Huh? Out of all the things you could thankful for – why Swing Dancing? (see here for introduction). This is part 2 of a 3 part series.
2 – I’m thankful for good follows – because they help tremendously.
After dancing with a good follow, I thank them for a good dance. But what they almost always say is, “It’s not me – it’s the lead. I just follow what you tell me to do.”
Comments like this are encouraging, but they are slightly misleading. From the surface, you might get the idea that ALL of the responsibility of the dancing resides on the lead – and that simply is NOT the case. Most of the responsibility does reside on the lead in swing dancing, but there is a big difference in good follows and bad follows – they have to be willing to follow.
There was this one young lady who I have danced only once with in the class part of the dancing. As we switched partners, she came over to me, we shook hands. She said this was her first or second class and that she had ‘so far not been able to find a lead that knew what they were doing’. I kinda puffed out my chest without saying anything, because I knew that with the other follows I was pretty successful. But as soon as we tried the move, it was an EPIC FAIL. As the instructor counted out the steps, all of a sudden her feet fought my feet, my feet forgot what they were supposed to do, the gentle spin I tried to move ended up with her ignoring me completely. She wasn’t willing to follow.
Contrast that with the dance I had with one particular instructor, who was patient with me when I messed up. It was this instructor that led me to my other discovery about ‘how to lead’ – that I must not be shy with my right hand and I must put a positive pressure on the follow’s back (and get over my ‘awkward engineer disease’). She told me this and then encouraged me to try it with her by her basically completely submitting and not pre-guessing what I was about to do, even though she was 100x times better than I was. She forced me to be the leader by trusting me, but in a kind way that encouraged me to rise to the occasion. She knew I wasn’t that good, I knew I wasn’t that good, but she trusted me anyway, and I learned about how to lead.
You may think that it’s only women who need know how to be a follow – but I realized while preparing this that there are lots of times when us men need to know how to be a good follow. As an example, I have not always been that good of a son to my parents – sometimes I would do what the swing dancing community calls ‘steal the lead’ because I didn’t think they knew what they were doing. My approach, though, was downright wrong. There is a right way, a special way, one that is subtle but direct that follows can use to empower their respective lead to rise to the occasion – no matter what sex the lead and follow are.
This reminded me of the dynamic that exists in marriage – that is further explored in Ephesians 5. I encourage you to read this chapter – as I’ll just quote it rather quickly. Ephesians 5:1 really sets the tone for the whole chapter by Paul writing ‘be imitators of God as dear children’ – which I immediately realized ‘imitator’ is another word for a follow. Through this chapter, Paul explains what being an imitator of God is, how he loved us, and how we should submit to one another in the fear of God. And that is when Paul goes further by explaining the dual submission of husband and wife. Eph 5:33 is the one I want to quote directly which sums up how the husband/wife relationship is meant to work.
Eph5:33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
This relationship is a two way road – the husband has responsibilities, the wife has responsibilities. It is not all up to the lead, there is vital part that follows play – and they can make a world of difference.
That is why I am thankful for good follows.
[Part 1: I’m Thankful for Good Leads]
[Part 3: I’m Thankful for the Music]