I've been thinking about this for a while -- the original date on the post is February 25, and it's now March 20. I was struggling with what I wanted to say, and how I could say it, so much so that I all but stopped writing about dance for the last couple weeks. Anyway, one night, about a month ago, my dance partner exclaimed suddenly, "I need to trust my follows more!"
Partner dancing involves a lot of trust, even when you don't think of it as such. As leads, we have to trust that our partners will get wherever we're sending them, or alter course if there's a reason to do so. We have to trust that if we do something peculiar, our partners will respond in a way that makes some kind of sense. We have to trust that our partners will honor the momentum and energy we've set up. We have to trust that if we are dancing, our partners are responsible for dancing themselves. And we have to trust that our follows are watching out for us and for themselves, and won't barrell into any neighboring dancers.
As follows, we have to trust that our partners will set up paths that are logical. We have to trust that if we are dancing to the music, everything will work out. We have to trust our partners will manipulate our momentum and energy safely, and that if they're asking for a lot, they want it and will use it. We have to trust that the movements and patterns we're being asked to perform are safe and are part of a picture. We have to trust that our leader is watching out for us and for themselves and won't send us directly into any neighboring dancers.
When this mutual trust is not present, dances become less fun. If you're a lead who doesn't trust their follow, you spend the dance managing your follow very tightly, worried more about the shape of the lead and if they're going to actually take the path or what you need to do to alter the path to save yourselves from collision. If you're a follow who doesn't trust their lead, you spend the dance doing little dancing and primarily managing your own energy and momentum. For both partners, this does a disservice to the dance -- there's less room in each partner's brain to listen to the music and respond to it, if one is busy micromanaging the footwork patterns.
I think the hardest part is doing this with dancers that haven't necessarily earned your trust. Maybe they haven't showed you they can watch the floor effectively, but that doesn't mean they won't. Wait a little bit longer, maybe, before switching to a management viewpoint. And we can demonstrate our own trustworthiness as well. Being follows and leads that only ask for energy we need, use what we get, and watch the floor.