by Mark Van Schuyver
Sometimes its like a dysfunctional family out there. Just last week I watched two followers advance upon an unsuspecting leader and simultaneously demand a dance. The hapless fellow backpedaled furiously as the followers each grabbed an arm and launched into a tug of war with him as the prize. "He asked me," one woman said.
"I requested this song specifically for him to dance with me," the other declared. The spat lasted several seconds. Only when the leader tried to get out of dancing with both did one lady back down allowing the other to drag the embarrassed man onto the floor.
In 13 years of dancing I have seen lots of "stinker" behavior. I must admit that I have been guilty of a few of these unpleasant behaviors myself, sorry. Lets take a look at the most common stinker behaviors with the idea of eliminating them.
He or she is not happy with the way you dance and begins to give you instruction on the floor. He might be a well-meaning leader trying to help a newbie follower. She might be an experienced dancer frustrated with arm leads or lack of connection. Sometimes its an inexperienced dancer with an ego problem. "I walked off of the floor when he started lecturing me," one follower said to me a couple of weeks ago.
"Who?" I asked.
"That guy." She pointed discreetly at a big fellow who was dancing off time and out of slot. "He stopped in the middle of the dance to teach me a foot-work pattern hed just learned. When I told him I didnt want a lesson, he said I had to learn it so my feet would be in the right spot and he wouldnt kick me!"
The social dance floor is not the place for teaching. No one likes unsolicited teaching. Never will you see real dance instructors teaching people against their will on the social dance floor. Its a no no. The dance floor "professor" is definitely a stinker.
The Goat Roper
Goat Ropers are leaders who treat followers like farm animals. So determined are they to have their lead executed "correctly" that they will slam the follower through the rail if she fails to obey. Goat Ropers are rough and tough. They frequently hurt the follower and they are a general danger to all that dance near them. They convert the idea of lead, follow to follow or die. The irony is that goat ropers do not realize how much they are hurting the followers as most women will suffer in silence.
The Mind Reader
He expects you to read his mind. Hes a ghost-leader with no connection. He leads with his arms, if he leads at all. This fellow expects the follower to know whats in his mind as he gives no physical indication whatsoever. Good luck!
He or she keeps head down and eyes on toes at all times. The Anteater looks bad and endangers others too. There are two possible explanations for this behavior, either he is dazzled by his own footwork, or he is looking for ants.
He or she sweats like a horse! And, does not bring a towel, or extra shirts. The Horse loves to do multiple spins thus splattering as many people as possible with sweaty spray. He likes to lead neck vamps to soak the ladys arm in as much ooze as possible. He always wears short sleeves to maximize the drip. It gets worse if he or she likes to do a lot of stuff in close position.
He or she forgets the bath, toothpaste, and deodorant combo. He or she may use copious amounts of powerful perfume/cologne. This ones a real stinker.
She is tall and has extremely long hair. She loves to do multiple spin thus spanking the daylights out of her shorter leaders face.
He or she has powerful pinchers. He squeezes tight upon her delicate fingers as she attempts multiple turns. He presses down hard into her hands with his thumbs during push breaks. She grabs hold of his spotting finger during turns thus wrenching joint from socket.
This stinker sees no evil. Often closing his eyes and or averting them from his partner, the monk sends her flying into others with complete abandon. Say a prayer before saying yes to a dance with the Monk.
This one literally marches to a different drummer. With no connection or concept for the music, the conductor may lead wonderful moves, but he leads them off -time. The conductor would do well to learn the difference between down-beat and up-beat. Beats 1, 3, 5, and 7 are down, 2, 4, 6, and 8 are up-beats. Always start off on a down-beat. If still confused, contact our guru Skippy Blair at once!
You will need the skills of Houdini to get out of the arm locks and body wraps that the contortionist will put you into. Such moves are wonderful if lead correctly and very dangerous if done with force or with disregard for the way joints turn.
The Solo Artist
She or he dances all alone. Leads are an inconvenience for the solo artist follower. She does not interpret leads she avoids them. The solo artist has no concept for he-shines/she-shines. The musical equivalent would be a band in which the guitar player riffs all the time never letting the singer sing.
Typically the leader will begin the lead on the "a" that begins before the One. It goes like this on "a" he preps to lead then on the One count he executes the lead. Thus both leader and follower step on one. A follower who does not respond in time by delaying her anchor can keep herself off time and pull the leader back with her. It is as if she sits down like a stubborn mule rather than follow the lead. This is what is sometimes referred to as being heavy.
This is the follower who coaster steps rather than anchor at the end of patterns. This is the follower who steps forward on count six or count eight. She does not anchor and she does not wait for the lead. She forfeits connection and rushes the lead at the end of every pattern. This is not really a behavior trait, but I just cant resist mentioning it.
She does not exactly try to teach him but she lets him know that hes doing everything wrong. The whiner has good intentions, but she will find herself being asked to dance less and less.
He or she does not understand contra body. He blocks the slot like a linebacker forcing his partner to run back, or run around. Contra body motion means step forward with one leg while pulling the same shoulder back.
The Bar Fly
He gets sloppy drunk and bashes everybody on the floor then gets behind the wheel and crashes into cars and trees.
Hes never had a lesson and hes proud of it. He learned it all by watching from the bar. He is the most dangerous animal on the floor, even more dangerous than the Goat Roper and the Contortionist.
The Fly Swatters
They do beautiful, broad sweeping arm and leg styling anywhere, anytime, all the time. Their arms jab out, fingers extending sometimes right into the eyes of unsuspecting dancers on either side. The use of big-sky styling in tight social dance settings is dangerous and highly irresponsible.
The Princess (or prince) is simply too good to dance with the common folk. He or she has attained a fair level of skill and has no time for the little people. One wonders who danced with him or her when they were coming up?
The Don Juan
Hes a lover in love all by himself. He gets real close and does the bump and grind body-touching moves with complete strangers and or people that would rather eat seal vomit that touch bodies with him. Hes a groper, hes a dope, he is a pariah amongst the ladies. Don Juan is the dance floor definition of sexual harassment.
Yes I have been guilty of a few of these stinker behaviors and Im sorry darn it! Ill bet, if youve been dancing for a while that you might share a bit of guilt as well, and I know that you see these things happen from time to time. How can we make it better? We can lead by example and thus inspire our sometimes-dysfunctional dance-family members to behave a bit better. Think it over next time you find yourself in a tug-of-war.
Mark Van Schuyver lives in Atlanta. He is a writer and a West Coast Swing enthusiast with over thirteen years experience dancing. More than 100 of his articles have been published in national magazines including many on the subject of dance. You can reach Mark at by e-mail at Zarrdd@bigfoot.com.