It's amazing to see how two complete strangers can move and dance together as one. And that's the beauty of partner dancing! You don't need to know your dance partner previously in order to dance together. All you need to do is effectively perform your role either as a leader or follower. In this and the upcoming blog post, I'm going to offer tips on how to lead and follow like pros on the dance floor.
How to Lead Like Fred
1. Maintain a Strong Frame. The dance frame is the most important thing in lead and follow as it helps you maintain the connection between you and your partner. Your frame should be firm and steady all time. "Noodle arms" or a weak frame will hinder the connection to your partner. 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. And when the string is loose, you lose the connection. When you have a good connection/frame, your partner will feel like he/she is part of your body. Wherever you go, he/she can sense the movement from your body instantly. Here are a few checkpoints to help you maintain a strong frame:
- Cup your partner's shoulder blade with your right hand
- Lift your right elbow
- Roll your shoulders back
- Stand up straight
- Engage your core (tuck your belly in!)
2. Take Decisive Steps. Accidents often happen when the driver isn't sure where he/she is going and is being hesitant with his/her moves. On the dance floor, when you are hesitant about your dance steps, your partner will often start leading and you will end up stepping on each other's toes. As a leader, you must take strong, intentional steps and be clear with your leads and signals. When you are new to a dance step, practice it a lot until you can perform it confidently. Remember, leader, you are in charge on the dance floor!
3. Lead with Your Body. One big misconception in leading is to lead with the arms and hands, which can cause a lot of yanking that is ineffective and uncomfortable to the followers. Remember, movements are initiated from the core/torso, your arms are simply the extension of the torso that connects to your partner. So, when you are about to take a step, think about moving your body first before you take the step. Along with a strong steady frame, your partner will be able to react to your movement accordingly when you lead with your body.
4. Be Gentle. Relax your fingers and try not to squeeze your partner's hands. Your partner should feel some pressure from your hand but you shouldn't hold your partner's hand too tight that causes discomfort and/or hinder the fluidity of a movement, such as a spin. Spins are the very few movements that you use your hands and fingers to lead, but still, you don't want to force a spin. Instead, pay attention to where your partner's weight is before a spin, find the right time to initiate the spin and let momentum do the magic.
5. Listen to Music. When you are new to partner dance, I understand how difficult it is to listen to the music while executing all the details in leading. However, you must try your best to dance to the beat of the song. Even though your partner is supposed to follow you no matter how off you are with the music, it will make it easier and more enjoyable for your partner if you dance to the music. Check out my previous post that teaches you how to find the beat in music.
What other suggestions and/or observations do you have regarding leading in partner dancing? Please share! Also, stay tuned for our upcoming post, How to Follow like Ginger Rogers!
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+