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In 2010, this post was the first viral hit of Swungover*. A lot has changed and grown in my understanding of the dance, and were I to write this post today, it would be pretty different. First off, I’d rewrite the article so that all use of the word follower was gender-neutral, as well as the illustrations. Secondly, I’d stress that followers can come into the dance with their own desired connection, they don’t have to completely match the leader if they don’t like the kind of connection the leader is bringing to it. The dance connection should be a compromise if the follower doesn’t like what the leader is asking for.
I will update this article with those changes (and others) when I have a chance. — Bobby White, 2016/2017
Over the years, I have come to believe that one of the least helpful pieces of advice a follower can get is to be told she is simply “too heavy.”
“Are you calling me fat?” My partner Kate asks, with a straight face, whenever someone says this. People have freaked out slightly, backtracking and apologizing before she suddenly can’t hold it anymore and starts to crack up.
Telling a follower they are “heavy” is like describing an animal as “wounded” and expecting that to be enough information for the blind vet (weird analogy.) If a follower is described as “heavy,” there are several different possibilities of what’s going wrong, some of which could be the leader’s fault. I’m going to try to collect them here, starting with these 12. I’ll keep adding and editing this post, too, as I continue my research.
Before we get to those, however, I want to address the problem at its root. A follower’s goal is not simply to be “light”–“light” doesn’t necessarily mean “better.” A follower’s goal should be to give what they think the leader’s asking for. (Sure, there are exceptions to the rule that followers can do for specific reasons, usually in the name of asking for more or less tension in order to do something artistically expressive, but more on that later.) Many advanced leads will sometimes do moves that require a lot of counterbalance–and expect a follower to respond as such, which could easily be described as “heavy.” A great follower is someone who can dance like a feather or a lead zeppelin, depending on what the lead requests at that moment.
Possible Reasons Why a Follower Might Be Described as “Heavy.”
1. Follower in general carrying more tension in arm than needed. This one is tricky–it can easily be the problem itself, or, more likely, a symptom of some greater problem. For instance, almost any issue with the follower’s posture can result in the follower using her arms to compensate. But first, let’s address the problem as if it’s the only problem.
It only takes a little bit of tension in small parts of the arm to create a “heavier” follower. Just your fingers might be tense. Or your elbow. That’s all. Make sure all the arm muscles have a natural give and take throughout your dancing–that none of them are rigid, or become rigid at a certain point through their motions.
2. A follower is using her arms to create stretch… Now for some more specific arm tension-related problems. Let’s say a leader with a relaxed frame sits away from his follower and asks for some form of counterbalance–if she doesn’t know how to match that by moving her own body, then she will probably result to using her arm muscles to keep the couple balanced–which means she’s pulling on the guy, and thus “heavy.”
Our arm muscles are small and frail compared to the muscle network of the back, core, and shoulders. In dancing, we can accomplish so much more, and with much greater comfort to ourselves and our partners, if we let that muscle network handle as much as possible.
3. Follower is using her arm to pull herself in (for instance, the 1-2-3 of a swingout.)
This is a specific problem, and is often linked to number 4 on the list. Basically, a follower is asked to come in on a swing out or turn, or something that moves the follower, and the follower pulls on the leader’s hand in order to do so.
4. A follower’s pelvis is in front of her shoulders. Aside from this looking as if a follower is attacking you with her crotch on the first half of a swing out, in its subtler forms, it might not even be noticeable. Basically, this will feel like the follower is countering the lead with the top half of her body. It might feel slightly like a “falling backward effect” for the follower, and thus the leader feels he has to hold her up to some extent, hence “heavy.”
BTW, Nina Gilkenson has a great impression of a follower attacking a leader with her crotch.
5. A Follower allows her arm to get fully extended at the end of movements. Sort of the opposite of the “too much arm tension problem,” this happens when a follower allows her arm to fully extend at the end of movements. As a default, this has several problems: it means at the end of the movement, you’re a lot further out than the leader expected, and so he has to move you sooner/quicker/hold tension in his arm and all sorts of other things in order to compensate. Stretch can die, you won’t respond as specifically to momentum requests, etc.
6. Follower’s posture is fine, feet too close to leader This is rare to see, but bringing the feet forward is an old school (and awesome) way to create counterbalance. (Check out this picture of Dean and Jewel, for instance.) The only problem is, if the leader isn’t asking for that counter balance, you will definitely come off as “heavy.”
Dean Collins-studier David Rehm first pointed this out to me, which I’ve always thought is a really cool idea of counterbalance.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, most of the times a follower feels heavy is either (1) when the dance is stretching and asking for some form of counter balance (like the end of a swing out) or (2) when the leader tries to move the follower, usually from the stretch. So, number 6 is just a very specific way of saying…
7. Follower is perfectly fine mechanically, but asks for more counterbalance than Lead is offering. A follower might chose a default stretch or counterbalance that is greater than the leader they are dancing with, the result being that at the end of every move, the follower feels heavy. Though a follower should try as a default to match exactly the amount of counterbalance asked for, she can also use this as a neat trick: If she wants to, say, really work her swivels at a certain part of the music, she can ask for a lot of counterbalance, and a good leader will be there to adjust his own and give it to her.
8. In closed position, or in the middle of a swing out, a follower is seeking connection with the wrong part of her back. The very obvious example of this is a follower who is used to having a leader’s hand high on her back(or shoulder) during a swing out. She then dances with a leader who prefers a mid or lower back connection during the closed position. The follower, not used to responding with her lower back, suddenly arches her back when the leader connects in closed. She feels he’s clothes-lining her, he feels she’s heavy. A follower should be prepared to respond with whatever part of the back the leader asks for during closed position.
9. Follower automatically “sits” into the leader’s arm when he brings her into closed position (Added Dec 2010)
Many, many follows will automatically sit into the leaders arm when he brings her into closed position. (And often, it’s at a slightly diagonal angle into his arm.) If it’s more than he’s leading her to, it will feel heavy as well as limit what he can do. Just as an advanced leader may ask for different amounts of counterbalance at different times in open position, he may do the same in closed–a leader should be very specific about how much he’s asking his follower to sit into his arm on swing outs, circles, and other closed position leads, and a follower should be specific about how much she responds.
10. Leader expects follower to move even though he doesn’t give her what she needs to move. Some times, if a Leader is used to dancing with girls who are eager to move and finish all the movements, he will, unawares, become lazy. He won’t lead the follower to move, expecting her to do so. When he comes along a follower who doesn’t move without the proper leads, she will feel heavy. He has been living the life of luxury, having had followers do half of his leading for him.
11. Leader is asking follower to be heavier than he expects; doesn’t realize it. On the other flip side (“the other flip side?”), if a leader has been dancing almost only with follower’s who are always light, he might be asking his follower to be heavy and not expect it. Or, if the dance floor is slippier than usual, he might be compensating weirdly and will ask the follower to be heavier than he expected (this happened to me a few months ago. In trying to stay grounded with slippery shoes, I tensed up weird and took my follower down with me (into the land of heaviness, that is.))
12. Follower is putting too much momentum into the ground. Perhaps the product of trying to “sit into it” or put a pulse into the ground, some followers will find themselves sunk up to their hips into the dance floor, and all movements feel sluggish.
But please don’t compensate by dancing out of the ground. The way you walk/run are probably good determinations of how much weight to put into the ground and how to find your natural downward pulse.
12. Follower is trying to protect herself; dancing with gorilla If a follower is dancing with a leader who is using a lot of brute force, a follower might protect herself by tensing up, clamping up, trying to keep things under control. But, if such a leader thinks such a follower is “heavy,” she probably will be better off not correcting him. At least, if he thinks she’s heavy, she’ll never have to dance with him again.
Conclusion Though there are many different ways and reasons a follower can be “heavy,” you can sense some common themes: tension, weird posture, inability to counterbalance, and often, all three mixed together. Another common theme is giving the leader more than he asks for, or giving him weight in places he’s not asking for.
A Quick Note on the inherent sex generalizations in dance language: All followers in this text are referred to as “she,” though this is only for the sake of clear understanding and flow throughout the writing. “He/She” “or “She/He” felt too clunky, and using “it” only adds to the sexist problem. Also, in all the diagrams, I have given my follower a rather charming 1937 blonde hair cut (those are the yellow bumps). This is, again, so I can use generalization for clarity’s sake.
In truth, almost every male-follower I’ve ever danced with could be described as a “heavy” follower–mainly for reasons mentioned below. This leads me to…
A Quick note on actual follower size (Or Physics: Our Best Friend, Our Worst Enemy.)
Kate’s “Are you calling me fat?” joke is just that. A joke. But, as a way of coming full circle, I do want to talk about relative size. If you are an eighty-pound winged pixie follower, you might have many of these problems to small degrees and have never been called “heavy.” Ironically, all people probably say to you is “I bet you’d be great at aerials!”**
If you are a lumbering 250 pound guy follower with the exact same problems as the 80-pound pixie winged follower, and to the exact same extent, you will be the one getting the “you’re too heavy” comments. Only because physics has magnified the problem.
So, if you’re an 80-pound winged pixie follower, beware that many of these things might apply to you even though you’ve never been called “heavy.” And if you truly want to be a great follower, you’ll probably often have to check in and see what problems you’re getting away with because of your size.
**–Another thing I’m annoyed by is when some guy introduces me to his beginner dancer 80 pound winged pixie partner and says “I now have someone to do aerials with.” I usually want to tell them “You’ve always had plenty of people to throw around. For instance, the three or four advanced followers you dance with all the time, that would love to do aerials.”
What he’s thinking is that now he has less weight to throw around. Now he can learn aerials faster because he won’t have to concentrate on technique as much. Now, he can really get some height out of those flips.
He hasn’t taken into account that a follower has to be a good follower to do an air step consistently and safely. That she has to do a lot of intricate work herself to make things happen effortlessly. That, in most aerials done well, physics does the bulk of the heavy lifting, so what you really want out of an aerial partner is a girl who knows how to control her body, whatever body that may be.
And, what is more annoying, is that he usually hasn’t once thought about the idea of going to a gym himself.
Until other leaders around him start going to the gym, that is. But I don’t worry about it. Sooner or later he will realize just how heavy 80 pounds can be.
However, a follower’s guide to aerials is another essay topic unto itself. Coming soon to Swungover?
65 responses to “The “Heavy” Follower”
Thanks Bobby, this was very interesting (and I really liked your stick peeps). I think I tend to be a heavy follow…and this will give me something to think about during my heat-imposed summer dance hiatus.
Nothing critical or helpful or anything to say, really. I just really enjoyed this post :)
One other contributing factor for the “heavy follow syndrome” might be leads who routinely ask for lots of counterbalance and/or momentum, constantly challenging their follows’ balance and forcing them to become heavy. Such a lead might not experience the problem with more nimble follows, and therefore (incorrectly) conclude that the problem is entirely on the follow’s end.
Another might be the lead asking for additional momentum in an attempt to compensate for the (usually beginner) follow’s “stiffness” i.e. difficulty in moving freely. The follow who moves stiffly is also going to have trouble maintaining her balance when being asked to move quickly, and she’s almost inevitably going to try to steady herself through her connection with her lead. The lead needs to be sensitive to his follow’s limitations, and realize that his failure to be sensitive is in fact his own problem.
Hey Bobby, thanks for this article. Sometimes it’s pretty difficult to give proper answers as a dance teacher to these kind of “problems”. This is a great summary of reasons! BTW. the drawings are awesome ;-)
Could this be a good guide for lead and follow instruction? As a follow, I feel like I am lead too hard and I feel that way, due to sore shoulders after dancing. So, can leads, if there are a number of them in one location, be leading the too many heavy follows? Can follows with more training be more light dancing if they are trained properly? And if so, how do you tell instructors, who may not have the right experience in teaching to touch on these topics? Or scarier yet what if heavy follows become instructors and don’t know they are heavy follows?
Bobby,…….Thanks for the great article and thanks for being man enough to admit that you actually went down, and took the lady with you because of a slippery situation and not using weight properly(number 10). This can also happen when dancing to a very fast tempo song(250 bpm plus)and performing a move which is lead from the open position to the closed position while moving in a circular pattern, even if just for a split second, such as in certain styles of a swingout between counts 4 and 6. Be careful!
Also, ‘heavy’ is in a lot of situations a good quality for a follower, as opposed to moving by herself/guessing what’s to come. Marie Nahnfeldt Mattsson for one prouds herself on being a heavy follower. :)
Wow! Thank you so much for writing this up! I believe that telling a follow she is “heavy” can lead to all sorts of problems with her technique if she believes it and doesn’t seek a professional opinion.
I’ve been thinking extensively about how to address this “light” and “heavy” issue within the context of monthly series. I’ve only been doing Lindy Hop for a little over three years, so I wasn’t confident that all of my ideas were correct. Reading this article helped me to solidify a few things I had been thinking about and gave me new ideas to research.
Thanks so much!
Great tips, Bobby! Another contributing factor can be “splitting weight.” This happens when the follow does not commit weight to one foot or the other resulting in a delayed response to the lead. We can unknowingly create a “drag” effect, which can result in a heavy follow. I have been guilty of this myself on many occasions :)
Awesome post, Bobby!
Very concise and accurate description of what feeling “heavy” means to a lead.
[…] heavy following – or how to screw up the dance without taking a step Bobby White has a great post (with diagrams!) on Swungover about what might be going wrong if you are described as being a heavy […]
[…] The “Heavy” Follower Over the years, I have come to believe that one of the least helpful pieces of advice a follower can get is to be told […] […]
Great article! I was once reprimanded for being “heavy” when I first started dancing, and I’ve been working on it ever since — not to be necessarily “light,” but to match the lead instead.
In response to number 12, I recommend this book: http://www.amazon.com/Everything-Better-Gorilla-Andrew-Gall/dp/1440503907
Because it actually covers dancing with Gorillas, and Gorillas are said to be incredibly facile and considerate in their dancing. I’ve never danced with one myself, but assume they get a bad reputation for their size and general hairiness. ;)
Another consideration may be physical disability. In the years before I had both knees replaced, I needed progressively more support (unfortunate, but love of dance trumped any inclination to sit it out). Nevertheless, even if a follow is irritatingly heavy, remember that dance isn’t a contest, it’s a three-minute conversation. She may just be hard-of-hearing, therefore shouting at you, so to speak.
I would not think of you as being at all “heavy” Mama J! =)
The “dancing with gorilla” line kills me.
Thanks for another intelligent, humorous post. This is already making its way around the Facebook and lindy blog communities.
As a follow learning to lead, I’ve notice #10 first-hand. Leads who have more mass than me, obviously are able to give a more amplified lead than I will ever be able to which make the newer/bigger follows used to something exaggerated and makes it much more work on my end when I try to lead. I realize I’m working too hard when I switch to the winged-pixie and start flinging her all over the place because of the dance I just came off of.
Another thing I’ve noticed, is that if a follow dances flat-footed vs. on the balls of her feet, this automatically pitches her weight backwards and could be a source of the heaviness cited in #7.
Nice post – interesting to hear this topic broken down by a lead. Some of my thoughts while reading:
– “A follower’s goal should be to give exactly what the leader’s asking for.”: I’d probably say “A follower’s job is to build the best possible connection with her partner, and this varies with what the lead is doing.” Cause as you say lower, leads don’t always ask for what they want/need! I would never tell a newer follow to ignore a signal from the lead – that would hurt the lead and follow – but once in a while, I’ll ignore or initiate if I think it would make the dance better.
– I love that your only photo is of Dean and Jewel. But I was looking at that clip the other day, and thinking that she suffers a little from #4 herself. But Dean probably didn’t care, and since she is an 80-lb pixie, she gets away with it.
– I think that guy follows frequently suffer from #4 as well, and that makes them heavy. Especially when they’re waving their arms in the air on 1&2, using that motion to twist their whole bodies instead of swivel in their hips.
– Another thing that can make a follow feel heavy: a wide-legged stance. This is one way a follow becomes guilty of “splitting weight” like Heather G mentions – her weight is centered over a very stable base, and thus reduces the connection with her partner and makes her more autonomous. And not only is she less connected (and less responsive/slower/heavier), but the same move is slower when wide than when it’s tight. (Like a free-spin – when you stick out your foot it’s slow, when you bring it in you go faster.) So then the lead has to work harder to get the follow through any circular motion.
I really appreciate that you aren’t telling follows that “lighter is better” – it has it’s place, but there is a whole vocabulary of moves and styling that can’t exist without proper counterbalance and tension from both partners. As this post points out, good form and paying attention to your partner is the solution to “heaviness” issues, not just “lightening up”.
Re: the wide stance… it depends like everything on whether she knows what she is doing. A wide base provides more power, more stability, more reactiveness, and more speed than a narrow base. It is the reason race cars are low to the ground, short in length, but wide with tires pushed out to the corners.
The problem comes from one of being wider than what your leader is allowing for. When you split your weight you ground yourself. If your stance is too wide it exaggerates the other problems noted in this post rather than ameliorating them.
Just as solving the issue of being too heavy is not really about lightnening up, solving the too wide issue, is rarely about being more narrow. They are both about better understanding the mechanics of the dance and our bodies.
Awesome posting :)
follower should focus on leader, but also remember that she is a dancer~!! If just only focus and follow leader, that makes her very tense and Heavy… so need more relax…
yeh.. leader should use their whole body whe he leads… because it makes more followable leading and can give more visual hint to follower… so she can be more relax… physical leading + visual leading… :)
just my idea haha
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This was immensely helpful!!
Read it and am impressed. Of course, depending on follower’s and/or leader’s awareness of the problem, I recommend going to a selected pro who understands this problem and practices to correct it. I say selected because, while I am sure I am not a perfect lead, there are indeed follower pros out there that do dance to heavy for my style.
I translated this posting to Korean :)
Thank you again awesome posting~!!
The “Heavy” Follower (for Korean)
Nalla, That’s wicked. Thank you! Wow. You rock.
Good article & great illustrations!
Very useful, & nice to see someone trying to make sense of a very complex issue.
In a perfect world, what would be ideal is for a ‘perfect’ lead to dance with a follower who needs to know where they are going wrong, or a ‘perfect’ follow to dance with a leader who requires the same.
I can’t help but think that some of this is down to personal preference, though?
This article was referred to me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also hope that you do an article for leads on how not to be rough with a follower. But my question is, where do these follows learn that putting all you’re weight behind your dancin is a good thing. It has to start somewhere. But all in all it is a great article.
Interesting article! Gave me lots to think about. I didn’t get through ALL the comments, so I don’t know for sure if someone brought this up, but what about followers who dance with constantly bent knees because they were told to jump and land in an athletic position and then they just stay there. It’s kind of an extension of example #11, but the follow is specifically dancing in a squat position. I find that this is especially troublesome among new Blues dancers as well.
I wouldn’t say it is an extension of #11 it is number 11. The jumping and landing exercise is a great way to find the proper body orientation for an athletic posture, but the part I see so many teachers neglecting to mention (and some just neglecting to emphasize enough) is that the landing needs to be with soft knees, quietly, with that pretty natural pulse continuing throughout.
Neither Lindy nor Blues are static dances and while the posture used for both is based an athletic one, best described (IMO) by relating body points to each other, getting both roles to recognize they should have a flexing body rather than a rigid one is of utmost importance.
I had a thought a couple of months back that another possible reason for a heavy dancer is to do with their pulse or lack thereof.
A pulse makes a dancer alternatively light then heavy every beat. When the pulse direction is up, the person is lighter for half a beat and can be moved relatively easily. When the pulse is down, the weight transfers into the floor and the person is momentarily heavy again.
Without a pulse or a minimal pulse, there is no up direction to make the person lighter so the person is harder to move and thus feels heavy.
In terms of physical size, I nearly had my arm removed by a very slight oriental girl about 4ft 6in tall, who just flung every ounce of her tiny frame into every move. So much so that I had to let her go after one move and she ended up about 10ft away from me. She’d had a couple of sherberts before the dance, so that didnt’t help.
I have also danced in the past with a couple of very large ladies who had wonderful balance, so were very light on their feet and lovely to dance with.
Another thing that leads to a heavy follow can be the follow providing extra momentum, particularly leading into the 4 or the 8 of a swingout. The result is that the lead needs to use extra, unexpected strength/frame to redirect the follows momentum back to the other direction, or (as I often do when this happens leading into the 4, due to a should injury), abort the redirect and let her continue the momentum out to open position, usually in the form of a six count pass by.
This is kind of the opposite to #9, which I also notice when a follow has been dancing mainly with heavier leads and is expecting to receive a stronger lead. As such, she may not be sensitive to a lighter lead, particularly during the beginning of a first dance … :)
Some follows hit the 4 so hard it wrenches.
Then around 4.5 to 5 they twist their body in a weird way so you cannot keep hold of their back. Some strange things follows do during a swing-out. =)
This is great. The last several times I’ve been out dancing I’ve been thinking about this, maybe for the past year, even. One thing that triggered it was having a go at learning Argentine tango. The connection favored in that dance is so light I had to recalibrate what “light” was for me.
I do think being light is an important skill to cultivate, because it means being more in control of your body and dancing on your own weight. That being said, I tend to be more comfortable with a little more counter balance and compression in lindy hop. I feel like there’s definitely been a trend away from that toward a much lighter connection, though I feel like the Swedes always danced that way. But I tend to like things a little heavier. It’s the just way I learned how to dance – it feels more grounded and badass to me to play around with compression and counterbalance.
I do make a point to to adjust to whatever the leader is asking for, moreso now that there is such a variety of leading styles, but I don’t enjoy the lighter lead as much. I have actually kind of been irritated with the trend toward light leading, and a connection so light that you can’t feel the person’s footwork very well – it feels a lot like we’re running around each other or doing our own thing.
But I think it’s worthwhile to be able to do it.
Another thing too, though, on giving the leader what he wants – some leaders are also waiting to see what the follower wants. I had this experience a lot of years ago dancing with Justin Zillman. Now granted, I was pretty new to dancing too, but I felt like neither of us had a good time, so I asked him about what was going on. He said he was just feeling me out, and it felt like I didn’t want a lot of counterbalance, so he didn’t give me any. Well, I was just waiting to see what he wanted, so you see, it can be a cycle towards ever-lighter dancing if both partners are waiting to see what the other one wants.
Anyhow, to Justin I asked, “Well, what do you usually like to do?” And whomp – I got a lot of counterbalance. So we danced another song with this really intense counterbalance, and it was awesome. But I wonder if we would have figured out that we could dance together that way if I hadn’t asked.
I also imagine that leaders dancing with some pro or very advanced followers are also waiting to feel her out since she’s the one who’s more advanced, and again, as a good follower, she’s waiting for him, so she may follow lightly even if that’s not what she prefers or is most capable of.
So true! I know I have messed up the chance to have great dances with several amazing follows because I was so concerned about dancing the way they wanted me to instead of sharing them how I was inspired to dance. Paying attention to your partner is great and very important but so is sharing your ideas with your partner and one without the other tends to lead to an ok dance .
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[…] and my habit of releasing tension via Microsoft Paint lead me to an all night binge where I wrote The “Heavy” Follower […]
[…] when referring to followers, and “him” when referring to leaders. As mentioned in previous posts, this is a generalization done on purpose because it makes writing flow so much smoother and […]
love this post! lots of great concepts to think about. and the stick figures are priceless.
Thanks a lot! really useful.
100 pound heavy follower.)
This is an interesting and important topic. But reality is that the apparent weight (or rather inertia) of a follower should change. Initially, the follower should resist slightly and hence provide a high apparent inertia, also as if compressing a spring. This should not last long – just a fraction of a beat. The spring should be sprung and the follower should react swiftly to the lead. This sounds like the onus should all be on the follower but that’s not true. Timing (and force) of the leader is critical. A good leader knows how to start the lead, by watching the follower’s anchor and also sensing the temporary tightening of the connection. A really good follower feels *heavy* for only a fraction of a beat to the leader, but appears light to most observers. A good leader makes most followers appear light.
[…] Be Good” (Collegiate Shag) and Artie Shaw’s Hatred of Dancers The Ballad of the Oxford Baggies The “Heavy” Follower INSANITY! (#3 — Reset Week and Cario Power and Resistance) The Case of the Dancing Stud (Part 4 […]
Good root cause analysis… anyway, there is no try to give a solution. On my side, as a leader, I always recommand :
1 Always stay balanced. be able to move by yourself. do not rely on conection to get moving energy.
2 rely on your frame
Amazing article. Shared and saved it immediately. Also, can a follower’s guide to aerials please come soon?! :)
Great post! After waking up with a sore shoulder following a night of dancing with a lot of beginner/intermediate level dancers, I turned to this post to help me figure out what’s going on. As a follow, I try very hard to be true to the momentum given/requested by my leads. From my perspective, I feel like there’s a lot of #11 going on, where my leads are sending me out with much more momentum than they really want or are able to control. When in this sticky situation, I default towards #5, where I let my arm go out much farther than I want in order to keep hold of the leader’s hand. Mid-dance, I see three viable options for a follow, none of which I like very much:
1) Intentionally kill some of my momentum, which implies that I know better than my lead and I start taking over a bit. I don’t like this because it gets me in the habit of sabotage, and I will probably start missing really cool moves by leads who actually want a lot of momentum.
2) Let my arm overstretch – which leads to sore shoulders, and potential long term injury.
3) Let go of the lead’s hand. Rejected! If I can’t follow this move true to your energy and without injury, I refuse to help you rescue it. I don’t imagine that #3 would make me a very popular follower, and it could lead to some spectacular falls if the lead is counting on my weight to help maintain his own balance.
Am I missing a strategy here? Short of limiting my dances with newbies, I’m not seeing other ways to prevent this. :(
Keeping your shoulder seated but bicep relaxed and keeping your chest and back muscles firmly engaged, in proportion to the momentum your leader sent you out with will mean his own connection to you will act as a brake, transferring that momentum he gave you, back to him to use for the next lead movement.
Assuming your leader is making a mistake and then correcting for that by doing your part wrong is going to cause problems. Assume your leader meant what they lead and following it correctly by using proper technique will protect you and give your leaders more control. If they are wrong they’ll feel how the momentum they are giving you has to be compensated for and they will make adjustments.
Generally speaking don’t do something wrong to compensate for your leader, no matter how incorrect his dancing might be.
Lindy is not my expertise, but in general followers prefer hand position on the back to be located over the scapula, not the low back. If you send a follow into your hand located on the low back it causes back hyperextention. Follows either get hurt, or tense up to avoid injury. Hence heavy.
[…] frame. Elbows stay in front. You want to lift your partner up, not push him down with your weight (Check this cool article about Heavy Followers). The rule of thumb is that you should be able to continue dancing in proper form should the two […]
[…] front or, at best, sideways). You want to lift your partner up, not push him down with your weight (Check this cool article about Heavy Followers). The rule of thumb is that you should be able to continue dancing in proper form should the two […]
[…] To continue reading, hop [OVER HERE] […]
Imagine running through the woods, and running into a well-hidden clothesline stretched across your path. One part of your body gets stopped, perhaps painfully, and the rest of your body tries to go onward…
As a ‘larger’ dancer, I was heartened to hear the last part about aerials. I have experienced many times guys who would look me up and down then refuse to attempt even the beginning stages of a lift with me (which is fine, if they don’t trust their techniques neither do I). Eventually I did find guys who would try, and the consistent comments that came back were ‘wow, that was way easier than doing it with [insert skinny girl here]’. The best example was when I worked my way up to teaching aerials (I had a gymnastics coaching background and because my technique had to be a lot sharper, I was very aware of everything I had to do) a girl in my class told me “it will be much easier for the guys to do this with me, I am 20kg lighter than you” (she was around 50, I was around 70), but she would never listen or work on technique, it was only when the men refused to lift her because they were afraid of injury to her or themselves that she finally started to getIit
Another contributing factor to feeling “heavy” can be the follower being further behind the beat than the lead, or reacting to changes in direction a little slower than anticipated. Even if their posture is great and all the rest, and even if they get where they’re going when they want to get there, the timing being a little out of sync can make the dance less comfortable. And this can be the lead, follow, or both (god knows I spent enough of my dancing years on top of or ahead of the beat.
Oh, and if you want to use ungendered language, try “they.” Works loads better than “it.”
Such a great summary – sending this to my students! Another reason (which is sort of a variation on 7): when working with counterbalance the follower doesn´t make the change from counterbalance to momentum when the leader asks her to. In counterbalance her energy is going away from the Leader – when he gives her momentum and wants to move her (for ex in a swing out), it should be going towards the leader so by staying in counterbalance and keeping her energy/weight back, she is doing the opposite of what the leader wants and becomes very heavy, even though she might have been fine one count before when he was asking for counterbalance.
Being at work, I have only skipped through the article. I will read it fully later. So this is not a reply, but some thoughts that come to my mind.
In my mental model, stretch happens in your own body, while counterbalance happens between partners. Counterbalance will affect your partner, Stretch not. You can practise counterbalance with the handle of a closed door and stretch with the handle of a door opened 5 cm.
For me, in the last 5 years there seems to be a trend to replace counterbalance with stretch. With dance backgrounds from different scenes, this might be part of the confusion.
I like this! I want more in french if possible. Thank
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All your points are excellent. Having taught dance for a few years and leading that occasional heavy follow – I’ve found three common things. One is that a heavy follow does not maintain their own balance. They lean into the lead and expect the lead will haul them around the floor. Sometimes they even rest the weight of their arms on the lead vs give light tension. So holding one’s own balance is critical with ligh matching tension. Good posture is also driving I also. Secondly I have found the heavy follow dances “on top of the floor” instead of dancing “into the floor” (hoppy vs smooth). This can include the follow “pumping their arms to the beat of the music. (Augghhh!!!). So working on smooth gliding steps – helps. Be light on your feet. Lastly a heavy follow gets use to having a partner “over-lead” them and come to expect it. It is like moving a tank around the floor. This tires out a lead. The solution is to work on lead and follow exercises. I maintain a good follow needs to dance with their eyes open as if they were closed. That is another exercise in lead/follow – have the follow close their eyes and they feel the smallest lead movements easily. That helps a follow understand how to respond to a light lead and dance accordingly. (Wendy – DancePG.ca)