A few weeks ago I skipped the Study Days right before Exams to go to the NE Girl Jam up in Rochester. I had an utterly lovely time not only dancing, but completely ignoring my impending finals. It was great. I learned a lot, not only in the Class of Five Million Swivels (the girls were doing them in lines across the floor while the guys made jokes about zombie swivels), but in all the classes. I came away with lots and lots of ways to dress up my Lindy basic, some killer Solo Jazz moves, and a few good reminders about basic Lindy frame technique (information which, ironically, I first learned in a Westie workshop). Since I came home, however, opportunities to put my new skills into practice haven’t been as abundant as I would wish. It’s been a little sad. Here I am wanting to glitter, to shine, to show off all the cool new things I know, and my leads haven’t really been giving me the chance.
Then last night I danced with Pierce. He’s not a hugely imaginative lead, although he has nice connection and is learning how to hit the breaks. Also, he lets me have room to play, which I appreciate. He’s still learning, so he doesn’t have a lot of moves he can lead comfortably. This means we ended up doing a lot of Lindy basics. I loved this. I got to go through pretty much every variation I learned at Girl Jam – the six different kinds of swivels including the backwards swivel, the kicky 6-8 variation, the ronde’s, plus my favorite slides. It was wonderful, particularly since it was a bouncy, bluesy song just made for swivels. I even hit a thing in the music dead on with this leg variation on the 7-8. I was in heaven. Pierce liked it too, making appreciative noises, and giving me a big hug when we were done.
As I was leaving the floor, Trevor came up, one of the young college kids I’ve been nurturing along. “Wow, Bernadette!” he said, “You were tearin’ it up!” I laughed, and accepted the compliment. Then he asked me to dance. I had hoped that I would be able to throw in some of my fun stuff since he had particularly liked it, but this time it didn’t really happen. Part of it was that he doesn’t know how to give me the connection I need to make a lot of those moves work, but the other part was that he hardly led a single Lindy basic the entire dance. He was leading turn after turn, the same four or five turns that make up his basic repertoire. Plus, like a lot of newer leads, he sometimes didn’t let me stay out for the whole eight count of the move. I think they get nervous when the girl’s out there away from them, and pull her in early, making the 1 on 7 or 8, or even 6. So in order to be ready to do whatever he was going to lead, I had to let most of my stuff go.
Later Trevor and I were talking about his dancing. He has plans to work hard on it this summer in order to wow the rest of the swing club when everyone comes back in August. He said that he’s especially frustrated because he doesn’t know very many moves. He feels like it must be boring to dance with him because he doesn’t know very much. We discussed a few ways he could learn more moves and combinations (taking the Wednesday night lessons, coming to Practice Session on Sunday, seeing something cool on the dance floor and asking the lead who did it to explain it on the sidelines), and then moved on to other topics.
Later I was thinking about what he said. His complaint is very common with a lot of beginning guys. They get bored with the same four or five turns, and want to learn more moves. They want to expand their dance vocabulary, and sometimes develop insecurity complexes about girls getting bored dancing with them. Part of the answer really is to learn more moves, but part of it is also getting over themselves. Yes, only knowing a few moves can be boring, but only if the dance is really all about the lead. The dance in general is very lead-centered, but I think guys get fixated on the idea that they’re the only one who can make the dance fun. They’re the ones who have to lead cool stuff, they’re the ones who have to listen to the music, they’re the one who has to show off what an awesome dancer they are. They forget that there’s someone else out there on the dance floor with them, someone who is equally capable of listening to the music, someone who could maybe take those three or four moves and turn them into something spectacular… if they get the chance. When the lead thinks the dance is all about him, he’s not dancing with his partner, he’s just showing off. (What makes it worse is when he’s not even showing off for the person he’s dancing with, but for someone else on the sidelines, or for the imaginary audience in his head.) And that’s when it’s boring.