Thoughts on swing dancing and Lindy Hop, one word at a time…

The Life of an Amibdancetrous Dancer

am·bi·dance·trous

adjective

1. Having the ability in dancing to perform both roles of lead and follow competently.

Earlier this week I made a post in my new tumblr account about my experiences as competing in both roles as a lead and follow at the Boston Tea Party this past weekend. It got a decent amount of feedback so I figured I would expand a bit on the topic.

So You Are a Lead, Why Follow?

About a year after I started dancing I was told that they wanted me to teach at my college scene after the summer. To prepare for it back home in California I took introduction to Lindy Hop classes as a follow for twofold reasons; first to learn how to teach swing dance lessons and second to understand the role of a follow. The second reason mainly came from annoyance of having lead instructors responding with “I don’t know, you just follow” to class questions from follows.

I have a few reasons these days why I follow. One of them is because it is a different experience, that presents a unique set of challenges that I don’t find in leading. As a follow how do I insert my own styling and personality within the framework that my lead provides for myself? My lead gives me some free time to improvise, what do I do with this time? The questions could go on. Another big reason is it helps me immensely in learning how to be a considerate lead. When you follow a decent amount you learn what pisses follows off. Ideally what follows is not fricken doing those things. This translates to my teaching because I can break down to newbie dancers from personal experience how not to piss off people on the social dance floor.

Isn’t It Awkward?

Yep, there have been some awkward moments taking classes as a male follow. Mainly only in intro to Lindy Hop classes, I have gotten odd looks and male leads looking fairly uncomfortable having me in closed position. Largely though I have gotten nothing but positive encouragement and support. While I usually have to do the asking from leads if I want to follow, I was pleasantly surprised that at Boston Tea Party I was asked to dance as a follow a few times. One thing I always give kudos to the Oberlin, Ohio swing dance scene is the fact that I frequently get to asked to dance as a follow there and I associate them with being a role-model for an open and accepting community.

Competition?

Speaking candidly my biggest apprehension about competing as a male follow is people interpreting me as mocking that dancing role. While it presents a different set of challenges, I consider it an equally difficult role as leading and the last thing I would want is people interpreting my dancing as looking down upon it. I’ve always wondered if I get somewhat of an unfair advantage of being a male follow because I tend to stick out more in the prelims in a J&J for obvious reasons. In addition I have wondered how judges deal with that situation.

Last but not Least

To quote my tumblr post, my personal opinion on the whole matter is frankly I don’t give a damn what gender what my follows or leads are, just if they can dance. However I would be happy to hear your experiences or opinions on the matter, feel free to shoot me an email or post in the comment box below.
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6 responses

  1. Loving the male follows. Female leads have been commonplace for a while, great to see the male followship growing – as it certainly is within my own smallish scene!

    It just takes one (like you) to set it off, and then other men see that you don’t get ridiculed for it, and give it a try themselves. Bring it on – the more we can gender-bend, the less of a novelty it becomes, and the less you’ll need to worry that you look like you’re mocking follows.

    The thing that now needs to happen is for dancers in male-male dances to stop camping and hamming it up, “ooh look, don’t we look gay! titter! simper! do you like my swivels?” Max and Thomas have been a little guilty of this, but they also totally pioneered male-male dancing in the super-famous hip-hoppy tribute to the Kevin & Carla Love Me or Leave Me routine 🙂

    FInally – welcome to tumblr 😀

    March 27, 2012 at 7:22 pm

  2. Jaume

    In my scene (Barcelona) we are several (male) leads that like to try following sometimes, it’s fun (and also a challenge). After all there are quite a few (female) follows that learn to lead to compensate for the deficit of leaders.

    I had a really memorable dance once, with a girl that also does both roles well, in which we kept changing our role in the middle of the song. It was one of the first dances of that night, and after it I knew it was the best I would have there (and it was).

    But, in my heart, I’m a lead, so I only follow when needed in class or rarely in social dance when asked or if I feel like doing it.

    March 28, 2012 at 7:56 am

  3. Pingback: Three Years Gone | It's The Way That You Do It

  4. JB

    Yay for breaking out of gender roles! I love that the swing dance community is more accepting of role reversals, maybe one day we’ll have equal amounts of both genders dancing both parts.

    March 25, 2013 at 5:14 pm

  5. Pingback: A Few Thoughts on Recent Ambidancetrous Discussions | It's The Way That You Do It

  6. JuiVc,looê está enganado, quem tem interesse em ser Deputado é o Miguel. Tanto é que sempre disputou o cargo contra o Deputado Bosco. O Roberto nunca foi candidato a deputado não, você confundiu é o Miguel.

    May 9, 2017 at 4:02 am

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