A few years ago, before I started teaching dance, I remember a friend telling me I could “figure out the lead.”
“Just reverse it,” he said, as if it were the simplest thing in the world.
Once I actually started learning how to lead, I realized that “just reversing it” is definitely NOT the way to go about it. Leading is intricate. Complex. It requires thinking a few steps ahead, learning how to create trust with your partner, and how to be clear and efficient in your movements.
Women should learn how to lead for a variety of reasons.
It teaches compassion.
I’m ashamed to admit that when I first started social dancing, I was “that girl.” I didn’t like dancing with beginner leads. I would get bored, impatient, and frustrated by guys who led a million basics in a row, fumbled moves, were unclear about what they wanted to do, ran me into people, etc.
Once I started learning how to lead, I never felt that way again because suddenly, the roles were reversed and I was that beginner lead—unable to remember half the moves I knew on the dance floor, missing the timing, being unclear about what I wanted my follow to do. When women learn how to lead, they are able to appreciate and enjoy every single dance because they understand how much effort and courage it takes a beginner lead to get on the floor and dance with someone, especially someone who has more experience. Follows treating leads with compassion leads to greater mutual respect and a better dance for both parties.
It makes you a better follow.
When you learn how to lead, you gain more insight into how to follow. You understand the mechanics of a step. You learn the cues that you should be looking out for to effectively follow a move. You get a more holistic view of the dance. You increase the vocabulary of a language you already know.
Once I started learning how to lead, my level of dancing shot up. I started paying even more attention when I followed, trying to pick up new ways to lead a step I already knew so I could lead it better. The dance started to make even more sense and I felt like I was refining and polishing steps I had been doing for years, taking them from good to great.
It is empowering.
And fun. Leading a move and having someone follow it is satisfying. You feel confident and accomplished. Without saying a word, you are able to get someone to respond to what you are asking her. That’s a pretty cool feeling.
Besides personal empowerment, for female instructors or would-be instructors, learning how to lead is empowering because you aren’t relying on a partner to help you make money. Having a partner or assistant usually makes teaching a partner work class easier and more fun, but when you know the lead, you don’t need one. You can call the shots on your career. You can teach on your own time, on your own schedule, doing your own thing. You can increase your income potential and you make yourself a better and more credible instructor because you’re able to teach and correct the lead AND the follow.
It’s a way to dance all night.
We’ve all been there—a social that is almost all ladies and about 3 leads. On nights like that, you’re not relegated to sitting on the sidelines, waiting for your turn in the rotation. You can hop up and dance every song as a lead or follow, and all of the ladies who came itching to dance will be grateful to have one more lead in the mix. This goes with the empowerment piece—you don’t have to wait for a lead to get a dance. It’s another way to call the shots on your night out, another way to make social dancing even more enjoyable and rewarding.
So ladies, if you don’t know how to lead already, consider taking a few classes as a lead. See how it changes your perspective on dance. See what the response is… on some dance floors, there’s a stigma about dancing with same-sex leads, while on others, it’s welcomed. Find a guy (or girl!) who knows how to follow and switch lead and follow throughout the dance—talk about fun AND a brain teaser.
What do you think? Are you a lady who leads? What has your experience been? Do you agree with these reasons to learn how to lead? Do you have others? Comment below!