General Dance Discussion > Question for ladies: number of patterns myth.

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by ticolora, Dec 5, 2016.

  1. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    This post is in a context of a social dance.

    I have been told over and over by ladies not only that few patterns executed well is not bad, but that too many patterns, even if done well can be exhausting.

    Something in the back of my brain rejects that notion. I truly believe that a leader who manages to cramp more exotic figures in a dance is a better dancer.

    Now, with "front" of my brain, I understand why "more is not always better". But somehow that just doesn't quite make sense... Isn't number of patterns you know and can adequately lead the most important thing?

    I know the correct answer, I just need help understanding it. Maybe if you just explain this whole concept enough times - I will get it eventually.
  2. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Fancy patterns aren't worth anything if they aren't lead or followed well. And the chances of both the lead and follow being expert are sorta slim. So then what is the point if the pattern is generally doomed to perform poorly or outright fail on one side or the other?

    And I generally feel like the leads who are the sort to try everything under the sun, and then even some more, are also often not the best of leaders. So the whole experience becomes one bad science experiment.
  3. atk

    atk Active Member

    As an exercise, you might try following. Try not to anticipate the pattern being led and just follow. Try with several leads, some newer and some more experienced and some better.

    When you're done, ask the leads how many patterns they led. Compare that to how many pretend you recognized.
  4. PaulBunyon

    PaulBunyon Active Member

    What's more fun to ride
    A) A 22 speed, less than 20 Lb, carbon fiber race bicycle in an aerodynamic posture, 4 inches off the the back wheel of your team mate in front of you.
    B) A single speed 40 lb beach cruiser with a coaster brake on bright sunny day with someone you love.

    I know the correct answer, just help me understand it. :)
  5. raindance

    raindance Well-Known Member

    If you want to get a feel for it, try being the follower sometime. You could do it for a few minutes in a private lesson, or rotate as the follower in a group lesson, or get a friend that is a leader to lead you. Ask a relatively experienced leader to lead a relatively basic sequence, and then a more complicated sequence (lots of different figures, fewer to no basics).

    What was more fun? Which gave you a chance to listen to and dance to the music? Which gave you a chance to enjoy the dance and the movements? Which was more stressful?
  6. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    There are a lot of nuances to leading that you almost certainly don't know yet. At the moment, some of what you lead is likely real lead and follow and for some of it your followers are most likely picking up "signals" and figuring out what element or step you are leading. The "signal" method is tiring for the follower, plus as the lead goes in and out of true lead and follow and signals, the follower has to change thought processes accordingly. Once more, mentally tiring.
  7. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Why, yes. He is. Captain Obvious.
  8. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    Because with well-led basics, I don't need to think. I know exactly what the lead is asking, and exactly where I need to be (and when) - it gives me space to just enjoy, and really express the music. It's fun.

    Make it complicated, and I'm thinking 'ok, strong shoulder lead, step around, stay low, soft knee, keep the shoulder lead, stretch with the head, wait... wait... wait... change head and step out'. (That's one figure. Bonus points for anyone who guesses the right one.) It's exhausting, particularly if I'm also trying to adjust to a new-to-me leader, because every lead is slightly different... and the more advanced steps often require a little adjustment to make them work perfectly for the couple in question. That's really hard to do on the fly.

    When I social dance with pro, we may throw slightly more complicated stuff than the average, but I have years of dancing with the guy, so there's less thinking because of that. He's comfortable for me - and he knows that he can lead whatever he's feeling from the music and I'll go with him - but even then, it's usually less complicated than our comp stuff.

    Think of it like a conversation. Just because I know a lot of long words and am capable of using really complicated sentence structures doesn't mean that I do it all of the time. Most of my sentences and vocab choices are simpler, and I save the big words for when I need to express exactly the right thought.

    Last point: it's much harder to execute a basic well. Making the simplest of steps look and feel amazing is what most experienced dancers aspire too. I believe it so much that even my competition routines - at the open level - have a healthy amount of syllabus steps, including ones from silver and bronze. I want to be 'substance, with just the right amount of flash'... rather than the undesirable 'all flash, no substance'.
    twnkltoz, IndyLady, ticolora and 3 others like this.
  9. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    @FancyFeet. Your response is illuminating. Answer this then (not a rhetorical question). What is the value of more complicated figures for a follower in a social dance? Specifically, what are the pleasures of being lead more advanced figures? (let's assume good lead).
  10. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    It is great to have a deep repertoire you can draw from, assuming that the quality of the lead is good too.

    However, you must also be able to adjust to the level of your follower... what happens after she fails to follow two "complicated" patterns? The lead needs to be able to discern when to make an adjustment and move to simpler figures or basics. That seems obvious, but IME, apparently it is not.

    Also, I don't care how amazing of a lead you are, there really are some advanced patterns where both partners need to be familiar with their part, i.e. the follow isn't just going to magically follow correctly if she doesn't know it, regardless of how good the lead is. I have on occasion declined offers from gentlemen leads to try a pattern a 2nd or 3rd time because I can tell that I actually need some formal instruction on whatever they are trying to lead.

    Finally, on the question about whether knowing lots of patterns and how to lead them being the most important thing, my knee-jerk reaction is "no". I will take a less skilled, fewer patterns lead who is polite and considerate and gracious any day over the lead who knows 1,000 patterns but corrects me when I mess up, or tries to teach me what he has determined I don't know but need to, or just generally plows through me assuming that I'm going to follow with 100% accuracy like it's a comp routine with his regular pro.
    danceronice, raindance and ticolora like this.
  11. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    First of all, I don't dance to do steps. I dance to express emotion through music and movement. I partner dance to add an element of connection to another human being. My goal is to move in harmony with my partner in a way that makes us both feel better about the dance than if we just did it by ourselves without music. To have a conversation with our bodies. A truly good dance can leave me in a high for days. Therefore, too much variety or "exotic" nature to the steps is actually detrimental, because I'm too busy surviving to just enjoy it. As I've said in other threads, a few fancy steps is good, if broken up with something more basic, as long as they're led well. All fancy steps with no basics in between is intimidating, stressful, and exhausting. With a leader who is too busy learning patterns to learn to dance well, it's a nightmare. And that's coming from someone with over 20 years of dance experience across multiple genres...imagine how newbie followers feel!

    Here's another way to look at it, since just hearing our preference isn't enough: if you dance five foxtrots during the course of an evening with five different partners, for you there is a certain continuity in each of those five. Even though every follower is different and will respond in different ways to your lead, you will probably lead the same 5 or 10 or 15 patterns, because that's your repertoire. You might switch a couple out here and there, but you know all the patterns you lead or you wouldn't lead them. You know which step you're going to do before you do it, even if it's only a millisecond's notice. You're in control, so if you feel the dance isn't going well, you adjust and lead simpler patterns.

    If a follower dances five foxtrots with five leaders, each one is different. Each leader has a slightly different repertoire. If they're all strictly bronze dancers, that's not too big a deal if she knows the bronze syllabus. But what if each of them has attended workshops and dance camp and watched youtube and learned a few silver patterns and maybe a gold one, and they each had the philosophy that "more is better" and kept her hopping through the whole song with no basics to recover? Can you see how that would be exhausting? She's constantly trying to figure out what's expected of her, interpreting leads of steps she's never done. Can you see how that would be stressful, and maybe even a little scary?

    She is not in control of the dance. While she could possibly completely stop it if she needed to, she's not the one choosing the steps so she can't just adjust the dance on the fly. She could ask him to simplify things, but she might feel stupid, thinking she's at fault. He might belittle her for it. Or she feels she has to be "nice" and not "correct" him, because that's how we've been conditioned since birth. Or maybe, she's so consumed with trying to keep up with him that she can't even talk--literally. I still, from time to time, walk off the floor after a dance feeling like an idiot because my leader put me through the ringer...and then I'll talk to other followers and find out they all feel the same way. Who's the common denominator?

    The average man is bigger and stronger than the average woman. As the leader, you have more leverage and more opportunity to hurt us, throw us off balance (even to the point of us falling), or otherwise make us uncomfortable. Therefore, we have more at stake. So does it not make sense that when a whole bunch of women tell you what they prefer, that we know what we like better than your "logic" tells you?

    So now a question for you: why do you feel the number of patterns is a better indicator of quality than a comfortable lead, fluid movement, musicality, dance frame, posture, size of steps, floorcraft, connection, footwork, smoothness, rise and fall, styling, swing and sway, latin motion...
  12. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Oh, something else I thought of. The follower part is often more difficult to execute, especially as the patterns get fancier. We do more spins/turns, travel more, etc. So, it's not only mentally exhausting when you constantly go from one complex pattern to another with no break, it's physically tiring.
    IndyLady and raindance like this.
  13. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    Wow, twnkltoz totally nailed it. I agree with EVERY SINGLE WORD. I wish I could post this on the wall at my studio.
    twnkltoz and RiseNFall like this.
  14. Dancing Irishman

    Dancing Irishman Well-Known Member

    Open impetus?
    twnkltoz likes this.
  15. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    It's not whether or not a gentleman leads me in a lot of patterns or only a few. It's whether I feel like I'm being lead smoothly and clearly so I don't feel as if I have to second-guess what he wants, or think constantly about what I need to do. The best social dances I remember doing I cannot, for the most part, remember any particular patterns. I remember the feeling of being lead lightly and cleanly, without physical or mental discomfort.
    twnkltoz, raindance and IndyLady like this.
  16. flying_backwards

    flying_backwards Active Member

    Good answers so far, and worth repeating until it sinks in. Please - to all those leaders out there still wondering if this is true - YES. Yes it is true. "It's not what you do but the way that you do it", as the song goes. Yes I would far rather follow simple figures led well than complex figures led less well. Yes, please.

    It feels better to dance simply well than to dance fancy clumsily. Learning complex patterns can grow skill, and can be fun to try, in a learning environment. But when I am social dancing I want to use what I have already learned, either figures or following. Social dance time is not practice time; it's play time.

    Some of the best local swing leaders play with the music with so much creative variety I am sure they are making it up in the moment. Yet they are sheer joy to follow. But that took them years to develop that ability to lead. Those same leads are capable of making day-one swing basics feel awesome to follow. They would not be capable of the former were they not capable of the latter.

    Perhaps the misunderstanding arises from the lack of practice time for social dancers. One reason I started competing is my friends could not understand why I practiced just to dance socially. When social dancers do not have practices, they end up trying to practice at social dances.

    I agree with those who suggest trying the other role. I have learned much from leading, including empathy for those learning to lead!

    I do see the point that us follows get more variety since we dance with many leads, each with their own repertoire. So if you need more figures for your own entertainment, I can understand. Just do not fool yourself that this is for the follow's benefit.

    I can also understand wanting to grow, but not wanting to invest in technique. It is so much easier to learn figures than technique. Wonderful. As long as it is fun for you. Just do not pretend it is fun for the follow.

    OP: Thank you for asking. That you care how your follow feels suggests you are, or will be, a good leader.
    snapdancer likes this.
  17. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    The progression of lead+follow...

    1. Followers follow. Leaders lead and follow.

    2. Followers follow and actively participate.

    3. Lead+follow blurs. Leaders and followers just "interact."

    Lots of leaders never attain (1), thinking partner dancing is a one-way

    Lots of followers never attain (2), having concluded that just "reacting"
    is sufficient to understanding body mechanics, physics, balance, timing,
    musicality, etc..

    This progression is more dependent on improving one's own abilities
    to move and think than that of the partner.

    Patterns are just one of many tools contributing to the goal of
    superior interaction (and mutual compensation).
    j_alexandra and Larinda McRaven like this.
  18. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    There is distinction in what practice is (and can be) done in and out
    of social dancing.

    Good dancers, social or not, all (should) practice to move themselves
    better, perhaps even doing Ballet, Jazz, Tap, etc., to learn to turn, spin, etc..
    They may have one or two partners to practice certain aspects of partner
    dancing, be it patterns, timing, etc.. Mediocre dancers don't bother
    doing these things.

    But, what social dancing offers _is_ the opportunity to practice with different
    partners in different settings, to improve one's understanding of movements,
    refining the way(s) they trained to do things, and perhaps even rejecting
    certain things they thought were right/good. So, even good dancers use
    social dancing to practice.

    Many social dancers are more into the social than the dancing. They sit around
    talking all night and only dance a few times, so they are not so much into
    improving (or think they are good enough).
  19. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Trying to blaze through a bunch of patterns bang-bang, especially when some of them are at the edge of the lead's skill level, is exhausting for the lead, so I imagine it must feel like purgatory to the follow. Here's a dirty little secret: You know that couple you see on Friday night, the ones who whip through an amazing sequence of complex patterns seemingly effortlessly? They are probably dancing choreography, a routine that they've danced together maybe a hundred times. They aren't, strictly speaking, social dancing. Watch them dance with other partners (if they actually do that) and you'll see a different picture.

    I have an am partner that I've danced with for about six years now, and we've done some competing together. We take regular private lessons together, and if I may say so myself, we're not too bad. When we dance together on Friday night, there are times when we like to challenge each other a bit. But you know what? Sometimes we'll do a whole dance of almost nothing but basics, maybe one or two bronze patterns thrown in. Why? Because it feels so great to be in frame together. Because it's such a joy when our bodies and our dance minds are completely in sync and we're moving around the floor effortlessly. Because sometimes it's nice to be able to chit-chat while we dance, and not have to break our train of thought having to devote brain bandwidth to complex patterns. And becomes sometimes we're not at our peak, and rather than frustrating ourselves with train wrecks, it's a lot more satisfying to keep it simple and just enjoy dancing together. Not to mention... everyone can stand to improve their basic technique. There's not a single one of us, no matter what level we dance at, that couldn't stand to do some more work on their fundamentals.
  20. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Social dancing is great practice in and of itself, but it's limited in its scope. Unlike an actual practice session, you can't stop and talk about what's going wrong, drill a step or technique, do the move in slow motion or break it down into pieces, etc.

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