For better or worse, social dancing has come a long way since the days of long gloves and dance cards. However, a topic in social dancing that is not often examined critically is how follows who are self-confident, bold even, in other aspects of their lives, can be reduced to timid wallflowers at the prospect of asking a lead to dance.

While gentlemen are generally quite good at the traditionally male role of asking a lady to dance, I’ve experienced more than a few disappointing evenings where I’ve done far more watching than dancing. Eventually, frustrated at the prospect of yet another evening of sitting on the sidelines instead of dancing, I decided to throw caution to the wind and take matters into my own hands. I asked a lead to dance.

Since that first time, I’ve probably asked leads to dance hundreds of times. What surprised me was that the more I’ve asked leads to dance, the easier it’s gotten. (Although, I’m the first to admit that sometimes I still get just as intimidated as the next girl.)

I’ve sat on the sidelines, watching the dancers and chatting with follows quite a bit over the years. When the topic of asking a lead to dance comes up, I’ve found that follows can be hesitant to do the asking. Sometimes I’ve given them reassurance that they should try it and a few tips I’ve picked up. That’s why I’ve written some of those tips and my reflections on the odyssey of getting comfortable with asking leads to dance.

It’s just a dance. I’m sure there are some newer follows who shudder to think of imposing themselves on a lead. It is just as likely that beginner leads probably feel the same way, but would love to get some practice and a break from always having to do the asking. It can take awhile to get used to the idea that it’s just one dance, but it’s usually only between three and four minutes of your life, and then it’s over.

Dancing with partners of different abilities is a good thing. One of my favorite pieces of advice I received when I was just beginning to social dance was that dancing with partners more advanced AND less advanced than you are makes you a better dancer. It’s good to be both challenged to follow less familiar moves with a more advanced lead, AND to go “back to basics” and concentrate on footwork and technique with a less advanced lead.

Plus, when I dance with less experienced leads, I feel like I’m paying back all of those partners who were patient with me while I was still learning. All great dancers were beginners once too. An added benefit is if a beginner lead gets bitten by the dance bug, then in time, all follows get to enjoy the benefit of one more solid lead on the floor.