One of the hardest things in social dancing, for leaders in particular, is knowing what you’re going to lead. As a beginner it’s probably the hardest thing to get past. I call it the improvisation block, and is something we need to get over. Even as someone coming to modern jive and leading from another type of dance where there are structured moves and you learn specific dances, it can be hard to let go and relax into the social side and non-set out dances.
Worrying whether you’re going to be able to remember enough to get through a dance.
Whether your partner will enjoy and can follow the moves you lead.
Where’s all the moves you’ve learnt, you can’t remember any of them.
We’d all love to be brilliant leaders, and it’s certainly something to aspire to. I know it’s not something I’ll achieve because while I don’t mind doing classes as a leader, I prefer following in freestyles. But as you’re learning to lead, there are techniques you can learn to help get over the fear and stay on your toes while leading.
Techniques to get over the improvisation block
Relax. Tense up and worry about it, and it’ll make it harder. So try and worry less.
Resort back to basics. It’s not a cop out. Make it intentional, have a chat, use it as time to relax and the next moves will come. Make more of a basic move with the music and they’ll be more exciting to do.
Think variation. Most of modern jive is based on a variation of a basic or improver move. So start with the basics and build up. I always find that the variations come to me, when I’m working my way through the variations. So yoyo variations, or neck break variations etc.
Practice doing moves with either a left to right hand hold or a right to right, or double handed, then mix it up.
Have a few moves that flow together well that you can fall back on. Have a few sets of 4 moves you know work well without you thinking too much, and use them when you get stuck.
Think about which types of moves you can use for different types of music. So which moves go well to latin tracks (mambo variations), smoother slower tracks (avoid lots of up arm-y moves), and which are good for faster energetic tracks.
Listen to music off the dance floor with dancer’s ears. Think about what you’d like to dance to it, and what kind of patterns would look and feel good for a dance partner.
Getting more advanced
I’ve talked quite a bit about moves, but most advanced dancers don’t think in moves. They think more about moving with the music and what suits each dance partnership. But there are a lot of people leading the same moves to every track. That’s safe but I’m amazed these leaders don’t get bored and not every move will work with every partner or to every song. I have a fairly limited leading repertoire now because I don’t lead that frequently, but keeping it varied and fresh really helps progress your dancing, and makes it more enjoyable for your partner.
There’s a few ways to remember moves. It’s a case of finding out what works for you:
- Write down all the moves you learn straight afterwards to help them stick
- Practice – find a willing partner who either follows well, or who did the class but won’t backlead you into remembering – and work on getting the moves right. Check with the teacher if you’re not sure
- Build up a repertoire by adding 1 move into your leading if you find it hard to remember all of them. Gradually it builds up over time and there’s less panic if you’re trying to remember 1 rather than 3 moves each week.
Remember, if you get stuck, just go back to basic moves. Perform them well, listen to the music and be a nice leader for your follower, and they’ll be happy enough to be getting a lovely dance rather than one where you’re frantically trying to do lots of moves you think you know but aren’t working.
How do you get over the panic of not remembering what to lead?