Dear Dance Diva,
What is the leader’s responsibility to protect his follower? I do my best to keep my partner out of harm’s way, but often there is no way to avoid an incident with another leader who is paying no attention or who seems to believe he has the right of way at all times. Usually they run into my partner, but the other day a leader ran right into me, so I gave him a little bump back. Later, a leader coming on the floor with his partner cut right into the flow of dancers already on the floor. What are the rules of the road and how do I enforce them?
Ready to retaliate
Please don’t—retaliate that is. Just because your fellow leaders appear not to have learned how to navigate (or much about common courtesy, for that matter) doesn’t mean you should join them in their poor manners. Did your Mother never tell you that two wrongs don’t make right?
Floor craft, that is, the ability to dance using the correct techniques for traveling or rotating while sharing the floor with others and avoiding collisions, is as essential to being a good leader as is connection, frame or footwork. Unfortunately, it is an area that is largely neglected by instructors. The fact that there are leaders and followers at all tells you that partner dancing is, by its very nature, a chauvinistic activity. Along with that comes a division of labor. The follower’s job is to move in accordance with your lead; your job is to make those leads as clear, correct, and safe as possible. Since the follower is often traveling backwards and frequently has no vision of the line of dance, it only makes sense that the responsibility for avoiding collisions lies with the leader. Since you can’t predict or dictate what another leader will do, rule No. 1 is to be pro-active.
If you have noted certain leaders that seem reckless, do your best to steer completely clear of them. Keep an eye on entry points in order to take evasive action if someone is boorish enough to step on the dance floor as you are cruising by. Suggest to your club Director’s that they have someone teach some basic floor craft skills in a pre-dance session. If necessary, always halt your follower’s movement abruptly if you notice an imminent collision. DO NOT bump back! Sometimes on a crowded floor, regardless of care, collisions happen. When this is the case both parties should pause momentarily to make sure that no one is hurt and BOTH parties should apologize.
This is not about blame, it is about courtesy and civility. However, if there is a consistent problem with a particular leader, report it to your club Directors and ask that they speak with the leader privately. Really, Dance Diva is growing tired of saying this, Politeness Trumps All!!
©Dance Diva (aka Carrie Seidman). Previously appeared in newsletters of the Albuquerque Dance Club (www.nmdance.com). Reprints by express permission of the author only.