Tango Argentino > Help! Newby lost in tango

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by jeng7400, Jan 9, 2008.

  1. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    I believe you to be correct in this. It is not that the movements are intuitive, rather that they are natural. It is, after all, dance. Just as the man needs to know hwo to do it, so does the woman. There is a right and wrong way to do everything...even walking.

    Though, I understand what this is saying, I can see it being completely misconstrued. As I just stated, it is so much easier when the lady also knows the hows and whys of a movement.


    And, this is also exactly correct.
  2. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    You may have missed my point, which was not that trained followers dance worse than self-taught ones, but was that it's at the same time the most difficult to learn for the leaders and easiest to learn for the followers.

    Btw even the first part is questionable inded. I've seen too many followers ruining their partner's dance by adding un-timely, badly done embellishments they had been taught in classes.
  3. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    I know you didn't say that trained followers dance worse. And I agree that AT is easier for followers than for leaders, but easier is not the same as easy. It's a relative term. Tango is not easy for anyone, IMO.

    I stand by what I said. Obviously being badly taught is not helpful in any dance. I was referring to followers who have been well and properly taught, who are doing the steps and embellishments correctly. So let me amend my phrase "trained followers" to "well-trained followers". It does seem to me that the leaders enjoy dancing more with a follower who knows proper technique, as opposed to one who is untrained - and personally, as a follower, I enjoy myself more when I know what I'm doing and can feel confident about it.
  4. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "it's at the same time the most difficult to learn for the leaders and easiest to learn for the followers"

    Here's an example of why I disagree with this.

    In country western dance there are "partner pattern dances". That is: they are taught and usually danced with someone, the man and woman have different roles (some more that others), and the pattern repeats throughout the song. Examples are the Horseshoe, Schottiche, and Traveling Cha Cha.
    These dances are a good place to start dancing for someone new. The steps are set. You get to dance with someone else. You don't have to concern yourself with either leading or following to any great extent. All you have to do is learn the steps in the correct sequence.

    On the other extreme of partner dances we have Argentine Tango as it is usually taught and danced. Anything could potentially happen next.

    In between we have most partner dances that have a set pattern of slow and quick steps, and a generally repeated "direction of movment" for "the basic step" that usually repeat(s) throughout the song.

    So, what is the argument that learning to follow in AT is "the easiest to learn for followers"?
  5. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    From my own perspective, I just found that once I'd been told a couple of basic things (stay in front of the man, and keep your orientation to him; stay put unless you can't--see the first point) it became extremely easy to follow basic things. Yes, intuitive, even.

    Now, I'm not making any claim, whatsoever, that I was doing anything nicely. Or that leaders would want to dance with me. Or that it looked even halfway decent. Just that I found it easy to figure out where to go and what to do with basic figures being led. The way I remember describing it to someone when I first started, is that with a good leader (good also meaning one who knew how to scale down the dancing to a newbie's level) I felt like I had no option but to step where he wanted me to. No debate, no question...only one correct spot to put my feet.

    As I've progressed, I've found that it continues to be true. New dimensions are added (non-traditional holds, very non-traditional steps/sequences, rise and fall, more technically difficult steps like overturned ochos) but the basics have remained the same for me.

    Now, the technique on the other hand...oy!

    *shrug* Maybe I'm just the odd one out, here. All I know is, AT "clicked" for me from the very beginning. I'm content to "blame" it on a good first teacher.
  6. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I believe that tango is a really, really difficult dance for a follower to learn. The reason that it doesn't appear to be is because of what we talk about when we mean learn. A decent leader can dance most of the tango vocabulary with a beginner after 1 month. After 1 year of classes+practicas+milongas most followers will be able to dance anything if it is lead well (excluding a few acrobatic/unlead things). And then there is a big, black depressing hole - given the right partner they can follow anything, but now dancing with most people is not exciting anymore, they are not improving (and they don't know what to improve in), and the tango gods still dance only with each other - and that is the point where i have seen many followers stop doing tango. And others say "Oh, so thats tango", and they stay there.
    And it is the point where "learning to follow" seems to really start. I have no idea what good following is - i can see good technique, and i appreciate when i lead an ocho and she dances an ocho, but there is a certain quality that "good" followers have that is different from that. They are able to set up a strong connection and support it for the whole fo the dance. And i have no idea how they do it.

  7. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Could you, please, elaborate on this a bit more? Especially the bolded part?
  8. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    This seems sensible to me.

    I believe that it's no easier to lead than to follow, as a general rule. In any dance. To get to Godlike levels in either roles takes the same amount of effort and talent.

    However, I also believe that the initial learning curve for AT (like most dances) is much steeper for leaders than it is for followers. Followers get a (relatively!) easy ride at the start of the learning process.

    So it would make sense, given these two beliefs, that this "easy ride" is counterbalanced at some point, when it becomes much more difficult for the follower to improve than the leader, because they have to work much harder at some point - the leaders have already put their time in.

    Does that all tally with people's experience?

    (FWIW, I think this theory - which I'll call the Dave Bailey Hypothesis :) - also applies to all dances. So in any dance, I believe that takes an equal amount of work to get to be an Advanced dancer, it's just that some dances have shallower initial learning curves than others.)
  9. timbp

    timbp New Member

    It makes sense to me. And this is the third time I have read this theory -- and AT is the third dance I have tried to learn. Coincidence? Clue: NO.
  10. TangoTricia

    TangoTricia New Member

    It makes sense to me that it would take a similar level of effort and commitment to be advanced. whether leader or follower. And how could anyone miss the differences in the initial learning curves for leaders and followers? One point that works in the leaders' favour, however, is that anything a leader doesn't enjoy, is having a temporary issue with, or even has a natural disadvantage with, can just be left out. A follower has to be prepared to respond to whatever is led, so may be seen to need a wider expertise to avoid their partenr having to make allowances. T xx
  11. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I see the connection as the core of tango, so my view is very biased in that direction, and i also tend to overthink things - so please take this with a grain of salt.

    When i listen to followers returning from BA's there is a common theme they repeat: They loved the embrace. They felt safe. They felt wonderful. And they complain that the leaders here don't seem to be able to create the same embrace.

    And as a leader hunting for this elusive quality in my own embrace has been somewhat frustrating - proper technique gets me close, but not completely there. Every tango teacher drops some hints on what s/he thinks is important. Dancing a lot gives at least insights into what doesn't work.

    But one thing that i have noticed is that a very similar thing is true for followers - when they come back from BA their embrace, their ability to conenct has changed. They feel different, they complete the embrace and connect deeper. And after a few weeks here it is gone again - they have not changed their technique, at least not to a degree i could tell, and i can't tell what has changed, but it is feelable.

    And the same as i am not really sure what makes a leader great i am not really sure what makes a follower great. I am sure it is a skill, and learnable - some people are able to produce this feeling consistently, but i haven't quite gotten an idea of how it could be taught more explicitly.

    For myself i basically think of it as trying to feel "trustworthy". Which is first all about proper technique, but then also about having the right mindset. I try to trust my follower, and the music, and the other people on the dancefloor. And to somehow feel to the follower like i do trust all these things.

    And while i don't know what makes a follower a great follower i think that is what i feel from them - trust. If a follower leans on me i can't trust that they have control over themselves. If a follower does to many embellisments i can't trust that they are going to follow. If a follower does not enough embellishments i can't trust that she is listening to the same music, and if she is not listening to the same music i loose half of my ability to lead. If a follower does not wait for my lead i feel that she doesn't trust in it. If she is completely passive i feel that she is not really dancing with me.

    It really has very little to do with vocabulary. That is one of the things that is hard for me to understand: There are some absolute beginners that are a delight to dance with as long as they don't know anything about tango - they mistake me for an advanced dancer, and just follow. As soon as they learn something about tango they start to fret about their rechnique, and try to recognize moves, and are in general much less fun to dance with. And once they are intermediate they start to match good technique with at least some degree of trust (or at least a good imitation of it :) ), and it becomes fun again. The amazing thing about the few advanced followers i was lucky enough to dance with was always this sense of stillness and trust in my lead. Even when they improvised and changed my lead, and danced something surprising, it always felt like a gesture of trust "I know you can pick this up. I know you listen to the music and can appreciate the way i accentuated this. I trust you are listening to me as much as i do to you", and not a demonstration of not trusting that i knew what i was doing.

    Its like how leaders get always told "You have to make your follower happy. She is the most beautiful and graceful woman in the world. All you do is serve her." There should be a equivalent saying for the followers "You have to make your leader happy. He is the most handsome and elegant man in the world. All you do is serve him". I think that is why i sometimes don't like when followers over-embellish. It is the followers equivalent of what some leaders do when they wrench their follower through the 108 sacadas of doom - it says "i don't care about you, i am just showing of myself. I don't need this to be interesting to you, but it is just gratification for my ego".

    Now i have written a lot and i feel that i have said actually very little. The only thing i know is the moment i embrace a great follower and she embraces me i feel that we have stopped being two people, and that we agree to tackle the next few songs as a team. My embrace is not just framing her, but it is part of her - i can feel my energy as a alive loop throught my arms and chest, from my palm through her body and arms to my other palm. I don't hold her, she completes the circle and makes it alive. The same way i feel her embrace - she is not jus resting her hands on me, but she also forms a live circuit with me part of it. And we both project energy towards each other, nestled together in the two overlapping circles shaped by our embraces. It is not like we have one frame, and each of us is half of it, but we have two independent frames. Thats why i prefer followers who do keep their left arm high, draped around my neck - i can feel (imagine?) her energy running through my neck-shoulder-left arm to her right hand more clearly. I don't really think about my own right arm the same way - i really feel the that the circle that embraces her to be shaped from my chest, right shoulder, her left shoulder, her body and right arm, my right arm.

    And this is what one of my friends "annoying tango-mysticism". I feel much more comfortable talking about basic technical questions because even though there are lots of different views of the details we have a common basis to talk about, and we can exchange ways of practice. This is internal work, and i am not sure if it exist meaningfully outside of the dance itself.

    Some people in indonesian martial arts make a strong distinction between what they practice, and what the martial art is. They consider the martial art itself unteachable, and a personal expression of the principles learned in precticing unique to a specific fight - the "fruit" of practice. The practice itself is only meaningful as a means to groom oneself to be more likely to produce this fruit.
    The things i am reading/talking about for tango are things i am working on for myself to groom myself to be able to tango in the moment that i embrace a follower. They are not the dance. The vocabulary is not the dance. The technique is not the dance.

    I have pretty strong ideas what kind of practice/mindset will help a beginner, but as soon as i talk with other intermediate people i can only talk about what i believe i like. I am not even sure if i like what i believe to like - there are follower who dances the almost the complete opposite of what i like and i think they are amazing, and i love dancing with them.

  12. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Gssh, I love your post but sorry, I can't often do much neck-draping in the embrace, due to height differences. And as a beginner I'm just lousy at close embrace in general.

    Speaking of which - in my ongoing quest to actually learn tango properly, I tried yet another teacher tonight and I am feeling very hopeful. This teacher, it seemed to me, covered more of the kinds of issues that you guys have been explaining to me in this thread. Here's what she covered in the first lesson, see what you think. I am describing most of it from the follower's perspective.

    -walking: leaders walk chest first, feet following the upper body, followers move the feet first, then the upper body moves; when walking backward, movement is similar to gliding and pushing off like ice skating; leg moves from hip; collect the feet/ankles

    -posture: body aligned, weight forward on balls of feet. (I was taught this before, but apparently not well enough since this new teacher kept noticing that I often had my upper body too far back. She said that was hindering my ability to follow because it was disconnecting me from my partner)

    -leading/following tips: goal is to connect with your partner through the chest, so if a move takes you away from your partner, you will seek to reconnect in the next move

    -the cross: should be led, no automatic crosses; was not taught as an eight-count pattern, but in just three steps i.e. leader walks forward with his right, forward with the left while opening out the left hip forward a little, then close with the right while straightening out the hips. Seemed to work pretty well, though it wasn't explained as well as Angel HI did.

    -how to learn tango if you already know other dances: can be a challenge. This teacher says she can recognize when students, by habit, perform a step that belongs in another dance and then she knows how to help them. I really liked that she acknowledged that issue instead of insisting that tango movements are supposed to be natural - which they aren't if you're accustomed to other dances.

    Overall, I really liked the lesson and the teacher is very calm, friendly, patient, and a clear communicator. So I signed up for the beginner six-week course. I'll keep my fingers crossed (and feet crossed only when led). :)
  13. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    It sounds like you are on the right track.

  14. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    SOunds pretty good, but one qualifier...
    "followers move the feet first, then the upper body moves"
    Women often have trouble controling the length of their steps when moving backwards. They reach backwards with their foot as the man's chest moves forward, but since the leg and foot moves first, their body has a tendency to move the same distance. Often it can be too far, moving the woman away from the man. It may be just a bit, but it can be felt. In the worst cases it can be a lot.
    It's possible for the man to compensate for this by keeping the woman in place with his right arm, whcih goes atound her back. This can get old after a while.
    In a close embrace you are chest to chest. When the man's chest moves forward, yours should move backward the same distance. If you keep your foot under your chest (which is about where your center is), or just a tiny bit behind it, when the man's chest stops moving forward, your foot will be under your center, and the length of your step will match that of the man's.
    The same concept applies in an open embrace, unless you want your embrace to feel like an accordian.

    And one more comment on something that I think is very important, and usually not stressed near enough.
    "I often had my upper body too far back. She said that was hindering my ability to follow because it was disconnecting me from my partner"
    Although we can experience a spiritual/emotional connection with our partners, we are living in a material world, and the physical part of the connection is created (to a large extent) by "sharing weight" with your partner; either a lot in apilado/close embrace, or a little in an open embrace. (Reference Gssh's mention of "annoying tango-mysticism".)

    I can dance tango steps when my partner feels like she is out there "on her own axis", but it doesn't feel like tango.

    Looks like you found a good one.
  15. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Just from this follower's perspective...

    Please, please, PLEASE DON'T do that!

    If "my" technique is not good, locking me in like that won't help it any, will throw me off even more, and make me fight you.

    If "my" technique is good, then chances are that I know darn well where my weight and my axis are, like them that way, and have chosen to dance in that manner deliberately. Please, just make the best of that tanda, and if it bothers you that much then don't ask me to dance again.

    Not to mention, being held in that position like that is uncomfortable and inhibits movement (the good as well as the bad).
  16. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I'm laughing as I write this, because another way to handle it is to just let the woman keep moving farther and farther away by NOT holding her in place. When this happens, the man also has to basically stop any weight sharing, and move almost completey back onto his "own axis".
    I would be a happy camper if I only rarely had to put any pressure against my partners back, and merely had to keep it there.

    Too much, not enough, you can't please everyone.

    Everyone knows what goose stepping is, right? Ever see a woman backward goose stepping down the floor? I have. Foot goes out too far, then comes back under the center as the man completes his step. I'd be willing to bet she had a lesson recently where she was told that her foot should go first.

    Whenever I get buy in from someone on the "keep your feet under your center" concept the problem begins to go away.

    As you point out, another way to make the problem go away is not not dance with that person again.

    But I was merely sharing my insight with jenny, and anyone else who reads this thread.

    I'll put it another way...
    Although you should move your leg back from the hip, and obviously you have to work on that at first, don't think about it too much. And if you think too much about "the foot goes first", it can have the same effect of weakening the connection.

    And, there's a difference between keeping someone from moving away and pulling them towards you.
  17. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I've never had this problem (and it's strange since I've had every other problem). Personally, I agree with the followers foot moving first. As long as the follower does not put her weight down (until the leader steps), she can adjust accordingly.
  18. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Ditto. 'Tis what I've heard from every teacher so far.
  19. bafonso

    bafonso New Member

    This is the root if the problem. You are looking for a recipe and what you need is practice with fundamental ideas in mind. There's no steps in tango. A good leader will have infinite options to do whatever he wants and connect all of them in nice and unexpected ways. And you won't even notice if it was a hard or easy move... there are only smooth and non-smooth moves. :)

    You first need to learn and feel what connection is, what it feels like. It would be good dance a bit with a good leader. Now, that may be hard to find but normally good leaders like to introduce followers into the beauty of a good dance.

    A connection is not made with eyes, it's made with feeling. In feeling your partner, where he has the weight, whether he is firmly grounded or not on one side, etc. You feel this, you don't look at it. The same way once you get better you will be able to feel where the torso is. And btw, in ochos, you don't move your torso. You have it straight, because otherwise if the follower really follows, it would unbalance her... it's the way you move slightly outside that makes the follower move the feet in a ocho way. Look at the best dancers, they don't torsion for ochos. It can all be lead, but you need a good teacher to teach leaders and followers. This will all become very clear once you go close embrace...

    With all due respect, you're wasting your time with bad teachers. Just like everyone here has told you, keep looking for a good teacher. One easy way to find out good teachers is to see how much they plan on teaching in a beginners class. A beginners class normally is meant to bootstrap your connection, basis of the dance dynamics. Sure, everyone will teach you the cross and the ochos but they will all at first look like steps. That's fine, but what you should focus on is on building up a connection and learn how to walk graciously, smoothly change weights, good posture, interpret the leaders lead, etc. You will need years to develop all of these, the beginners class is only meant to teach you how to further develop this aspects. The less a teacher plans to teach in a class, the better the teacher is normally, for he truly understands the dynamics of what is teaching and truly wants to share that knowledge in a constructive way, so that you can take what (s)he's teaching and continue your learning process.

    Stay strong, keep looking out for a good teacher. Use the internet to find out good teachers, there's mailing lists (hint) that will help you...
  20. bafonso

    bafonso New Member

    Sorry, only read this part now! Sounds like a good teacher :)

    I believe everyone will have an opinion but in walking - and pretty much everything else - the important is to feel the leader's intension. Now, this is not easy for a beginner leader to do. The leader needs to ground - push against the floor in a sense - and convey he wants to move. You can simply be standing in front of each other and start moving your leg slightly backwards because you feel that conviction. An outsider will not see the leader move at all... somewhat magical :) mastering this technique allows you to later do cambios de frente, etc... (180 turn)

    Good luck! I'm still a young leader and know how hard it is at the beginning :) but I specially know how wonderful it is to have a good teacher that slowly allows you to build your technique...

    It's better to dance simple stuff but in a pleasurable way than do a lot of stuff in a crappy mode. it's all about the music interpretation..

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