Imagine being back in grade school. Two kids have been assigned by your teacher as team captains for softball or some other game. They are told to choose their teams. You hear Tim, Cindy, Johnny, Carla, Joe and every name but yours. Imagine being the last one chosen. That’s what it can feel like in social dancing as a follow. There are almost always way more follows than leads at dances. You can sit out for many dances before being asked. When I started dancing I thought if you are not asked you wait. It can lead to self doubt, was I not chosen because I’m not good enough? Follows can ask leads to dance, however not all do. I will ask a lead to dance if I know them. I won’t ask a stranger to dance unless I’m fairly sure of the dance and steps and not stepping on their feet. Many of us follows sit sadly sidelined as we watch others dance the night away. One time at a Cajun dance years ago there were way more leads than follows. I had two leads (I did not know) cross the floor and ask me to dance at the same time. It was a great dance moment.
I’m sure it is the same for the leads. I see the look of utter rejection on the faces of leads who are turned down, especially if the follow dances with someone else for that dance. Imagine you are team captain and the kid you chose turns you down. I will often ask a lead to dance if I see them just turned down by a follow. It takes bravery to ask someone you don’t know to dance. Also there are dancers who won’t dance with those below their technical level. They will rarely ask someone they don’t know to dance. I will dance with anyone who is respectful. There are rules of dance etiquette. One rule is you should dance to the level of your partner. This means a higher level dancer should dance at a beginning level if they are dancing with a beginner.
So are there other choices? A follow could lead and ask another follow to dance. Many teachers encourage this to improve dance skills. By leading we learn to be a better follow too. I find it helps with empathy for the complicated role as a lead. Being a follow is complicated too though. It is why social dancing is one of the best ways to improve brain health. A follower needs to keep time to the music with dance steps, be aware of space and frame and instantly react to prompts from the lead. In some dances where the lead goes backwards we as follows might also need to keep awareness of other couples to avoid collisions. That will keep the neurons firing in new ways!
One of the college course writing courses I recently took promoted the value of observation. It taught us to be a better writer you need to read excellent writers. I know it is the same in dance. Now when not chosen, I choose to be active rather than passively wait for the next dance. I enjoy watching the really good dancers to learn to be a better dancer. I can pick up some knew styling ideas and techniques. The time also goes more quickly than just being on “the bench.”
Finally another choice, there are people, leads and follows who dance alone at a social dance. I have to admit at first I was taken back by the site of them navigating alone amongst the paired up people. Definitely those who marched to a different drummer, I thought. I now admire them. They stand out in their individuality. After over a year of not social dancing due to wanting to stay safe, I thought back on all the years of dances I sat out. Especially hearing the awesome swing beat of Benny Goodman’s In the Mood and feeling I was being tortured as I was not on the floor with a lead. I’ve never seen any dance etiquette rule about dancing alone as long as you don’t interfere with the line of dance or other couples.
There are other ways I’ve chosen to be active rather than waiting. I bought my first house in my twenties. I asked a roommate my age if she every considered buying. She said no I’m waiting for a husband to buy me a house. She is still single and living in an apartment. I don’t feel safe flying so I’m using the time to research vacations for one I’m ready to brave a flight. I’m also looking at a road trip this winter. When the Rec Center and Lifetime shut down I took advantage of the free college courses offered to those who lost income due to the virus. Are there any ways you have moved out of a passive waiting mode to taking some positive action? Let me know.