Tango Argentino > Leading - different philosophies?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by dchester, Jul 13, 2008.

  1. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I've been working on a theory as to why I occasionally have problems (or get complaints) leading certain followers (most often they are intermediates), and actually have less trouble with leading either beginners or advanced dancers. I've mostly assumed that it was mainly due to me being inconsistent and sloppy at times. However, I'm now starting to believe that another cause for this may be that there are different ways (or philosophies) for how the lead and follow are supposed to work.

    In talking to various teachers (and taking classes or lessons), I've heard what I would categorize as three distinct ways for how to lead turns. The three categories I would list are: Leading with the chest, Leading with the shoulders, and Leading with the frame (the technique I mostly try to use).

    Obviously, there's some overlap with things from these philosophies, but at the expense of overly simplifying it (and since I don't feel like writing a book), here's how I see them (in this case I'm mostly talking about turns).
    • Leading with the chest: The leader signals where the follower should go/turn, by rotating or moving his chest.
    • Leading with the shoulders: The leader signals by moving his shoulder (or sometimes both shoulders) where or how he wants the follower to move/turn, and the chest is used as well.
    • Leading with the frame: The leader uses (together as a unit, and not independently) his chest, shoulders, and arms to signal where he wants the follower to go/turn.
    So here is my theory:
    • With a beginner (for the most part), they will take (and be happy with) any kind of signal (lead) that they can get, and also assume that anything going wrong is their fault.
    • With an intermediate, they have a fairly clear understanding of the system (or philosophy) of their main teacher, but may not be aware that their teacher's techniques and philosphies aren't the only ones that people use.
    • With an advanced dancer, they have experienced pretty much all the common techniques and philosophies, and can easily accomodate any of them, even if they have a preference of one style over another.
    So does anyone think this theory of mine holds any water, or am I simply all wet?

  2. kieronneedscake

    kieronneedscake New Member

    I've been heavily focused on chest lead, and where follower allows, that is amplified by the arms. I find I have terrible difficulties with some beginners and intermediates because they are expecting to be pushed round, and I'm refusing to compromise my lead for them.

    I think you've nailed at least part of the problem. I for example have quite a bit of trouble with some of the nuevo-stylee people in London. Their anticipation of certain kinds of holds (eg. almost zero pressure from right arm) and certain types of steps heavily colours the dance one way or another, and it's all I can do to make an acceptable dance come out. I'm getting better at adapting, but as you say, only veteran dancers will recognise different basics and only advanced veterans can respond to them all.

    A cautionary note however, it is likely that you have created your own local version of various leads that may not translate to global dancers. It is very easy to disappear down your own tango culdesac in which only a few people can understand you, and correspondingly you wish to only dance with them as everyone else makes you feel rubbish.

    There are many ways to skin a tango cat.
  3. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    I am not sure I can discuss different leading philosophies, as I am a very beginner leader myself (Although I am puzzled at the word "frame"... I thought the frame was for ballroom, and in Argentine Tango we had the embrace?).

    But as a follower, I have never heard about separate ways of following for beginning, intermediate and advanced followers. Personally, I've known of (and being taught by different teachers right from the start) only one way: as soon as I said "yes" to the leader, and if he fulfills his leader's obligations toward me on the floor, I follow his lead to the best of my abilities, and try to make the dance work. That's the philosophy.

    Now, a more skilled follow has some technical means to make it work. That could include compensating for not-so-perfect lead at times, influence the dance certain ways, etc. I would agree that being exposed to many different leads helps to become a better follower, but it would not made one a better follower by default.

    I believe what makes a good follower is a combination of attitude, skills and experience. Probably, in that order. Any leading style itself (whatever it might be, I am not sure I understand that clearly, to be honest) has little to do with that, in my opinion.
  4. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    There's a chap on the London circuit who uses almost non-exist energy. pressure etc with his arms/chest but yet, it is like swimming in the Dead Sea when dancing with him: in that, there is no wave yet you still feel yourself moving/gliding/floating. How? He uses his head (albeit not in close embrace which he uses his frequently). If he wants the follower to perform a molinete to Her right, he shifts his head to His left or if he wants her to perform an ocho to Her left, he (first) moves his head to His right and so on and so on. I guess its that Mind-Eyes-Body theory: you look there-you get there.

    But yes, as you say its different from Beginner through Advance and each and every one person are alone in what they do - and THAT we are altogether in.
  5. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I'm not sold on the different philosophies of leading theory.

    My guess as to why you have problems with intermediate followers compared to both beginners and advanced followers is this: With beginners they only have a limited repertoire, so to speak, so are likely to interpret the lead within a relatively narrow scope of possible options. (And, hopefully, you've realized that they're beginners and have adjusted your lead accordingly.) With intermediate dancers, they've been exposed to, and are open to the possibility of, a multitude of possibilities. A somewhat ambiguous lead could be interpreted many different ways. What separates them from an advanced dancer, perhaps, is the advanced dancer's better following ability (still aware of the possibilities like an intermediate one, but better able to distinguish the lead for one from the lead for another).

    Just my $0.02.
  6. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    Well, IMO, all leading comes from the body, but the lead has to go through the arms (frame) to get to the follower.
  7. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    But not in AT...
  8. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    Can you (easily and consistently) follow a guy (in any movement) who crosses his arms behind his back?
  9. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Yes. Absolutely.

    The exception would be situations where holds are being changed (side-by-side, back-to-front), or there's extreme dissociation going on (overturned ochos, back sacadas). In those cases, though, the lead through the arms is, in a sense, overriding the body lead. Yes, you still follow the man's center, but the alignment is deliberately changed via the arms.
  10. dancinrina

    dancinrina New Member

    Perhaps not very well at first, but yes. Before I stopped dancing the first time, my teacher made me and my partner go through a very interesting excercise. She had us stand across from each other about 6" apart and had him dance with me - lead and follow, no routine. I messed up on the follows quite a few times but within about 5 minutes or so, I was able to tell where he was going to go just by body language and we were able to get through multiple dances before my brain fizzled out on me (It actually does take a lot of concentration to do that sort of thing) - granted, it's not the best way to do things but it makes us stronger followers/leaders if we learn to use it. And, of course this wouldn't really work in social dance unless you keep dancing with the same partner more than once.
  11. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Yup. I've spent plenty of time in lessons both following without any contact at all (pure visual lead/follow), and even more time spent following with my hands (and his) down at my sides or behind my back.
  12. calandra

    calandra New Member

  13. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    Yep, as the lead is emanating from the chest and not from arms.
  14. Taniquel

    Taniquel New Member

    This is completely the opposite of what I've been told over and over since I started (which is not so long ago) i.e. that the lead's job is to adapt to his partner. Unless this is something they say to make me feel better about missing steps... ;)
  15. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    What I am suggesting is that a given teacher has a "philosophy" on how the lead/follow is supposed to work, and that is what they teach (their own philosophy). Once you get to a milonga, you are exposed to people who have learned from different teachers (some of which may have a different philosophy on how the lead/follow is supposed to work).
  16. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Just to be clear, it's not all intermediates, just some (maybe 1/4 of them).
  17. Taniquel

    Taniquel New Member

    In my opinion, beginners, because they haven't learned much "steps" yet, are more likely to follow without thinking or questionning since they don't have a clue of what you are trying to have them do while intermediate have some knowledge of the dance and are (perhaps) more likely to try to recognize something they know in everything you do instead of just following your lead and let it take them wherever it will take them. (Or at least that's how it is for me!) And advanced dancers, well they master their steps as well as the ability to follow - Hopefully! - which makes it all so much smoother!
  18. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Compared with how many beginners, or advanced dancers? Just curious.

    I've noticed that there are some leads I just don't click with. I don't know what the deal is, but I can't seem to connect with them or make heads-or-tails of their leading. Maybe I'm just not good enough, I don't know. But I've talked with others, and they seem to have the same experience. Maybe you're just not clicking well with some people.

    This past weekend I actually took the chance and asked a lead to dance. I've been watching him for a while, and he seemed like a good leader. He dances with beginners and advanced dancers, seemingly without a problem. Me? I couldn't figure out his lead to save my life, unless he was leading a cross, which he led the exact same way every time. Maybe it was him, maybe it was me; maybe I'm one of those intermediates. Who knows.

    Slightly off topic--does anyone else think it's comparatively hard to identify an intermediate dancer by watching? Beginners are easy to pick out, advanced are easy...intermediate seems defined as "whoever doesn't fit into beginner or advanced," but doesn't seem to have defining characteristics of it's own.
  19. dancinrina

    dancinrina New Member

    Haha! That's so true!
  20. Taniquel

    Taniquel New Member

    Maybe it is easier to determine someone's level when you see them dance often and with more than one person. Then you know if they looked hesitant because the connection was not so great with one person but are actually generally good, or if they were especially good with one person that is an exceptionnal lead who knows how to make them look good (love those!) but are generally average.

Share This Page