Tango Argentino > Distinguishing between types of hyper-active following

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by gyb, Feb 28, 2011.

  1. gyb

    gyb Member

    I wonder whether there is already an established vocabulary/typology out there to distinguish among different types of hyper-active following. I add "hyper" because following is not a passive activity by default (I have experiences of dancing with totally passive followers who seem to expect me to even move their legs instead of them), but there are certain ways of interacting with the lead which noticeably deviate from the common thumb-rule of lead-follow separation in tango.

    Here is my current list with some explanation. I almost exclusively dance in close embrace, I guess there are other distinct types of hyper-active followings in nuevo. Any suggestions/references would be appreciated!

    - "Embellishments": these make use of degrees of freedom left open by the lead. They only interfere with the lead in case the follower misjudges whether the lead indeed leaves open a degree of freedom, in which case the leader needs to accommodate the follower.

    - "Adding energy": the follower, on the basis of an educated guess about the step/step pattern which is lead, adds an extra umpf to the step. "Adding energy" typically happens during certain giros. [Some instructors say that when a follower takes a forward step she needs to "lead"; I think this is a misnomer and this extra forward "lead" during the followers forward step also falls into the "adding energy" category.]

    - "Step backleading": the follower makes the leader to take a step which he wouldn't have intended to take otherwise. The follower directly interferes with the lead, usually by pulling the leader into a step. The leader is not really leading the step she takes, but the roles are not changed in the sense that the leader could have lead the step as a leader and the follower could have taken the step she takes by simply following the named lead.

    - "Lead backleading": the follower makes the leader to lead a step which he wouldn't have intended to lead otherwise. Note the difference with "step backleading": in "lead backleading" the follower does follow what the leader leads, but she tries to influence what is going to be the lead itself. This can be done in more overt or more covert ways; in its most advanced form "lead backleading" is invisible to the leader himself.

    - "Changing roles": I only add this here to clearly distinguish it from "overtaking the lead". The partners swap the follower-leader role by first explicitly changing the dance frame (hand positions). This is not a type of hyper-active following (or it is only to the extent that it might be the follower who proposes the change), simply a change of the role of leading and following between people who know how to do both.

    - "Overtaking the lead": the partners swap roles of leading and following during the dance without any explicit indication of the change in roles by changing the dance frame (hand positions), but by mere injection of the lead on the part of the follower, to which the leader reacts by assuming a follower role. The roles don't get blurred - it is always clear who leads and who follows - but who assumes which role changes throughout the dance; for short stretches of time the original leader takes follower steps and follows while the original follower takes leader steps and leads. Requires partners who both mastered both leading and following in the same dance frame.
  2. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    Seems like a pretty comprehensive list. I think there is one more category I understand to exist, and that is the active following extremely advanced followers can do where they place the leader where he needs to be without interrupting the lead. Though this may fall under traditional lead follow, not "hyper active".
  3. gyb

    gyb Member

    You mean when followers help the leader i.e. with regaining his balance? Thanks, interesting, maybe it counts as separate, although I tried to not include types of "mistakes" on either side. I.e. I wouldn't include the case when the follower does something totally independent from the lead either due to non-listening or lack of ability. I haven't included other types of activity, such as calling attention of the leader to the danger of collision by tapping his shoulder either.

    Maybe the distinction between "step backleading" and "lead backleading" can be useful, I see these constantly confused in discussions. Also, I only recently got a first hand experience with "overtaking the lead" with a very experienced follower from Denmark (I was totally taken by the surprise, actually, never thought I would use my basic following skills this way). I saw a link in another thread to a couple who teaches something like this. Is this becoming a new trend in Europe?
  4. Wanderer2

    Wanderer2 New Member

    I prefer an increased/heavy pressure in the embrace to signal the urgency of slowing down/immediate stopping...
  5. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    The list does not list the most current situation, the followers misfollows and the leader adapts to the situation, to avoid embarrassing the follower. This is uncouncious hyper-following.
  6. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Is that any more common than when the lead is not clear, so the follower has to decide what to do, and help the leader along, so as not to embarrass him?
  7. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    i did a change of direction workshop where the ladies had to slow or stop the leaders in their tracks; thus initiating a change....
  8. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Was it using a signal (follower's left arm), or was it via increased resistance (from the chest)?
  9. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    resistance through the chest and from the back leg into the floor
  10. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    That would definitely be a bad practice by the follower, not helping the leader at all, making him believe that he can lead when he cannot. But yes, it could be added to OP's list, the follower who does feels what is being led but decides to do something else.

    Reminds me of my teacher, years ago, speaking first to me "You cannot lead" then to my partner "which is fine because you cannot follow".
  11. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    If we are talking about a class or practica then I would agree with you, but if we are talking about a milonga, then I would disagree. At a milonga, I think both partners should make an honest attempt to make things work for the tanda.
  12. chanchan

    chanchan Member

    I don't think so: the follower can never know what exactly is in the mind of the leader, especially if his lead is confused. And even if she knows, faking and "making things work" has nothing to do with tango.

    If the leader would like a cross and the cross doesn't happen, it's not the end of the world.
  13. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    My philosophy as a follower is that I should go with my initial response to his lead even if the lead is confusing and then commit to whatever I do. Even if it's wrong, at least he'll be clear on where I am. If the lead is so confusing that I can't choose at all, then I'll stay still.

    At a milonga, if I know what he's trying to lead but his lead isn't quite right, it depends on a number of factors whether I'll do it anyway in order to "fix it", or whether I won't. The biggest factor is often how crowded it is and how much the leader seems to be struggling overall.

    At a practica, generally I won't make any attempt to compensate for problems in the lead because, as was posted, the leader won't learn that his lead is incorrect if I compensate.
  14. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I agree. I'd rather have a partner dance confidently than hesitantly. If something goes differently than I expected, and sometimes it does...well, it's a dance. If my partner is relatively new and she's not catching something, I just try to lead it a little more clearly.

    I always tell my follower students not to guess. If they aren't sure what to do, then they should wait until they are.
  15. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    OK, I'm going to have to plan a road trip out to your way. IMO, this is right on the money.

  16. chanchan

    chanchan Member

    Accepted that the energy comes from both partners, 50% and 50%, to lead is not necessary being the one with the left arm open or the one who does "the leader's steps".
    Leading, for me, basically means taking the initative and affecting in some way the movement, the position, and sometimes the balance of the other. Meanwhile, mantaining anyway a good connection and adapting to any reaction, even if it is different from what you expected.

    From this point of view, the "lead backleading" is just a perfect case of leading, done by the one who is supposed to primarily follow, while the "step backleading" is a case of poor leading, almost dancing alone.

    Moreover, the difference with "overtaking the lead" can be relevant only if we think in terms of "leader's steps" and "follower's steps", but is it really necessary?
  17. gyb

    gyb Member

    From your point of view "step backleading" also seems to be a perfect example of leading since in that case the follower also "takes the initiative and affects the movement" of the leader. As for "overtaking the lead", the one who takes the initiative changes throughout the dance, doesn't this have significance for you?

    If it doesn't have significance I need to say that our understanding of the lead-follow separation in tango differs. In my view the common wisdom is that there are, by default, designated roles in tango, typically along gender-lines but in general marked with the dance frame/hand position, which don't change throughout the dance. The main role of the "leader" is to select certain (predominantly rhythmic) elements of the music, to interpret this selection by translation to signals of body movement (taking into account a host of factors about the environment, the partner's state etc.), and to keep track of how the signals get interpreted by the follower and then adapt to the new conditions. The main role of the "follower" is to interpret the signals coming from the leader and to actively translate them to body movements. Both of them listen to the music, but by default only one member of the couple translates this listening experience to signals towards the other, the follower's own bodily interpretation of the music makes its way into embellishments, i.e. everything which can make use of the open degrees of freedom unaffected by the lead. Hyper-active following gets defined in contrast with the background of this "common wisdom" of separation between roles.

    BTW both "covert lead backleading" and "overtaking the lead" are *extremely* rare in my experience, I only know maybe a handful of followers who does the first and only one who does the second. All of them have 10+ years of tango experience including at least 5+ years of regular leading. When followers try backleading, it usually becomes "step backleading" (which is what i.e. teachers do sometimes to show students how to lead a step), which is very rarely pleasant. Lead backleading is also impossible without having a sensitive leader who pays lots of attention to leading steps which are "best" in some sense for the follower in given circumstances. This is what the follower makes use of to influence the lead, by unobtrusively changing the conditions (i.e. by taking slightly shorter or longer steps in reaction to a previous signal or by slight alteration of balance, but strictly in a way that is consistent with following the lead) in order to create a situation in which what is going to be "best" for her (in her understanding of the leaders understanding of "best"), and therefore what is going to be lead by the leader, is more likely to be something else than what it would be without this "lead backlead". Complicated sentence, but I hope the idea is clear.
  18. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I'm trying to find a weekend to get closer to your area,
  19. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Good idea in theory, not always so practical in reality. With some guys, if I waited until I was sure what they wanted me to do I'd spend the entire tanda standing in one place.
  20. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Keep on going, and then make it down to my area! Swing by to pick up Zoo and bring her down while you're at it! :D

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