Leading Following Learning and Courtesy

Modern Jive is easy. You don’t have to refine it to enjoy it. “If you’re both having fun, you’re doing it right.”

“It is my aim that every time I dance with a partner, of any experience level, they will feel that it was uplifting. I want their experience with me on the dance floor to contribute positively to how they feel about dancing and themselves.”

Whether you are a man or a woman, a leader or a follower, I strongly encourage you to make this, or something like it, your dance mantra, your rule of thumb, your core value. It will mean that your dancing and your relational life will always be enriched.

Modern Jive – Ceroc is almost always lead by one partner and followed by the other. One engineers, constructs the pattern of the dance; it’s reference to and interpretation of the music. The other intuits, reponds and contributes, dressing the structure of the dance with flare, grace, style and flow. Both are very unique and uniquely difficult tasks.

Sometimes this adds a little tension to dancing that can sabbotage your mantra and your fun if you’re not careful.

Example 1. you’re a leader who is dancing with someone less competent than yourself and you are performing for the audience. You attempt moves that your partner is not familiar with, nor capable of, and feel that you look clumsy as a couple. You expect her to spin doubles, to step and to anchor on beat, to feel and anticipate the cadences. Of course she doesn’t, and so your in-dance conversation becomes a constant stream of little “tips” at what she should be doing. By the end of the song, you’re both ready to have a seat. She’s ready to go home.

Example 2. you’re a follower who is dancing with a newer dancer who has rotated round to you in class. You don’t want to lead him through the move but he seems to have such a frightfully slow rate of comprehending what the teacher says, you struggle to remain responsive. He obviously feels uneasy about his lack of understanding and you add insult to injury by by curtly reminding him that he’s meant to be the leader and you’re waiting for him to start.

Now in the second example. I’m forever telling experienced ladies to wait and respond and allow him time to learn to lead, but that waiting needs to be done with an accepting smile, an easy an open attitude that welcomes him to fail and try again, a partly truthful comment that he’s doing well and a sincere encouragement that the difficulty will pass with time so ‘don’t give up.’ Why not seek that person out in freestyle time and spend some time, showing the moves to them and then slowy lowering your strength as he steadily gains confidence and begins to initiate. Demonstrate the level of force and resistance that ought to exist between you. Help him make progress and then identify and celebrate that progress.

In the first example, the leader ought to realise early that he has pitched his coreography too high and apologise. “It’s my fault.” he should say. “If I can’t lead the move clearly enough for you to follow or be kind enough to lead moves that have some familiarity to you, then I’m being discourteous, so again I apologise.” Then drop the complexity back down as low as neccessary for you to succeed together. If you’re not content to just do basic footwork with a new lady, moving on time, feeling the rhythm, smiling and encouraging her as you thank her for the dance, then I offer that you’re missing out on the best that dancing has to offer and so is she.

Modern Jive is easy. You don’t have to refine it to enjoy it. “If you’re both having fun, you’re doing it right.”

Being spectacular is one thing, being pushy and rude in the attempt is quite another. When a couple is truly spectacular, you can see that both partners are comfortable in the partnership; the strength of the lead, the tension in the follow, the closeness of the moves, the tempo of the music, the danger and strength level in the moves chosen. All these choices have to be made with respect for both partners for dancing to be really fun and spectacular.

I’ve made these mistakes many times; so eager to show off or to try new stuff, that I’ve left a lady feeling awkward or inadequate or simply annoyed.

On the other hand, some of the most accomplished dancers I’ve had the pleasure of dancing with, didn’t seem to have any expectations of me. They genuinely seemed to enjoy the dance even when I feared that it was awfully repetitive and that I had gone “brain dead” somewhere near the start. They seemed content to do “man break throughs” and “manhattans” the whole song and throw whatever style and finesse into it that they could. They respected me as a partner regardless of how inexperienced I was. If you’re reading this ladies, thankyou.

We, most of us, are fragile creatures, seeking to find acceptance and identity in our circles of friends, to love and be loved, appreciated. Dancing is just a small part of that, but it really can and ought to be a helpful part. When you dance with someone, they have given you the power to do great good in their lives. Don’t miss the chance!

If you’re new and frightened, take a load off, take the pressure down, you’re not inadequate, the floor and the music is there as much for you as it is for the champions, so get out there.


Brent and Corina Leggett.

You may also like...