Swing Discussion Boards > Which is harder in WCS - Lead or follow?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by heartgrl2k, Dec 10, 2004.

  1. heartgrl2k

    heartgrl2k New Member

    My SO and I were talking about this the other night, and I thought it was pretty interesting, so I'm posting it here.

    Which is harder in West Coast Swing, the lead or follow?

    I suppose there is no right answer, but these were our thoughts.

    He says it's harder to follow because you don't know what's coming at you. The follow is constantly interpreting the leads (good or bad), and needs to have a good instinct for what the lead is thinking. He thinks leading is easier because you're more in control of the dance.

    I think it's harder to lead, because the lead bears most of the challenge for developing the dance. The lead isn't only responsible for the 'moves' but especially in WCS needs to make sure that the speed and balance and both the lead and the follow are correct. I think following is relatively easy, because I really am not thinking about what I'm going to do next. I'm confident that if I'm truly following, everything I need to do will fall into place. I think it's more about feeling the dance and the music, and less about what comes next.

    We both have experience with leading and following, so we don't necessarily think that "our" part is the easiest.

    Any thoughts?
  2. dTas

    dTas New Member

    i think leading is harder.

    the follow can sit back and enjoy the feel and the music where the lead is constantly having to think of what he's doing and how it is being interpreted.

    i can see how he thinks that following would be harder. when you're constantly thinking of what moves to do and how each move should go its hard to turn off your brain and allow things to just happen to you.

    i enjoy following in WCS much more than leading... unfortunately i don't get that opportunity very often. :)
  3. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Although primarily a lead, I can do both.

    I don't have to work hard a leading . . . I just listen to the music . . . it dictates what I need to do! To me, leading is rather easy.

    I also do not work hard as a follow. I don't have to think, nor do I have to interprete . . . I just react to the lead's input. If a mistake is made . . . "Oh, well!"

    My wife also does both. She is probably one of the very best followers that I have ever danced with - who me . . . prejudiced??? No Way! - but she has worked very hard at 'just following.' She says that she would never ever want to be a male and have to lead all the time. "way, way to hard," she says!
  4. leftfeetnyc

    leftfeetnyc New Member

    As I follower, I would say leading is harder. I just started learning to lead and am having a bear of a time with it.

    Then again, I've been a follower for quite some time, it's what I learned first and have been working on. The transition is tough as I've got to wrap my brain around getting out of the slot and thinking ahead as a lead (as well as other things), it's just a different concept.

    Both have their difficulties, it's just a matter of which one works with a particular person/what you've been doing longer.

    I'm a huge fan of analogies...I'd compair lead/follow to skiing...cross-country isn't necessarily harder than down-hill....they just have a different set of skills that need to be learned and honed until it is something ingrained and second-skin-like.
  5. dTas

    dTas New Member

    so both come easily... but which would you say is "harder"?

    logistically i would say leading is harder... there is just more responsibility for the leader than the follower.
  6. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    I didn't say they "both come easily," I said they both are easy.

    That means "at the present." I did have a time learning to lead, but until I learned "to dance" instead of leading patterns, I struggled.

    I also sometimes struggle with following, as when I'm put into certain patterns. Some patterns call for specific footwork, i.e., a "french cross." My wife teaches those parts, and they were things I didn't learn as a leader, muchless a follower.

    So, if I have to answer your question, I'd say following is harder. But that applies to me only!
  7. blue

    blue New Member

    Knowing nothing about WCS, I'd say that in partner dancing in general leading is more difficult. More to learn, especially in the beginning.
  8. bjp22tango

    bjp22tango Active Member

    At the beginning, I think the follower has the harder time in WC Swing. The leader is initiating the moves, but his part has him staying pretty much in the center, with fairly simple steps.

    The balance, steps, and tension/compression in the follows part is so different from the leaders that they don't even have visual clues to help them guess what they should be doing.

    It takes quite a while for ladies to be comfortable with the slot, with the lean into the partner on a sugar push, with the connection in the anchor step. You see beginner ladies all the time taking the long way around their partner, or walking out the patterns themselves because they haven't picked up on what the leaders hands/lead are asking them to do.
  9. dancin/dj

    dancin/dj Member

    i think leading is harder,leaders have too keep it going-and there are so many levels of dancers that you have too adapt to, i've only done a little follow in west coast(gone a do some more in the new year :wink: ) but my guy friends and lady friends who do both say leading is harder also.
  10. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    blue is right that for most partner dances, the leader has so much more to do and to think about (22 things to the follower's 5 things, according to Edie's "beginner's hell" article at http://web.archive.org/web/20050313042936/http://www.dancefreak.com/stories/beginners_hell.html). But at the same time, WCS is a bit of a different beast that also gives the follower a lot to learn how to do.

    In ECS and Country 2 Step and Nightclub 2 Step and many ballroom dances (if I were still practiced in them), I could take an almost complete beginner follow and dance with her -- I have done this socially a number of times in ECS. That is because (I think) by being in closed position the leader is able to use more of a physical lead to move and turn her successfully without her needing to know beforehand how to do that move. Also, a lot of her moves and steps are similar enough to what the lead is doing that most of the time she can get by just by mirroring him and staying in the frame.

    But WCS is an "educated dance" (as my instructors have told me), mean that the follow has to know her part in order to dance it. A former instructor told us that if you ask a girl if she can dance WCS and she says no but she can follow whatever you give her, then she won't be able to do it. She has to know her part and she can't get it by mirroring you because her part is very different from yours most of the time. And you're in open position most of the time, so you have very little direct control over her movements; she's out there on a teather (nothing to hold onto except your hand) so she has to already know what to do. I have never tried to WCS socially with a complete novice, but I know it wouldn't work based on having worked with many in the beginners classes.

    BTW, Lindy is also somewhat of an educated dance ("Lindy" meaning the 8-count moves that you add onto the ECS moves). Again, my attempts on the social dance floor to swing out a complete beginner have very rarely proved successful (though I seem to have a better chance when swinging her out from closed position).
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 25, 2017
  11. Swingolder

    Swingolder New Member

    In most cases, I would say the leader. My dh - my regular partner - really thinks about the moves. (I often wish he would relax and listen to the music a little more instead of trying to remember moves, but we are still pretty new at it).
    The hard part is that I can remember the moves and I just wait for him to lead them....even the latest thing we learned gets buried in his brain somewhere. And I just want to say to him "well, are you going to do a ..... or whaterver!) So as a follower, I find it is a really dificult to keep quiet and just be the follower!
  12. blue

    blue New Member

    I have learned to lead a bit in lindy, and there I would definately say leading is more difficult than following... then maybe the differences is bigger in dances that are in closed position all the time, but I still think leading is more difficult esp. in the beginning. Now I have not seen WCS and don't know how big the differences are.

    I agree that swingout from closed position is a lot more easy with follows who don't have much clue, than from open.

    Would you (anyone out there) call salsa an educated dance? Is WCS more "educated" than lindy? Can dances be arranged according to how educated they are, i.e.
    Z > WCS > X > Y ?
    If so, how does this order look?
  13. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    I've kept quiet :shock: so far, since I've never really tried learning to follow. I have tried just a little bit a couple of times, but even though I really focus on not predicting, just doing, I can't seem to go in the right direction.

    But I think what people are concluding with is right. I think beginner leads have more to think about than beginner follows. And I think 'beginner hell', as descibed, is very real for leads.

    Also I think it's more difficult being leads in classes. Especially when dancing a choreography of new patterns. When focusing on doing one pattern correctly, it's real easy forgetting what's coming next. When focusing on the next pattern, it's real easy leading really badly. I think follows have it easier here too.

    When it comes to social dancing, a seasoned lead doesn't have to think so much anymore. He can just relax and do what he feels like doing to the music. And... what he chose to do can be really complicated. So I think now the challenge may be on the follow. Now she has to interpret all kinds of weird stuff in real-time, with no time to really think. :twisted:
  14. heartgrl2k

    heartgrl2k New Member

    This is an interesting question, but I think we might get into a very heated discussion as soon as someone says WCS is more educated than salsa or vice versa.

    As mentioned previously, WCS is more difficult to follow because the partners are not necessarily mirror images of each other. In fact, usually they are NOT. This is really different from ECS, NC2S or Lindy - which is not to say that these dances aren't enjoyable/challenging/etc. There is a lot of improvisation in WCS (some may argue the more the better) that you just aren't going to do in the other dances.

    I'm not a salsa dancer, so I'm not going to comment there, but with just a few dances I would say (from least 'educated' to most)

    NC2S < ECS< C&W2S < Hustle <WCS

    I'm sure plenty of people will disagree....I almost hesitate to even post that....Maybe this should be a new thread....
  15. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    This sums it up:

    To sing well and to dance is to be well educated" -- Plato

    I believe it applies to all dances, and not any one particular dance.

    However, that being said, if you look up the word educated, the meaning usually implies that of a person who is educated. I don't believe that a dance "goes" to school.

    On the other hand, if it is meant that WCS needs to be studied more, or the what is average it takes to become skilled in it or good at it, that's a different story. But then again, that all depends on the person taking the class, yes?

    I know individuals who have been at it for 10 or more years, and they still suck at it. I also know one teenager, who's mother hired a Pro to move into their house and work with the kid everyday for 4 hours during the week and all day long on weekends. In less than a year, the kid was at an advanced level, ready to turn Pro.
  16. blue

    blue New Member

    Yes and no. While the leads have a more complex task, following in classes is conceptually difficult. The follower can either do the pattern by herself, not waiting for the lead - which will make some leaders very frustrated. Indeed, if always doing this the leader will never learn to lead. On the other hand, if she does nothing unless well led it is quite unlikely that the couple will be able to make the full pattern until the end. Quite likely, this will make the leader frustrated, too... and if always doing this, only the best leaders in the class will be able to do the pattern. This last aspect is often overlooked by teachers who keep saying followers should do nothing "on their own" - as it seems, they are quite unconcious of the fact that the way they teach the class make a little "cheating" necessary.

    So, being a follower in class is like "damned if you do, and damned if you don't". I wish there was an easy solution to this. The only I could think of, would be if the teacher first said "now the followers helps out nicely to make it possible for everyone to understand the pattern" and after a while switches to "now the followers don't go anywhere unless led". I have not yet seen anyone teach this way, though.
  17. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    That's a good point Blue.

    Hmm, thinking about this for a little while, my advice to follows is this: Follow any clear leads, even if that's a lead for the wrong pattern. If there's no clear lead, walk through the correct pattern.

    That would work the best with me.

    The reasoning behind this is it's no use trying to force another pattern than what's being led. It will only disrupt the dance. Instead, just join the guy doing some out-of.routine patterns. Hopefully he will enter the routine a couple of patterns later. Or he will do a swingout or two while thinking, before reentering the pattern a few bars later.

    If there's no clear lead, or you see the wide-stared what's next look in his eyes, that means the guy is not sure about what to do. That means your input will probably be welcomed. And since he is not doing anything clear, it means you will not disrupt what he's doing anyway.

    Furthermore, I think teachers should have this problem in mind while designing patterns. This can be done by grouping together a few new moves, make sure they flow naturally, and put easier well-known moves between the groups. This makes each group easier to remeber, it gives time between the groups to remember the next group of patterns, and it gives time to catch up if you messed up earlier.

    Sorry for trailing off topic... :oops:
  18. blue

    blue New Member

    Actually, it belongs in another thread. I'll copy part of your post there.

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