From the Ballroom, comments by various dancers
On Leading And Following
"If you don't lead me," my sister announced, "I'm not going to move." Fifty years later I still remember her words. Since that time I have considerably enhanced most of the social ballroom dancing that I first learned from her, however two things that she emphasized have held up throughout the years . . . "IF YOU DON'T LEAD ME, I'M NOT GOING TO MOVE"! and "DON'T DANCE ME INTO THE FURNITURE"!
On How Followers Can Help Beginning LeadersBeginning men need a lot of help. And the best way their partners can help is to follow their lead, even if it's wrong, rather than "compensating" for a bad lead. This gives the leaders proper feedback. By feedback, I don't mean verbal criticism, but direct feedback in the sense of "I wonder what happens if I push this button?" If the leader doesn't lead or leads something other than what he's supposed to lead, the follower should not compensate and do the right thing despite his lead; she should do nothing, or whatever he did lead. This way he can clearly see which cause has which effect. If the follower compensates, she deprives the leader of this cause/effect feedback, and he'll never learn to lead properly. It's very dangerous to try to teach or offer unsolicited criticism. Unless you are the teacher, of course, in which case you know what's appropriate. If you simply follow whatever is led, you are not criticizing. The fundamental question here is how can dancers be most helpful to their partners? I believe the general consensus is by dancing impeccably, to the best of their ability, and for followers, that means following to the best of your ability. One of the most difficult problems with beginning followers, from Tango to Lindy Hop, is that they don't follow. They don't dance with their partners, but rather observe the instructors and others, while holding on to, but otherwise ignoring their partners. It's very difficult to lead someone whose body is all twisted while she tries to watch other people. Or her feet. Sometimes I've been asked for verbal cues by a beginning dancer. If she instead tried to follow exactly what I led to the best of her ability, I wouldn't have to compensate for errors that she might make and I could concentrate more on my own dancing.
On The Importance Of Dancing With Beginners
While there is no question that dancing with a better partner will make you look good, and that with such a partner you can concentrate more on styling details and so on because the lead and follow doesn't need so much attention, it is not the best way to practice lead/follow skills. If learning leaders only dance with accomplished followers and vice-versa, they won't develop great leading/following skills, because they won't need to. Now let's suppose that YOU are a great leader or follower. What happens if you dance only with other great dancers? Your lead and follow skills will gradually deteriorate -- because you're not working them very hard. After some months without exposure to beginners, you may be surprised to find that you can't dance with them very well, even though they seem to do okay with other beginners.
is a certain type of character (leader) that one
encounters again and again if one has been dancing for any length of
guy who only wants to dance with the best followers because he believes
are the only partners who can match his high skill level. Often what is
going on is that only the best followers can compensate for his
idiosyncrasies. They make him look good. But the guy continues to think
the tops because he insulates himself from feedback. Dancing with poor
average followers is a good reality check. If none but the best can
leads, I respectfully suggest your leads could use some work. Also,
of thinking ultimately harms your dancing. I've seen guys overestimate
ability and abandon the study of technique FAR too soon. Consequently
take them a lot longer to reach the next level of skill.
On The Way Dancing Is (mis)Taught
Most teachers teach dances rather than dancing, because it's easier. But the focus on steps in dance teaching may be the biggest single obstacle to the learning of dancing well. This is best summed up in the following quote: "Bad teachers taught me steps, great teachers taught me dancing." Learning the pattern of the week is not the key to success. Being able to lead that move in a club is much more important. For the lady, being able to follow a weak leader is the mark of a good dancer. A lot of people miss this very important basic concept in any partner dance: We need to teach women to follow their partner, NOT the exact foot placement instructions that this or that instructor says is the "right" way to do it. Teaching dancers lead/follow allows them to adapt to different styles easily. The dancer taught exact foot placement rather than following will end up being an elitist dance snob and be unable to dance with anyone who has learned in the different styles which DO exist and are taught in various parts of the country by very reputable instructors.
What some people like to marginalize as "styling" -- posture, balance, weight change, appropriate force, basic timing and footwork, dancing with the music and with your partner . . . these are the essentials of dancing. The rest is just so many patterns. If you wanted to learn a language, the infrastructure of culture and grammar would be essential. Any dictionary can supply any number of words. Anyone who thinks they can learn a foreign language by translating word for word with a dictionary would be as foolish as someone who wants to learn to dance by concentrating on step sequences.
that you're in this position on 1, here on 2,
like this on 3 . . . is only a crutch to get you to do the pattern.
quit trying to be EXACTLY in those places on EXACTLY those beats, and
viewing those instructions as static snapshots of the real goal:
MOVEMENT, your dancing will remarkably improve.
Leading and following is all done through that elusive thing called "connection." Professionals talk about making the three connections: with your partner, with the music, and with the floor. Connection is a magic that happens through the physical contact between two dancers and their common interpretation of the music that makes the two individuals dance as one unit. Eventually the leads get so subtle that it seems that just a thought carries the couple through a dance, in directions neither had thought of before. Magic? No, just something that we wish we could do on every dance. Being mortal we struggle with "centering" and "flashlights" and "anchoring" and "finger-tip leads" and "body leads" and all those things that we hear help to capture that magic that happens a once or twice each time we go dancing.
Have you ever been fortunate enough to dance with a real dancer?
Those magic moments and feelings of connection are a big part of why I dance. (Of course when I dance with women who are that good, I tend to focus on all my faults, which suddenly become very evident to me :-)
The trick to keeping a good connection has two parts. One is feeling that your hips/groins are pushing into the balls of your feet as you step. The other is feeling your lower shoulders/ribs connect with a) your arms and hands and b) your partners' spine.
I thought Robert Royston's WCS workshop was very good because: He used consistent terminology; "leverage" to mean a tension or pull connection, and "compression" to mean a push connection. He said that leverage should have a bungee-cord-like feeling -- elastic and springy; NOT like a rope (alternately taut or slack).
Develop resistance by falling against solid objects, breaking the fall with both hands being careful to not let the elbows go beyond the centerline of your body, and push yourself back to balance. You will quickly find the feel you like and that a Leader or Follower will appreciate.
On Arm Tone
tension is possibly the most important aspect to good dancing. Trying
the ideal balance between "tone" and "relaxation." It is
NOT an easy concept to integrate, even after one is consciously aware.
Something I think is helpful to get the proper feel in your arms is to
wall from a distance an inch or so farther than your extended arms'
Fall toward the refrigerator and PUSH yourself back to erect. If you
catch yourself soon enough or with enough tone, your nose will let you
you push too hard, your feet will let you know. If your arms are too
your shoulders and/or neck will let you know.
On Dance Frame
When taking a closed position hold you need to have balance and a stable frame. A good hold must allow each partner to stay balanced and not interfere with movement down the floor -- Leaders, don't hold the lady like you are a vise -- a good hold must have some toned flex/give to allow adjustment inside the hold. Especially in turns is it necessary for both partners to stay on their left side and not to interfere with their partner's movement. In a good hold every partner has his/her own territory. If you enter your partners territory you risk war (or at least crushed toes)!
Most dancers have gone through a spaghetti phase, followed by a stiff-as-a-board phase before realizing what the proper toned frame feels like. The dance frame is the foundation of your dancing -- "If the foundation is weak, the house will collapse" "Don't be a "busy body" -- a quiet body allows woman to distinguish leads and looks much better. A stable frame is important because it maximizes the couple's signal-to-noise ratio -- maximizes the amount of useful information that can be transmitted between their bodies. When the man leads, he prefaces all his steps with his momentum; for example, if he plans to step left on count 1, he puts his body weight a tiny bit leftward, a tiny fraction of a second before count 1. In this way, he tells the woman where to step next, so that she can step as much with him as possible. But if either of the partners has a soft, spaghetti-like frame, the man's momentum can't be transmitted to the woman because there's no conduit, no solid connection between their bodies, for the information to travel along. In other words, the connection between them is so noisy that the signal gets lost. Try this exercise: dancing either rumba or mambo, randomly switch between basics and cucarachas. Just before you switch, put your weight in the direction you're about to travel, almost enough to fall over. (No, in real dancing you don't put so much weight into it; this is just an illustration.) Can you see how your partner would feel that? That's what I'm talking about, only subtler. On the other hand, it's also bad to have *too* firm a frame because then you either can't lead properly or can't react properly and you will always be throwing yourself and your partner off balance because there is no give to it, and you'll look like a mechanical robot. For example, if your firm frame extends all the way down your torso, you'll have a very difficult time stepping outside partner, because you're trying to keep not only your shoulders but also your navels parallel. Kathryn Schaffer defines frame as "the minimum tone required to achieve position and maintain it."
How are you to lead or read a
lead without a good frame?
When a leader moves my hand, he isn't just moving my hand, but he is
of me. If we don't maintain a good frame, body leads won't work either.
On Force Level
The best dancers, regardless of style, teach LIGHTER leads! Simon Selmon and Steven Mitchell teach that the leads for Lindy are incredibly light; it's an illusion that the dancers are flinging each other around! (Mitchell would repeatedly yell out "Don't Pull!") To quote Robert Cordoba's maxim which he made us repeat several times: "Maximum results with minimum effort."
Many dancers have delicate/sensitive shoulders. They are perfectly capable of following most leads on their own, but dancing with a brute will cause them to ache for several days afterward (or, in the worst case, actually dislocate someone's shoulder -- this HAS happened). Guys, if you wonder what women talk about in the ladies room and other all-females environments, they frequently grouse about leads that are unnecessarily strong. Women consider a roomful of brutish leaders to be sheer hell.
Do not yank and crank, just INDICATE when leading. Minimum force is needed to indicate to a follower which direction to go or which figure to execute. This makes dancing MUCH more pleasurable, and also if a follower does not respond to a figure, picking another one is simple because the follower is not forced into an irreversible position. The follower is your partner in a mutually enjoyable activity, not a rag doll being tossed around. Also the follower can be active and do whatever syncopations/variations she feels like doing without being constrained by an aggressive leader who does not compensate and will not let the follower do her thing. Be forgiving leaders . . . if the follower is not responsive to the lead for a particular figure, just do a different figure, and show her the figure she missed after the dance. Do not force the follower into the figure. A poor leader will force her through the figure. A good leader will compensate.
It is very irritating to watch a couple dance where it looks like the man is pushing the lady around like a piece of furniture. Men, stop trying so hard! If the lady doesn't do what you want her to do she probably doesn't know how. Pushing her through it makes her feel uncomfortable and awkward and will end up giving you a case of bursitis. Remember men, if you were pushed what would your response be. Let me guess . . . PUSH BACK, right? Just think about that when your leading a lady next time. You don't look bad on the dance floor if you have a good lead and your partner doesn't follow -- you do look bad if you're throwing her around the dance floor in an attempt to "get her to do her part". Guide them there by using your body/frame and not your arms, and they generally will respond much better.It is surprising, with ALL the man has to do in couple dancing (lead, think of the next steps, avoid collisions, adjust to different partners, do his own steps, keep his frame, etc.) that he so often wants to do the lady's part for her as well by pushing her through it! Men, let the lady do her own dancing. Your job is to "open the door" for her and have fun. Some men, in response to this, say, "Yeah, but what if she's not doing her part?" These men need to ask themselves "Is she going to learn her part if you do it for her?"
On The Ballroom Look In WCS
When swing dancers talk about the "ballroom look" as something negative, (Buddy Schwimmer has a mannerism he uses to express some of his feelings about the latter aspect: extending an arm in the air, perhaps striking a body line, and say-singing "B Y U!") these are the kinds of things they mean:
Experienced WCS dancers keep the upper body straight, but the legs of the partners will form a "V" because they are leveraged. It's what some people call the "water skiing" look. On the anchor-step, experienced swing dancers will turn their torsos away from each other slightly, rather than squaring up to one another. Ballroom dancers without much swing experience tend to stand upright, so there is hardly any leverage between the partners.
Experienced swing dancers make their whips look sharp and linear (up and down the slot) whereas the typical ballroom dancer tends to have a more "rounded" look on whips (circling on a pivot point). This is most obvious on the continuous whip (aka "shuttle"). It's supposed to look like a series of whips, with a clean "freeze" at the end of each two counts, and with the man and woman moving toward and away from each other as well as around. Altogether too many folks slur this to the point where it just looks like two people walking around each other holding hands.
Experienced swing dancers tend to keep the elbows bent. The extended, long arms of ballroom-style Latin & international "jive" don't work for "street" swing & Latin. Dancing with ballroom trained WCS dancers can feel rather stilted since they keep emphasizing long, graceful lines rather than the "down and dirty" WCS style.
As done in the Swing community the end of patterns typically use an "anchor step" and not a "coaster step." The follower is discouraged from moving forward under her own power at the end of the pattern. Instead, she hangs out until the guy remembers to lead.
Yet another distinction between the communities is in leverage and being grounded; the typical ballroom West Coast dancers are more "up", tending to stay too high, while in the swing community they dance low; more "into the floor." Similarly, in the ballroom circles there is little leverage while in the swing circles many dancers strive for leverage and connection that appears to be more "heavy."Ballroom dancers tend to dance through the breaks in the music. Their syncopations tend to be just fancy steps, not interpretations of the music. They sometimes don't appear to notice swing rhythms and dance all their steps with straight eighths, regardless of what the music is doing.
On Balance And Your Head Position
The human head has significant mass, as well as being at the very top of the body and very easy to throw around. If you're trying to control your balance to within a centimeter or less, as top dancers do, then throwing a heavy weight (head) around, out of sync with what you're trying to do with the entire step is quite detrimental.
Most of the head's mass is in front of the axis of the neck. If you leave your head looking straight forward, then most of the head's weight will be forward of your body's center of gravity. That leads to counter balancing the head weight by sticking out one's butt or leaning on one's partner, neither of which is considered good dance form. If you put your head slightly to one side, then the head weight will be more over on foot and therefore less likely to require body or frame distortions to counter-balance the head weight.Try the following exercise with your partner: You and your partner must each take closed dance position, bodies against each other, with the arms out and somewhat forward to maintain a convex back (keeping the spine as the most posterior portion of the anatomy). Then try to lead her. By holding the arms out and slightly forward and up but not touching each other, it is possible to practice movement w/o relying on the arms AND maintain proper frame. It should work for a waltz, if you are *really* good, you can lead a Viennese waltz. You'll immediately feel how important the balance of the couple is. Yes, you will feel, when your partner moves her head! (Note: For proper movement and frame, you must maintain a 'forward poise'.)
Some Specific Types of Turns
Take a step, heel-flat-ball, and once all your weight is on that foot, rotate on it. Feet never close. Keep other foot in extended 5th position - CBMP - throughout with knees and thighs together, hips under, shoulders down.
Traveling pivots are 1/2 turns on each step. Travel on one line. On backward half of pivot, don't drop onto heel -- stay on the ball of the foot. Practice traveling pivots in 5th position, CBMP. On the last pivot, land in 3rd position with back knee bent.
In the ballroom world a "pivot" is defined as being made on one foot -- the man's BACK foot -- with the other foot held in CBMP. It is a stronger turn than the normal natural and reverse turns. Stronger CBM is used and the stronger rotation results in the pivot being made with less progression and without rise. The Waltz "natural spin turn" consists of steps 1-3 of a natural turn, a pivot for the man on step 4 (lady has a pivoting action) and a spin on steps 5 and 6.
Pivoting around a "pivot point:" a pivot point is a foot that could be nailed to the floor and you could still complete that turn. For example, consider a spot turn to your right in (say, int'l) rumba. On count 4-1, you place your right foot to your right side. Now, drive a railroad spike through your foot (ouch!), but not so deeply that you can't lift the foot a little bit up and down. Notice that you can *still* complete the turn, despite the screaming (8-). The foot you nailed to the floor is the pivot foot, that is, you pivot around that foot.
First wind up and swing inside arm without letting the elbow go behind you, then swing outside arm and leg together. For 1 foot spins, draw free foot in, point toe, come out in 3rd position.
In the ballroom world a "spin" is made on the man's forward foot. The spin is made on the ball of one foot while the other foot is kept sideways until weight is placed on it. You turn about your own axis with no sway. A spin turn is a two step turn.
It is a stronger turn than the normal natural and reverse turns. Stronger CBM is used and the stronger rotation results in the pivot being made with less progression and without rise. The Waltz "natural spin turn" consists of steps 1-3 of a natural turn, a pivot for the man on step 4 (lady has a pivoting action) and a spin on steps 5 and 6.
(sheh-NAY) -- A spin done on 2 feet, 2 steps -- close ankles tightly. Traveling chaine's are: step onto your left foot, do a full turn with your weight remaining on your left foot, then step onto your right foot. The entire turn is done on one foot. forward, together, forward, together. (Feet close on the "together.")
Both Chaines and Pivots will give 1 full turn in two steps. The pivot will visually be very smooth. The chaine turns will have a snappy look.
SPIRAL - end up with legs crossed, supporting leg behind. Used by women for a 2nd turn on the S S in Country 2-step.
A turn executed on the ball of the supporting foot, executed on one foot, in one spot.
In a paddle turn to the Left, your R foot "paddles" -- pushes or rotates you around your supporting (Left) leg. A paddle turn to the left would be three steps LRL. Pushing off the R foot, turn 180 degrees on the spot as you step on the L. You should stand straight, and keep your nose, shoulders, hips, and L toe all pointing the same direction (i.e. don't twist or lean). Do not rise up on the ball of your L foot. In fact, you can bend the knees slightly to get better balance. Next, bring the R foot around and close it to the L. Then repeat the 180 turn, pushing off the R and stepping onto the L.
It is good to practice as 3 separate steps, stopping in-between to make sure you have the right amount of turn, alignment, and balance. Then gradually blend the three steps together into a continuous 5&6 or QQQ, turning slowly at first, then turning faster. If you start to wobble, slow down and/or try again later. Don't let your feet get too far apart during the paddle turn. Whether you start with the paddle turn or try spins early on, keep those feet close together! At first, you can step on a flat foot, i.e., toe and heel, then move to the ball of your foot to make the turning easier. Eventually, you'll be able to increase the turn per step and double spin on a 5&6& count.
You can hook one foot behind the other and spin. You can either leave both feet in place or bring the foot you hooked behind with around to do another on the next two beats. These are the ones James Brown does and it's easy to stay in place with these. Spinning on one foot usually makes it easier to stay in one place too. To do a hook turn to the R from weight on the L foot, first, place your R foot hooked behind and to the side of your L, and put half your weight on the R. Next, untwist your feet, turning 180 degrees to the R, keeping your L aligned with your hips, shoulders, and nose (i.e. don't twist or lean). You should end up with all weight on your L. You can then continue turning with a RLR paddle turn, or 1/2 paddle turn RL.
On Pre-leads And Prep-leads
A pre-lead is a small lead in the direction you want her to turn. The follower's momentum is going in the same direction in both the pre lead and during the turn. This gives a smooth look and feel. A two-step example is the Lady's Outside Turn from standard closed position where the follower is turned slightly in the counter clockwise direction on the 2nd slow before doing the clockwise turn on quick-quick. The lead is initiated by the leader going into a contra-body position and is similar to the lead for going into promenade. This type of lead is used a lot in ballroom and is the one taught by Tony & Yvonne Gutsch in two-step.
A prep-lead is a small lead in the opposite direction of the turn that you will lead. They involve a wind-up immediately prior to a figure, turn, or pattern. A prep is a "tuck" type feeling that keeps the frame closed and uses the compression of the tuck to signal the turn. It's got a snappy look. It starts the follower's momentum going in one direction, stops it, and then starts it in the other direction. A two-step example is the Lady's Outside Turn from standard closed position where the follower is turned slightly in the clockwise direction on the 2nd slow before doing the clockwise turn on quick-quick.
The result is the prep-lead is VERY visible to observers while the pre-lead is almost invisible. There are the equivalents of preps or pre-leads in smooth dances like waltz and foxtrot. They're usually very subtle and hidden in things like "CBM" and "change of sway". In a lot of partner dances and dance pattern amalgamations, this prep or wind-up seems to be an integral of the previous step. It's a form of communication telling the lady to be set on her standing leg and snug in the man's frame for the start of a turning figure.
You seldom see ballroom dancers using a closed-frame prep in a waltz or foxtrot. This is part of the smooth character of these dances. If you watch the CW folks you see closed-frame preps all over the place in two-step and even waltz.
Rhythm dances like swing or Latin usually use two beats to execute a tuck-turn prep. The compression part of a tuck turn is an integral part of these dances. The compression stores energy that can be released for speed. (If I push real HARD, I can go real FAST :)
Most experts classify CW two-step as a 'smooth' dance. Others classify it as a traveling swing dance. (Single rhythm swing.) Preps in CW2S are OK, but they aren't necessary. I try to do without them, especially when I'm social dancing. Personally, I'd never do a prep into an outside turn in 2-step because I wouldn't lead a ladies outside turn from a basic. I would lead it from a closed turn or something else; it flows better that way. Preps are sharp and powerful for competition dancing, but too many of them make you look jerky. Since much of the change in CW dancing in the last decade came from the competitors, preps have become an standard part of CW dancing. (Not all of the changes to CW dancing are beneficial.)
In 2-step, the turns are usually never going to be faster than one turn per quick-quick. Exceptions are choreographed and not used socially by most dancers. So there is no need for a tuck to give her something to bounce off of for a double turn. Also, 2-step should generally flow and not have severe directional changes except maybe to hit accents in the music. If you start her turning, you let her turn.
After doing a few basics I think there is a tendency to start to relax and enjoy the ride only to miss the cue to start doing stuff again, especially if that cue is dependent on a very good frame. Preps in CW2S are also a way of getting the follower's attention by using compression so that the tension part of the lead will be followed. Beginners may not follow the prep and since the 'expert' always has a good frame, the prep isn't necessary. Overall, I believe that beginners and expert followers would prefer pre-leads in CW2S. They are unambiguous to the beginners and expert followers don't need preps to execute smooth turns. But many followers become trained to expect preps; and many leaders are trained to execute preps. That doesn't make it right. If you took an expert smooth-dance follower out for a CW2S and executed a closed frame tuck, the result might be comical.In open-frame two step, I use preps to begin doubles & triples & that sort of thing, and this might not be correct but it looks and FEELS good. (It is usually a two-count prep at the BEGINNING of the last slow, that places her foot and center where I want it.)
How To Lead An American Spin In East Coast Swing
This is a tuck-style spin done on the third step of the first triple-step. You can also both spin (man to his left, lady to her right). The lead is to draw her in at the beginning of the first triple, and she should feel a slight wind-up to her left. This wind-up should place your hand near your navel. That way, you won't be torqued left or right when she pushes off of you. She should feel you brace your leading arm (I like to tuck my elbow into my side for an instant to help brace the arm. Think "brace", but understand that you don't become stiff as a board, and there is some limited followthru.) She must then take her weight change step onto her right foot. Here is the important thing -- she must commit some of her body weight forward to you. You will feel a building compression and then a releasing compression as *SHE* pushes off of *YOU* ! As a man, you are only pushing back as hard as she pushes on you. Never think of pushing her -- make her think she is pushing against a wall. Push lightly and the wall pushes back lightly; push hard and it pushes back hard. This is where the leader must really "follow" her level of connection as it changes.
The woman must commit weight to you because her push does 2 things:
Torque (1) is what she desires, and (2) is what she must deal with to stay balanced. By committing her weight forward before pushing off, torque (2) stands her back up straight instead of toppling her over. Of course, the better she is, the less weight is committed, the less wind-up is required, the later you can brace and still have her read the lead, etc.
It's easy for the man to get the timing wrong so the lady can't feel the prep at the critical point in her step. When not dancing we practice a push/pull exercise where we come in (compress on to the lead hand) and push out. This exercise helps get the feeling for the correct timing. The lead has to come just *before* she finishes the triple, because once she's placed the third step without anticipating the spin, it's hard for her to do a good spin. Keep your arm firm, because she needs to push off of you. If you're giving your lead down at waist level, she *can't* turn the wrong way. She can fail to turn, but if she's *able* to turn the wrong way, then your lead isn't right.
To lead an American Spin, one rotates ('tucks') her to her left during the preceding triple, then braces so she can push off of the man's leading hand with her right. Obviously, this doesn't work with ladies who don't know the step, since they won't know to push off. Beginners with one step under their belt can't be expected to follow it, and you shouldn't try. When I dance with beginners, I sort-of 'test' for the American spin reaction by leading an underarm turn and adding a bit of tuck. Beginners just follow the underarm turn and fail to compress or tuck. OK, we just stick to basic steps. Since I still have hand contact the lead doesn't falter. More advanced dancers follow the (overhand) tuck just like an American Spin. Then I know I can use Tuck style moves.
You can't just push the lady with the left hand because this will tend to push her backwards, when you really want her to stay in place and spin. However, there is a way to refine this lead so that ladies who don't know the figure can still follow it. It requires a two hand hold though.
As you tuck the lady, drop *both* hands to just below waist level. Your left hand will now be holding the lady's right hand in front of a point about two inches below your belly button, and your right hand will be on the top of the lady's left hip. You now rotate the lady to her right, into the spin, primarily by pulling with your *right* hand. Your left hand helps with the rotation, primarily by providing resistance so the lady isn't pulled into you, but also pushing gently away from you, following the lady's rotation. This method results in a much smoother action than the 'resistance only' method.
Note that the right hand must be on the hip, not the waist. Two reasons: first, the hip is farther from the lady's center of rotation, so you can provide the required torque with a gentler pull; second, the rigidity of the hip bone helps prevent your pull from having inadvertent side effects, like pulling just the lady's waist towards you.
Also, it really helps if the man moves a little so the woman has to turn less than a full 360 degrees. In fact it is the man's duty to move enough that both partners end up right after the woman turns. This is an example of one of the most basic principles of good leading: Lead her, then follow what she does.
This bears repeating. Leading is following. A good leader has to compensate for his partner. Maintaining the balance point and connection is more important than where any individual ends up, in social dancing. This means the leader provides the lead, then waits to see what the follower does to that lead. Then the leader adjusts his leading so leader and follower remain in sync. In some dances you can go one step further and compensate for the follower as she does her spin. In hustle or ECS you can just rotate or move the slot around to match wherever the follower ends up. I've helped build the confidence of a few ladies who didn't think they could do "double" spins in hustle, by moving around them so that however much they actually spun, we ended up in the right position for the next pattern and in time to the music.
Overdone preps confuse the lady and are not desirable. If she responds to the tuck by throwing herself into a spin, she was over-led, or she is over-reacting. It's most likely the former. My two-step instructor teaches a "prep lead." It's NOT supposed to be very visible, because it's not supposed to be a frame rotation. It's supposed to be a signal. When doing a tuck turn in ECS, the man stops the lady with his hand and they build pressure against each other, palm-to-palm (or thereabouts). A follower writes about how this feels when done incorrectly "When I have experienced the prep-lead, there was no build-up of pressure on the hand through a palm-to-palm type of connection, there was just another direction change. As it was, it felt like a lead for a single inside turn, the guy changing his mind then the lead for a single outside turn."
For ECS beginner followers, I can easily see where avoiding the tuck-turn could be helpful because a beginner follower is more likely not to provide enough resistance with her right arm. Of course, opening out may be difficult too, but at least it's pretty easy to recover from.A tuck lead can be used from one hand contact or where speed is desired (double turns in a fast swing). Basically, during the previous step the man rotates (a little) in one direction and then stops. When the man stops the lady can use pressure on the man's hand to stop and reverse herself. This pressure can then be used for very fast turns and spins. Since the pressure is developed from an early stop rather than a late shove, it's much more comfortable for the lady. This only works if the lady is connected with her hand. If she's just chasing her hand around, she'll never feel the pressure and won't be able to catch up with the change of direction or rotation fast enough.
On Teaching On The Dance Floor
Do not teach on the dance floor. Men, it a breach of social dancing etiquette to presume that just because you lead, you know more. Ladies, do not presume to critique a guy's lead/style/interpretation of the music or judgment. This is social dancing, not practice. If and only if, the lady (or gentleman) requests it, an area off the floor may be used to talk the lady through the step. If you can't talk her through it, you don't understand it well enough to teach it!
If you are the type that is open to criticism, ask other dancers to help you with your dancing. Perhaps they see or feel something that you do not. It is okay to talk during a dance and you might learn something valuable at the same time other than where the person is from. There are some people who have no plans of ever taking lessons. These people depend on sensitively made suggestions, informal intermission time lessons, and experience to become better dancers.
Dance is a marvelous from of social interaction. It can make you many friends -- or it can isolate you from the very people you would like to know. Here are some rules of the dance floor:
Dancing is a social activity and therefore etiquette overrides EVERY OTHER consideration. Classes and practice sessions are one thing, dancing in public is another. We all know people who practice comp routines in public or do a samba lesson right on the dance floor while the band is playing a waltz. This is rude and offensive to other dancers in the venue. More topical is the question of being rude to our partners. I know some people who can't STOP teaching. I don't know why they do it but it is annoying to many followers (Or what about the followers who can't stop back-leading or offering suggestions?) Remember that there are many people out there who are not obsessed about dance. They just like to spend a few hours every now and then moving to music, having fun. They don't care about correct steps or proper technique or line of dance or whatever. You must first consider who you are dancing with, what their abilities and preferences are.
No matter how well or how badly I dance, my mission out on the dance floor with a lady who has consented to dance with me is to provide her with enjoyment from our brief dance encounter. That objective should be mutual. If you have any other mission out on the dance floor in a social dance situation, review your motives. You are not out there to prove how wonderful you are, how marvelous you look or how much better you are than your partner. In a social dance situation you are dancing with and for your partner. There is a time and place for learning and it is not in the middle of a social dance floor during a social dance, even if it is requested! Refrain from doing it. Consider it as being rude. Very rude. If your new partner's dancing is not suitable to you it is necessary that you prevail through to the end of the dance and say, "Thank you!" It is not your obligation to give her (him) a critique of their dancing ability from the dance you just experienced, no matter how bad you might feel it was.
Competitions training, seminars, mutual help sessions where everyone is there for the sole purpose of learning or improving are quite another case. It is understood that in those identifiable learning situations you are invited to offer gentle and constructive criticism to your partner. If you are not capable of this sort of tender, gentle, & constructive criticism, let others who are better equipped handle it.Remember that dancing should be fun. Don't sweat it if you "Flub and mess up a pattern." Do what you can, and enjoy what you do. Agree with your partner, in advance, that you'll put fun first. Don't make an issue of each other's errors; those made at the ballroom are cues for what to practice later.
Extracted with permission from a dance compilation by multiple authors collected at www.eijkhout.net/lead_follow/. Copyright 1996/7/8/9 lies with the compiler, the maintainer, and the contributors of various parts.