Leader and follower

Just follow or how to learn being a follower…

Being a follower in salsa involves a combination of skill, intuition, and adaptability. While it’s often considered easier than leading, being an effective follower requires practice and understanding.

Formal dance lessons can provide a solid foundation for followers. Instructors can guide you through the techniques of footwork, posture, and frame, which are essential for following smoothly and responding accurately to leads. Learning to maintain your balance and to execute steps independently will also be critical.

However, much of the skill of following is learnt on the dance floor itself. Dancing with different partners will allow you to experience a variety of leading styles and cues. Over time, you will develop a keen sense of responsiveness and adaptability.

Observation also plays a significant role. Watching experienced followers can provide valuable insights into technique, style, and the subtleties of partner interaction.

Video about how to become a better follower in dancing

Remember, a good follower doesn’t just execute moves; they maintain a physical and emotional connection with their partner. Anticipating moves can disrupt this connection and make the dance less fluid. Instead, try to stay present and attuned to the lead’s signals, allowing the dance to unfold organically. Ultimately, the goal is to move as one with your partner, responding seamlessly to their lead while also expressing your own unique style and personality.

Mistakes followers make

One common mistake followers in salsa often make is “back leading“, which is when the follower attempts to control the movement or direction of the dance, rather than responding to the leader’s cues. This can lead to confusion and disrupt the flow of the dance.

Another frequent error is anticipating the moves. In an attempt to be helpful or to avoid mistakes, a follower might try to predict the next move. However, this can result in mistiming or incorrect execution as it assumes the leader’s intentions, rather than responding to their actual lead.

Connection with the leader is paramount in salsa, and losing this connection can lead to a breakdown in communication. Conversely, holding on too strongly or rigidly can also inhibit the fluidity and spontaneity of the dance.

Remember, the key to being a good follower lies in responsiveness, adaptability, and maintaining a balanced and sensitive connection with your leader. With practice and patience, these skills will improve over time.

Teaching beginners consent

The momentum behind fostering a “conservation culture” in the dance community has been steadily growing. But what exactly does that mean, and how can it be effectively taught? Consent, in a dance setting, is not merely about the absence of a “no”, but an active expression of a “yes”. Dance, in essence, should be a collaborative, consensual, and joyful experience, and this begins with the practice of clear communication, both verbal and non-verbal.

Let’s break down some ways to teach consent in salsa dancing. Firstly, an open dialogue about the concept of consent sets the tone. Encourage dancers to share experiences, instilling an understanding of the potential discomfort or problems that can arise in the absence of clear consent. Acknowledge the empowerment that comes from knowing your partner is as enthusiastically invested in the dance as you are.

Teaching consent can also be accomplished through practical exercises. Consider focusing on the transitions between dance positions. These shifts, while fundamental to partner dancing, often lack conversation around them. By incorporating exercises that explore nonverbal communication, dancers can learn to actively consent or refuse different positions. This method gives agency to both the leader and the follower, dismantling the notion that the leader solely decides the dance’s course.

Going from open to closed position, or transitioning to a close embrace, can be done using the ’90-10 rule’. The leader (or follower) can close 90% of the distance, and then pause, giving their partner the opportunity to cover the remaining 10% if they feel comfortable doing so. Additionally, it’s essential to acknowledge that consent can be revoked or changed at any time. Learning to perceive cues that your partner might want to change positions or distance is a crucial part of consent.

Lastly, consider exploring consent in breakaway or ‘shine’ moments. Leaders can initiate a breakaway, with followers either accepting or maintaining the basic step to signal their preference. Similarly, followers can also initiate a breakaway, signaling their need for solo space.

By incorporating these elements into lessons, dance becomes a communication-rich space, where the focus is on active consent and mutual enjoyment. This allows everyone to partake in the dance, confident that they and their partner are on the same page.

Leaders and followers…

Leaders and followers in dance hold distinct yet interdependent roles. Both are responsible for contributing to a shared dance experience that is enjoyable, respectful, and safe.

Leaders primarily guide the direction, timing, and movements of the dance, but this should not be a dictation. Good leading involves clear nonverbal communication, understanding your partner’s abilities, and adapting to the music and dance floor conditions. The leader must maintain a stable frame, which is the body position that allows clear transmission of leading signals, yet be sensitive to the follower’s responses.

Followers, on the other hand, interpret and respond to the leader’s signals, moving in sync with them. This requires active listening, maintaining connection, and embodying the rhythm and emotion of the music. A follower’s frame should be balanced and responsive, allowing them to follow the leader’s indications while contributing their own expression to the dance.

Consent is a critical aspect of the leader-follower relationship. Both parties should respect each other’s physical boundaries and comfort levels, and any move or hold should be mutually agreed upon. Navigating the dance floor also involves awareness of the space and other dancers to avoid collisions or injuries. Dance is a conversation, a dynamic exchange where both leader and follower actively participate and contribute.

Switching roles

Switching roles in dancing, meaning the leader taking the follower’s role and vice versa, is a practice gaining recognition in dance communities. Usually accepted in practice sessions, this approach allows dancers to gain a deeper understanding of both roles, improving their overall dancing ability and enhancing their empathy for their partner’s perspective. Read more about leading and following roles in dancing.

Two men dancing salsa together

However, the acceptance of role-switching during social dances can vary. While some communities embrace it, others might be less familiar or comfortable with the idea. It’s always good to gauge the atmosphere of a dance venue and perhaps consult with more experienced dancers or the event organizer.

Learning both roles offers manifold benefits. It can significantly improve your ability to anticipate and react to your partner’s movements, enhance your understanding of musicality from both perspectives, and enrich your dance expression. Additionally, role-switching can also encourage a more balanced and inclusive dance culture, breaking down traditional gender norms and promoting equality within the dance community.

Tiago and Felipe work on an interesting project: Promoting switching roles not only for a trial but during a dance. They call it rolerotation.

Author: Philipp