Friday, February 13, 2015

Lead v/s Follow: 5 quick tips for a suave Salsa experience


1. Keep your leads lucid and distinct. What is easy to understand is easier to execute.
2. Leads need to be timely, not forceful.
3. Look at the dance from your partner’s perspective with respect to movement and direction; ‘her left, my right’ will put you on a collision course sooner or later.
4. Make a mental note of how your partner responds to cues. Start slow and improve upon what both can manage; discard movements that your partner clearly doesn’t understand.
5. Set your partner free. Shines are a good way to test how comfortable either partners are with musicality and free movement.


1. Be cognitive, not pre-emptive. Trying to guess the lead is just too speculative and it robs you of the time to use the music.
2. Let the music set you free. There is never just one way of interpreting the music/lead. Keep experimenting.
3. Give subtle cues to the partner if he/she is being too rigid or forceful.
4. Don’t let styling get in the way of your dancing. You need to make sure that your styling goes with the flow of the dance and does not catch your partner off guard.
5. While most men struggle with basic lead and timing, followers can communicate a change in rhythm and pace by adjusting the frame/body language or sometimes even through facial expressions. You can lead too, without the partner even realising. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Lead v/s Follow

Looking at the traditional role of men as the “leaders” and women as the “followers” of the dance, how much freedom does the follower have within the framework of a given dance style to express the music and add her own interpretation?

The point I'm trying to get across is that the follower's role is not a passive one. I personally think that there is a subtle difference between simply following what is lead as opposed to understanding what musical elements (if any) that the leader is trying to express and responding to both the leader and the music. It's the difference between a monologue and a dialogue.

Different dance styles have different philosophies: for example the lead/follow dynamic in Tango is very different to the dynamic in Salsa. However, if the follower is simply following her partner then she is not really dancing because she is not moving in response to the music - she is moving in response to her partner's interpretation of the music.

So, once you reach a certain level of competency in any dance style, the notion that "the leader leads and the follower follows" becomes overly simplistic. There is however a skill to following which is different to leading - how else would you explain that some ladies are easier to lead (lighter on their feet, quicker to respond to your cues...)?

A great leader is one who creates an environment for their partner to feel comfortable, enjoy and express themselves, the same definition goes for a great follower.

Even though partner work is the mainstay of classes, leaders need to incorporate their own styling and give the followers freedom of interpretation. Until that happens, we will never change the 'leaders lead, followers follow' mentality.

Styling is and always will be ancillary to the partner work and should be driven by the music not by a need to look good/sexy/feminine.

There are three elements of a good dance - the leader, the follower and the music - and you won't have a good dance if one of the elements is suppressed. The leader initiates and invites, the follower interprets and 'puts her stamp on it'. We work with and play off each other and the music is what connects us.