Tango Argentino > Help! Newby lost in tango

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

  1. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Excellent. It sounds like you have all the tools you need to make it work.

    To this day (and probably as long as I can even think about dancing) I take inspiration from any number of sources.
    Sometimes I'll see someone do something and I'll remember, oh, I haven't done that for a long time. Maybe I'll try it again next time I dance.
    Sometimes I'll be listening to a piece of music, and, since I'm at rest, some movement will just come into my head.
    Sometimes, I'll just move in an unsual way emptying the dryer, or moving away from the sink, and I'll think, "Hey, they might work".

    A few weeks ago one of our local dancers, who helped one of my teachers teach his class, and whom I always look for to point out as an example of a very good dancer, just happened to be in my line of sight when there was this little, rapid "dut dut dut dut" thing in the music, and she tapped her toe to each beat while taking a step. It was very cool.
    Here in Portland I've been able to go to several classes specifically devoted to musicality, and although I haven't had a class in embellishments for followers, I'm sure they've been taught.
    Unfortunatley, not everyone has the same opportunities.
    On the other hand, WCS instrution here seems to be really short on musicality. (But in fairness to the teachers here, there are MANY WCS instructors in town who may be covering it, and I learned nearly a decade ago. I only know what I see where I dance.)

    Meanwhile, really, I think you will be able to figure it out yourself.
  2. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    Here's one spot where you may have opporutnities to fit some of these in...

    The back hook of the foot: This fits well in ochos if the leader is leading them a either a medium to slowish speed. I think the back hook is the easist to start with. It is the last thing you do before you step. It happens after your pivot and just as you are feeling like its time to go. It's not something you just hang out with your foot hooked behind you. I often think of it as the beginning of the step backwards after pivoting, just before I'm about to step backwards, rather than an hook at the end of pivoting. You might try doing ocho excersizes for yourself and practicing adding that hook on after you've pivoted and are about to step. If the leader is blowing through his ochos, this adornment is probably not a good idea (and neither are any others).

    Front hook of the foot: The opposite of what I just said above for ochos. You can do them before you pivot during an ocho. So if you are practicing on your own it would be step, front hook (and unhook and collect), pivot, step, front hook...etc.

    Toe taps- I like these best when the leader is moving backwards and I am moving forwards but you can do taps as you are walking backwards if you feel like it.

    Those are some basics to spice things up. The leader shouldn't feel them and they shouldn't interrupt things. Use you judgement. If a lead is moving fast, I don't usually bother trying to adorn. Try to keep the movement happening from the knees down so you don't telegraph what you are doing too much through your body and interrupt the lead.
  3. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Acck! I hope someone already posted about this further down this very long thread, but if I read to the end first, I'll never find this post again.

    The reason you would not follow the leader's weight change is that he keeps you on your other foot. The idea that you are supposed to "just know" NOT to follow his change is (IMHO) ludicrous, and you are being told that only because someone doesn't know how to instruct the leaders in changing their own weight without changing yours! Its actually not that difficult a lead. THe leader just has to be aware of how to do it.

    Ok... before I go any further in covering an already worn path, I'll read on and pray someone else addressed this...
  4. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    Holding your partner in a close-close hold makes it easier to read her body (language). If she starts doing a Red Rum in a Grand National either strengthen your hold (women tend not to mind when another woman does this) or do what I do and let go altogether (arms held wide), smile and raise your eyebrows.

    No, no, no memorise. Just feel, feel, feel. (I am so not a fan of merely memorising another's pattern - but that's me - BUT can understand the benefits for beginner leaders. And YES it is hard sometimes to 'switch back' into the Follower's World. Close your eyes and sink back into your world and let him bother about what he's meant to be doing. Sign off and then dance on.

    Also: although it is good that you're learning to lead (we need more female leaders out there) do focus first and foremost on your following and building on your confidence and expertise in that area. Unless a woman wants to focus purely on the lead (we have a handful of really good ones here - Londoners will know of whom I speak) let the Following being your priority at this early stage. Helping out in a class is good, however, bringing your own dancing (Following) to a level of high achievement, confidence and thus making it your own is your goal.

    ..nice photo;)
  5. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    Quite agree. Watching somebody else doing, say, a ocho is not going to teach you much on how to execute it yourself or where or when to do so in a milonga.

    That you have as you say a 'pretty good sense of music' puts in good stead of hearing the beat, medody, pauses etc and believe me, you will find it easier to embellish/flourish/decorate at these musical junctures than most.

    Technique - The technique you will be taught in the class but making it yours and when to/where to execute is down to you. This can be practiced at home by yourself with a broomhandle or at the sink. Take what you have learned in the class - just that one piece of movement - go home and put some icing on it and decorate it with all the trimmings. Practice with a piece of music you know. E.g. Do a front ocho, pause with toe of front foot on floor, draw the 'figure 8' or tiny circles (keeping knees tight) then step forward and transferring the weight to execute the other ocho. Or, wait a minute - I have an idea - before you turn to execute the next ocho - dip down (knees tight) and do a slow shimmy with your hips. You're by yourself so its okay at this stage :cool: It really is all about experimenting with what feels/looks right and what is complimentary to your dancing. I steal a heck of a lot from the world of jazz and ballet (as seriously, for me that is, there really isn't much tango steps to play with).

    Timing - really helps when the Leader gives you the time. When I'm dancing with a Leader who has only seen me but hasn't danced with me so doesn't know how I feel when dancing and he's not giving me enough time to flourish, I resort to tightening my hold and bracing him still. I wouldn't advocate a Follower doing this but it works for me and makes clear my message and of course teaches him patience. Timing can also be to the music so use the pauses, the dramatic highs and lows in the tune to put something in. I don't see a gancho, ocho, boleo etc as an embellishment but rather that little thing that I added to them as the embellishment itself. Think of the ocho, boleo, cross etc as the Truth and that little addition as the Embellishment. Embellishing the Truth.

    Appropriate Use - As long as it doesn't interfere with the Lead (i.e. forcing him to pause or stumble) then it is okay to use.
  6. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Thanks Heather, very useful. Part of my difficulty is feeling that I have mostly not yet reached the point of being able to have a non-verbal 'conversation' with the leader. I am still worried about just following correctly. It's frustrating to me. I was able to reach the 'conversational' stage in West Coast Swing after just a few months, even though WCS is supposed to be a difficult dance. I've been doing tango for a year and still don't feel comfortable; it hasn't helped that I was inadequately taught, and only recently found a good teacher. I will be starting more lessons with her soon, and I hope that will help my skills and comfort level.
  7. kieronneedscake

    kieronneedscake New Member

    Comfort in the dance is everything, as that puts you in a mental place where you can spare thought to communicating. That said, many tango relationships are disfunctional and only capable of communicating anxiety or displeasure. Conversations will come with very few special people at first and spread to a wider audience.
  8. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Try not to get so down on yourself. You've said it's only recently that you're getting good instruction--so don't think about this like you've been at it for a year and are "only" at Level X, try thinking about it like you've only been at it a few months, and are already at Level X. Really, if you were getting poor instruction, you can't hold that time against yourself.

    Everyone had dances that work well and make sense to them, IMO. AT is that dance for me. But I'm in awe that you can dance WCS, because I just don't get that one at all. At.all! It makes no sense to me, and just about any WCS to me is 3 minutes of anxiety. So take credit for that.

    As for the conversational bit...give yourself a break. It will come. It will take time. There is nothing that says you "should" be at a particular point by such-and-such a date. Try and relax and enjoy the journey. Hell, I'm 2.5 years in and still unsure of how to "converse" in AT. At this point, I'm working on my following. Put another way, I'm a very good listener, although I'm getting better at interjecting something now and again.
  9. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Absolutely! You've got to be comfortable--with yourself, with your ability, with your leader--before you can become receptive to anything. If you're not comfortable, you're not relaxed, and you're not focusing on him. And that's how things go to hell in a hand basket.
  10. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    The whole conversation/connection WILL happen, trust me. Not all Leaders have that connection/conversation thing going on (many focus too intently upon what to lead next to just get into you, the feeling, the music) but there are those that can take you in their arms, move you a little and it'll be like the bottom falling out and like Alice sending you into a whole new dimension. But it'll happen. ;)
  11. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Absolutely. 100% spot-on. Especially that bottom-dropping-out feeling.
  12. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Boy are you ever right about that!
  13. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Interesting to read someone else say this at this time, because when I started learning to lead last summer, I wondered how on earth someone could ever learn to lead if they are dancing with someone who hasn't learned to follow! And conversely, how does a follower learn to follow, dancing with someone who doesn't understand that they must LEAD rather than expect the follower to do the step only because it was just taught?

    I learned to follow dancing with my teacher. As a leader, I had been following for a few years and could tell that the people I was leading had NO idea what it meant to "follow". They recognized the step if it was one they knew and then took off on their own.

    One lady did about 8 ochos while I stood there still trying to figure out how to get her to stop! She obviously thought "Oh! That's an ocho, I know those!" and so she just started doing them on her own even though I only lead ONE and had tried to lead her out of it to a cross. But she fought my lead in order to "do ochos", and just kept doing them although I was leading nothing.
  14. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Lol. Recently I took a workshop where they had us pair up, and we switched off leading and following, regardless of what we usually danced. So, I'm in the leader's role with this one guy, and he starts talking about how he thinks is a really good idea for women to learn to lead, so they can appreciate what the men have to deal with. Good point, eh? I agree with him.

    ...and then I spent god-only-knows-how-much time just trying to get this guy to stand still. I wasn't leading anything...I was standing. Still. Not moving. I wasn't even getting to the point of shifting weight from one foot to the other. At that point I just didn't care...I just wanted him to stop moving. It was amazing...this guy managed to do so much stuff all by himself without me doing ANYTHING to lead it. Kind of funny, really.

    I just kind of smiled to myself during that, since he was still talking about how women should learn to lead to gain appreciation. I was thinking to myself...you have no idea of the irony of the situation right now, do you? I was also thinking that perhaps he should take some classes in following.
  15. Mario7

    Mario7 Member

    Yes, amazing...Why didn't you share your observations? Did you think that he couldn't handle it?:eek:
  16. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I wasn't there to teach. I'm not qualified to teach. I make it a point to never comment (except if I'm being hurt and something needs to stop, or if something is nice I'll spontaneously compliment) unless I'm very specifically asked. And even then, I'm very cautious.

    At one point he make the comment that he couldn't figure out what I wanted him to do. I told him, "Nothing, just stand here." Didn't help any. Why keep trying? It wasn't my place. Besides, it was some private amusement on my part.

    And, for the record, I did stop to consider the quality of my leading. (Because I also couldn't get the guy to cross to save my life. It's amazing how many other things he found to do besides a cross.) So, I asked the women I led. I got tons of compliments on my leading. And every last one of them said my lead for the cross was clear and well-timed. So...prolly not me.
  17. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    And where do you get off just standing there? Ain't she got a right to dance?

  18. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member


    And followers wonder why so many people end up using their arms to lead.
  19. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    When I try to lead, I usually tell the person up front that I am NOT an experienced leader and that I'm learning. (Since they have seen me around for awhile and some of them know I have assisted my partner in teaching, its possible that they think I can lead already) I usually also request that they not compensate at all for what I do wrong, and that if I don't lead it correctly, they shouldn't do the move.

    I've found that most of the followers in my area fall into 2 catagories... those that follow pretty well and those that actually dont' follow at all. (just perform steps that they've learned) There doesn't seem to be much middle ground, at least from my perspective as a newbie leader.

    And as you said... when I lead the ones who actually do understand "following", they often tell me that I led better than any of the guys in the class. (Although I struggle sometimes with walking to the cross rather than twisting into it)

    I don't think it says anything about me personally that I lead better than the guys in the beginner classes... I've been doing this dance longer than they have and I already understand the steps I'm leading, only from a follower's position. Its only natural that I would pick up leading them quicker than someone who is starting from scratch.

    I wish things were like "the old days" in Ar. when everyone learned to follow first and only from experienced leaders. I think it would produce better dancers.
  20. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I actually was considering doing the opposite.. Letting her go completely.

    A teacher relayed a story to me one time about a beginner follower who did this same thing with the teacher, and ocho'd her way backwards into a wall.

    However, there are some teachers who say that once the leader leads something, in absence of any new info, the follower should continue doing what was LAST LED until the leader breaks the pattern with a new lead. I don't agree with that idea at all, but I know some people who have gotten taught that. To me, in AT, stillness IS a lead.

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