There’s a saying in the dance world, “The woman is the picture, the man is the frame”
Women do more spinning, sure, it’s all about showing them off — however, leading patterns is much more difficult than following.
I know a bit a bout following, I’ve been lead by instructors to get a feel for the “other side” — and it’s actually amazing, freeing. You get to just move without really thinking about anything, and when the lead is correct it feels almost effortless, not like “work” at all.
While they certainly have to develop some technical skills to be able to follow well, the followers’ part is much different from the complexity of leading, which takes a lot of work to get right and train to the point where it can feel effortless.
As an instructor and someone who leads and follows, I generally say leading is harder mentally but following is my difficult physically. If you need/want me to elaborate let me know.
My teacher always said that, as a lead, you have to think twice. Once about your own steps, but also about what the follow will do and what her steps are like. Tbh, as a follow I think very little. If his style or figures are much different than what I know, I will be more conscious about what I do and wonder wtf comes next, but usually it’s better to not think and just follow. I also remember dancing lessons where my partner was trying really hard to remember figures from a week (or multiple weeks) ago. I try to help remember, sometimes successfully, but the truth is: if he doesn’t remember he can’t dance it, but if I don’t remember it I can still dance it with a guy that does.
But yes, I do spin more.
Most of what the leader is doing is very subtle and is not particularly visible from the outside. It’s another reason why leading is hard to learn at first: things like frame, pressure, stability and direction just don’t really translate when you’re watching the instructor show how is done.
I see it like this:
Beginner leads have a lot to worry about. Keeping time. Trying to not trip over their own feet. Worried about boring their partner and figure out patterns. Their learning curve is steep is the beginning. They are doing a lot of mental gymnastics. Just getting through a dance is an arduous exercise. So they are doing a lot of work.
Intermediate to Advanced leads can (often) get lazy. They stop moving their feet. They rely on their hands and patterns they can do in their sleep. They resort to endlessly spinning the women, and the dance becomes more lopsided as it appears the women are doing most of the work.
Without proper leading, followers cannot dance properly. The leader creates the dance. The follower executes it. If a leader is really good, he can make it as complicated as he wants for himself. But the fact that you see a lady dancing and doing incredible things is 50% because of confidence in her partner.
Go to a beginners class, after like 20 classes, and put one real experienced couple in there. Let the guy lead all beginner-followers, let the girl dance with all beginner-leaders. What do you see? The beginner-ladies dance a lot better, because suddenly the problematic leading by inexperienced guys is not hindering them. The experienced girl however is struggling with those inexperienced guys who don’t know what they’re doing, and the inexperienced leader is not doing that much better, and probably doing worse.
The problem? Men have to figure out how to dance, and at the same time they have to figure out how to lead. Leading is a real challenge.
Maybe you did get a biased impression, you should look at more videos, where the men are actually dancing! 🙂
So no, it’s not the women who do “all” the work – in salsa or not salsa, doesn’t matter the dance actually – the work is pretty much the same for both.
A dancing couple consists of two dancers and as such, their primary “work” for either of them is the dancing of the own body. And there, you are free to do, whatever you want to do and can do. If all you can do is some fixed steps, then you do your fixed steps. If you can spin, you spin, that’s not different for man or woman.
Then, we also move in space, so either dancer has to be aware of the surroundings and take them into consideration in their own dancing in order not to hurt anyone or themselves. That’s particularly important in elaborate lead&follow, where this information is used to filter out interpretations that don’t make sense. So here too, spatial awareness and coordination, same kind of “work” for both of the dancers.
Communication same thing, both have to communicate their movement clearly to the other and to observe/listen to what the other is doing – again no difference.
Maybe stop watching videos and try an actual dance class, there’s much “invisible” stuff involved – and you’ll learn that it’s not about “work”, it’s about having fun! 🙂
I can’t think of one dance style where the women does all the work. Men typically lead to show off the women’s beauty. Women spin and look gorgeous but that’s because the man is directing her. Following is super super easy, even though it looks flashy with all the spinning. But you have to be really good to direct/lead someone to do it.
The leads job is to make the follow look good.