We talked previously about how leader’s can deal with back-leading: the bad habit in which followers attempt to wrest control from their leader, either by resisting his leads, or adding their own. But how can followers unlearn the habit, so the dance stays a dance, instead of a wrestling match?
1. Make sure you complete your weight changes
One insidious way followers can unintentionally lead is by failing to complete their weight changes; instead, they ‘fall through’ the step, without control over their momentum. To avoid pulling your partner down or feeling like falling yourself, focus on shifting your weight 100% on each step. If you aren’t sure you are doing this, ask yourself: If I had to stop moving on any one of my steps, could I keep my balance?
2. “NOTHING” can also be a lead
Sometimes, especially with newer dancers, you might feel like you’re not getting a lead at all, or something strange is happening you can’t interpret. When this happens, don’t try to guess! Treat the lack of lead as a lead itself, one that’s asking you to pause, and wait for further instructions. At worst, you’ve just informed your partner they need to strengthen their own lead in a particular area. At best, you just caught a great ‘picture moment’ for you and your partner to do some styling!
3. Dance with more people
When two people only dance together, they tend to develop a ‘secret language’, a particular style of leading and following that works for them, but baffles everyone else. While there’s nothing wrong with having a single partner, it often leads to anticipating certain leads and patterns your partner frequently uses. To avoid this, get used to adapting to other people’s leading styles. The added unpredictability of a new partner will train your instincts to be ready for anything.
4. Accept what you can’t control.
Many followers, especially if they previously danced solo, have grown so used to having total control over their body that they resist giving any of it to another. But ballroom dancing is like a romantic partnership: for it to work harmoniously, both sides need to compromise for each other. One way the follower can train herself to give away some of that control is by closing her eyes while dancing.
5. Dance with him, not the music
A frequent complaint I hear from followers when the leader raises the issue of back-leading is: ‘but he’s not dancing to the music!’ While moving with the music may be his challenge, moving with him is yours. That means that, even with a perfectly timed leader, the follower will always step just after the beat – she has to, in order to wait for her leader.
6. Sometimes, it’s okay!
None of this means however that the follower must passively move through a dangerous situation. For example, there are times when some timely pressure on the leader’s back can prevent a collision. Furthermore, one of the best salsa dancers I ever danced with seemed to have a sixth sense about spinning out and into our embrace, always just missing the other couples in the crowded room. So remember that protecting the partnership is a joint undertaking – your leader can’t see everything.