Monday, April 2, 2012

The Inner Game of Following

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Quickstep, Foxtrot
Hovers: 4?

I'm going to cheat and post about last week's practices in one post since they are running together in my head. Normally I can look at the practice plans and it all comes back to me, but Jeff vetoed various parts of the plans, or we ended up working on other things, so I still get mixed up. We practiced on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday before the practice party though.

We did some more quickstep review and really tried to solidify that routine. It's definitely more comfortable, and we're now even brave enough to take it out on the social floor and give it a run, so that's an improvement. I think because of the speed, it's the hardest one to change and mix up on the fly from a floor-crafting standpoint, so getting to the point where the pieces are interchangeable is important.

We worked on a bit of foxtrot, mostly for warm up purposes. For some reason on Thursday Jeff felt that I was rushing him and falling into my steps, which I believe was probably true. I was very tired that day and due to both muscle tiredness and lack of mental focus, I was kind of just going through the motions, rather than being truly responsive. I've been realizing that, for all my efforts to turn off my thinking and thought processes while following, it still does require a lot of mental energy and concentration, just a different kind. Muscle memory is not always reliable, as it is less open to various options since it tends to stick with known patterns, but if I can mentally focus on where the lead is and what he's doing at any given time, almost in an observatory way, I find that I follow the best. I guess you could say it's like when you're ball player and you learn to think about nothing but watching the ball, be it tennis, baseball, basketball..etc. It's the same concept. You'll naturally react better to it if you focus your energies on the ball rather than on your reaction to it. It's more when practicing on my own or strictly running routines that I really work on the quality and technique of my reactions, but when I'm following, I'd better not be thinking too much about what I'm doing or everything goes awry. Anyhow, discovering how to concentrate my mental energies while dancing as a follow was a huge breakthrough for me, though when I get tired I get lazy and the muscle memory just takes over, and I go through the motions without really following, and that's what Jeff was feeling.

We also ended up working a lot on natural turns in waltz. Jeff discovered something about his footwork that apparently wasn't quite right, according to Kora and Simeon, so we spent a bit of time working on that. Natural turns are actually very difficult, even though they are one of the most basic figures, because of the way the partners must balance each other on the rotation without pulling each other's actually much harder than it looks or sounds. Whatever Jeff changed with the footwork made it much smoother though.

Tango was the only dance we didn't really work on. I think it's gotten to the point where we feel we can't make much progress without a lesson, or as Jeff put it "professional help." I added that perhaps some tango "counseling" was in order. In any case, tango does need help.

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