On The Importance Of Dancing With Beginners

On doing some dance reading around the 'net, I came across this brief article randomly and really loved it. It is about ballroom dancing/partner dancing, but was so absolutely true for Tribal Group Improv/ATS I bookmarked it for later reference. Thought I would share it with you here!

"On The Importance Of Dancing With Beginners
While there is no question that dancing with a better partner will make you *look* good, and that with such a partner you can concentrate more on styling details and so on because the lead and follow doesn't need so much attention, it is not the best way to practice lead/follow skills. If learning leaders only dance with accomplished followers and vice-versa, they won't develop great leading/following skills, because they won't *need* to. Now let's suppose that YOU are a great leader or follower. What happens if you dance only with other great dancers? Your lead and follow skills will gradually *deteriorate* -- because you're not working them very hard. After some months without exposure to beginners, you may be surprised to find that you can't dance with them very well, even though they seem to do okay with other beginners.

More after the jump...

You learn how to dance better by dancing with more experienced partners. But you learn how to lead/follow better by dancing with less experienced partners. Your skills are put much more to the test dancing with a beginner than with an experienced dancer. It is easy to lead/follow a great dancer. All your weaknesses as a leader/follower show up with beginners. Dance with them and ask yourself why each incorrectly led/followed figure didn't work and when you figure it out, work on incorporating the fixes into all your dancing!

You cannot become a good dancer by dancing _only_ with the same person. Dancing only with each other, you will become good at dancing with each other with all the mistakes and bad habits that become "correct" for you.

There is a certain type of character (leader) that one encounters again and again if one has been dancing for any length of time: the guy who only wants to dance with the best followers because he believes they are the only partners who can match his high skill level. Often what is REALLY going on is that only the best followers can compensate for his mistakes or idiosyncrasies. They make him look good. But the guy continues to think he's the tops because he insulates himself from feedback. *Dancing with poor to average followers is a good reality check.* If none but the best can follow your leads, I respectfully suggest your leads could use some work.Also, that kind of thinking ultimately harms their dancing. I've seen guys overestimate their ability and abandon the study of technique FAR too soon. Consequently it will take them a lot longer to reach the next level of skill.

(This file is part of the lead/follow FAQ list. These are articles compiled from the newsgroup rec.arts.dance by Mark Balzer.)

(You may link to this page and make copies for private use in any form, but reproduction in any means, including book or CDROM, is not allowed without permission from the copyright holders.)


  1. Great post! We've had a newer dancer practicing with us lately, and I can see how I have to really concentrate on properly cueing and leading now or else we won't develop a good dance rapport.

  2. Glad you like it Amy. This is why in class sometimes I am yelling out "Grab a partner...one you have never danced with or dont' dance with often!" It has the double duty of getting the class more connected (no cliques allowed!) as well as improving everyone's lead/follow skills.



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