One of the biggest obstacles to social dancing with a partner is figuring out how to lead and follow. Think about it. Can two people dance smoothly together if they’re each making their own decisions on direction, timing, and steps? Probably not. It’ll end up looking like a hodge podge of movements. To make it work, it requires someone who is assigned the role of leading (usually the man)
The one in charge, known as the lead, is responsible for directing the steps and choreography. That doesn’t mean they’re going to pull and shove their partner around, but it means they’ll have control over guiding their partner’s next steps. While (in an ideal world) both partners are supposed to know the choreography & steps in the dance, the lead’s duty is to tell the partner WHEN to make each movement.
In other words, the follower is supposed to wait until their partner tells them when to take each step. He may do this by applying a little pressure to his partner’s hands, shifting his weight, or even making a hand signal. If he doesn’t show a signal, then the one that follows does nothing. If he shows the wrong signal, then she’s supposed to adjust and follow the new step. The biggest challenge for new dancers is that the leader tends to send multiple signals (unknowingly) to their partner which makes the task of following a bit harder initially but over time the follower(s) build up a mastery of sorting thru all of the information coming their way.
Trust me, it takes some guidance and practice to learn how to lead and follow. The best way to take your dancing to the next level, is to not only learn the steps (which can be discovered in a group class) but to learn technique (which can be learned in a private session).
And one more note before I end this piece, we have to give credit to those who follow bad leaders and those who are able to lead bad followers. Neither have it easy, but both have a good understanding on what it takes to lead and follow and if they’re able to do it under harder circumstances, then our hats go down to them!