As most of you are probably aware, there are generally two roles in partner dancing. Namely, leading and following. Traditionally, men are the leads, and girl are the follows. However, that is not always the case. Within the dance community, there are dancers, both male and female, who are “ambi-dancers”; that is, they know how to both lead and follow.
Ambi-dancing is a great skill to have. It is something I actually want to learn myself, which in my case, would mean learning how to follow (though I of course still have plenty to learn regarding leading, as well). I really should get on that soon, I’m a pretty bad follow at the moment. 😛 Anyway, learning how to dance in the role you’re not used to does so much more than just teach you how to dance the other steps. It helps improve your overall dance skill, regardless of whether you are leading or following. Leaders who learn how to follow gain a greater appreciation for how their lead signals are interpreted, and that in turn also serves to make them a better leader. Follows who learn to lead gain a better understanding of what leads are trying to communicate with certain moves and body language.
So much of partnered dance is about communication between the two partners involved. Knowing how to dance in both roles allows you to be a better communicator, regardless of which role you’re dancing in, thus making you a better dancer. I actually know a number of people who are ambi-dancers. And generally speaking, these people are also among the most skilled dancers I know. This is no coincidence. To truly be adept at anything, you have to understand all aspects of it. Dance is no different.
Being an ambi-dancer also grants you much more flexibility. For instance, if you want to teach a friend a move or new steps, being able to lead and follow ensures that regardless of which role your friend is accustomed to, you’ll be able to show them what it is they’re interested in learning. It also allows you much more flexibility at social dances. For instance, if a dance is lead-heavy, and you traditionally lead, by knowing how to dance both roles, you can simply switch to following and dance with one of the leads, allowing more people to get on the dance floor, which is of course a good thing. 🙂
Seeing this from outside the dance community may look a bit weird to some. Dancing is largely viewed by people as an activity reserved for people with a romantic attraction to each other. While that of course can be the case in the blues and swing dance communities, it’s usually more about just having a good time dancing. With ambi-dancers, you’ll see two guys dancing together, two girls dancing together, etc. This doesn’t mean they’re interested in each other (though they could be, ya never know), it just means that, more importantly, they’re both very comfortable dancing with anybody looking to simply have fun on the dance floor. And that is, of course, what dancing is ultimately all about: having fun.
If you have any thoughts, questions, or experiences of your own you’d like to share, feel free to post a comment! I’d love to hear what you have to say!