Ever since joining the ballroom village, I’ve noticed that the majority of ballroom dance blogs are done by women. In many ways, I’ve found that our struggles are similar and I read people going through a lot of the same issues that I do. But there are going to be experiences and problems that are unique to a particular gender given the different parts we play in a dance so I’m going to potentially wade into a giant mess and talk about some of the things that come up during group class. Yes, a lot of these are specific to a specific lady who is a very nice person but just doesn’t seem to get certain concepts. And, ladies, before you get too upset with me, I’ve freely admitted that I believe all men are better leaders in their head then they are in reality. So don’t take this to mean that I think I’m perfect. It is just intended to give you a glimpse at how the other half views things. I’m sure you have plenty of your own horror stories.
First, it’s a dance, not a wrestling match. I put you in frame for a reason. Stay there! When a move calls for us to get out of frame, I’ll let you know. When we need to change alignments, I’ll let you know. I don’t need you twisting and turning and shifting in my arms all the time. If my frame is weak, let me know. But if I’m keeping a strong frame and keeping my elbow up, that is to create a space for you. Get there and stay there!
Second, I know it is a group class and you know your part but we aren’t in a race and you don’t get bonus points for finishing before me. In fact, you aren’t supposed to finish ahead of me. That’s that whole point. If I was seriously off time and way behind the music, you might have an argument but we are in group class with an instructor shouting out “slow, quick, quick, etc.” If you can’t follow me, then at least follow that. This also goes to lead/follow. We both know you have a underarm turn at this point in the dance but can you please wait until I raise my arm before you start your turn. There are reasons for this. Lead/follow is all about action/reaction and I initiate the action which leads to your reaction. Sometimes, the lady does lead the action but the majority of the time, you should be waiting for my cue before doing anything. There is nothing worse than having someone rushing through the slow to jump right into the turn before I’ve got a chance to get my arm up. This goes for a whole variety of steps but the underarm turn is just the most obvious. If I don’t lead effectively and you don’t feel it and do something different, then that is on me. But if you don’t give me a chance, that is on you. And how can you ever expect a guy to get better at leading when you don’t give him the opportunity.
I’ve said in the past that group classes do have that weakness because they don’t focus on lead/follow and it is easy for both people to just focus on their parts but two individual people walking through steps is not dancing. The advantage of a group class is that it gives you the opportunity to work with different people and we all dance differently. In a good group class, we do enough rotation that you ought to be able to find the most advanced leader and then just let them do their thing. You have to get used to feeling for the cues and reacting to them and not just going because you know that this part comes after this part. Yes, we men can often be deficient at leading but this is a group effort and if you are always anticipating, then it is easy for us to get a little lazy and/or assume we are better than we are and then we stop focusing on trying to improve our leading. My instructor does that to me from time to time and it is always a bit humbling when she just stops and tells me I didn’t lead a particular step right but it forces me to pay attention to what I’m trying to do.
To be honest, and this may just be me, but I prefer dancing with relative newcomers over people who have developed bad habits. I actually kind of enjoy the group classes where you get people who really don’t understand the steps and so they are a little confused about what they are trying to do because it almost forces them to not think and just react. (Irony note, I know I over think a lot of things, but I’m not talking about me right now, OK) In the end, that works out much better than the lady who is so focused on doing her part that she is fighting me all through the dance.
Bottom line is dance is a team sport and you can’t do your part and my part so helping me try to do my part isn’t really helping.
Random, sort of related note. We were also working on the Viennese Waltz routine last night and there were two steps that have always felt uncomfortable to me. Somehow, last night, she convinced me that I was working too hard. In one, I don’t need to provide the rotation because she does that so I just need to focus on passing her from one hand to the other. In the other part, I was trying to get her back into frame too quickly and she told me to just keep the frame ready and move and she’d naturally get back into frame and that worked as well. So we took two steps and made them much more comfortable. Again, this goes both ways and I was trying to do too much so less was better but it also comes back to me doing my part and letting her do hers.