Leadership Lessons from Dance – I Feel It, I Go!

Austin Inspired Movement Dance Instructor and friend, Marcus Negron, shared with me his number one rule for being a great follow, “I feel it, I go“. Sure, it sounds like a simple concept yet upon reflection and attempted execution I have found it can be difficult to execute regularly. Like many things with partnered dance, this rule also has beneficial lessons for on and off the dance floor.

Below are a few instances of lessons from this rule:

  • Sometimes follows see the body positioning of the lead or see a prep that looks similar to one they have seen before and infer, assume, or anticipate what their body will be asked to do next!!! They then start leading themselves (also known as back leading) and do what they think rather than what they feel.
    • In life this may look like going into auto-pilot and not paying attention to the cues and clues of surrounding that may inform us of the nuance of a particular situation so that we are better prepared to respond (also known as not trusting our instincts).
  • Sometimes follows look away from their partner at the start of a movement (I am guilty of this :o). This can cause the follow to miss some critical additional information that might change their reaction/actions. This may also cause the follow to feel lost, isolated, and vulnerable as they face away from their partner.
    • In life this may look like being too quick to make a decision or to take your eyes off the objective/prize only to find yourself down an unexpected path that had the potential to be avoided.
  • Sometimes follows try to blame the lead (or the circumstance) for where they ended up saying things like, “I didn’t know what they wanted me to do”. To which Marcus would respond, “what did you feel?”
    • In life this may look like not taking ownership for the consequences for actions. The lead is not in control of a follow’s footwork. Follows need to hold their own without relying on the lead to know how or when to dance (defined as movement to music).
  • Sometimes it takes a follow a while before they react to the body part being moved by the lead. For example, their arm may get pulled to almost full extension or the hand has to be moved roughly before a movement is felt and a reaction is generated. This example is the follow not staying in their frame (or in their integrity) and allowing themselves to be stretched too thin and potentially to put themselves in a position to be hurt.
    • A life example of this for me is being aware of the signs my body shows me when I needed to eat or sleep because if I don’t refuel I will not be good to anyone. There is a price to pay for putting on an armor and numbing. There is benefits to being vulnerable and in touch with ones feelings (see Dr. Brene Brown’s work).  If I am not in touch with what I am feeling then it is difficult to make the best decision for myself or for my team. 

The “I feel it, I go” rule calls for a follow to be in tune enough with their body to know what they are feeling, know where they are feeling it, and also how to react to the feeling. The rule is a good reminder that the follow role is primarily a reactionary one therefore awareness of sensation to the body greatly informs movement.

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If you liked this blog post please comment and visit others in the series: Leadership Lessons from Dance

*Featured Image is Dr. Sobers at at Club Bantu – Austin,TX after a performance in September 2018 with the Alma Latina Austin Co-Ed Bachata Team directed by Austin Inspired Movement.

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