Although I have been dancing West Coast Swing for about 10 years, I have only had enough lessons in it to make me a pretty competant dancer, as opposed to a seriously advanced one. I have the right basic style, a good connection, and I follow *most* of what I'm led into. Sometimes I miss, mostly when the music is fast and the guy is throwing a lot at me and I can't process it fast enough...I don't have that automatic ability to follow every crazy thing like some followers do. Anyway, the point is, I have fun, most of my partners seem to as well, and I have a good time when I go out swing dancing.
Last night at Swingtime Tuesday at The Station in Roseville, I had a really good night. I didn't dance a ton, but the dances I got were really good. I was also socializing and helping a student who just had his first WCS lesson, so overall it was a good night. Afterward, I got to thinking and had a conversation with Greg that I thought I would summarize here. In some ways, this also applies to Ballroom and Tango, but I think it's especially evident in WCS.
There's an old saying about WCS that goes something like, "Beginning dancers do the basics. Intermediate dancers do a lot of moves. Advanced dancers do the basics." While I have observed that to be largely true, I've also observed that there's a degree of personal style in that. I have danced with some advanced dancers who seem ot have kind of an "agenda" when they get on the floor--they're really good, and they have some great moves, and they want to show them off. When I dance with them, I generally walk away at the end feeling like an idiot, because I didin't "get" half of it.
Then there's the other kind of advanced dancer. This is the kind that knows how to dress up basics so well that they make you want a cigarette afterward (especially if it's a slow song). They have a style that's easy to adapt to and match, and they dance so *with* the follower that you feel like you're the only girl on the floor. When I dance with a leader like this, I feel like a good dancer. Because they keep it simple, I follow everything, and I'm not stressed, and I have time to interpret the music and really dance *with* them instead of fight for my life. Not that they don't throw in a fancy move or two, but those are spaced out between basics so you get a chance to breathe and process in between. Because I'm followoing well, they give me approving smiles and they seem to enjoy it, too, even though they aren't showing off their whole repertoire.
There are some leaders who never ask me to dance, and I imagine it's because I can't keep up with them. That's fine...they're entitled to dance or not dance with whomever they wish. I'm just saying, there are other dancers just as good who seem to really enjoy dancing with me.
Partner dancing is supposed to be about the partnership. The best leaders make their partner feel at ease, no matter what her level, and don't make her feel like an idiot by dancing over her head or becoming annoyed when she misses a lead. In Tango, they say the best leaders will never let the follower know she missed a lead--he adapts and incorporates whatever she did into the dance so it seems natural. I think that can be done to some extent in Ballroom and Swing, although it's more difficult there because those dances have more structure. He can certainly minimize the mistake in many cases.
Of course, if she belligerantly goes on about her own thing and doesn't follow anything because she's following her own agenda, that's a different story...I'm talking about a follower who's trying her best to really follow.
The thing is, is it really the end of the world if the follower missed a lead? Isn't social dancing about having a good time together? Laugh, smile, make it work. Dance *with* your follower instead of *at* her, and maybe you'll be surprised at the results.