Tango Argentino > Help! Newby lost in tango

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

  1. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Welcome, bafonso, thanks for the comments.

    I am looking forward to learning with this new teacher. However, I do have just one concern. Due to a leader shortage in the class, the teacher had me and another lady take turns leading each other. I feel I have enough challenges just learning to follow, let alone leading. And the other lady has zero dance experience (she started dancing only 3 weeks ago), so she's challenged too. Does anyone see any problems/issues with this?
  2. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Hopefully, they rotate partners, so you can try other people as well. I don't think taking turns leading is a bad thing, (and since there is an imbalance, there's not many other options).

    Besides, some day when you've mastered this stuff and decide to teach, knowing how to lead will be a benefit.

  3. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    You will gain valuable insights into your role as a follower by being on "the other side" of the connection. Not having a 50/50 mix of men and women in class happened frequently when I was taking lessons.
    When your partners are doing multiple ochos on their own, hanging on you, not giving you a good connection, etc, you'll have a better idea of what NOT to do in the woman's role.
    I can write about whether or not the woman's foot going first affects the connection in a negative way all I want, but when you feel it yourself as a leader...
    Learning both roles is encouraged here in Portland, and many people believe it makes you better at your usual role. But many people from other towns get a horrified look on their faces when it is suggested in classes here.
    Taking your turn at dancing the "other" role is fine in class. The alternative is to stand around and watch, which means your time isn't being very well spent.
    Teachers, and more advanced dancers, will frequently offer to dance the "other" role when working with other dancers at practicas.
    By the time you get to the milonga, you don't see it much. (You aren't supposed to be there to teach or practice by most accounts.)
    You will want to consider your local community standards once you leave class. Festivals are another place where people will often change roles (at least Portland is).
  4. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    That idea occurred to me as well. But thus far it has not worked in practice. That is, when I am leading, I am not skilled enough to recognize what the follower is doing. I am spending all my effort simply trying to lead it properly. If she does not follow correctly, I am not knowledgeable enough to diagnose whether the problem was mine or hers.

    Also, I have found that when I learn the leader's role, it changes the way I follow, and maybe not for the better. What happens is that I end up just memorizing what the lead looks like for each move. When I follow, it becomes more like "oh, I recognize that the leader is doing the steps that lead into the ocho, so now I am supposed to do an ocho" instead of physically following the lead.

    Because of my non-partner dancing, I have been trained to memorize steps extremely quickly; I do it without even trying, and it is very hard to force myself not to do it. So if I learn to lead, then it seems nearly impossible to me to forget those steps when I switch back to following.
  5. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    If you mean literally that you are "seeing" things, you might try closing your eyes when you follow. You might still learm to anticipate things, but at least you will be training yourself to rely on what you "feel", rather than what you see.
    I know at one point I told one of my instructors to make me work for it. She was really making it too easy for me.
    If you feel a rapport with one of the other students, you could suggest that you only respond to actual leads for a while. Or conversely, agree that you don't want your partner to just do what comes next.
    On the other hand, you also have to learn what the movement feels like in your partner's body. So the is some merit to walking through things, at least initially.
    Beginners working with beginners certainly has its problems.
    As far as leading, the men don't know enough to know what is going on or not going on yet, either. And, it is is only with a lot of study and practice that they will be able to figure things out themselves. Same with the women as followers.
    I can tell you that one reason I am particularly sensitive to "connection issues" is that I've been a follower and have been quite literally pushed around by guys who had been told repeatedly not to do that by the instructor.
    Short term pain, long term gain?
    At least you haven't been mislead into thinking this would be easy.
  6. bafonso

    bafonso New Member

    There are different ideas about this. If you want to learn faster a role, you focus only on your role. My beginners class we HAD to do both roles, even if it was gender balanced. We would rotate who was leading/following, no matter who our partner was. Now, I will be biased but I truly believe this is helpful. You get to see the other side. By learning both roles you will see how they interplay and to better interpret leaders.

    On the other hand, learning both roles will enable you to have fun in gender imbalanced classes/practicas later on. You will find pleasure in doing both roles even if you only excel at one :) my favourite teacher is a woman who leads magnificently so she is able to teach and make good leaders.

    I really believe doing both roles is useful and when I follow new things I am trying to make as a leader I learn where I can improve in conveying what I want and making it smoother for the follower. You also build up your unconscious in dealing with different heights, etc.

    Beginning is frustrating but I believe you are lucky. Once you know the basics a good leader will be able to dance with you in a very nice way. We leaders tend to take much longer at being able to reach that level :) that and the problem of always fearing we're not good enough, etc.

    But please, do not stop improving your technique and abilities. I can tell you that it's very different to dance with an experienced follower (2,3+ years) and a beginner (6mon-1,2y). It just flows....

    Beginning is hard because no one knows what the other is supposed to be doing so it's hard to counter-act the errors :) . I personally don't like to "tip" others in classes unless they ask me to. And I always ask followers I respect for their opinion and tips. But I tend to ignore comments and tips from followers that I don't believe/feel are that good. This helps keeping sanity in your learning process, avoiding mis-guided notions, etc. I've seen very young leaders trying to teach young followers. Bottom line is to choose your mentors wisely. :) It will help the learning curve.
  7. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    There are many opinions about whether role reversal is good or not. I guess, all have some merit to some degree. That a follow will learn better how to follow by leading, and vis-a-vis, only really works when one undestands how to properly execute what it is that they are doing. To lead a movement will only help a follower to follow better, if that follow has a firm concept of what it is that she is supposed to do. Otherwise, all she has learned is that when the lead does this...I should do that / feel this / be here / go there. But the "how" is yet a different issue.
  8. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    That is exactly what I am concerned about, Angel HI. My next lesson is on Tuesday so we'll see how it goes. I already told the teacher that my main concern is my following skills. But the class is very small (just four people) so I think there will be some time for everyone to get some personal attention.
  9. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Bonne chance. I understand that the class is small, and the taking of turns leading might be necessary. Go for it! Only, remember to try to focus on the feel and movement of the follow rather than just what the follow is doing.
  10. jeng7400

    jeng7400 New Member

    Just to put a note of finality on the original post on this thread, I survived the beginning tango class. Last night was the last night and we learned (or rather, the instructor showed) a step called the "molinete". Anyhow, I could not have survived without some out-of-class instruction help from my friend, who had taken beginning tango in Argentina. By the way, the five-week series started with about 50 people. By the last class, less than half that number showed up.
  11. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Wow...50 is a lot, and even 25 is too. My new class just got some more people but there's still only eight of us. Anyway, kudos to you for sticking with it. Hope you don't mind that I barged in on this thread with my own newbie questions. :friend:

    I took my second class in a six-week series and I am really loving it. After months of other (bad) teachers, this wonderful teacher is a breath of fresh air. She creates such a positive, non-stressful, encouraging feeling among the students, while thoroughly teaching us correct technique. I feel like there is some light at the end of the tunnel and it's not an oncoming train :p
  12. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Hey JID,

    Sounds like the teacher dilemma that you were asking about has worked out. Glad to hear it.
  13. Hock Siew

    Hock Siew New Member

    I`ve been reading this thread with interest; although I`m not sure whether I understand all of it yet :-? Currently I`m looking at the post below.

    On my part, I was taught to actively lead the follower not to change weight in this instance. Isn`t that different from performing a weight change which does not lead the follower into a corresponding weight change? Or have I misunderstood it all :confused:
  14. bafonso

    bafonso New Member

    There are many ways to "trick" the follower into getting into the cross system. To get into the "cross system", you need to somehow have the follower not change weight. you can do it while walking or more traditionally to start ochos using a side step. One of the best ways to do it is by changing the weight while the follower has started moving or isn't stepping on the floor. As your technique develops, you will be able to coordinate and lead if you want a weight change or not :)
  15. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Though I understand your intention and your point, the description is flawed. Though we do arrive in the cross system by both dancing into it ourselves w/o the follower feeling it, and leading a weight shift for thr follow as we hold/hesitate, your posts says one then describes the other. Could be confusing for a beginner.

    Welcome to the DF... to the both of you.
  16. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Hey everyone...another update to my ongoing saga of my newbie struggles.

    I am happy to say that things are looking up! I finished my beginner classes with my new teacher and it went very well. I attended her monthly milonga last night and didn't do too badly. Got asked to dance a fair amount, and each leader danced a whole tanda with me, so yay for that. I figure I didn't suck too badly if they wanted to stick it out for that many songs. :)

    However, the really good leaders are not asking me yet, so it was still somewhat challenging to follow the guys I danced with, due to our combined skill limitations. There were a few moves I couldn't follow yet. But overall I think I did better than before, and I felt more confident.

    I absolutely love the new teacher, and hope to take more lessons with her. I no longer feel clueless about tango, thanks to her excellent teaching. :D
  17. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    C'est magnifique, JID! keep it up.
  18. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    I'm trying. :)

    So, another update: Last weekend I took workshops with this couple, Gustavo Benzecry Saba & Maria Olivera. They are from Buenos Aires and have been touring the U.S., teaching and performing recently. Gustavo has written two books, "Tango Danza Glossary" and "Embracing Tango."

    One of the workshops was milonga, which I handled pretty well. I do salsa, so I enjoy fast rhythmic dances.

    The other, though, was follower's embellishments. That workshop was done without partners; we simply followed Maria through various exercises to practice toe & heel taps, hooking our leg behind and in front while walking, tracing one foot in a circle, caressing one leg with the other, etc. The moves all looked familiar and I'm sure there are names for them, but Maria did not say what they were.

    I had no trouble physically doing the movements. But we were not taught when or how to use these embellishments. One of the students asked Maria about that, and she said to fit them in between what the leader is leading. I knew that answer already, in general, but I would have liked to see specifics, i.e. which types of embellishments most often work with which types of steps, and an explanation of timing the steps so as not to disrupt the leader's rhythm.

    Was this an unusual way to teach this concept? Seems to me it would have been a lot more helpful to have partners for at least part of the workshop, to understand and practice how to use the embellishments. Or at least have the teacher do a demonstration with her partner.
    The moves looked familiar to me, and I previously had done a few of the simpler ones that I had learned just from watching and imitating other dancers. But I was hoping for more insight at the workshop.

  19. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    You've seen Jennifer Bratt's tutorial?

    Here's the thing with embellishments.
    They almost always don't have anything to do with your partner. Sometimes it feels like the woman is saying, "Look, I'm bored, so you go on and lead and I'm gonna do this stuff to entertain myself."
    That said, they ARE fun to watch when they are done well. But, it's like guys walking toe first, it seems to take a loooooooonnnnggggg time to get it right.
    Meanwhile, boring but really important skills aren't being honed because the time that could be used to work on them is taken up by learning to do embellishments.

    OK, I didn't really think I would influence anyone.

    If you find yourself off balance because the man didn't wait for you to finish something,
    (if you haven't fit it in between your steps) think about:
    #1 are there obvious places in the music where a pause will occur?
    #2 is this guy pausing with the music, or is he dancing his own dance?
    #3 learn how to signal to him with your posture and the amount of resistance you are giving him that you are doing something "down there" with your feet and would like to finish

    And I'd be willing to bet good money that if you learn to do something (tasteful and rarely (intermittant reinforcement)) that includes the man, you will be given more opportunity to "play" .

    Performers have the almost irrestisible opportunity to make extra money by giving lessons. The way they taught the class is very common. In fairess to them, they don't have the time to get into messy, hard to explain stuff, even if they are fully aware of it, and able to explain it in an easy to understand way.
  20. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Steve -

    yes, I've seen Jennifer Bratt's tutorial videos, at least the ones that just show her feet. But again, that doesn't provide me with any context for where to put it in the dance.

    I have a pretty good sense of music, so I can hear the pauses and accents in the song very well. And I can usually sense whether my partner would enjoy me doing an embellishment or not. I just need some guidance on technique, timing and appropriate use.

    I certainly agree that the follower shouldn't just do embellishments because she's bored. My goal is only to do them when they suit the music and relate well to what my partner is doing. THAT is what was missing from the workshop. Just to do fun footwork without connecting it to your partner, entirely misses the point of partner dancing, doesn't it? Might as well do freestyle, or jazz dance or some other solo dance.

    By way of comparison, the dance I am most familiar with is West Coast Swing. WCS also makes a lot of use of follower embellishments and optional footwork. But in every WCS workshop I have taken, we are clearly shown examples of which types of moves could fit into different points in the step patterns, and we practice them with a partner. After that, of course, you can get more creative and make up some of your own ideas, but at least in the beginning you are given a framework to learn with.

Share This Page