Leading is an abstract theory in partner dancing. It is something not easy to understand. Interestingly, good leading comes from almost no leading at all.
This means the man does not just stick his arm out and drag the partner along on the dance floor. Leading comes from the body. However, the arm may serve as a communication line. The push and pull from the arm alone does not connect the partners. Connection must be felt from within the body, not from the outside. “Push” and “Pull” actions or feelings in the arm actually come from the correct settling of the hips of both partners.
Bryan Watson & Carmen Rumba World Dance Award 2005
The man cannot dance everything for the lady. The lady must response to the lead by dancing something appropriate in the routine. In other words, leading is only a hint of direction that causes the partner to dance a certain figure. For example, in the Open Hip Twist of Rumba, the man just stops the lady from traveling forward with a change of weight in the hip. The lady just changes her direction accordingly and continues with the figure.
Many men over-lead the ladies. Often times, they are somewhat impatient and help the ladies too much by pulling and pushing hoping to get on with the next figure as soon as possible. All the men need to do is to concentrate on their own steps. Rather they should dance more with their bodies such as enhancing hip (Cucaracha) movements. By doing so, the transfer of his own body weight can easily be felt by the partners through the hand-hold, causing them to react accordingly.
The danger of over-leading may cause the lady to panic or leave no time for her to finish her figure and cause a general upset to the whole dance routine. This is often the bone of contention between partners. Instead, the man must get himself busy i.e. use the body to the utmost in interpreting the rhythm of the music. As always, dancing is about interpreting various rhythms. The more rhythms the body can interpret, the better the dancing becomes. The man must improve his own dancing before he can “lead” well i.e. give the correct hint to the lady.