Cuban Salsa: the Follow must buy the full package

Most dancers have a surprisingly limited understanding of the true meaning of leading and following. Some of the more talented act as if they know it anyway relying on instinct. But often they are not conscious about what they are doing and can’t explain it.

Even some mediocre or average talented dancers get it right by chance or they are somehow born with a mindset that make them see the light before the rest of the crowd.

It’s the Lead’s dance

Cuban Salsa is one of the most extreme social dances, when it comes to the roles of being Lead and Follow. We really have opposite roles in extreme and that is why it is so exciting to be both Lead and Follow and to switch roles to become a complete dancer.

The Lead rules the world and literally decides everything. The Lead is the master of ceremonies, he decides who to dance with when. How to propose, where to dance on the dance floor, how to get to that spot, how to start the dance, getting into the beat, security on the dance floor.

It is the Lead’s dance, his choreography. And the choreography of a dance is not just the moves. It is also the look and feel of the dance, the spirit, the attitude, the rhythm, the style and body movement for the couple to use in order to dance in unison. The Follow must buy the full package to become all out synchronized with the Lead. And the Lead, to become successful, must deliver an all inclusive package optimized for the Follow in the situation.

And the Follow?

The Lead can not impose any dance of his own wishful thinking on the Follow when it comes to moves, attitude, rhythm and style for short. The Follow must like the moves, she must like the attitude, the rhythm and the style. No Follow wants to do silly stuff or to be forced outside her ability or comfort zone in meaningless ways. Everything must make sense and be exactly spot on from the Follow’s perspective.

The Lead decides everything, and must deliver and make his dance happen, but the only dance that will make it to the heavens, is the dance being exactly as the Follow wants it to be, considering the level of the Lead.

A good match

But the Follow can not just demand anything out of context. She can only expect to be given what the Lead can and wants to offer. The foundation for common ground must exist in the first place. There must be a good match.

In my case, to match me, the Follow must be reared in the Cuban tradition. If the Follow wants Zumba salsa, or is really only interested in delivering an over-styled “tour de force” freak show, dancing mostly on her own, I am not available. How can I set us up, using all of my abilities and walk an extra mile, for a meaningless dance from my perspective, I don’t want?

But even with a good match, the Lead can only succeed by finding the sweet spot of the Follow. The dance must be optimized for her level, for her mood and for her wishes. Not just for what she thought she was dreaming about but for the dream that actually came through.

The Lead is at his best when he can outperform himself and deliver beyond the wildest expectations of the Follow, giving her exactly what she should have wanted from the very beginning, if she only knew what was possible.

Related blogposts:

Social dancing: The Follow is the Norm

Switch: Learning the opposite role in Cuban Salsa


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