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Do you want to know the secret between the average Zouk dancer and an exceptional Zouk dancer?
There are many other articles out there that talks about becoming a Light Follow or how to be a Strong Lead. Each would touch on the topic about adapting and listening to the partner. This blog builds on top of these.
For the Ladies who wish to become a Light Follow, there's a well written blog by Stefanie at ThePerfectFollow.com called How To Be A Light Follow. She's also written number of blogs on why you would want to become a "Pure Follow". I would suggest spending some time browsing her blogsite. Very useful.
For both the Gents and the Ladies, I would recommend reading this article by Juan Calderon, Dance Whispering: True Leading & Following and the Science of How Healing It Is - I truely & deeply believe in Dance Whispering and closely relate with his first half of his blog.
If you combine Dance Whispering and Dance Listening (what you will learn in this blog), you will become an exceptional Zouk Lead which many Follows will appreciate dancing with.
This blog will go into details of a method that helps develop you into a Dance Listener and how to apply it on any social dance floor. Dance Listening is a skill all Leads should spend much time honing.
I'm calling this dance optimisation method “The 3 Dance Approach”.
The name is an obvious giveaway why it’s called this… Yes, it’s because it uses 3 dances. Some people may object or disagree with this and may suggest they can do it quicker. Sure you can, I agree, but I enjoy taking my time to warm up to each other shifting up gears before going full throttle.
The 3 Dance Approach works like a charm for me and had helped enhanced dances with Follows of all level. I’ve shared this methodology with many friends and many agreed it’s made a huge difference!
The 3 Dance Approach is a great tool to help you develop into an exceptional Dance Listener.
One of the biggest mistakes many social dancers make and especially beginners are not having multiple dances. I can see why beginners would be afraid because they feel knowing only limited moves and would bore the crap out of the partners using the same repeated moves and combination patterns.
I would highly encourage everyone and especially beginners to follow The 3 Dance Approach or at least give a trial period of at least 3 months, because it would teach you something very important. That lesson is dance isn’t about how many moves or combination patterns you know, but instead the quality of the dance.
A good comment from a friend had me thinking about the feasiliby of the The 3 Dance Approach and whether it is usable for Beginner Leads. Her opinion is that Lead(s) needs to be able to do the Zouk basic movements very well for this method to be effective.
I understand where she's coming from and concerns. This then begs the question, when should a Beginner Lead start learning about Dance Listening? What would be a more simplier/basic version suited for beginners?
My rationale for Beginners to start learning this skill as early as possible in their Zouk journey based on the fact it will reduce or prevent rough/bad leading because Dance Listening will tell them whether they are using too much strength or leading incorrectly.
The important point in this blog is to raise awareness or what Dance Listening is and explain the key part it plays in Zouk or in any other social Dances. Whether you choose to try out the 3 Dance Approach, that really is up to you on how you want to develop your Dance Listening skills. If you have a better working method, then please share it to me!
I understand as a Beginner (we all been there) that it is frustrating because there is just too much to take in and can be very intimidating on the social dance floor. I deeply believe in learning correctly the first time even if it feels like it takes longer.
As an experienced Zouk Lead, I know how difficult and time consuming it was to unlearn bad habits and most of it through my own impatience and wanting to improve fast.
I learned the hard way. There is no fast track, you just have to be consistently practicing the basic foundations and make steady progress until your body is ready for the next step.
I believe when some Dancers had developed too difficult / unbreakable bad habits, it becomes one of their contributing factors for quitting Zouk before reaching their potential and evolving from a hobby into a burning passion... But I'll save this hypothesis and debate for another blog topic!
It’s very tempting to aim and dance with everyone while thinking it will increase your dance exposure and experience. I know because I’ve had those same exact thoughts on my first dozen congresses and danced like a factory in China (One Dance, Next! One Dance, Next! One Dance, Next!).
To be that nice guy you thought you’d be doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give everyone one dance.
Big NoNo!... and why I know this?!
We know how gender imbalance Zouk used to be (still is actually, but better now) where ladies could be waiting a long time for a dance. I’ve spoken to many lady friends (MANY) and they all gave me exactly the same answer to my question, “What would you prefer, one dance and wait 15mins for the next one, or have multiple quality dances and wait an hour again?” I REPEAT... They all gave me the same answer!
Now, if you can’t figure what was their response and the purpose of me writing this blog, then I really have no hope for you...
I had feedback from a Dance Follow who preferred having the former of one dance and wait 15mins for the next! Are there other Follows who also feel this way and why?
One of the main reasons all the Follows that I've previously asked preferred multiple dances was the fact when Leads left after one dance, it made them felt like they did something wrong and caused more distress.
Multiple dances made them felt appreciated, happy and a clear indication that the Lead had enjoyed dancing with them. This in light helped them build confidence and grow as a Follow, then ultimately become passionate about Zouk. So in principle, this behaviour should help the scene's long term vision in maintaining higher quality and passionate Dancers within the scene.
Simple…. Just try The 3 Dance Approach on every NEW partner or someone whom you’ve not danced in a month for it to be most effective. For partners I regularly dance with, I don’t necessarily re-apply this approach.
A couple of feedback from the Ladies felt that the 3 Dance Approach could be quite pressurising and make them feel like they are being tested.
Don't get me wrong, The 3 Dance Approach is NOT meant to be a test on anyone or make them feel like they are being critically assessed! Its more to do with allowing the time for 2 people to get to know each other. We should still be dancing, feeling natural throughout (nothing artificial at all!) and enjoying it. During the first few dances, the Follow should also take this time to also understand my Lead and how my body works. It's a 2-way conversation stream.
As a Lead, we are challenged on the social dance floor and sometimes felt like we were expected to give joy/pleasure and good dances to everyone of all levels. It can feel like a heavy burden and sometimes we have our off days, but we still try our best! I'll reiterate, through trial and error, this method works for me and I felt it had increased pleasure to many dance partners, and I was happy to share it.
If it works for you, great. But if it doesn't work for you, also great!
1. The First Dance (song) is to break the ice and getting to know each other.
◘ Understand each other's ability.
• How well can she follow?
• Can she do body isolations and which parts?
• How much strength is required to move her body parts?
• What is her response time (sensitivity) on different body parts?
• How well does she transfer her weight and footwork?
• What range of movements and limitations?
• What kind of energy does she give off?
• Can she synchronize breathing?
• Does it flow better in open or close hold or both?
• How much does she like freedom and styling?
• Does she support her own weight all the time?
• Does she squeeze me back when I squeeze her and with the same amount of compression?
• This is by no means an exhaustive list but it gives an indication some of the questions in my mind that I am working out!
◘ Lead varying speeds and size of movements;
• I prefer to start with big full movements to measure the range.
• Use Smaller and micromovements to measure how acute their sense of following.
• Adding varying speed with size of movements to understand how the fast the Follower can follow without struggling to keep up.
◘ Does she do dangerous moves that forces you to risk your life and death? If so, which misinterpreted lead to avoid using;
• If she frequently doing dangerous moves without being lead, I usually walk away when the song finishes. It's not worth it.
• I’ll say this bluntly, but the most dangerous common moves that caused me 2 near broken backs (luckily not) and severe pulled back muscles are when idiots do unsolicited cambre or drops without being lead, or when I am leading controlled forward dips which they decide to turn them into a drops. I instinctively saved them everytime from face planking but sometimes I do wish my body would just let them fall so it teaches them a hard lesson. :( Any Follows who’s reading this should think twice doing this when they dance with me because you have been warned! My patience is getting thin… I dare you.. I so dare you…
• Remember, your health, back and chance to dance a lifetime should not be destroyed by someone elses foolishness and ego to look good on the dance floor. For me, it’s a red card offense and you will be instantly added to my blacklist for a very very very long time.
◘ I never ever get bored of the first dance, more thrilled actually! When I listen to the ladies body as it hums and resonates with each tap of the spinal cord like keys on a piano. The excitement look on my face is like a musician learning to play a new instrument and wonder what kind of music they can create together.
2. Second dance (song) is when I spend the time to tweak and fine tune different parts of my dance.
◘ There will never be a perfect Lead/Follow so instead of waiting/queuing for one, adapt yourself to your partner.
◘ I adjust the strength and way I lead different movements that works best for the partner.
◘ Compensate in areas where your partner is not as strong. Eg. balance and assist in weight shifting.
◘ Align the type and flow of energy to build connection.
◘ To understand any of the above, you would need to have extensively practiced and danced with everyone of all levels. If you can do this, you are a versatile dancer which everyone will love.
◘ If you don’t understand the above, then you better start practicing with everyone of all levels!
3. By the third dance (song), you should know each other's ability well enough to dance at optimal level.
◘ Play with the movements she likes.
◘ You may both improved after three dances and the combined limits have increased. There’s been many times when I was able to lead the other person beyond what I originally thought she was capable of.
◘ Connect only as much as she wants without going beyond it. I love deep connections (sometimes), but having multiple dances doesn’t give you the right to cross that line with everyone.
• This takes practice in self control of your own emotions and how to dance no further than intimacy (if that’s her set limit), but don’t try to push beyond into lust and love with everyone. Not everyone is keen on it or want it.
• I’ve seen some ladies and men who frequently get really drunk on connection. I mean maybe it’s okay once a night, but with every lady?! While they are drunk on their own connection, eyes closed, they don’t always realise their partner is making that freak out look on her face like wtf is this guy on?!
◘ Now if you got this far, you are doing great! If he/she allows you to have more than three songs, then just enjoy the moment!
Additional Tips and Reasons Why You Should Use The 3 Dance Approach.
◘ For clarity, The 3 Dance Approach is not a rule, it's only a guideline that worked for me on most occasions! Don't expect it to work on everyone but you won't know unless you try :)
◘ Be patient and learn howto get to know someone and find ways to build/establish connection that works for you. This takes time and practice;
• I am pretty sure you can probably apply all The 3 Dance Approach in half or quarter of the time.
• But what’s the rush? It’s not Speed Dancing (Speed Dating Pun…) or a numbers game! I would choose quality over quantity anyday. I’m not very demanding because it only takes one good dance to make my night.
• Increasing your chance of making that one good dance together with someone is a choice. Your choice.
◘ Give them 100% focus all the time;
• Always give 100% focus in your dances, even if you can only use limited movements and technique based on their level. regardless if they are a beginner or the experienced.
• Even if you give 100% focus, not everyone will give you 100% focus back, however this does not mean you should give not continue giving them 100% focus.
• By giving 100% focus from the beginning, it encourages the other person to give you 100% focus or at least build up towards that.
• Great attention to detail requires 100% focus. I can pick up the smallest nuances in my Follows body by Listening with 100% focus.
• 100% focus on them includes their safety and without neglecting your own!
◘ By utilizing The 3 Dance Approach, you'll be amazed how much you will improve as a dancer, the more times you practice how to learn about the other person, the more capable you become in making any dance great!
◘ You will discover more frequent great dances because you didn't cut it short before optimising the dance.
◘ The 3 Dance Approach, is my way of giving myself the chance, as well as the other person the highest possibility of having a great dance.
◘ The only times I've broken The 3 Dance Approach were;
• Dancing with someone that I frequently dance with.
• If it felt like a fight and struggle by the end of the first song.
• If I felt zero(0) connection by the end of the second song.
• She's drunk.
• If the other person does not want a second or third dance for any other reasons.
◘ Multiple dances should never be forced upon a person, you will know if they want it or not. The trick I use to find out whether a person would like another dance is by relaxing my entire body and frame at the end of a song.
• If in open embrace at the end of the song, I will engage in eye contact, smile and continue very small slow movements.
• If in close embrace, it’s much easier to tell if they want to continue dancing. I would hug them in a very soft and gentle embrace and continue very small slow movements, enough so they can break off if they choose to.
DANCING ZOUK IS A CONVERSATION BETWEEN TWO PEOPLE
STOP treating every dancer the same! Though we are using the same movements, but each dance and person is unique. The dance experience/level, energy, body types such as height, weight, mood, and many other variables can influence the dance.
If you think I'm referring to listening to spoken voice, then my answer is no. The type of listening I am referring to is the ability to listen to your partner's body, their heart, their breath, their connection, their energy, their state of mind and mood.
Some people may say, oh isn't this just feelings and not listening? For this blog I prefer using the term listening, but yes, you can call it feelings.
Partner dances are conversations, you take turn speaking, and you also take turn listening to each other. There is a BIG misconception that only the Leads speak and Follows only listen. This is not true in partner dancing. BOTH the Leads and the Follows should speak and listen to each other during the dances because that’s what makes a conversation.
EVERY DEEP CONNECTION IS A JOURNEY
My love for Zouk isn’t just the dance, it’s actually people, and having the chance to learn and know about a person at a level that can not be simply communicated with words.
I like using the term “The body never lies” because there is so much you can learn about a person just by listening to their body which can’t be faked easily with the likes of verbal face-to-face conversations.
Instead, we are able to have complex conversations with someone in 5-Dimensions and beyond.
Deep connection is like a gateway into another World created using the music as a catalyst and mixing with the recipe of our resonating energy, soul and emotions that propels us into this other World.
Everyone around you on the dance floor disappears, the music becomes drowned and it becomes a quiet 1:1 interaction. Even the smallest whispers will sound like clear droplets hitting still water creating multiple ripples. Time becomes warped, a minute in this World turns out to be the whole night upon waking.
When two people enter this emotional state of mind, it becomes sacred, it’s special, unique and very intimate. It can bring peace, moments of happiness and an experience beyond words could describe.
Being allowed to enter this deep connection with your partner takes both time to build and requires 100% trust. You should never rush if you wish to enter this shared meditational state.
This is one of the powers of Zouk and why some of us keeps coming back for more. Those who know how to wield this power should use it with care and caution.
Like any power, it is hungry, can feed egos and instantly addictive.
It can be used for both good and bad.
When used incorrectly or for the wrong reasons it can cause distress, destroy minds, soul and heart of others and even self destruction.
And… Just like sex, you should really only enter into this sacred grounds with consent of the other person.
!?!? SPEED DANCING W00T !?!?
On the social dance floor, *AHEM* I commonly dancers changing partners after one song, even if it was someone they have only danced for the first time with. This seems like speed dating on the dance floor, you only have 3 minutes to get to know each other, ROTATE!
Honestly, I've been speed dating once, (okay maybe twice) and it's fun, but it's not a great place if you really want to understand one another. It's also not the ideal place to practice your communication skills or building confidence, however (maybe) it can help you improve how to sell yourself in 3 minutes and make you seem great at first, but after some time, they will soon realise you aren't very good at holding conversations because you lacked practice when it comes to holding long and interesting conversations.
All you could do is repeat a 3 minute script you had memorised or learned from someone.
In speed dating, there aren't enough time to explore each other's interest, what we have in common, what do they like, what don't they like, how are they today, what type of food they like, would they like to go for a walk in the park, what makes them laugh, are they having a good time?
From my limited understanding in Tango is that as part of it’s etiquette, you are obliged to have multiple dances with the same partner? I’m not saying it should be a strict rule, but only as a rough guideline that may enhance both yours and your partners Zouk dance experience.
Really ask yourself this question, what’s the rush? Steadily, take your time and enjoy getting to know her.
STOP SHOUTING AND LISTEN
I’m assuming you don't need me to explain what “Speaking” in dance terminology, as it seems like everyone knows how to, especially the Leads who forcefully shout and scream orders at their Follows.
In Zouk, on the extreme ends, I'm referring to the bad/rough Leads who throws large, complex, out of control moves with little or no consideration to their dance partner's ability. I see this so often in the London Zouk scene and can painfully hear the bodies of the Follows crying for help. Or the ignorant Follower throwing all sort of dips and hip movements at the poor Leader trying to maintain balance and safety from all these unpredictable and unlead unsolicited movements.
They produce so much noise; the screaming and shouting, making it impossible for them to listen to their partner. Luckily, being a good listener is a skill anyone can improve and you don’t need to be godsend to have this ability.
If you want to become a good Dance Listener, START by lowering your volume and STOP making unnecessary noise.
Guys, you probably heard this from thousands of books or references and maybe from your dear worried Mother. Women likes Men who are good listeners. Dance Listening is NO different.
Please vouch me on this ladies, I would like a raise of hands (comments);
How many of you Ladies reading this blog right now, likes a Man who listens to them? And... How many does not?!?!
IF YOU FOUND THIS BLOG USEFUL, PLEASE SHARE AND COMMENT!
Are you a Dance Listener? - Are there anything you would add to this?
Ladies/Follows, would you have any objection giving 3 dances (songs) in a row to a Guy/Lead?
Should Beginner level Leads attempt the 3 Dance Approach? If not, when should they start developing this skill?
What other ways have you discovered that could improve both yours and your dance partner's experience? Please share!
Because of the common gender imbalance and the interesting debates around the World based on this blog post, I have a few more questions for the Ladies.
How many multiple dances in a row hit your sweet spot?
How long waiting around for a Dance before you get bored and start losing interest in Zouk?
3) If you were watching others having multiple dances, how long before you feel they are being inconsiderate? -- Or does this not bother you at all?
Do you think it's a Guys (Leads) duty to dance with everyone?
I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts!
LASTLY….CHECK THIS OUT!
I've been meaning to finish this blog for quite some time now and been very guilty of procrastination because most of my free time were working on DiscoverZOUK.com (London’s Newest Non-Profit Organisation).
We’ve recently launched our latest concept called ZOUK Workspace every Wednesday @ TheCockPit, Marylebone, London.
ZOUK Workspace is FREE and welcomes all Zoukers!
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced Zouk dancer, everyone will benefit!
ZOUK Workspace acts as a supplement to your regular Zouk classes by allowing dancers of all levels to fully interact, communicate and help each other. Trust me when I say this will accelerate your learning and get the input you need or can’t get on social dance floors!
Here, you can take all the time you need to focus solidifying those techniques you learnt in classes because learning will be at your own pace. No rush, this isn’t a race!
Come join us NOW and take your dancing to the next level!
I make a lot of effort to be there every week to practice with myself and others. Feel free to ask me more about The 3 Dance Approach and I could even demonstrate to you how it works.
Remember to LIKE our DiscoverZOUK FB Page so you get all the up-to-date events and project infos!
Dance isn’t my hobby, it’s a passion and part of who I am.
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Here are a few others that may interest you!