Tango Argentino > Good article on why leading in not more important than following

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Someday, Jun 4, 2017.

  1. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    The lack of advanced followers is known in Nordic too. After dancing 4-5 years together my partner and I participated a festival. We shared a package at our level and were offered a second one. Leaders were needed at the lower levels so I stepped down for the extra package but her skills were needed at levels higher up!

    (The harder start maybe teaches leaders how to work for their dance and continue with it!)
  2. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    One of the hardest thing to accept has been the followers nearly total disinterest for continuous training. Every now and then I have met a follower who is willing to meet regularly but they are few and I hear the same from other leaders too.

    The most impossible issue has been to get an answer to question: What would you like to work on? The most common follower response is: On Everything! I will learn on the way when you/leader are doing your things. I really prefer, it would be really nice to have defined learning goals for both of us. It would be good for both of us to see how we reach our goals! How our dance is growing!

    Most of the followers prefer to develop their dance by dancing with interesting, high skilled, visiting leaders. With other words they are not interested in developing their own skill garden as so but prefer to harvest in leaders' garden.
  3. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    +1 LadyLeader. In the ballroom world it seems different, I saw the two parts of a couple working separately on the memorization of their routine and the elegance of the steps.

    But as for AT and which role is the most important. We all saw a famous former president of the the United States, who can't lead, dancing on TV with a BsAs pro follower, who made it look good. But Mora made it look good by not following. If she had followed then it would have looked awful. So, what do we learn from this pro? Followers, your own technique is the important part, following is never needed really?
  4. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    I disagree. What we see on DWTS and in Obama's tango was not real dancing. She was dancing and he was moving awkwardly. May have impressed some, but not me. Not that I expect that a national leader would have time to learn dance technique.

    In real dancing, the individual partners add their capabilities to make the dance belong to the partnership. This video expands on these ideas nicely:
  5. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Awkward video. It certainly does not exemplify real dancing. The post-prod is here to keep each part under 3-second time, to hide things by using zooms and slow motion. The guy is not leading and seems to be trying to remember which is the next move that he has to pretend leading. To me, despite being markedly closer to real dancing than Obama-Mora, it still belongs to the same category.
    I would have chosen instead any video of TomTango's to show what real dancing means. They have very little post-production. Raw material, one camera only, no cuts.
    Reuven Thetanguero likes this.
  6. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    The one thing that i would change there is the word "prefer" - i think it is more "are expected to", or "are taught to". I realize that I am getting repetetive, but there is a gap in our tango when it comes to give followers tools for developing their own dance. And that gap is not there because of some sort of malicious masterplan, but it is in its own way functional. A beginning to intermediate leader is working hard on figuring out their own body, musicality, vocabulary, geometry, the flow of the dancefloor, and so on. The best partner for them is a follower that does not add additional challenges to this already quite complex task, so beginning to intermediate followers work hard on "being light", "don't have any inertia, any move can change at any second", "don't anticipate", "if the leader is off-beat ignore your musicality, and follow them exactly as off-beat as they are", and so on. Leaders measure themselves by what vocabulary they can lead, followers measure themselves by what vocabulary they can follow (and due to the learning curves they can usually follow vocabulary lead by leaders that have spent much more time in tango)

    So intermediate to advanced leaders continue their tango journey in the same direction - more vocabulary, cleaner technique, more tricky geometry, tighter timing, more elaborate musicality. And intermediate to advanced followers have mastered not being in the way or the leader. There is very little technical challenge left - some leaders are trickier and do more unexpected stuff than others, but in general at that stage anything that anybody ever could lead can be followed. Maybe not in the most polished way, but it can be followed. Leaders still get progress smoothly by their measures, but followers start to feel that they are not progressing - there is not much "more vocabulary" out there to progress into.

    So now we are on the lower edge of advanced, and leaders continue doing more and better of the same stuff. There is usually some shuffling of priorities, with some leaders starting to pare down their vocabulary and becoming all about musicality, and others pushing vocabulary to levels that become somewhat incompatible with social dance, and so on, but it is not really qualitatively different.
    But for followers this is different - to some extent all the rules change - we start talking about active following, and how some followers have amazing musicality, and so on, and people on the internet like me say things like "be heavy", "have inertia, trust the leader that moves wont change, and use your knowledge of the geometry to shape the move in a way the leader did not 100% expect", "anticipate the leaders dance based on the phrasing of the music, and us that to be ready to do your own thing at spots where the leader is off-base", "if the leader is off-beat trust the music more than the leader and allow them to leech of your musicality and adorn around your steps - it is ok if leader and follower are on different parts of the beat as long as the couple is on the pulse". And there is very little guidance on how to actually do this, or how to practice it. Sure, there are follower workshops, but they don't actually teach these things. (well, some might, but i have been at precisely one follower workshop where leaders were invited, and explicitly told to do as neutral a lead of a prescribed pattern as possible (and surprisingly few leaders were actually able to do this)). But overall it seems that some followers somehow stumble onto how to do these things while dancing, and others don't. And that is a somewhat frustrating situation for the ones who don't - "just do more of the same thing, and hope to somehow get enlightened" is not really actionable advice. And so followers stop dancing tango after 4-5 years (or move sideways).
    This is confounded by most leaders having the skills to adjust to active followers already in place - it is the same skills we have been using since day one to deal with situations where the dance went wrong for whatever reason (bad leading, bad following, couple in front of us cutting in). It just requires the small step of realizing that the goal of tango is not to never have to adjust because the leading and the following is so perfect, but to enjoy process of improvising around the edges of what a "perfect lead" and "perfect following" and "empty dance floor" would be (of course that is also a matter of degree - an active follower is something completely different than a raw beginner that stumbles at every step, just like a whole ronda moving with the pulse of the music is different than chaotic couples bumping into us without rhyme or reason).

    Why is there no system in place to teach this? Well, on the one hand beginning active following is just as little fun, and as likely to get the leader of balance as beginning leading so it is not that much fun for leaders, and on the other hand becoming suddenly a bad and unpleasant follower is not attractive for followers either. We both just spent 5 years doing the exact opposite, so the shift in mindset is difficult to pull off. Especially because it it actually true - active following gets in the way of the the trickiest of tricky vocabulary and if i as a leader am getting my kicks right now from being able to pull off my 12-step setups to get just the right angle for my special move then im not going to be happy with a follower messing with that. So there is basically no support for being a beginning active follower.

    Writing this just gave me a thought - maybe there actually is a system in place that might teach this - i mean, some followers are finding these techniques and skills, and it is somewhat unlikely that they all invent it from nothing, especially as they are quite consistent across all followers who develop them. And in the beginning somebody reacted to my description of what i think the building blocks of active following are by remarking that i seemed to talk about adornments. And i responded that i felt it was something quite different, but maybe i was wrong - maybe adornments are the vector by which active following is developed currently - it is just that this is vector would have a progression that is basically inverse than how i as a leader am accustomed to develop a skill-set - it starts by doing details first, and then get the gross motor components in place later. So the underlying didactic progression would be: 1) followers do adornments when prompted to by the leader, then 2) progress to finding the spaces where invisible adornments can be thrown in, then progress to 3) actively change the dance to create space for adornments, and 4) being comfortable with actively changing the dance without adornments, and being constantly engaged with the dance on that level. (but that does not seem to work very well - 3) often seems to lead into exploring lead-follow exchange, which is something quite different (lots of fun, too, but nevertheless something different than active following). (this is just pure theorycrafting - does this progression seem plausible? is there a implicit/hidden curriculum? there are quite a few things where the skills that they seem to teach and the skills they are actually teaching are quite different)
    itwillhappen and Xenophon like this.
  7. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    I think to confine it to "Most of the followers prefer to develop their dance by dancing" is fair.
  8. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    Given such a workshop setup - how many times was every follwer able to execute the pattern? How often are they in a suitable situation at a practica or milonga to execute that afterwards? So was the workshop profitable?
    As a leader am I mostly able create a situation to execute patterns on my behalf at a practica or milonga without communicating it anyhow...
  9. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    IMHO In social environment advanced leader never push follower too hard. They can feel limitations of a follower and maybe go to the edge, but true social dancer would never go beyond. So it is really rare that followers would be challenged enough. And what followers miss when they dance with advanced dancers is unpredictibality. Better dancers are to consistent in their dancing so it is easier to follow.
    Some followers want to be entertained so they dance with advanced only, the other who dance with everyone have higher chance of becoming advanced but a few of them realize that.
  10. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    You've missed the point of the video entirely. Demonstration of technique was not its intent. Perhaps if you listened to the discussion between the couple after each mini-demonstration.
  11. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    A quite foolish answer, admitted. A wise person will ask first "Why shoud I, what is my motivation?". There may be good positive answers, but not all more advanced dancer seem to be more happy at a milonga. So for many occasions "On Nothing!" could be the better answer. :cool:
  12. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    This was a long time ago - maybe 2003 or so? - and it was a whole day workshop on boleos (it was the heady times when we all were doing nuevo). If i remember correctly the morning was follower technique only, and the afternoon the teacher had invited leaders that she knew were able to lead boleos to serve as practice partners for the afternoon. I assume we followed the progression that she had worked on in the morning - the first exercise was just walking two steps and then an inline boleo, then circular boleos, and the students at the workshop working on shaping the impulse and working on the control of the size of the boleo, and with the circular ones exploring different shapes and exits. I would guess that i lead probably more than 30 and probably less than 100 of them - it was a long afternoon.

    It is less nowadays, but i would guess that there is a boleo of some form in every tanda, and having the skills/confidence to keep it small or expand it as warranted by the space seems to me generally useful, so quite often.

    I don't know, but i would guess probably not - there was no second workshop of that format (but that might have had other reasons besides profitability)
  13. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    Okay, I thought it was something on follower driven actions in the dance. I was on such a workshop in the queer tango scene - not very sophisticated approaches there in the context of this thread.
    The effect was that my partner didn't do an attempt to lead in tango upto now. Beside that she takes sensitive impact, especially if we get into some kind of flow somehow.
  14. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Nah, sorry - i wish there was something like that. For me it was still an eye-opener in terms of how passive we expect followers to be in classes, and how little space there usually is for them to work on their stuff.
  15. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    Every figure has things for both roles but the old teaching style did not point out the details for follower learning. It is getting better. Last year we got here a young DNI couple and they are directing quite equally to both roles.
  16. larrynla

    larrynla Member

    The question of which role is more IMPORTANT seems a silly one to me. Both leading and following are needed for any social dance; without one the other role can't exist. As to degrees of importance: importance is a personal judgment and feeling. No two people are going to feel exactly the same way.

    Which role is more DIFFICULT is a different question. And again it's different depending on the individual. I know a woman with decades of experience dancing ballet and several social dances, for instance. She picked up tango technique very quickly, and understood the emotional side of the dance easily. In a six week course she went from complete beginner to near professional level. Another woman had no dance experience but was naturally athletic; she picked up the physical technique easily. Whether she understood the emotional side I never found out since the course was in a city I was only visiting.

    A lot of this discussion covered a topic I think important to both leaders and followers: what kind of instruction best suits their role. I agree that a lot of courses seem to focus on the leaders and neglect the followers. Perhaps this inspired one poster in this thread to claim that most women were not interested in improving their following technique. They weren't interested, I imagine, in improving if the course focused on the techniques a leader needs which is largely irrelevant to followers. A focus on follower techniques would alienate the leaders in a class.

    What I've seen work best is a couple made of a leader and a follower. After presenting one topic the leader gives personal instruction to the leaders, the follower gives personal instruction to the followers.
  17. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    In a group setting is are two teachers able to give twice the personal instructions, however. At least if they do not tend to demonstrate and talk to much as a couple on the spot.
    In a couple student setting - there I prefer one single teacher that balances his attention according to the load capacity of each of us. And I can't learn faster if two professionals put even more load on my learning capacity.

Share This Page