8.5 Active Following
In social ballroom dancing where the female is supposed to be literally unaware of what will come next, “back leading” is a clear violation of the intent as well as the spirit of the encounter. Backleading is an attitude problem; when a follower backleads, she’s saying that she neither respects nor trusts the leader’s ability to lead, to dance or even to select figures. However, in Swing dancing, things aren’t quite so chauvinistic! 🙂 Swing dancing is an improvisational environment and that makes it interesting and exciting to both partners. The best followers will “take over” and surprise the leader with variations during passes, etc., andalso at the end of most any figure.
With “active following” comes a few groundrules: Followers should not steal the lead without having already established an overall sense of “intent to follow” and leaders should not pull followers out of syncopations without having established an “intent to be responsive to the follower’s communication.” Followers must be able to control their weight during a syncopation – they must not pull or push on the leader.
As Sonny & Kris say, the leader has to lead _and_ follow in WCS. So ideally, a leader would not only be able to choreograph to phrasing on the fly (and choreograph moves that interpret the music), but also be able to amend them as the follower adds her own moves. John Festa said in a class at Seashore Swing that leaders are always, in a sense, following too. They set something in motion, wait to see what happens, and adjust accordingly. (If the follower misses a lead, spins off balance, etc. they have to be ready to respond to the situation). Dancing with an “active follower” takes even more than the usual amount of concentration from the leader because he has to react to the follower’s surprises, giving her time to show off, while still recovering smoothly.
While one partner is spinning, a good dancer will use that as an opportunity to “play”. While some men object to the woman taking more than two beats to spin or play, you should have no objection to that as long as when you finally lead the woman in, she goes. I (Enio Cordoba) look at West Coast Swing as having three facets, I dance, she dances and we dance. If you set the woman up to break or “play” and she stands there like a lamppost, you’ll be less likely to give her the chance to shine again. If she takes the opportunity then give her the chance more often.