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5 Ways Leaders Build Trust With Their Partner

When a follower agrees to dance with you, they are trusting you with a lot of control over their body, including where you are going to move them next. The leader’s job is largely to prove themselves worthy of that trust. Less-trusting followers will try and protect themselves by back leading or fighting your leads, while more trusting followers may allow you to do just about anything, comfortable in the knowledge that you have their interests at heart. Here’s how you can create more of the latter.

1. Keep it simple, keep a buffer.

Rule number one of developing trust is ‘keep your partner safe’. That means no risky maneuvers that could cause an accident or collision. Unless your are practicing something specific, stick to the moves you know the best. And keep a buffer of air, two steps wide, between your partner and every other solid object in the room.

2. Frame vs force.

Many leader’s try and ‘make their partners go’, by muscling them around with their arms. In doing so, they sacrifice their frame and posture, both of which are much more helpful in guiding their partner to where she needs to be. Instead, move her as you would a shopping cart – with the momentum of your body, which comes from leading with the chest and pushing off with the feet, while keeping your arms gently static.

3. Be a gentle giant.

Building trust with your partner also means finding the balance between too much force and too little. Some new followers may need more ‘persuading’ to get to their destination than others. Others may move at a feather’s touch, and you might find yourself holding back to avoid sending conflicting signals.

How do we change the strength of our lead? By varying the sharpness of our changes in direction and tempo. And by beginning our lead for a step earlier for beginners than experienced dancers.

4. Step straight, don’t hesitate.

One of the most common mistakes nervous leaders make comes from a fear of stepping on their partner’s feet. They avoid this by stepping to either side of their partner instead of straight towards them, creating an awkward, waddling movement. Not only will this send confusing leads to your partner, it tells them you don’t trust yourself to protect them.

If you are leading clearly and assertively, it’s their responsibility to move out of your way. So step directly where you want to go, keeping your speed consistent. And unless she is flat-out stopping you from moving, follow through with your leads without hesitation. You don’t want to hurt your partner, but you do want them to know you believe in your leading ability (even if you really don’t yet) so they won’t feel like they have to ‘help’ you.

5. Before you accuse her, take a look at yourself.

Finally, trust is increased for a leader willing to admit his own mistakes. The inconvenient truth leaders everywhere face is that they have the larger responsibility in guiding the action, and the mistakes that can result. So before you start pointing fingers, ask yourself: Is there anything more could have done?

Followers, you’re next!

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance and his endless seeking for ways to reach new audiences eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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