It's Fun Playing "Follow The Leader"
By Rochelle Lockridge
"Cuban Motion Cuties", "Cuban Motion Curve Curses", "Ballroom in the Boardroom", or how about "50 Shapes of Spanx". These are just a few of the fun column titles that have been tossed around in the past few months for Middle-Aged Moves. I'm still intrigued with the latest suggestion, "How a mammogram is similar to ballroom dance". Yes, Virginia. How exactly is a mammogram similar to ballroom dance?
For this month's column I had every intention of sharing my experiences of the recent showcase at Dancers Studio with titles like "Sans Competition at Carnivale" or "Team Troy Competes". "Team Troy At Carnivale: A Night To Remember" won out, but you won't find that title anywhere in this issue of Sheer Dance. Why? Because I posted it on YouTube. Nine ladies, count 'em, nine ladies were in full ballroom bloom on March 18th under the caring and attentive eye of our dance instructor, Troy Lerum. The video (photos courtesy of Ed Santos) captures the joy and connection of the evening far better than any words I could lay down in this column. I invite you to experience "Team Troy" for yourself at http://youtu.be/cBYsHfNAGJ0 or by searching for "Team Troy Carnivale" on YouTube.
Now what do I do? I hadn't anticipated creating a video. It just sort of happened, as things often do in my life. What am I going to write about this month? As luck would have it, just a few days before the submission deadline I left my private lesson with a giggle of delight. All that physical exercise and feeling of connection while dancing can make even my worst days at work fade into the background. ("Cha Cha, take me away!") As I pulled out of the Dancers Studio parking lot a new column was simply screaming to be written. "Heigh-ho. Heigh-ho. It's home from Tango I go." Hmmm... good start on a title... creative... thematically appropriate... Nah, have to pass... too long. Give it another go.
A few weeks back I got ahold of the DVIDA dance syllabus with the intention of learning the figures for the American Smooth and Rhythm dances Full Bronze level. I've been working on the Tango this month and on this particular day I was being taught the double corte, reverse turn and reverse turn with swivels (Or are they called fans? I'm still confused on that one.) I hate hearing "You need to let me lead."-even if it is said calmly and nicely. And I was hearing it way too much for my taste. (Actually, even once is more than I care for.) Inside I'm shouting, "Aaaaahh!!! I'm trying, I'm trying!" On the outside a slightly frustrated, "How do I tell them apart?", "How do I know what you are leading me to do?" pops out.
"Oh...when my foot crosses behind it's supposed to do that? I thought I was fudging it to keep my balance. And when you stop and bring your feet together?... I stop and wait for what is next?... And when I feel you moving to outside partner?... We are ready for the swivel or fan or whatever that's called?"
Huh? You might be asking yourself, "How exactly does being frustrated and confused lead to a giggle of delight?" It was the result of the challenge presented to me when my teacher started using more subtle leads (or none at all) to see if I was really able to follow rather than anticipate and go off all on my own. I loved the challenge! If he stopped mid-move, was I strong enough to hang out in limbo and hold my position until I felt and understood the next lead? Could I be attentive enough to our connection and the nuances of his body position to know what to do next? The game was on.
Early on in our lessons this light-hearted "teacher-against-me" scenario would most likely have left me more confused and frustrated. But I sense after 17+ years of teaching ballroom dance, Troy has developed a good intuitive feel for when it's okay and how much he can challenge a student at any given time. Now that a foundation of trust has been built and I have more skill, confidence and physical strength, this was just out-and-out fun. For both of us!
The variety dance floor is another venue where you'll find me fondly facing The Following Challenge. It's taken me awhile, but I get it now that social dancing doesn't require the same level of technique and detail that I'm being taught in my private lessons. I don't always need to take bigger steps or tilt my head just right when I'm out-in-the-wild. It's much more fun when I relax and focus on simply following whatever the lead is leading. (Sometimes I do need to politely ask for their help when I'm really not getting it.) Instead of being frustrated that I'm unable to hold a "proper" frame, I creatively adjust my posture and arms to accommodate a lead who is much taller, shorter, or less experienced than me. And if they only know the basic steps? No problem. Those of you who've been reading my columns know how much I enjoy practicing. So, I remain attentive to their leads and work on basic techniques, over and over and over again, all with a genuine smile on my face.
I love it when I'm met with a fun challenge like paying extra careful attention to a lead in order to figure out where they are at and what I am being invited to do next. When I'm on the dance floor I want to make a connection with each and every partner. It doesn't matter if it's a teacher or a first-timer who was dragged to Dance Lite by his girlfriend. As long as they are respectful, it's fun playing "Follow the Leader".