General Dance Discussion > Being a lead male dancer while also being a pushover.

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by macbadoo, May 17, 2017.

  1. macbadoo

    macbadoo New Member

    Newbie kizomba dancer here, please bare with me. Ok, so I have this problem. I respect other people's will far too much. When I lead tend to hold back a lot my strength when it comes to """push women around""". It feels disrespectful otherwise.

    My question is, let's suppose that I'm performing my moves properly, am I suppose to apply a bit deal of strength to the lady dancers? Also, some women stick very close to me while others do not. In kizomba am I supposed to get very close to my partner? And if so, should I go very close to the woman if the woman does not had the innitiative to do that in the first place?

    Lastly, sometimes I have a hard time feeling the music, indeed most of the time I would be perfectly ok if the music wasn't there. Is that normal?
  2. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    No. Leading someone does NOT mean pushing her around with brute strength. It means clearly signalling your intention so that she can interpret and respond. You do have to be decisive - she'll pick up on hesitations or tentative movement, and likely find it confusing - but not pushy.

    Your ability to send a clear lead will come with time as your technique and ability improve... try to resist the urge to learn those muscle-it compensation patterns in the meantime, because you'll have to unlearn them later if you want the ladies to keep dancing with you. Personally, I'm a little more understanding when this happens with new dancers, but if someone has been at it a while and still does it, I'm likely refusing their invitations to dance because it feels awful and puts me at risk of getting hurt.

    Note that you may hear "strong lead"... it's a bit of a misnomer, meaning 'clear and confident/firm' rather than 'produced with muscle strength'.

    At the beginning? Absolutely. Your brain is just too full of other things to have a free pathway for listening to and interpreting the music. Assuming you can hear and 'feel' the music when you are not dancing, it will come as things become a little more ingrained and instinctive.
  3. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    FancyFeet covered the other points very well. As far as this one -- I don't dance kizomba, so I can't speak to the "supposed to" as far as what works best for the dance, but in partner dance in general, absolutely let your partner choose the degree of closeness she prefers. Even when a particular dance style is conventionally danced with body contact by experienced dancers, newer dancers typically take a while to get comfortable with that. And there exist some slimy guys who care more about the chance for that body contact than for the dancing itself; letting her set the spacing will keep you from being mistaken for one of them.

    ETA: By the way, you have the right to take a while to get used to dancing close, too, and to set your own dance hold to maintain a bit of distance if you choose.
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
    raindance likes this.
  4. Br0nze

    Br0nze Active Member

    I will preface this with the facts that I neither know what Kizomba is nor dance it, and a quick video search revealed something of a cross between Ballroom Bachata and Merengue, but it is my understanding that all partner dancing follows the exact same principles, and I will try to add to what FF has already stated in hopes it'll be clear and helpful. I will also preface this with the fact that I know exactly what you're experiencing, and I had the exact same problem when I began partner dancing.

    When I taught partner dancing, I made it very clear that it depends upon three (3) things: posture, weight changes, and frame. It's helpful to define these terms for further clarification.

    Posture is the relationship of your spine to the rest of your joints. It is what allows for a vertical weight-fall into your feet and ultimately the floor.
    Weight Changes are just that; they can also be termed "steps," and the goal should almost always be to deliberately either change or not change your weight, depending on what the pattern calls for.
    Frame is the relationship of your arms to the rest of your joints; your frame should always be firm yet pliable (and we can talk about how that works in a little bit).

    Don't let the terminology scare you, or if you are already familiar with some of these concepts, that's even better. Here's the thing: in order to "lead," (and in order to "follow" too) these three things have to exist and have to be done by both partners. If one partner has their posture in check, has their frame on point, and is changing their weight cleanly, while the other partner is not, there is no partnering occurring.

    Let's define two more terms for clarity as well: leading, and following. "Leading" is not equatable to "pushing a partner into position/forcing someone to go somewhere/do something." Leading is an invitation once, and only once, your posture and frame have been put into their proper place. "Following" is not showing up and aimlessly being dragged around. Following is an active response to the invitation that is being given.

    I will reiterate this: Leading can only happen if your posture is solid, and if your frame is solid. (Solid in this case does not mean immovable or rigid, but rather means originating from the proper anatomical place.)

    Essentially what you are aiming to create is two-fold: (1) a "straight" or "vertical" line from the top of your head through your spine to the soles of your feet that runs through your hip joins, knee, and ankle, and (2) a "straight" albeit rounded "horizontal" line with your arms that runs from elbow to elbow and through the shoulders and back. At no point does your "frame" begin with your deltoids (shoulders); it begins with your Latissimus Dorsi (back muscles) and continues through the shoulder and into the elbow, and if need be the forearm and wrist.

    Your frame is the physical space you have carved out for your occupation, and your partner in return occupies said space [with her "vertical weightfall."]

    When you move, you have to make sure that you know how much of your weight is moving, and in what direction. The easiest way to get a feel for this is to go either side to side or forward and back, transferring your weight fully from one foot to the other. Once you know how it feels to perform full weight changes, you can begin playing with partial weight and pressure steps, and eventually muscular isolations.

    Long story short: you stand up as "straight" as you can, hold your arms out in front of you so that your elbow are in line with or a little ahead of your ribs, and shift your weight fully in the direction you want to go (fwd, back, left or right).

    A slight anatomical note on posture and frame: since the spine is not traditionally straight, it becomes important to initiate the "straightening" of it from the right place. A good tip is to stand against a wall then to soften the knees a little so that the newly straightened spine can be the medium for which your weight enters your legs.

    For the frame, you want to put your hands together in what is best described as the "prayer position" -- elbows out, hands palm to palm, rotate the wrists so that the fingers face outward, and pull forward from your back until you feel a stretch. If you can straighten the elbows, you've gone too far. Part your hands with the elbows still soft until you again feel a stretch in your back.

    You should feel stiff as hell but I promise you if you keep the tension in the muscles properly, they will get used to it and it will become easier.

    Again, on leading: leading happens when you decide to take your weight into a direction. You have to take your frame with you; you have to move the space you've occupied or else it doesn't work. If you ever not shift your weight fully, allow your elbows to go behind you, or come out of alignment in your posture, it'll be more difficult if not impossible to lead.

    You have to think of the actions you see as happening around your spine (or your vertical weight-fall pole of spine + leg), and you have to understand that the actions you see are muscular and can only happen when the bones (which are underneath the muscle) are in proper alignment.

    I hope that made sense.... I have always had the benefit of having to explain this in person rather than in written word, so....

    And regarding hearing the music, it's normal. Give yourself time. Find Kizomba tracks and listen to them; get familiar with the songs and structure, and in time it will come. No one can hear music when they first start.... :p

    Best of luck in your dancing! (If you need anything clarified, do not hesitate to respond or message; will do my best to explain again and clearer :) )
    Sania, flying_backwards and Requiem like this.
  5. macbadoo

    macbadoo New Member

    Thank you everyone. Feels good that my instincts were right that leading will come with time, gently, not by pushing. The posts around here were very enlightening. Br0nze, I may need some pictures or videos regarding that exercise for the spine.

    Again, thank you.
    raindance likes this.
  6. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    To add a bit to what Br0nze said: There's something of a muscle isolation thing that you have to work on. When I first started dancing, it was a difficult concept for me to get. The issue is that you need to be able to hold a solid frame so that your partner can sense what you are doing. That means you have to keep those particular muscles pretty rigid. But other muscles -- the "pushing" muscles that you use to move -- you need to be able to dial down the power in those, at least at first. The idea is that you lead by initiating your own movement. Your partner senses when you start to move and then, in response she moves. You do not move her; she moves herself. As everyone above said, at first this is going to seem awkward; you'll move; she doesn't feel it at first, you run into each other, then she moves too much, you have to chase after her, then you move too much and it puts her off balance, etc. Keep with it, and when you find that you and your partner aren't connecting well, try to hold a good frame and keep your movements as simple as possible. Accelerate and stop smoothly; don't jerk. She has to have a chance to feel what you're doing and respond to it. If you jerk or move abruptly, it doesn't leave her enough time, and it's confusing to her.

    Keep in mind, as you're doing all this, that your partner might be a newbie too. Not everything you try is going to work the first time. Probably not even the second time.
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  7. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I'll add something else: she's following if her own free will. She's choosing to follow you, so you're not exerting your will over hers. It's just that tradition says your gender is the one that makes the decisions and hers is the one that makes you look good.
    j_alexandra and Br0nze like this.
  8. macbadoo

    macbadoo New Member

    I never thought about that! Now that is a very entertaining thought. And it is a liberating one. Thanks!
    twnkltoz likes this.
  9. ralf

    ralf Active Member

    We need someone who is actually knowledgeable about Kizomba to chime in -- I don't think (based on a taster lesson) that the European-origin ballroom posture and frame everyone's been discussing applies to the African-origin Kizomba. My recollection from the taster lesson is that, like Lindy Hop and Blues (two other African-origin dances), the frame is relaxed and the posture is an athletic ready-stance with bent knees and torso tilted forward (though more upright for Kiz than Blues or LIndy). Note that even though the torso is tilted, the spine is still straight -- the forward pitch comes from tilting your pelvis, not bending your spine.
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  10. Br0nze

    Br0nze Active Member

    Ralf, you are 100% correct; we definitely need a Kozimba expert.

    In the defense of the ballroom frame I will say this: in studying other forms than Ballroom, and if at all familiar with the concept of posture and frame, it's easier to translate those concepts to other styles of dance and make the needed adjustments as one learns. (One can also argue that it's harder to unlearn such a frame, but that depends on where the dancing journey takes an individual.)

    I, for one, have done Ballroom, as well as Argentine Tango -- two very different styles of leading -- and having a "Ballroom background" allowed me to figure out what the frame was *not* so it could become that it needed to be. Granted, I spent more time than most ever should on figuring stuff out, but still.

    If the goal is to at least begin communicating with the partners, and getting at least a sense of introductory leading and following, the Ballroom posture and frame are far from a bad beginning.
    raindance likes this.
  11. macbadoo

    macbadoo New Member

    I have other questions as well:

    - Is it unsual for teachers to accept new dancers in time of preparing for shows? One school accepted me while the other rejected me (wanted to try out both of them). The one who rejected me told me it was because they are preparing for new shows and they can't afford to give me attention. Which leads to.

    - So I got accepted. Great. Only my teacher, after the second session, asked me if I wanted to participate in the upcoming. Now, I don't mind making a fool of myself. I mean, I did rolled up for dancing classes so I got that out of the way. And I am curious to see how deep the rabit hole goes. So I accepted, thinking to myself that if I screw up during the show it is on her because I'm as green as you can get. The end result is I'm learning some choreographed moves. I picked some but other ones, well, it is still not in my head. And the teacher is clearly more concerned with the performance of the group instead of the rookie. Even going as far to say as asking me if I have any questions, I ask her the questions and then she tells me that she is going to show some of the moves later. Only, the later rarely comes. Is this whole situation normal? Am I being unreasonable to expect my teacher to give up her time to improve the groups performance in exchange for giving me proper attention?

    - I'm asked to practice using videos at home. I can improve some of the moves that I learned that are more ingrained in my memory but I'm having the toughest of time picking up new ones. Is it feasable to pick up new moves for a choreography from a video?
  12. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    I believe you want to learn to actually lead so that you can social dance, correct? In my experience, learning choreographed routines does not help partnership skills and can actually be detrimental.
  13. macbadoo

    macbadoo New Member

    Indeed I am. It just so happens that my city is having shows next month and the two dance schools that I tried to check out are both preparing for those shows.
  14. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    See if you can team up with one of the more experienced dancers for help/practice. It can help a huge amount.

    As for learning from a video, it depends on if it goes bit by bit and explains things or if it's just a run through of the material. Even with the later, you can sometimes put together what you know with what you see and then add to your understanding at the next class.

    Your just doesn't have enough time for everything. Perhaps she was at fault for asking you to participate if she cannot help you adequately, but it's an imperfect world.
  15. vit

    vit Active Member

    You must be kidding. There are no kizomba experts out there

    Anyway, overall kizomba is somewhat closer to tango in terms of hold and posture than to ballroom ... but there are several "main styles" which differs from each other considerably. I don't know much details, but there is a dance called semba which is older, which kizomba is essentially based on, by dancing to slower music. It developed somewhere in 70-ties in Angola, neigbor African countries and Cape Verde. It's a kind of mixture of simple ballroom figures, african way of movement and even slight Cuban influence (some people from Cuba participated in civil war in Angola)

    "Traditional kizomba" (if we can speak about tradition which is something like 40 years old) is relatively simple, danced in relatively close hold. Hold differ, depending on personal preference, so for instance man's left arm is sometimes in something like compact ballroom hold, sometimes on the chest, sometimes similar to son hold etc ... Some couples prefer some offset between man and woman, some more aligned position ... etc. It consist of slow and quick steps, step-taps, chasses (called shuffle by most) and open box (woman and man saida), usually curving to left or right. Forward steps are done slightly across, similar to BR tango. Steps include hip movement with pressure to the floor, similar to merengue ... to some extent they are also similar to very short cruzado walks steps in BR samba ... or steps in other african based dances.
    "Tarraxinha" is only body movement in hip/pelvic area, danced at place, in close hold

    Semba is also danced in kizomba venues on faster music and with more relaxed hold

    However, when exported outside Africa, this dance was somehow changed/linearized to suit teaching purposes I suppose, and then changed further through classes/congress activity

    "French kizomba" is considerable development/modification of kizomba, includes various moves, partially taken from tango, partially from semba tricks, partially from other dancing backgrounds of non-african teachers (hip hop etc). It's usually danced in more open hold, some figures are lead (partially) by moving partner's free leg, includes various poses etc. There are again various styles, some are called urban kizomba, some probably have other names etc ... and french kizomba dancers are usually not able to dance with traditional kizomba dancers

    Anyway, principles of leading are similar to other dances, you (should) lead by moving yourself and not by moving the partner. But generally, quality of dancing is relatively low (compared to tango), so you can see pretty much everything, like lots of armwork and shifting the partner along the floor ... and rare white people (in Europe at least) are able to get the body movement similar to how black people are dancing it, just because most teachers have no idea how to teach it ... so at the end, in my venue at least, as more people got involved, local version of kizomba gradually transformed back to some kind of compact social ballroom dancing (aka social foxtrot) that people here were dancing before kizomba even existed, just with slightly different figures used than before and slightly different body movement ...

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