Tango Argentino > What the hey???

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Mario7, Aug 5, 2009.

  1. Mario7

    Mario7 Member

    I'm in my 1yr 11th month of learning the Tango dance. Thankfully, my dance has really come together during the past month! I owe a lot to
    having found a regular dance partner who is good. We do NOT dance
    correography..she is a really good follow who does not anticipate and
    she has a great embrace..(lucky me!) ..I dance close embrace and try not to ever break the embrace in order to accomodate any movement.
    Anyway, here is the new problem; I now know that; much of my previous inconsistencies was due to the women that I was dancing with. They back-led, had poor balance and I had to hold them steady, pulled away in the embrace, etc., etc. Now that I have more experience, I am able to watch other couples and see more of what is going on between them. I am suprised to note that other men are constantly handling these 'problems' in their partner's dance...making all the faults of the woman, somehow work out ok, once they dance past the stumbles, and wobbles....wow, now I have a whole new challenge ahead of me if I'm going to be able to dance with other women.
    Here in Phila., although close-embrace is taught by a couple of teachers, almost no one dances it through out each dance....I do! ..
    OK my question to the guys and girls...what should I do from this point on to 'handle' this new situation..I, now, can understand the BsAs custom of only dancing with known dancers, who are good, and being satisfied with a few tandas a night....I would like to hear from others, how they would handle the situation that I present above and all suggestions from men and women will be appreciated.8)
     
  2. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I don't understand.

    Is your question about why do men compensate for their partners' problems? Should you be compensating for their problems? How to compensate for partners' problems?

    Or is your question about how to handle changing embraces throughout a dance? Or how to get to only dance close embrace throughout a whole tanda? Or...???
     
  3. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    To be honest, I think that's the wrong way of looking at it.

    Another way of putting it would be:
    "Most of my problems were due to my lead not being good enough to dance with beginner followers, thus allowing them to make mistakes."

    And:
    That's probably because they're leading well.

    Improve your lead.

    Sorry if that all sounds a bit harsh, but dancing with good followers whilst learning is a double-edged sword; they're helping you. It means your own lead doesn't have to be so good.
     
  4. JonD

    JonD New Member

    While I largely agree with David's post, I can sympathise with your comments. However, our social dancing would be very constrained if we never danced with beginners or ladies who simply haven't developed their own axis and embrace to the point where they can maintain it throughout, particularly when dancing close embrace. I also suspect that my lead would suffer if I didn't dance with partners who are more challenging to lead; beginners tend to make you "complete the lead" rather than allowing you to get away with "hinting" at a movement. Like you, I largely dance in close-embrace and, when the music prompts, I will sometimes lead movements that really challenge that embrace.

    My only advice is to work on being strong in your own axis: focus on having a strong connection with the floor, keep your knees and ankles slightly soft, take care over your foot placement, keep your core muscles strong and lead from your centre. Shortening your steps slightly can help, so you are never operating at the limit of your balance when you commence the lead for a movement. (As an aside, a number of dancers that I respect greatly extol the virtues of Tai Chi as a method of developing strength of axis. Sadly, at the moment I don't have the time to try it myself.)

    Sometimes, just sometimes, I feel as if my axis is so strong that nothing my partner, or anyone else, could do would threaten it. It's a wonderful feeling but only lasts for a few moments at a time - hopefully, as I dance and practice, it will become the norm. For the time being, when I'm dancing with someone "wobbly" I will focus on being strong in my axis and it seems to help a lot.
     
  5. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Mario, my advice is to go to Milongas and dance with as many different people as you can. That's really the best way to learn how to "re-calibrate" (as I call it), with different followers.

    The bottom line is that what's clear and comfortable for one follower may not work with another follower. Most leaders aren't perfect and neither are most followers. So there's some feeling out that goes on when you dance with someone new (especially during the first song in the tanda). The more you do it, the better you will get at it.

    BTW, as others have alluded to, it doesn't take too much skill to lead a really good follower, just like it doesn't take too much skill to follow a really good leader.
     
  6. bastet

    bastet Active Member


    too true. the real test is how well you dance with people who aren't fantastic.
     
  7. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member


    Wrote about this in my blog a couple of months ago---> "Dialing in"
     
  8. bastet

    bastet Active Member


    nice- wish more guys would "dial in" and take part in this also.
     
  9. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Hi Mario7, I think its a dialectic process: the better you get, the better you can communicate with her, and vice versa.

    And mind dchester´s advice
    Short addition, though I know, some around here do not like it: Try to ask, what was noticable with your lead. Correcting one other works best in social networks.
     
  10. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    Ahhh... IMHE, the real test of a leader is dancing with a beginner, and making her look and feel good.
     
  11. bastet

    bastet Active Member


    I'd agree with you on that. But just dancing with the average dancing populace and being able to have a good time with most anyone is a pretty good thing to shoot for IMO too. :p
     
  12. BlueSkies

    BlueSkies New Member

    Well Mario, sounds like we started tango at the same time, I am also approaching my 2 year anniversary.

    I know what you mean, and I've been through the frustrating time when I felt like I could only dance really well with good followers and was only enjoying those perfect dances. Having spent a lot of time working with very skilled followers, taken lots of private lessons etc, I felt like I was "tuned" to leading in a certain style with a fairly high level of subtlety. Having been in virtually the same place a few months ago I'll now brain-dump my own thoughts and experiences, hope they are useful.

    What I realised was that it still wasn't the followers fault when things didn't work out (generally), regardless of her level of experience, it was that I wasn't leading her as well as she could be led.
    e.g. if my lead is too subtle for her, that is my fault not hers. If I lead a double time step that my advanced partners would pick up, but this lady doesn't, it's still down to me... I didn't signal that step with enough energy or advance warning for this partner. If she steps longer or shorter than I expect and the embrace is compromised, either I didn't clearly give her a signal for the right level of energy, or I didn't follow her through that step well.

    The important thing about this focusing on yourself as the cause of the difficulties is not to my mind whether it is accurate or true or whatever, it is whether it is helpful for you to learn more, and to develop your dancing towards what the guys on this thread are talking about - the ability to adapt and have a beautiful dance whatever the level of your partner. I can't remember who it was that said it, but there is a great quote about the leader's job being to make his partner feel safe, beautiful and clever... something like that.

    So for me the last few months has been fascinating as I have been working on:
    a) "controlling the settings" on all the aspects of my lead to work with different partners. Those settings include
    the volume of the lead - developing a clarity as well as a subtlety and adjusting,
    the level of energy in my lead to be able to reflect back to a follower the level of presence she is giving me and dance to her ability to cope with a stronger driving lead,
    the level of advance warning in the lead so I can give much clearer indication of a double time that's about to happen,
    the level of precision I give in terms of pivot leads and step leads and not blurring the two, and
    the level of "crispness" in my lead so that I can lead crisp short steps or slow languid steps.
    b) working more with the music so that what I am leading fits much better with the music, making me easier to follow because my lead "makes sense"
    c) working on adaptation in the embrace, so that I adapt to find a comfortable embrace with followers of all heights and shapes, and learn to understand what different ladies like in terms of embrace
    d) Working on owning my own axis strongly, so wobbles or missteps do not perturb me as they used to
    e) Working on my ability to adjust the dance and step in any direction with any foot at a moments notice, giving me a better ability to adapt to those times when an inexperienced follower may make a genuine mistake, changing weight or pulling us in an unexpected direction.
    *This was particularly interesting actually - I discovered that some less experienced followers who I thought were changing their weight without a lead were in fact trying to keep up with what they described as my "very subtle lead", and had felt the tiny shift in my axis as I changed my own weight to go into cross system and were following it as best they could... when I worked as hard as I could to smooth out my own hidden weight change as well as make my intended changes of her weight crystal clear, they no longer "auto-changed" their weight... go figure*
    f) Getting some better ability to dance in open - like you I far prefer a close embrace but being able to adapt here was also necessary, particularly for the very new followers who don't dance close at all yet.

    Working on all the above has been great for me, and has brought so much fun and learning into all the dances I have. There are still a few exceptions, some ladies embraces I find uncomfortable - particularly those who clamp my right arm, some who hang their weight on me, but the vast majority of dances now with dancers of any level are exciting for me because I can see as much for me to improve as for them. Sometimes now I get that glorious moment when a follower follows something that I can feel I led perfectly with my "settings" tuned for her but that she's never done before, and she dances the step beautifully without even knowing what it was, and she says "Wow, how did you get me to do that?", or I have the secret knowledge that even though she didn't do what I expected at times, it didn't matter - we still had a great dance, and she never knew that things didn't go quite as expected - and I've taken away something to make clearer in my lead.

    I coupled the above "technical stuff" with the realisation that even in 10 years my surname still won't be Naveira so I better learn to enjoy the social aspects of tango, and the "process" of getting better not just the dances where I feel like the world stood still and I performed at my very best. This meant I stopped beating myself up for little mistakes (mine or hers), and could relax much more and enjoy myself dancing with all partners.

    Anyway, from feeling the same sort of things you describe, developing all the above became the next stage in my tango journey and I expect that stage to last quite a while. Perhaps some of the guys you were watching are further along that road.

    Best wishes,
    Blue :)
     
  13. New in NY

    New in NY New Member

    Blue Skies, I want to dance with you!
    Mario, Here is my perspective as a follower with just a year of experience, so I am at the level that you are having difficulty dancing with.
    I completely agree that your leading skills will improve more quickly by dancing with less experienced followers. Dance at practicas not only milongas and ask your partners about your lead - "I was trying to lead X but you did Y. What was it about my lead that was unclear/ambiguous, etc.?" Your practice partner already understands the intention of your leads and cannot be as helpful in this respect. Honestly, I don't always enjoy dancing with leaders at my level as I am sure they don't always enjoy dancing with me - they may lead me too roughly or too subtly, their version of close embrace may be suffocating, they may be too stiff, etc. as I am sure the weaknesses in my learning curve may not be fun for them. But I do find that dancing with these relatively inexperienced leaders helps me to be a better follower because I have to learn to adapt, and understand that the first dance with any new person will start with me getting the feel of their leading cues.
    Likewise, as others have stated, an advanced follower will be able to compensate for any lack of clarity or technique you may have. When I dance with the teacher or an advanced student, they are able to clearly lead me to do movements I have never done before. It doesn't mean that I did them well, or that I became a better dancer than when I was dancing the last tanda with another beginner.
    And while it may be common in BA (and here in NY too) to only dance with the best dancers in the room, a big thank you to all the experienced leaders who are helpful and polite enough to have a simple dance with us beginners. We know it is not that enjoyable for you, but it is heaven for us - thank you!
     
  14. hbboogie1

    hbboogie1 New Member

    Mario I’ll give you some words of wisdom and if you heed them you’ll be a better dance partner.

    Every mistake that happens on the dance floor is your fault.
    One exception, if you step on her toe it’s her fault for not moving her foot because you have no control over her legs.
     
  15. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Bingo, on both of these!!!
    :cheers:
    The last thing I want to become is someone who can only enjoy themselves when they are dancing with an advanced partner.
     
  16. MultiFaceted Dancer

    MultiFaceted Dancer Active Member

    In my opinion, We are all Learners of Dance or Teachers of Dance (6 of one 1/2 dozen of the other) no matter how High on the Chain we get too.
    Students ,Instructors, Coaches, World Champions- all Learn Something from each other.As we become more experienced, we are more humbled as to what there is to learn. No-one needs to be handled maybe being open to being helpful--- so that they learn from you what someone else helped you to understand would be more appreciative in a gentle fashion. If the person knows your trying to encourage them to become a better dancer they just might be open to some friendly advice.
     
  17. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Wow! a most unusual thing. Every single post on this thread is spot on. Mario, mi amigo de San Miguel, take the advice.
     
  18. larrynla

    larrynla Member

    mistakes can be good

    All good advice. I want to second bastet's, and maybe emphasize the point.

    Classes and practicas are for learning the details of how to dance better. But at milongas you need to forget about improving, or even doing everything right. You need to focus on having fun.

    Having fun is as much a skill as any of the lower-level skills, and a lot of people (not just beginners) forget that. Look around at milongas. See all the people who are frowning, trying to be perfect, trying to look good feel good dance good be good - who may be feeling utterly wretched because they just made a tiny little mistake which perhaps not even their partner noticed?

    They might have danced tango for decades, and have all the world worshipping them. But if they're not having fun most of the time at milongas they are utter, utter failures in the widest sense. They are poorer dancers than the rankest beginner who is dancing, adjusting to the inevitable mistakes, enjoying being with someone they like, listening to music they love.

    Speaking of mistakes, the best way to look at them, I think, is that if they are not catastrophic they are opportunities to learn how to survive them and still have a safe and happy time. And sometimes when you recover from a mistake you learn a new better way of doing something.

    Laer Carroll - ShapechangerTales.com
     
  19. sandy87

    sandy87 New Member

    My only advice is to work on being strong in your own axis: focus on having a strong connection with the floor, keep your knees and ankles slightly soft, take care over your foot placement, keep your core muscles strong and lead from your centre. Shortening your steps slightly can help, so you are never operating at the limit of your balance when you commence the lead for a movement. (As an aside, a number of dancers that I respect greatly extol the virtues of Tai Chi as a method of developing strength of axis. Sadly, at the moment I don't have the time to try it myself.)

    Sometimes, just sometimes, I feel as if my axis is so strong that nothing my partner, or anyone else, could do would threaten it. It's a wonderful feeling but only lasts for a few moments at a time - hopefully, as I dance and practice, it will become the norm. For the time being, when I'm dancing with someone "wobbly" I will focus on being strong in my axis and it seems to help a lot
     

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