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Richard Duree 2002 Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

Leading and Following
By Richard Duree, 1999


One of the most frequently encountered problems in folk and ballroom dancing is the inability of men to lead. There are many reasons for this, but it really isn't an insurmountable problem.

First, let's take a look at some reasons why leading is absent:

  1. Choreographed Dances – Dependence on pre-set choreographies deprives men of the skill to lead; they learn to memorize, no effort to given to partnering.
  2. Impatient Women – Women can help immensely in helping their partners to lead by "playing dumb." Wait for him to lead. Sure, you know what step to take next, but if he doesn't lead, don't do it.

Next, take a look at the attitudes and principles of leading and following:

  1. The man's responsibility is to "display" his partner. That may sound strange, but think of what you see in pairs skating; did you notice what the man did as his partner soared high overhead? Not likely; you see the woman, not the man.
  2. The man's responsibility is to safely direct and support her movements.
  3. The woman's responsibility is to "agree" and "execute" the man's lead. Remember, ladies, you are there to be displayed. You are to be treated like a queen, so behave yourself and do as you're led! You're on stage.
  4. Gentlemen, this is perhaps the only time in life when you're in total control. DON'T WASTE IT!

Some techniques to keep in mind:

  1. The man supports and leads with his Right hand placed thumb-up along the inside of the woman's Left shoulder blade, fingers spread to give pressure cues. Do not hold her at the waist or along her left side; there is no support there.
  2. The man keeps the Right elbow rounded to support the woman's Left arm and permit the Right wrist to remain straight.
  3. The man leads turns, starts, and stops with with pressure with the fingers and heel of his Right hand against her back.
  4. The man leads as though she does not know the dance; he leads in time for her to respond on the beat and leads every step!
  5. The woman keeps pressure backward with the small of the back (pelvic tilt) to that the man has something to lead.

Used with permission of the author.
Printed in Folk Dance Scene, November 1999.