Backleading in Ballroom dancing

Monica Fincham Blackpool

Backleading in Ballroom dancing...what is it?

“Stop Backleading!” Can there be a phrase more irritating to a Lady Dancer’s ears? Backleading is a term that gets thrown around a lot in a dance studio, by teachers and partners alike. But what does the term actually mean?
Actually, it is exactly as it sounds. Backwards Leading or backleading is a term used to describe when the follower or person going backwards is taking control of the driving and “leading” the partnership. There are various reasons why this can happen: keeping the dance in time to the music, not trusting your partner’s ability to lead or sometimes just plain impatience.
But why is backleading considered so bad? In the scheme of things, it really is not the worst thing that can happen in a dance partnership, especially at a beginner or social level. As long as one person is taking charge and knows what is going on, it is fine for either the Leader or Follower to take control. The main reason the Man is actually assigned the leading role is purely because facing forward while dancing is the optimal position to lead movement and to see what is coming up on the floor.
At advanced levels, we want a dance partnership to be as authentic in movement as possible - a lead and response effect. Ideally, the Leader will provide clear information and guidance as to where and how the partnership will move. The Lady will await that information, and respond accordingly, acting on the data she receives. Often it is the “lack of control” and putting your fate in someone else’s hands that results in a follower overriding the commands from the Leader.
When teaching, sometimes teachers will backlead intentionally to give a student a “feel” for what a step should look and feel like. It is a great teaching aid and can be used to convey information to the more tactile learners.