Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Digital Follow Vs. Analog Follow

Dances:  Waltz
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Chest and shoulders at the gym.
Happy Hour:  McCormick & Schmick's - Cheeseburger
Random Life Event:  Brother moved back from China today!

After running about an hour behind, I finally made it to the gym.  Luckily, today was chest and shoulders day which meant I could squeeze everything tightly together with short breaks in between each set to get the workout done quicker.  Sarah and I started practice only about 15 minutes late.

The plan on our calendar was the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot section of our waltz.  It's a tricky part mainly because it starts following a Wing which puts us in wrong side position.  For some reason every time we dance it, it's different.  I found out today why that was the case.  Sarah and I got into a large discussion about leading and following, in which I learned that she likes to blame herself first for most everything that goes wrong.  That poses a big problem for us because she will then go and adjust things on her end to make it work.  Not only does that not allow us to fix the problem at the source (which is usually the lead at this stage) but it also explains all the following difficulty I experience when we dance.  Since every "problem area" feels different every time (due to Sarah trying to correct her end) it's virtually impossible for me to figure out what's going on or what I can do to stabilize the figure.  She brought a really good point about her Pro-Am dancing with Simeon.  At our level he's pretty much perfect so obviously the fault would be at her end.  After a year or two of training like that I could see why she's stuck in that mindset.  I've told her from now on to blame me first (politely of course) and let me make the first adjustments before having her look at things on her end.  I believe that if I make an adjustment and the figure miraculously looks and feels better then we're on the right track.  We can then fine tune it with details on her end.

Another following trait I've noticed about Sarah is that her range of possibilities are limited at this point.  This particular characteristic is really prevalent on the social floor.  A lot of the time I need to make split second changes and make up things as I go.  Now don't get me wrong, I think I'm fairly good at it and the changes are, for the most part, smoothly executed.  Not your garden variety crazy Asian driver.  But that kind of leading requires the follow to have an infinitely adjustable range.  At this point I can literally "feel" Sarah thinking about what's going on, come to a conclusion and execute whichever figure she's decided it is I'm doing.  Versus just ending up where I've put her which might be something completely random, ugly, rough, and nonsensical.  For all the nerds out there, she's a yes, no, if and then statement with definite predefined results.  A digital curve rather than an analog one.  Now I can honestly say the curve has smoothed out A LOT from when I first met her, but it'll be a while before she reaches analog status.  All this being said, I know following is EXTREMELY difficult.  She'll get there given time, and it's good we keep talking about things like this which keep us grounded to core issues.

During this whole discussion the common analogy of the lead being the gas and brake pedal along with the steering wheel in a car while the follow is the engine came up.  I really hate that analogy.  Not sure who came up with it, but it makes no sense.  It implies the lead has no power of his own.  He merely engages the follow who provides all the power and points them in the direction they want to go.  I think a better analogy would be a driver's education car.  The lead in is the driver's seat, and the follow in the instructor/passenger seat.  Both sides have gas and brake pedals, and only the driver's side has the steering wheel.  You are both in the same car and sharing the same engine as one.  The lead does all the driving while the follow is just along for the ride.  She will only use the pedals on her side when absolutely necessary and as a "passenger" she'll end up wherever the car ends up.  She'll get out and get back in as expected of her.  Followers weigh in here and tell me what you think.

At the end of our practice I think we had the Fallaway Reverse/Slip Pivot section feeling better.  I'm glad we take these chances to talk about the bigger issues and to look at the greater picture.  It'll help us in the long run.  As any recovery program will tell you, the first step is admitting you have a problem.


  1. The problem with the drivers' ed car analogy is that it seems like it's the follow's job to be dragged around and only provide some steam when the lead slacks off for whatever reason. There's got to be an analogy that recognizes the power coming from the lead (not just as a foot on the gas pedal), but also acknowledges that the follow provides a lot of the power. It should be something that expresses the "you put this much in and you get just as much out" kind of concept. A powerful lead wants a follower who can really drive and shape and has a lot of physical energy to be able to fill the space he is creating. I just think you need an analogy where you've got something being acted on and the thing acting is using it's energy and power to do this and the thing being acted on is responding in a way that is more reactive than passive.

  2. I yearn for the day that both partners can become analog followers towards each other. If she does something, I can receive immediate feedback and provide a slow and steady response and vice versa. Right now, it's more of a digital follower whereas I do something, pause, then she responds. Although, I have to admit, her response time is much faster than when I have to sense her.