Discussion on Improvisation for Follows:.
with Damon Stone

I'm always adding stuff-even though I do not know what I am doing. You suggested to me that I needed to ask for more in my following.

Damon: How and when is the important thing, it's easy to throw you and your partner off. Asking is needed. The important thing is how you ask

Follower: I am still unsure how to do that.

Damon: when you talk to someone you usually wait until there is a good place in the conversation to ask, not just interrupt right? When you do your question is probably going to be related to the topic of conversation, right?

Follower: Yup.

Damon: Same with the dance

Follower: Okay, can you explain?

Damon: If I called you on the phone you'd wait until I told you why I called before you went on to a tangent. Same with the dance. Example: we are doing a swingout and then a circle. When we finish the circle we end up in a side-by-side position. If you immediately went into some syncopation/variation before I had given any direction we'd be on two separate pages.

Follower: Okay, I follow you.

Damon: If you hold off long enough you'll see that the conversation has drifted to charleston, or a tuck-turn, or a six count basic. You can't know which until I start the lead and some of them still resemble other things, say the charleston and the skip up, or the six count basic and send out.

Follower: True.

Damon: So the best idea is to let the lead, lead it. Once the move is being lead then there is opportunity to embellish.

Follower: Okay.

Damon: Sometimes it just isn't a good time or place to interject. Enjoy the conversation for what it is. If you really want to say something there are plenty of signs we use verbal and non-verbal to indicate that we'd like a chance to interject; clearing the throat, raising a hand, opening the mouth, tilting the head, even various facial expressions. That is akin to using various amounts of pressure or tension, body posture and body angle to ask for space from the lead. You don't want to interrupt, but you do want to say something. A good lead, like a good listener, will be sensitive to such signals and will let you have your say as soon as they can… which may be immediately or which may be when they wrap up their point, completing whatever move they are currently in the middle of leading.

Follower: Nice.

Damon: I tell the leads just as we get annoyed when we want to talk but aren't given any space, just ignored or talked over, the follow feels the same when she asks for space and is denied

Follower: Uh huh. Okay what if what you want to say no longer fits the music after they wrap up their point?

Damon: Well you can change what you are going to say. It happens in conversations as well. A point you might have wanted to make is no longer relevant to the conversation topic, the issue has been dealt with or the point is moot.

Follower: What if I do it anyways? I might do that in verbal conversation. Why not in dance?

Damon: You can do it in dance too… The question is how important is your point? If the conversation has moved on sometimes its better to just let it go. Other times you can steer the conversation back to the place where you wanted to comment.

Follower: Yes.

Damon: You can choose to do your styling/improvisation anyway, regardless of the music

Follower: True… although I have very little success with this.

Damon: Or you can wait until that part of the music comes around again. Jazz has form.

Follower: Nice.

Damon: If you can follow the form you will often get an opportunity to hit that missed break later in the song. Musicality is very important, both how to move to the music as well as how to understand what you are hearing.

Follower: I see.

Damon: Maybe it was a piece of solo, you can't get that back… in this song/conversation. Chances are the "topic" (song) will come up with that same dancer or another at some future point (say the next night out if it's a popular song).

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