I am writing this article at the request of one of my students. She often experiences dance partners that lead elements too early. This is a common problem with less experienced dancers and even experienced dancers when they are dancing new patterns. This also seems to happen when the leader is a little intimidated by various circumstances (unfamiliar crowd, unknown partner, sticky or slippery floor, etc.). All of these types of things change the feeling of what he is trying to do. Men, here are a few things to consider to solve the leading early problem.
The leader has a lot of things to do as the one initiating the dance movements. One of the hardest things is planning ahead for what you are going to do. If you are dancing one step at a time, (ex: FORWARD, SIDE-RIGHT, TOGETHER) instead of dancing an element (ex: FRONT HALF OF A BOX) this problem will probably not go away.
The leaders' mind gets too cluttered with the details of each step and sooner or later he will loose the timing. Strangely enough the leader speeds up instead of slowing down. He has a tendency to skip steps and causes the lead to be too early. Once the dancer understands the mechanics of each step in an element, he must convert that element to a single thought that the body will recognize and execute. When the dancer thinks, "Front Half of a Box" his body should dance that element automatically so his mind is free to plan the next element.
The only way (that I am aware) to learn to dance elements is through repetition of the steps in the element until the body recognizes the single feeling of that element. Let me be perfectly clear. When I say dance the element, I am not just talking about foot positions. I am talking about connection, frame, head position, power, partnership, shape, etc. Dancing the element means using the whole body feeling of the element automatically.
Dancing elements frees the leader to plan ahead at a more comfortable pace which also results in more deliberate and controlled movements. As the leader gets more experience dancing elements, whole patterns will start to emerge. He will start dancing patterns as easily as he dances elements.
Another cause of early leading is timing. Leaders in general, dance too fast, resulting in early leads. Most inexperienced dancers dance like a drummer plays. They move to a single strike of the drum stick instead of using the duration of the beat to move as if a piano player is striking a note causing a duration of the note instead if a single point in time. When you dance like a drummer, you feel like you are dancing down hill. You keep going faster and faster. Men in general, learn from the floor up. It takes a while for the man to develop enough muscle memory for him to start listening to the music.
Bottom line, repetition is the name of the game. You must have repetitions to learn each foot step. You then need repetitions to convert those foot steps into elements. Once into the element stage, you will have time to listen to the music. With enough repetitions, you will convert the elements to patterns. The more muscle memory you can develop the more you will be able free up your mind to plan ahead. Planning ahead allows the leader to lead at the proper time (not early, not late).