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May 5th marked our first ever Intermediate Follower Intensive.

I can honestly say that it was one of the most enlightening and gratifying classes that I’ve ever taught. To have the chance to spend that much time on such minute and essential follower technique is very close to my heart. All of the participants worked really hard and the results were FABULOUS!

Followers at the 1.5/2 level had a chance to focus completely on follower technique for 2 hours while dancing with very experienced and established leaders as their partners. We had the extreme pleasure of working on nothing but the swingout for 75 minutes before breaking into some slightly different material for the last part of the workshop.

A VERY HUGE THANK YOU TO THE LEADERS WHO WERE EXTREMELY HELPFUL AND ENCOURAGING OF THE FOLLOWERS WITH VERY USEFUL FEEDBACK AND ADVICE. I found the advanced leaders to be supportive and attentive, giving followers exactly the type of nurturing feedback that they needed. The nature of the workshop created a safe space for participants to feel comfortable receiving that type of guidance.

All of the participants should be really proud of what you accomplished during that session. With that said, it’s not realistic for all of the adjustments to immediately take hold and become permanent muscle memory and reaction. It does take a lot of work and thought to practice until perfect so I thought I’d give a very brief synopsis of the most important key ideas.

Practice makes perfect and the points may seem basic, but they’re subtle and require consistent attention:

  1. Corpse arm; completely dropping the weight of your arm except for the light hook in your 3rd & 4th fingers to prevent from slipping out. Don’t forget to lock your shoulder blades back to engage your frame. Periodically check your arm and make sure it’s truly dropped, not just in open position but also during your face off.
  2. Stretch on 1 & 2; stretching away from your leader for both counts with firm use of the floor during your twist
  3. Using the first 2 points to enable the snap/release that helps you to travel as far in and past the leader as you can possibly go during 3, then taking a very stable and squared off face off with your leader during 3&4 with your back truly filling in his hand
  4. Check the position of your hand on the leaders shoulder blade.
  5. Allowing the leader to set your direction into 5. It’s the leader, not you, who controls the direction of your hips and if the swingout is straight or round. Keep half an eye spying on the leader during straight swingouts too.
  6. Your basic posture and body position can best be achieved by hopping away from your leader with a firm landing position; your feet are pointed out to your left, the caboose and your feet underneath should be the furthest points from your partner, your upper body and head should be slightly closer to your leader, your shoulder blades are back and you can feel the strange stretchy tension in your arm.

Thank you again to everyone who helped to make this first workshop a huge success!

We also head a very successful Beginner Follower Crash Course which was also excellent. But that’s the subject of another Blog Post.

Mandi Gould

Mandi Gould is Director & Head Dance Instructor for Bees’ Knees Dance in Toronto and St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.