BALLROOM DANCE LESSON
CONNECT FIRST, THEN MOVE
In a closed position dance hold, leading directional movement is a relatively simple process: Since the partners are directly connected at the center, the leader simply moves in a direction, and the follower will (hopefully) automatically respond with equal movement.
In open position, leading directional movement is just as easy, as long as the weight connection has been established, first.
The tension applied to a connection gives the leader a means by which he can communicate the direction of his movement. Once either push or pull has been established, the connection has been effectively "switched on", and the leading or following of directional movement can begin. With the tension in place, the leader does not need to do any additional pushing or pulling through the arms; He only needs to move his body in one direction or another. The follower will automatically feel and respond to his movement through the active connection.
As illustrated by this incredibly complicated looking flowchart, the connection is first established, and then the body moves. The connection can then be maintained or released. If the weight connection is released, another connection can be established in a new direction.
PUSH BACKWARDS, PULL FORWARD
In theory, any direction of movement can be led with either a push or a pull connection. There are many instances where you may wish to simply establish a connection such as push, and maintain it throughout a series of movements with many directional changes. Again, this is possible because once the connection is established, the follower can feel the leader's movement in any direction. But in general, we will be discussing push as a method of leading the follower to step backwards, and pull as a method of leading the follower forward.
Your job as the leader is to clearly communicate your intentions. The best way to do this is to move your body from one foot to another, in a clear direction. The more you attempt to manipulate the follower's movement by pushing or pulling her with your hands and arms, the more superficial and less effective your lead becomes. In fact, it's best not to think of leading your partner at all. Instead, simply lead yourself. With the right connection, your partner will have no choice but to follow.
As the follower, your job is to produce an equal and opposite reaction. If the leader pushes, you push. If the leader pulls, you pull. If the leader moves, you move. Always respond to an action in kind.
But while this may seem logical enough, it's surprising how many followers don't quite get it right. The most common mistake is to react to the feeling of push by taking a back step, or to react to the feeling of pull by taking a forward step. Remember, the leader's invitation to push or pull is not an indication of where to move. It is merely an attempt to establish a weight connection toward or away from each other.
So when you feel the leader's weight shifting toward you, you should shift your weight towards him. Don't actually take a step until:
To take a step before you establish the weight connection is to second-guess the leader's intentions, which you now know is an ineffective and error-prone method.
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