Follow my Lead

Posted by Zenaida

Recently I had a fabulous opportunity to attend a swing dancing workshop. It was so much fun!  It was really satisfying to immerse myself in learning a skill.  At the end I felt like I had made new friends, challenged myself, and learned something more about myself.  Though, also by the end, I felt like I was saturated with being a Follow.

“The Lead’s role is to create and direct momentum.  The Follow’s role is to maintain momentum and follow the lead.  Both partners may add their own styling.”  One moment that stood out to me was being shown that without the lead, the follow does not have directional movement.  She must move her feet in one position until the lead directs her.  Implementing this piece of advice created a partnership that turned out something fluid and beautiful.  Once the Leads learned to communicate clearly, and the Follows learned to listen clearly, then the dancers on the floor began gliding effortlessly in the twisty circles of the dance.

It is not easy to be a Follow.   You have to concentrate on listening and not insert your own interpretation over what is being communicated.  Sometimes this is very difficult because everyone communicates differently.  It really is fun to learn the cipher for each dancer.   But, I couldn’t help but envy the challenges of the Lead.  This seems like the creative center with the decision-making power and the responsibility to insert musicality and style. But, that wasn’t my role!!

I have resolved to learn to lead, but what man would follow Me??


  1. It is very interesting to dance with my husband. He has no sense of rhythm and it is so hard for me to follow when he is “wrong.” I did only covenant to follow him when he leads in righteousness, so I think I am off the hook.

  2. I think any man who is self-confident and willing to try new things will be happy to follow you. It seems ideal to me for partners to switch off leading and following. I bet both of you would learn new insights about dancing that way.

  3. Ahhh! I love to talk about dancing!

    The whole strict definition of leader and follower is really for the 1.0 dancer. There have got be strict rules for who does what, and when, etc etc, because the alternative is chaos on the dance floor, and people getting shoved and stepped on.

    However, as you get to more advanced dancing (3.0? 4.0?), it becomes much more important to know how the other role works. I’ve found that the best dancers are those who have taken time to learn how to lead and follow. And one of the greatest joys of dancing with talented leads is learning to hijack the lead and do something so marvelous that they just watch in appreciation.

    I think this is how most successful marriages work, and how I qualify the Proclamation on the Family. Whatever talents, dispositions and experiences one partner brings to the table, will strengthen the partnership if the other is willing to dance a mile in their shoes.

    Glad you had such a good time at the workshop. I will say that partner dancing is a great way to be social and active. WHo needs a gym when there is dancing available almost every night!

  4. Thanks for the comments!
    Caroline, truthfully, I do know men who would be and _are_ willing to follow me. It makes me very happy. 🙂

    “I did only covenant to follow him when he leads in righteousness, so I think I am off the hook.”
    marta, that’s an interesting thought. The reason this really hit home for me was that it felt so much like a comparison to Priesthood leadership in the home. When the woman tries to take over the lead in dance, it’s called back leading. Whether he is right or wrong, it looks pretty off because the partners are generally not on the same page. The dance works so well when one partner is leading and communicating clearly (righteously), and the other is following.

    Can a man maintain his masculinity and be a follow? Can a woman maintain her femininity and be a lead? How does that work within a temple marriage, or does it?

    G, I love interpretive dance. 🙂

  5. Other questions would be
    Is it “Better” to lead rather than to follow? or vice-versa?
    Can a dance partnership get to the point where the lead knows what the follow feels and chooses to include that perspective in making creative decisions?

    At some point, can’t they really mold into one?

    I think the best dancing partners both know the moves and move together. The follow trusts the lead to both know the dance, know the follow well after much time working together, and to not impose moves that only mean toes are stepped on.

    “Once the Leads learned to communicate clearly, and the Follows learned to listen clearly, then the dancers on the floor began gliding effortlessly in the twisty circles of the dance.”

    Equal partnership, right there. It’s a dance, not a power struggle. At some point, the lead and follow become one, agreeing and moving together because they both know what the moves need to be and agreed together to move in the same direction.

    I think trust (when lead is trustworthy) and willingness to follow is one of the things that makes that dance work in a powerful way.

    Anyway, I love this image, really. I think it can capture how presiding and partnership can actually work together.

  6. One of the really frustrating parts of learning to dance for me was the follower role-I simply couldn’t internalize that that following is somehow less than leading, despite what all the teachers say.

    About three years into dancing several times a week & struggling with it, I was listening to some guys I danced with regularly discuss the women in our community. One woman that I had always admired for her technical skill was uniformly one of their least favorite dancers. She was skillful, but, one of them described her as a black hole of energy.

    It dawned on me that the follower role isn’t submissive or secondary. And following, in its simplest sense, isn’t what a good lead looks for. Its like the electrical current of music can’t flow in a dance unless both the lead and follower connect–with each other & the music. The follower is the other half of the charge and music is definitely the 3rd partner. Once I figured that out, dancing became a really intense experience, being physically and mentally tuned in to the lead and the music and finding the way to express myself in a way that fits the music and the lead. Even now, when I get to that place, its like a contact high & the lead feels it just as much as you do.

    Most male dancers I know like to try to follow. Its exciting & challenging for them to try that role just like it is for us to try to lead. In tango, in particular, its not uncommon to see skilled dancers switching the lead & follow while they dance.

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