Redefining Leading and Following in Ballroom Dancing


People come into ballroom dancing from a variety of backgrounds. Some have experience dancing solo, and are unused to relying on another while dancing. Others will resent the concept of ‘leading’ and ‘following’ as a return to traditional gender roles. And you know, there IS a certain traditional relationship in most ballroom dances – but one made with fun and friendship.

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Whether society admits it or not, there is a certain attractiveness to a dominant, in control male. Or a trusting, elegant female. Dancing provides a way for us to embrace those parts of ourselves that make us irresistible on the floor. Example: A leader (usually male) has to be in control of (most of) the action. His job is to show off his lady, help her feel safe, and generally give her a good time – pretty sexy, no? On the other hand, the follower (usually female) gets to be the sexy and/or classy eye candy. It’s her embellishments and styling that give the dance it’s personality. Of course, there is a balance: leaders shouldn’t be oppressive, and followers shouldn’t get creative at the leader’s expense.


Leads are invitations, not commands!

Judging from our divorce rate, it’s safe to say there is no such thing as perfect communication, on or off the dance floor. Everyone guides and responds a little differently, and a good dancer knows how to adapt to his partner’s individual style. Good leaders work within the steps the follower knows, while followers will add their personal embellishments – without forgetting about the lead.


Not mistakes… But, unexpected variations!

It might sound a bit Zen, but it’s true: failure exists only in our minds. Sure, there’s the moment we lose balance, the missed lead, and so on. But ‘failure’, as something that does no good for anyone, doesn’t exist. Instead, see the mishaps for what they really are: merely a variation on what was planned. Some variations are less comfortable then others, while others are embellishments that can make the movement look more natural. No matter what we do or don’t do, there’s always a learning opportunity. And that is success, not failure.


Have FUN together!

Ultimately, your partner’s success is your success, so why not have fun with whoever’s in front of you? Step didn’t go well? Laugh it off! Lots of people getting in the way? Make a joke about about being allocated 2 sq. ft. per dancer, and pull them closer. Smile, flirt, feign enjoyment until you don’t have to feign any more. Nothing makes a dancer more attractive – and a dance more fun – then when you are truly enjoying the moment in each others arms.

Author: Ian Crewe – SocialBallroom.Dance
Photography: DanceSport Photography
Exclusively for Dance Comp Review