Leading = Timing + Tension

One of the other big pieces of feedback I got from my lesson with Laura Glaess (!!) was that I should let my arms come in farther and closing to me when I dance, especially when receiving a lead. I had never heard this feedback before and was honestly kind of confused by it, even after the lesson was over. But after trying it out in my practice more, I think I now fully understand what she meant and the power behind it.

A lead, simply put, amounts to a degree & direction of tension combined with a timing of release. The lead, for example, could pull me forward with baseline tension on beat 1, direct me rotationally with high tension on be 3, etc. Higher tension generally adds energy, which means I'll move faster. It can create cool, snappy moves and quick turns. But - and here's the kicker - so can the timing . For example, my dance parter can determine whether I triple step turn or basic turn based on when he releases my hand and "finishes" the lead. He doesn't necessarily need to add more tension because we're not trying to make anything happen faster, we're just making it happen with a different rhythm.

What Laura was getting at, I believe, is two things that basically prevent this sort of lead from happening:

  1. I tend to release my hand from my lead's too early. This means I can't take in finer, more subtle timings. For example, I could easily know if the lead was happening on beat 4 or 5, but have a hard time determining if the lead was happening on the and of 4.
  2. I tend to keep my arms farther away from my body that is needed, which actually conceals my steps from my leader. This means they are unable to properly time the lead because I'm not fully disclosing where my body is at.

This is taking some time to iron out, but it too is helping a lot. My partner and I are now able to distinguish more subtle turns and variations and, importantly, they feel effortless when we get it right because they flow right along with the rhythm.