Part of ATS/ITS is obviously the whole leading and following thing. Following is generally not too nerve-racking (although you still want to make a good effort at understanding the cues and executing the appropriate movement). What trips up most people is leading. I’m not going to talk about exactly how you go about leading (i.e., the technical aspect) but more the mental preparation. And although the frame of mind that I had for writing this blog was about ATS/ITS, a lot of it is applicable to other styles of dance.
That’s why we drill
So you’re nervous about leading and whether you will do the moves correctly. Well, you know what? That’s why we drill those moves over and over again. The idea is that the moves will become so ingrained in your body that they will just flow. What will happen eventually is that you’ll do cue XX and the move that goes with it will just come out. That’s how much you want to know your moves. It makes your life much much easier.
Overthinking is a killer
I’m a big overthinker for most things… but definitely NOT for leading. If you start overthinking, that’s when you’ll second-guess yourself as to whether you should trust your body that you had the correct follow-up to a cue or whether you are doing it correctly on the beat and it all goes downhill from there. Just trust your instincts. Trust that your body knows what it is doing.
Unless you’re about to replicate the exact same pattern as the leader before you (and even then…), don’t edit what you’re about to do. The main reason for that is that it’s then putting you into the left side of your brain, so in the analytical side, as opposed to keeping you flowing… and the overthinking will ensue… as well as the negative talk that we (too often) give ourselves. In addition, that will generally make you hesitate and, thus, will break the moment.
That’s why we practice together
You know, those rehearsals when we just do improvisation together? They’re as crucial if not more than drilling moves. You can drill moves on your own, at home. While you can do exercises on your own that will practice your leading abilities, it’s never the same as having some folks in the back relying on you to cue a move. So it is really important that you do those group practices. But please relax in them. You can totally mess up in those and it’s all in good fun. We’re all learning together when we do those practices.
Let go of perfection
In practice and in performance, you will mess up… you will cue something that you didn’t mean to or cue something wrongly. No biggie. As long as you don’t have a face of “OMG, I messed up!”, few will know. And your dance partners won’t flog you at the end. Seriously. We’ve all messed up. It’s perfectly fine.
Just do it!
To borrow the Nike slogan (it’s a damn good one), what it boils down to is that you need to Just do it! It’s that simple! Sounds complex and all but, really, all that you have to do is take a deep breath and take a proverbial plunge… you need to just do it! And the more you do it, the easier it gets. Trust me!