for the Lead.
Whoever said "Ladies First!!"?
werent talking about dancing. Following means letting the man move first
while the lady reacts a split second later. A vital skill for a woman is the ability to
wait for a lead, then respond quickly. In the absence of a lead, the woman should stay
still or move slowly in whatever general direction she feels is called for.
dancing, each particular dance has a brief but definite break in the action where partners
pause before the next pattern begins.
This spot is where the woman stops for an instant
awaiting the next signal. She will either sense an arm lead, a body lead, or both, but her
job is to wait for it.
might add in the total absence of any lead, the woman will probably
be off-balance a lot, but even here waiting to watch what the man
does before acting is still a better idea than simply guessing.
In Social Dancing,
the Man Leads and the Lady Responds.
A good example is Swing. The lady uses a "Back-Step" to stop her
momentum away from the man. She comes to a stop on the word "Step" and waits for
the man to indicate which direction he wishes for her to move next. If she moves before he
does, there is a good chance she will crash right into him. Uh oh. It usually takes just
one crash for the lady to learn not to use the music as her cue to move nor an educated
guess, but rather to simply wait for him to make the first move, then react immediately
when it comes.
on Her Feet...
This is a term for a lady who is easy to lead.
It means that she reacts
quickly to a lead with a minimum of pressure used. There are two secrets here. The first
is to get your momentum completely under control on the "Waiting Step" and get
ready for the next move. Being "heavy" means the woman is off-balance here and
requires the mans assistance to reverse her momentum.
The other secret is to free up
the right foot ASAP. Since most leads involve the ladys right arm or shoulder,
having the right foot free allows the lady to release the tension the quickest. She should
use her own power to move rather than make the man "force" her to move.
famous Misconception is that Tiny Women are lighter on their feet.
This is nonsense. Any
woman who is balanced is easy to lead. Size only matters when the woman is off-balance.
advantage a smaller woman has over a larger woman is that she is
easier to "rescue" if she loses her balance. Obviously the lighter woman is easier to rescue, but assuming the man doesnt knock
the larger woman off-balance (thatll be the day !), her size should not make a difference.
I learned my
lesson in the days of Disco back in 1978. I danced with a petite
woman who always leaned away from me on the back-step. She would
have literally fallen backwards if I hadn't braced her with my
left arm. Judging by how sore my arm was after dancing with her,
this poor lady must have taken a throbbing right arm home with
her each night as well.
Almost as if some
angel of dance intended for me to learn a lesson, my next
partner was easily 60 pounds heavier than the tiny woman I
mentioned above. She asked me to dance. Outwardly I smiled, but
inwardly I was pretty worried I wouldn't be strong enough to
support her. Fortunately my new partner was nearly weightless.
She understood how to use her footwork and posture to control
her own momentum. In other words, she knew how to stop herself,
relieving me of the need to stop her through arm tension. More
than likely my somewhat chubby partner had learned these
momentum-stopping tricks out of necessity because the only way
she could survive the fast pace of Disco Dancing was to take
responsibility for her own balance. Genuinely surprised by the
ease of leading this gifted dancer, I thoroughly enjoyed the
dance and went on to become one of her regular partners.
Another following skill is learning to give into
your knees and slide your feet. In most dances "picking up your feet"
is a major
"no no". You should always try to slide your feet when
traveling. There are two major reasons: "Sliding"
prevents your stride from becoming too large. Sliding also helps
you keep your weight over your feet. Picking up your feet allows
your foot to get ahead of your weight and makes you easier to
Have you ever heard of the Greek legend of
Antaeus? He was an evil giant who drew his strength from contact with the Earth. He was
invincible as long as his feet touched the ground. After a huge struggle, Hercules found
the only way to conquer Antaeus was to lift his body totally off the Earth, then strangle
him in midair. Dancers are also more powerful when they keep their feet on the floor.
Walking involves picking up your feet for
longer strides, but dancing requires smaller steps which are created by sliding.
Successful dancers move like a cat: low, all paws on the floor, and very cautious.
As I said above, since
dancing at your natural height often results in lifting your feet, the longer steps make
it easier for the man to accidentally knock you off balance. Dont let that
happen: Learn to keep your knees flexed!
Sliding your feet reduces the size of your steps. Ladies
in the know will tell you that lots of small steps (as opposed to fewer but larger steps)
gives you better balance and creates a more graceful gliding look. As always what works
the best in dancing has the unique benefit of also looking the best. Dancing into your
knees requires a lot of concentration at first, but once your body gets the feel of it,
this invaluable technique will become second nature. Staying low also creates more hip
motion and "sway". Get Down and pretty soon you will be the slinkiest
Kitty in the
It hasnt been just one woman who muttered
under her breath that turns would be the death of her yet. Double turns have driven women
nuts for a long time. Erica Jong wrote a best-selling novel on the subject titled the
"Fear of Falling". Learning to spin well must be easier said than done since the
good Lord knows that women try hard enough. Solving a turning problem can be tricky since
women often do several things wrong at the same time when they are learning. Just fixing
one mistake may not bring instant results, so confusion sets in. Even more confusing, the
obvious way to turn may not be the most effective solution.
Things Beginners do "Naturally" end up making their turns
To use a biblical analogy, just like
certain sins, sometimes doing what is wrong seems a lot easier than doing what is right!
For example, many women "swing" their right foot to start a turn which prevents
the feet from closing properly. Many women try to turn on one foot rather than switch
weight from one foot to the other. Other common mistakes include holding the arms too high
or making them too tense. The list goes on.
The correct way to turn usually involves pivot
turns. The lady pivots on one foot and shifts all of her weight quickly to her other foot
(which becomes the new pivot foot). Pivot turns take time to master, but patience and
practice usually do the trick.
Sometimes however a woman loses her balance badly and falls or nearly falls.
experience can be so frightening the woman may develop bad habits only a witch doctor
could cure. Now things are much worse. Imagine you are a baseball hitter struck with a
pitch. From then on every time you step to the plate, the fear of being hit again makes it
harder to concentrate.
Once you fall while turning, each new turn seems dangerous. Instead
of confidently switching weight from one foot to the next, you balk. You hesitate. Turns
must be done in the blink of an eye since the lead forces you to move whether you like it
or not, but by holding back, it is too late. The lead knocks you off balance, you stumble,
you nearly eat dance floor, and your fear is reinforced. Next time, same story. Now the
problem becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You expect to fall, you hesitate, you fall.
Normally the "wobbles" go away with practice, but serious turn problems are hard
to solve by yourself.
If your turns are making you crazy, ask someone you trust to take a
Dark Side of Dancing
What do you do if
a guy is too rough? If you think he wishes to be on your
good side, you can always ask him to ease up. That is the
smartest thing to do.
Back in 1977 at age
27, I took a Partner Dancing class in a legendary dance known as the
Whip. The patterns were not easy, the footwork was not easy, and I
was often lost. I did not have a partner. Fortunately the teacher
was used to this and had a half dozen ladies hanging around just in
case to lend a hand. A lovely lady perhaps twice my age named
Dorothy Piazzos was assigned to me as my partner. In the middle of
my third week of class, Dorothy pulled me aside. She said,
"Rick, I want tell you something. I admire how hard you are
trying. You pay attention, you concentrate, and you care about about
learning. I thoroughly enjoy dancing with you. I just have one favor
to ask. Sometimes you squeeze my hand so hard I think your thumb
might actually poke through."
Well, I was
flabbergasted. I had no idea I was hurting Dorothy! I
might add that Dorothy seemed equally surprised that I didn't
know I was hurting her! We both learned something. I told
Dorothy that my squeezing was totally unconscious and asked her
to gently shake her hand anytime I was squeezing too hard. She
said she would. Sure enough, she shook her hands a couple times
that night and maybe one more time the next week. I am pleased
to say with her help I was able to break the habit.
can be learned from this story. First, when men get nervous,
they squeeze their hands. Second, they don't even realize it.
You might have tears rolling down your cheeks, but if he is
listening to the instructor he may never even know what is going
on. Don't automatically get mad at him for doing something he
isn't even aware of!! Simply do what Dorothy did and
whisper what the problem is.
If the guy wishes
to please you - and I believe most men do - he will immediately
apologize and try to do better. However if one man in a dozen
reacts negatively, he is way off-base and his behavior is not
the norm, but rather than the exception. I will also add that I
was the typical "angry young man" in the days when
Dorothy whispered to me about my hand-squeezing. Since she
wasn't mean about it, I didn't get defensive. Obviously if a man
hurts you, it is understandable that you might have a bite to
your words, but you will have much better results if you try
words with sugar rather than salt.
I might add that
women get nervous in dance class too. Women frequently tense
their arms during a pattern which causes them to lose their
balance. When I point out that arm tension was the culprit,
women often are very surprised at what I tell them. They were
completely unaware that they were tensing their arms. Once they
relax their arms and have more success, they realize I was
right. My point is simply that usually the men have no idea they
are hurting you, so please don't get angry at them. Instead do
like Dorothy did and whisper to them what they are doing
Sadly I might add
however that some men are more perfect than others. A word to
the wise is sufficient with most men, but with others a
cannonball to the head might be more in order. But you already
knew that, right?
If you come up
against a real loser, now you are up against a bigger problem. Men
who consistently hurt women on the dance floor are known as jerks.
They require a form of "defensive dancing".
The first rule of
"Defensive Dancing" is don't fight back. As I found with
Officer Charles, resistance usually makes things worse. Donít
forget that tensing your arms or being heavy will probably make
things worse. It is better to cooperate as much as you can, then donít
dance with him again.
have been known to carry a dark side onto the dance floor. For
example, men will lead double turn patterns way past a beginner
womanís skill level then have the nerve to blame the lady.
Wrong! Men donít always play fair, sometimes acting out
Beginner Women are
especially vulnerable to creeps because they don't know what exactly
to expect. How much of what is going wrong is her fault? Is it
supposed to hurt this much? The
problem women who are Beginners face is when the dancing doesnít
work, they often assume it is their fault so they stay out there and
take. All women
should know they have the right to end the dance whenever they wish.
Yes, it is rude to walk off the floor, but if that is what the
situation calls for, that may be your best option to counteract your
partner's even greater sins.
One advantage to
dance groups such as SSQQ is that other women can give you a
perspective on a particular guy. For that matter, you might be
pleased to know here at SSQQ I have seen that men in the dance
group will also look out for you.
Most men who
dance are decent guys, but in every crowd there are always a few
to watch out for. For example, there is a legendary man who
hangs out at dance clubs around Houston just waiting for the
chance to ruin some poor woman's night by asking her to dance.
Here at SSQQ he is known as the "Longhorn Jackass".
One of the
letters in particular spelled out clearly that women have the
right to walk off the floor anytime they wish. Let me share with
the Readers this letter from SSQQ Staff Member Patrick Steerman:
amusement I read all of the letters on your website regarding
the "Longhorn Jackass". These guys have been around
as long as I have been dancing. I remember one, who I will
call John (not his real name), who you probably know, who took
lessons at every dance studio in town. He would come to the
old Wild West and try to dance Whip and Two Step with anyone
he could get out on the floor. All women lived in fear of
being asked to dance with him. His problem of course was that
he thought he was a great dancer. John had taken lessons for
years and once told a group of us that Mario, Sr. told him
that in three or four months he would be as good as Mario,
Junior. So, under the belief that he was a great dancer, John
would drag beginners out on the floor and try to teach them
how to dance - most experienced dancers wouldn't dance with
him at all (Sharon Crawford was one of these).
types are always around, I believe the women writing the
letters should stop talking and do something. They have to
bear some responsibility for what happens. No one can make you
dance and keep you on the dance floor - most of us do not wish
to hurt someones feelings but if you dance with this guy a
second time or do not walk off the floor the first time - it's
your fault. Dance is supposed to be fun - if you are not
having fun dancing with someone, just stop and walk off the
floor. Better yet, don't agree to dance with the Longhorn
Jackass a second time. Some of the letters say that once on
the floor they tried to walk off but he would not let them - I
have never seen anyone held against their will on the dance
floor. They may not want to hurt his feelings but that is what
it takes. That is what eventually happened to the guy I call
John - few people would dance with him. Many told John that
they wouldn't dance with him because he was too rough and
didn't lead moves they could follow. This was a surprise to
John but when enough people told him this he finally got the
message. I know several women instructors who would dance with
him but gave him a very frank warning before stepping onto the
floor - "If you dance rough and sling me around, I will
walk off the dance floor" - he got the message and
eventually became a fair dancer.
This is an
extreme measure but necessary if what the women say is true.
Of course I have trouble following my own advice. There are
many women around town who ask me to dance and I do so even
though I would rather not. There is one woman who I use to see
out at clubs and at C&W and Whip competitions. Since she
was around when Sharon and I competed, she always comes
straight to me and asks me to dance. She has trouble spinning
and refuses to hold-up her own arm. To make things worst, she
always waits until the fastest two step or polka. It's bad
enough that I have to "drag" her around the floor
and cheat my footwork because she takes extra beats to
complete her spins, but she does not follow my lead most of
the time. She looks at me and says "I like to do that
turn - is that okay?" - which is opposite to what was
lead and results in a "busted" pattern. I just look
at her and say - "sure, that's fine with me". I am
polite and dance with her once per night - two if I can't get
out of it.
My rule is
that I will dance with anyone once a night. I don't care how
bad they are, I just can't say no...unless they are too drunk
to walk (been there done that). On occasion, I have stopped in
the middle of the dance and said something like "We must
be hearing the beat differently" or "Sorry, you may
not be recognizing some of my leads, let's try again
So you might
advise the SSQQ women that this problem will always be there -
it's up to you them do something about it. Also, since the
women say the Longhorn guy was leading advanced Whip patterns
from SSQQ, instructors should be on the lookout for him and
other "rough" dancers, in class and at practice
parties, and try to talk to them about their style and
technique - maybe talk them into repeating some classes.
I might add you
ladies would probably appreciate reading some of the other
letters that Mr. LJ's obnoxious behavior inspired. Click here:
In summary to the
Dark Side of Dancing, I think Patrick's strongest message is to
not let yourself be a victim when a man's dancing is so
unpleasant it isn't fun. Your first option is to ride it out
till the end, but if the behavior is too extreme, don't kick
yourself for walking off the floor. You may just save yourself a
trip to the doctor for a muscle sprain or back pain.
Just so you
Ladies will know more about something you already know, NOTHING irritates women more in dancing than a
man's poor hygiene. Women will put up with having their
arms jerked, their feet stepped on, no rhythm, being run into
other dance couples, or even suddenly being turned upside down
by an acrobatic step if the lady feels the guy means well.
What women will
not tolerate is poor hygiene. Women believe poor hygiene
reflects something deeply unpleasant about the man's
I will add that
women do not wish to confront the offensive man about his
problem. Their favorite trick is to complain to me. How much
good this does is open to debate, but I will say for the record
I don't enjoy confronting a man who smells or has bad breath or
sneezes or sweats or all the other awful things men do any more
than you do. Is it in my job description? No, I don't
Will I do it
anyway? Maybe. If you think the man has likeable qualities and
just needs a little hint, you can ask me to help. I will also
say "Hygiene" is covered extensively in my
"Advice to Men" page. Sadly, however, I am sorry to
sorry to say that I believe that men who are clueless in the
first place rarely have the sense to get the message unless it
is delivered between their eyes with a two by four.
Dancing Versus Utter Chaos
coaches teach structured plays. Gifted athletes have the ability
to stay with the play as long as possible, then resort to their
instincts to improvise if the play breaks down.
Dance Systems are
the simplest way for a man and woman to dance together, but what
does the woman do when the system breaks down? What if he
doesn't lead well? What if he leads patterns from another
galaxy (or worse, from another dance studio)? What if he
dances off the beat? What if he doesnít know what your
system is? When you donít have a clue what the man is
trying to lead, all you can do is let your instincts take over.
A dance system is like a language. If you can not understand
what he is saying/leading, then your best alternative is to
abandon memorized footwork and improvise.
your feet in whichever direction releases the tension, then
stand still whenever possible.
low, keep your steps small to cut down your momentum.
your feet together at any waiting point.
only when led.
your arms as much as your fear will let you and try not to
not to think too much! If the patterns are easy, fine, but
guessing what is coming next at the higher levels of dance
it just isn't working, say "ouch", get an
imaginary cramp in your leg and ask to sit down.
Value of Dance Lessons
give ladies a good idea how the dance systems work. Women become familiar with the
footwork, the common patterns, how to recognize the leads quickly, and how the steps fit the
music. Dance lessons give women a chance to practice their steps with a variety of
partners while developing the following skills they will need for when the music gets faster
and the patterns become more complex.
Unfortunately it is impossible for dance
lessons to prepare a woman to handle every mistake a man might make. There are too many of
them to anticipate. More important, when taken by surprise no woman can think fast enough
on her feet to "remember" what to do (the analytical problem again).
School of Hard Knocks can train your instincts to spot danger signals fast enough to make
a successful countermove. Although classes provide the best starting point, plenty of practice and
experience will teach you lessons in following that will far transcend the principles
covered in this article.
If you enjoyed this article,
you will likely find my article titled "Advice to Men"
interesting as well. When it comes to dancing, I think it is useful
for a woman to understand the man's point of view. In particular
this article establishes clearly the ground rules for what men
should and shouldn't do when it comes to Dancing with Women. Knowing
what to expect will make it easier to know when a guy has crossed
the line out on the dance floor.