Every once in awhile I hear someone make the suggestion, usually casually, lightheartedly - 'leaders and followers should have separate classes.' At first I thought, how crazy would that be? How would we learn to connect - to walk? But as I continue to take lessons, and classes, and workshops - the difference in goals and methods is becoming more and more apparent between followers and leaders.
As a follower, I want to learn technique - strength, balance, connection, musicality. After all, what good is learning more patterns if I can't follow the lead. The majority (though certainly not all) of the leaders want more patterns, more steps, more variety and vocabulary to build their choreography. Of course they also want to focus on musicality - at least there's one thing we have in common.
It reminds me of my ballroom classes - what few I had, anyway. We all learned the patterns together - men on one side of the room, women on the other. We danced steps back and forth to each other from across that space - over and over and over. Then, when we finally got together, we simply did the pattern, roughly in time with the music, not really connected at all. We all had the pattern memorized, so why should they lead or I follow it?
Sometimes I think it would be better not to know what's coming. It's essential to know the things that are possible - for instance what can be done on one side of the embrace, can also usually be done on the other side. We, as followers, need to know the vocabulary that's possible, what the lead feels like, the different ways we may respond to the lead. But at a certain point, I just want to focus on following well. If I'm concentrating on learning my side of a step - am I learning to follow - or learning to parrot?