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The Subtleties of Lead/Follow

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“The follow you just received was a direct result of the lead you just gave.” – Author Unknown

“Dancing is all about wordless communication – a light pull on a shoulder, a step forward and a shift of weight, a shared understanding of the music and how it moves bodies.” – Jasper Winn

The concepts of leading and following are what fascinate me most about partner dancing. It is amazing to me that one person’s body movement can affect the other’s response. The subtlety involved is astounding. I don’t know how to describe it to someone who has never experienced following a good lead. Most describe it as an art or a science.

Professional partner dancers, Dax Hock and Sarah Breck describe the feeling of leading and following on their website. Dax said, “There is so much psychology in partner dancing, and so many problems to solve and solutions to discover.” Sarah said, “I find the sensation of following like a roller coaster and I am hanging on with complete joy.”

When you watch any kind of improvised partner dancing, keep in mind that every movement is orchestrated by the leader. The follower must skillfully decipher the leader’s body movements to create a mutually positive dance experience.

Here’s a video of Dax and Sarah giving a social dance demonstration.

Their intricacies are incredible to watch.

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DWTS Cast Announcement

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ABC’s Dancing with the Stars premiered on Monday, March 19, and the cast looks like a great one.

I spent the week in Panama City Beach, Florida for spring break, and partner dancing opportunities were slim. I asked every taxi driver about the salsa scene in PCB to no avail.

As I have no personal experiences with partner dancing to share this week, I thought I would discuss the premiere of Dancing with the Stars.

I’m an avid fan of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, and this season looks like it’s going to be a good one. The scores for the premiere were the highest of any premiere in DWTS history, and every celebrity has potential as a dancer.

I predict that Welsh mezzo soprano, Katherine Jenkins, will do very well. She has the most natural rhythm, great potential and performed well on Monday night.

Singer Katherine Jenkins and her professional dance partner, Mark Ballas.

Out with rock/paper/scissors; in with the dance-off

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I was a summer camp counselor for many years, and one of my favorite ways to resolve petty conflicts was through dance-offs. We would dance, laugh, and probably forget what the disagreement was about in the first place.  I know the world doesn’t really work that way, but wouldn’t it be ideal if it did?

Tie in the FIFA Women’s World Cup? No time for penalty kicks when the teams are throwing down their best dance moves!

You have an 89.3, and the teacher refuses to bump you up? You easily win the A with your killer running man.

Your parents say curfew is midnight, but you say it’s 2? Sorry, mom, but I’ll see you at 2.

The House of Representatives wants a bill passed, but the Senate is deadlocked? Dance-off. In suits.

Unfortunately this is not the way it works. Even the idealistic dance-off system would eventually become defiled by the need to dissect and regulate every aspect of competition. It would never work on a grand scale. However, I still prefer to implement the dance-off, tie-breaker system in any possible context – which is pretty much only at summer camp.

Please chuckle as you picture these world figures dancing their cares away.

Serious Addiction

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I’ve already posted about the addictive qualities of partner dancing; I just cannot stress it enough.

Case in point: you know you have a serious problem when you’re excited to stumble across a 30-minute video of some Jack-and-Jill Lindy hop. And you view the entire thing. And the minutes pass like seconds as you’re watching.

That just happened to me.

Jack-and-Jill dances are improvised, which makes this category my favorite kind of dance video to watch. The couple is paired by drawing names out of a hat, and the music is random. The whole dance is lead/follow, and I find the musicality of the performers completely mesmerizing.

Salsa Rueda every week

I posted about salsa rueda when I first learned this style of dance. I’m back to update about my latest experiences with rueda. The Latin Dancing and Cultural Club’s current president, Francisco, is passionate about teaching rueda and has done an excellent job recruiting for and developing dancers to participate.

For the salsa ball this past fall, four couples put together a rueda routine to perform. We didn’t get a video of that performance, but this spring, two of the couples decided to rehearse and audition for another performance opportunity. This is a video of one of our rehearsals. Francisco is the shorter guy, and I’m in the orange.

This semester, the rueda group meets every Monday night at 7:30 in the basement of the Wesley Foundation. We’ve had a huge group of beginners come out the past few weeks, so we’re starting at the basics and building up from there.

Come check it out! Everyone is welcome, and we love seeing new faces.

Here are some pictures of our performance at the 2011 Salsa Ball. I haven’t been able to locate a video, so these will have to do.

Sachin and Meagan are on the left, Greg and Patty on the right, Me and Aram on the back right, and Francisco and Carolina in the back left

Patty and Sachin are front left, Me and Greg front right, Aram and Carolina back right, and Francisco and Meagan back left

New Choreography team at OSU

I’m involved in the Latin Dancing and Cultural Club here at Oklahoma State. Well, many of you may not know about a new choreography team that started about a year ago. It began with two couples in 2011 and this year has expanded to four couples.

Here is a video of the original couples performing at Cultural Night last year.

I joined the choreography team this year and have enjoyed working with the group to improve our dancing. We meet every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday nights from 9 to 10:30 to rehearse our choreography and work on technical skills.

Through this latest dance venture I’ve gotten to know several of my fellow LDCC members better than ever. It’s been fun becoming close friends with people I barely knew before.

The current salsa team from left: Sabrina, Krishna, Teresa, Ali, Rebecca, Ali, Me, Rock

Dancing: A family tradition

Here are some of the events I experienced with partner dancing in the past week:

Last Tuesday night, I watched actor and veteran JR Martinez win ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

Last Friday night, I went to the Caravan Cattle Company in Tulsa, OK for some country two-stepping.

Saturday afternoon, I celebrated Thanksgiving with my dad’s family and swing-danced the afternoon away with them.

And Saturday night, I went to a swing dance event at a church in Tulsa through the TOSS club.

The thing about this blog is, I don’t go out dancing just so I have something to write about here. I go out dancing because I love it more than words. Dancing makes me feel pretty. And writing the blog is the afterthought; an avenue for me to convey the latest news and events about partner dancing in Oklahoma to other people who are hopefully interested.

To conclude, I would emphatically encourage you to start a new tradition in your family. Dance with your children, your significant other, your grandparents, your other family members. Build confidence in yourself and in others by investing time into this worthwhile way of life. You won’t regret it!

My uncle and cousin brushing up their swing dance moves