If you’ve taken classes with us, or with almost any social dance school, you might have heard your teachers warn against backleading. But what IS backleading, why is it bad, and how do we avoid it? Let’s find out.

Lead & Follow
In social partner dancing, one dancer leads (i.e. chooses moves to suit the music and communicates his intention via physical “signals” and “leads”), while the other follows (i.e. interprets the signals and leads and executes the moves).

Backleading is a term for when the Follow goes through a move either without waiting for a lead, or that goes against the lead. It is considered a bad habit in social dancing because it can make the Follow difficult to dance with, and can also put dancers at risk of injury in some cases.

Why do we backlead?
Ladies, let’s be honest for a moment: we’ve ALL done it, especially as beginners, and the reasons can vary:

  • Beginners often backlead because they don’t yet know what the lead is supposed to feel like. (this is fairly easily corrected in class)
  • Some of us backlead to “help” our partners get through a move. (this is an especially bad habit because you’re giving your partner the impression that they’ve led the move properly, and it prevents them from correcting a weak lead)
  • We backlead when we get an unclear lead and take our “best guess” as to what we’re meant to do. (this can often be due to a weak lead. In theory we’re supposed to wait for a clear lead, however in practice it’s less clear-cut)
  • We backlead when we get caught up in the dance and put styling ahead of following. (never forget that you’re dancing with a partner!)

How can I tell if I’m backleading?
If you’re in class, a teacher will let you know. If you’re social dancing, most dancers will be too polite to tell you. However, you can always dance with someone you know leads well, and ask for feedback.

Another good exercise against backleading is “dancing blind”. For this, you need a partner you trust, and an empty dance floor. Then, try following with your eyes closed. This will force you to rely only on the physical signals you are receiving, rather than on visual cues. It will also make you more likely to wait for a clear lead before executing a move.

Any other tips to avoid backleading? Leave them below!


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