Monday, July 4, 2011

Getting the Stride Right

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Night Club 2-step
Hovers: 2

Tonight Jeff and I ended up at the usual Sunday night social dance; I had told Jeff based on previous experience that the turn out would likely be good, probably more than usual, since he had been worried that no one would show up on a holiday weekend. Turns out that I was right this time; it was pretty packed, and that made floor crafting even more of a challenge.

We started out with a foxtrot that I think went well, but then again, foxtrot is our best dance. The first waltz we tried was really fast, and for some reason when we started down the first long side I got too excited and forgot about our "take Sundays easy" rule and really took off down the floor. Luckily I caught it once we rounded the bend at the corner and reigned myself in a bit, and happily when Jeff had to stop suddenly in a couple of places, I stayed right with fact, today I felt that I was much better than I have been about stopping cleanly with him; mainly I think because my body is getting better about listening to his movement versus my own muscle memory. So in that sense I think my following has improved. Nevertheless, there were a few places today where my feet just ended up in the wrong places, but it wasn't so much because I was rushing as because I just completely misread the lead...or it felt unclear or undecided to me, and so I just got the foot placement and alignment dead wrong. Those were those times when as a follow you feel like it could be one of two or several things, and you of course pick the wrong one. Obviously, I still have a lot to work on in terms of sensitivity and the ability to respond quickly to those signals. It's usually not a matter of thinking and deciding on an option when you feel you have several since there is not any time for that, it's a matter of having the right reflex. That just takes practice, and lots of it.

Jeff clearly was not feeling good about our dancing today. To me it really didn't feel better or much worse than normal; we had a couple of fumbles (usually me failing the recovery after a tricky floor crafting maneuver), but I didn't think it was necessarily more than usual. For some reason in Viennese, which is normally one of our best, I felt Jeff's hand keep shifting on my back, and I wondered if it was because he felt my frame shifting, but I couldn't feel that I was moving or shifting the connection at all. That was odd, because afterwards he asked why I kept shifting around, which I hadn't felt myself doing. The only thing was that I was trying to be conscious of my head stretch and using my head weight to aid the turns, and maybe I failed to isolate that properly from the rest of my frame. It's just odd because that's something I've been working on every time lately, and we haven't had this problem consistently. I guess I'll need to experiment later and see if it really was my head movement that was pulling me around; it's quite likely.

A random fun thing was getting to dance night club 2-step to "Proud to Be an American." Of course, I do like that song, and it worked pretty well for that dance. Now that I think about it, that was probably our best dance of the night. Sometimes that's just how it goes.

Jeff quit dancing entirely for the evening after our second tango. I guess he was just frustrated by how it was feeling and didn't want to continue the downward spiral. I danced a bit longer; and by dancing with a number of very different leads, had the opportunity to wrap my mind around why it is not always an easy thing for a follow to determine the proper length for her steps. You see, as a beginner, you're told to drive as much as you can, and that the lady is the one who determines the distance traveled, while the man provides the power and direction. I got pretty good at using my long legs to advantage, and I can drive pretty far comparatively speaking. The problem is, now that I am at a point where I can be more nuanced about it and actually try to match my stride to the lead's, I find that this can be very difficult for a couple of reasons. In general, I feel the power given to a step through the lead's center and our connection...and if executed properly that power will give me what I need to determine the length of my step. However, if the lead is tilted forward at all when he drives, or has a tendency to fall into his steps forward (and also fall into the lady), the weight of that falling feels like a lot of force going into the step, and so I tend to feel that as a lead for a longer step, also just to keep from ending up under the falling lead, but often in those cases the step is actually quite short for the lead, because he is really only catching himself as he falls forward across the floor. The other extreme is the lead who is back weighted, and doesn't project any power forward with his body as he moves, but instead sticks his legs out in front of him without real lead from the body, usually resulting in me taking a step that is much too small because I am feeling for how far his body is taking me, and when I feel very little power or momentum, I expect a small step, and that's usually when I get stepped on.

As I was trying to explain to Jeff this evening, it's really not about reading stride length per se for a's about reading power, momentum, or energy. If I can tell how much power I'm really being given and what the appropriate response is to that level of drive, then I'm in good shape, no pun intended of course. It really isn't a simple matter of stride length, since the same stride with various amounts of energy could also move more or less down the floor, depending on how well we're pushing and sliding, etc. My job is to match his energy, and that's no easy task, especially when dancing socially, where the energy levels can be so different and the way of communicating them coming from different parts of the body.

Overall, it was kind of an odd day dancing wise. I was a little disappointed we couldn't dance more, but I'd much rather have not danced those dances we missed than walk off the dance floor hearing my partner comment about how awful it was each time, so I wasn't upset when Jeff quit early for the night. I'd be the last to say our dancing is actually good, but it's all about what you focus on. I think we were in very different frames of mind approaching the dancing last night, and I understand that is going to happen sometimes. Hopefully practices this week will be better. Happy 4th of July!

1 comment:

  1. I was reminded of what a DF member once said: "One of the toughest things for followers I find F - you are expected to provide the power of Zeus at every instance and yet you have to also look as if you floated down on a cloud."