trying shit." He never gets the "oh and THIS" expression that you see on his face when he dances with good follows.

All of this adds up to you get just good enough to know there is a problem... but then you have no idea how to fix it or even what specifically to work on.  It can be really, really frustrating.

The silver lining in this is that I feel like my greatest periods of growth as a dancer are born of the frustration of these periods of living with the dark cloud of fucking-it-up-feeling. Maybe some people break through stuff like this on their own, but for me, by impatience or lack of talent or whatever, I find I generally break through these slumps by asking for help in the form of some kind of individual feedback. And it's been pretty darn helpful-- it's amazing what you can learn when you're ready to hear.

1 comment:

  1. All the text after the diagram applies to leads as well. I just got past a big bunch of it, after dancing for 5+ years.