Dancing in tight spaces: tips for followers

With Valentango approaching, I have been thinking about what advice to give followers for dancing in small spaces. Leaders often panic when faced with tight quarters. Even a trusted leader may panic and leave you to your own devices as they try to figure out what to do. What can you do to help?

First, I focus on being on axis. If I keep my alignment in order. I make sure that I have my shock absorption system working: feet, ankles, knees and hips are soft and energized. I make sure my heels are down on the floor, not off the floor where I could injure other dancers. I keep my torso elastic and stretched, connecting to my leader. This makes it easier for the leader to lead me, leaving more focus for navigation.

Next, I DANCE. It's easy to cheat in small steps, and not dance your best. When in tight spaces, I play with my quality of movement, small changes in speed, and use my smaller adornos. I try to be as musical as possible. Every step counts. I am never treading in place, waiting to dance. I am dancing each step, making every bit of the song count for myself and my partner. I am dancing my heart out, in less than a square meter. If I really dance, my leader feels that and dances with me.

Third, I try to ensure that no one is going to run into us from a direction my leader cannot see. If I need to, I will use my left hand/arm to give a slight warning signal to my leader if s/he is about to back up into trouble. But make sure that you don't get into "back-seat driver" mode: you are following.

However, if you are the kind of follower who gets tense in small spaces, you may need to close your eyes and concentrate on relaxing in order to let yourself be led; I used to do that for years until I learned not to panic. If someone runs into you and your lead, exhaling and releasing the tension in your body will help you not get injured--and will make it easier for your leader to lead you.

Have fun!