FOLLOWS: TEN TIPS TO GET LEADS TO ASK YOU TO DANCE

A while ago, I wrote an article entitled, The Top 10 Worst Things Leaders Do on the Social Dance Floor. This attracted lots of comments and discussion, which was great. Some follows asked for a similar article about the worst things follows do on the dance floor. However, as a lead, I’ve never experienced anything nearly as bad as what the follows have reported to me about the leaders!

I felt that perhaps a different type of story for the follows could be helpful, mainly how to get more leaders to ask you to dance. Many of these are things are probably obvious to experienced dancers, but I list them anyway for the benefit of the beginners.

Also, these are my personal opinions, and I’d love to hear your ideas.. I am sure I missed something!

1. Dress vintage

It is hard to resist asking a woman who is all dolled up in 30’s, 40’s or 50’s vintage clothing, with vintage hair and makeup,to dance. L.A. is big on authentic vintage attire compared to other parts of the country, making it doubly important. Finding vintage clothing is a little difficult, but it can pay off big time.

There is a group that does a great job of this: the Rockabilly crowd. They tend to be immersed in the vintage lifestyle and really dress up for events. Many of them can’t do Lindy or Balboa to save their lives, but I love dancing with them anyway because they look so damn good all dressed up! Just my personal opinion of course.

2. Wear the right shoes

When I see a follow for the first time and want to know if she can dance, I look at her shoes.  Very high heels or sandals means she is probably not a swing dancer, and I wouldn’t ask her to dance.  Get flats or shoes with a low heel (some heel for Balboa is fine).  Many follows get white Keds and have chrome leather put on the soles by a shoe repair place for $20-$30. Here’s more advice on shoes for Swing dancing.

3. Smile

Would you ask someone who is frowning and in a sour mood to dance?  No one likes getting turned down, and someone who is not smiling is sending an “I don’t want to dance with you and I might turn you down” message to the world. Smile and be welcoming while you’re waiting for someone to ask you. This is really really important!

When you do dance, show that you’re having fun. The best compliment I can get from a follow is that she had fun dancing with me.

If you are a very advanced dancer, you might actually be kind of intimidating to some guys. Try to have fun regardless of the skill level of your partner.

4. Take lessons and get good

If you are a great dancer, you could be wearing sweats and and old T-shirt and everyone will still want to dance with you.  Take classes and workshops if you want to improve.  As an added bonus, leads from your class will know you and will want to practice moves with you.

Good followers who know how to add styling to the same old moves I do over and over are really fun to dance with!

The one caveat to this is that if you are an instructor or just a really good dancer, you could be intimidating to some guys. Just be gracious to all who ask you to dance.

5. Show up early

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that there are usually a whole lot of extra leads and not enough follows at the beginning of the night. I’ve seen this at Clifton’s, Joe’s Bar, and other places. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because it takes longer for women to get ready, so they make it out later. Or, they’re late on purpose because they don’t want to be standing around before the rest of the dancers show up. Arrive early when there are more leaders than follows!

6. Stand near the dance floor with that “I-wish-someone-would-ask-me-look”

Yes, I know it is awkward, but nothing comes without some sacrifice. Remember, the leads have to take the risk of being turned down when they ask you. Stand near the dance floor and move to the music a little. Be open and approachable.

If you’re far from the floor and in deep conversation with your friends, don’t complain if no one asks you to dance.

7. Ask leaders to dance

Sometimes leads might not notice you or not know that you are a good dancer, especially if you are new in town or don’t know anyone yet. It’s perfectly fine to ask a guy to dance. 

8. Go to popular venues when not-so-popular bands are playing

Namely, go to the places I mention in the article, The Most Reliable Swing Dance Venues, where lots of dancers are likely to show up. Pick your favorite venues and show up regularly so people will get to know you. Don’t give up after just one night.

My original advice was to go where the popular bands are. However, I’m going to amend that advice a bit. I’ve noticed that when the top-notch bands (like the California Feetwarmers, Jonathan Stout, etc.) the crowd tends to have more follows than leads. When less popular bands play, there are fewer dancers but the mix is more likely to be equal or even lead-heavy.

I was at Clifton’s not long ago when a less-well-known band was playing. There were six or seven leads there and two follows!

9. Dress up

If you don’t have any vintage clothing, don’t worry.  Just dress nicely and you’ll do fine.  Guys  appreciate when you make an effort to look good, and will definitely be more likely to ask you to dance.

10. Be careful when turning someone down

If you have to turn someone down that you want to dance with (for whatever reason), be very careful and diplomatic about it. Seek them out later. The lead might interpret your rejection as indication that you don’t want to dance with them. Many leads won’t ask again after being turned down (at least, the ones in high demand won’t).

Of course, another problem might be how to get certain leads to stop asking you to dance, but let’s leave that for another time. 🙂

Leaders, any other ideas? Disagree? Leaders and followers, please comment below. – Brian


  • Sarah Kavarnos

    I’m from the East Coast!! I’d love to know how to get certain guys to stop asking me to dance. Almost every guy is cool to dance with but there is one guy who gives me the creeps and as a high school girl, I have to be careful about the guys that make me uncomfortable. Especially when they are over 30.

  • Kath

    Hi from Luxembourg !
    I would like to know where and when I could come to California for a lindy hop workshop. And if I need to come with a leader or if, as follower, I could take part to a workshop on my own.
    Cheers
    kath

    • Hi Kath,

      Welcome to California! There are classes and workshops going on all of the time. Most of the time, you don’t need a partner. Here are some links to check:
      http://swingdance.la/lessons/

      Best wishes,
      Brian

  • Don

    Smiling is enough for me to ask girls for a dance.

  • Pamela

    I think one of these rules should be “Be skinny”, because no one ever asks heavier follows to dance.

    • The young pretty ones always dance, even if they can’t. Sad but true. So, heavy follows, stop sitting around with frowns and start asking leads to dance. The only way many of you are going to get your dance on is to drop the ultra-fem thing and go get what you want.

    • Anonymous

      Follows, please, dont be skinny. I will never ask you for a dance. I prefer chubby girls.

      • Doug Kihn

        I love dancing with a heavy-set woman who can dance, because dancing is the thing, doncha know.
        PS- I know two lean good-looking guys with well-paying jobs who ONLY date obese women. The heavier, the better, for them at least.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t forget girls that wear sandals, I hesitate asking them. But sometimes I do ask them just to be nice to the new comer.

  • I’ve been swing dancing for 16 years, and here’s my take on this subject:
    If a woman is standing on the sidelines smiling and rocking to the music, she is my first choice, regardless of skill level, beauty, or clothing.
    If a woman doesn’t smile while dancing with me, I will never ask her again, regardless of skill level or anything else.
    If a woman turns me down and doesn’t ask me later to dance, I will never ask her again.
    If a woman is in conversation with someone else or checking her smartphone, I will pass her by.
    When a woman asks me to dance, I am always flattered.

    • Thanks for your comments Doug!! – Brian

    • Pan

      Exactly ! Same here.

  • Anonymous

    there is this guy that i really like but i cant seem too get his attention please tell how too do it thanxs xoxo..

    • In this day and age, it is perfectly fine to ask a guy to dance. Give that a try. If he still doesn’t notice you after doing this at a few events, it might be time to move on.. – Brian