I'm not especially fond of the term "following."
Yes, I often use that term, but it's a bit problematic for two reasons. The less important reason is that for many people, the term "following" still carries a negative connotation left over from the early 20th century.
The original ballroom emphasis, in the 19th century, was on dancing for the pleasure of one's partner.
Recollect that the desire of imparting pleasure, especially to the ladies, is one of the essential qualifications of a gentleman. The truly polite man is always mindful of the comfort of those around him. — Prof. D. L. Carpenter, Philadelphia, 1854
Then the 1920s through 1950s saw the emergence of a particularly disagreeable phase of ballroom dance, when the term lead meant "command" and follow meant "obey".
L. Ray of Chicago wrote in 1930,
Never should the so-called gentler sex be quite so gentle and acquiescent as when dancing. No matter what her views on suffrage and feminism may be, it is a woman's duty to let the man lead on the ballroom floor. His is the guiding spirit; hers, the following. He is the pace-maker; she is his shadow.Suffrage and feminism?! Yes, this new ballroom dance attitude developed soon after American women won the right to vote.
This attitude quickly spread to England. Courtenay Castle of London wrote,
Now, men, in these days of sex equality you can take heart from the fact that, on the dance floor at any rate, the man is still the boss. It is he that decides when and where any particular step is danced. He designs the pattern of the dance. The man will do most of the work while his partner just makes a pretty picture. Now for the ladies, you don't have much to say in the matter at all.The British ballroom champion Victor Sylvester gave simpler advice to women in 1927: "Submit yourself entirely to your partner." And Arthur Murray thought that women preferred it this way: "The dance floor is the one place where the weaker sex prefers to remain submissive."
Alex Moore, another British ballroom champion, wrote,
The lady's part is to follow, whether the man is dancing a figure correctly or not. She must not have a mind of her own. She must just follow whatever the man does and not attempt to correct him.The American George Raft took "must not have a mind of her own" a step further, saying,
No girl with much intelligence will suit me because once a dancing partner has any grey matter she tries to figure out ideas on her own, whereas she should merely think and move like machinery.Note: That was not an obscure quote. It was featured prominently in the April 1934 issue of the Dancing Times magazine, which was read by most serious ballroom dancers at the time.
If you'd like to see further quotations on this, they are here.
That was a long time ago — the "dark ages" of ballroom dance. Fortunately we've become much more enlightened since then (except for sketchy guys).