A little while ago, Andrea had asked for tips from a leader’s perspective on how to become a better follower. While attending this week’s Sunday social, I spent my focus on coming up with some thoughts on this subject. While I haven’t truly learned to follow, I’m hoping that these ideas will help and am looking forward to hearing your imput (whether you lead, follow or both!)
Aim to become a ‘lighter’ dancer : I believe it was Sarah who brought this up in class, but essentially there are two types of leads and followers: those who use little and those who use great resistance to lead/follow. It is natural for beginners to need strong signals as guidance but the problem with those who use/need great resistance (aka, heavy dancers) is that you tire out quickly and are slower when executing moves. The real trick is to try to step and move as lightly as possible and to focus in on the resistance that your leader if giving you during the dance.
Don’t be afraid to politely ask your leader to be more or less firm during a dance. It takes time to develop your dancing skills so that you’re a light dancer but when you get there, you will spin and glide like a champ!
What Would Sadie Hawkins Do? : While at the Sunday Social, I saw a lot of women sitting on the sidelines waiting for guys to ask them to dance… actually, I see this a lot at many social salsa outings. Trust me, you spend a lot of time learning how to dance, bought those great pair of heels and even have your double turns down; so why just spend the event sitting down? Trust me, us leaders’ love to be asked to dance and not only will we be flattered, but chances are will try out a few cool new moves with someone as bold as yourself 😉
Whether you’re 2 lessons in or salsera supreme, don’t be afraid to ask us as it’s rare we’ll ever say ‘no’. The Salsa scene is so amazing for that reason alone. We’re all here to learn, get better and have a blast doing so, so next outing, please ask any and all of us to dance. You’ll not only increase your social circle ten-fold, but you’ll become an amazing dancer in no time!
Add a little more Diva-Style to your dancing : This may sound like a no-brainer, but if us guys have to spend countless hours learning combos, timing and being a great lead than it’s only fair that you spend some time learning how to properly style. I’ve always found it funny that while you learn how to style within the first 2-3 classes and yet I see people in levels 4-5 and 6 who don’t have it down. Now I’m not saying that you have to do the pops and waves and such all the time, but styling helps round out a follower and also serves the great purpose of connecting and transitioning moves.
Time Travel : This tip is involves two ideas: learn how to dance on time and keep your steps/turns small. Why did I include both of these ideas in one tip? Well if you take smaller steps and travel less during turns you will increase the amount of time you have to complete your steps. From a leader’s point of view, we always appreciate someone who stays on time and doesn’t require us to lunge in order to give you a scoop.
Dance in the Slot : While I could do an entire blog about this concept ( blog coming soon! ) dancing in the slot is a way for a couple and a group of dancers to stay in line with one another. Wikipedia puts dancing in the slot perfectly by saying:
“As a rule, the leader mostly stays in the slot as well, leaving it only to give way for the follower to pass him. The leader almost never makes the follower to circle around when passing by. They may go into a common rotational figure when the follower happens to come close, but such figures are usually in a tight position and do not change the overall “slotted” appearance.”
So, what does this mean? Essentially when dancing you are at one of the ends of an imaginary slot/line. When you do any cross body move, you basically trade places and end up on the other side of said slot. This keeps the dancers in line with one another and allows for proper execution of moves.
My tip for followers is to learn to execute traveling moves so that they move from one end of the imaginary dance line to the other, not diagonal from it or a few feet away from it. How to practice this? Purposely practice or dance keeping the lines of the tiles/wood on the dance floor in mind and use them as rules to dance on. It is so hard as a leader to dance with someone who strays from the slot/line as you’re bound to bump into other dancers.
Break Back (but not ALL the way back) : When doing break-back moves, please don’t allow for your arm to fully extend. First of all, it breaks the tension between two partners, Secondly, it takes longer to retract and could cause you to go off-time and Thirdly, you take up way more space on the dance floor. How far do you allow your arms to break back? Comfort is always key but I would only go as far back as to when you feel enough resistance to complete the move. Trust me, bigger is not better in this situation.
Well, I hope these tips have helped and would love to hear your comments/advice/concerns so feel free to comment away!
Stay Shining Salseros!