What’s your driving style?

So, is a great follower is like a proactive passenger? My initial response to reading the first version of this post was much like Anna’s , she comments:

“No offense Bobby, but it feels so frustrating to read and listen to this kind of description of what following is about : “colouring” the painting like some people like to put it, or being a “passenger”, the listener, the second half that shouldn’t say too much, but just a little, to make the dance more “pleasant”.”

However, Bobby has rewritten his post and in the new version he notes:

“The leader driving a car analogy only refers to a leader trying to decide what moves to lead next, and isn’t meant to imply anything grand along the lines of artistic expression… This is why a follower is referred to as a “passenger”–just because it’s the leader who determines the overall moves that are lead.”

Let’s take the leader driving a car analogy that extra mile (groan) and consider (not too seriously) what impact a leader’s driving style has on their follower? If we contrast Bridgestone’s article about how tyres tell the tale of individual driving style to how leading style impacts on their follower there are some obvious parallels.

“Driving style is something that differentiates drivers. Just as designers can produce two very different looking cars which can be lapped within hundredths of a second of each other, so too can drivers in the same vehicle practice the art of driving in a very different manner, yet achieve a very similar lap time.”

Refer to Jerry Almonte’s post Connection Collision and the bit where he’s comparing the way Nick Williams and Todd Yannacone lead (there’s much more in the full post):

Notice that Nick is pretty micro musical with his movements, but does not always micro-lead… Todd usually gets credit/criticism for leading these massively complicated patterns. But outside of that, notice in his dance that he is always leading something. When it’s not super complicated, it’s pretty simple (e.g. swingout, underarm turn), but he’s always leading.

“Threading a Formula One car through the twists and turns that make up a race circuit is an art requiring great skill.”

Yup, threading your follower around the dance floor requires art and skill, colliding your follower with other dancers, pillars, walls, chairs, DJ booths and so on demonstrates your lack of skill and will quickly turn other dancers against you just as crashing your car/crashing into other cars will end your season pretty quickly.

“It’s also an activity where there is no one best way to go about it.”

Often forgotten by people who have just attended workshops by [insert top Lindy Hop Instructor name here] is that there are many styles of leading. Refer back to Jerry’s post for more.

“… a driver’s input from mid corner to exit is often quite illustrative of how tyres are being used. If there is one progressive steering input from the corner apex to the exit, this will usually not cause as much tyre wear as a style that involves many changes.”

Yup, yank me around and I am going to get tired of dancing with you very quickly. Yank me around too much and you will break me. It’s just as hard to dance Lindy without a partner as it is to drive without a car.

“Every driver has their own preference for how they prefer their car set-up, and set-up includes aspects like camber, toe-in, and roll stiffness amongst others, and these all have an influence on how our tyres perform and react to the road”

Yup, as we all know, you dance with some people and things just click.

“In simple terms we hear of drivers who prefer a car that tends towards understeer or a driver who prefers a car that oversteers.”

Refer back to Jerry’s post especially this bit:

Nina is what I refer to as a “passive” follower while Carla is more “active.” Nina can take almost anything you give her and make it pretty. She’s probably the best in the whole damn world at that. Carla is a lot more “vocal” in her following and more apt to take the initiative to extend or even change a lead.


“Warm-up is an interesting area…. Being aggressive will get heat into the tyres quickly, but if a driver is too aggressive he will wear his tyres quicker than a driver who is more sympathetic. “

Do I really need to add anything here?


“Aggressive drivers also need to know how to control their cars in situations of lower levels of tyre grip.”

Slippery floor, aggressive leading… Heaven help you if you end up causing me to land on my bottom! Same goes for dancing on grass, if you try to make me do multiple spins on grass I’m not going to be a happy bunny. As per previous example, followers like leaders who are sympathetic to our needs.

“We issue a safe range of pressures for our tyres and the teams must keep within this range, but there is still good scope for drivers to dial-in to get their preferred response. In basic terms a higher pressure within the safe limits we give will provide more stability, whilst a lower pressure means the tyre heats up slower, but it also degrades less, and is less sensitive to bumps.”

There is so much I could say here but let’s leave it at, leaders, if we’re in for a long night of dancing it might be a nice idea for you to relax a little.

To finish on a more serious note, is following really such an intangible process that it can only be defined by analogy? Are its mysteries so great that it defies direct explanation? Perhaps I am being oversensitive but why do so many discussions like this seem to be explicitly about what the follower should/shouldn’t be doing e.g.

…discussed how a follow properly contributes to the dance and the bounds of followers suggesting movements without outright hijacking or becoming unruly.”

rather than discussions specifically about what the leader should/shouldn’t be doing to allow the follower’s voice to be heard?

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8 responses to “What’s your driving style?”

  1. Sarah C says :

    I am repulsed that I (as a follow) am considered a device to me manipulated, a prize to be shown off, an instrument to be played, driven around, and steered.

    (I understand that many dancers don’t look at following this way, it’s also not a view that is restricted to leads.)

  2. lindyspice says :

    So, in light of all the car analogies that have been discussed for the lead/follow relationship, I have a new one to throw out (mostly just for giggles, since it makes the lead the inanimate object): imagine the follow as the driver, and the lead as a GPS.

    The driver and GPS both share the same goal (arriving at the desired destination, or having a great dance). While the GPS generates an idea for how to get to the destination and gives the recommended directions, it is up to the driver to use a combination of following those suggested directions and experimenting with modifications when unexpected opportunities arise (getting off the freeway for a cup of coffee, or stretching out a particularly juicy phrase). It is then the responsibility of the GPS to consider those changes and recalculate the route as necessary.

    It’s only slightly different from the driver/passenger analogy and still somewhat inadequate in describing the ideal situation, but I think it better balances the contributions of each participant…

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