On Fucking Up and Feeling Fine

b65ba00c9a732d50af837cb56a71d4e2This is one of my favorite dance pictures. I’ve tried to find some source information, but google images has failed me, and so I assume that it’s probably one of those illegal copies of something from somewhere (since there isn’t a digitally accessible copyrighted version online).  In any case, it’s absolutely beautiful: the way her head is thrown back and the light catches her features.  This isn’t a coy, composed smile, and she’s got a little T-rex arm, and I’m honestly not sure whether their connection is coming or going, and are they in some old-timey western parlor or something?!

Anyway, it’s a beautiful picture.  For me, it captures that exact moment in the dance when you realize (a) you fucked something up, and (b) that’s okay.

There are a lot of ways to define “beginner”, “intermediate” or “advanced” in Lindy Hop because every scene is different and because we don’t meddle with gold/bronze/platinum levels based on hours of competition or anything as organized as that.  But here’s one way to look at it: a beginner is a person who knows they don’t have moves or technique, an intermediate is a person who thinks they have technique just because they have moves, and an advanced dancer is someone who knows that moves are just things that happen when you play with good technique.  When I first started dancing, I was worried a lot about getting things “right”.  This is a common problem for follows: we peer deeply into our partner’s souls and try to predict which move they want us to do.  A beginning follow can get a lot of mileage out of becoming a mind-reader and quickly executing what they assume to be the lead’s intention.  “Wow,” a lead might think, “they really know what they’re doing!”  A follow then assumes they’re intermediate or even advanced, because if they “know” the move, this must mean they’re good at dancing.

That predictive ability becomes a liability later on.

As leads focus less on their own feet and more and more on the connection between partners, they become interested in playing with that dynamic.  They begin departing from well-worn patterns of six and eight-count phrases, and become…less predictable.  This doesn’t mean that they don’t communicate what they want.  But they might lead a triple where there is normally no triple, or they might pause or redirect in the middle of a combo that you’ve always done one specific way.  In fact, a lot of the great leaders I dance with will sometimes just do small, rhythmic weight changes moving forward or back or side-to-side; no “moves” at all.  If you’re a follow in the habit of trying to predict what move comes from that, then you’ll constantly be pulling and pushing off balance as you try to follow these cues to their “natural” conclusion.

To wit, as a follow, the more you think you know, the more you get in your own way.

When you get to this point, it’s a wonderful time to start focusing on your own technique.  And I use “technique” here as an umbrella term for your personal balance, rhythm, poise and shape.  These are all constant, active and intentional processes that you have absolute control over. Look at moving through, rather than completing a move.  Look more at the means of production rather than the end. Cultivate an open, curious mindset without expectations for completion.  Or in the words of my favorite follow:

tumblr_n6m3b4kDzX1qgwefso3_500

Sure, this means there will be “mistakes”.  Your lead might do one thing and you might do another. You might both turn around and you’re much farther than you thought you would be from each other.  Or you might be traveling at a surprising angle and your partner has to catch you in a different way.  But when you’re focused on the journey, on the swimming of it all, and don’t spend even an iota of a second feeling ashamed or disappointed, well then, my friend, you’ve just entered the Sphere of Serendipity.

And wonderful…

Things…

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Happen…

…in Serendipity.

 

2 thoughts on “On Fucking Up and Feeling Fine

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