Roles for salsa dancers are quite clear: leader (or Lead) and follower (or Follow). Typically, men are the former; women the latter. I have attended classes where the instructor has eschewed these terms because they imply gender discrimination. So, at the risk of being tracked down and punished for breaking a prime, political correctness rule, this scribble sticks with the original words.
Each role has different inherent challenges waiting to be overcome. The periods during which these challenges become most acute occur at transition points in one’s salsa development. Wikipedia identifies such transition points as Salsa Hell. Here’s what they write:
Salsa Hell (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salsa_Hell) is the definition given to the timespan when a dancer goes from beginner to intermediate in the salsa dancing community. During this period, a dancer can get very frustrated with the dance. Additionally, problems obtaining dance partners (and therefore practicing) arise, due to the time it takes for the dancer to build up his/her confidence in the dance.
The time it takes for a leader to traverse the salsa hell stage is longer than that required for a follower, because he is required to take rather more responsibility during the dance (e.g. keeping track of the beat, knowing the pattern, performing footwork, etc.) compared to the follower. Replying to (following) the lead’s actions — so I’ve been told by followers — requires rather less responsibility.
So, what do salseros and salseras need to know about leading? The answer appears on a very practical free page from an otherwise subscription website called, Salsa Boot Camp (http://www.salsabootcamp.com/public/206.cfm) entitled, Tips on Leading: Salsa Dance Facts About Leading — A Helpful Guide for Men in Salsa Dancing. Rest assured, this is not a ‘men only’ article; women will find it informative and helpful in trying to figure out what is going on in their salsa partner’s brain, and infer what they can do to improve their following.