Following through with leads

Anyone who’s ever learned to play baseball or softball has been told that when throwing the ball, you need to “follow through” with your arm. You wind up, move your body, move your arm, release the ball, and then follow through. Following through directs the ball where you want it to go and provides a clearer, more effective trajectory.

Leading requires the same follow-through – with your center. Leaders often get the follower going and use their arms to follow through, rather than their bodies. The result is that their bodies are telling the follower one thing while the arms are telling her another – in other words: an arm lead.

The basic mechanics of leading tell us that where you point your center is where the follower will end up. This is simply a function of lead-follow: move your center, which moves your arms, which moves your hand, which moves the follower. Your arms will follow your center, and the follower will, well, follow your arms.

So when you lead a move and you want the follower to go somewhere other than right in front of you, your center needs to move or rotate through the pattern. If it doesn’t move or rotate and she somehow still moves to where you wanted her, either you gave her an arm lead or she went ahead and did something independent of your lead, because your body told her to stay in front of you.

Pointing your center where you want the follower to end up not only gives you a clearer body lead, it also reduces any arm leads, helps you to stay smoother, and ultimately makes it easier to dance at different tempos (because your body is in position at all times).

Leaders, pay attention to what your body/center is telling the follower, specifically about where she should go, and see if your arm is consistent with that. Teachers, how do you get your students to think about their centers – not just when starting a pattern but through the pattern?

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