General Dance Discussion > Question for men: would there be much objection if I take follows place.

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by ticolora, Dec 10, 2016.

  1. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    In my experience, usually, you have more ladies than fellows at group lessons. To improve my lead, I'd like to get more following experience.

    In a group lesson of... say 30-40 couples (Salsa), I'm concerned there might be few fellows who would not like the idea of dancing with a man.

    Any suggestions?

    Should I ask every man if he is ok to dance with a dude?
    Should I cross dress for such an occasion?
    Should I ask the instructor to ask the group first?

    I know it's not unusual for an instructor to cross the roles, but is it socially acceptable for a student to do that?
  2. atk

    atk Active Member

    I don't do salsa, but at ballroom class, I'll sometimes follow (I'm male). In fact, there is a Monday night class that I usually attend where the men are regularly more than double in number compared to the women. I nearly always follow in this class, so much so that it's a surprise to the other students when I lead in it.

    I only follow at the studio where I take private lessons. I take group lessons before parties at other studios. I limit my class following this way because I do not know the men at other studios and if they might be comfortable. Where I take private lessons, I know the men and they know me. I will offer to dance with and follow both men and women at parties, and will actually follow both genders. While it shocks some, which turns into entertained laughter, I find every opportunity to follow highly educational. In private lessons, my teacher has started taking the first few minutes of lessons to solicit and address following questions, and the last few minutes to lead me in things she is working on.

    Before I follow a man for the first time, I *always* check if he's comfortable with it. Not everyone is, and it is important to respect others' boundaries. You cannot know how he feels unless you ask. I rarely, if ever have been told 'no.'

    Cross dressing is not necessary for following. Different parts of the world and different subcultures have different reactions. Be sure that, if you choose to cross dress, that you are not in a part of the world where this might get you in legal trouble, and/or assaulted, unless you see a benefit that you believe outweighs the risk. If you do not regularly cross dress, the leaders in the lesson may not be used to this, and may react in unexpected tolerant or intolerant ways. Only you can decide if you want to risk the intolerant behaviors. Personally, I'd be a little surprised, because cross dressing obvious enough for me to recognize it is very uncommon in the circles that I travel, but I hope I'd be one of the first leaders to welcome you as a follower.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016
  3. DL

    DL Well-Known Member

    Do as you please, and to atk's point I certainly don't wish you legal trouble or assault or the like.

    However, here's my personal take:

    I occasionally tried out the follower's role. However, my own goals in dancing decidedly did not ever include dancing with other men. The few times I tried the follower's side for completeness, I found a lady who wanted to try the leader's side.

    In any case, I do not see a reason to make a major point of this with wardrobe, instructor involvement, etc. As with many things in dancing and in life, I suspect that much depends upon the relationships you establish in the community beforehand. Once you get to know certain people/groups and you feel comfortable together, it's possible to make arrangements for this kind of thing amongst yourselves. Others may notice and react variously, and those reactions can be gauged. Complete newcomers to the group class, seeing the ways in which long-timers interact, might raise their eyebrows, but does that matter?

    I once took a series of close-embrace Argentine Tango group classes. There were a few more men than women in the group. One of the instructors seemed to take for granted that men would partner with each other (in close embrace) as part of the partner rotation, tried to insist, and was demonstrably exasperated when he sensed reluctance on this point. I simply ignored him in this regard, at times practicing individually while (without complaint) awaiting my turn in the rotation for a female partner.

    Both ladies and gentlemen among my fellow students remarked to me that they found the teacher's attitude to be off-putting. I was put off, not because I thought he was objectively incorrect -- his position was in some sense pragmatic -- but rather because, without ever establishing any relationship with any of us, he sought (needlessly IMO) to impose his preferred arrangement while being intolerant of what I would consider reasonably contrary personal preferences.
    raindance likes this.
  4. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member

    I'm moving to your city...
    atk, RiseNFall and IndyLady like this.
  5. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I have only had a guy in class want to follow a couple of times. Once it was an experienced class so no one cared. Another time it was a beginning class. I made an announcement about it, saying it's just dance and for learning purposes, but I wouldn't require anyone to dance with him who weren't comfortable. They all danced with him, but the class was noticeably smaller the next week. I don't know if it was related or not.
  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I know men who did not pursue Argentine Tango and/or do not patronize certain West Coast Swing venues because they were expected to dance with other men in lessons.
  7. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    If indeed you are primarily interested in just leading better, rather than learning
    to dance/play both roles, then I'd offer my observation that learning to follow
    well doesn't substantially improve one's ability to lead. In group classes where
    there're already excess followers, a leader turning follower may cause even more
    friction. It's even worse if the leader hasn't developed sufficient "follower-related"
    skills like "led" turns and spins and ends up slowing down the group class more
    than any newbie follower.

    I'll avoid the emotional and political-correctness aspect of partner dancing and
    stick to the physical/technical aspects.

    To lead well, one just has to _lead_ a lot, improving one's sensitivity to the partner
    and coming to better physical/mental understanding of how partnerships work
    (from the lead perspective). Improving one's ability to move better (via solo dance
    classes, appropriate sports and exercises, etc.) will help in the dancing, but that's
    not lead/follow role related. With insufficiently trained dancers, role switching
    will more likely than not confuse than help, as it's not easy to "flip" how the body
    works as well as retrain one's mind for timing (relative to beat of the music).

    An analogy I'd offer is that an equestrian doesn't have to be a horse to get good
    at riding with/on the horse (as one). [No... this is not to demean followers in
    saying they are horses.]

    It may be eye-opening, though, for a leader to do a little bit of following to
    gain appreciation of how the other half lives/dances, to gain empathy and
    improve sensitivity. However, for a not-so-advance leader to use group
    classes to do this would probably be more disruptive than educational.
    The inept leader-doing-follow will likely cause class leaders to "over-work"
    to achieve the class goals, while the "follower" may end up doing more
    back-leading than any newbie follower in class. Not a good situation.

    A much more useful set-up may be to have the leader-doing-follow
    spent some time (privately) paired with a highly-experienced leader who could
    do proper adjustments to show the "follower" what good leading feels like.
    For a lot of not-so-experienced leaders (in group classes), when some maneuver
    doesn't work out, they tend to lead "harder" rather than do exactly the opposite,
    chilling out and letting the maneuver work itself out (good leader must be
    a good mover and know how to compensate appropriately). Hence, group
    class interaction is likely not be be particularly helpful for the leader learning
    to lead better through experiencing following.

    In addition, there are lots of gender-related (note, I'm not getting into sexual
    preference here) skills which favors males as lead and females as follows,
    but this is a separate, protracted, discussion (that may cause emotional

    Of course, as they say being able to both lead and follow "may" increase one's
    opportunity to dance (in some venues). In practice, though, this only applies
    to women.
    Angel HI and raindance like this.
  8. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Of course, there is a lot that goes into 'the lady's role' that we callously throw into the category of "just following", and, as quoted, should be addressed if one wants to fully understand her role. However, let me take a different road here, and suggest that before doing studying the lady's part, learn how much 'follow' there actually is in the man's part, and how to better yourself there. This will lead you more quickly to what you are trying to achieve, and be less confusing all around.
    IndyLady likes this.
  9. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    I know some uptight men who did not pursue Argentine Tango and/or do not patronize certain West Coast Swing venues because they were expected to dance with other men in lessons.

    ftfy ;)
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2016
  10. DL

    DL Well-Known Member

    That doesn't seem like a 'fix' to me. People are free to choose where they dance, and with whom. Labeling folks 'uptight' because they have decided that their interests in dance don't align with the prevailing social expectations at a particular venue seems both intolerant and needlessly derogatory.
    danceronice likes this.
  11. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    By the time a leader is complimented on how well he/she leads, it's
    usually/really because of how well he/she follows (as part of leading),
    helping the inter-partner lead+follow interactions to flow seamlessly
    and continuously. Leaders who only dance routines (including
    instructors) never figure this out.
    Angel HI likes this.
  12. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    An excess of leads is fairly common here too... saw it last Friday night for a while.

    I dance follow a bit, but I prefer to do it in a reverse-role dance with a female lead. My regular am partner likes to lead a bit, so sometimes we'll do reverse role.

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