“After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.” - Ann Richards
While most people are used to making their own decisions in their personal and professional lives these days, it can be a challenge to let go and learn to follow on the dance floor. And like what Ann Richards said, Ginger did everything Fred did on the dance floor but backwards and in high heels. It is not easy to be a follower; however, learning to follow can be a powerful practice of patience and trust and can be very enjoyable!
How to Follow like Ginger
1. Maintain a Strong Frame. Remember the "Spaghetti Arm" syndrome that Patrick Swayze mentions in "Dirty Dancing" ? As a follower, you must keep your frame firm so that your partner can connect to your body and lead you effectively. You should feel like you are part of his/her body and wherever he/she goes, you should be able to sense the motion instantly. Think about the cup phones you played with when you were a kid. Your frame is similar to the string that connects the cups. To communicate effectively through the cups, you and your friend at the other end need to keep the string taut by maintaing the distance between you two (maintain your personal space!). And when the string is loose, you lose the connection. Here are a few checkpoints to help you maintain a strong frame:
- Roll your shoulders back
- Push your left wrist slightly forward towards the leader's triceps
- Engage your right arm and keep your right elbow in front of your rib cage
- Stand up straight
- Engage your core (tuck your belly in!)
2. Be Patient. The key to following is to slow down and wait. As a follower, your movement should always be a tiny bit delayed because you are reacting to your partner's lead. It's okay to be late!
3. Let Go. It's time for you to relax and let go. Stop counting the music for your partner, telling him/her what to do or even back-leading. Your job is to maintain a good connection to your partner and travel with him/her. Let your partner surprise you and enjoy the ride!
4. Trust your Partner. Next time when you practice with your partner, blindfold yourself and simply follow him/her. It might be scary in the beginning but soon you will have fun following. It's a great way to build trust to your partner and improve your following skills. Your partner will also get better at leading when you are actually following because your partner has to make even stronger and clearer signals when you are not anticipating what your next step would be.
What is the most challenging thing for you in leading or following? And how do you overcome those challenges? I'd like to hear about your experiences.
If you like this post, you may also like my previous post, How to Lead Like Fred Astaire.
Voted as one of Chicago Top 5 Dance Teachers 2013 by Art Intercepts, Szewai (C-Y) has been sharing the joy of partner dance since 2006. She is the founder of Duet Dance Studio, a Chicago dance studio that offers Latin and ballroom dance lessons, wedding dance lessons, and BYOB dance parties. Szewai believes partner dancing has the power to connect people and bring people closer. Besides dancing, she enjoys discovering hidden gems in the city, finding great music and making short videos about people and things that inspire her.
You can find Szewai on Google+