So, this past Friday at the weekly BSC swing dance, I got to try something I’ve wanted to try for some time, but haven’t: following. I didn’t follow for the whole evening, but I did do a number of dances with a friend of mine who was kind enough to lead while I tried to follow. I say tried because…I don’t think I did it very well. 😛 Like anything else, following takes practice, and being used to leading, my muscle memory actually became a bit of a hindrance in my attempts to follow. She was definitely better at leading than I was at following (at least in my humble opinion). But even though I was new to following, I was of course still able to have fun! And as this video from 1939 shows, people being able to dance both roles is nothing new:
Lots of people say that between leading and following in dance, following is easier, but I’m not so sure. So, to all you follows out there: my hat is off to you. I have always had nothing but respect for follows in dance, but now I can more fully appreciate the challenges associated with filling the follow role in a partner dance. And of course, I expect this understanding will only grow as I practice becoming more ambidanceterous. 🙂
And actually, I was asked an interesting question a couple of weeks ago that relates to this. I was dancing with someone, and we were discussing the idea of “back-leading”, i.e the follow functionally doing some/all of the leading. The person with whom I was dancing asked if leads minded that, as she’d heard that leads generally don’t like being back-led. And I realized I didn’t have a straight-forward answer to the question. I think it’s something that differs from person to person. For me, if between the two of us dancing I have more experience and whatnot, I usually prefer the follow not to back-lead. But if I’m leading and the follow is more skilled than I, back-leading is welcome, if anything. In fact, a friend of mine that dance with all the time has far more experience than I do; she did 14+ years of formal dance before getting into partner dancing. So suffice it to say, she’s the better dancer between the two of us. She back-leads me all the time, which works out well, because it allows me to learn new ways of moving and communicating; I benefit from her wealth of experience. And overall, it makes things more fun, which is of course, the point. 🙂
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!