The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Dancing for Leads (From a Follower’s Perspective)


So I need to teach leads a little lesson in health and safety and courtesy on the dance floor for leads from the perspective of a follower. We’re gonna get real here, so these are a few things to keep in mind if you want to make a positive(!) impact on the people you dance with. After all, dancing is a pure expression of your personality. You’re welcome.

DO’s:

1. DO ask the follower if she wants to do dips and drops because you can’t assume she wants to or is able to. It’s not nice to lead a drop without at least warning her. But it’s best to just ask politely. It could be the difference between her being prepared and in the right position or potentially injuring her arms and/or back. Trust me, that could ruin her night.

2. DO ask the follower is she wants to spin more than once consecutively. You can’t lead her into a series of 2+ spins if she isn’t on the right foot because she could trip or fall over. Plus, she might feel dizzy for the rest of the dance. It’s ok for someone who is used to spinning multiple times and fast but it’s not a thing most people do regularly. All I’m saying is be careful.

On the other hand, if you’ve danced with her before and she can spin well, go for it. But it takes a while to be able to judge the level and ability of a follower.

3. DO ask the follower if she is comfortable dancing close. You know the type of sexy dancing I’m talking about. I know about incidents where beginners on their first night get scared off because they have had an uncomfortably close dance with an experienced man they barely know and have been left in tears because of it, so they don’t come again. Or they end up desperately trying to avoid that person the next time they come.

Firstly, it’s inappropriate, and secondly, respect is important. If it’s not ok to do out in the streets, it’s likely that it isn’t ok in a dance setting either. It’s just manners, you know?

(And just a tip for followers, know your worth. If you don’t feel comfortable then you have to say so. I’ve learned that if you keep your hands on a lead’s shoulder, you can establish the distance that you prefer by pushing slightly, and hopefully, the lead will catch on).

4. DO look at your partner (but don’t stare, it’s creepy). I get it, sometimes everyone including me has looked at round the dance floor to seek out the next person they want to dance with. But I mean if you’re dancing with someone at least pay attention to them. It’s where mistakes can happen if you don’t.

The face portrays a lot. For example, if I know or suspect we’re about to crash into someone, I will make a worried/scared face. But if the person I am dancing with is not looking at me and therefore doesn’t pick up on the cues… BOOM… followed by a series of “Sorry!”, “Sorry!”, “It’s ok!”. But we all know it could have been avoided, let’s be honest. Plus if you’re smiling at each other you both know you’re having a good dance and it will encourage more dances in the future.

But it’s ok to look around the dance floor to make sure you aren’t going to bump into anyone.

5. DO stay away from difficult moves if your partner is just a beginner. Even though freestyle is the time when you can learn new moves that weren’t taught in the class, for new people it’s hard to even grasp the beginner’s moves. I’ve been there, we all have. It will leave them feeling anxious if they have no idea what they are doing.

If anything, practice beginner moves with them to help them improve. It’s not a race, it’s a gradual learning curve. They’ll appreciate it. Chances are that if you find yourself dancing with someone who is less experienced than you, you may be the one who determines whether or not they will continue dancing.

DON’TS:

1. DON’T forget to have a loose handhold. I can’t stress it enough: do not hold on too tightly because it may cause injury. It’s easier for both lead and follower to do a move if you have a light hand hold otherwise it feels like our limbs are being ripped out from our torso. No, thank you. Ok maybe that was a bit extreme but you get the gist. It’s hard for a lady to follow if a man is holding her hand too tightly because it’s difficult to understand which way a man is leading her to go.

But, it goes for both lead and follower, though, it’s easier to dance any move if you aren’t grabbing on to them for dear life. Most beginners haven’t mastered the loose handhold yet, but they’ll learn. So go easy on them.

2. DON’T pull or push the follower too hard. It may not feel like you are doing it, but it feels like we’re being thrown and dragged around the floor. It’s kind of exhausting. I know when I’m dancing I do really get into it (#GoBigOrGoHome) but there’s a limit. I know a lot of experienced dancers do this because a lot of their moves are complicated and/or travelling ones and a lot of beginners don’t understand what they are supposed to be doing if they dance with them. But with a good lead, it’s easy to follow. There’s no need to be aggressive about it.

When I started to learn salsa, I only knew the very basics, but I got invited to dance with a few experienced guys after the class in freestyle, and because they had good leads, I was able to follow a lot of complicated moves even though I didn’t know what I was doing most of the time. It’s when the light hand holds came in handy. Pun intended.

3. DON’T move out of your line. Jive and Salsa happen in slots and your moves should occur in lines across your slot. Stay in it and there will be less of a chance that you’ll bump into everyone else. You have your little space on the floor, everyone else has theirs, and we’re all happy. It’s mostly fine if the floor is relatively empty, but when the room is full of dancers, be considerate.

4. DON’T give lessons to your partner while dancing. Yo, that isn’t cool especially for freestyle because it’s not fun to be criticised by your partner. You’ve both done the class and now is the time for social dancing. If you’re not an instructor you should just keep it fun and if a follower wants to know how to do a move properly, she will ask, and vice versa. If anything, encourage the partner you are dancing with because everyone feels good after a bit of positive feedback. I know I do. The class is where you learn patterns, techniques and styling, and the Freestyle is for Fun.

5. DON’T stop and start during a song to try to remember a move. Dance what you know. If you don’t know how to do a move don’t do it and instead, after the dance, go and ask an instructor how to do it properly. Or rather, if you want to practice new moves, I’d suggest moving to the side of the dance floor so you don’t get hit by other dancers. There’s nothing worse than two people chatting away in the middle of the dance floor, taking up space where other dancers want to dance. No offence.

No matter where you dance in the world, these guidelines are applicable everywhere. Most of these are common sense and common courtesy but they’re important to be aware of. It’s all about catering to your partner’s needs and being careful of everybody else around you. We don’t want any accidents or injuries. But overall, just dance and enjoy yourself because those are the two most important things.

Remember this:

“Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. ”
― Martha Graham

If anyone agrees or opposes anything I have said, feel free to comment! I’d love to hear your opinions about social dancing. And if you dance, what dancing do you do? Let me know!

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