For the past several weeks, a ton of cool people and I have taken advantage of a free swing dance class up at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Boy, did we have fun. I now spend boring meetings at work going over swing moves in my head and whenever I get together with friends I try to figure out if we could make it into a dancing event. Yesterday I heard swing music at the Chocolate Cafe on my lunch break and could not help myself from grabbing my coworker Kelly, who fortunately has done some swing dancing herself. We danced quite well given the narrow space in between the tables and the chocolates.
During each of the three lessons, the instructors had us rotate partners every few minutes. So each night I danced with about fifteen different people. Which was more fun than I expected! But it also gave me a chance to observe some very different leading styles. The guys have a tough job ... as one of the instructors told us, "If the woman looks bad, it's the guy's fault. If the woman is uncomfortable, it's the guy's fault." So the poor guys really had to know what they were doing!
Some guys were terrific dancers but poor leaders. They'll swing a girl around 'til she's dizzy and they'll make it look great, but the girl has no idea what's going on or what's coming next. Other guys don't know the moves quite so well but they are courteous leaders - they will never make their partner uncomfortable. Sometimes it takes them a long moment of the step-step-rock-step basics to think of the next fancy move to do - but that's because they're trying to remember how to begin the move correctly so that they don't confuse the girl.
Some guys, of course, are the best of both worlds - good dancers and good leaders - but they are few and far between.
And for my part - the instructors also told us, "If the woman back-leads ... it's all her fault." I did have to restrain myself (and didn't always succeed in restraining myself) from leading my partner a bit when we'd missed a step or lost the beat. I also tried to keep from suggesting moves unless a partner was actually wondering out loud what to do next. It's quite an interesting job, being a follower. But a fun one :)
*please note - I do not mean for these thoughts on leading and following to be taken as my opinion on the roles of men and women in today's world ... it's just a dance class :)