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Ballroom Dance Instruction – How to Become a Good Follower on the Dance Floor
To experience a great dance partnership, developing follow-up skills is just as important as developing leadership skills. Therefore, the myth: “All I need is a good leader, and I can follow anything” – is only partly true. Only if we have good follow-up skills can the leader dance with power and force – thus allowing the couple to maintain balance and control and ensuring that both partners enjoy the dance.
Frequently you will hear the man (also called the leader) say, “Stop trying to lead – just follow.” Well, that only works if the lady (also known as the follower) knows “how” and “what” to follow.
There are two fundamental aspects to follow:
- The “How” – Developing our framework and connection
- The “What” – Focusing on the difference between “intention” and “movement”
Developing Our Frame and Connection – Flowing Dances (Closed Position)
The actual frame (or closed position) is made up of three points of contact – a triangle between the couple:
1. The lady places her right hand in the left hand of the man.
2. The man places his right hand on the woman’s left shoulder blade
3. The lady places her left hand just below the man’s right shoulder.
This triangle has one side closed and one side open. It is important to emphasize here that the follower must resist the “fall” on the right or open side of the triangle. This can be corrected by becoming aware of keeping our “block” – (hips, ribcage and shoulders – aligned and the head on the left wrist.) Also check that your right toe is not tucked in.
The “connection” is a little more illusory and complex than the construction of the frame or the embrace. First, let’s get rid of the idea that we should give man “resistance”. Instead, the follower should focus on keeping the elbows slightly in front of the hips and the hands forward and up at all times. Another very important aspect of the connection is the activation of the “core”. (If you’ve been in palace classes, you’re aware of your core; if not, work on strengthening your stomach and sternum so you follow your center – helping you hold your “block” and your arms in one piece. ) In the next “intention and movement” section, we will continue to talk about the arms and elbows and offer a simple exercise.
Focus on the difference between “Intent” and “Movement”
When the leader prepares to step forward, they will first compress their lead foot downward. This, in turn, will begin to add pressure to her upper body, indicating an intention to pull the woman back. Note here that this should simply “indicate an intention” to the lady. This is the critical point where many subscribers misinterpret the track. Once they sense this intention, they move instantly. Instead, when the woman senses the intent, she should stay on her supporting foot and compress toward the man until he begins to move. It is worth repeating. Do not move when you feel the pressure or the “intention” to move; instead, stay on the landing foot and press forward (and up) and wait for the actual movement.
At this time, we will again discuss the lady’s trunk, arms, and shoulders. When the man indicates the intention, many times the follower will collapse the elbows and/or shoulders. (Remember that the adept’s role is simply to hold their own body forward in one solid piece.) To understand this concept, try this simple exercise:
Stand with your feel about 9 inches from a wall or closed door – weight toward the balls of your feet. Bring your sternum forward (slightly separating your rib cage) and place your hands on the door or wall. Notice that you are simply supporting your own body. – do not really press the door. It’s how comfortable your body should feel when you’re in the dance position. Just stay forward and support your own weight. It is important to impress on the follower that this position does not make you feel heavy – but rather gives the leader the leverage to move forward with power and confidence.
These concepts require some thought and practice; but when you finally understand “how” and “what” to follow, you and your partner will enjoy the dance!
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