10 Commandments for Leaders

As a leader, I'm too occupied thinking like a "chess player" to organize possible moves and alternatives depending upon floor crowds and conditions.
I think in time this feeling will become more reflexive and start to have similarities with following in that you will automatically adjust to changes on the floor. Floor craft then becomes more of an art. Absolutely it can be fun developing floor craft, creating that arsenal of chess moves. In time the responses to most situations are instantaneous. Now in the case of social dancing with a partner you have not danced with much or is in their first few years of dancing, the tool set is going to be smaller, but there is still an art to using a smaller number of steps to great effect even then.

Now this thread is really about what a good leader should be doing, and I recall Bobbie Irvine once seeing a man telling is partner how to follow him better. It was a somewhat heated discussion, and Bobbie told him: "When you can show her with your body, you'll be a true leader." And a good leader has a good feeling for what is possible both on the floor and with their partner. Moreover, they have a way with their body and actions where it is an enjoyable experience for both! :)


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I don't intend to "negate" others' experiences. My experiences have been different than many others. Does this make me right or wrong? Or does this simply offer another view? Although I'm an unabashed mansplainer, I don't for a second believe that my way is always correct. Your experiences have led you to slightly different ideas about lead and follow. Like you, I don't think that we're far off in our beliefs about this issue. Further posts have clarified this as we've each expounded upon our position. I had difficulty wrapping my mind around your use of "guess," but now I think that I understand better.

Every teacher of dance emphasizes technique slightly differently. They may use different terminology, but all of my many teachers have been consistent with each other. I've NEVER encountered contradiction between one teacher and another. (Thank goodness!)

By the way, that teacher who chastised his female student to "Turn off her brain" when following is no longer teaching that student. She changed teachers. And she is doing great!! Mayhaps I should take a cue from this incident to tone back my "pontifications."

Donations are not encouraged, but will not be refused. :lol:
I certainly don't think it makes you wrong...I am only noting what I percieve may have a few ladies somewhat irked by some of the statements....my own personal perspective is that I value your opinion but take it with a grain of salt just as you might take my perspective on on how to lead with a grain of salt...a person who doesn't have kids can know plenty about parenting, but not everything about parenting KWIM?...there are some things that leads like to wax poetic on regarding follows.... and there are some things that follows know about those aspects which most leads cannot easily fully appreciate...so, occasionally when a lead makes certain proclamations (however well intended and based upon truths), they may still not always be in proper alignment with the real experiences of many follows


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Thou shalt use breathmints (and not gum, because you'll just chew it like camel eating taffy).
Thou shalt use deodorant (but lay off the Axe).
Thou shalt not crank hand-leads.
Thou shalt not steamroller thy partner by leading with your upper body.
Thou shalt not try to teach a freakin' lesson on the floor when your partner misses something you likely ballsed up.
Thou shalt not groan aloud when it's Foxtrot Mixer Tiiiiiime! Thanks a lot, jerk. You're not exactly Gene Freakin' Kelly yourself.
Thou shalt not try to reel your partner in closer than she wants to dance with you, regardless of "how the pros do it" (anyone remember the teenage boy "but that's not what happened in the pr0n I was watching" argument? It didn't work then, either).
Disclaimer: There are plenty of follower commandments. Waiting on that thread.


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Ok, here's my personal compilation:

If you're going to lead, lead. If you're not going to lead, then learn following.

It is not your job to force your partner to move.

Your partner is the primary means for expressing the dance. That doesn't mean that you don't play a role, but you have other things to do. (Corollary: Be seen, but ensure that your partner is seen too.)

Floorcraft, damnit.

Learn something about music. As lead, finding and hitting the timing is primarily your responsibility.

When dancing with a less experienced partner, adjust your dancing to hers. Don't baby her, but don't show her up either.

Spend some time learning at least the basics of the follow's role. You will find it surprising and enlightening.

Gravity is actually your friend. Learn to work with it.

Don't forget to dance your own part.

When choosing partners, think about what you're there for. Young and cute does not necessarily correlate to good dancing.


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and this is why we love you, Cornutt....

I would only add; "don't think that having been a follow on a few controlled occasions makes you an expert on following"...I would also add that if you are going to ogle a woman (overtly) you had better understand that she may not feel comfortable dancing with you in the future.....you roll the dice on that one


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I think you are agreeing with me (?)

and, to clarify, if you move your body and collapse your arms, you may run her right over...she will never feel you heading her way....classic step on her foot, slam into her body, moment...and if you use your arms without your center you are likely going to get very tired and have limited success and she will still have trouble knowing what you are leading


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if you use your arms without your center you are likely going to get very tired and have limited success and she will still have trouble knowing what you are leading
Exactly. Your arms are there to transmit the lead, not to create it.

Lead with your body not with your arms.
Exactly. Your arms are there to transmit the lead, not to create it.

Lead with your body not with your arms.
Well, no... not exactly.

If your arms were down at your sides, could you still lead?

If yes, than what role do the arms play in the lead? I would argue that they "frame" the movement. Set "boundaries" for the follow... At least that's my interpretation of lead.


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Kind of hard to transmit the lead with your arms at your sides.

"leading with your arms" means that you're leading by changing the frame, rather than moving the frame with your body.


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Exactly. Your arms are there to transmit the lead, not to create it.

Lead with your body not with your arms.
Actually, Mirko Gozzoli explained in one DVD that he IS using arms to lead, because leading with a body isn't enough for more complex stuff. So arms have some active role in leading in upper levels of dancing, together with body, they are not only to transmit the lead

However, leading with a body / usage of the body overall must be mastered first


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Arms can move faster than bodies. When we move our arms faster than the lady can move her body we pull her off balance.

While world champions like Mirko may have mastered the technique of moving his arms properly, we mere mortals should stick with leading with our bodies instead of our arms (see earlier discussion on this thread if you don't know what I mean by that).

Currently I'm working my way into smooth & standard, and that's my desired approach to leading, though I don't always achieve it (hate when that happens, but there are lots of body parts to keep track of). OTOH, I have more experience at WCS, and have a notion of where the lady is and where she needs to go next. Compared to smooth/standard, I'm more inside my follower's feet and less inside my own. I do move my arms more in WCS. But even then, when I'm leading (initiating a movement of the follower), I lead with my body and not my arms. When I'm moving my arms, I'm following the movement the follower interpreted from my prior lead to maintain the connection so I can set up the next move. Rinse, lather, repeat.

So maybe amend the commandment to be:
Lead with your body, follow with your arms.


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I think lead with your body is fine advice by itself, provided you really mean, the entire body.

Isn't lowering, rising, swaying, also leading? How about I get in dance position, and then simply shift my weight from one foot to the other, and somehow my partner does it with me. Did I have to do something with my torso or my arms to lead this?

I've been taught to lead with whatever the action calls for, chest, hips, arms, hands, feet, etc. It's not something you necessarily teach a beginner, but I don't think you need to be Mirko Gozzoli to do this. When I'm leading my partner into promenade, my arms and hands are active. Is it possible to lead someone into promenade with just the torso and broomstick arms? Sure. But it feels significantly more pleasant if the arms and hands agree with the rest of the shape, and indicate energy in the direction of movement.

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