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Waltz Lesson 3: Leading and Following.
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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.


Leading the Four Directions of Dance

Using your right hand as the guiding force of the lead:


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

  1. Whatever you do, don’t lead!
  2. Be alert to your partner’s lead.
  3. Support your own weight.
  4. Take straight steps, either backward or forward as the case may be.
  5. Try not to anticipate your partner’s lead.
  6. 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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