What should follows do when the lead is tense ?

Two Left Feet Podcast
6 min readFeb 8, 2020


Question By User beeeeeeekachu

I am a follow. It’s happened to me socially and in class. And by tense, I mean that the lead is too strong for a turn that it could potentially turn me off balance.

Socially, I just try to step it out and follow the best I can but I can’t help but feel even more tense, which I think can just make things even worse, because he’ll try to power through the moves with even more force.. There are very few number of leads that I avoid making eye contact so I don’t get asked to dance.

In class, one of my friends is great at leading during slow songs, but when it comes to fast songs, it feels really choppy. I get scared. I feel like I need to relax so he doesn’t put more force into it…. I don’t feel comfortable through it and I’m not the only follow that feels this way during class. What’s the best way to handle this?


User TijoWasik

I’ve appreciated being told this before.

As a lead, it’s difficult in classes particularly because there’s such a variance in follows. Usually, it comes from me dancing with a few horrendously weak follows who’s arms are like wet noodles who need to be thrown to get in to a turn (an exaggeration, but you see my point…)

I’ve been too strong before, but whenever my follow tells me, as long as it’s polite (“hey, I feel like you’re leading this turn a little too hard, would you mind trying it a bit softer” as opposed to “don’t do that! That’s wrong!”), I’ll absolutely take that feedback on board, try it again softer and see how it goes.

User blancs50

I dont think there’s anything wrong with constructive criticism during social dancing, especially for a follow who could get hurt by a lead pushing too hard especially on complicated moves. They just have to do it tactfully & supportively. Many beginner leads unfortunately learn these bad habits because they tend to dance with beginner follows who have not developed a strong frame yet, so the lead has to use a little more force even for basic moves. The best thing one can learn through social dancing is building a connection with different partner, part of which is learning how much tension & force to use on their partner depending on their frame. I’m an upper level intermediate & have recently discovered with really an advanced follow with an incredible frame (her cores strength is insane), one of my grip changes in a cross body lead has enough motion in it to cause her to think there might be a turn going on, which was a great learning experience.

User kostBike42

I can relate to “great at leading during slow songs, but when it comes to fast songs, it feels really choppy”.

I am somewhere between a beginner and intermediate lead, and from a lead perspective I can see why a lead might be too forceful on his part.

I have noticed that some followers are not adjusting the speed of their turns or the width of their steps to faster songs.

I see a lot that a follower turns too slow during a fast song; and, as a result, they are still turning when it is already my time to turn. So I can totally see where a beginner lead would try to push a follower to make a follower turn faster and thus throw a follower of balance.

To adjust to this as a lead, instead of pushing a follower, I prefer to let the follower finish her turn even though she is off beat and start my turn late (instead of turning on 5 I have to turn on 6 and do a really quick turn [I’m dancing on 2 nyc]).

But there is also a high chance that you are doing everything right, and it is the lead who is messing up his timing or tries to lead you on a wrong count, which happens to me a lot. In this case, you have to adjust as a follower and here I cannot give an advice because I have never tried to be a follower. In the class, I`ve seen that if something like this happens, followers just start backleading, which is probably not the best idea.

At the socials when I am dancing with a more advanced follower and I mess up something, I noticed that the follower just keeps dancing and confidently stepping her steps to the music. So if my lead is not clear and the follower end up doing a different move from what was in my mind, I just readjust to the move that she is performing.

Hope it helps to see a problem from a lead’s point of view.

User Samantha039

I second much of what was said. Use your voice! Communicate! Constructive criticism is the name of the game here. I’ve been dancing as a follow for about 12 years and one of the best things I learned to do was speak up! This could be verbal or non-verbals cues. When dancing is at its best, the lead and follow provide equal parts push/pull between them and they balance eachother out. If a lead is jerking you around, chances are they aren’t that experienced a dancer, generally experienced dancers are less inclined to behave this way. Inexperienced leads may not know otherwise (No one has corrected them), or they are nervous, or they are insecure and want to force the moves into their place etc. not meant to be knocks, I’ve been there too.)

If I come across a lead that simply will not play nice, I politely decline to dance with them socially. It’s not personal, I just place value on the quality of my dances. I don’t become a polished dancer by being dragged around or having my hands wrung. If it’s a classmate, then absolutely talk to the instructor without the lead present, explain your concern and they will be best able to correct the leads roughness (or if you need a follow correction.) having taught class, it’s not always very easy to see when dancers aren’t compatible, especially when both parties are hell bent on making the dance moves work :)

If the lead will not respond to my communication in the dance floor, I will simply try to use their stiffness to my advantage. It provides me with a good opportunity to strengthen my frame, essentially “standing my ground” (for lack of a better term). When I am tall and strong it may help dampen their yanky-ness. I’m not stiffer, I’m engaged. It’s harder to toss someone around that is firmly grounded. That may be a tactic for later down the line if you’re just starting out now.

We as follows aren’t just along for the ride, we get to enjoy ourselves too! It’s not just about all the cool tricks a lead can do. Dancing itself IS communication; eyes, hands, arms, bodies, voices. It’s a two way street, and when you find partner that speak the same language it’s just delicious! Good luck on your journey!

P.s. the last bit of unsolicited advice I’ll give to you was a game changer for me. Whenever you’re given an opportunity to dance with someone who is Much more experienced than you, DO IT! The BEST teachable moments for me were when I was pushed outside my comfort zone! It can be scary, but when you finally nail a move you’ve seen and could never accomplish, it makes you feel like a million bucks! Happy dancing!

User searinox2012

It could also be your teachers fault, so pay attention.

I had a teacher that always wanted me to apply more and more force to compensate for the followers lack of balance doing double spins. Instead of working on the balance and technique of followers, leaders were expected to force the double turns. Of course, being the root of the problem not solved, as leader, I almost had my fingers dislocated from all the pulling and jamming of followers.

The solution was to change to another school, one where followers had good technique and force was not the norm for leaders.

User Fishy11

Light leads empower themselves and their follows to do more. It’s not you, it’s them.



Two Left Feet Podcast

Podcast Where we interview Dancers, Instructors and Performers. Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba, Brazilian Zouk. https://linktr.ee/tw0_left_feet