The Second Step Problem
There is a constant malady for Leads that they may not realize that they’re doing. If they’re engaging Forward Intention, on the first step, which in turn asks the Follower to extend their free leg, what happens on the next step is where the real problem rears it’s ugly head: The 2nd Step Lead Issue!
The Problem: As the Lead gets to the end of their first forward step, they’ll tend towards standing upright, vertical, and then thinking that the Follower is following, will continue forwards without forward intention. As a result they’ll slide their foot (really their leg) ‘under‘ their follower’s into the Follower’s free space.
From a Following Perspective, you are so indoctrinated to ‘following‘ that you don’t even realize that you’re co-creating part of the problem. You know that you’re supposed to go backwards, and so from the moment the Lead steps into your space you instinctively step backwards, without really listening if there was in fact a ‘lead‘ present. Further still, your leg extension is a mixed bag response, typically with a bent knee going backwards as you pick your foot up off the floor all the while moving backwards and trying to transfer your weight going backwards. So by the time the 2nd step comes around you ‘give’ you Lead (the person, not the action) the desired response by default and keep doing it from that point forward. To be fair this is partly your issue for not being an honest Follower, and partly your dance partner’s fault, for not being clear with you. Now some of you will hear this as ‘wait for your Lead‘, which is an erroneous phrase that we hear so much of as Followers from our teachers that it becomes 2nd nature to us. As a result of this message being communicated to us repeatedly we end up becoming slow, lethargic, and non-responsive. This is not about ‘waiting‘, but is in fact about ‘listening’, and there is a radical difference between the two. At the same time if you’re thinking that this is simple word replacement you would be wrong. It’s not. It’s a mind shift from a passive form of dancing (waiting) to a very active form of dancing (listening). Listening is an active choice, because it requires mental engagement on your part. Every time that you give the Lead exactly they want, you are in fact encouraging them to continue to do X, Y, and Z which you know (from dancing with better Leads) is less-than-desirable, you’re sending the message that what that is doing is spot and should actually continue to do it. This is an error. If you want to send the right message, follow exactly what was led (for now) and nothing more. If you don’t feel it, you don’t go there. Don’t assume, listen. At the same time, don’t believe that because I’m picking on the Follower right here, that this is a Follower problem, it’s not. It’s a co-contributed issue!
From a Leading Perspective, you have issues my friend. First and foremost, your issue is a lack of kinesthetic awareness. Secondly, you are trusting or believing that the Follower is going to give you what you want by moving backwards on their own. Thirdly, your level of proprioception is way off from where it should be. That said, your primary issue, aside from the above, is that are unaware that you want to keep the forward intention going…well…forward. There is always, always, always that tiny amount of it. Every time that you back off on the forward intention it sends a message to the Follower that we’re stopping. As a result, we should stop as a couple, but we don’t. the Follower is confused a bit, and you just blindly move forward expecting that the Follower will go with you. And there’s your problem right there! The expectation that the Follower will just go with you. That’s problem number 1. Problem number 2 comes in the form, of the today’s topic – The Second Step Problem. Let’s assume that you’re leading from intention and not resistance, and that you employ a little lean forward. That lean forward is your forward intention, it’s just enough to ask the Follower to extend their leg, hence the intention part. This is not apilado though. Apilado would be the balancing of full on lean against each partner, a shared weight between the partnership. Something akin to what Carlos Gavito would have done. Similar but not the same. As we complete the first step, we become vertical again, taking out the ‘lean’ forward (or forward intention), and now on the 2nd step we rear back a bit, and then slide our leg under the Followers trying to continue forward. This is less than desirable for a variety of reasons, most notably that we have not actually sent a message to the Follower that they should continue backwards. We just assume that it’s going to happen. Secondly, is that we become vertical and thereby pulling back on the reigns as it were (thereby stopping the Follower, if they were being honest, which they’re not). And Thirdly we attempt to cheat the second step by sliding it into the Follower’s free space, and then bob-and-weave the next few steps trying to work things together. The embrace becomes unwieldy, the partnership of the couple becomes unstable, we have ‘bumper cars‘ basically. Not a pleasant experience.
The Dancing Reality is that this issue happens so often and so frequently that no one bothers to understand why it’s happening or more importantly how the hell to fix it. Or even to recognize that it’s an issue. However, the better Lead in the room knows what the problem is, and the better Follower may not be able to describe the issue but they do know that there’s an issue and it’s having them work harder than they want to, which is reason number 9843 (on a list of reasons) why a particular better Follower will say "NO" to a particular Lead’s cabeceo!
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