A week or two ago, we looked at what follows really want from leads… now it’s time to look at the other side of the equation:
What do leads really want from follows? Do they want the follow who looks good, is super-strong, and super-flexible… or do they want a dancer who connects through everything?
My answer? If I have to pick just 1, give me connection. If I have to pick just 2, give me connection and technique.
There’s a caveat here: if the follow is a beginner, I like enthusiasm. I don’t expect great connection or – quite frankly – great anything… except attitude. That being said, I’d rather dance with a beginner who isn’t throwing themselves into harm’s way every 5 seconds.
Obviously, my favourite follows do more than just feel good. They:
- Give me great attitude
- Give me great connection
- Help me cover up my mistakes
- Have great technique
- Give creatively/musically to the dance, and
- Look great
And yes, in that order.
If you’re a great connector but don’t present well while you’re dancing, leads may miss you and pick up the flashier follows. Some of them may even like the flashy follows better – but if you prove you’re great at following, you’ll get lots of repeat dances.
Much like how most follows prefer a lead who makes them feel good by not over-patterning, leads prefer a follow who is dancing with them.
Since follows aren’t leading the dance, a lack of connection is harder to quantify than with a lead. After all, we don’t do crazy patterns. However, we may self-dip, backlead, or overstyle. Think of these types of behaviors as the follow’s version of over-patterning.
“But leads seem to like the follows who look good and can do crazy stuff!”
Well, if they have good connection, look good, and have crazy good physical capabilities… of course. They simply bring more to the table than someone who only follows well, but doesn’t look as good.
However, if you don’t have connection, the rest of it is useless. Much like the order of operations in leading, each ‘aspect’ of following builds on the rest:
- Looking good/Athleticism
A note on athleticism: this will vary capability-wise from follow to follow. Some people are just out of shape, and are unable to do things because their muscles aren’t strong/flexible enough. Others have physical limitations that cannot be changed through fitness. If you’re simply not strong/flexible enough, you NEED to get your body in shape if you want to do those cool moves.
You need connection before you can do anything as a follow. Then, you need to understand your own movement and basics before I can successfully lead you through them.
After that, my biggest thing is I hope you’ll roll with my screw-ups as a lead… especially if I’m experimenting with something. I also hope you’ll give musically and creatively to the dance… without backleading.
The final piece: if you look really good and can do things physically that are both awesome and executed properly and safely, it is just that extra cherry on the top of the dance.
Once again, I can’t stress enough: AS LONG AS IT IS EXECUTED PROPERLY AND SAFELY. 🙂
How do you learn to execute it properly and safely? Get training. Practice over and over and over. Improve your physical fitness if it is a physically difficult move.
“Why are some of these grouped together and not their own separate points?”
Some items are grouped together for follows. The reason is that follows don’t really have control over the pattern selection for a dance. As a result, they need to adapt all the things they they know to any given dance.
For example, saying to a follow ‘just do basics’ doesn’t really translate on the social floor because leads WILL try to lead non-basic things. For musicality/creativity, everything the follow does is within the framework – which means their creativity and musicality elements are part of the same parcel.
If connection is a follow’s biggest concern, all the other ‘cool things’ need to fit into the framework that has been established by the lead.
Working within this framework is hard – really hard if you’re dancing at an advanced level. If you think following is easy… go read this. Following isn’t easy.
If you want to become one of the best dancers on the floor and an incredibly sought-after partner, you have to develop all your skills. You need to look good – but you need to have even better connection, technique, and creativity. Ignoring one component of the dance will not turn you into an epic partner.
Imagine you’re applying for a job. Let’s say the most important thing for this job is knowing how to use Microsoft Excel. There’s also a second main skill you need – Microsoft Access. After that, there are a few ‘preferable’ but not mandatory skills:
- Speak a second language
- A degree from a college or university
- At least 2 years of experience in a similar role
For this job, in theory you can get by with just knowing Excel. You’re much better qualified if you can also use access. Think of this as your ‘connection’ and ‘technique’.
After that, there’s three great “would like to have” categories. They’re things you don’t necessarily NEED for the job, but they are preferred for someone who is doing the job. This is your compensation, creativity, and style.
The job’s ideal candidate will have all 5 skills, but the accepted candidate may just have skills 1 and 2.
This is like dancing: it’s better to have the two foundational elements than the three ‘nice to have’ elements… but having all 5 makes you super epic.
When you go dancing, prize your connection and technique. If these things are a struggle for you, don’t worry about the last three: you’ll still be a good partner. When you’re comfortable with your connection and technique, add the other elements back in.
Overall, leads want to dance with you. They want to feel you dancing as their partner. Connection and technique are the foundation of that feeling; the rest is wonderful, but not necessary for a good dance.
People in my area call great follows ‘marshmallows’ because they are soft, but maintain their shape. They’re airy, but they have substance. Good connection feels like marshmallows.
Find that feeling oh-so-lovely melty place of connection. Stay there. Hold onto it, and never let it go – the rest of your skills will grow to accommodate that connection.
Photo Credit: Brian De Rivera Simon, Tarsipix Studios