Leading and Following
No, this is not a lesson in politics. However, just as a strong leader
is essential for the success of a business or government, so in dancing,
a strong lead is a must.
Traditionally, the role of leading on the dance floor has been assigned
to men, while that of following has been assigned to women. In recent times,
such traditional roles have been altered with women assuming “leading”
roles in some instances and men assuming “following” roles in others. The
authors of the Ballroom Dance Kit do not object to modern day alterations,
but have chosen to hold to the more traditional dance roles for convenience
in writing graphs and describing positions and holds. Feel free, however,
to “lead” or “follow,” in any way which strikes your fancy.
A good lead stems from proper use of the arms and body. The man’s upper arm and shoulder serve as the guiding force for all dance movement. Because of this, it is important that the arm and shoulder be held firmly. A limp arm won’t do any good in guiding your partner. By cupping the right hand against the woman’s shoulder blade, the man is able to lead easily with the fingers and heel of his hand. [See The Video Waltz Lesson 3: Leading and Following]
Just like a conversation, dancing becomes boring if it is overly repetitious and uninteresting. It is the man’s responsibility to set the rhythm, decide which steps to use, and to control the direction and progression of the couple around the floor. On the other hand, the woman must sense and respond to the man’s lead. Graceful and beautiful dancing can be achieved through a gentle but definite lead coupled with a sensitive and responsive follow.
- Listen to the music to determine how fast it is being played and in what rhythm. Are there 3 beats to each measure or 4? Is the music slow or fast? A good understanding of rhythm and timing will build your confidence on the dance floor.
- A basic knowledge of some dance steps with a few variations (eg, Fox Trot, Waltz and Swing) will provide a solid foundation upon which to build.)
- Precede forward movement with a lean.
- Maintain an upright posture and move as an entire unit with your partner.
- Start each new pattern with your left foot.
- Start with the easy patterns. Before going into variations be sure your partner can follow.
- Make the most of your right hand. It should be cupped gently but firmly under your partner’s shoulder blade. From this position, you can easily guide your partner in any direction.
Leading the Four Directions of Dance
Using your right hand as the guiding force of the lead:
- a gentle pull will move her toward you
- a cup in and gentle push will move her backward
- a gentle scoop and pull with the fingers will pull her to your right
- a gentle push with the heel of the hand will push her to your left
Women, your responsibility in dancing is to follow your partner and adapt to any rhythm or style he dances. To do this, light resistance must be maintained. If you are too relaxed, leading becomes very difficult. Arm and shoulder contact with the man’s upper right arm and shoulder should be maintained to provide more resistance and stability. If the man is a poor leader, you must pay special attention to his body movement, particularly his chest and shoulder movement in order to follow his lead.
General Rules for Following
- Whatever you do, don’t lead!
- Be alert to your partner’s lead.
- Support your own weight.
- Take straight steps, either backward or forward as the case may be.
- Try not to anticipate your partner’s lead.
- Become familiar with the basic steps a partner is likely to lead.
Click here to look at the Glossary.
Click here to proceed to Waltz Lesson 4.
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