Separate classes?

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?


Unknown said...

Polly wanna Tango?

You'd be learning to parrot. A teacher once told me that dancing Tango is the giving and receiving of signals between two listening parties.

Patterns have the potential to harm the brain's natural ability to respond to changes in music and movement.

Polly don't want that ;)

msHedgehog said...

My approach has been to mostly not quite listen in class. You always have two or three things you're personally working on to improve your dance, and you work on those regardless of the class content. You ignore all of the stuff that's about the pattern, but you tune in to the bits about technique, and if anything interesting comes up you put aside what you were working on and work on the new thing, and add it to your list for later. Then you treat the class as a practice session, rotate as much as possible, and follow whatever actually gets led. And also: don't talk. Never try to fix other people's problems - always say you're not-sure-let's-try-it-again, then flag down the teacher and ask. A bonus is that all this makes you a really popular follower in class with the leaders who genuinely want to be good, which helps for the social dancing.

Maybe not the ideal answer but it kind of works.

Mari said...

msHedgehog - What fantastic advice. I'm going to forward that along actually, as this subject comes up a lot when I talk with other followers. We talked about getting a sort of selective amnesia during (and after) classes. I imagine you must have quite a queue waiting to dance with you! :)

Pete - you're so right - Polly don't want that lol.