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Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

Starting Dances
By Lou Pechi

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Lou Pechi logo Did you ever notice that some of the dancers are able to start the dancing the instant the music starts? They must file the dance steps in their heads by the first notes of each song. As soon as they hear that first note their "V-8" dance engine revs up and off they go leading the dance.

I, on the other hand, with my old "6-Banger" dance engine, require multiple musical jump starts with the jumper cables, before my dance engine kicks in. Is my dance battery low?

Needless to say, I do not get many chances to lead a dance. Besides starting on the right note and step, leading a dance is no small business. Everyone is constantly watching you and looking at your feet. If you make a mistake, it ripples down the line upsetting all the non-watchers. You have to make sure you are doing the correct steps just as they were taught. Being creative and adding your own variations can be disastrous, since some of the dancers who know the dance end up bumping into the ones following you, making the whole line stumble.

In order to lead "Bavno Oro," for example, you must start at the first note. If you don't you will end up in the middle of the dance on the wrong foot apologizing that we did not start the dance at the right moment. Quite embarrassing!

In some of the other dances, like the "Ersko Kolo" or "Savila se Bela Loza," the line first moves to the right, and then to the left to be followed by dancing in place. Only the leader has the freedom to lead the line in any direction he chooses. Inevitably there is a person at the end of the line who assumes he can be the leader as well. Well two leaders don't make dancing right. By taking a sharp left when the line moves in the reverse direction, he ends up pulling the whole line so that everybody faces out during the in place dancing portion.

For me the joy of dancing is seeing all the dancers. I don't particularly enjoy dancing with the four walls. So, I have a request for all you rear of the line dancers, if you are ever at the end of the line in these dances, please, just continue dancing in the circle facing the center. We love to see your smiling face.

And last but not least, there are the corner cutters. Since I like to look at the dancers faces and not at their backs when I lead the dance, I try to spread out the line in a large circle. Many times the end of the line starts cutting corners and taking a shortcut toward the center. Next thing you know we are all bunched up a the middle of the room, and the leader has to make a choice of pulling the line in front or the back of the dancers or just stumbling over the last person in the line.

My advice is: "When folk dancing, don't cut corners."

Despite all my complaining, I really enjoy leading the dances. Where else can I get so much attention! Besides, every once in a while I get a chance to sneak some different steps and most of you, being good dancers manage to follow me.

What matters is that we dance together and enjoy it.

As appearing in "Dancing with Two Left Feet (3)," Folk Dance Scene.
Used with permission of the author.