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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum —

Follow My Lead

Good leading and following will not only make your dancing look better, but will actually make it easier to do. The first thing you need to know is that "men cannot lead if the follower doesn't know the figures." Some have said that this isn't true -- that the man can lead things the follower doesn't know -- but the idea is that the leader shouldn't have to "muscle" a follower into the next figure but instead make simple subtle leads -- and the follower cannot follow if she doesn't know what the subtle leads lead to and thus how to respond.

The second thing to know is a good closed position and the frame that goes with it. It is from this that leading comes. The man moves the entire closed position or at least the upper frame and the lady responds by moving with it. Note that the man doesn't lead simply with his hands or his arms -- he leads with the entire frame -- everything moves as one unit. He moves the entire frame and the lady moves to keep it filled.

Here are a couple of clever training aids:

  1. The first uses a styrofoam cup. The man places this between his right hand and the lady's back. If the man makes the common mistake of pressing the lady into him, it will crush the cup. The man is to move his whole frame, leaving his right hand out away from him the same distance all the time. The lady "fills" the frame by expanding back into the man's arms.

  2. The other training aid is a broom stick. A couple holds this with their lead hands and on top of their trail arm elbows and it naturally lays in between the couple. If the couple dips back and does not move the whole frame properly the broom stick will move to choke or slap one of the dancers. The proper thing to do is to move the entire frame as a single unit even while dipping back and thus leave the broom stick evenly between the dancers.

Once the man has a good frame that he can move as one unit, the lady should be able to feel when the frame and the man’s body move forward, back, left, or right and then be able to move with him by keeping her body full in the man’s frame and thus being part of it, moving as one unit. Once this is achieved, the couple can learn and practice subtler leads and follows such as rising & falling, sways, hovering, turning from closed position to other positions, visual leads in open positions, rondes, slip pivots, and other such movements.

When a couple applies the above techniques well, it is a joy to see. The couple glides from one movement to another, as one, and it is beauty in motion.


Adapted from notes taken during a technique clinic given by Michael & Diana Sheridan at Round-A-Rama Institute at Purdue University, August 2012; published in Footnotes In the Round, LRDTA, March/April 2013; reprinted Dixie Round Dance Council Newsletter, October 2013.




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