A while ago, I wrote an article entitled, The Top 10 Worst Things Leaders Do on the Social Dance Floor. This attracted lots of comments and discussion, which was great. Some follows asked for a similar article about the worst things follows do on the dance floor. However, as a lead, I’ve never experienced anything nearly as bad as what the follows have reported to me about the leaders!
I felt that perhaps a different type of story for the follows could be helpful, mainly how to get more leaders to ask you to dance. Many of these are things are probably obvious to experienced dancers, but I list them anyway for the benefit of the beginners.
Also, these are my personal opinions, and I’d love to hear your ideas.. I am sure I missed something!
1. Dress vintage
It is hard to resist asking a woman who is all dolled up in 30’s, 40’s or 50’s vintage clothing, with vintage hair and makeup,to dance. L.A. is big on authentic vintage attire compared to other parts of the country, making it doubly important. Finding vintage clothing is a little difficult, but it can pay off big time.
There is a group that does a great job of this: the Rockabilly crowd. They tend to be immersed in the vintage lifestyle and really dress up for events. Many of them can’t do Lindy or Balboa to save their lives, but I love dancing with them anyway because they look so damn good all dressed up! Just my personal opinion of course.
2. Wear the right shoes
When I see a follow for the first time and want to know if she can dance, I look at her shoes. Very high heels or sandals means she is probably not a swing dancer, and I wouldn’t ask her to dance. Get flats or shoes with a low heel (some heel for Balboa is fine). Many follows get white Keds and have chrome leather put on the soles by a shoe repair place for $20-$30. Here’s more advice on shoes for Swing dancing.
3. Have Fun
Would you ask someone who is frowning and in a sour mood to dance? No one likes getting turned down, and someone who looks dour is sending an “I don’t want to dance with you and I might turn you down” message to the world. Smile and be welcoming while you’re waiting for someone to ask you.
When you do dance, show that you’re having fun. The best compliment I can get from a follow is that she had fun dancing with me.
If you are a very advanced dancer, you might actually be kind of intimidating to some guys. Try to have fun regardless of the skill level of your partner.
4. Take lessons and get good
If you are a great dancer, you could be wearing sweats and and old T-shirt and everyone will still want to dance with you. Take classes and workshops if you want to improve. As an added bonus, leads from your class will know you and will want to practice moves with you.
Good followers who know how to add styling to the same old moves I do over and over are really fun to dance with!
The one caveat to this is that if you are an instructor or just a really good dancer, you could be intimidating to some guys. Just be gracious to all who ask you to dance.
5. Show up early
Another thing that I’ve noticed is that there are usually a whole lot of extra leads and not enough follows at the beginning of the night. I’ve seen this at Clifton’s, Joe’s Bar, and other places. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because it takes longer for women to get ready, so they make it out later. Or, they’re late on purpose because they don’t want to be standing around before the rest of the dancers show up. Arrive early when there are more leaders than follows!
6. Stand near the dance floor with that “I-wish-someone-would-ask-me-look”
Yes, I know it is awkward, but nothing comes without some sacrifice. Remember, the leads have to take the risk of being turned down when they ask you. Stand near the dance floor and move to the music a little. Be open and approachable.
If you’re far from the floor and in deep conversation with your friends, don’t complain if no one asks you to dance.
7. Ask leaders to dance
Sometimes leads might not notice you or not know that you are a good dancer, especially if you are new in town or don’t know anyone yet. It’s perfectly fine to ask any leader to dance.
8. Go to popular venues when not-so-popular bands are playing
Namely, go to the places I mention in the article, The Most Reliable Swing Dance Venues, where lots of dancers are likely to show up. Pick your favorite venues and show up regularly so people will get to know you. Don’t give up after just one night.
My original advice was to go where the popular bands are. However, I’m going to amend that advice a bit. I’ve noticed that when the top-notch bands (like the California Feetwarmers, Jonathan Stout, etc.) the crowd tends to have more follows than leads. When less popular bands play, there are fewer dancers but the mix is more likely to be equal or even lead-heavy.
I was at Clifton’s not long ago when a less-well-known band was playing. There were six or seven leads there and two follows!
9. Dress up
If you don’t have any vintage clothing, don’t worry. Just dress nicely and you’ll do fine. Other dancers appreciate when you make an effort to look good, and will definitely be more likely to ask you to dance.
Any other ideas? Disagree? Leaders and followers, please comment below. – Brian