Women learning to lead

Discussion in 'Just Dance' started by GayleR, Oct 3, 2008.

  1. GayleR

    GayleR Son Montuno

    Help! I am in a performance group and the first 1/3 of the routine consists of the woman leading the man, in a role reversal. It's a great routine but man is it ever screwing with my head. I dance On1 and On2 and I am told I am a pretty decent follow but this leading stuff is making me nuts. Now I really understand and empathize with all you guys who seem to be concentrating and deciding what to do next, until the lead becomes so ingrained that you don't have to think about it.

    Any suggestions to help me wrap my head around this new challenge would be greatly appreciated.

    In the meantime, I bow down to all you guys who've taken the time to learn how to lead - the steps, the etiquette, the right pressure and tension to guide me effortlessly...BRAVO.....and if you're going to be at the Canada Congress next weekend maybe we'll get a dance together and I can thank you in person!
  2. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    LOL. I don't know what to say, apart from glad it helped you appreciate what beginners' hell is like for us poor fellas!

    Are you leading a man then? Because that'll be doubly interesting in that men are generally much heavier, slower follows than women (whether for physical reasons or just because of getting less practice I don't know). Maybe you should practice on an experienced follower to get your confidence before trying to manhandle a big brute of a fella!

    Since it's choreography, you at least don't have to worry too much about deciding the moves you should do!

    Treat it like rhythmic gymnastics, except it's not a ball or a hoop, but a person that you're manipulating! So it's like shining and juggling at the same time. Don't give way too much to your partner, be sure about your steps and positioning and lead.

    Develop a strong sense of intent rather than the receptiveness you need for following.

    Hope that helps! Would love to hear your progress reports!
  3. GayleR

    GayleR Son Montuno

    Thanks for the thoughts and encouragement. Yes indeed, I am leading a man. And of course part of the challenge is that I am trying to learn the choreography at the same time as trying to learn the new methodology of excuting the steps.

    I really like your suggestion of practicing with an experienced follower and I just sent an email to a friend who's also in the group to see if we can practice leading each other. Great start. I hope to move up from beginner's hell to purgatory soon!

  4. Fundance

    Fundance Changui

    This. Crucial.
  5. Jambo

    Jambo El Sabroso de Conguero

    Good luck GayleR, would love to see a video of your performance :D
  6. GayleR

    GayleR Son Montuno

    Thanks..I think I'll need luck...a video though...uh, no way!!!
  7. SalsaTO

    SalsaTO Son Montuno

    Ladies Leading

    IF you have the time, break down the turn patterns that you must lead for your show into their components - cross body lead, right hand turn, breaks, left hand turn, whatever.

    Work with those simple components with a patient male or female partner over and over until they start to 'feel good' or feel natural. And there is no substitute for time on task. It usually takes about a year for a leader to get halfway decent, time you probably do not have. However, the more time you spend doing lead, the smoother it will be and the more confident it will become. Even practice lead when you are social dancing to get the time in.

    Think of lead and follow as a language. You have to learn the words before you can string them into sentences and paragraphs. Get the words (basic components) working first. Then start stringing them into turn patterns or combinations. Go by the numbers first, then put it to very very slow music, then go to tempo, then use the performance music.

    A guy who can stay on time does not need to be driven like a truck as a follow. There was one lady in Toronto - now in OZ - who was an expert leader. She led me a few times and I have very little experience as a follower. She did not have to 'drive' me or horse me through the patterns, including stuff I had never done before. It felt very smooth and natural.

    I have a few ladies in my salsa classes that are learning to lead. Yes, they are finding it very challenging. But they are working it and they are indeed getting better.

    Break a leg for your show.
  8. MacMoto

    MacMoto Administrator Staff Member

    Sounds like a really interesting performance!

    In a situation like that, i.e., where women who don't lead socially lead men who don't usually follow, it's only expected that things don't work so well... it essentially means that you as a beginner leader are leading a beginner follower through non-beginner turn patterns! I've started learning to lead, but I only practise with girls who have been dancing for a while. I would also try with guys who follow regularly, but leading guys (or girls for that matter) who don't know how to follow is just too much for my current (non-existent) leading skills. And as sweavo says, guys tend to be physically heavier, so you can't just power-lead them through moves.

    Since it's a performance routine and not social dancing, I'm sure it will get better once you and your partner have learned the choreography well enough to be able to walk through it without much lead-follow.

    Good luck with the performance - I look forward to its appearance on YouTube :)
  9. GayleR

    GayleR Son Montuno


    Hi all. Some of you asked for an update so here goes. The Montreal Salsa Convention is one month away and I am seriously considering xanax, or vodka, or both!

    The leading has improved (God I hope so after all these months). I am still not very good at it, but I am doing my best to make it work. I hate those hook turns! Damn that coca cola! And yes, I know, remember the halo when spinning the guy.

    But some of the guys are still so heavy, it's like pulling them through cement. Again kudos to all you men who've worked hard to lead us so well. And now I know why the best compliment I ever get is when the guys tell me I am as light as a feather. I wish I could explain to the guys on my team how to "be light".

    The newest challenge in the routine is the recent incorporation of the props - hats and skirts which get traded back and forth between the men and the women. Aaaah!

    Wish me luck next month...
  10. babybarbarella

    babybarbarella Son Montuno

    Good luck. I am sending you positive thoughts as a fellow female lead.
  11. SnowDancer

    SnowDancer Clave Commander

    Whoa... those guys need some work! Don't they know they're supposed to provide their own force? :rolleyes: I dance with beginner women all the time, and it's VERY rare when I have to shove them through moves.
  12. SalsaTO

    SalsaTO Son Montuno

    Leading the Guys!

    Like everything else, you have to put in the "time-on-task" to be really comfortable with leading the guys and with working with props.

    Choreography is like memorizing poetry or lines in a play. The ones who really have it down can put it out there rather than simply reciting it.

    Your choreographer should be sorting out the guys if they are 'heavy' in their follow. Even if it means the choreographer having to give each one a beginner lesson in follow, working with each guy, and leading them again and again until they lighten up.

    Tell your choreographer that you have to drive your male follow like a truck through the patterns. The choreographer should get the message and jump on it. Don't be shy. If you are noticing it, I'll bet most of the lady leads are having the same problem and the guys probably don't even know it.

    Work the props at home, to the performance music - do you have a copy to listen to and practice with? - even to faster music until working props feels second nature. Practice makes perfect.

    We choreograph our own shows and perform around Toronto - lots of dips, tricks, drops, and lifts. One comment that keeps coming back is, "You make it look so easy.." It looks easy for us because we put the time in. Some of that stuff is 'perishable,' so doing it frequently keeps it fresh. Otherwise we too would have that "deer caught in the headlights" or that "Please don't f@#* up!" Please don't f%&* up!" look often seen on performance troupes' faces.

    When you are really comfortable with your routine, then you can enjoy it. And believe me, the audience picks up on those who know their stuff well enough to actually enjoy it. The energy is different, their apparent abandon contrasts with the 'poetry recital' look of the ones who didn't or couldn't put in the time. Choreography is like memorizing poetry or lines in a play. The ones who really have it down can put it out there rather than simply recite it.

    Break a leg in Montreal!
  13. Tom

    Tom Son Montuno

    Does happen occasionally though - there's one woman here who I would say is about as easy to lead as a sack of potatoes, except a sack of potatoes wouldn't sink its nails into you and turn in the opposite direction to the way you're leading. It took my shoulder a week to recover last time. Unfortunately her friend is a really nice dancer and you can't really take one without the other...
  14. azzey

    azzey El Sabroso de Conguero

    Some tips for leading heavy followers:

    - Develop a strong sense of intent rather than the receptiveness you need for following. Make the signals obvious. Hit the 1 and 5 with a down movement of your left hand.

    - Reduce the amount of direct connection you have through your arms to your follower. Basically isolating any movements the follower makes from your body so that they do not pull you around and any leads you make do not make you tired. Leads are guide signals not weight lifting!

    - Get your followers to pay attention to both hand/arm signals AND visual leads, such as moving out of the slot to begin the CBL.

    - Lead the follower such that they maintain a constant state of momentum, to make turns easy. Do not let momentum disipate or you will get that heavy feeling in the arms.

    - Make sure the timing is spot on between you and your partner. Even slight timing differences can make your partner feel heavy. Edit: I would say this is the number 1 reason for male followers feeling heavy, because they are always slightly late and you are effectively having to push them to catch up.

    Edit: - Concentrate on prepping every part of the move. Particularly left/right movement of the arms as these guide where the followers shoulders will go and thus the momentum for the turns.

    Since it's a performance you can obviously walk through the choreography again and again. As long as you both adhere to the correct position, steps and timing there should be no heavyness in leading or following. So I would say do not try to lead, try to make the choreography seamless and sharp.

    Getting your male followers to walk and dance through the choreography on time on their own would be a good start. Videoing it will show-up any inconsistencies in footwork, timing, positioning etc.

    Edit: After that dance the choreography together without touching hands or with minimal touch (finger tips). This requires both lead and follow to learn the positions, movement and control their own momentum without being able to rely on your partner.
  15. GayleR

    GayleR Son Montuno

    Thank you azzey. You provided some excellent and concrete suggestions, some of which are new to me and I will try them at tonight's rehearsal.

    Salsa.To - We have put in a great deal of time, both learning the routine and practicing it. It is not an issue of "time-on-task". We all have the music and practice on our own, as well as with the group and with our partners; the choreographer is well aware of the issue, as are all the leaders and followers. Some people continue to be heavy/not lead well enough to help our partner to be light. You are so right about the audience knowing fear. I plan to try to lighten up, smile and enjoy the experience.
  16. Salsamakossa

    Salsamakossa Shine Officer


    You are just cracking me up... lol.
  17. lolita

    lolita Capitán Del Estilo

    Just think like a man for a min! A lil force wont harm the guy you're trying to lead. And since we all know that men are horrible when it comes to subtle hints....Conduct a heavier lead!
  18. azzey

    azzey El Sabroso de Conguero

    Either that or use gloves and stick crushed glass on both sides. That'll make 'em light for sure! :evil:

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