Beginner interactions

Practicing with beginners is great at many levels. It pushes my technique to boundaries that I normally don’t emphasize so much. For example, it’s challenging not to use my arms to overcome their insensitivity to the lead, thus leading me to be even more clear and powerful.

They feel raw, rough edges accompanied by an enjoyable naïvety.

Some beginners believe I’m a good dancer just because I was trying some acrobatics with someone before. I don’t like that. More often than not, those acrobatic moves didn’t feel good to any of the involved parties. Stumbling in their difficulties, they don’t (yet) realize that I am working on the same exact concepts they are.

Recently, while practicing with someone new to the dance, I tried to dance in close embrace. I had never danced in close embrace with her before. In fact, the only dances I had with her before were the two previous ones, in the same tanda. I immediately realized that she was used to using the arms instead of focusing on my chest to understand the lead. She did not realize what really having and nurturing a connection meant.

I proposed to practice without arms for a couple of songs. Soon we both realized how she was not matching my step size and rotation, causing her to come short of my new position almost every time. I encouraged her not to be shy in her movements and move with more courage and determination. Two songs later she had changed her attitude and was now becoming an active follower, powering her own steps. Before we parted, I tried to convey how the chest can have very subtle leads and how becoming more sensitive to it would open up possibilities in her dance. We both smiled and felt nourished with our short interaction.

Yes, she did not learn how to follow in close embrace in just 20 minutes. How could anyone anyway? I’m not a professional teacher and my experience in helping others has been rather limited too. I was just a guy that acceded to someone’s wishes to share some of my experience and ideas about the dance. What motivated me to write this romanticized version of the events was the end of the conversation: “You have totally changed the way I see and understand the dance. Thank you!”.

Beats any compliment from an hotshot. Thank you!

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