How much of your following is experience Vs skill?

I had a rare compliment about my following recently which got me thinking about how much of my following is down to experience and how much is down to skill.

I was led into a move that required the follower to keep spinning and do a second turn to make the move work, the lead in question was thrilled that I continued to turn and dismayed that most followers did not keep going – because I kept turning I was deemed to be a good follower.

Now, I know that I am not a good follower, I anticipate, I am often off in my own world, I rush things, I frequently cock-up, sometimes I am just going through the motions, I don’t exactly hijack but there are times where I communicate to my lead quite strongly that I want a couple of beats to ‘express myself’ or to slow the dance down and so on. So what prompted the comment?

Followers are often told to keep going until the lead stops you but I know very few follows who can really do this out on the social dance floor. I mean *really* do it, really can carry on a movement they have been given with commitment and without hesitation until something else comes along. Think for a moment about what that actually means and how accepting and how much trust you must have in partner to make that work. This is a skill and it’s a skill I don’t have.

I know to keep turning at the end of a spin because I have been to classes where I have been taught that a double spin is a possibility therefore I need to keep going.  I know I can follow a number of moves that other local lindy followers can’t because I have learnt certain moves in workshops and now I am open to the possibility of them happening again. At some level, I know what to do through experience rather than skill.

Not too sure where I am going with this other than it makes me feel a little bit more positive about my dancing. I doubt I will ever develop awesome following skills but I can get by with experience and the more experience I get the better I will become.

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4 responses to “How much of your following is experience Vs skill?”

  1. sarahsellaphix says :

    I certainly feel this pull-and-push you describe. I have been following Lindy for 11 years, but I haven’t had opportunities to dance consistently for a long time, especially with leads at or above my level.

    So when I go to some big fun weekend with live music and lots of people I feel like a strange bird, indeed!

    So much of what I am being led in is TOTALLY NEW TO ME. There is a vocabulary out there, and the more familiar we are with the moves, the patterns, and the actual lead signals the better we’re going to be at following through.

    This vocabulary is mostly learned on the social floor for follows, but we can also pick it up in workshops too. But either way, I don’t have it. 😛

    So I feel like I’m a good follow who messes up at really strange moments when I finally get to go out and dance with experienced/skilled leads.

    Oh Lindy Hop. You such a funny thing.

  2. Sara says :

    I sometimes find it hard to work out whether I’m following well or anticipating well. I suspect great followers do a teeny bit of both.

    I mean, we come to anticipate the footwork pattern (6 or 8-count) and we come to learn that said patterns are usual, albeit with variations (sometimes leads choose to ditch the rock step, or extend 5-6-5-6-5-6 in the middle of the 8-count).

    It’s not like every. Single. Step. is lead…. Although you /can/ lead a triple or a step-step, usually they are just left to happen as the structure dictates. That’s anticipation, right?

    Eh, I’m lost. You both get me, I’m sure!

  3. sothatshowiwork says :

    I’m not sure I am with you in how you are separating skill and experience. I believe that skills are discrete behaviors or courses of action. You are talking about times that you have taken a course of action (skills) because you learned from experience that it is appropriate. Every experience can add to your skill set, if you let it. I think you’ve got it all!

  4. candacekay says :

    “I anticipate, I am often off in my own world, I rush things, I frequently cock-up, sometimes I am just going through the motions, I don’t exactly hijack but there are times where I communicate to my lead quite strongly that I want a couple of beats to ‘express myself’ or to slow the dance down and so on…”

    I think only a pretty good follow would be able to come up with a list like this! A bad follow does all the things you mention without realizing that she is doing them,or without caring. The better a person gets at dancing, or at anything, the more of her own mistakes she notices, and the more critical of herself she becomes. I don’t believe there is a follow on earth who never commits these infractions!

    As for this “not exactly hijacking” business, see my post entitled “The Disobedient Follow” at http://www.thedancingbug.com. I have some strong opinions about that one.

    People aren’t born knowing how to Lindy Hop – everyone has to learn it. Very often the people who are the best at it are also the ones who have the most experience!

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