The Lead-Follow Relationship – by Cassie Tucker

Expectations vs Reality: The Lead-Follow Relationship

DK Instructor Cassie Tucker looks at how to improve your social dancing by being a better "listener" on the dance floor...

Expectations vs Reality: The Lead-Follow Relationship

On occasion, I have danced with ladies who are very difficult to dance with. Sometimes it is because they are unbalanced, on other occasions, it’s the result of a very misguided understanding of how leading works and unrealistic expectations of their partner.

Leading does not mean physically moving your partner around the floor.  In fact, it is more akin to gentle guidance.

The role of the lady is to be in a constant state of readiness to move.  Think of it as being a car in neutral at the top of a hill.  The car is designed to move and is ready to move, it just needs that little push to get it rolling.  If that same car had the handbrake on, it is going to take some serious pushing to get it to go anywhere.

Partner dancing is the same.  If a lady is moving only when the man exerts enough force that it is impossible NOT to move, then this is a sign that she is dancing with her handbrake on.  Sometimes a Lady gets the idea that a good Leader can lead her to dance any step, even figures she does not know!  In some cases, yes, very high-level dancers can lead people through almost any step because they have a lot of knowledge and experience in how to make this work.  But the average social dancer does not have this skill and it is unfair to expect this from them.

Dancing is a partnership.  The reason we teach the Lady's steps is because the Lady needs to know them.  The body needs to be trained to understand what a Left Foot Closed Change is supposed to feel like, or a Natural Spin Turn, or a Double Reverse Spin, so it knows how to execute the action when it receives the command from the leader.

The Lady needs to train her body to become a better follower, to recognise patterns and aid her partner in carrying them out.  But most importantly, the Lady needs to be responsive and willing to move.  If you don’t know how to get started at being responsive, here’s a helpful hint: Assume your partner wants you to keep walking backwards, and continue to do so until lead to do something else!