leading is awesome: potential energy, creativity, and magic

There are a million reasons to learn to lead as a female – you can learn because you want to be a better dancer, or because you want to be a teacher, or because you think being ambidancetrous is the way of the future.

But honestly, I’m not convinced. Plenty of amazing female dancers don’t lead. Plenty of top-level teachers have not cultivated competency in both rolesl. And realistically, while I think being ambidancetorus is pretty awesome, I don’t necessarily think it’s where the Lindy Hop community is headed.

Personally? I lead because it’s fun.

And in case you’re interested in becoming a Leading Lady, I just want to share some of the reasons I love – and I mean love – being a lead.

Potential energy is badass

The more I lead, the more I learn to recognize this awesome thing called potential energy.

Potential energy (n): 1. the energy that a piece of matter has because of its position or nature or because of the arrangement of parts; 2. the thing awesome swing dances are made of

You might remember this concept from physics (if you were awake in class), but have you thought of it in relation to dance? When I teach a class, a lot of the frustration I see in leads is “What do I do next?!” These leads have yet to discover potential energy.

The potential energy of a swing dancer? Get it? I crack myself up sometimes…

Potential energy fascinates me intellectually and excites me emotionally. The more I lead, the more I recognize moments of potential energy – a split second of connection and momentum, which I can only describe as “badass.”

When I am aware of these badass moments (BAM!), there’s a chance to take that energy and do something amazing with it. Granted, just because I can recognize the potential energy doesn’t mean I’ve actually figured out how to harness the magic – but that leads me to my next point.

Repetition makes me more creative

I know, it looks like a contradiction. But hear me out.

I hate that moment as a follow when the variation I tried almost works, but ultimately fails – and any desperate attempt to get the lead to recreate  that moment on the social dance floor is often annoying and unrewarding, for both myself and the lead.

In contrast, as a lead, I can recreate the same moment as many times I want, thus creating an opportunity to figure it out.  More importantly, the ability I have to repeat a move until I understand it allows me to find ways to influence, change, and awesome-ify each moment. The cool part is that I’ve found follows tend to get really excited, too, because it allows them to play in the moment and be creative in their own right.

Leading is a constant exercise in exploring the many facets of a single move. I truly believe I am more creative as a lead than as a follow.

Leading is like magic, and it makes me happy

With all this potential energy, creativity, and ability to try things repeatedly, awesome moments become possible. Those awesome moments feel like magic – as if the Fairy Godmother of Leading has come down and blessed me with a new move.

In my mind, the Fairy Godmother of Leading strongly resembles the smug, self-satisfied Fairy Godmother of Cinderella. She knows she’s a badass.

When I finally get a move I’ve been working on,  I get overwhelmed with happiness and excitement. I’ve been known to jump up and down with happiness, high five my follow, and / or yell with excitement (BAM!). It’s a feeling of accomplishment I don’t always get when I’m following.

Other interesting results of leading more

  1. I actually enjoy follow-heavy scenes, to an extent. I find leading and following to be almost equally exciting, for different reasons, so it makes me happy when I have ample opportunities to do both.
  2. I find it’s significantly easier to meet people, especially of your own gender. Which is awesome, because I love the women I’ve met in Sacramento and San Francisco.
  3. The creativity I find in leading has begun to seep into my following. While this is to be expected to some extent, it’s still exciting to see – I recognize momentum and rotation more readily, which means I’m more capable of influencing how I react.

I’m just curious…

For Leading Ladies: what aspects of leading do you particularly enjoy? Why did you start learning?

For Following Fellas: have you had a similar experience? Why do you love following?


  One thought on “leading is awesome: potential energy, creativity, and magic

  1. 9 September 2013 at 1:11 pm

    I like being a following-fella because sometimes…I want to have a partner dance without having to think so hard. Don’t get me wrong, I still have so much fun when I lead but there’s a LOT that’s going on in my head during a dance, the two main ones being musicality, where I’m anticipating different points in a song, and floorcraft, where I’m maintaining vigilance of other dancers around us so I don’t run myself or my follow into them. So on the rare chance I get to follow, I like that I can relax juuust a little bit more than I’m typically not supposed to and put more focus on the connection. 

    I like that when I follow I can get a better sense of what good leading should feel like. I’ve only had a handful of dances where I’ve gotten to follow, and it’s pretty split right now for the number of dances I’ve had following men and women. Typically I feel more comfortable asking a known leading lady for a dance just because I’m still not sure how most guys will think if I ask them for one, which is a shame, because while I like following regardless of the gender of my lead, I’m a bit more partial to guy leads because it feels like the potential energy you’ve described is already kind of inherent in their leading. Anyways, to summarize my ramblings, I finally got to follow this one fella who’s pretty well known regionally for being a kick-ass lead, and after like 16-32 counts of music I was just like, “Ohhh man, so this is what awesome leading feels like… :D” It was incredible. 

    Also, it’s just really fun trying out some of the styling I see follows do.

    • 9 September 2013 at 9:53 pm

      That’s awesome, Kevin! I’ve definitely learned a lot about how to follow when I lead – though I really wish I could follow and lead myself simultaneously to see how I stack up!

      For myself, I’ve found that the more I lead at local dances, the more people recognize me as a lead, and the more they ask me to dance in that role capacity. I’d say if you continue following, you’ll start to find that all types of leads (both male and female) will ask you to dance!

      I hope we get to dance again soon – and we can trade off!

  2. 9 September 2013 at 3:23 pm

    For the purposes of this post, you’re kind of assuming that woman are naturally going to be (or start off as) followers. I found that a bit jarring. Like in your first sentence when you say “there are a million reasons to learn to lead as a female” – don’t you really mean “there are a million reasons to learn to lead as a person who normally follows?” Why conflate following with being female?

    You do it again at the bottom with “leading ladies” and “following fellas.” Isn’t the question really about what happens when you try a new role? I could be a male who started out following, and who had your same experience when I first tried leading.

    I like the post in general, but these things popped out at me.

    • 9 September 2013 at 9:49 pm

      Tim, thanks for your feedback! The decision to use gender-specific language in this post is actually intentional. This post is not about defeating sexism in Lindy Hop. This post is about celebrating that I love leading, and it is directed towards women who have considered learning to lead.

      I realize that there is an ongoing movement to be gender-neutral when speaking about leading and following. Personally, I am not a proponent of that movement. I do not believe that recognizing the fact that more women begin dancing as follows (and that more men begin dancing as leads) propagates sexism. I believe that people propagate sexism, and using gender-neutral language will not change that.

      I have no intention to change my language to gender neutral in this post or any future posts, unless it particularly relevant. I hope you understand my choice, and I hope it does not deter you from reading my blog.

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