Chatted with Augie Freeman about dancing at Memories on Monday. Mentioned my desire to compete and he had an interesting piece of advice:
Pull on 2, not 1 if you want to do well in competitions.
My Personal History
It’s far from the first time that I’ve heard that. In fact, I remember taking classes from Jerry Jordan (who teaches beginning leads to lead follows forward on 1) and Shesha Marvin (who taught leads and follows to both rock on 1) and not being able to reconcile the correct way to do it. I asked both why and I never really understood the reasoning behind each, though Shesha wanted to emphasize a stretch away on one which caused a spring together on 2. Why? Again, I was never clear why. That’s not to say they didn’t explain, just that I never understood. I came away from those conversations with a feeling that they just liked one way over another, a personal preference. Again, I want to emphasize that this was during my time as a novice. I very well might have been asking about philosophy during a time that I needed rules. Or during a time when I didn’t have the vocabulary or experience to understand what they were trying to explain.
Years later, when talking to Jofflyn Valencia and Amber Villa, I got some philosophy from them which made sense to me. They taught beginning leads to lead towards them on 1 because that was the most simple, efficient way to do a swing-out. Valuing efficiency of movement naturally led to bringing follows in on 1. Which isn’t to say that doing things a different way is wrong. Just maybe not the most efficient way to do it. And at times you’re not dancing for efficiency, but musicality, showmanship, energy, styling, or any number of values.
Back on Topic
Pull on 2 is a rule. And I feel that to properly incorporate what I’m doing into my world-view, I have to absorb things in a way that makes sense. That is, I’ve moved beyond the novice stage of dancing rules. But I have a framework already for varying from simple ways of doing things. I vary my footwork as a result of hearing things in the music and expressing that. So if I take that as a basis and generalize that to every part of a swing-out, I should be able to vary when I lead my partner forward based on how the music is making me feel. Maybe that’s a small rhythmic thing at a certain part of a song, so I vary my lead during a single swing-out. Maybe the entire song has a stretchy or languid feel which encourages me to leave the follow out for long periods of time. Maybe the song has the opposite feel but I want to counter that for a visually jarring aesthetic. The motivations for it could be countless.
What I’ve realized, however, is that delaying the lead in is a part of my dancing skill-set that I’ve neglected. I probably shouldn’t wait until I feel moved to do a thing before I practice the skill needed to execute it cleanly. Hmmm… there’s a topic for another post…
At any rate, many thanks to Augie for pointing that out to me. 🙂