從我開始學salsa以來，partnerwork的課幾乎都在教leader要做什麼、要怎麼帶。 身為一位初學者，上課心思其實都專注在趕快把pattern記起來，不然等一下跟著音樂練習的時候會被舞伴白眼。一直以來，課堂上follower都比leader多，直到某天，我發現人數比例對調了。 我就去問之前一起上課的朋友說，『誒，妳怎麼不來上課了？』
- 那intermediate/advance class都在教什麼？
我發現partnerwork的動作就是需要兩個人一起完成。 我累積到的感想是leader在學『引導對方跳的感覺』，而不是動作的樣子。 相對follower在學『被帶而做出動作的感覺』，而不是pattern進行的順序。 一個人踩基本步跟兩個人一起踩基本步是兩種練習。 當你摸到另一個人的時候，你已潛在的分享重心、肌肉狀況、情緒等。 妳學會了右轉，但是是不是因為知道『現在是我要轉的拍子』然後自己轉？還是他給了妳訊號『等一下要開始轉嘍』所以“一起轉？
以follower身份上課時，我開始替另一方的立場去思考。 我如何幫助leader完成今天教的動作，所以跳起來感覺是適合的。 從這裡我了解這也是為什麼follower的講解通常會有限，因為感覺是私人的，適合自己的不一定適合其他人。 無論你的老師們注重於leader或是follower的部分做講解，結果都ㄧ樣，我們目的相同（想一起跳的話）。 你可以試著用另一方的立場去想怎麼配合他/她。
Following真的難學也難教。身為一位leader，我上了課才慢慢了解follower的辛苦。 因為每個人都不同，所以“怎麼follow”或“怎麼學follow”並沒有正確答案。 為了摸索屬於自己的『感覺』更要出去跟越多不同的人跳越好，也是這門藝術最美好的地方。
English version below:
All work and no fun, makes following a dull role?
Since I’ve started learning salsa, lessons in partnerwork have primarily focused on the leader. And as a beginner, you concentrate on getting the pattern down; otherwise, when the music comes on, you won’t want to feel the bored stare or eye-roll from the follower. We’ve always had more followers (female) than leaders in the lessons for most of the time. Until one day, I’ve noticed the ratio has shifted. So I went to ask my friends who used to attend the same classes: “So, why don’t you guys come to the lesson anymore?”
The reply that I’ve heard most often is: “Oh, because I feel like I’m just standing there like a practice dummy, I’m not really learning anything. If they lead badly, I can get injured, so I rather not.”
Hm…Ok, I think it’s a legit statement. At that time, I’ve not been a follower before; I don’t know what they have to deal with. Also, the teachers emphasise the leader’s role more, which seems unfair for followers.
So some questions spring to mind:
- Then what do followers learn after they know the basics?
- What are intermediate/advanced classes about if followers are just practice dummies?
- So in any partnerwork, I get all the fun, and you do all the work?
This feels right….
To make up for the difference in leader/follower ratio, I’ve started to attend partnerwork as a follower. After several years, I’ve noticed followers face tons of challenges in partnerwork, both on and off the lesson. I’ve listed a few below, these topics can be discussed separately in the future:
- Politeness / Courtesy
Ultimately, I felt that to learn partnerwork is to learn a “feeling“.
You’ve heard right…this is starting to sound like total bullshit right here.
(WAIT!! Before you click dislike and unfollow)
But if you’ve spoken with other experienced dancers, they all said: “Yeah, some people it just feels nice dancing with them. It’s not like they have the best technique or anything; it’s hard to describe…just a nice feeling.” So what is this “feeling”?
I think it’s a combination of basics + connection + trust.
I realise that any movement in partnerwork requires both dancers to work together. The leaders actually learn “the feeling of leading the other person” rather than the movement of the pattern. Similarly, followers learn “the feeling of being led a movement” rather than the sequence of a pattern.
Doing the basic steps on your own is different from stepping with someone else. When you’ve made contact with other people, you share your weight, muscle conditions, mood…etc. (this happens unconsciously, even if you don’t want to). Another way to describe it is…If you have learnt the right turn, are you turning because you know “it’s now time for me to turn” and you turn on your own? Or the leader is signalling you, “we are about to turn”, and you turn “together” effectively.
If you only have a good dance with certain individuals. Then this can mean
- They are covering your mistakes for you (if you are not covering for them)
- You are very capable of executing movement by yourself under the presence of a dance partner, congrats, it’s a different and difficult skill on its own.
What can I do?
Having danced as a follower in the lesson, I’ve started to think on behalf of the leader. “How can I help them to execute the pattern that’s being taught today so that it feels right?” I now understand why explaining from a follower’s perspective is difficult. Feelings are personal, and what feels right for me might not work for you. Whether your teachers emphasise the role of the leader or the follower. The end result doesn’t change. We all still have a common goal in partnerwork: to dance with others. You can try to put yourself in their shoes. How can you work together to make this dance better?
I think there are a few points followers can think about:
- Am I in control of my movement?
- Can I detect the range of subtly in their leads?
- What is the leader trying to tell me?
- Can I borrow their energy/momentum?
- Can I execute the same movement with different leaders?
Lastly, the one I think is the most important
6. What works for me? What feels right?
Learning to follow is honestly very hard coming from a leader’s perspective. It has made me appreciate the role of follower even more. Everyone is different, so there are no ‘right ways to follow’ or ‘learn to follow’. To understand that “feeling” for yourself, I recommend dancing with as many different people as possible to expand your experience. It’s also the most attractive trait of this art form.
Practice, practice, practice
So, the question…
Are followers just practice dummies in a partnerwork class?
Are all experienced dancers just practice dummies in a partnerwork class?
You are in control 100% You can just enjoy the dance and not worry so much.
But if you want to make some changes. Why not have a chat with someone you think might help? Personally, I feel the best way is to keep practicing and attend parties and classes~~~