Tango Argentino > Why some women are not asked to dance

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Ampster, May 1, 2007.

  1. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    Hmmm ... One of my challenges in following has been to focus on my partner rather than the music when my partner is off beat. I have reached the point where I can follow if he is dancing to a regular rhythm, but I still have trouble when it's completely random. At my current stage of learning, it's amusing to me, but I always have to retreat to DH for the next dance in order to recover.

    One or two men who know me will ask me to count for them, but I try not to backlead unless requested.

    So if you see me dancing off-time, please check to see whether I'm fighting or cooperating with my partner of the moment. I would hate to think a prospective partner would reject me because I'm working hard at following an imperfect leader ....

    Other leaders ... what do you think? Would you rather dance with a follower who keeps the beat no matter what you do, or one who follows your rhythm? (This question assumes I really CAN keep the rhythm properly, not just my own internal version.;))
  2. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    I will start by saying this: as the lead, timing is mine. If I choose to dance a bit ahead or behind the beat, I expect my partner to follow. One of the few things a partner can do to really hack me off is refuse to dance my time.

    However, if I'm all over the place (and it happens occasionally :rolleyes:), I don't expect my partner to try to stay with me. I'd rather she keeps the beat, and eventually I'll catch back up. Admittedly, this is not easy, and if my partner stops because I've obviously lost the beat, I understand that.
  3. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    You do realize this is not the simplest thing in the world?;) I'm supposed to determine when you're consciously playing with the beat and when you're lost? Arrrrgh!

    I want a hard-and-fast rule ... grumble, grumble ....

    Let's hear from more leaders .... oh, and by the way, this isn't just an AT question, it's a general question ...
  4. wooh

    wooh Well-Known Member

    Yeah, gotta agree, that is kind of a frustrating expectation. I get that in lessons too. One minute i'm supposed to "follow, let him lead," then next minute, "You've got to help him out until he gets it." And I'm supposed to magically know which minute it currently is.:confused:
  5. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Here's my rule.. (for myself)

    The leader sets the rhythm. If you don't like the way he interprets music (or, in many cases, ignores the music) don't dance with him again.

    That said, I will be more patient with beginners who are struggling to find the beat while remembering anything they were taught and navigate all at the same time.
    The leaders in this catagory are usually open to help.

    That's why I think the FIRST thing that should be taught is the rhythm and how to find the beat in the music. That way, if they get to a crowded dance and suddenly can't remember (or do) the steps they learned, they can at least walk to the rhythm to keep moving.

    But as we all know, STEPS are always the first thing many people got taught (arrrgg) And sometimes the ONLY thing that gets taught. Its always shocking to me to attend a class where a fancy step gets taught and see so many people not doing it to the music AT ALL, and the teachers say nothing. Maybe they think those leaders get to a milonga and suddenly listen to the music when doing the step outside of class because now they "know" the step. Nope. :rolleyes:

    The leaders who aren't beginners that dance off beat fall into 2 catagories...

    1) Those who dance off beat because they can't find the beat (or don't even bother to try), but they've learned a lot of fancy patterns and they do them willy nilly...

    2) Those who are trying to make things a little more interesting by syncopating or purposefully delaying/advancing movement to the music.

    I don't dance with the guys in category 1. They make me nuts. They usually think they're advanced because of all the steps they know and they get snippy (or maybe even corrective) if you can't follow them. As far as I'm concerned, they're still at lesson one because they haven't learned to do the most basic thing... dance to the music. Admittedly sometimes they can't... some people simply don't hear the beat.. a tanda of nebulous new agey neo-tango music with them is sometimes ok because I don't have to make so much effort to ignore the music.

    And my feeling about catagory 2 is that you better be pretty damn good at it, and a good leader in every other aspect, if you are going to dance off the rhythm for effect. It is an advanced thing that should only come AFTER learning the other things you need to know about leading and are doing them well consistently.

    Bottom line... if I have to ignore the music to follow you, you aren't good at it. If I learn something new about the music and hear it in a different or whole new way because of your interpretation, you're good at it. I choose to dance or not dance with you accordingly.
  6. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    (With the caveat that I don't do AT and I understand the etiquette of accepting or refusing dances can be different in ballroom ...)

    At this point I don't refuse dances with specific individuals, so I need to deal with the challenge.

    I agree that teaching the rhythm is completely neglected by some teachers. I haven't experienced the problem very much because until recently DH and I were dancing mainly at a chain studio where the teachers help the students at least recognize if they are having a problem.

    Now we're starting to dance at a large public place where many of the dancers have never had a private lesson. Because the evening starts with three separate classes in the same room, they never play music during the classes. Each teacher just counts out the beat to keep everyone in his/her own class together. Consequently, it appears some people have never even heard a teacher counting at the same time the music is playing. It's hard enough to learn to hear the rhythm with help, but just about impossible for some people when they DON'T have that hint.

    Every individual is different, so we have to learn different things at different times. In order to be able to follow, I had to learn to pay more attention to my partner than to the music. When DH and started taking private lessons, we would dance to the rhythm of whatever music was playing, even if we were working on a different dance. Our teacher then took us into the back studio and closed the door, but if he turned off our music to work on a detail, we would dance to the music that leaked through from the big studio. In other words, NOT dancing to the beat is a hard-won skill for me.

    So to refine my previous question .... let's see if I can frame this correctly ... my goal is to increase the number of dances I do with good leaders. I am willing to have a reasonable number less-than-ideal dances in order to encourage/develop new leaders, to spend a few minutes with a nice gentleman, or to indicate to better leaders that they might want to ask me for a dance.

    Setting aside the question of whether I can/should "help" an inexperienced/clueless leader (because that's another can of worms) ... if I want to "look good" to a leader so that he/she will want to dance with me, is it better to follow what my current leader is doing, even if off-beat, or to stay on beat despite the leader?
  7. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

  8. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I think the best way to look good is to make sure you do every move with polish and precision regardless of whether you can make it land on a beat. A truly good leader will realize that you have little choice but dance the rhythm you are led. So you are better off ignoring the music and dancing the leader's rhythm while maintaining your technique in every OTHER way, than trying to force the leader onto the beat. Doing the latter will make you look like you are fighting the leader and it will be hard for the observer to determine who is the problem, you or the leader.

    If the leader is behind the beat, there's not much you can do. Trying to get on the beat will involve either pulling him or pulling away from him. If he is ahead of the beat, you can resist more to delay taking your step, but even that can be awkward (and few are ahead of the beat)

    If he is totally ignoring the music and is all over the place, you have to just do your best to tune out the music. I find that so impossible myself unless it is a fairly amorphous piece (and I think thats why some of the neotango music is as popular as it is... rhythm is inconsequential), that I just avoid dancing with anyone who makes it nessesary.

    Beginners that KNOW they are beginners are more open to you backleading and helping them (which can work) Anyone who is doing a lot of fancy moves and step patterns while ignoring the music is usually not going to be open to you trying to fix it. (at least in my experience)

    Take advantage of every opportunity you have to be the one who sets the rhythm. A molinete led correctly involves the follower taking control while the leader is the axis around which you revolve. (of course a leader who doesn't know how to dance to the music is likely to lead them incorrectly and pull/push you) Also, those moves where the leader invites you to step over his leg/foot (and has to wait for you to do so) are a chance to get onto the beat or do something that uses the music.

    A truly good leader will be able to guess based on all your other technique whether you are a good dancer stuck with a bad leader or a bad follower who is messing up the leader. So work hard on all the things you CAN control... your form, your posture, your collecting, your axis, how you use your free leg, how you step rather than when, etc, etc.... Anyone who doesn't recognize those things isn't really a great AT leader no matter what fancy moves you see him doing with other follows.

    The simplest things tell the real story.
  9. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Are you my soulmate? :rolleyes:
  10. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Seems like it sometimes, doesn't it? Maybe we'll get to dance together some day. (But I'd be nervous about it not living up to our expectations)
  11. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    No need to be nervous...dancing together would be the expectation fulfilled.

    ...at least for me, once the knees stopped knocking.
  12. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    So, to clarify what I posted earlier, and in answer (I hope) to Zhena's and Wooh's questions: the only time I intentionally mess with the beat is when I'm dancing smooth, and in a closed position. There, we have a good positive connection and there shouldn't be much doubt. Oherwise -- in an open position, in any rhythm dance, wherever else -- I'm not going to mess with the rhythm. I may dance a bit ahead or behind, but I'll keep doing it consistently through the whole song. And a lot of that is because of what I quoted above: frankly, I'm not that good yet.

    Some of this, too, depends on familiarity with partners. Even in closed position in smooth, I'm not going to mess with the beat when dancing with a new partner. I'll reserve that for partners who are familiar with my dancing and know my tendencies in that regard.
  13. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I hope you know that when I said "you" better be pretty good if you're going to mess with the beat, I didn't mean YOU personally... I just meant in general:)

    And I agree that in close embrace, its a much easier to convey the timing you want to communicate.
  14. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Zhena, try to think of the perspective of a "good leader".
    Zoopsia makes some really good points about places that YOU determine the timing of your steps. The better you get at this, the more you will find.
    Another one would be when you "cross". Do you just go there at whatever speed, or do you vary things, completing your steps on clear places in the music.

    Even turns (think of them as the components of the molinete) can be opportunities.
    This all assumes that you aren't being run over or pushed around, which has been known to happen.
    OK, so there you are dancing with all of the off the beat, never on time to the music leaders. Do you look happy about it? By "off the beat" I don't mean consistently ahead of or behind the beat, or even going there sometimes. I mean someone who is dancing their own rhythm which seems to vary depending on what pattern or steps they are trying to do.

    Look for a teacher who teaches people how to listen to the music and find the rhythm(s) themselves, and gives students exercises in moving rhythmically to music.

    Again, as Zoopsia pointed out, if you have good fundamentals: posture, feet together with one fully weighted and the other touching the floor, keeping your weight forward, etc., that's a good thing. And people will notice.
    If it looks like you are best buds with really bad dancers, and enjoy their company, and enjoy dancing with them, why would a "good leader" think that you wanted to step it up?

    It partly comes down to whether you dance to be social, or whether you are serious enough about dancing to avoid bad dancing.

    Do you establish eye contact with people you want to dance with?
    Do you avoid eye contact with people you don't want to dance with?
    Do you find reasons to walk by, stand/sit near people you want to dance with? Of course you would glance at them and maybe give a little smile. Say "hello". No?
    Do you find yourself heading the other way when someone really bad is around?
    Are you letting really bad leaders monopolize your time, or do you tell them "No thanks" after one or a few?
    Is "How about we just do one" in your vocabulary?
    (The one woman I wrote about was about to dance with one of the worst monopolizers/worst dancers in the place. She explained this to me, and, as it turned out I left soon after and didn't get to dance with her. (probably a good thing because what I wanted to do would have been pretty challenging)
    What I will remember about her is that she kept her word after having accepted a dance from someone. Last night someone turned me down, then danced with someone else; no real explanation. Now, she can dance with him all the time.

    How about commenting to some of these good leaders, "I notice that you really hear the music when you dance. I think that's important. I wish more people did that." Long, long pause waiting for a reply." Maybe later say, "Would you dance with me some time?" Don't push. Better to set bait and wait.

    P.S. None of this should be taken to mean you shouldn't dance with people who are still learning. But, they should be showing SOME progress as time goes by. Be sure to give positive reinforcement when they manage to get with the music. I think vals and milonga are often easier to dance to, because my partners can more easily tume into those rhythms. Tangos are often more challenging.
  15. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Some years ago at a ballroom dance, I turned down a leader that I really didn't want to dance with by saying I needed to take a break. IMMEDIATELY a better leader came along and asked me to dance. All I could do was tell him very softly so that no one else heard "I just told someone that I don't like dancing with that I need a break... So I think it would be really tacky if I turned around and accepted a dance with someone else... I hope you ask me again later"

    That guy not only asked me again later, but asked me everytime he saw me at a ballroom dance after that. He even commented that my consideration for the other guy's feelings were part of the reason. He was a beautiful leader too... bordering on "swoon" quality for some of the smooth dances.
  16. tangonuevo

    tangonuevo New Member

    I am a lead and constantly mess with the beat on purpose! Although I may dance the beat, I often dance the melody or some other line. I will also dance a counterpoint to the rhythm or to the melody. I like it if a follow contributes her own musicality to the dance, and I have worked very hard to learn to listen and incorporate such musicality into my leads. BUT if a follow constantly and simply compels me to dance on the beat (or allows the occasional double time) I don't ask her again. Perhaps in a few years, when she has advanced as a dancer to the point that she is capable of playing with the music, yes. But if she is simply wedded to the beat, it ain't that much fun.

    And I am not talking about slowing to accommodate complex steps, patterns or moves! I don't know any patterns except take one step. Now the step can be front, side or back, and I might lead my partner to take a different step from the one that I am taking, but I got no patterns and patterns are NOT the reason that I mess with the rhythm.
  17. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    No worries. ;) You said it right -- messing with the rhythm is pretty advanced technique, and if you expect your partner to follow it, you'd better be a darn good leader. I have to be honest with myself, and I know I'm not there yet.
  18. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    The average follower just wants to dance. Size, weight, skin colour, be he khaki combatted or whether he is Dorian Grey in a Prada suit is very much immaterial. They just want to dance. With a good lead with good hygiene and a good attitude. So nope, the women are not as superficial as the blokes. Sorry to disappointment :)
  19. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Follow the beat, unless I'm leading otherwise.
  20. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    The hotter one :) (OK, calm down, it's just a joke)

    I think the consensus is that a follower should always focus on following, even if it means that she's not dancing to the beat. There are some grey areas admittedly (subtly helping the leader when he's clearly lost it being one possibility), but as a general principle I think the "follow your leader's rhythm" is best practice.

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