No two leads are the same. Some are relaxed, some are firm. Some are gentle, and some are stiff.
Which one is the best lead?
Well, it all depends on the situation at hand. Each lead, has its advantages. A relaxed lead allows for smoother hand transitions and more fluidity as steps and patterns become more complex and intricate. A firm one is assuring to the follow—it lets them know exactly what they must do and when to do it without being rough. A gentle lead is good between dancers who know each other’s rhythms well. A stiff lead can be useful when a lead is partnered with a follow who is new to dancing. It is also essential in situations where the lead needs to rescue a following dancer from a potentially dangerous situation such as a collision on the dance floor.
The only lead that is a bad lead is no lead at all, a situation that arises when the lead is either too weak or unclear in its intentions. In such situations, it becomes impossible for the follow to know what is being asked of them.
Thus, the answer to what constitutes a good lead is really simple: if the follow can reliably gauge what the lead wants them to do, then a good lead has been achieved. Whether that lead is enjoyable is a subjective, each follow develops a preference over time.
Each lead, in some way, reflects a lead’s personality and their experience with dancing. The longer a lead has been dancing, the more relaxed their lead becomes as their body develops muscle memory for steps and patterns. It is also quite common for leads to transition between various leading styles depending on who they are paired with, adjusting the firmness of their leads as they dance with different partners. This, in many ways, makes leads similar to handwriting—although a lead dancer might have a preference for writing in one way (cursive or print, lowercase or uppercase) the handwriting will change according to the medium on which they are writing or the occasion for which they are required to write.
Over time, and with practice, each lead can become as distinct as a handwriting, one that can be read by a follow, even on the most crowded of dance floors.
Featuring the likes of Willie Rosario, the Buena Vista Social Club, Paolo Lorenzi, Juan Formell and Los Van Van, Alfredito Linares, El Timba, and Marc Anthony this playlist is full of salsa songs with varying tempos that will have leads changing their leading techniques in order to stay in tune with the rhythms.
Shining Knight—Willie Rosario
De Camino A La Vereda—Buena Vista Social Club
Pegaito, El Son De Cuba—Paolo Lorenzi featuring Pedro Mena Peraza
Todo Se Acabo—Juan Formell & Los Van Van
Ain’t No Sunshine—Alfredito Linares
El Tren—El Timba featuring Tumba Boyz, Roberto Sabroso & Handel El Sonero
El Día De Mi Suerte—Marc Anthony & Willie Colon