Jan Lachenmeyer’s Zouk Course in Berlin

Notes from a recent Zouk class. I have to say, Jan is the best dance teacher I’ve ever had. It is immediately apparent how taking his class will help me in every other dance out there. He tries to get you into a certain mindset. As a mindset-designer and mindset-switcher myself, I knew this guy knew his shit. And he even heads a startup company. How does he have the time? Particularly, how did he have the time to think this deep about life and dance while doing all that, before reaching 40?

Guess I gotta ask him next time.

The Mindset you should have when approaching dance
Start by hugging someone, as if they were an old friend you hadn’t seen for a long time. Your breaths synchronize. Your thoughts (hopefully) synchronize. And thus, your movements synchronize.
It is not “I have to show her what I cool moves I can do!”. It is not “that’s not right, I’m supposed to do this” or “you’re supposed to do that”. It is also not “I have to surprise her with moves she’s never heard of”.
Instead, it is like a conversation. I do this – how will you answer? There is no right or wrong answer. It is simply how the conversation flows, and you take it from there.

Four degrees of Touch
Police Arrest
Firm
Light
Airy
You probably don’t want to be Police Arrest level of strong with your leading. But should you be Firm, Light, or Airy, or whatever? What’s best? What makes a particular degree of touch best anyway? How much the follower likes it? What produces the move that you wanted?
Each level of touch has its uses. Perhaps when you want something to be really on time, or if you’re dancing with a newbie, then you want to have a firm touch. Experienced followers prefer a light touch. Airy might be nice in slow songs. It depends on what you want to make the follower feel, what kind of experience do you want to give to the follower.

Four ways to think of moves
Steps/Figures
Movement forms
Biomechanics
Biotensegrity
There seem to be people who think in terms of steps/figures in salsa. The lead learns a step, the follower learns a step, they put it together, and it works like gears meshing together. But there are so many possible moves. It’s impossible to learn them all.
Movement forms seems to be the moment when you realize – ah, it’s a spin but with this added twist. It’s this basic move, or a basic move done in a different way.
Biomechanics is when you start to play directly with the body, and see how pushing on one part of your partner’s body can communicate something.
Biotensegrity is when you start thinking about your partner’s body as a structure of muscles acting upon the bones, and then you interact with that. Not sure how that works.
Each way of thinking works best when you’re dancing with a partner who thinks the same way. The biomechanics way needs the follower to be tuned in, to have tension in her body, to hold her body a certain way so that what you are doing with her hand can reach her neck/shoulder line. Similarly, if I’m dancing with a partner who thinks in turns of steps, and I do some cool new move, she will always say “what? I don’t know that move” and then it’ll fail.

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