Hovers: 1 shaky one
After a good work out and yet still tired from the festivities of the holiday yesterday, Jeff and I approached our practice session with a bit of grim resolve after last week and the weekend. We skipped the round, did a little lazy rumba, and went into our focused waltz practice. I suggested the fallaway-reverse-slip-pivot into double reverse into another fallaway reverse sandwich section. That part is really inconsistent for us, sometimes it's okay, and sometimes it's really out of sync, and sometimes I kick Jeff, so in general it's not reliable.
Jeff has this theory that he's been trying to express to me lately about how my mindset is entirely wrong as a follow. He said that essentially I should not be worrying about fixing things I'm doing to accommodate or fit to the lead, but instead should simply, well...follow. My frustration is that this is very easy to say, but it's kind of hard to work on your problems by just, well...following. It's not that simple. For me, learning to do the steps correctly means learning how to execute them most effectively within a given point of reference, namely, the lead. Obviously that reference point will change as the lead himself changes, or as his lead for a particular figure is inconsistent. However, I figure that I'm in good shape if I know that when I feel such and such, I should always respond in such and such way and to such and such an extent.
Now I think Jeff is right in that some ladies, due to personality or otherwise, just tend to naturally respond appropriately to a lead's movements. Then there's those of us that actually have to train ourselves to do this. Though I wouldn't go as far as Jeff and say that "strong willed women should not be allowed to follow" (and believe me, we must be really committed to this no fighting thing, because those are fightin' words!), I'd agree that some women perhaps have a personality that gives freer reign to the emotions and are much less intellectually and analytically dominant; they feel things out and respond emotionally rather than think about them first, which to a certain extent is great for following. I'm not that woman; I think a lot, and I think about my dancing, and though I try as hard as possible to let go and and not think while following, it's still a struggle. I'm trying to turn my dancing into a kind of reflex; doctors have always told me I have extra good muscle reflexes, so maybe that's something I can harness here. Basically, I feel this, my body naturally does this in response. That's a huge part of why regular practice helps me so much; it really habituates me to respond to certain signals in certain ways.
Jeff likes to talk about lead-follow as him "putting me where he wants me" and me "just letting myself be put there." That isn't active enough imagery for me...it reminds me of a sack of potatoes being thrown in a corner. I like the reflexology concept better. Still, I agree absolutely with Jeff that it's bad when I think too hard or really think at all while following. Again though, it's something I'm constantly trying to stop doing and it's a tough habit to break because I'm the thinking type. Given this, however, I disagree entirely with the ultimate premise that strong-willed women can't be good follows. I told Jeff I'd bet almost anything that each of the top 6 ladies at Blackpool are most certainly strong-willed. You just can't get that good otherwise; it takes too much work. So while Jeff may have to grit it out for a while as his strong-willed overly intellectual and analytical partner figures out what it means for her to follow perfectly, he may in the end get a powerful, responsive, and feather-light "sports car" to drive around the floor at the end of all this. It's just that that kind of machine takes serious time, craftsmanship, and attention to detail to put together, as Jeff knows far better than I do.
Ultimately, I figured out that perhaps the biggest problem is that I tend to assume that problems in our dancing are my fault, due to something I'm not doing right, and as a result I'm always trying to figure out how I could do it better to make it work. I think this tendency is largely due to the much longer period of time I spent training on my own with my teacher and in my own private practice and preparations for pro-am competition, where everything was my fault, and I had plenty to work on myself. I'm so used to assuming that first, that I told Jeff that this often happens; I'll try to fix a problem myself before passing the blame on to him...which he said is exactly the wrong approach. He should be blamed first and if he is examined and found innocent, then, and only then, am I at fault. I think he's right that this would be be the most effective approach (thought maybe not the most reflective of reality), it's just not how I'm used to approaching the bumps in my dancing. Granted, there are times I can absolutely tell the issue is with the lead, but that has not been my first assumption when I feel off dancing a particular figure. We'll have to see how this works. It's probably going to involve me complaining a lot more out loud instead of mentally to myself. Jeff's going to love this...