Dancemax Letter # 21 Thursday, October 19, 2000
Precedes and Follows
Why am I saying what I am saying? As I started to learn to dance in the USA
some ten years ago I spent several thousand dollars and had worked so hard
for the whole year that I thought dancing should come easy. I had learned the
Waltz, or so at least I thought, with many private lessons and groups etc.
Sure I had some problems with timing but low and behold, no one ever had
mentioned alignment or anything such as precede and follow. The only way I
was taught to turn was Left Box (Reverse turn). I was doing one reverse after
the other and felt great in a party when I yanked my partner into a reverse
turn starting diagonal wall and kept going and going. I really felt good
about it but the turn did'nt feel too good. As I switched Studios for
whatever reason, I met a new teacher from Ukraine and the very first lesson I
got was in Waltz. This time I was told something about Natural turns and
Change steps etc. So far I thought these were CHAIN Steps. Anyway then I
realized how we connect one turn to the other with change steps and what
alignment really means. I also was told, what comes before a figure, is a
Precede and what comes after is a Follow, and I really became a Born Again
Dancer overnight. Thanks Tatyana! I am not being facetious, it is real story.
Precedes and Follows: Now that we know what is a Precede and a Follow, let's see what is the purpose and logic behind these terms. Ballroom dancing requires the same kind of discipline as is requied in automobile traffic. So in order to keep the flow smooth, discipline is important. To avoid hazards, we must follow some rules. These rules of the road in Ballroom Dancing are grouped under one term, FLOORCRAFT. Basically "Floorcraft is Movement in refernce to a Line of Dance with proper alignments." (refer to lettter #14 for alignment discussion). So after a reverse turn started diagonal to center, you are now facing diagonal wall, left foot free. We all know that now we can do a left foot closed change and then a Natural turn. So Reverse turn becomes a good precede for Left foot closed change, and Natural turn becomes a good follow to the Left foot closed change. Similarly, Whisk will be a good follow to Reverse Turn, facing Diag to Wall. Yes, this is Kindergarten stuff but that is the point. It will perhaps help some of us who are at that stage.
When they were putting all this data into the technique books they selected only a few precedes and follows to keep it precise. Like Ms. Elizabeth Romain says if we want to include all the possible precedes and follows the book will become so big, even to carry it will be a formidable task.
It amazes me how these technique books got written the way they are written and I am sure we understand that this was not the work of one person but committee after committee of excellent knowledgable dancers who danced and compiled this data. I call these Books as Holy Books of Dancing. So please let's go back to 10 elements that we must know when studying a Figure.
Questions and comments to Dancemax@aol.com, thank you.