Masculinity in Dancing


Long tradition of sexist behaviors in dance whether dancing socially or competitively


Women ask men to dance when it was once frowned upon


Ladies Don’t think just follow

  • thinking is important for follows be aware of surroundings, studying the lead and adapt your style to theirs
  • perpetuates the ideal that the men are doing everything and the women don’t matter, they are they for show


There’s more to leading and following

  • Leaders listen to their followers to test their limits respectably
  • Followers also subtly guid the course of the dance and exert different amount of energy and tension in the body to suggest a move


No in Dance

  • Leads are dominant and follows are submissive
  • Follow can deny a move being suggested based on what they are comfortable doing


Ladies Styling

  • Women learning how to be pretty
  • Men can style too they can shine and they can dance
  • Look and feel good


Introduced as Lead and Follow

  • Daniel y Desiree, Ataca y Alemana
  • Thayna e Leo
  • Many don’t go by the follows name first when introducing
  • A norm inherited other cultures, Mr and Mrs
  • This can be influenced by agents and event coordinators


Teaching Moves

  • Lessons are designed for men they teach the leads but not the follows
  • Teach how to be good partners


Male instructors dominating classes

  • Equality of speaking time between lead and follow instructor
  • Male leader takes control and dominates the class
  • Makes no space for women to talk they have to but in



  • Follower doesn’t obey lead and does their own this is frowned upon
  • Women over steps her bound but she has the right if she’s grooving with the music and is safely and tastefully and not that often.


Catcalling male-male and female-female dancing

  • Two women = sex show
  • Two men = stare and laugh
    • Men stoop to female role of following
  • They want to dance together whether for fun or technique


Men Don’t Understand Sexism in Partner Dancing

  • Men that deny sexims exist in partner dancing
  • Sexism – Overtly, Subtly, Systematically


Referring to men & women as their dance roles

  • Giving labels imposes a sexist structure
  • If sexism wasn’t a problem where are the women that specialize in leading?
  • Vast majority of follows are women vast amount of leads are men


Inability to imagine what sexism feels like

  • You’re expected to be submissive to your opposite-sex partner. What you wish to do is not as important as what your partner wants.
  • You’re taught that your creativity is entirely dependent on what your opposite-sex partner allows.
  • You get dirty looks from your opposite-sex partner when you’re experimenting with creativity.
  • Your opposite-sex partner does the same move over and over again until they can make you do it.
  • When your opposite-sex partner can’t get you to do what they want, they use more force. Often this is uncomfortable.
  • Some opposite-sex partners grasp your wrists or other body parts to get more control.
  • You don’t get asked to dance again when your opposite-sex partner can’t get you to do what they want.
  • Your opposite-sex partner dips you uncomfortably or dangerously and expects you to enjoy it.
  • Your opposite-sex partners use mistakes as condescending teaching moments (even when you’ve been dancing for a decade).
  • You receive significantly less attention in classes, which are mostly taught by the opposite sex.
  • Above all, you are criticized and/or belittled by the opposite sex for pushing back against gender disparities such as the above


Defensiveness against impending change

Men getting mad, they feel blamed for sexim sexist is a descriptor for what men do



  • Women want equal opportunity connection and dance chose roles in ways that work for the couple. Freedom from the oppression of gender expectations.


Partner dances such as Salsa and Bachata are well known for looking flashy, sexy, and no doubt captivating to watch. Whether they’re dancing socially or competitively, dancing involves physical exertion, skill, in order to compete against each other indivisibly or as a team. Since partner dancing was established there has been a long tradition of sexist behaviors that have become the “norm” in the dance world. The hegemonic ideology in the world of dance is that men “lead” and women “follow.” This has been the dominant ideology since the dawn of partner dancing, we argue to break the gender norms for leads and follows.

Gender Roles – Lead & Follow

In every dance community and in dance competitions it regularly thought of for males to lead and females to follow. This structure, unfortunately, is implemented during the early stages of learning whether it is forced or done by the influence of others. Students assume they have to lead or follow based on their gender. Giving a gender label to lead and follow will inevitably lead to a sexist structure. These labels oppress men and women by limiting their dance abilities to just one role.

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 5.03.53 PM.png

In dance, there is a vast majority of male leads and female follows. We would like to ask the question:

If sexism is not a problem in the dance community and competing events, then where are the men and women who specialize the opposite dance role?

Introduced as Lead and follow

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Karen y Ricardo: Qualifiers – World of Dance 2018


Thayná & Léo


Daniel y Desiree

When introducing talented artists and competitors it is very popular to introduce the lead then the follow. Artists such as Daniel & Desiree and Ataca & Alemana fit this norm. In World of Dance 2018 competitors, Karen Forcano and Ricardo Vega were introduced to the world as Karen & Ricardo. Although not caught by many this simple act of introducing the follow then the lead shakes the standard of lead and follow introductions.  On Brazilian Zouk artists, Thayná and Léo’s official Facebook page, these they market themselves with Thayná’s name first and Léo second. However, it not always the couple that introduces themselves as lead and follows, but the institution in which they are introduced. Their agents and event coordinators have a say on how these dancers are introduced and if their names will catch on and draw in the attention of the audience.

Male Dominance in Workshops


Instructors Teresa Jimenez & Charles Ogar each teaching their roles as lead and follow at NeoKizomba Festival 2018

When learning how to dance and compete, there are many instances where the male takes control and dominates the class when teaching patterns. They offer little time for their co-instructor to teach their part and the follow usually has to interrupt the lead in order for their point to be heard.  It can be argued that many workshops are tailored for the male lead. The attention is focused on male leads in order for them to lead their female follow into different move styles. There is little attention paid to the women that are following and are usually told: “Ladies don’t think just follow.” (Ruper, “The Perfect Follow A Journey in Dance”, 2016). This is extremely limiting for follows, thinking is important for their safety and pleasure of the dance. Follows need to be aware of their surrounds while also studying their lead so they can adapt to their style in a way where it’s comfortable and enjoyable for both the lead and follow. When female follows are not given attention in workshops this only perpetuating the idea that male leads are doing all of the work and the female lead is they just for show.

There needs to be equal time for both the lead and follow instructors so that their students are offered a well-rounded class and follow students are able to actively learn and engage in the role as follow. Workshops should not be taught as lead does this and follow follows but instead should be taught communicate and suggest moves effectively. It is important that they are also able to enjoy their roles as lead and follow while enjoying the dance they are sharing together.

Same-Sex Partner Dance


Female Lead & Follow, Zouk Atlanta 2018

When dancers of the same sex share a dance with one another, there are often mixed reactions from people these vary between male & male dances and female & female dances. When two women dance with each other it is considered “sexy” or a “sex show” however, when two men dance with each other, they are laughed at or even frowned upon.

Salsa dancers John & Andrew go against the norm in when competing and showing their brilliant connection and partner work that they share with each dance. They are often greeted with strange looks until they start dancing and are left with looks of awe. Men and women can both lead and follow whether it is for fun or they want to actually learn the technique of the opposite role. There numerous benefits for learning the opposite role because it teaches perspective and actively puts the dancer in their opposite’s shoes. They will learn from the experiences and will be able to better understand their opposite’s role and how they should feel and think. Learning both roles for men and women will make them better dancers in the future.


Men and women need to have equal opportunities of connection and dance in their chosen roles in a way that works the couple. We want to strive for freedom from the oppression of gender expectations for leads and follows in the dance world and focus on enjoying the dance itself together.

Ruper, S. (2016, July 26). The Perfect Follow A Journey in Dance. Retrieved from

Brightly, R. (2013, September 05). Why Men Don’t Understand Sexism In Partner Dancing. Retrieved from

Daly, A., Hanna, J., & Schechner, R. (1987). At Issue: Gender in Dance. The Drama Review: TDR, 31(2), 22-26. doi:10.2307/1145810


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