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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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/)
- 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)