Tango Argentino > following or 'dancing the woman's role'?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by jfm, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Let me ask, Bastet, or any follower who thinks the same, what do leaders with musicality actually do that contributes to your understanding of their interpretation?
  2. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    I've pondered this many times. I wish I had a good answer for you, but I currently don't.

    I do feel like the 2 ideas are connected (freedom for the follower and really dancing with the music for the leader). Dancing to the music gets a lot of lip-service, and I've seen quite a lot of people that have been taught to "feel" the music and so they think that if the music sounds dramatic or angry or sad, and they feel like they've carried their steps out in an angry or sad fashion, then they have good musicality, and I just feel that they've probably missed the mark most of the time.

    I don't have a slew of leaders to quiz about their musical training. I can only say that in the times I have danced with really good leaders I can feel that what they are doing actually matches things I hear and it's not a constant struggle to try and figure out what in the heck they are dancing on. You can actually tell they are relying on the framework of the music to carry out their leading. I don't just mean keeping the beat, but hearing what the major idea is in a certain part of the music (such as violins playing or singer singing) and choosing to accent that instead of something minor that they may also hear going on at the same time. I also SEE a similar thing when I have watched really good leaders dance. I do listen to the music not just a little, but a lot, and so when you are dancing with someone who is passing right over a lot of really obvious stuff in the music, and whose actions aren't really matched up to anything you can really tell, well, trying to insert your own interpretation in between things just generally ends up as a power struggle, in my experience. Whereas, possibilities just tend to "present themselves" with leaders who've got good musical training and as a follower, I can take them or wait for another time.
  3. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Beautifully, perfectly said! I agree 110%

    When I watch someone who's got a lot of musicality going on, it's like the music has become 3-dimensional. Their bodies are a physical representation of the music. Not just the beats...all of it.

    When I dance with somebody who has a lot a musicality going on, I feel like very few steps/whatevers are surprising. Not because they're leading the same things over and over, but because it comes together and makes sense in the context of the music. It feels natural...like there is almost nothing else they possibly could be leading, because what they're doing is such a natural extension, and expression, of the music.
  4. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    exactly, couldn't have put that any better. It's much easier to follow a leader who really is following (or matching) the music to the way he leads not in terms of steps, but timing (context of the music) as Peaches says. And consequently, it's much easier to find places to accent or follow more musically in my own half of the dance.
  5. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    The following is portions of an article "The Essence of Tango" written by Ricardo Vidort for El Once Tango News (London 2004):

    The body doesn't think, the body feels the music as a way to move it and walk, and if we put attention to what is our body feeling we shall see we are moving. We only need to walk with elegance, transmitting to our partner in a close embrace the energy of our feeling through the chest (the heart chakra).

    Nobody can teach you to feel, but some of us milongueros, we can teach you how to hear the music, how to cadence with it, and the rest...it will come alone....

    Nobody is the owner of a step, but yes, you are the owner of your feeling, that no one can copy.
  6. jantango

    jantango Active Member

  7. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I was at the Tango Festival in Baltimore this past weekend, and in two separate classes, the subject of active following was discussed by the teachers. One class was taught by Alex Krebs and Silvina Valz, and the other was taught by Chicho Frumboli and Juana Sepulveda.

    In both classes they said pretty similar things about what it meant. Paraphrasing, it was that "active following" is the follower providing her own energy for her movement after interpreting the lead. I believe it was Alex who also added that the rhythm of the step is in the domain of the leader, and Silvina said something like, if the follower adds a lot of intention, then the communication just turns into noise. Chicho said it was the "old way" (he used that term a lot, over the weekend), that the woman would wait for the man to push or pull her around, but the "new way" is for the woman to provide her own energy for the movements, once she interprets the lead.

    I thought it was interesting that "active following" came up in two separate classes.
  8. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Chicho spoke english :shock: It took me three beer to talk english with him :mad:
  9. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    While he'll never be confused with a local, he speaks English well enough to be understood, (and certainly better than my Spanish). He would sometimes use gestures as well, to get his point across. Juana didn't talk a real lot, however.
  10. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    D000000d! I was at the Chicho/Juana boot camp and came up for the Friday night milonga! Shoulda said something, I would have come and said hello. :)

    (And possibly found a way to drag Peaches out there too. :D )

    I was actually thinking about posting my notes from the boot camp, maybe in a separate thread.

    To post something relevant to this topic, I've noticed over the past couple years about how important Juana's part is to the duo. Chicho gets most of the name recognition, but he wouldn't be able to do what he does without her.

    A lot of his modern stylings are extensions of tango concepts that already exist or are borrowed from other dances. Compression, build up of force, the pull connection (for co-balance or for leading), etc. And likewise, it follows (heh) that these require the follower to take part in them. Compression requires a follower to give more of herself when the leader does. This concept already exists in the embrace, but can be focused for greater effect. Build up of force for a lead exists as well... most leaders use some variant of this to lead a corrida or traspie. And the pull connection requires the follower to stay connected, to take an active role in holding on to the leader. Some of the crazy colgadas C/J do are only possible because Juana knows if Chicho lets his embrace slip from her during a pull connection, it is up to her to engage her own embrace to hold on.

    And of course, one of the fundamentals of following is extended as well. "Stay with the leader." If the leader completely disengages, but the last thing he lead was the beginning of a turn and his chest keeps moving in that direction, then the follower shouldn't stop, she should continue to turn. If the leader disengages and turns his back to the follower, but offers his shoulder, she should connect her hand to the shoulder.

    It reminds me of swing dancing a lot. If a leader leads a complicated turn, you don't just stand there afterward with your hands down until he physically grabs your hand... no, you are always looking for the next connection, the next hand hold, the next embrace, wherever it is.

    Anyway, that's some of my thoughts on Juana's following style. :)
  11. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    You don't know how much I wanted to attend the boot camp, but it just wasn't meant to be this year. I hope you start the thread on the boot camp. I'd really like to hear your thoughts about it.

    FWIW, I was the large (OK, fat) black guy at the milongas.

  12. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    What the...?!?! You mean I missed a chance to dance with you?!? *kicks self repeatedly, and hard, for the missed opportunity!*
  13. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    I've been providing my own energy for movement all these years, and I didn't know that's what active following meant. I just dance.

    Watching old tango videos you can see men pushing and pulling their partners around. I get tired viewing them. One dance like that is enough, but a tanda like that will wear anyone out. The "old way" was in the club de barrios where the men were the focus of tango, and their partners held on. The "new way" is a partnership with balance of energies.

    Personally, I think new terminology is invented to keep classes full. The concept is nothing new.
  14. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    To me, the really interesting thing is that (like a lot of other terms) there seems to be more than one definition of what active following means. Some posts at the beginning of his thread seemed to say it was about the follower (at times) doing something different from the intention of the leader.

    FWIW, I hadn't heard anything about Chicho's terminology before signing up for this festival. I'm simply interesting in learning from people who I think are great, even if his style isn't really what I aspire to become. His ability to express musicality in his movements, is something that does interest me.
  15. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    It's simply the difference between a good and a bad dancer, possibly
    the main one in tango considering the closeness of the partnership.

    In my earlier days I was fortunate to accidentally find teachers who
    taught such active participation without using such terminology.
    That it was the responsibility of the woman to repeatedly create her own
    new axes, not the responsibility of the man to put her there
    which is very hard work indeed depending on the size of your partner.

    So I tend to think of the term active following in the context of
    active involvement being the opposite of passive.

    Unfortunately that seems to be true. But as a partner dance one partner
    should at the very least complement the other; in tango the two roles
    are utterly complementary and symbiotic.

    In other more open partner dances the term used for the lady/follower
    doing something different to the leader's intention/lead is Sabotage.
    Modern jivers can even learn sabotage moves. In close embrace/hold
    dances I tend more to think of it as backleading as that is what it feels.

    In some other dances there are are moments where the leader might hand
    over some individuality to his partner according to their mood and the music.
    But that is rather different. Possibly it's this encouragement of the woman
    to improvise that has influenced some fusions of tango.

    Each to their own.
  16. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Yes. I think every definition is flawed. Every time you think you know what a definition means, you find out there is a condition where it doesn't mean that. Definitions are fine - we need them to be able to discuss tango, and teach and learn it. There's always a problem when people start taking them too literally.

    I like to tell my students, when I point to the moon, don't examine my finger.
  17. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Re: aktive following

    Good post, helpful description.
    Only want to add another example: forward boleos (saludos). Traditionally (VU or Todaro-stage) a torsion by the leader will provide the engergy which is transmitted by his arms then. In "modern tango" (Chiche speak) the leader makes a counter move and thus the follower will twist under own steam.
  18. LoveTango

    LoveTango Member

    I think active following need to be allow by the lead.
    My experience showed me that this is not about who provide the energy. It is more about how much the dance is controlled by the lead.

    Some lead is so strong (I don't mean pushing), that nearly every detail of dance is lead. In such case, I don't feel that I need to do anything extra/different than indicated by the lead. We just dance together as he "intended". This is not necessarily unpleasant, particularly if the leader has good sense of music which matched my feeling of the music.
    The conversation is like:
    Lead: let do this,... do this, ... do this.
    Follow: sure, sure, sure

    Sometimes the lead leaves a lot of room for the follower to improvise. This is when the active side of following stands out.
    The conversation:
    Lead: Do A, what do you think?
    Follow: I like it, what about this...
    Lead: Sure, How about that?...

    I think most dances are on a gray scale between the two extreme. It's very much tied to the personality of the dancers, I think, if skills no longer an issue.
  19. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I like your explanation.
  20. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    I am trying to get into follower's shoes lately.

    It's not easy and it's quite new to me.
    I would like to see what is really going on at the follower's part.
    And as time goes followers tehnique brings more flexibility. ;)

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