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Leading Man: Deconstructing Tension in Ballroom Dancing


Leading and following, the fundamentals of every ballroom dance. Take any type of ballroom dance, be it Salsa, Merengue, Tango or Foxtrot, the pace and footwork vary, but one rule remains the same: the gentleman always leads the lady.

Most people are intimidated by ballroom dancing simply because of the seemingly impossible rules involved. Some men aren’t able to lead, while some women aren’t naturally accustomed to follow. In an attempt to make it work, therefore, many dancing couples make the unforgivable mistake of giving each other instructions while dancing. This not only causes more confusion, but also diminishes the grace and poise associated with a sophisticated art-form.

The truth is that many couples who find it difficult to adopt the principles of leading and following, do so because they view it as a matter of power. This is based on a misguided set of assumptions that have nothing to do with ballroom dancing.

Leading and following forms the centerpiece of ballroom dance because it requires technique and balance; a constant reciprocation that allows graceful intimacy between partners. The man leads, not by virtue of being a man, but because it is a symbolic expression of taking the initiative to woo the object of his desire. The lady follows, not by virtue of being a lady, but because it artistically captures her approval of the escort, a gesture marked by subtlety and composure.

It is the tension between the acts of leading and following that determines chemistry between the dancers. And it is what all great dancers anticipate when dancing with a partner.

Finding the Right Lead

It’s not easy to find a dream dancing partner, especially when you’re still struggling with the principles of leading or following. Besides, there’s no fun dancing when you have to tell the person what his or her next step should be. Why? Because it kills the mood!

While every type of dance has its own rules, there is an element of improvisation embedded in each one, which makes it all the more thrilling. That’s why leading and following are crucial techniques that must be mastered in the world of ballroom dance. After all, nobody wants to partner with someone who doesn’t know where the dance is going! It’s a non-verbal way of saying, “I like you, but frankly, I don’t really know what we’re doing here.” Not the best way to build intimacy!

Need some help with the technique? Get in touch with the pros! Now and Then Dance Studios provide ballroom dancing lessons to a diverse clientele of dance enthusiasts as well as first-timers.

With studios in Virginia and Maryland, we let our highly trained dancing professionals show you the ropes so that leading and following come as naturally to you as sitting and walking. Call us today at 301-424-0007 for an ultimate master-class!