Warning – massive lindy nerd-out ahead
So it would seem that sometimes when I’m dancing not all of my brain will be focussing on that dance (as a matter of fact, I’ve sometimes found that I dance better when I’m not thinking about it). The other day while out dancing my mind was working on something I’d been thinking about for a while; just how much of dancing was to do with physics. After three or four songs worth of consideration, I came up with a basic ratio that I then put on Facebook as:
Lindy is 50% Newtonian physics, 30% musicality and 20% magic
Suffice to say this generated a fair amount of discussion, but I felt I didn’t properly explain what I meant by this and why I’d assigned each aspect that proportion. Obviously I don’t expect everyone to agree with the proportion I give each one, and I guess a few people will think there are more/less/entirely different parts to it. It just seemed too good a discussion not to have.
50% Newtonian physics
To my mind, a lot of leading and following has to do with basic physics. A friend once said that a good follow is a frictionless particle. When a follow is sent in a certain direction they* should keep going in that direction until something stops them. One of the main parts of following is using momentum, or your lead has to put far more work in to sending you somewhere, and you just won’t travel as far (although there is something to be said for not using the momentum quite as the lead intended it, just as long as you still use it). Similarly, if there’s no lead, don’t go anywhere. Lindy is fundamentally a partnered led dance, and so to dance it you need a follow who is prepared to do what the lead leads.
Besides (although still linked to) the lead-follow context, a lot of moves only work because of the physics of the connection; sugarpushes work because once you’ve triple-stepped into each other, there’s nowhere to go but backwards. Similarly, a follow comes back in from a swingout because the force from the lead bringing her in is greater than the momentum sending her out.
There was a fair amount of discussion on Facebook about whether musicality or physics was more important to lindy. Without doubt musicality is crucial to dancing (or at least listening to music is crucial to dancing, musicality is crucial to dancing well), but this post is specifically about lindy. You can dance with a partner without any leading, but in my opinion for it to be lindy there needs to be a lead and a follow (although there may be a place for what I call 80-20 leading). Musicality is needed for dancing, but for the subset of dancing known as lindy, physics is also crucial.
If physics is being able to send a follow out, musicality is doing it on the right beat of the music (although there’s some debate as to whether this would always be on the same beat in every song). Musicality means that you’re using the music as more than just a metronome for your dancing, but listening to every part of the song, reacting to it and incorporating that into the way you dance. Recognising the breaks in a song, reacting to changes in the music, incorporating different phrases; if lead-follow is the science of lindy, musicality is the art (for me a lot of things come down to a mixture of science and art). Musicality happens when you stop just memorising footwork and start mixing together what you learned in class with how you used to react to music before you started taking classes. Musicality is where the fun starts.
Obviously I don’t mean magic in the literal sense. I mean the bit of lindy I can’t quite name properly; when something just works, when a dance is massive amounts of fun even when you don’t quite know why, the atmosphere in a room full of dancers having one hell of a good time (I can think of a few people who would call this psychology). It’s the bit that leaves you thoroughly addicted to dancing 🙂
* gendered pronouns intentionally omitted