Ballroom Dance Follower? Here’s How to Do It Right

When they’re out ballroom dancing, ladies want to follow you, they really do. The thing is, in today’s world women have many responsibilities. They run businesses and raise families. And, they’re used to taking the lead. However, when it comes to dancing, it’s a very different world. If she says she’d like to go dancing, her partner might say, “Okay, but how about you let me lead for a change?” To which she’ll probably reply, “You know I’m working on it. Do you have any idea how hard it is for a lady to learn to be a ballroom dance follower?”

Ballroom dancing requires teamwork.

I’ve often heard women say, “I can follow anyone as long as they have a strong lead.”  Wait a minute. You want the leader to pull you around?

A leader is shocked that his ballroom dance follower wants him to pull her around the dance floor.
What? I don’t think so. That’s not gonna work for me!

He’s right, that’s not gonna work. After all, this is a partnership with everyone doing their share. To learn more about the leader’s perspective, please read this Dance Safari post, “Ballroom Dancing Basics: 10 Characteristics of a Good Leader“.

What makes a good ballroom dance follower?  

Let’s discuss who goes first? Of course, that would be the leader. Actually, the follower will be a split second behind the leader. That’s why it’s called following.

A good ballroom dance follower doesn’t necessarily know tons of steps, but she pays attention to her partner’s signals. In addition, she has good posture, a firm frame, a strong core, and knowledge of the dance positions. She holds herself up and doesn’t hang on her partner. For these reasons, she’s a pleasure to dance with.

We see a couple using good leading and following techniques.  Note the ballroom  dance follower's lovely frame.
Good dance posture and a firm frame make partner dancing easier.

The truth is, the best way to become a sought-after partner is to respect the leader. That means, don’t try to guess what’s coming up. Wait for the leader to make his move and then follow.

Here’s a cute blog post about one girl’s efforts to learn how to follow, “How I Learned to Swing Dance (Sort of) at Friday Flights“.

The best things about being a good follower…

  • Good dancers will want to dance with you.
  • You can dance with bad dancers and still have fun.
  • You don’t have any decisions to make as far as the steps being danced.
  • Floorcraft is how you maneuver safely and efficiently around the dance floor. It is the responsibility of the leader.
  • You’ll never have to sit out a dance unless you want to!

What about practicing?

To begin with, if you want to be a good ballroom dance follower, you’ll need a leader to practice with.

As you practice with your partner, close your eyes. With them closed, you’ll become more aware of your partner’s moves. Not only that but it stops you from anticipating, which is a big no-no in partner dancing.

Another way to practice would be to face your partner with your hands extended at your chest level, palms facing out. Your practice partner will meet your hands as you both exert pressure towards each other with toned arms. Do this without letting your elbows go behind your sides. At this point you’re ready to follow the leader’s movements going back, forward, left and right.

It’s important to keep your steps a comfortable size. If you do, then even if you’re being led to do things you’re unfamiliar with, you’ll be able to follow. Simply follow the rhythm and keep your feet under your body.

If you’re not getting enough dances, it may be that you need to improve your following. It’s for sure this is one area where you don’t want to be the boss.

line dancing and ballroom dancing


  1. Interesting perspective here. I love to dance & many moons ago I actually had a partner. We would get the crowd hyped up to join us on the dance floor, but never did I even consider letting him take the lead. Possibly why I’m single, lol. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Have to tell you, Barbara. The man has to learn to follow too! I’m thinking of the Slow Fox and the continuous reverse wave for starters.
    We love to do this particular step. However, my man had a heck of a time allowing me to lead. He does, but it didn’t come easily!
    Even when we are doing a slow rhythm K will ‘put me in charge’ – I’ve come to appreciate he enjoys ‘switching off’ and letting me take the lead as he backs line of dance. As one of our teachers advised. “Whoever is backing line of dance must follow.” It makes for a real partnership that way. Naturally, this takes knowing your partner well, and lots of practice!

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