Does Lead & Follow Really Make Sense?

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To many, the idea of leading and following is central to partner dancing. With this, whether “lead and follow” makes sense may seem like an odd question, but odd questions are typically the questions that give us the greatest insight into what is really going on, and help propel us to the next level

The first reason to ask the question about leading and following is that it is not typically consistent as a dancer/dance couple progresses. Here is why:

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  1. Absolute beginners often learn steps and learn them in sequences. To the dancers, leading and following actually may feel more like syncing the timing of their steps.
    • There are definitely cues given from one partner to another, but they are more like the cues which formation dancers give each other to stay in time and on mark, than actual leading and following.
    • With this, if one partner does something off plan, the other is generally thrown off as well, unless one of the dancers takes responsibility and moves the couple in a direction that is very obvious and easy to sync to.
    • When syncing works, it is immensely satisfying and builds the confidence, and the awareness required to develop to the next stage.

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  1. Intermediate to early advanced couples experience partnering that is closer to true leading and following than absolute beginners.
    • The lead is a series of signals that come from changes in the orientation of the leader’s body, weight transfers, raising or lowering an arm and many other subtle cues.
    • Partnership connection is essential, as is clarity from the leader and responsiveness of the follower.
    • Both partners have responsibility, and both require body tone, since a lax body cannot lead nor be lead.
    • The follower needs to have enough self-confidence and confidence in the lead to complete the motion that has been initiated.
    • The essential value of this stage is the sensitivity it builds. The leader cannot be overbearing in movement since that will be felt as a push from the partner. The follower must be attentive and in the moment or the partner connection will be lost.

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  1. At a very advanced level, partners look like they are of one mind and one body even if the steps that each does are different.
    • The feeling between partners is less of a lead and follow but is more like a transfer of energy from one partner to the other, and back again.
    • The follower is not passively accepting the lead, and is not only completing the actions of the leader, but is adding energy and style that directs the leader’s response and then  they add again to that response, and so forth.
    • Each partner has a vocabulary of movement and the dance is a conversation between them.
    • This is exciting and satisfying for both partners since both partners contribute and both partners need and benefit from sensitivity to the other.

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It is true that one partner guides timing and steps. The fact is, however, that this role can sometimes flip and may even flip back and forth during a dance. Given this, someone doing a follower’s steps can be a leader, and if both partners agree, it can work very well as many male students and female instructors can attest. So is it worth asking the question of whether the term lead and follow makes sense? My view is that any question that requires some thought makes sense to ask.

Author: Miss P
Photography: Egorich.ca
Exclusively for Dance Comp Review

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