Weight vs. Connection

Most West Coast Swing followers I’ve taught have at some point expressed concern over whether or not they feel “heavy” to the leader. There are two reasons that I think this language is counter-productive in teaching partnered dance:

  1. It is qualitative language and is not practically useful in helping to improve connection. A follower cannot dance with herself; she will never know how she feels, only how a leader thinks she feels in relation to his experience with other followers. “Heavy” and “light” do nothing more than give a follower someone else’s qualitative opinion; this language does not contribute to making a connection effective.
  2. It is socially loaded language. Girls are socialized to equate “heavy” with being unattractive and undesirable. When a follower is told she feels “heavy”, her self-confidence plummets, she becomes preoccupied with her own interpretation of weight, and tends to start to disconnect as a solution.

I prefer to use other language that is practical and productive: connected, disconnected, responsive, unresponsive, grounded, ungrounded, balanced, unbalanced – these are the things that create the nature and feeling of a dance connection. With both followers and leaders, I focus on practical and specific aspects that are necessary to making a connection effective.

I believe that an effective connection has these qualities:

  • It works with all partners (leaders or followers)
  • It contributes to a dancer’s grounding and balance
  • It looks fabulous & feels great to both parties, because the result is well connected dance – a great conversation!

In my opinion, the critical element of developing an effective connection is to become excellent at connection matching. It’s not an easy skill to learn (it requires a great deal of listening and sensitivity), and it can be applied by both leaders and followers. I find I can have the most enjoyable dances with dancers at any level using this technique.

Recommended Reading

  1. This article provides a fantastic exploration of the things that may contribute to an ineffective connection in swing dancing – and it includes illustrative figure drawings! NOTE that although this article is talking specifically about followers, I personally believe that the issues identified can occur on either side of the connection – i.e. leaders can also be at fault. (Article url: http://swungover.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/the-heavy-follower/)
  2. Michael Kheim wrote this Facebook Note about how to achieve the correct amount of force in a connection. (FB url: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=257728740929537)