The Lindy Hop community has been having a "spirited discussion" about an essay written by a UK dancer called "Ten Reasons Why Men Lead and Women Follow." You can see much of the debate over on the Yehoodi.com forums.
The issue got me thinking about why more men don't follow in this dance, or any other social dance that I know of (outside of gay-oriented dances and clubs.) I personally love to follow, even though I am totally pathetic at it. Mostly I follow when dancing with my friend Voon, one of the best "ambidancestrous" dancers that I know. But in general I find following a quite different and pleasurable kind of experience than leading, which I wish more guys knew about.
So in that spirit, here are my "Seven Reasons Why Men Should Follow in Social Dancing":
1. It will make you a better leader. This is important. As a beginner leader, you can learn all sorts of bad habits that are hard to correct. If you start out learning how to both lead and follow, you will never "stir the pot" or yank a follower's arm once you have had that done to you.
2. It will make you a better dancer in general. Like all things, after awhile you get into patterns and comfortable positions when dancing. Dancing the opposition role goes against your muscle memory and forces you to re-learn a step from a different perspective. This helps keep you nimble and intentional with your movement, instead of stiff and formal.
3. It will make you a better teacher. Being able to show a follow how to do a move with your own body and from your own experience is so much better than imagining what following might be like.
4. You will more attention on the dancefloor. How many times have you watched a crowded dancefloor and then seen two guys dancing together and couldn't stop watching them? Or a guy following a gal? When done even moderately well, it's really eye-catching because it goes against what you expect to see. That's one of the reasons why this video of Max and Thomas dancing together is so popular.
I'm sure I've missed a few reasons. But hopefully I have made a sufficiently strong case that men should consider learning to follow as well as to lead. A word of warning: you might prefer it!
UPDATE 4/2/11: Sarah Carney created this sweet compilation of video clips of men following and women leading.