Learning to follow—to actually follow—is one of the most difficult partner dance skills imaginable. When everything in your experience tells you that you step forward on beat 1, when you can hear the beat telling you that you’re done with the anchor, when you’ve danced a thousand tucks and you know that you’re going to step out on count 4 like every other tuck in history…in all of these situations, you have to wait for the leader to actually ask you to move.
Waiting is hard. It’s uncomfortable to sit there waiting for a lead. It’s difficult to keep from guessing what comes next. It’s challenging to stop yourself from just finishing the movement like you always do. And it becomes even more difficult when your leader isn’t giving you signals that are as clear as you would like.
It’s also the key to having the most amazing dance experience possible.
There are lots of ways to think about actually following. Patty Vo describes it like being a cat rather than a dog. A dog will race up to you when called, eager to play. A cat will come, but the cat is in no rush. You want to respond to the leader’s call, but you don’t hurry to be there.
Or, you could think about following like playing dumb. Even though you know what should come next, you’re going to wait until you feel the lead to do so. You might think about being Zen: nothing is going through your mind, and you simply respond to whatever you feel.
However you think about following, know that the skill of actually following will take a lot of practice. But, learning this skill will do wonders for your dancing.
There are lots of partner exercises you can do to work on actually following:
- Dance blindfolded so you can’t anticipate as easily
- Practice staying back in leverage so you don’t get ahead of the lead
- Likewise, practice staying into compression so that you don’t leave the connection before the leader sends you
The important thing is to remember that actually following is a skill that requires lots of practice. If you spend a single song during your practice sessions or every night of social dancing consciously focused on following, you will improve dramatically.
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