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Author Topic: "My leads suck. Please help me improve them."  (Read 1543 times)
cornutt
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« on: September 15, 2009, 08:30:38 PM »

That's what I told our visiting coach, Steve Doherty, last night.   Shocked  I'm tired of pushing my partner around; I'm tired of having to put a ton of effort into effecting turns, and my partners are tired of me.   Shocked  So we spent the next 45 minutes re-doing most of my leading technique.  A lot of this is going to be "duh" material to you advanced guys, so please bear with me. 

Point #1: You must be aware of where your partner's balance is.  I realized last night that, unless she's about to fall, I really don't know.  For instance, I was trying to initiate a face-to-face, back-to-back.  It starts with a twinkle, and then I lead her across me while I twist.  As soon as she has crossed my line, I need to lead her to turn to her left and face wall, so that we can get into the face-to-face position.  Well, guess what: if I wait until the third beat, she can't do that turn because she's on the wrong foot!  [head-smacky]  Similarly, if I lead an apart turn from the face-to-face, I need to wait until she is collected; otherwise, I'm pulling her forwards off of her balance. 

Point #2: Two people in closed frame cannot rotate about a single axis.  That means that, for example, in an open left, before I can turn I have to lead her to step off of my line.  And in the second half, I have to get out of her line.  The person who is rotating isn't moving, and so they must be off the line.  I know that -- in Viennese.   Roll Eyes  Why wasn't it obvious elsewhere?  Not only was I not leading her off my line, but I was actually preventing her from getting out of the way. 

Point #3: You can't maintain a consistent connection if you don't keep your arms in a frame position.  This applies particularly when transitioning to or from an apart position.  I've been dropping my arms in free spins, I guess because I thought I had to bring my elbows in.  Steve showed me how to keep the shoulder/upper arm/elbow in frame position while folding the forearm and hand in, so you don't smack your partner.  Then you aren't fishing to reconnect at the end of it.

Point #4: Maintaining the proper body angles in promenade position.  I have a tendency to rotate my body left when I'm about to lead a fallaway, and then it makes me pull my left arm down.  And again, the follow's dynamic balance matters.  If she isn't positioned on her left foot, she isn't ready to take a fallaway step. 

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MusicChica
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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2009, 08:53:59 PM »

Since I am by no means a Smooth dancer, I can't comment on most of that, but I will say that, in relation to Point #4, in promenade it's very important to remember to not rotate your body away from your partner.  It's really only the shoulders that "turn out"--the lower body and hips all stay pointed towards your partner throughout the whole step.
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cornutt
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« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2009, 09:03:44 PM »

Well, er, MC took smooth from David Hamilton, and I daresay he knows what he's talking about.   Wink  I have heard different explanations of that, though. 

My problem only happens when I do fallaway.  Moving forward in promenade isn't an issue.  I haven't figured that out yet; when I try to place the foot behind, I have some kind of balance issue that causes my upper body to rotate. 
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Some guy
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« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2009, 09:17:19 PM »

I really enjoy it when people have "duh!" moments, 'cause from my experience, that's the only definite sign that we're improving!  The significance of a "duh!" moment is that you really understand what you have learned, and hence, the chances of you making that mistake again are slim to none!  Well done Cornutt!
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Ginger
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I see what you did there.


« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2009, 02:26:00 AM »

I agree with MC, actually, and I also speak from personal experience as someone who has to dance the lead more often than I ever thought I would- Promenade is, rudimentarily speaking, "two people going the same direction"- we visited that tonight for our college class. All the hillbillies who dance country (translation: shuffling with no technique, locally speaking) want to fan their upper bodies out like swinging doors, and we're very carefully trying to fix this.

I don't know that "only shoulders turn out" is the right wording, but I can't find a better way to describe it. I tell people you're carrying a long piece of 2 x 4 through a narrow doorway- you can't swing your body around otherwise you'll broadside it and get hung up. You have to angle the 2 x 4 headlong like a battering ram, and slip along beside it. It of course makes more sense when I'm actually demonstrating it. <this paragraph subject to ridicule and questioning of Ginger's aptitude as am. wannabe instructrix, of course>

When the lead looks to promenade, his shoulders 'open up' very slightly to accommodate the "back half"- the right side of the gentleman's frame so it doesn't go chicken-wing and get compromised.

Lord Dave Almighty and his disciples speak forsooth. It is so.
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Ginger
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I see what you did there.


« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2009, 02:38:12 AM »

Other thoughts I spew frequently:

You can have contact without connection, and vice versa. The latter is the most important to understand.

It's better to be a good bronze dancer than a crap gold dancer.

It's not how much you know, it's if you can impart it to someone else.

Now, let's try to keep this from evolving into a DF-style whip-out-and-measure, eh?
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elisedance
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« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2009, 03:59:22 AM »

Thanks for the comments Ginger.  And thanks also for keeping the peace - I'm sure MK just wrote her post in a hurry... its very easy to overstate....
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Medira
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« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2009, 09:43:25 AM »

Cornutt, I'm so glad you had a chance to work with Steve.  I have much, much love for that man.

I completely understand your *facepalm* moment when it comes to the rotations.  It's basic physics, after all.

My problem only happens when I do fallaway.  Moving forward in promenade isn't an issue.  I haven't figured that out yet; when I try to place the foot behind, I have some kind of balance issue that causes my upper body to rotate. 
Two things to be aware of when doing a fallaway that will impact your balance: the size of your step and the placement of the foot when you cross behind.  If your step is too large, it messes with your stability, just like it does if you're standing still, feet spread and your stance is wider than shoulder width apart.  When your feet are crossing though, it's a smaller window before that stability isn't where you're expecting it to be.  When it comes to foot placement, are you trying to tuck your foot in behind your standing leg?  Are you stepping too far away?  Again, either one messes with your stability.

Have you tried doing a fallaway without somebody else attached?  It's usually a good way to focus on what exactly it is that you're doing so that you can be more aware of it when you do have somebody else connected. Wink
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People can be divided into three classes: the few who make things happen, the many who watch things happen and the overwhelming majority who have no idea what has happened - Warren Miller's "Off The Grid"
cornutt
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« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2009, 09:59:50 AM »

Cornutt, I'm so glad you had a chance to work with Steve.  I have much, much love for that man.

Isn't he great?  Of course Eulia is great too, but for this coaching, to address the issues I wanted to address, I needed a lead's perspective.

Quote
Two things to be aware of when doing a fallaway that will impact your balance: the size of your step and the placement of the foot when you cross behind.  If your step is too large, it messes with your stability, just like it does if you're standing still, feet spread and your stance is wider than shoulder width apart.  When your feet are crossing though, it's a smaller window before that stability isn't where you're expecting it to be.  When it comes to foot placement, are you trying to tuck your foot in behind your standing leg?  Are you stepping too far away?  Again, either one messes with your stability.

Steve did point out the thing about the size of the step, and I corrected that, but it didn't help with this particular problem.  As you say, there's something I'm not getting about the stability window; when I try to transfer weight to the back foot, I wind up leaning on my partner if I don't rotate my body away. 

Quote
Have you tried doing a fallaway without somebody else attached?  It's usually a good way to focus on what exactly it is that you're doing so that you can be more aware of it when you do have somebody else connected. Wink

I have, and it doesn't feel the same.  It's occurring to me as I type this that the probelm might actually be another case of communicating with my partner -- perhaps she's not feeling the fallaway lead as I intend it, and the combination of movements is causing the problem.
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Some guy
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« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2009, 10:16:58 AM »

Cornutt, I don't know if this will help for American, but in International, I know that it's impossible for women to "follow" "feet".  She can only follow your body.  So what your feet do is completely incidental to what your body does.  Try doing the step thinking only of your body.  Your feet will catch you and prevent you from falling.  Like Medira pointed out, try to do it only using your body, but by yourself.  Once you are able to let go of foot placement and dance it with your body the lady should be able to follow your body quite easily.  At least, that's how I understand it for International using the Body School of Thought.   
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Medira
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« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2009, 10:24:52 AM »

Cornutt, I'm so glad you had a chance to work with Steve.  I have much, much love for that man.
Isn't he great?  Of course Eulia is great too, but for this coaching, to address the issues I wanted to address, I needed a lead's perspective.
He is wonderful, and we both agree that we want to be Eulia when we grow up. Wink  I was fortunate enough to take lessons at John (dePalma) and Steve's studio in Connecticut when I was there last year, so I got to know them all very well.

Quote
Two things to be aware of when doing a fallaway that will impact your balance: the size of your step and the placement of the foot when you cross behind.  If your step is too large, it messes with your stability, just like it does if you're standing still, feet spread and your stance is wider than shoulder width apart.  When your feet are crossing though, it's a smaller window before that stability isn't where you're expecting it to be.  When it comes to foot placement, are you trying to tuck your foot in behind your standing leg?  Are you stepping too far away?  Again, either one messes with your stability.
Steve did point out the thing about the size of the step, and I corrected that, but it didn't help with this particular problem.  As you say, there's something I'm not getting about the stability window; when I try to transfer weight to the back foot, I wind up leaning on my partner if I don't rotate my body away. 
Where are you placing the foot when you take the step?  Also, are you able to keep your knees and ankles relaxed and flexible as you're taking the step?  If you're locked out in any of those joints, it could contribute to the balance hiccup.

Quote
Have you tried doing a fallaway without somebody else attached?  It's usually a good way to focus on what exactly it is that you're doing so that you can be more aware of it when you do have somebody else connected. Wink
I have, and it doesn't feel the same.  It's occurring to me as I type this that the probelm might actually be another case of communicating with my partner -- perhaps she's not feeling the fallaway lead as I intend it, and the combination of movements is causing the problem.
That's certainly possible, since the fallaway movement isn't used nearly as often as the others when dancing.  Definitely something to consider. Smiley
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People can be divided into three classes: the few who make things happen, the many who watch things happen and the overwhelming majority who have no idea what has happened - Warren Miller's "Off The Grid"
Ginger
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I see what you did there.


« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2009, 01:45:52 PM »

Well, it came across a little smug and condescending. It was very much like someone telling you "You're a dancer? Heh, don't quit your day job", or, in the immortal words of Johnny Castle "You just put ya pickle on everybody's plate, Cahllege Boy, an' leave the hahd stuff t' us."

It's okay, even champions can totally misphrase something- after all, they're dancers, not PR reps (although the argument for chain studios *could* be made...), but all it would take is a simple apology of "I'm sorry- I didn't mean it the way it came out", if indeed the intent was sincerely benign. It would be an act of kindness and professionalism, and a good mark for a good mod in diplomacy, not to mention simple common courtesy- if MK bumped into MC on the dance floor during a social dance, it would be the same thing- "Oops- sorry!"-continue enjoying the dance, instead of "Um, excuse me, THIS isn't a cha-cha... ONE two three, ONE two three..."

Alternative wordings could have been "Well, that's not the way I see it, but here's how I *would* describe it", or "I disagree" or somesuch.

It doesn't matter if One's a Champion and one dances rhythm (PS, there *are* a few who dance "all of 'em" pretty well- they're called 10-dancers, 9-dancers, and Lord Ben), the question was put out for *everyone* to answer with their perspectives.  Honestly, titles are neither here nor there when communicating what you know to someone else.

Hey- we could blame DAVE for not specifying whose input he wanted! GO GIT 'IM! RAAAAAAR!!! Better yet, just ban the whole lot of us without warning or reasoning just to get the puke off the gym floor!

PS-  I really enjoy the "three more posts have been posted since you started typing"- that's really helpful in not repeating myself!
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Some guy
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« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2009, 01:49:45 PM »

Trying hard to stay away from this, but I think I'll insert my two cents.  I think it's okay to give out advice in this forum without being exactly sure because that's part of the learning process.  Most people I know learn by being corrected, and it's hard to be corrected unless you voice what you know, however wrong it may be.  So I think people should be encouraged to voice their knowledge so that they can share that wisdom and on occasion stand corrected.  I realize that bad information is bad information, but I don't think people should be discouraged to voice their input unless they're 100% sure that they only have good information.  If that were the case, then I can only think of one or two people on this forum who should be voicing any knowledge and the rest of us should keep quiet.  I can't think of many people on this forum that I'm aware of with the world titles and recognition by the highest subject matter authorities to back up their claims.  

I understand where you're coming from MK.  My point is, there's a better way to correct fellow posters. Being in a hurry is perfectly understandable, but it should not be adequate excuse to discourage the sharing of knowledge.  

I for one am curious to hear MusicaChica's explanation of what she meant.  If she's clearly wrong, then we should be able to have a productive discussion of it.   Maybe there's a deeper stronger relationship between MK and MC that I'm not aware of, but, "honey, stick to the latin/rhythm" to me is a very counter productive response that folks here are excusing on MK's behalf.  Sorry MK, I'm not targetting you.  I'm just trying to make sure people don't stop sharing their knowledge.  
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cornutt
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« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2009, 02:25:49 PM »

Ok, that's enough.  I'm locking the thread.  Some people are going to get PMs from me later, and it's possible that they will not be very nice.
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