The Follower’s Duty


The concept of following is a seemingly simple one.  Just do as the lead does, only backwards.  Let me be the first to tell you, following is probably one of the most complex and difficult things to do in ballroom.  There are almost enumerable little tactics and quirks one has to do to be a decent follower.  Believe me, I struggle with this concept every time I step into the studio.  As a self-reminder, I’ve written this sort of credo (if you could call it that.) for followers.  As a follower I…

Shall Let the Leaders Lead

This is rule number one.  They’re called “leaders” for a reason.  They use their whole body to take you with them, and nothing can be more frustrating than a follow that wants to try, and muscle you to go another way.  I have very little experience with leading, but every time I’ve led, I’ve met considerable resistance from my follow at some point while dancing.  Being a picture frame on legs is difficult, let’s not make it more harder for them, shall we?

Shall Offer Some Resistance

I understand that this seems contradictory, but it isn’t.  As with many things, it’s about balance.  As a follow, you need to provide some physical resistance as the lead moves you.  This resistance increases physical connection while dancing, and makes it easier for the lead to really feel your physical presence, and lead you better because of it.  However, this doesn’t mean you can muscle him to do your bidding (nor can he, for that matter).  Provide enough to let him know you’re actually there, and let him take you around the floor.

Shall Support My Own Weight

Ballroom dancing utilizes illusions more than you think.  Most are optical.  For example, in a simple underarm turn, it may look like the lead’s turning the follower.  In reality, the lead only lifts his left hand to signal the turn, and the follower turns in response.  The lead may give a slight push on the follower’s back for encouragement, but the follower does most of the work.  In dips, it is crucial that the follow only goes down as far as physical strength allows.  If you don’t think you can hold your weight up at that angle, go higher.  The lead is there to make sure you don’t crack your head on the floor, and he is holding your weight a bit.  But, you must carry the brunt of the weight with your own muscles.  It makes it much easier on the guy to lift you out of the dip if you do this.  When I corte in Tango, all my weight is squarely on my right leg as I lean forward, while my left is straightened.  The guy may look like he’s pulling me, and he does for a moment.  In the actual position, he’s helping me balance, as I hold myself in that spot.  This leads to the following corollary…

Will Not Hang on Like a Christmas Ornament

This is a hard one, one I struggled with for many, many months when I first started.  The followers left hand is resting on the guy’s right arm.  It’s this connection that helps him lead.  It’s incredibly tempting to just rest your arm as he leads, but let’s spare a thought for our leaders.  He has to hold his arm up, and yours as you dance.  Therefore, it is the follower’s job to larger hold her left arm up while trying not to raise the shoulders.  I’m not gonna lie.  It hurts.  But, it’ll make the dance smoother and really builds those muscles.  Like I said, this is difficult.  Just keep practicing, and you’ll get better.  (This is something I’m really working on.)

Will Hold the Lead’s Hand Firmly

Yes, this is also about connection.  But, personally, nothing feels more weird than a partner that has the “limp fish grip”.  Socially, it can send the wrong signals.  Just hold your lead’s hand properly, okay.

Shall Thank My Lead for Dancing with Me

Finally, manners matter.  Thank your partner for dancing with you, and just follow the rules of common decorum.

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P.S. This is my 90th post.  Only ten more to go until one hundred!

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