Flex’s 21 Things for Followers To Follow

Yesterday I wrote some advice geared toward leaders and I thought it should only be fair to discuss some tips for followers today because dancing is a two way street. So I was surfing and came across this great list of things followers should do to improve their dancing by someone named “Flex” on Salsaforums.com. Thank you to Flex for taking the time to post this list and give followers some great things to work on!

Flex writes:

“Let’s try to compile a list of simple basic things that followers should do automatically, but all too often don’t:

1. Wait for a lead.

2. In the absence of a lead – i.e. when the leader does not signal and initiate some change of direction or momentum – do your basic over 8 beats (many moves particularly in X-body rely on the follower executing her basic: if On1, back then forward, forward then back. Sooooo many followers don’t do this simple thing!).

3. Maintain your frame – connect to the lead with responsive arm pressure. Otherwise he can’t guide you with precision.

4. In open hold, follow the hand that is being led, with your frame. i.e. orient your frame towards it

5. When they’re below shoulder height and your hands are on his, keep the connecting hands slightly angled up at the wrist (so that, using the connection pressure, he can guide you backwards with that hand as well as forwards)

6. Keep your hands available – waist height when loose, if not in a styling moment – so that he knows exactly where to find a hand.

7. Take the offered hand, returning any pressure.

8. If the lead drapes your hand on or round his body, leave it there until he removes it one way or another – this helps him to find that hand again immediately, as he can feel exactly where it is even if he’s turning.

9. If he tosses or flicks your hand / arm up, for pity’s sake continue the movement gracefully up and around. He’s expecting you to do that, not to make your arm go stiff after moving three inches!

10. Distinguish between hand flicks where the lead wants that hand back again (the majority) from those where he is throwing away that hand in order to take the other. The beat on which this occurs is usually critical to that distinction.

11. Do not take the initiative to let go the leader’s hand, even if you worry that what he is attempting to do may result in a knot. (This assumes that the leader knows what he’s doing – if you decide not to trust him, the dance may as well end there and then).

12. Do not hold on to the leader’s hand so that he cannot drop yours easily. The initiative to take or drop a hand is his.

13. If the leader initiates a turn or spin, keep turning or spinning until he acts to stop you. Many moves over the full eight beats rely heavily on this principle and become joyfully easy if only the follower understands it. If she doesn’t, they either require a heavy mechanical lead or result in one of those moments where she knows she’s hesitated and got something wrong – but may blame it unfairly on his leading!

14. Unless otherwise engineered specifically by the lead, keep some bend in your connected elbow so that there is always some flexibility for you to step backwards as well as forwards.

15. Recognise the signals to go into a shine and learn some of the conventions to signal when you’d like to come out of it. Have a few steps you can shine with, rather than freezing in horror.

16. Recognise a block and have your bodyroll etc. ready to occupy that space of four beats until the block’s lifted.

17. If he’s doing something amazing in front of you but not leading you to do anything at the same time, don’t stand there frozen in open-mouthed wonder! Do something cute and sexy.

18. In the absence of any tactile lead, use visual cues. If he’s positioning for a cross-body lead, no contact, then do a cross body. If you’re doing X-body style and he starts walking round you, don’t turn (just do your back-and-forward, forward-and-back 8-beat basic). If it’s Cuban and he walks round you, do turn.

19. If the leader’s behind you and one or both of your hands are loose on the pause beat, make them available to him (use the seagull position if both hands, half seagull position if one hand, and if he doesn’t take them on the next beat withdraw them quickly as he may be coming round you and doesn’t want to go round a wide circle to avoid your extended hands).

20. When he starts to lead your arms overhead, take the tension/pressure off as soon as he takes the tension off (don’t fight a head-comb, and when spinning or turning keep those overhead arms soft so he can do touch-and-gos or neck wraps or hand drapes or hand flicks etc without you getting into a stiff-arm wrestle)

21. Pay attention to your leader as well as to his lead. Look at him when he’s looking at you. And smile! The least you can both do is be each other’s for five minutes on the dance floor.”

This is really a great list for followers to work on. Ladies, most complaints that men have centre around these issue so choose 1 tip a week and work on it!

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