FOLLOWER Tips

“I wrote these notes about 7 years ago and I recently went through and updated them.” – Bruce Gombrelli

Yes, it’s true; I’m a lead but I also follow, studied following and have made finals as a follow in dance competitions. These are just IDEAS and tips for follows. No holy grail and one persons opinion. However, many of these Ideas I’ve gotten at private lessons with dance professional, from their DVD’s or from their lessons at dance conventions. (And tested on the dance floor!)

Try to keep your connected arm quiet

A busy arm is just noise. Don’t move your arms up and down or side to side. Some of this comes from not so perfect ECS training. Quiet is a good thing. Keep arms roughly parallel (mostly) to the floor and don’t get the squirrel effect (like when a squirrel gets up on it’s back legs when it sees a peanut). You also don’t need all the big prep, so don’t induce it into the dance when it shouldn’t exist.

Be a good listener

This takes your dance to another level. Conversations are a key to a really fun connected dance. This applies to both follows AND leads. If you “yell” at each other and don’t listen then half of the fun of the dance is missing. Try to “Add” to each others dance experience, or “answer back”.

Do wait to come forward when you get lead

Please, don’t come forward until your led! This can be a problematic result of group lessons. If I stand there and you automatically start moving on 1, maybe the lead didn’t initiate a lead! You’re not following if that happens, your dancing your own dance. So it means, 1) lack of connection 2) Rushing the 1 and not having your own good timing.

Frame or tone!

Truly important. See Spaghetti arms but its much more. You have to have a good frame to be able to be properly led or to listen to your lead and respond properly. In essence it’s about your shoulder being connected to your body, your upper lats engaged (and lots more) and not having locked elbows. Don’t collapse your arm or turn to noodles or let your arms fly out to the side when you center should be responding (or the opposite of this is arms of steel). Stand up straight but relaxed, don’t grip, engage and connect with your center instead.

Arms of Spagetti

This is not an Italian dish. That’s like when the arms are like a wet noodle. As mentioned above it doesn’t mean you want arms of stiffness either (the other extreme). In essence (see frame/tone) you want your shoulder to feel connected and dropped down a bit, move with your center and down “pull back” on your lead with your arm either. Your elbows should be relaxed but firm. Your elbows free to move but not fly out. If you feel compression (via a lead who does something like stop his arm so that you feel compression) you are should not collapse but that stop of motion should be transmitted to your center either causing you to turn, or stop but not collapse.

Not all leads can lead all follows

Lets face it, people have their own style, they come in all shapes and sizes, and they like their own style of music. Not all situations match all dancer combinations at all moments. No matter how good you get, you may not always get the perfect dance you want. To add to that, sometimes dancers have conflicting styles or are having an off night.  Smile and Move on. Don’t let it mess up your fun.

Level changes should be deliberate

If you randomly bounce you’ll probably get a lead that eventually says” You’re a East Coast Swing Dancer aren’t you?” and he won’t enjoy dancing with you as much unless that’s his main dance too. Note that bouncing is different than intentional vertical movement. Keep the upper body quieter and don’t wiggle either.Excessive hip turning (often a salsa result) totally interferes with the conversation between you and the lead.

Good anchors are important

Rock steps are not the stable of West Coast Swing! Rock and Go’s are used in the middle of patterns however. Occasionally I run into follows that may have practiced lots of pattern based group lessons or East Coast but constantly miss anchoring. An anchor isn’t just a triple, it’s sinking back into the connect and not rushing the slot.

Practice spinning, again and again

Stay over your weighted foot and triple step if it helps. Most good turners use a spot. Spinning (turning) is really important and FUN! Yet is can be a major challenge. You need to spot your partner (or a place on the wall) when you spin and keep your feet under you at all times. Practice and time will help cure most dizzy problems. Some new follows I can only handle single spins (at best) and they go off balance. That’s usually in part because your not spinning over your center and are inexperienced. Yes, leads can push you off your center, but then relax even more. Keep your feet under you, stay in control, do triples or doubles under your center, and learn to come out of it under control and it necessary, stop moving after a spin and freeze position. Try to feel where the end would come and develop a strong comfortable exit.

The Zen Of Backleading

You are in essence moving without being led and making your own dance without regard to the leader. This is NOT the same as extending patterns (ok), improvising (ok), communicating back and forth with your center (ok), improving (ok). Remember, the fundamental of west coast is it’s a LEAD/FOLLOW dance. The lead initiates..then you have tons of fun!!! And at the highest level, it should be about communication and conversation, and the lead can react to a followers styling, I love that.

Single Line Tracking

Hard to explain (for me anyway) in a short sentence but in essence your feet need to walk a line in the center but be slightly pointed out. Talk to an established follow and learn this RIGHT AWAY. It’s really important!!!

Dance Floor Corrections

Not while dancing please..Do not correct your lead on the dance floor unless you have an established relationship and you know each other well. Do not correct people you don’t know, just smile and thank them for the dance. If they ASK you for advice then give it carefully, but otherwise, smile and look pretty :-) (same applies to leads except the pretty part)
YEA, there’s a ton of things I didn’t talk about!!

Summary

You’ll hear fantastic ideas from lots of sources. Sometime the same idea presented in a different way makes sense. Always be open to ways to improve your dance and thanks for stopping by. Reading this means you are interested in outside ideas and care about you dance! Wahoo!! You totally ROCK!!!