Tango Argentino > Leading - different philosophies?

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

  1. Mochaboy

    Mochaboy New Member

    I consider myself lucky to have access to folks like Tete, but over the past two years, it's become something of a frustration. When I started, I was happy to shelf my skepticism and just do what the teachers told me... That is of course, until subsequent teachers, all professing to be "masters" at some level or another started to contradict each other.

    I've been told by teachers that the "right way" [to lead] is with the frame, only to have another contradict them and say, it's with the chest, and then to have another say, lead with everything you have, from your eyes to your chest on out to your pinkies.

    What does that tell me? The true definition, at least the one that works for me, is some combination of everything above.

    When I dance, my philosophy is to make it as enjoyable for my partner as possible. Part of the challenge in getting there is understanding what it takes to communicate with your partner. Followers do their fair share of "learning their leads" - I figure it's only fair we take the opportunity to listen and adjust our leading styles to accomodate our partners.

    So if that means I move them around a little more or less, or favor a close embrace (which I suck at) over a V, or take a half a second longer to finish that extention so they can complete their adornments, then that's what I do. The very first time I danced close embrace, everything I'd learned up until that point with regards to style and technique went out the window. Truth be told though, nothing improved my lead more than dancing close embrace. Your steps have to absolutely clear, ever more precise and your posture has to allow for those movements to take place.

    So when I dance with beginners, I move them around with a little more conviction and in some cases exaggerate the "cues". There can be no question about where you want to go - and more often than not, that extra bit of clarity is enough to signal my intent.

    With intermediate dancers, it depends on the embrace, open, V, or close, I adjust my speed and timing accordingly...In close embrace it's all about the chest, when I switch to a V or open for a move that requires it, I use my hands and lead arm to emphasize what my chest is leading. If I do something my following doesn't expect and is caught like a deer in headlights, I simply reset and try again later. I pause a lot, and ever step gives them plenty of time to "play".

    With advanced dancers, so long as I pay attention to musicality and don't stomp on my partner's feet, I can almost do anything I want, as sloppy as I want, with little or no suggestion, and we still walk away two giggling fools.

    So my philosophy - abstract as it may be - if you *and your partner walk off the dance floor with smiles on your face - you led well. I adapt my style to suit my partner and having that level of flexibility has allowed me to enjoy a broader range of dancers. Understanding that I had to pay less attention to what I was doing and more attention to how to get my point across more effectively has really transformed my leading from the horror it was to ... well, something passable :)

    ps - I had the fortune of attending a class with Tete this week. We spent 20 minutes with our hands behinds our backs and our partners draped around our necks. Heck of a way to teach that skill :) Oh, and he did the airplane thing there too :)
  2. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    This is the bottom line to the arm thing. Case closed. Though, Amp stated closed embrace, this is the way it is for all of the styles. Having said that, I do recognize that many dancers, including those considered top, are seen with arms pushing/jerking/flapping/manipulating the dance, not to mention the girl, to death. Doesn't make it right or good, just done.

    Another good point. And, here is the problem with most BR...the book says this or that, and it is assumed if not mandated that a step/patern/lead/follow/rhythm be "exactly" that with no deviance. Well, dance is just not this, BR or otherwise. Dance is movement. Movement is unique to the individual. Interpretation is unique to the individual, and the very essence of AT.

    What we too often fail to remember is that, outside of the correctness of technique, proper balance, and embrace, there is no one style or feeling that is more correct than another.

    (my bold)

    This is so great. And, it speaks to the semantics of frame/embrace. Yes, one infers a gentler/softer hold than the other which is why I prefer it over "frame". However, we understand that an embrace is a frame; a frame is an embrace. The "hold"...how's that?, in AT, allows us to move in and out of closed to open, square to not so.... Which is correct would be determined by what is necessary to successfully and comfortably execute the movement intended, and which, ultimately, makes the partner look and feel optimally dancing it.
  3. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I would say that a person as you describe here would not qualify for intermediate, but more "advanced beginner" status.

    But, as has been pointed out, people want to divide the vast array of tango knowledge and skill in to 3 sizes fits all... Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. (sorta like clothing sizes Sm, Med, & Lg supposedly being it, except then you have to have Xsm and various numbers of Xlarge to actually fit the entire population)

    With only 3 catagories, pretty much anyone who has been taking tango more than a few months and less than a few decades is an "intermediate" dancer. After all, what's the standard for determining "advanced"? Gavito? Tete'? Jorge' Torres? Geraldine Rojas? Maria Nieves? Susana Miller? (Pick your favorite ultimate tango name)

    Or do we need a 4th catagory called "Legendary" for those people, and us mere mortals are capable of being "advanced"?

    Frankly, the more "advanced" I become, the less "advanced" I feel. It depends on whether one compares themselves to the other folks at their local milonga, or to the entire tango world and its history. (Or as one friend of mine put it... you don't have to be good to be the "best" dancer... you only have to be better than the other bad dancers there at that time)
  4. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    well- my opinion on the cross developed a LONG time ago (though I didn't realize it...) back when I first experienced AT and it was not taught as a led element...then when we took AT up again, it still wasn't being taught as lead/follow and I continued to be frustrated with it. If we hadn't lucked out and had a class with really nice Tango couple who were teaching pure lead and follow, I'd have probably given up at that point. They showed us a body lead for it, multiple crosses and that very quickly caused me to decide the cruzada was being taught when it probably shouldn't, and so it probably became a "you do this and she does that" explaination.

    It has nuances to it that aren't really beginner level, if you think about it...it's more of an intermediate concept. But many beginner classes plow right on through it in the first month, I guess because it is used so commonly on the dance floor and they want people to see it once.

    It seems to take most people 2-3 months of dancing to wrap their head around it, and so, IMO, that's about when it should be introduced- about 2 months in...otherwise you just end up redoing and redoing it because people aren't "ready" to hear it yet.
  5. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    eeee- a cynic like myself! You aren't alone, the more I learn and understand, some days the less capable I feel. One answer evolves to one dozen more questions.
  6. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    For those of us who don't understand the reference, could you explain what this means?
  7. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member


    Thank you.. You saved me a whole lot of typing!
  8. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member


    This is something that my partner just recently got me to understand about leading which I'm going to pass on to any leaders i teach! You have to lead from the point of view of the FOLLOWER'S step! Leader's get taught their "step" (this foot goes here, that goes there).

    What they should be taught is what the follower's response is supposed to be. Only when they are thinking about what they want the follower to do instead of what THEY are supposed to do, will they ever get beyond choreographed combinations and be able to create figures on the spur of the moment to navigate a crowd.

    Much of the time, the leaders in a class are completely oblivious to what the follower is going to do, or supposed to do, in response to him doing his "step" that he just got taught.

    He might know.. "well, she should do an ocho", but that doesn't mean he has much awareness of what exactly goes into an ocho and what all happens with her body when she does an ocho. He just knows he did his step for leading an ocho and she should take it from there so he doesn't have to think too deeply about it.

    If its a whole step pattern combination, he may have no idea of what she's doing. I got taught to lead a sacada sequence at one point and the female teacher I was leading did her part so smoothly I didn't have to pay much attention to it. I think we worked on it for 20 minutes before I finally asked her what her step was (since I'm a follower, I thought I could remember it better if I knew that part) All she was doing was a standard molinete! And I didn't even realize it. And it never occured to her to require me to know what the result of my lead was.

    How can someone lead, if they have no concept of what they are expecting the follower to do in response?
  9. Mochaboy

    Mochaboy New Member

    I'll let her explain the reference...

    But as for the hand position, flex your bicep with your fist pointing away from you, then relax...

  10. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    Can you find a video of your nuevo example? These seems a bit odd and I'd like to see it.
  11. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    This is a great point that I'm going to take back over to the ballroom forum. We get told a lot that "you lead by dancing your own part", and when you're dancing in syllabus, it's true as far as it goes. However, the reason that it works is because whoever designed the syllabus worked out what the leads would be and what the follow's response would be. (At least in theory. :shock:) So, by the lead dancing his part properly, the expected response happens. But does the lead (or for that matter, the follow) understand why?

    So clearly, among the other hazards of that approach, is the fact that a dancer can get "trapped" in a syllabus or learned set of steps, unable to execute anything that isn't in the syllabus. It's clear to me that the way out of this is to learn connection! If you really feel how the interaction between the partners works, then you can sense how a particular lead produces a response. From there, you can work your way up to the higher-level concepts of how the physics works: things like momentum, balance, center of gravity, etc. And I think that many dancers learn that, to an extent, intuitively even if they aren't taught about it. However, intiution will only take you so far.
  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "then you can sense how a particular lead produces a response."
    And would that be the "sense" of proprioception (he asks after seeing the words momentum, balance, center of gravity, etc)?
  13. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Sounds to me like the way someone who needs bifocals sees someone who has a lot of hair regrowth.

    Or would that be Presbyopropeciaception....
  14. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

  15. kieronneedscake

    kieronneedscake New Member

    Sorry Zoopsia, I can't find a good example right now. It's probably a hold that has arisen from dancing in small spaces, by taking something much larger and folding it inward.

    Start with a Chicho Frumboli embrace, but then rather than having the leader's palm angled toward the follower as he does, rotate so the hand is flat as if carrying a tray of drinks. The follower's hand rests on top, and it's very relaxed. I've not seen any professional couples doing it yet, but the "teapot hold" and variations on it are not uncommon in certain trendy places I have been. I suppose that it might have arisen from leading nuevo teachers and been slightly corrupted so it's not pleasing to the eye. Casual tango you know?

    Chicho's embrace and lead probably feels similar, but I prefer his form, and that's the sort of feel I'm trying to explain as requiring a rather different approach to lead and follow.

    I'm a bit unkind in my terminology I suppose, but it's visibly different to classic tango embraces and tends to engender a rather different dance.
  16. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    hmmm. interesting...I think I use something a little like that when I lead, except not flat up, at an slant...it's extra comfy and keeps the leads arm in a weaker position (IMO) so he doesn't "inadvertently" start using it to push the follows arm with. Having danced with people who started their dance careers with social Country dancing, where they tell me they are encouraged to "steer" the lady this way- using a palm forward left arm...I find the "pedestal method" much more pleasant...since we aren't supposed to be using the arms to lead with....It works for me, and I've had no complaints about it on the followers side that I have danced with...it seems to keep their arms in a nice line and not encourage an "elbow behind the body" stance from the follow.
  17. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    How about this to throw another wrench in the theory....There's one leader I dance with, we've studied with same teachers at the same workshops. Sometimes his lead is great. I know he knows how to lead, but sometimes when there is a bad crowd at a milonga and the crowd is doing crazy things and I dance with him, it seems his lead turns to mush, is hesitant and we just don't click and are imcompatible. Then there's others who I see only rarely, at occasional workshops and we dance great together and have a super time and will dance more than one tanda together....I think there's a subconscious and personality portion when dancing with someone in a tanda that can't be ignored. I dislike to some extent dancing with people I sense as having a "cold" or mechanical embrace, or who frown a lot. I don't connect with them well at all.
  18. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    This happens to me every now and then. When a bad crowd shows up at a milonga and you have these... "people" backing into traffic; doing the nuevo leg flailing thing in a packed house; stopping traffic; being rammed by people who inconsiderately dance "BIG" on a crowded floor; overtakers who cut you off; etc, etc, etc. :mad: Anyway, its so distracting as I'm trying to protect my partner from harm, as opposed to just interpreting the music and dancing. It ruins my tanda.
  19. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    This past weekend was interesting. It wasn't an overly crowded dance, but it was comparatively dangerous. People who had no clue, etc. But between tandas my partner and I were talking with another couple who was complaining about one particular leader. Now, I'm biased, in that the leader they were talking about is one of my favorites. But they were upset because he'd pass people, and would lead things not appropriate on a social floor. Normally I'd agree with them, but I know this leader, and he's one of THE SAFEST LEADERS to dance with (and dance around) ever. Yes, he'll lead crazy boleos--in the corners. Yes, he'll pass--without ever managing to hit anyone else. When it's crowded, he's probably the only one I'll close my eyes with, because I trust him that much. (Also, he's tall, and I can't see over his shoulder anyway so dance with my head parallel to his chest, if not resting on it.) But it was interesting to me, because really he's one of the safest people out there.

    Goes to show, safety and appropriateness on the floor are not determined, IMO, purely by steps...but by how they're used.

    /*end hijack*/
  20. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    There's one guy who fascinates me, but I dislike dancing with him. We've danced four times--clicked wonderfully twice, and absolutely did not click at all twice. Very bizarre. Sometimes, it's like I'm reading his mind. Other times, it's like I haven't ever danced before. I can't figure it out. In talking with other followers, though, they've had the exact same experience. I wonder what that Magical Clicking Sense is...

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