Monday, May 14, 2007

Lead Adjusting 101 - Physical

You see this all the time: A guy is dancing with this beautiful tall woman and every time he turns her, she ducks, because she's tired of getting hit in the head by leads who don't adjust. Or a stunning petite woman is dancing with a NBA-sized lead, and he is lifting her hand way above her head during the turns, so she looks like she's asking a question on each turn. In both cases, it's uncomfortable for the lady, and it doesn't look very sexy.

Guys, get a clue: It's our job to adjust to the ladies. If the tall female ducks when I spin her I actually tell her, "Hey... please don't adjust, it's my job to make you comfortable..." (I say it with a smile.) I do the same thing with very petite dancers; I adjust my lead to fit their build. Spin with her hand a couple inches above HER head. Who cares if you're taller or shorter?

If my partner is heavier, I avoid hammerlock moves as it's just not comfortable with larger partners. If I'm asleep at the wheel, I find myself doing one, realizing it's more difficult with this follow, then doing other things the rest of the dance.

Every woman has a different feel. Some have a feather touch, and a few grip like truck drivers. But regardless, I try to mirror their feel back to them, adjusting to be closer to theirs.

Women absolutely light up when they realize they can relax and let me lead, without compensating for my parents being shorter or taller than theirs. You want your partners to feel like you are the one guy who fits their style, so they can be themselves, without worrying about you being taller, shorter, lighter, heavier, etc.

The more you adjust to your partners, the more women will want to dance with you. Watch their face, feel how they hold your hand, and adjust. It’s amazing how a few simple alterations on your part can totally change their impression of your dancing.

It’s all about making your partner feel good. Make them comfortable and at ease, and they will seek you out on the next dance floor.

I learned to speak as I learned to skate or cycle: by doggedly making a fool of myself until I got used to it.
- George Bernard Shaw


  1. I am 5'9" flat-footed, which makes me about 6' in my salsa shoes. Yet I have a knack for attracting the shortest male dancers in a club! Some may assume that this is simply the equation of "tall woman + shorter man = opportunistic oogling". However, my experience has been, for the most part, that it takes a confident and skilled dancer to accommodate the size difference, and therefore I am usually treated to some of the best (and most polite) dances of the night in these situations.

    Don – Great blog! You are a true gentleman on the dance floor, and I love that you are spreading your mojo around for other dancers to absorb and learn from. Keep it up! I’m sending lots of friends here for good reading!!

    We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. -- Japanese Proverb

  2. Thanks for the kind words. I'm an on-going student of dance, teaching, and life. I feel like I'm just getting started in dance but my music experience gives me a different perspective.

    Hopefully we can help others enjoy salsa in less time than it took me.

    PS: Love your proverb!


I love feedback. Your thoughts, feelings and comments are appreciated. Civil disagreements and other points of view are always welcomed!

Feel free to send me private mail if appropriate.

Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero