Taking the lead: So you think you can challenge gender roles in dance?

I actually started dancing as a follow (I'm a guy) My dance partner and I competed in the IGRA, and IAGLCWDC. IGRA = International Gay Rodeo Association. and IAGLCWDC = International Association of Gay and Lesbian Country Western Dance Clubs

Now I compete in ACDA and UCWDC as well as IAGLCWDC. I've tried a couple of times to get those organizations to have a Wildfire or Criss-cross division where anyone can dance any role except the traditional male lead/female follow combination. In other words two guys, two ladies, or a lady and a guy but the lady has to lead. In such a division, the lead could then be switched during the dance back and forth.

More experienced dancers usually reach a point in their dance lives where they learn the opposite role because it makes them a better dancer. I just started learning to follow west coast and by doing so I realized why I had been having so many problems with doing "tucks." My reaction when I learned the follow's footwork was "OMG, no wonder it hasn't been working!" I had in my head a completely different, and wrong, image of where the follow needed to go. Urk!

See ya on the dance floor!
Had another thought. I attend a West Coast Class and it is very common for the dancers in the class to switch lead follow. Also, at the UCWDC and ACDA dance events I attend, every time there is a social song put on during the competition, there is at least one or two ladies leading. Occasionally I see a guy following, but not as common.


Well-Known Member
I enjoy following and learning to get better at that, but not too many people are open to leading me...c'est la vie.
I follow more than most guys (10%-20% of the time, I'd guess). Folks in younger scenes (like blues or lindy) don't think anything of it (although it's more common to see women leading than men following), and folks in older scenes where the median dancer is past retirement age (like the local social ballroom scene) don't mind, but, in scenes where the median dancer is middle-aged (like west coast), I see outright hostility and anger from a significant portion of the population.
I know on my collegiate team, every woman can lead and its fairly common for women to lead other women (even in competitions) due to a lack of men.

This last weekend at the National Collegiate Dancesport championship there was a male male couple though!
*laughs* I learned cause there wasn't enough male leads. Now we ask almost all of our competitive ladies to learn to lead at our social lessons so we can make sure to always have enough leads. :)


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*laughs* I learned cause there wasn't enough male leads. Now we ask almost all of our competitive ladies to learn to lead at our social lessons so we can make sure to always have enough leads. :)
same here,all girl teachers do it, my classmates don't hence the whine...but it's more of a tease to tell you the truth! I can't complain when I get so many dance invites now can I?


Active Member
What if a man follows better than the women. Will that somehow make the women jealous because: a) he dances better and b) the other men would rather dance with him.
As with most press stories you don't understand the facts she may of turned aggressive/abusive and asked to leave. Personally, if the partner does not mind there should be no problems (and no partner should object really). It's never been a problem from my experience, just preference.


Active Member
But I am better than most women in a partnered dance. I rarely dance the woman's part but if I do, it'll be in a class where another man needs help with his lead so I can give feedback that none of the women know how to give. The more secure men (that is, they aren't worried about looking like a homosexual by dancing with another man) the easier it is to dance/practice with another man.
I think it can be more important for private dance schools to keep the traditions and make it easier for visitors. On the contrary in our Argentine dance communities it is more an advantage to have ladies with double skills helping in the class in the role needed and at the parties too. Some of them have really beautiful dance.

And yes, it is much harder for a male follower to get dances in the western world. An interesting detail is that when I visited a town in southwest of China (-87) and ended up a huge official dance party there was ordinary couples dancing vals and male couples. But when I was leading my femail traveling partner they find it quite funny. We did not have any language to communicate but it looked like the male dancing was more acceptable than a female dito. (anyone knows more about it?)


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Obviously, as a teacher I do both roles. Only one time can I remember a woman who was resistant to dancing with me in class, and it was probably her first lesson. Most women love it because I lead better than the men in class. I often lead at socials, either because women ask me or I ask them. I do this at ballroom, tango, and WCS venues. I recently did a little AT showcase at my studio leading a female friend and people went nuts over it, saying it was steamy and intense and they couldn't take their eyes off it. Men tend to be less likely to switch roles, although some will do it with their regular partner or a friend so they know it won't bother anyone. I think as you progress and get into more intermediate/advanced classes, it's easier to get accepted doing it because by then students understand it's about dance and not sex.
There is some indications for more easy going tomorrow for male followers too. In ATango you can find videos of at least two male followers, one in Europe (Holland/Nederl) and this guy in Brasil demonstrating here follower's footwork.


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