I have been thinking quite a lot and talking quite a lot lately about the obligations that come out of being a part of a group of people who enjoy dancing. Some day I will write a blog post or three about that. Today is not that day.
Instead I need to talk about one specific part of what we do. Leading and following is a part of the mechanics of what we spend our time doing with each other. It is not necessarily dancing, as I’ve argued before, but central to dancing blues and being social about it. Otherwise we could go to a club and dance near our friends and it would be the same thing. There is a magic that is dancing with each other. Since it is so central to our dance it is a problem to only know half of it. A lead who doesn’t follow or a follow who doesn’t lead cannot fully understand their primary role, and has an incomplete understanding of what our dance is. Almost every advanced dancer I know, every nationally recognized instructor that I know of can switch roles. If not beautifully, not as smoothly as their usual dancing, at least passably. Yet this tends to be done out of sight. We do it in private lesson, and when dancing with our practice partners and off in a corner at the social dance.
Since I think a lot of the expectations and norms of our dance are transmitted by modeling, I believe firmly we should be showing beginners people dancing both roles. I think it should become a public act to practice and learn. I think we should show up to lessons and rotate through. Just showing up as a female lead is why I compete. I also think we should encourage this skill to be picked up sooner, but that’s a whole different thing.