There are a few moves in any partner dance that inevitably divide follows right down the middle: they either love ’em, or hate ’em.
So, what’s a lead to do? How do you tell whether you have a follow who absolutely adores dips – or wants you to never, ever, EVER do them? What clues are there that your follow is spin-happy, or spin adverse?
What are the moves in partner dance that follows either love fiercely, or hate with a deep passion?
1: The Dip
Some follows love them – fast, deep, many in a row. Others feel an impending sense of dread as soon as the preparation comes.
The Dip is one of the great, polarizing movements of dance. Especially for follows who are injury-conscious or who have had a bad experience, dips can be a very scary thing. This is particularly true any time the dip is quick, deep, or sudden.
If you are a lead who enjoys dips, start slow. See how your follow responds to a careful prep and gentle dip. If they respond well, try a slightly deeper one. If they still respond well and you have the control and technique, you can throw in a quicker dip.
However, you need to be aware and stop dips as soon as a follow:
- tells you they don’t want dips,
- grabs on to your shoulders for dear life, or
- does not go into the dip.
You should stop a dip as soon as you feel the follow has reached their ‘max’ capacity in the dip. The ‘max’ capacity is when the follow stops going any further into the dip. This is the point where follows go from ‘this is fun’ to ‘no effing way’.
2: Many, Many Spins
Oh, spins – my old favourite. There are many other follows like me, who adore multiple spins (when executed properly).
There’s also the other side – those who get dizzy or who aren’t fans of multiple spins. Or, it might be a crappy floor that causes even spin-lovers to cry at multi’s.
You know you’ve gone too far if you:
- feel a follow resisting spins,
- notice that they are getting dizzy, or
- see their smile has evaporated.
Most follows who actively enjoy spins are notably thrilled after a well-executed multiple.
If in doubt, use a normal amount of spins per dance: no more than one sequence of spins in a row lasting for a relatively short amount of time. A spin-lover won’t mind slightly fewer – whereas a spin-hater will definitely resent being put through more.
Any movement where you are supporting the follow’s body weight and their feet are on the floor is a drop. There can be a fine line between drips and dips – but usually it’s a matter of the degree of weight-bearing.
If you are a strong, secure partner, some follows may love drops with you. Others will not.
When a follow does not go down when you lead a drop, it means they don’t like them or they don’t feel secure in how/where you are doing the move. If this is the case, don’t do more; leave it be. You don’t need drops to have a good dance.
If a follow comes out of a dip with an evaporated smile, it also usually means they’re not a fan.
Drops are a finicky thing, and can also be dangerous. If you enjoy drops, it’s important to start simple, slow, and only do them with capable partners. No matter how much a beginner follow may like drops, you should not do them. The follow can get hurt – and they will likely blame you.
You should also be sure that if something goes wrong, you have the physical ability to bail the follow out of the movement safely.
4: Super-Sensual Moves
With the rise of Sensual Bachata, Zouk, and Kizomba, a lot of dancers are loving the super-sensual trend. Some really, really do not. It makes them feel like they’re being molested.
Whether it is a lead or follow, sensuality in dance needs to be mutual. This includes things like taking the follow’s hand and running it down your chest, or super-steamy close hold.
Side note: I personally hate the running-the-hand-down-the-chest thing, or any other version of the grab the arm and stroke something. It makes me feel like I’m at a strip club.
If a follow’s body goes stiff or rigid as soon as you do something sensual, it means they don’t like it. You should never have to pull a follow into close hold; an invitation by moving your body closer will tell you if the follow is into it.
If they don’t reciprocate the move-close, it means they’re not into it. The same thing goes for head-to-head contact: if you notice they seem to keep moving their head away from the connection, STOP! They don’t want it!
By contrast, a follow who moves in towards the connection that you invite is usually liking it.
5: Arm Flicks
Arm flick things are a bit of a weird in-between. Some people feel like they’re cool and fancy; some feel like they disrupt flow. That quick ‘flick’ can sometimes feel like you’re throwing away the connection – especially in connection dances.
For the record, I don’t often see arm flicks getting in the way in Salsa.
If you notice when you do arm flicks that the follow seems to blandly just put their arm where it’s supposed to be, they’re probably not feeling it.
6: Super-Athletic Moves
I have a friend who is super in-shape and loves all manner of physically challenging moves. But, this is also a girl who finds it fun to do the most difficult physical fitness routines she can get her hands on and does insane fitness pole work.
When people do intense, physical moves on the dancefloor with her, she’s happy. It pushes her, and she likes the athleticism.
There’s a lot of people who don’t enjoy those movements to nearly the same extent – if at all.
If someone is physically at their limit, pushing further is useless – and likely to injure them. Some people also just don’t want that extra physicalness; they want soft, gentle connection.
You can usually tell which category someone falls into by how they react to a challenge. If they don’t fully execute the movement, abort, or look stressed while performing the move, they’re not usually happy with what’s going on. Stick to a lower-level physical intensity with those dancers.
Very often, these people will also lose connection if you put extra energy into the dance. You’ll notice they’re suddenly getting dragged behind the momentum, rather than keeping up.
By contrast, people who enjoy the challenge will very comfortably remain in the movement and enjoy the moment with you.
Bonus ‘Move’: The Endurance Challenge
This isn’t really a single move; it’s more of a dance style.
Some follows really enjoy a challenging dance that pushes them from beginning to end. However, this is a minority of the overall dance population.
Most follows enjoy a well-balanced dance that doesn’t leave them completely exhausted. This means leaving time for rest, musicality, and a little play.
If you feel your follow lagging behind, giving extra resistance, or gasping for air – slow down. Take a breather and use a different movement pattern. They’ll probably be very happy for it.
For those who are Unsure
If you are a lead who has trouble reading body language, then you have a few ‘safe’ options. First, for things like dips and drops, you can ask. This gives you a completely open answer to if the follow likes what you are doing or not.
Second is to err on the side of caution. If you’re unsure if a reaction means they don’t like something, stay away from that thing. It certainly won’t be hurting anyone. Or, if you simply need confirmation, try another gentle, slow version of the same thing.
If after two attempts you’re still unsure, I’d stay away from more until you can confirm whether or not they like that thing.
What moves are your favourites, and which ones do you hate? Did we miss one? Leave your comments below, and share on Facebook!
My personal least favorite move is when the lead leads the follow on a turn by the chin. I don’t expect a leader to touch my chin, so it takes me off guard and it’s kind of uncomfortable. Fortunately it’s not done often.
I’m with Ashley. Leading me by my face, or taking hold of my neck are just really invasive and risky ways to lead. I hate those.
Have you ever tryied to lead body waves this way:
Been dancing three years. Never dipped or dropped anyone. Seen loads of mishaps though.
Hammerlocks! When the arm is not lowered or is forced up past ROM. The first caused a shoulder injury, and the second mad dancing a ver painful experience many times due to the damage that was done.
Any dips or drops where the lead is supporting my neck generally make me uncomfortable. I can handle maybe one or two a night, but it starts to hurt.
Also moves that make me roll my head to duck under their arm, if they don’t know how to lead it properly. I have a few friends who can do it well, but most leads either draw me too close to their armpit (ick), or they try to change my location on the dancefloor while I’m spinning with my head tucked down… just no.