I arrived to the practica last night with the idea that I would sit and play with my camera for a while. Take some pictures, listen to music, get in the mood. Dance once I really felt like dancing. But I walked into a room with four leaders and no followers, so that idea went out the window right away. (Thankfully, more dancers—both leaders and followers—showed up after a bit.)
I danced for two hours with many of the leaders who were there. From the beginners to the experienced leaders, I was complimented repeatedly for being an honest follower. It is a huge compliment for me, and it also highlights something that I think is very important for followers to remember:
You don’t have to know anything.
Obviously, that isn’t entirely true. We have to know technique, we have to know how to walk … but we don’t have to know moves. There is nothing, nothing that a leader can do to “signal” our next move. I am open and receptive to whatever the leader asks me to do, but I am always ready for the next moment to bring something completely different. I am always open to being the idiot who doesn’t get it, who just hangs out while the leader tries to figure out why I am just standing there.
In every moment, I am absorbed in what my leader is telling me. I constantly avoid auto-pilot. I am ready for him to ask me to do something I have never done before. If I think I know what it coming next, it only makes it harder for me to discover something new. So I try to really, truly listen. There are no sequences or moves that he can get me started with and expect me to finish on my own. It doesn’t work that way. (Disclaimer: Of course I end up on auto-pilot from time to time, especially when I am tired. But my goal is always to avoid it.)
And leaders really, truly appreciate that. They appreciate having a follower who is honest—a follower who does exactly what she is asked to do. Who doesn’t try to help. How will leaders learn to lead if followers always assist them? And how will we be open to new things if we always assume we know what the leader is trying to do? If I had tried to help, I probably never would have experienced the gorgeous little side step that one leader was trying out—it was a lovely new way to enter the cross, and it felt great. Nothing like I would have expected.