The dilemma Ladies are faced with when Ballroom Dancing is trying to adjust to the leader. The lady has to figure out what to do when dancing with a variety of different dancers. Remember, there is no wrong in Ballroom Dancing, just better (as long as there is no blood spilled or pain involved). Unfortunately, leaders come in all different sizes, shapes and skill levels. What is a lady to do?
One of my new female students said: "I can't dance because I can't figure out how to follow". I told her that she probably had never experienced a real lead. After her first private lesson she said: "Now I understand and I can dance". I always tell my female students: "Never apologize for not being able to follow". If there is no lead, you can't follow. The ladies goal is to become a "TRAINED DANCER"!!
If there is no lead or very little lead, the lady has to know the same dance patterns that the leader knows. The leader starts a dance pattern; she recognizes it and dances it. The first leader a lady dances with may know 20 patterns but the next leader she dances with may know 20 different patterns, etc., etc. It isn't reasonable to expect the lady to know every dance pattern that exists. If the lady doesn't recognize a pattern, she typically tries to figure out what to do. By the time she figures it out, it is already too late to be able to respond appropriately.
What is a "Trained Dancer"? A "Trained Dancer" knows how the lead and partnership works. The lady needs to be able to "FEEL" what to do, not try to figure out what to do. The communication between the partners is what the lady needs to understand. Many dancers have the impression that the "Frame" is the only lead. The "Frame" is important but it is just a part of the total lead. The leader's partnership relationship, weight distribution, footwork, connection, power, center and body shape are just a few things that need to be understood to become a "Trained Dancer".
Here are a few things that the lady needs to understand. 1) Generally speaking men approach dancing from a mechanical point of view and women approach dancing from a feeling point of view. 2) The leader must have his weight on only one foot at a time. This allows the lady to feel which foot is free. 3) The lady needs to be aware that many leaders don't hear the music (They are focused on partnership, patterns, timing etc.). The lady must feel and dance the leader's body to be able to maintain the partnership. 4) The leader must power (move) from the supporting leg. The lady can't feel movement initiated from the free leg. 5) The leader's frame needs to be there all of the time. The leader's frame has a tendency to melt as the leader focuses on other things. The frame is a key communication link for the lady. 6) Typically the leader is taller than the lady. The lady should never try to dance up to the leader. She can't maintain her balance in this position. 7) If the leader has no footwork (example: Waltz rise and fall), it makes it more difficult for the lady. Footwork is an important aspect of the lead. 8) The partnership offset is a significant part of the lady's ability to be able to respond to the various leads. The lady needs to try to maintain her own offset position in spite of the leader. 9) Many men are "Pattern Dancers". They don't "lead"; they just dance their part and expect you to dance your part. The above is just a partial list of the ladies challenges.
The difficulty for the lady is that there are so many different leads, weak leads, partial leads, wrong leads or no leads. The lady's mind goes crazy trying to figure out what do. Does she guess what to do or can she feel what to do? In the perfect world, the lady dances one step at a time, what she can feel. This seems like a lot of effort on the ladies part but it is well worth it. Being a "Trained Dancer" allows a lady to dance with the highest level dancers and it makes it much easier to dance with beginning and lower level dancers. The "TRAINED DANCER" can dance comfortably with anyone.