I don’t feel comfortable taking my notes from Alex’s fundamentals class and just putting them out there, without permission. I do, however, want to share some of what I learned. So that is what I will do, in the form of a list of fundamentals that I was reminded of and that I highly value (with a heavy emphasis on followers):
It is incredibly important for both leaders and followers to remain balanced. A follower who leans on her leader for balance won’t be ready for the possibilities, won’t be open for the next possible steps. Either dancer can easily pull the other over, creating an awkward and unstable dance. We are responsible for ourselves. (Even if you dance slightly off-axis, leaning into each other, you have to be aware of how much weight you are giving and where your axis is in side-to-side directions.)
Some of my most beautiful, connected dances have involved connected breathing. Inhaling and exhaling together. Inhaling with suspensions and pauses in the music. Exhaling into a movement. And followers can take an active role in leading the breath. I have been surprised with my ability to suggest a lead with my breath – if our breathing is connected and I inhale deeply and slowly, my leader might respond with a suspension or long, drawn out movement. Amazing!
We all know how important our embrace is. Leaders who pull the follower with their right hand, or dig their fingers into the follower’s back, are just uncomfortable. Followers who press on the leader’s neck or right arm, or who hang from the leader, create tension and limitations and discomfort. Take your time with the embrace. Be snuggly. 🙂
There is too much to say about walking! I was reminded of an exercise I did in a class months ago, where the follower placed her hands on the leader’s stomach. The leader was then asked to move his torso slightly in different directions, in an attempt to get the follower to extend her leg according to the lead. The idea is that every step is anticipated in the leader’s torso, and only after that does he take a step. I was amazed that I could not only follow front-side-back but that my leader also got me to extend my legs diagonally, even across my body! I was also reminded of my desire to improve my forward steps. I sometimes struggle with smooth, confident walking forward. I am now experimenting with keeping my heel and toe level as I walk forward instead of rolling through the foot, and maintaining a turnout to increase stability.
5. Walking … more.
(I said there was too much to say, didn’t I?!) Specifically, I want to mention the yummy walk that I have discussed before. The one where I feel a nice contrabody rotation in the torso with each step. I love this. Well, now think about it as more than a torso thing. Alex called it “kayaking”, and for good reason – the leader looks like he is rowing in a kayak! Combining contrabody rotation, a little bit of a lilt in the hips, and a nice push off on the first step, the leader offers a smooth entrance into quick walks. Hard to explain, but soooo nice to feel.
That’s pretty much it. There was, of course, a lot more in the class. But these truly fundamental points stuck in my head. I can’t get enough of these little pieces that add up to a refined, comfortable, connected dance.