Ballroom Dance > Leading or Choreography?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by ViviDancer, May 19, 2011.

  1. ViviDancer

    ViviDancer Member

    Hey guys, I have an honest question about standard ballroom dancing that I've been wondering for awhile now and I was hoping you guys who have much more dancing experience would be kind enough to answer it.

    Well the question is fairly simple, in a competition, does the male lead and female follow purely without any choreograph or is there a whole choreograph or parts of a choreograph prepared for it?

    I know that in social dancing, all that is used is lead because that allows you to dance with anyone you want. But what about in a competition?

    When I started learning, my first teacher told me that everything is done purely through lead and follow. My current teacher says that a choreograph is always needed and both partners do their parts and sync together rather than a lead and follow.

    Other dancers that I know have different opinions on this issue. Some tell me it is choreography while others say every single step is thought of on the spot while on the dance floor. However, we're all rather new to ballroom dancing so none of us actually has the experience to prove it.

    I know that it is possible to do both, which is the one that is usually done at amateur/professional level? And if so, the pros and cons of both of them? Why don't dancers use the other kind?

    Forgive me if this seems like a silly question, but I'm just a curious guy :friend: Thanks in advance for your words of wisdom :)

    Edit: Oh and I apologize if there is a current tread about this topic. I couldn't find any related thread using the search button.
  2. madmaximus

    madmaximus Well-Known Member

    In Ballroom Modern, couples typically go through distinct phases (particularly those with high-level competition as the goal).

    When we first begin to dance, we are taught figures (groups of steps usually in 2-4 measures).
    Several of these figures are assembled together into amalgamations.
    And then few amalgamations become sets for a long, medium, or short wall.
    At this point, while there is a modicum of lead and follow, much of the competition dancing that the couple would do is strictly choreographed, with little room for variation.

    As a couple improves, they begin to look at where they could showcase figures they consider as "showcase-worthy", and they begin to explore alternative figures and amalgamations to reach those "showcase" figures.
    This is the point where lead and follow begins to get refined, and more responsive to the actual conditions on the floor.

    Eventually, as the couple gets past the advanced levels, they can actually "dance-on-the-fly", meaning their repertoire and sensitivity to floorcraft, their partner's movements, and the music become very refined that they can dance without the need for choreography.
    They basically dance to the music.

    Finally, they get so good, that the couple can swap who leads and follows.
    At this point, it no longer is "lead and follow" but rather about creating space and occupying it.

    Just a broad overview.

  3. DL

    DL Well-Known Member

    (I'm not nearly as knowledgeable as MadMaximus but here's my $0.02.)

    They're both right.

    Even when it's choreographed, it's led and followed. The choreography isn't (or at least shouldn't be) a substitute for that. However it's easier for both partners to commit fully to a movement when it's expected and planned and well-rehearsed.

    Also, it's true that both partners do their parts, but this seems like a separate issue to me. Neither leading nor following entails doing work assigned to the alternate role.
  4. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    Based on the various interviews I've seen of competition couples, including world professional champions, by and large the dancing is choreographed. However, lead and follow is necessary for floorcraft, whether it is to alter alignment slightly to deal with traffic, or, depending on conditions, the whole prearranged choreography ends up being scrapped.
  5. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    while at the upper levels i would expect competition routines to be choreographed (but still led and followed), at lower levels the choice will probably reflect the mindset of the instructor - i had one competition instructor whose personal philosophy was to teach proper technique and how to use various figures for traveling/floorcraft purposes. all of my pro/am competition was also straight lead and follow. since i prefer social to competition, that approach worked quite well for me. YMMV.
  6. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    This is wrong, imo... or at least misguided. Aside from apart work, lead/follow is HOW you stay in sync with your partner in choreography.

    Even if you're doing choreography, it still needs to be connected and lead/followed to some extent. Yes, it's all pre-planned, and some things aren't technically "leadable" (i.e. if you'd never done them before), but the connection still needs to be there as if you were doing pure lead/follow.
  7. famfam

    famfam Member

    me and my partner are actually dealing with this now. We are silver level dancers, and our last semester (yes, we're lowly collegiate dancers) we did solely choreo. this ended up being a problem, because we found that our walls don't match up to a full college gym floor, our practice space is much smaller. This led to us (logically) doing lead/follow when we had to make up extra distance. we found that this did not work well.

    her standard following skills we're not nearly what they needed to be (she's mainly a l/r dancer) and my leading skills were very, very rusty (also she wasn't used to my leads). so we have the summer now to practice before competition season again, and we're working super hard for now doing lead/follow as an exercise. the end plan is to do combinations of moves that we have "ready", where we both know what's coming, which i feel helps with being confident in your movement.

    but nonetheless, as was mentioned before, even in choreography, the moves should be led/followed (meaning one does not simply do what they expect, as changes should be able to be made). I should actually lead anything done in a routine, and she should follow it. This is not too easy when you aren't used to it, but we're working on it.

    One should not simply mindlessly do choreo, it doesn't end well.
  8. ajiboyet

    ajiboyet Well-Known Member

    Bizokas/Demidova had this opinion. She said in an interview that sometimes she wonders why they practice at all, because Arunas sometimes reworks the entire routine when they get on the floor. It's important to have choreography, because, like dbk said, some things aren't "leadable". But the gentlemen had better know how to lead and the lady had better know how to follow well enough to rework the entire routine right on the dance floor. So that way, you can do your choreography as much as you can, and if you get into a couple of difficult positions/spots, then you can always find your way out very easily.
  9. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    I've done all four styles pro-am Bronze, and in all four, we had a routine, but I had to follow, because competition floor traffic means your routine might not work all of a sudden. So while there was choreography it wasn't set in stone.
  10. ViviDancer

    ViviDancer Member

    Wow thanks for the amazing views guys. So I guess although most competitors would do a choreograph, lead/follow is still important. And most top professionals, although they do a choreograph, they are fully capable of dancing purely on lead/follow. Did I get this right?
  11. Griffico

    Griffico Member

    Sounds about right to me!
  12. Standarddancer

    Standarddancer Well-Known Member

    this is so right!
  13. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    beautiful way to put it.

    i agree with max, there are phases, each with its own value. in-the-moment lead & follow / initiate & response surely the most delicious aspect of partner dancing, IMO. :)

    lots of discussion already on the forums on this subject. others may be able to provide links.
  14. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    i agree with this.

    and that lead & follow doesn't necessarily mean "man leads, woman follows", either. both initiate, both respond, each in their own way. choreo or no...
  15. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Well-Known Member

    I was reluctant to post this link (Lead and Follow vs. Routine) because I don't feel that lead/follow and routine/choreography are mutually exclusive. :)
  16. madmaximus

    madmaximus Well-Known Member

    The one thing that truly affects how you will balance choreography and "lead and follow" at a comp is the SPEED of the floor (a term use to describe the relative: size of floor, number of couples, type of dance, and relative skill levels as they compare to your skill level, ability and repertoire as a couple, and floorcraft).

    And the floor keeps getting faster as you go higher...

    Planning how you will execute your dance routes in the lower levels is much different than in the higher levels--and directly affect how you will implement your "lead & follow" and choreography.

    Dance in the elimination through semi-final rounds in the higher-levels (at larger comps with 20+ couples at a time) and you will realize that longer-segmented choreography will often go out the door (that is, until you dance in the finals).

    Demands on floorcraft skills and planning increase, and second-by-second decision-making becomes crucial.
    Having short-segment choreography becomes a requirement (and eases up as the rounds approach the final--where longer segments become possible to do and becomes almost de rigeur).

    Choreography never really leaves the equation--even when you're dancing "without" choreography, you still have a set of figures that you will lean on (and ostensibly practiced with your partner).

    What we call floorcraft (or "effective-lead-and-follow-dancing-by-leading-my-partner-where-there-is-open-space") is really the ability to plan a route through a mass of moving couples using short-segments of choreography and being able to lead/follow your partner through gracefully---while exploiting open spaces and show-casing your best moves.

    Perhaps the better analogy is this:
    The skills you will need to drive a car at 25 MPH (while learning on a parking lot or remote road) is different from driving on urban streets, is different from driving on a fast freeway, and different from driving a high-speed race car on a race track with other like-wise skilled drivers.

    At the end of the day, and no matter your level of skill, you still have to plan your route and drive it, don't run out of gas, get your passenger there safely, and be able to make proper detours where the roads are blocked.

  17. skwiggy

    skwiggy Well-Known Member

    I love this!
  18. RumbaLucia

    RumbaLucia Member

    LOVE it!!! :D
  19. nucat78

    nucat78 Active Member

    Not competition, but all of our showcase routines have been choreographed in detail. However, I still need to lead and DP needs to follow because we might not be on exactly the same size, etc floor as where we practice. And sometimes we just plain forget a bit of the choreo and have to improvise.
  20. jofjonesboro

    jofjonesboro New Member

    I've always equated choreography with the use of training wheels on a child's bicycle. It may be necessary to get started but overuse creates dependency.


Share This Page