Tango Argentino > The rules of a practica

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Lois Donnay, Aug 3, 2015.

  1. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Let's be clear: unsolicited teaching or advice is rude. There cannot be a "better way" of being rude.
    When someone treats you badly, trying to be a good girl and please your aggressor is not the right thing to do. It won't work. They are not saying all that to make things better, besides, they don't have the first clue about how to go about that.
    You don't need to be rude back, of course... just leave.
    Mladenac, rain_dog and Wabisabi like this.
  2. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    Why is it always rude? Is that the only possibility?

    Could it instead be that I pay attention to a person at a practica?
    Could it be that I sincerely want to help the other person?
  3. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Unsolicited advice bears several assumptions.
    A person who gives such advice automatically assumes that he/she knows better, that he/she can decide what the other person needs at the moment, what she/he can handle, what's best for him/her.
    It is rude because most of the time those assumptions are wrong.
    There is a theoretical possibility that those assumptions are all right, then the advice would be welcome, and the person on the receiving end would feel grateful, not insulted.
    But in reality, a person who has real expertise and authority seldom assumes those things about another grown up person who did not appoint him/her as an authority, or outside a situation that appoints him/her as such.
  4. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    When we want to help it is important to remember to stay well within our limits, and respectful of another person's boundaries. Otherwise it will be more harm than help.
  5. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    FWIW, it's not just leaders who provide unsolicited advise. I received some from a follower at practica, maybe a month or so ago. She explained to me that I wasn't turning my hips enough when I wanted her to pivot (with ochos or the molinette). I explained that I was trying to lead with my upper body. She informed me that using the chest was irrelevant and sometimes confusing, and it was the hips I needed to turn if I wanted to be clear.

    I simply replied back that no one had told me that before.
    LadyLeader likes this.
  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I seem to remember that after ten years of AT that was happening to me, also. One or two questions to the adviser told me that they really didn't know what they were talking about, or had very limited knowledge about AT.
    I did West Coast Swing with someone the other night, and it was really rewarding to hear someone else talk about how different AT is from swing, including the dynamic within the "embrace."

    As with almost all rules, I think there can be exceptions; but I exercise extreme caution since passing knowledge on to less experienced dancers has been largely given over to those with the title "teacher," "pro," etc..
  7. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I sometimes ask if my leader wants any feedback (I never use the terms advice, correction, or anything of that ilk) or if they are working on something that they'd rather concentrate on. In the past, I've asked after the first song (at practicas around here, music is played in tandas) when I am aware of what I noticed. That way, I'm just social dancing for the first song rather than focusing on problems.

    I limit this to only those leaders who are clearly far less experienced than I, or who specifically mention that they appreciate that I am willing to dance with them because of the disparity in experience (showing awareness that I might have something valuable they can learn from). I also limit it to only those leaders for whom I have something very specific and fundamental to suggest that was enough of an issue that it substantially affected my enjoyment of the 1st song. Apparently I'm judging these situations well, because the leaders I ask invariably light up and say "Yes! Please!"

    Sometimes a more experienced leader will ask me for feedback because they know I teach. In fact, recently one of my favorite leaders said "If you have any feedback or suggestions, feel free to speak up!" (I was quite surprised as he has been dancing a long time and takes plenty of privates from visiting professionals).

    Otherwise, unless the suggestion I have is about something that I think is really uncomfortable or painful, I keep my mouth shut. My experience is that unsolicited feedback rarely changes anything if given in isolation. Without it being reinforced by the other person's main teachers and other partners, even when they feel it was a great observation, they don't implement any changes over the long haul. If I've mentioned something painful to a more experienced leader (unsolicited) on more than one occasion, and he keeps doing it, I put him on my no-fly list.

    This is so true... maybe it's because they don't want to give away for free the knowledge that they are trying to get paid for, but I have NEVER had a professional teacher offer any feedback at all outside of a lesson environment. Not even at a practica. I also hesitate to ask them, because it seems presumptuous to ask for instruction without paying for it. The exception to my "asking" rule would be when a visiting teacher attends a guided practica specifically to be available for help and questions. Even then, I haven't had one offer any feedback without me asking for it.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2016
  8. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    IME, leaders who correct their followers almost always do so to instruct the proper response to a specific step the leader wants to do (read: probably recently learned). It is rare for it to be a suggestion that will improve the follower's fundamental skills that can translate across her dance with other leaders and executing other moves.

    I think this is sometimes about arrogance (she didn't follow it, so she must not be a good follower, therefore I need to show it to her). But sometimes it's because leaders have no knowledge of basic follower technique. Even if they can go beyond "You're supposed to 'X' when I do 'Y'" , they are likely to still only comment on a symptom rather than a cause. For example, I hear leaders comment on followers' backsteps, and also correct them, saying "you need to reach back more". But they rarely have any idea WHY she isn't reaching back more. Being able to take a long backstep is a result of things, not a thing you can just "do". That's pretty much true of everything.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2016
  9. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    What the heck? The chest is irrelevant? I wonder who taught her that?

    I have had several different leaders on different occasions try to teach me some move (not the same ones) with some variation of this:

    "You won't be able to follow it if I don't explain it to you first, because (blah, blah, blah)"
    or "I learned this really cool move that can't be led; the follower has to know it" (cue instruction so I know it)

    Meanwhile I'm thinking: What the hell good is a move that "can't be led" when you are SOCIAL DANCING?

    (and seriously.. ASSUMING I won't be able to follow some fancy thing without even TRYING it first?... that's REALLY obnoxious)
  10. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Apparently someone more knowledgeable than me.

    I'm curious, how to you know when he wants you to do this move that can't be led?

    Does he say to you, "Get Ready... Now!!!"

  11. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Maybe for that follower who can't tell when you want her to pivot, you should just pick her up and put her down where you want her like you did to me that one time you were protecting me from a flying stiletto (or maybe you just weren't prepared for my lack of "substance" when you suddenly changed direction. ;) )

    BTW - I tell my male students that story to let them know that protecting their follower at all costs, is their first concern. Although I warn them that some followers may not appreciate being carried around the floor.

    I thought it was fun, however. I'm thinking I'd like more lifts in my tango. ;).

    You see the problem....
  12. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Getting confused now...
    An ant can't be rude to a rhinoceros. The ant can gesticulate and yell all it wants, the rhino will never feel threatened or even stressed.
    When a follower insists that I have to stare at her at all times, I find it laughable, not rude. (It happened once and my answer was not "Hey this is unwanted advice, you're being rude".)
    Now if in a social tango event a female teacher shouts out loud, while we're dancing, "Nothing is right in your tango. Nothing. How did you dare inviting me?" then I may find it rude. (Hypothetically. Never happened. So far)
  13. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    Some years ago I had a technical problem creating a too tight abrazo in some situations. I was not aware of when it happened or why. At that time I was leading both men and women and some of them gave me unsolicited feedback.

    Male dancers described what was happening, we discussed it and continued our dance. We were talking about facts and I was treated as a partner. I went home thinking about different options to solve the case!

    Female feedback was different. She said that I was hurting her. She let me understand that she had tried to cope with the pain but now she could not stand it anymore. I was described as a monster hurting others. Was I hurting her purposely? Should I stop dancing? I felt guilty without knowing what I had actually done.

    I felt and I still feel that men communicated with me with respect and gave me better options to solve the problem. I could think that the situation was uncomfortable for the follower and she stressed her pain some extra to justify her advice but it created an unpleasant situation.

    It seems that many followers do not feel that they are equal partners in an abrazo. And yes! there are some structural difficulties in the setup and I have had experience of getting more nervous when dancing as a follower (I have to get it right) compared to dancing as a leader (I lead this). But it is not about fighting to get the equal position but about being an equal partner. It is not about accusing the leaders but about creating yourself to be a full and equal partner when following.

    Some tough followers know it from the beginning and many ladies learn it by the years and growing experience. The follower is half of an abrazo and they are half of the abrazo regardless of what a leader is thinking.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2016
  14. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    I like to clear up what kind of dance it will be with my partner right before jumping on the dance floor. My go to line is: "so is this a 'for fun' dance" or a 'working on stuff' dance?" If it's "working on stuff," I ask if there's anything I should watch for to help them out. Sometimes it's specific; sometimes it's "oh, anything you notice really."

    If I'm really sure I'm dancing with a fresh beginner, and I'm running the practica, I might allow myself ONE suggestion if it can be condensed to a single line. For example, I was dancing with a swing dancer who kept undoing my switch to cross system since that's what you do in swing to get back on track with your partner. A simple "I'm not making a mistake, I'm doing that on purpose," was all it took. A lot of beginners freak out when you touch their foot in a parada because they think they made a mistake, too.

    EDIT: I didn't realize at first, but it looks like what I just wrote echos Zoopsia's post above. So uh...I agree! The only difference for me is visiting teachers usually give out unsolicited advice at practicas here.
    Wabisabi likes this.
  15. Sunsetdancer

    Sunsetdancer Member

    I'm sort of new to the forum, but I enjoy the posts from people like Zoopsia59. I can relate! many times persons giving me advice on the floor while dancing come across as intimidating and arrogant rather than knowledgable and teaching.
  16. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    Just for contrast, in my Blues dancing experience, other students have been very free about offering unsolicited advice, the culture is different. People are also much more likely to add on to what the teacher says, and even disagree with the instructor. No one seems to think any of this is rude in Blues dancing (at least in my area).

    I do give one piece of unsolicited advice often -- to please grab me lower -- the lady's left arm reaching up nearly vertically to my shoulder just doesn't seem to work!
    LadyLeader likes this.
  17. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    Tango culture is even more complicated because you can get in to serious troubles by unsolicited positive feedback too. There was a period when I totally stopped even with appreciating comments to followers because they were often misinterpreted to negative feedback. I thought it was about me and my way to comment but when I asked other leaders it was the same.
    Sunsetdancer likes this.
  18. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Hmm... I don't think I've ever had this happen.

    newbie likes this.
  19. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Some leaders give a compliment but it comes off as patronizing or evaluating. I can't quite say WHAT about it gives that impression... words combined with tone maybe?

    For instance, an enthusiastic "That was GREAT!" comes across very differently than saying "That was very good" in an intellectualized tone. One sounds like a spontaneous comment on the experience as a whole for the speaker, and the other sounds like a teacher evaluating a student's performance... like "I'm doing the grading, and you passed".

    Awhile back I went to a nearby region and danced with the local teacher. After the tanda, he said in a bland, evaluating tone: "That was good". I wanted to say "For me as well", but I just smiled and said "Thank you".

    That may be why some people react negatively to "positive" feedback. The listener interprets the speaker's words to mean that the speaker feels entitled to be the "judge" evaluating the other person, and the listener is the one whose dancing is being evaluated and must "pass muster". Was the teacher I mentioned really being arrogant? I don't know what or how he thinks because I had never interacted with him before, but it sounded that way at the time.

    In truth, we are all passing judgement on our partners to some extent, whether or not it is a conscious, intellectualized process in the moment.

    I don't think you can go wrong with a huge smile and "I LOVE dancing with you!!!" (and maybe a hug if you have that kind of relationship) Explaining WHY you loved it could veer into 'I'm evaluating you" territory unless you can give the compliment with a certain level of awe. Like so many situations in life, make "I" statements, not "you" statements.

    If you didn't love it, "Thank you" is all that is required.
    Sunsetdancer likes this.
  20. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    dchester you are a better communicator than me, no doubt about that. My best qualities are on other areas.

    So I step back and ask for help. If you or somebody else can get the idea I try to communicate here, please write about your experiences, interpret to better English and better social wording.

    I was a fulltime follower the first five years of tango and I have personally experienced the most follower stories I have come across later on. I was unhappy, I hated the leader when going home crying and so on. After crossing the line my perspective changed and I could see how I had been part of adding on to my pain. One thing was that as a fresh follower I imagined that leaders have full controll over their situation and if he didn't invite me it was because he actively choosed not to dance with me. When I got a more realistic view on leaders' options I became also more relaxed when I was waiting for an invitation. I didn't felt that I was actively neglected but accepted the dance when the invitation came. (This was during the period I was both following and leading.)

    I think that the leader/follower setup puts the follower in a more vulnerable position by default. It puts the follower to monitor her connection skill continuously - am i dancing the lead? am I getting it right? - and in that way it creates a kind of dependant relationship. There are a few tough followers who are able to tip over the balance to the opposite by an attitude - He made a mistake and I will wait him to fix it. A more gentle follower blames often herself. (IMO the follower training should include aspects how to find a mental balance in an abrazo to counter balance the setup.)

    I suppose that the lack of gender balance creating frustration is spicing up the situations.

    I think these things have an impact on the leader/follower relationship and they are making the waters more difficult to navigate.

    You may think differently but did I communicated the ideas clearly?
    I was thinking quite a lot about the differences in a partner/partner or manager/employee relationships in a worklife situation. as well as Would I behave differently in a peer disagreement compared to a situation with a person who has more power or is on a higher hierarchy level compared to me? What of these interpretations are valid for my leader/follower relationship - Am I mostly in a partner/partner relationship or is the manager/employee one active?
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2016

Share This Page