Please write a post sometime about your experiences learning the lead role after being a long-time follow. I'd be interested to read it.
When I signed up for my very first lessons, I'd just assumed that students learned both parts, because that's the "whole" dance (and after all, I'd grown up seeing women dancing with women on the Lawrence Welk show, and they had to learn that somewhere). So, I was surprised to be told that the women needed to learn only the follower's part, and the men needed to learn only the leader's part. I thought it was odd to learn only half of each dance, but it was marketed to me as: "See, it's going to be easier than you thought! You're a woman – you don't need to learn what the man does; and men don't need to learn what you do." My reaction: Oh? – you think I'm too stupid/lazy to learn more than the bare minimum? Well, I thought, that might be fine for other people, but not me. So, I decided that once I'd learned to follow, then I'd spend the time to learn to lead.
Yeah. Well, then like many, many other people, when I started lessons I totally underestimated the time it would take me to learn the follower's part – I NEVER expected that it would take years/decades to do that. Being a perfectionist didn't help, and placing poorly in competitions only reinforced the notion that I had no business trying to learn the other half of each dance, when I can't even do my own part properly. So, I kept plugging away as a follower.
A couple of years ago, I did a showdance with a former pro in which I lead for part of the dance (well, actually, I "back-followed"). That re-kindled my interest in taking lessons to learn to lead properly – but it was put on the backburner because there were always competitions coming up and I was still clinging to the erroneous belief that getting some decent placements as a follower were just around the corner.
Early this year, I was reaching the point of burnout – did it really matter if I knew all my alignments, when the leader changed them anyway according to traffic? What's the point in knowing the theory of how to do my jobs as follower, when I move so awkwardly anyway? Then, my current Pro was injured, and his partner started covering lessons for him. Initially I worked with her to get the female perspective on the follower's part, but because she's so much shorter than I am, it was hard to work on those things with her as lead, and I started to think that I wasn't getting great value out of my lessons, and competitions were on hold pending Pro's recovery. So – I resurrected the idea of learning to lead, and Pro and his partner were very, very supportive.
Now, let me tell you: my Pro has always told me that when he leads he will do his own jobs, but he will NOT do the follower's jobs too. While he's aware of where the follower is, he does not "put the lady here" or "place the lady there" or "move her" wherever. No. He will move himself down LOD using proper alignments and technique, etc. to the place he wants to go using the figures he wants to use – but it's the follower's job to "read" his movements, apply follower's technique and move down the floor herself. As a follower, I very, very much appreciate that - I hate it when leaders get in the way of my ability to move because they are trying to "put" me somewhere rather than moving with proper technique themselves.
So, Pro and his partners are teaching me to lead that way: I am told to pay attention, above all, to CBM, and to rise/fall, and alignments, and to give my follower movement that's clear and easy to read. Beyond that, it's up to her to read it and to move herself.
I'm still skeptical. While this approach might work well with trained followers, I don't know if it works well with untrained followers who don't know how to read movement and can't move themselves. I don't particularly want to have to deal with an untrained follower who expects me to "put" her somewhere or "move" her down the floor.
For now, though, I'm just paying attention to what "I" need to do. I'm interested in finding out out what happens next.