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The Best Leaders

Sometimes, it seems like the ladies have all the luck. After all, your favourite followers just need to show up to have partners lined up to dance with them, and most of them are more advanced than you. Are you stuck with mediocre followers until you get more practice under your belt? Absolutely not!

Don’t get me wrong, a little dance experience definitely goes a long way. But relying on your dance ability is a bit like Ryan Gosling relying on his looks – it certainly makes the approach easier, but it only goes so far by itself. Your partner wants the same things as Ryan Gosling’s dating partners – to feel safe and appreciated, and to have fun. The following pro tips show you how to give this to your partners, so you can start building your own posse of happy followers.

1. The best leaders are confident.

That means a confident approach, confidently asking to dance, and then confidently and clearly leading them through the dance! Practice strengthening your frame, and pay attention to how you move your partner; forget about yourself until you can do that well.

2. The best leaders are patient.

One of the most common corrections I give to new and excitable leaders is to wait and plan ahead before you commit to a step. If you rush into a step you just thought of, what happens to the step you were doing? Complete each pattern before moving on to the next, and give your partner fair warning to spare her any unpleasant surprises.

3. The best leaders are friendly!

Show yourself to be an upstanding and charming fellow. At a bare minimum, start practicing with a smile on your face! If you or your partner make a misstep, a wink and shrug is a great way to take the tension off. And always thank her once the dance is done. Followers don’t just like dances with good leaders, they like them with good people. So be personable, and they will remember you.

4. The best leaders protect the partnership.

As the leader, you have the best view of the floor, and you alone know what direction you’re going to move in next. That gives you the greater responsibility of keeping a buffer space around you and your partner, while watching ahead to avoid being surprised by an errant waiter or a tipsy couple. If someone does get stepped on, quickly mouth ‘are you okay?’ to both your partner and the other person.

5. The best leaders are as gentle as possible.

A leader aims to guide his partner strongly enough so she knows where to move next, but not so strong she is jerked about or stopped suddenly. I call this leading like water. To a swimmer, the water gives them resistance, something they can push off of, but rock would stop them hard, and air would give them nothing to stay afloat. Take a page from Bruce Lee’s book, and ‘be water, my friend’.

The bottom line is to give your partners a memorable experience, something they can excitedly tell their friends about, so they’ll want to dance with you too! Because when they’re smiling and having fun, so are you.

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