I came upon this video excerpt of a Bruce Lee interview (“Be Water”) back in September of 2008, and it’s stuck with me:
What it means to me has changed over time. When I first saw it, I felt like I wanted all follows to dance “like water.” If the lead creates something powerful, be powerful. If the lead creates something calm, be calm. “Empty your mind” of preconceptions. Just follow.
I think that there’s value to that attitude, but when dancing with advanced or just assertive follows, it’s not the reality of every partnership. Sometimes a musical phrasing, emphasis, or hit will inspire the follow to do something that the lead isn’t thinking. And that should be OK in a partnership.
So some notes for the dancers at the early stages of the Dreyfus model:
Carry no expectations into the dance. Do the moves that are led. Don’t worry about styling. Worry about basics.
Be clear about the shapes, forms, and expectations you’re placing on the follow.
Advanced Beginner Follows
Let the lead set the tone, energy, and character of the dance. If he’s a bottle, be a bottle. If he’s a teapot, be a teapot.
Advanced Beginner Leads
Try to let go of some of your preconceptions of the moves you’re going to do. Experiment with emptying your mind before each dance, and leading each move as an extension of the move before it. It’s difficult at first, I know! You don’t need to do this with every dance.
Does this clip stir any ideas in you or your dancing?