8.6 On Leaders Learning To Follow And Vice-versa

Learning how to follow will enhance your ability to lead providing you properly digest and assimilate the “obtained data” from the experience. The same goes for followers who get a taste of leading. It manifests itself in better following. I took a teachers class where I learned to do both parts of each dance. Makes it much easier to lead and explain how to do the other parts and how to follow if you’ve done both yourself.

Knowing both parts is fun and can help you in many ways but I think its wiser to learn your own part well first. Some dancers should know both parts. Teachers for example. Everyone who teaches should know both parts, not just know them, know them well enough to do them on a social dance floor.

I feel strongly that everyone should, at some point in their dancing (preferably after they have mastered their own part), learn the other side. I think it makes the leaders much more sensitive as a leader and also a better leader because they can feel what a lead should or shouldn’t feel like from the followers side. The followers will learn (after they learn to lead) to cut the leaders a little more slack because they finally understand just how difficult it is to lead. They also will understand just how pleasant it is to dance with someone who truly follows and doesn’t back lead, walk in or over syncopate.

I encourage my advanced students to come back through my courses as the opposite of what they normally do. I allow them to take the lower level classes for free if they want to do this. I can see a great improvement in their dancing.

It always amuses me when a leader who is learning to follow comes over and asks me to tell the leaders in class to stop holding on with their thumbs 🙂 (you must receive to believe)

I’ve had the good fortune to take some beginning Argentine Tango from Daniel Trenner, who teaches everyone, male and female, the basics of both leading and following at the same time. And in part due to this approach, I felt I was learning much more rapidly than in any other type of dance I’ve been exposed to. Now it’s possible that the somewhat different focus and character of Tango cause this to work better than it would with, say, WCS, but it would at least be an interesting experiment to try with some open-minded novice dancers.

I think that it is best to learn both parts. It is very helpful for the man to know the woman’s part and for the woman to know the man’s part for several reasons:

  • If a man teaches a woman (or if a woman teaches a man) he/she needs to know the other part in order to teach it.
  • If a man learns to follow (or the woman learns to lead), then each will have a better understanding of the other.
  • If a man learns to lead (or the woman learns to follow), then he/she develops a better understanding of how to lead/follow because he/she knows what it is like to be on the receiving/giving end of it.
  • Learning both parts increases the number of people with whom you are able to dance.
  • Learning the both parts helps you to develop a better understanding of the “big picture”. Your view is not as one sided. There are probably other benefits, but I think that the ones listed are enough to convince someone that is really dedicated to dance to learn the other part.