Being a light follow has nothing to do with weight. You can be 200 pounds and light as a feather, or you can be 100 pounds and feel like my apartment’s refrigerator. You can have gorgeous style and be capable of 100 single-footed spins and STILL be a refrigerator. Conversely, you can have no style and physical limitations, yet still be a light follow.
A light follow does not anticipate where the next movement is going – they wait. Yet, a light follow is also secure enough in the knowledge of her own dance to respond to the barest whisper. In the words of my partner, it is like dancing with a marshmallow: their softness and malleability gives the lead the freedom to shape the dance, but they are strong enough to maintain their own dance as well.
Being a light follow does not mean being disconnected – in fact, it means quite the opposite. It means that when led, your reaction is nearly instant without sacrificing quality or connection. It means that your responses are fast – but not ahead of the lead. You do not need force or strength to lead a light follow – you simply need to guide them. It means that their frame and attention is so sensitive that it feels like the lead is directly connected to their mind.
A light follow doesn’t always have the best ‘style’, but they’ll keep you coming back for more anyways. The truly stunning follows have learned how to put their own flair and style into the dance without sacrificing that feather-light, soft connection… but they didn’t start with style before substance. They have come so far on their journey of following that they are now ready to add in gorgeous style – rather than letting style get in the way of their follower’s journey.
A light follow is a gift on the dance floor. They are the ultimate partner with which to express music and emotion on the floor. They leave you glowing at the end of the dance, and help you capture the magic of social dancing. These are the people who get new leads hooked on dancing, and keep experienced ones enraptured. The light follow is the counterpoint of the strong lead: the magical entities that everyone loves to dance with… but few accomplish this level of skill. It takes time, dedication, and sensitivity. It takes a willingness to learn – but most of all, it takes a deep understanding of what it means to connect and feel another person.
What a magical article…so poetic and so instructive. Thank you so much 🙂
Thanks. I have learned a lot about life through dance connection. suCh as trust and surrender and music acting as a catalyst
Not all followers are ladies!!!!
Thank you for great info
Ah wonderful post thankyou, here’s to celebrating sensitivity!
Why doesnt a light follow always have the best ‘style’?! This is what I’ve been struggling to understand about myself over the last few months. It’s all been mulling around in the back of my head so it’s nice to see someone else exploring it too.
I thought about the question you are asking some time ago and made a decision for myself.
For a several years, while dancing with variety of a different partners I was learning steps and techniques, exploring how to get better and what I like and enjoy on a dance floor. I like dramatic steps, strong lines, slow motion and fast speed – so I thought. It was all about the presentation.
My life changed about a year ago, after I start dancing with a partner, a musician and professional researcher. I got addicted to incredibly elegant lead. To make the story short: my focus changed from external to internal. I enjoy the delicate and sublime communication with out attention to technicality of presentation. Do not take it wrong that I got sloppy – I take ballet and belly dancing to stay in shape and on my toes! It just when I notice at times how much effort some followers put in their embellishments and mostly the timing of it, it feels to me, that they are loosing the magic, the moment of bliss sharing the energy and delicate pace, naturally unfolding moves.
So, I though for a couple of weeks, not being sure how I feel, – should I use the opportunity, while dancing with a sensitive partner, to improve my techniques or explore incredible connection?
I chosen the attention and joy for my partner’s freedom to lead me the best way he imagines :)) and style will follow right away or eventually …or we create our own.
In summary: techniques does get better, only I do not think about it most of the time anymore.
Oh how much do I dread the follower who thinks “decorations per minute” means they’re a good dancer: ignore the fact they’re throwing me off balance, coming close kicking the person behind them, completely ignoring the musical line we’ve been dancing on or forgetting they actually have a partner in the dance.
There is a time for decorations but that should only be done when a person can manage their own weight, balance, (everyone’s) safety and without looking down at their feet.
It would be nice if the decorations follow the music too 🙂
Style comes with the ability to release not only control but inhibitions. I watch dancers today and everyone is hellbent on technical proficiency and performance tricks that they miss what makes a truly stylish dancer … exploration into the sensual, spiritual, and erotic side of the dance. I’m almost 60, still clear a floor when I Bachata and have the younger kids ooh’ing and aw’ing. My words of wisdom, allow yourself the freedom of expression … find the passion deep inside and you’ll discover your own head-turning style.
yes of course, a light follower doesn’t necessarily have a good style..
but (for me as a leader) the way of following can destroy even the most beautiful style. It can make you look at this person in an entirely new way after a bad dance. upside down it works too. A non atractive person gets a new position in my perception. And for nothing in the world I would like to change to a partner previously explained. (that’s also why I try to avoid super good looking women, often they try to compensate s.th.)
For me eg Kizomba is a dance to feel, the style is not really important while dancing.
Feeling beats appearance!
Always and for very long memory
There was a girl in our group named Alaina. I hope I spelled that right who was beautiful and a loverly dancer who could make any accomplished lead look good. But she made a point of dancing with new guys and turning any mistake we made into something pretty and continuing to dance. It only took the slightest touch of a lead for her. I’ve danced with many others who can do more spins and maybe know more combinations, but she was the most fun to dance with.
” turning any mistake we made into something pretty and continuing to dance”
I have a phrase: “there is no mistakes in dancing :)) – yet new opportunities to be pleasant and creative!”
As a follower I have tremendous respect for all efforts a leader has to accomplish on the way to become a good partner.
You know, we are BOTH followers and leaders on the dance floor. I have tried for many years to accomplish this “perfect follow,” and I feel and think it is a never ending chase to nowhere. Things are always changing, in the dance, with dance partners, with leads, with follows. What I find is that if BOTH people are listening and following the “leader,” because who IS the true leader, the music, God, Higher Power, the man, the woman? then the dance will be magical and transformative. Yes, I have learned to listen better, and when I dance with a man who is SO connected to me, it is marvelous and magic happens.
Food for thought.
Thanks for sharing and posting 🙂
Lovely comment and insight!
Wonderful article and right to the point. I love to dance with a woman who dances with me. And I really don’t like to dance with women who dance alone (bailan solas). The tango has two roles and they are different. I don’t mean to say that one is subservient to the other, but there is definitely a leader and a follower. On can dance either role, that’s fine. However, it’s a mistake to dance in spite of the leaders indication.
Unfortunately, there are some well known and prominent teachers who teach the people to dance the woman role alone, just start doing figures and such whenever the fancy strikes you and practically thwart the leaders indications. To each his/her own I guess, but for me I prefer to dance with women who dance very lightly. It’s pleasure to dance with a woman who dances “like butter”. I’m all for embellishments and clever interpretations in the spaces between led steps, but I don’t like to struggle for the lead.
“that it feels like the lead is directly connected to their mind.”
It feels like this, because it is “connected to their mind, or rather their brain.
All sensory information flows through the brain. See “Tango Secrets – Chicago”, a Facebook group.
Brilliant exposition of dance at its best.
I’m currently learning these facets and hope to make the fullest use of them, as an artist an the dance floor.
I LIKE YOUR COMMENT BARRY, I;D LOVE TO FIND A GROUP OR EVEN A LESSON INSTRUCTOR THAT ONE CAN LEARN FROM. Can U share if you have knowledge for find through some research. By the way, I’m in the windy of Chicago. Thanks for the comment in your reply
Advice of the week to become a better dancer.
BeSalsa wrote in 2014 with help of many professionals 1 advice every week. You can read them on our fb page if interested
– Being heavy and dancing –
Have you ever been called a heavy dancer? You don’t know why or how to fix it?
Keep reading to find out more about it.
First of all being a heavy dancer has nothing to do with weight. The skinniest person can feel really heavy and the strongest person can feel really light.
It just means you are being a little bit lazy. Meaning that you depend on your partner to move you around the dance floor. You’re being dragged, pulled & pushed everywhere.
It’s not a nice feeling for both dancers. It’s not because it looks, good that it feels good. The more you dance (and get better) the more you will be aware of it. It’s also one of the reasons why you feel so great dancing with amazing dancers and not so much with others.
What can you do to prevent being a heavy dancer:
• Dance on your toes meaning your weight should be on the ball of your feet.
• Use your legs to move and not your arms. Use what is connected to the floor (your feet) and get the power to move from there
• Followers If you understand the indication of your partner’s next move try to go right away and don’t wait for him to pull you.
• Keep your arms soft.
• Work on your basic steps and learn in detail how to transfer your weight. First slow and then faster.
• Learn how to execute the movement on your own. If you can do it alone, you know you wont need your partner to spin, to keep balance, or even to travel across the floor.
• Think high, think of reaching up towards the ceiling, the sky, any mental image you need to push every single cell of your body upwards. It doesn’t mean you have to be standing on your toes. You can be in any position you want and still trying to reach up.
The opposite is also an option. To try and actually be heavy can be very useful.
Understanding your body is a key to success of being light and heavy.
Perfecting that skill is a matter of time, practice and some coaching by professionals.
Thanks for reading and your great feedback!
Great article. I strive to be that great of a follower. Call me Marshmallow :~}
I totally agree with the article. I am not a very good dancer, I don’t know how to style very well and I lack mobility, but many guys told me that they love dancing with me because I am easy to lead.
I actually like a gentle lead more than a strong one, because then the dance feels magical, like I am floating 🙂 Even if the hand contact is lost, I still follow, and then the leader starts playing with that and leads a few moves without contact, just by the proximity of hands, but without touch, and they seem to enjoy it 🙂
The best feeling for me is when a strong lead realizes that he doesn’t need to use force with me and relaxes his lead 🙂
This is SO true… I could not agree more. A very good observation and the feedback from leaders when they dance with a good follower is always very positive. They love it if the follower is easy to manoeuver and not busy doing fancy styling most of the time which can be hard, hard work for the leader…
Every word is true. It is such a hard skill but dancing with a light follower is fantastic and enhances the “oneness” of the dance.
Yes social dancing is about rythmn and connection with your partner not showing off to the rest of the world although it is pleasurable for people to watch dancers especially when they are having fun or are so deeply connected temporarily, that you can feel their magic. It’s not always easy to be a light dancer though and leaders who begin by ordering their partner to ‘relax’, are not helping one bit, in fact it can become an issue of control and ‘don’t let me down, people are watching’, rather than ‘let us play together until we find a comfortable level’. As we learn we can find ourselves regressing to the days when we were toddlers, in a constant cycle of failing and achieving; for some that is a time of rewarding memories but not for everybody, so when you are dancing either as a leader or a follower you might be dancing with someone who is taking enormously, heroic steps. Also don’t give up if you find yourself feeling out of place or unwanted, it can take months to become a part of the dance community; cliques do form but most often contrary to what you might be feeling about unfriendly vibes it’s to do with the excitement that other people are experiencing about dancing with their dance friends and getting round the dance floor to all of them, rather than ignoring someone new. Last but not least whether you enjoy leading or following age seems to cease to be a problem on the dance floor.
Super helpful! Will it to bothering if I translated it to Chinese and share with local society with your name and also the regional address here?
the difference between dancing with tank or dancing with a Porsche, power steering…
they carry their own weight… and much of the dance.. they are dancing off the finger tips..
They dance the beat, they smile, their turns are fast and on the beat, they can dance in tight quarters, or while traveling, they maintain an awareness of those around them…. their hits are always just right and on the beat.. they are dancers….. and that says it all…
Hope we can keep growing the salsa community with more light followers 😀
Great points. I´d still like to add something as the word light might take ladies to a wrong direction, I mean “up” instead of connecting with the floor. I dance both as a leader and as a follower (as my profession) and now days I have started to realize how difficult it is to lead a follower who is not properly grounded. If a follower has a good connection to the floor, they will be more skilled in controlling their own body (and using the gravity to that) and then be able to react faster and more sensitively to the leader. Many times I have noticed that if a follower is “too light”, I am not able to stop this follower in the middle of a turn for ex. if there´s an other dancer coming into our space. This also can be a problem of not knowing how to keep the connection at all times. I prefer using the words keeping good connection, and learning to be sensitive in following and using ones own body control to move around (well, it depends a lot of the style of dance how much the follower is supposed to use the leaders energy to move around – but as a general thought), instead of the world light.