Experienced follow learning to lead, any advice?

Question

I’ve been dancing as a follow for years and have always wanted to be able to lead as well. I took a class a few years back but the experience wasn’t that good. Part of it was that I had a terrible partner (we had to have a fixed partner for a whole course). But the main reason is I found it so hard to have to constantly be aware of what to do next. I also suck at remembering moves (always struggle with choreo).

I want to learn more seriously this time. Would love some advice from people who have done this before please :). I’m sure at some point muscle memory will do the majority of the work, but will that point only come when you’re at a pretty advanced level? (as far as I remember, I was already pretty comfortable with following after about 2 months of classes and maybe 5 socials).

Answers

User Physical_Inspector 

From my experience follows who learn how to lead are some of the best leaders on the floor. They know what not to do and what is uncomfortable for the follow from experience plus in general are extremely gentle. The main point I tell most new leads is that as leads, you are suggesting to your follow, not forcing. If the follow doesnt do X dont force them to do so. Otherwise a lot of dancing is you inviting your follow.

For you, I would suggest not putting as much emphasis on following patterns but instead taking the moves from the pattern and see how you can combine them. For example you can give the follow an inside, turn, do a basic, and then do a turn yourself. If you get too focused on a pattern you might just miss the fun that is dancing!

Good luck!

User goatplantation

I’m not a follower but I’ve definitely struggled with what you said. Leading is constantly thinking but the key for me is to learn a few short moves and combine them with musicality. I almost never use a full pattern that I learned in class. I break them down bit by bit.

User bugsinmylipgloss 

I’m married, but my hubs doesn’t like to dance. I’m also interested in learning to lead, so I can go out with my girlfriends and teach them while having fun. I have been playing around a little with leading my friends who are new to bachata/salsa, and I find it’s fun to experiment with them. We can laugh if we mess it up, and since we know each other the pressure isn’t really there. My suggestion is to try to bring some follow friends with you to socials, so you can play around with them and still enjoy hanging out with each other. At least where I live, it is not uncommon to see same-sex couples on the dance floor.

User warcraker  

When I began to dance, one thing that worked for me was to try simple things and experiment with my partner. Try indicating your lead to do a turn left, then a right, then double turn left… You get the idea. As you come from being a follow, you will better understand when your partner feels the indication comfortable, or when feels clunky. Did you indicate on 4? Wait a little longer and mark the turn on 5. Did you prepare the turn by turning the weight to the opposite side of the turn? You may get away for a single turn, but it won’t work for more than that. Those kind of things that technique and experience give, the good old trial and error. Another advice is to dance with slow music. That way you need to count, to do every step and weight change when you need to, and you can see the little mistakes. That works for both lead and follow, but I find that a lot of begginer leads forget about tempo and counting, and then no one is dancing with the music. Hope it helps!

EDIT: I realized that I was thinking on salsa instead of bachata 😅 anyway the basic idea applies nonetheless 👍

User Correct_Law_7171 

Pretty much do everything you were doing back to front. Lead with the opposite leg obviously now you have to guide your partner, so work on your improvisation. Look for some vids on youtube they will help.

User FloridaSalsa

I am an intermediate+ follower for Latin dance. I took a few group classes on lead and did a few levels. I found being a follower was a good advantage. I already knew the lead basic since most warm-ups and shines were on lead step. Once I got used to the opposite partner hold it was surprisingly easy. My main issues were followers who were reluctant to dance with other females and learning to LEAD as in being assertive and taking charge. As a follower this was easier because I knew what my follower was expecting and/or needed. I started lead doing salsa, but I have done Bachata lead on the fly. I am a small person and I enjoy dancing with other smaller people, male of female. I want to continue to learn more leads as things open up. I don’t like going to a class or social where I stand around because there aren’t enough leads. That was my motivation but turns out I like leading and get a jolt of confidence when I can do it successfully.

I would add to that – better to start leading once you know the basic and some patterns without needing to think much. So coming from muscle memory automatically and not thinking too much about individual steps or counting. At least that worked for me. Sounds like you are there already. Just embrace your confident self when you lead.

User SmokyBG   

Do not get discouraged by a single experience years ago. You are a better dancer now, probably with a lot more confidence, and that is required for leading well.

On the other hand, leading is a bit different from following, with a bit more responsibility, so mastering it will take time and effort. I still expect you to be able to do basic stuff and enjoy it “after about 2 months of classes and maybe 5 socials” though because of your experience.

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