Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Freedom For Followers And Other Nonsense

Freedom for Followers sounds great. Three words starting with an f in a row. Together with "leaving space" and "micromanaging the followers movements", we've got a couple of expressions that all somehow suggest that leaders are dominating, taking away liberty from the followers. It's time to see the full-fletched liberation of following in another light.

For those that this is still a gender issue. It is not. You can stop reading. For those that want to know what it is about - the "freedom of followers" implies that followers should do more than just following. It assumes that following is inferior to or less important than leading.

Why We Lead And Follow

Back in the days there was no such thing as leading and following as we know it today. Frankie Manning tells stories on how they told their partners what the next move was.

When Lindy Hop was still small we often shared events with other dances like West Coast Swing. You can read about the revival in a great series of articles called Artistry In Rhythm. A dance is very limited if it consists only out of moves and to have more freedom and probably also inspired from other dances, we started to develop leading and following techniques.

West Coast Swing vs. Lindy Hop

In West Coast Swing the follower decides a lot on what movements she is going for. WCS differs in many aspects to Lindy Hop but the key difference to this discussion is the speed that WCS is danced to. In both dances we speak about fast and slow. Tendency is that slow in Lindy Hop equals fast in West Coast Swing. Slow dancing leaves a lot more space to fill and a lot more time to catch up. If leaders left the same amount of space by not leading in Lindy Hop we would simply be lost. So we need to lead and follow all the time anyway. Now you can start a discussion to what degree things should be lead but this is neither the reason for the problem nor the point of this topic.
Also not the topic are those experiments where leaders and followers switch roles during a dance. There is a reason they stayed at an experimental stage.

It's About Dancing!

Leading and Following are two roles we have added to Lindy Hop so we can communicate better. What we have to keep in mind though is that Lindy Hop at first is two people dancing together - no matter what role they picked in the beginning. Teaching how to lead is a lot easier than teaching how to follow and that is why leaders receive more attention in class; I encourage balance. Both roles are equally valid and don't differ in the difficulty of integrating the role into the dancing.

Following is an art! Stop undervalueing it!

Thumbs up for our fellow dancers that follow!