Hints and Tips for Cross-Body Leads

Question by User californiastateuniv

I’ve been told different advice for doing x-body leads.

Consistently, I’ve been told that the right arm is always the one that pulls a little, especially in an open position + x-body lead with a turn. It’s also true when doing x-body leads on closed positions, the hand on the shoulder blade may feel a lot better than just pushing from the left hand.

I’ve also found it pretty useful to just use my torso/upper body for the turns, pulls or push. It feels uncomfortable if done mostly from the arms or legs and this advice is pretty sound. Is this accurate though?

Side question, when doing a simple right turn for the follower, after prepping it’s important to keep the arm not locked, relaxed and in a “L shape” symmetric to her. Then when I keep my hand up in a straight line above her forehead, that’s for me to turn. However, some followers do not get this and we just end up turning together at the same time. Am I wrong for doing this?


User edach2he

Well, the reason you’ve been told different advice is that there are different schools of thought. Some will even tell you that getting out of the way and making a lane for the follow is more than enough of a cue for them. With most advanced follows it certainly is. Using your right arm is mostly correct though. You’ll find yourself leading cross body leads solely with it in many occasions and being able to do so will allow you to add flare and styling to your cross body lead, so you’ll want to build that solid lead with it. However, I am of the opinion that clarity trumps all and if my left hand is connected I’ll use it to aid the lead to a small extent. Cross body leads don’t need much though, the slightest nudge is often enough.

I’m not sure which turns you are talking about with regards to the torso but if it is about changes of direction, then yes absolutely. If you are properly connected with the follow you’ll notice that they tend to mirror the angle that your upper body is pointing at, this is very obvious and useful in dances like Bachata in which you can get the follow to go in pretty much any direction by angling your torso accordingly. Proper technique in these cases actually dictates the lead should start from the upper body, the arms only acting as an extension to it. Spins are also better led when the power comes from the shoulder rather than from the elbow or wrist.

I’m not sure I understand your last question, don’t think I’m familiar with the keeping a hand up in a straight line above their forehead for you to turn. I may be visualizing it wrong. Is this to clear the way for you to turn under your own arm? Also on a right turn for the follow you want your arm to be parallel to the ground, is that what you mean by symmetric to them?

I’ll say this, if there is a cue that multiple follows are consistently missing or misunderstanding, it generally means that there is something you need to adjust, it being either timing, amount of movement or smoothness. Remember everything you do can be misinterpreted as a cue, so you want to be extra clear that you don’t want them to turn at all.

User TijoWasik

Cross body leads are one of the most important moved to learn for technique, and at the beginner levels, the lead is more forceful, however as you dance more and become more competent, and your follows also become more competent, you barely even need to lead it. Getting out of the way and creating the lane is going to show enough. At some point, you won’t even need to have a left hand connection to lead it.

The point is – you have to be able to lead the entire thing with only your right hand to get advanced.

Now, I don’t know your level, but if you’re still at a more beginner level, I’d advise that the whole thing is led by your right hand with a small push all the way through, and rotation applied with your right arm using your left to assist in it. Get the technique correctly down, and then you can learn how it works.

In terms of the right turn, yes, you’re in the wrong here. Keeping your hand elevated indicates a turn to your follower at all times. It’s a prep movement. If you want to turn your follower in a normal right turn, your hand goes up by 3, right? So having it elevated at 7 tells the follower that they’re turning on 1.

The way you turn after your follower has done their right turn is by putting your arm down in a half circle movement and your arm then comes over your own head whilst you’re turning – usually when your back is fully turned. The hand being down tells the follower to do their basic. The circular motion tells them that you’re doing something yourself.

You can also bring your arm down to hip level, turn and pass their hand behind your back so the hands change, then bring your right hand up and have them turn again.

User TijoWasik

If your arm is up on 1, she should turn. That’s the simplest way I can put it. The reason is that she’s turning in to your left arm to go to her right. If it’s up, you’re allowing her to, and actually asking her to, go underneath it, in the same way that stepping perpendicular for a Cross Body Lead clears the path for her to go past you. If your arm is up, she will turn.

If you’re going to do a right turn, you’re turning away from your left arm to go to your right. The count you go underneath on is actually 3. For context, if she turns right, she should be under and past your arm before 6, so she has to go under on 5 (hence why we prep on 3 or 4). This gives you time to ensure she doesn’t do something funky. Keep your arm a little below frame height (usually just below your hip) as you initiate your own turn. Bring it around in a circle getting higher so it follows your left and timed so you can step underneath and face her again on 3.

So, easy breakdown.
1 – basic step.
2 – basic step.
3 – basic step and lift your left to forehead height.

5 – basic and initiate her turn with a slight pull on her shoulder with your right.
6 – basic while she continues her turn.
7 – basic while she finishes turning.
8 – frame up in social position with only your left hand connected.

1 – drop your left hand slightly so her arm is no longer in frame. Her arm should be stretched but not pulled at all. Get it to the edge of pulling on it, then keep it slack with no tension. This stops her moving anywhere but basic. Initiate your turn with your first step forward as normal.
2 – as you do your 180 turn, bring your left hand, connected with her right, around so it stays around the same distance from your left side. It will naturally begin to come upwards as she is at full stretch already and will not want to be pulled. If you feel a lot of tension, you’re too far away. Consider letting go.
3 – complete your turn bringing your left hand over your head and back down to frame.

The basic thing you need to learn here, and this goes for most moves – if your hand is bringing hers anywhere but either in a frame or to full extension, you’re asking her to do something. Frame means do basic step (to her, it’s where you can do CBL initiations etc. from), and arm to extension (as I said, never pull, pull is a signal) tells her that you’re about to do something.

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