Leading in Latin is a lot less straight forward than in Standard. Whereas in Standard, for the most part, the Man moves and the Lady just sticks to him, in Latin there are four main types of leads the Man may use. Just as it is more complex for the Man to lead, so too is it more complex for the Lady to follow, which is why being aware of what each type of lead is and how it functions is extremely important in both social and competitive Latin dancers.
This is the easiest of the four
leads, both for the Man to implement
and for the Lady to read clearly.
Weight Change leads occur when the
Man shifts his weight from one foot
to another, and the Lady responds
accordingly. Although this lead can
be done in any hold, it is most
easily felt in Closed Hold. To
practice this lead, take Closed Hold
with your partner, and have the Lady
close her eyes. With a solid (but
not stiff) frame, the Man will
transfer weight from foot to foot,
and the Lady will follow. Next, he
may take steps forward, back, or to
the side, and finally he may dance
Chasses as well. Good leading and
following can be accomplished with
minimal practice in this way.
This is essentially the same lead that is used in Standard, and in Latin it is used in figures such as the Cha Cha Closed Basic, Samba Reverse Turn, Rumba Cuban Rocks, Paso Doble Chasses, and Jive Fallaway Rock.
To use a physical lead, the Man
will increase pressure through his
arms and the Lady will match that
pressure, allowing him to control
her movement. If the Lady does not
match the Man's pressure, the lead
works just as well as if the Man did
nothing to initiate it in the first
place. The physical lead is
important in Latin, because, unlike
weight change, it allows the Man to
affect the Lady's movement without
affecting his own. To practice this
lead, use Right to Left hand hold,
and have the Lady close her eyes.
The Lady will continue to travel
forward toward her left hand, even
if the Man redirects her energy by
moving the hand to the left or the
right. If the Man increases pressure
within the connection and leads her
to walk backward, she will continue
to walk backward until she feels she
is stopped through a stretching of
the connection, like a rubber band.
The physical lead is used in figures such as the Cha Cha Open Hip Twist, Stationary Samba Walks, Rumba Three Threes, Paso Doble Separation, and Jive American Spin.
The Shaping lead is the least
understood of all the leads. To use
a shaping lead, the Man will stretch
his arms and upper body upward to
communicate to the Lady that she
should turn under the arm. After the
Man has shaped, the Lady must take
the initiative to move herself. A
common error when using the shaping
lead is for the Lady not to respond
to it, causing the Man to have to
use a physical lead to get through
the figure, resulting in
uncomfortable partnering and
strained dancing. To practice this,
the Man will shape his arms and
upper body upward, and the Lady will
match that shape to turn under arm.
This lead is used in the Cha Cha Underarm Turn, Samba Maypole, Rumba Spiral Actions, Paso Doble Travelling Spins in PP, and Jive Change of Places from Right to Left.
Least used of all the leads in
Syllabus figures is the visual lead,
which occurs when the Man and Lady
are not touching each other. In this
case, the Lady must watch the Man's
movements carefully to be able to
follow them. Sometimes the Lady must
react immediately, which requires an
understanding of the figure danced,
such as the
Cha Cha There and Back. Other
times, the Lady may delay her
response, such as when the couple is
Cha Cha Time Steps and the Man
decides to dance a Spot Turn. As a
result, the Lady carefully watches
the Man as she continues her Time
Steps, and then accepts the
challenge, dancing her own Spot Turn
on the following measure. To
practice this lead, the Man and Lady
should stand apart, and the Man will
move clearly so the Lady can follow
him, either slowly and calmly, or
with short quick movements to allow
the Lady to match him.
In the Syllabus, the only dance other than Cha Cha that makes use of the visual lead is Paso Doble during the Spanish Lines.
How to Use these Leads in your Dancing
Take a look at your routines and determine what lead you are using in each figure. Many figures make use of multiple leads. For example, the Rumba New York starts with a physical lead (steps 1.2) and ends with a weight change (step 3). Determining exactly which lead is being used at each point in your routine will help your dancing flow better, and improve communication between you and your partner.