Ask the Girl is making a reappearance! Today’s episode is inspired by a reader who asked how you’re supposed to follow when you’re in practice hold and you don’t know what steps are coming up next.
Following in general when you don’t know what’s coming next is challenging, even more so when you are in a looser frame such as practice hold.
Without meaning to brag, I think I follow quite well! I still miss my fair share of leads at social dances, but I can confidently say if you can lead me, I can follow you. Here is what I focus on to help me follow my partner’s leads successfully.
First, the important thing to remember is that the lead comes from the core/spine. You get some cues from other parts of the body, such as the leader’s hands, arms or legs, but the message should still originate from the core and spine. So the main thing I think about is keeping my own core engaged and keeping my frame connected to the rest of my body. It allows me to be in tune to changes in direction, rotation, pressure, etc. that are coming from my partner. One thing Teacher has always advised me to do when social dancing is to maintain my own frame, even if my partner doesn’t. Stay firm yet flexible!
Another thing I try to do, which can be really difficult, is to not anticipate or guess what my partner is going to dance next. When I do, I end up getting ahead and out of sync with my partner. I do my best to just wait for the lead and then react to it. Waiting for the lead is even more challenging when you do know what’s coming next because you start thinking about the next step instead of “listening” for the next lead.
As for dancing in practice hold specifically, I conferred with Teacher for any additional tips. If you’re dancing Smooth or Standard, going from full frame to a practice hold takes away a lot of the contact points that help communicate the lead. He said it can be helpful to just focus on one thing, like your core or your head position or your legs. If you’re not trying to guess the next step and remember all of your technique at the same time, it will be easier to feel the lead.
I can speak from experience that focusing on only one or two things while Teacher leads me through steps, whether I know them or not, helps a great deal. Sometimes I even get pleasantly surprised when I realize that my body kept doing something it was supposed to do, even though I wasn’t actively thinking about it!
If you’re working with your teacher during a lesson and you feel like you’re not able to follow their lead, tell them! Leading and following is like another language, so while you’re still learning how to communicate in that language, there will be vocabulary that you’re not familiar with. Ask your teacher to break it down and explain exactly what you should be feeling and how you should react. It’s all about communication!
Dance Comp Review just published an article on how to avoid back leading as a follower. Check it out for more great tips!