More from TOD the Book.
Partner dances consist of three parts: the leader, the follower and the music. They are each equally important; if you take away any part you won’t have the dance in all its fullness. Each part has a particular way of relating that is complimentary to the other two parts, and only by remaining true to the part can the dance be what God made it to be. Dancing is fun, not a chore, so we won’t talk about the jobs of each role, but rather the joys of each role.
The leader is the natural role of the man. Leaders, by their very nature, can only be leaders if they have a follower! Leaders also need a few other things: a plan, the ability to communicate the plan to the follower, and the ability to understand the follower.
In dance the plan is called the pattern. It determines the what, when and the where of the dance. A leader does not have just one pattern but many. We tend to think of plans as being something external to, or separate from a person, but in dance this is not the case. Each pattern is something the leader has practiced over and over again, until it’s not only in his head but in his muscle memory- in his body. The plan is actually an expression of who he is. And should something happen to disrupt the plan, such as the follower missing a lead, or another couple entering the space he was planning to use, then he has multiple back up plans. These are plans he can execute so skillfully that the woman might not even notice the mistake. The purpose of the plan in dance is the glory and the exaltation of the woman. It is to allow her to express how beautiful and wondrous and amazing that she is.
In order to communicate the plan as well as to understand the follower the couple needs to be able to communicate- to have a common language. This is language of dance. We’ll talk more about this shortly, but it’s not an arbitrary language.
The lead is more than just a communication of information by the leader; in a real sense he makes a sincere gift of himself in a masculine fashion using his entire body and mind. He is powerful yet gentle, thoughtful, creative and attentive.
The follower is the natural role of the woman. Just as a leader, by his very nature, requires a follower, so to a follower needs a leader to be a follower. The follower needs the ability to understand the plan, the ability to express the plan, and the ability to make herself known to the leader.
An adept follower can do most of the patterns in any ballroom dance without the leader, but she’d much rather have him lead, because the central joy of following is to follow the lead. The leader also allows her to more fully express the patterns by giving her support to move past her center of gravity and create more powerful shaping.
A good follower is flexible, mobile and fills the space created by the lead. In doing so she takes the thought of the leader and gives it form in through very person, with her very body. She also adds her own unique contribution in the way she styles the pattern, so that the expression of the dance is the combined work of them both. It’s as if they are creating a picture, with the leader drawing the lines and the follower coloring them in.
The music is shared by the dancers and it provides the spirit of the dance that informs their dance and unites the couple. Foe example a waltz looks and feels different from Cha Cha because both express the music they are made for. The music and the dance fit together harmoniously. At a dance there are many dancers who share one music, but we can also imagine a dance where the one couple has their own personal musician. This musician is able to play his music in a way tailored to the couple. In this ideal case the music becomes the musician’s gift to the couple and the couple’s dance their gift to the musician.