I was terrified when I first started to learn how to lead.
I was worried I was going to find it too difficult and I wouldn’t be able to pull off a decent dance with another woman, or be convincing enough when teaching guys how to do it.
This fear was mainly due some of the things I was told by other teachers before I started; that women couldn’t lead because they lacked the height and stature of a man. Also that women wouldn’t want to dance with another woman leading, and also that it just didn’t look right.
I realised I had a choice: I could believe all the tales and myths, or I could go out and give learning and dancing as a man my absolute best effort. I chose the latter.
I then started to realise a lot of the stuff I was told wasn’t actually true.
It’s not about physical size or stature. I’m five foot one and a bit, and petite. I don’t struggle to lead women quite a bit taller than myself.
It’s not about my gender…the women I lead regularly love dancing with me and often say that I’m a better lead than many of the guys they regularly dance with.
And as for whether it looks wrong, ask most men about two women dancing together…I think you get my drift…!
It’s true that the physical training I’ve done over the years has taught me to manage my centre of gravity, stand firm and not get knocked off balance, but good leading isn’t about muscle.
You don’t move a woman around the dancefloor like you’re moving furniture.
You don’t force a woman into submission on the dancefloor – a lead in Salsa is an invitation. A request, not an order!
Realise your partner is looking for something in your lead that she may not be used to getting from any of the men in her life…
She wants to trust you.
She wants to feel safe and connected.
She wants to know that you know what’s happening and when.
She doesn’t want to have to think too much, or try to second-guess your intentions.
She wants to know that you’re the orchestrator of the dance and will completely take charge so she knows what foot to put where with no ambiguity or guesswork required.
She wants to believe that you’ve placed a protective little bubble around the two of you for the duration of the dance.
And actually, she doesn’t want you to lead moves. She wants you to guide her her fluently, confidently and assertively through a dance that will be a unique shared experience for the two of you.
Here’s a little creative visualisation exercise for you…use your imagination…put some Salsa music on, close your eyes and let your brain come up with the answers.
- Imagine your follower was blindfolded…how would you adjust your lead so she could still execute the moves safely?
- Imagine your follower has her hands tied behind her back so you can’t lead her using her arms. How would you lead your usual moves?
Good leading is about being more assertive in your lead without using more aggressive force.
It’s about understanding the footwork that you want to her to execute, and being able to give her more help when she needs it.
It’s about delivering some leads earlier and some later so she moves at exactly the right time.
It’s about having an acute sense of timing, monitoring the dance space and the energy flow of the dance. Adjusting tension and connection, and using your body position and body language to lead as well as the physical connection points.
It’s about holding back on the content and difficulty of the turn patterns until you sense she is able to handle it…a slow build up is much more likely to give rise to an exciting and fulfilling dance. If you throw all your best moves at her flat out in the first minute regardless of whether she follows or not, she may get her feet round but it won’t be an enjoyable experience for her, and there’s the chance that you’ll run out of moves and she’ll run out of patience!
I know all this BECAUSE I’ve had the experience of being a follower – it’s made me much more aware of what my lead needs to communicate and feel like.
You can lead to get the minimum required result, or you can lead to get the very best dance experience for both of you.
I know which I’m working towards!