Monday, 24 May 2010

Not giving an inch

I go to a regular class that is billed as ‘Advanced’. To be honest, the class attendees probably cover a broader term than that but that’s the way it has panned out. This week the usual teachers were away and so a visiting teacher came in to cover. Now understandably, it’s always hard for visiting teachers to pitch a class level right and if you get asked to cover an Advanced class you need to make sure you have some advanced steps available in case the class expect a lot. Anyway, he watched us all dance a tanda and then began his class which was quite hard, with lots of extra intricacies worked into the steps and lots of pointers about technique.

Now when a class is pitched a bit too high, the followers can get by if their leader is good. If they don’t follow it all, the leader can ‘help’ them with a stronger than usual lead. Unfortunately, it’s a one way track and if the class is too advanced, it is often the leaders who struggle and generally even their basic leading starts to go downhill. When the leaders are struggling, followers have to make a decision. Do they:

a) Dance the step from memory?

b) Guess/anticipate what move the leader is trying to lead?

c) Follow what is being led only?

I’m quite a good follower now. I shut my eyes, retreat to my happy place (LOL) and go with the flow (ie: the marks from my leader) and so I fell firmly into Camp C (Follow what is being led only). As the class progressed however, I noticed that each dance was a bit of an effort and partners who I usually dance happily with were looking relieved when the teacher told us to change partners.

About 3/4s of the way into the class, I was partnered with one of the better leaders. Usually when I’ve danced with him in class, he practices the step a few times and then dances it amongst other steps. He began this method as usual, or so I thought. He led me into what felt like the start of a cross and then he suddenly pivoted me. I went straight into the pivot and did a small boleo in front. ‘Grrrrr’, he growled, ‘now is not the time to mess around!’ I looked at him in confusion, aghast at his frustrated tone. Understanding then seemed to hit him and he asked me if he had led a cross? I mutely shook my head ‘No’. ‘Let’s do it again’ he said and this time led me into a perfect cross and the rest of the step. The rest of the dance was fine and at the end he thanked me but laughingly said, ‘You don’t give an inch, do you?’


  1. Never give an inch! LOL! You did right! If I am doing a Tango class these days I like to go back to the basics as the more intricate the moves are, the more frustrated the men get and I really don't get anything out of it. They should forget about steps and moves and focus on the musicality, eventually they will make their own steps.
    I am back to taking Salsa classes again, if only to meet people and network. They tell the ladies to follow the lead and not help the guys and actually had us follow with our eyes closed, which is unusual for Salsa. But then it was a woman teaching the class! :)

  2. I can relate! Although it's never happened to me that way exactly, maybe because I never, ever take a group class billed as 'advanced'. Partly because what you describe is bound to happen. Although it's valuable experience if you can 'not give an inch', for improving my dancing I feel it's cheaper and much more effective to take a much smaller number of private lessons. Once I was at a stage where I felt I could pick the right teacher for me wisely, that's what I started to do.

  3. Ms H -Yes, I think private classes may be the way to go (a future post is coming up).

    LT - an Advanced class is I would guess mostly going to focus on steps/sequences as its the easiest way of measuring a level. Musicality classes are quite often billed as General level as its less tangible which perhaps puts people off who want to feel they are progressing upwards. Hope the salsa is going well as a substitute.

  4. I also think that how to give people the feeling they are progressing is a problem that influences the structure of classes in a way that hampers their effectiveness.

    The process of choosing a teacher for private classes is an interesting thing to think about. I left it quite a long time between stopping taking classes (because I wanted to concentrate on my embrace) and booking a small number of private lessons. By then the answer was just there for me.