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7.6 On Pre-leads And Prep-leads

A pre-lead is a small lead in the direction you want her to turn. The follower’s momentum is going in the same direction in both the pre lead and during the turn. This gives a smooth look and feel. A 2-step example is the Lady’s Outside Turn from standard closed position where the follower is turned slightly in the counter clockwise direction on the 2nd slow before doing the clockwise turn on quick-quick. The lead is initiated by the leader going into a contra-body position and is similar to the lead for going into promenade. This type of lead is used a lot in ballroom and is the one taught by Tony & Yvonne Gutsch in two-step.

A prep-lead is a small lead in the opposite direction of the turn that you will lead. They involve a wind-up immediately prior to a figure, turn, or pattern. A prep is a “tuck” type feeling that keeps the frame closed and uses the compression of the tuck to signal the turn. It’s got a snappy look. It starts the follower’s momentum going in one direction, stops it, and then starts it in the other direction. A 2-step example is the Lady’s Outside Turn from standard closed position where the follower is turned slightly in the clockwise direction on the 2nd slow before doing the clockwise turn on quick-quick.

The result is the prep-lead is VERY visible to observers while the pre-lead is almost invisible. There are the equivalents of preps or pre-leads in smooth dances like waltz and foxtrot. They’re usually very subtle and hidden in things like “” and “change of sway”. In a lot of partner dances and dance pattern amalgamations, this prep or wind-up seems to be an integral of the previous step. It’s a form of communication telling the lady to be set on her standing leg and snug in the man’s frame for the start of a turning figure.

You seldom see ballroom dancers using a closed-frame prep in a waltz or foxtrot. This is part of the smooth character of these dances. If you watch the CW folks you see closed-frame preps all over the place in 2step and even waltz.

Rhythm dances like swing or Latin usually use two beats to execute a tuck-turn prep. The compression part of a tuck turn is an integral part of these dances. The compression stores energy that can be released for speed. (If I push real HARD, I can go real FAST 🙂

Most experts classify CW2S as a ‘smooth’ dance. Others classify it as a traveling swing dance. (Single rhythm swing.) Preps in CW2S are OK, but they aren’t necessary. I try to do without them, especially when I’m social dancing. Personally, I’d never do a prep into an outside turn in 2-step because I wouldn’t lead a ladies outside turn from a basic. I would lead it from a closed turn or something else; it flows better that way. Preps are sharp and powerful for competition dancing, but too many of them make you look jerky. Since much of the change in CW dancing in the last decade came from the competitors, preps have become an standard part of CW dancing. (Not all of the changes to CW dancing are beneficial.)

In 2-step, the turns are usually never going to be faster than one turn per quick-quick. Exceptions are choreographed and not used socially by most dancers. So there is no need for a tuck to give her something to bounce off for a double turn. Also, 2-step should generally flow and not have severe directional changes except maybe to hit accents in the music. If you start her turning, you let her turn.

After doing a few basics I think there is a tendency to start to relax and enjoy the ride only to miss the cue to start doing stuff again, especially if that cue is dependent on a very good frame. Preps in CW2S are also a way of getting the follower’s attention by using compression so that the tension part of the lead will be followed. Beginners may not follow the prep and since the ‘expert’ always has a good frame, the prep isn’t necessary. Overall, I believe that beginners and expert followers would prefer pre-leads in CW2S. They are unambiguous to the beginners and expert followers don’t need preps to execute smooth turns. But many followers become trained to expect preps; and many leaders are trained to execute preps. That doesn’t make it right. If you took an expert smooth-dance follower out for a CW2S and executed a closed frame tuck, the result might be comical.

In open-frame two step, I use preps to begin doubles & triples & that sort of thing, and this might not be correct but it looks and FEELS good. (It is usually a two-count prep at the BEGINNING of the last slow, that places her foot and center where I want it.)