Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Lead and follow (dance)

In partner dancing, the two partners are labelled as the lead and the follow, or leader and follower. Traditionally, the male partner leads and the female partner follows.

A huge amount of inrofmation was compiled by User:Eijkhout based on talks, and posted in the external link #1.

A lead controls the way the dance will go. He decides which moves or figures will be danced, and how to move the follow. The follow does what the name implies, and follows the lead. For the lead and follow to interact with each other, a connection must be established. More advanced dancers will take many cues from each other, and communicating feedback to the lead which he incorporates into his own styling and leads.

Beginning leads try to control 99% of the dance. Advanced leads try to control 51% of the dance. The follow styles her own moves as she likes within the parameters communicated by the lead.

The Lead has different steps to do than the follow. In face-to-face positions of the couple, the Follow generally "mirrors" the Lead's footwork, i.e., if the lead begins on the left foot, the follow will begin on the right foot. In choreographed pieces, tandem charleston and other situations where the follow is in a tandem or shadow position, the lead and follow will use the same footwork.

In general, the lead starts by moving his feet, which moves his body, which moves his arms and the rest of him. In general, the follow starts by being pulled with her arm, which leads (pulls or pushes) her body, which directs her feet and the rest of her. Leads must initiate every move 1/2 count early for the energy and motion to ripple through and affect the follow.

One goal of partner dancing is to move in ways that one dancer alone cannot.

Coping Skills: Free spin recovers from anything.

Table of contents
1 Hijacking
2 Backleading
3 Related topics
4 To Do
5 External link


Sometimes the follow steals the lead and they reverse roles for some time. This is called hijacking (or, of course, lead stealing). Hijacking requires experience and good connection, since without proper timing it may look like sloppy dancing. A signal for hijacking is typically an unusually changed (mostly, increased) stress in the connection from the follower's side. "Unusually" means more than typically required for the execution of the current step (by these partners). For a follower to hijack, they must be sure that the leader will understand or at least guess the follower's intentions.

Advanced swing (dance) dancers do this (to enhance their dance connection and) to add a little fun into the dance. Another way of "breaking the routine" is the dance is syncopation (the second meaning, making more steps than required by the standard description of the dance pattern). Syncopations are easier for the leader to cope with, since they do not require from the leader to change the intended steps, although experienced dancers try and match the fancy footwork of the partner, at least in rhythm. So, in a sense, syncopation may be perceived as mild hijacking. This is not as difficult as it might seem, since good dancers match their footwork to musical accents.


The term means that the follower executes steps without waiting for, or contrary to, or interfering with the lead of the leader. This is also called anticipation and usually considered bad dancing habit.

The above sounds similar to "hijacking", and indeed it is often used in place of "hijacking". However the two terms have significant differences, stemming from intentions. The first, superficial, difference: hijacking is usually an occasional "outbusrt" of the follower, who otherwise diligently follows the lead, while a "backleader" may do this almost on every other step. The second, a more significant one: hijacking is an actual lead, i.e., a hijacker does their stuff and watches for the leader to follow (reversed roles!), while backleading is taking care only about own dancing.

In some cases backleading may be OK, e.g., doing a double turn instead of a single turn (unless it endangers the leader).

And of course, a backlead is extremely welcome and advised, if it is intended to prevent an accident on the dance floor.

Related topics

Dance - Swing - Lindy hop

Dance move - Basic - Sugar push - Side pass - Swing out - Circle - Groucho - Skip up - Aerial

Lead and follow - Connection - Musicality

To Do

The partner that follows and the one that leads both have an inner drive to follow the soul of the dance and rhythm. A Salsa/Mambo dancer will always try to use the quick-quick-slow pattern. As dancing is derived from walking, the weight concentration is shifted from left to right and right to left on every beat. This leads to the need to move a foot. The leading partner decides where to move his foot and how the follow should move the foot. The leading partner has to comunicate the direction of the movement to the follow. As, traditionally, the right hand of the man is on the left shoulder of the woman, he can easily pull her body towards him (if the partner remains a body tensation), to comunicate a step forward (backward for the girl) the woman has to constantly put a little weight against the right hand of the man. When the man goes forward, and so does the hand on her shoulder, she is already going backwards before she notices the cue. The second important leading mechanism is the male left hand, which holds the female right hand. At no point it should necessary for any partner to firmly grab the other's hand. It is sufficient to press the hand or even only finger tips slightly against each other, the following hand harmonically following the leading hand. The third important leading mechanism is the hip contact. Though not possible in traditional latin dances because of partner separation (like Rumba, Cha Cha, Tango Argentino, hip contact is a harmonic and sensual way of comunicating movement to the partner, used primarily in Standard or Ballroom Dances (English / slow Waltz, European Tango, Quickstep etc). Sometimes it is highly necessary to get the figures done correctly and with more ease. In Caribbean dances the hip contact is more for the sensual touch, and quickly gets into the way of the more advanced figures.

External link

1: Frequently Asked Questions about Lead and Follow