Lead and follow

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In partner dancing, the two dance partners are never equal. One must be the Lead and the other will be the Follow.

The Lead (conventionally the male in a mixed sex couple) is responsible for choosing appropriate steps to suit the music (if it is an improvised dance), and leading the Follow by hand pressure and signals to complete the chosen steps smoothly and safely. If the dance is a set (pre-choreographed) routine, the Lead is still responsible for initiating each move, which ensures smooth coordination between the two dancers.



The degree to which the Lead 'controls' the dance (and, by implication, "controls" the Follow) depends on the dance style and dancer sensitivity, the social context in which the dance exists, the experiences and personalities of each partner, and a range of other factors. Some partner dances such as Lindy Hop involve an open position which encourages each partner to improvise alone, yet others, such as Argentine Tango may involve a "close embrace" or closed position which require Follows to follow the Lead more comprehensively.

For many individual dancers, exploring the limits of the Lead-Follow relationship adds to the dance, where this relationship might better be understood as a conversation between partners, with each contributing to the style and mood of the dance through their connection. For other partners, the lead's complete control of the follow, and the follow's relinquishing a greater degree of creative or expressive autonomy is more personally comfortable or satisfying.

Social partner dance principles

For the Lead and Follow to interact with each other, communication needs to occur between the dance couple. Since it's not practical to discuss moves, physical contact is the most effective means. More advanced dancers will take many cues from each other through this connection, with the Follow using it to communicate feedback to the Lead just as the Lead uses it to suggest moves to their partner. The most accomplished dancers use connection as a line of communication which allows the lead to incorporate the follow's ideas, abilities, and creative suggestions into their own styling and selection of moves.

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