Quick Tips for Lead-First Follows
One of the anomalous things about being an assigned female at birth lead is the number of lead-first follows that I dance with. In part this happens because folk who typically lead approach me to dance, and when I state that I'm leading that night, they often cheerfully say something like "well, I have to learn some time." We'll talk about that again another day, friends, but today I want to give some quick tips that will make life so much easier for lead first follows. These tips are coming out of a weekend of blues dancing, where this happens much more frequently for me, but prompt the same problems in lindy hop.
It's not just about position. The number of folks who put themselves into a follow position and the continue to lead by virtue of their dancing is incredibly high. This can be very frustrating; after all, you agreed to follow this dance, not just mime following. In order to actually be following, and not just leading from the other side of the hold, you want to make sure you're doing these two things.
Step after your lead steps. It takes time for a lead's movement to travel from their feet, up their legs and torso, through their arm, into their follow's arm and down the follow's torso and legs and into their feet. The amount of time varies, but even in quick dances, a follow's step should take place some time after the lead's foot. Stepping before, especially as a non-isolated weight change step, narrows a lead's available options. In extreme versions of this, I've had lead-first follows back-lead an entire dance by never waiting long enough for me to actually take a step myself. Allow your steps to be lead.
Keep the tone in your body lower than your lead's tone. Having a loose feel with some high-tone moments is instrumental to both blues and lindy hop connection. A hazard for lead-first follows is having too much tone or muscle activation, which can lead to accidentally leading movements that were intended to be isolations. Most of the time, as a follow in blues dancing, I'm seeking a level of tone that is just enough to keep my frame in place given my lead's tone. Making sure you're breathing is the easiest way to let yourself relax, and I highly recommend thinking about your breath at least occasionally while dancing.
Those two tips in tandem will make a huge difference to your perceived skill as a follow, and will open up so many opportunities for your leads. These tips obviously apply to follow-first follows as well, but I find that lead-first follows who haven't taken any classes tend to need these tips most of all.