following or 'dancing the woman's role'?

Gssh

Well-Known Member
#42
In some ways i feel like a lot of the recurring discussions about who controls the dance, and how much the follower "allowed" to shape the dance, and so on, are somewhat misguided. They omit a key part - the music.

I would suggest that the actual "leader" is the music, and the dancers accompany each other following the music. I think the relationship between the dancers is crucially dependent on their shared understanding of the music, and the freedom that comes with richness of tango music that allows both of them to base themselves of complementing or contrasting melody and rhythm lines.

I think one of the reasons that this does not work as often as it should is that leaders are not doing a good job at dancing to the music, and because of that take the followers space to dance away. If a follower cannot trust a leaders musical interpretation she has no time or room to dance her own dance.
And i feel a lot of teaching activly makes this worse - like when beginners get told that the classical sandwich-stepover is "a space for a followers embellishment, and the leader waits for her to finish her embellishment".
No- it is a moment that the leader lead because there is something in the music that he wants to accentuate, and the follower embellishes if she hears something to embellish to, or doesn't if she doesn't want to, but even if she embellishes the time she has is defined by how the music goes, and what their shared understanding of the music is. I think leaders lead things that don't work with the music way too often, leading to followers essentially giving up on their own dance.

At least in my experience it doesn't really matter what one is doing, and what style one is dancing, but the magic moments of being both equally empowered and present in the dance are a consequence of being in the music. It is not the follower reading the leaders mind, or vice versa, or other kinds of magic, it is both listenign to the same music, at the same time, and agreeing and compromising and playing with what to do with that music. This is one of the reasons a lot of non-tango music tango dancing falls a bit flat for me - if there are not enough different lines to dance to then there is only the choice to dance to what is obvious, or do a free interpretation based on what it makes me feel, and then the follower had no good, predictable basis for her own dance - the only thing she can do is react, she is behind me, and no longer with or even ahead of me.

For me as a leader the key to lettign a follower shape my dance is that i first have to understand what she is hearing and dancing to, and i assume vice versa is true, too - sure, we want to surprise each other, but the surprise is not "why is he running right now?", or "why is she doing a 5 min embellishment here?", but "oh, i have never really paid attention to this piano flourish" or "i can feel the tension of the music building up to an accent".

Gssh
 

jfm

Active Member
#44
Gsssh added what I thought was self evident in my post, it's the MUSIC that inspires followers to add something, and Peaches explained well what I meant about stepping.
Basically I wanted to say:
Followers hear the music too.
We feel the music in our bodies and there is an instinctive urge to express it in our bodies. That is what dance is about, and tango is a dance.
If dancing and listening to the music is important to leaders why is it different for followers?

Because they are mostly women and women's views and feelings don't count? That's what I'm taking away from a lot of posts on this board.
 

Gssh

Well-Known Member
#45
But most dancers around dance to the rhythm or following the melody. To dance to the music means to forget about either of them, for me anyway.
Hmm, i would guess you can do that too, with the caveat that i imagine that it is quite difficult to communicate what you are dancing to with your follower/leader if you are dancing neither on the rhythm or the melody. I imagine if you find somebody to dance with who actually feels the same thing you do at the same time then that would be quite amazing. That is for me one of the difficulties of doing a partnerdance - i have to not only dance, but communicate what and why i am dancing clearly enough to the person i am dancing with so she can dance herself.

I have to admit that i have difficulties imagining how this would work in a partnerdance without making it very hierarchical - i.e. one person gets spontaneously, shapelessly moved by the music, the other person bases their dance on the first persons movement - or taking turns in beign the person in the music. When one person dances to the music, the other has to follow the first persons body (barring telepathy :) ) - so its more contact improv for them?
Or you could make the body/movement the shared reference point instead of the music (which i feel is something some of the more avantgarde dancers do)?

Interesting question - i will have to think about this
 

dchester

Moderator
Staff member
#46
In some ways i feel like a lot of the recurring discussions about who controls the dance, and how much the follower "allowed" to shape the dance, and so on, are somewhat misguided. They omit a key part - the music.

I would suggest that the actual "leader" is the music, and the dancers accompany each other following the music. I think the relationship between the dancers is crucially dependent on their shared understanding of the music, and the freedom that comes with richness of tango music that allows both of them to base themselves of complementing or contrasting melody and rhythm lines.
Different people often interpret the music differently. I don't think that's any revelation. Each partner (unless they are a newbie) also likely thinks their interpretation is good, or they wouldn't be doing it.

The debate is about how to decide who's interpretation to go by, and when.
 

Gssh

Well-Known Member
#47
Different people often interpret the music differently. I don't think that's any revelation. Each partner (unless they are a newbie) also likely thinks their interpretation is good, or they wouldn't be doing it.

The debate is about how to decide who's interpretation to go by, and when.
That is exactly what i was trying to address - the debate seems to be about "who controls the dance" - i.e. there is one interpretation to go by at any given timepoint.

I think that is not what is happening on the dancefloor/should be happening on the dancefloor. If i as a leader am understandable to my follower in what my interpreation is - i.e. lets assume that i think this is a fast snappy song with no big ups and down, then my partner has a pretty good idea what i rhythm i am going to be on at least for this phrase, and after i let the last 3 big accents slide she can figure that i will probably let the next one slide, too. But if she likes the accent she can put it back in - i could dance the whole dance completely flat, and she can put all the accents that she wants. Or vice versa- i could accent and put in flourishes and stops like mad, and she could dance it straight and smooth. Our interpreations don't have to collide - the way i have learned it tango is basically built to have two different interpretations happen at the same time.

For this to work leaders have to be disciplined and predictable. We are not allowed to unpredicatably shift through different interpretations, we have to stay understandable. Then followers have know to some extent what is going to happen in the future, and they can do whatever they want, in whatever way, as long as it gets them into that future. This requires of her to understand leading better than leaders do, to know how much time and space she has, but the results are magical. My teacher explained it that way that once a leader has lead something he is comitted till the lead ends, and the follower is free, and as soon as the step is completed the follower is comitted and the leader free.

It is not neccessary to have one interpretation outmuscle another interpretation - they can both coexist, and, especially as they are based on the same music, complement each other.


Re: Jfm - i don't think it is different for followers - I personally talk more about leading because i lead, and i am a horrible follower (mostly because i am not really working enough on it - there is so much stuff to work on in my leading ). I think tango teaching currently shortchanges followers by not adressing this - in my experience a follower that works hard on her dance can dance anything with anybody after about 2 or 3 years, and then most of them leave tango, or start changing it into something else, because then would be the point to find their own musicality, their own expression, and all that, and nobody gives them any idea of how to do that within the classical form. Even when dancing in buenos aires there are not many of the female equivalent of milongueros, and they don't seem to dance much with strangers. I have been lucky to have danced with a few, and it is a completely different dimension of control and voice they have in the dance. After this experience i see what the proverbially heavy followers in buenos aires are trying to achieve (and mostly fail), and it is something i have never seen taught explicitly. I have felt it with other extremely good followers, too, but it is more an echo that the focus of what they are doing, and i think i see how it realtes to a lot of things different teachers talk about. To some extent i think that a lot of the tango we see is only half the dance - the men's half, and it is a lot of work to try to find the woman's half.
 

dchester

Moderator
Staff member
#48
That is exactly what i was trying to address - the debate seems to be about "who controls the dance" - i.e. there is one interpretation to go by at any given timepoint.
Yes, there are some people who feel that the couple is supposed to work together as one, thus that would mean at any moment time, there is one interpretation/rhythm/step/etc that the two are working together on.

I think that is not what is happening on the dancefloor/should be happening on the dancefloor. If i as a leader am understandable to my follower in what my interpreation is - i.e. lets assume that i think this is a fast snappy song with no big ups and down, then my partner has a pretty good idea what i rhythm i am going to be on at least for this phrase, and after i let the last 3 big accents slide she can figure that i will probably let the next one slide, too. But if she likes the accent she can put it back in - i could dance the whole dance completely flat, and she can put all the accents that she wants. Or vice versa- i could accent and put in flourishes and stops like mad, and she could dance it straight and smooth. Our interpreations don't have to collide - the way i have learned it tango is basically built to have two different interpretations happen at the same time.
Not everyone learns tango the same way. To me, what you appear to be (at least mostly) talking about here, is embellishments that fit in (don't require a change) with what the leader's intention was. I don't think that's the main part of this debate.

My thought was that we were more talking about when the woman wants to do something that requires the leader to change what he intended. It could be as simple as pause for a while so the follower can do some embellishment that she feels the music demands, while the leader is looking at his watch thinking it was time to go a while back. Who is correct? I don't know, but they both can't happen at the same time.

What I do know is that if a follower is consistently trying to do stuff that I feel doesn't fit, I'm going to be less likely to ask her to dance again (at least to that type of song). Also, if I'm trying to do stuff that she thinks doesn't fit the music, she's going to be less likely to want to dance with me.

Different people (who may all be good dancers) have different opinions and feeling on a lot of this stuff. This includes the rules on how to decide who's interpretation to go with, (when they can not both co-exist at some moment in time). Unless you go to a milonga where everyone at the event is dancing more or less the same style (like some of the milongas in BsAs), one often encounters these issues about differing interpretations.

For this to work leaders have to be disciplined and predictable. We are not allowed to unpredicatably shift through different interpretations, we have to stay understandable. Then followers have know to some extent what is going to happen in the future, and they can do whatever they want, in whatever way, as long as it gets them into that future. This requires of her to understand leading better than leaders do, to know how much time and space she has, but the results are magical. My teacher explained it that way that once a leader has lead something he is comitted till the lead ends, and the follower is free, and as soon as the step is completed the follower is comitted and the leader free.

It is not neccessary to have one interpretation outmuscle another interpretation - they can both coexist, and, especially as they are based on the same music, complement each other.
We have different opinions on some of what you have stated here. I agree that leaders need for their intention to be understandable or clear (that seems rather obvious), but as for most of the rest, it is a different philosophy from mine.

That doesn't mean your philosophy is wrong, but simply different from mine. I don't strive at all to be predictable (my wife says that is boring to her). I change the style/interpretation/etc as the music moves me. I strive for comfort, clarity, and enjoyment (of course, done to/inspired by the music). I may not always succeed, but they all are very important.
 

AndaBien

Well-Known Member
#49
...I don't strive at all to be predictable (my wife says that is boring to her). I change the style/interpretation/etc as the music moves me. I strive for comfort, clarity, and enjoyment (of course, done to/inspired by the music)...
Nor do I, but your wife never said that to me.

Due to my experience with choreographic concepts (rhythm, contrast, repetition, variation), I often have something in mind as I'm dancing, but I couldn't predict it anymore than my partner could. She might be able to understand what I'm thinking, and very generally anticipate themes, and I hope she could recognize them as they pass. If I ever felt my partner predicting what I was going to do, I would immediately go contrary to it.

I only dance apilado, and I'm not looking for my partner to be messing around with my leading. I do leave plenty of room for embellishments.
 

dchester

Moderator
Staff member
#50
Nor do I, but your wife never said that to me.
She probably didn't want to hurt your feelings.



Due to my experience with choreographic concepts (rhythm, contrast, repetition, variation), I often have something in mind as I'm dancing, but I couldn't predict it anymore than my partner could. She might be able to understand what I'm thinking, and very generally anticipate themes, and I hope she could recognize them as they pass. If I ever felt my partner predicting what I was going to do, I would immediately go contrary to it.
That's pretty much how I feel.

I only dance apilado, and I'm not looking for my partner to be messing around with my leading. I do leave plenty of room for embellishments.
You'll never dance like BTM with that kind of attitude.

 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#51
jfm,
you mentioned in another thread that you have danced in Buenos Aires.
I'm curious...
How did it feel to you when you danced there? Assuming you did dance with them, did you feel that the milongueros respected how you felt about the music?
 

jfm

Active Member
#53
jfm,
you mentioned in another thread that you have danced in Buenos Aires.
I'm curious...
How did it feel to you when you danced there? Assuming you did dance with them, did you feel that the milongueros respected how you felt about the music?
I only danced with one certified milonguero-the rest were just old geezers (maybe pretending to be milongueros), young guys and tango travellers. The milonguero.
The uniform response was along the lines of 'you are a beautiful dancer' or 'you have a beautiful embrace.'
I would have got exactly the same response from the old guys no matter how I danced, because I was carefully groomed and looked under 30. Oh yeah and everyone knows that English girls are easy, so that probably helped too.
 

bordertangoman

Well-Known Member
#54
You'll never dance like BTM with that kind of attitude.

But i do dance apilado when the follower knows how, and with no embellishments.

But goodness its salon homogeneity in most places I go to (in the uk) :(, But one of my local dancers is like the proverbial Brick Outhouse to dance with, solid grounded and leaning in to me. She's great.
 

Gssh

Well-Known Member
#56
Not everyone learns tango the same way. To me, what you appear to be (at least mostly) talking about here, is embellishments that fit in (don't require a change) with what the leader's intention was. I don't think that's the main part of this debate.
No, that is not really what i am trying to talk about - i am trying to talk about the thing that for example in a simple walk the same same step from a to b, that takes the same amount of time, can be a a soft slow caress, or a dramatic and forceful, or drawn out and taffylike, or quick and snappy - reflecting what the follower experiences in the music. The woman creates what it actually feels and looks like, and is the flesh and bones of the dance over the skeleton that is all that the leader lays out. It is not about the follower not changing what the leaders intention is, it is equally about the leader not changing what the followers intention is, the two toolkits being mostly orthogonal.

Re: Predictability - i don't know how to express this better - i don't think the follower should know exactly what is happening, but that there is a sense of the overall dance making sense. I think a lot of leaders overstuff and overdecorate their dance - it is thing after thing after thing, which leads to followers first just hanging on with their fingernails onto that rollercoaster, and going "wheeeee", and later with them just going along with it (this kind of techical challenge not being a very sustainable source of enjoyment - flow is nice, but requires very specific levels of difficulty, and social dance will in general not provide this)- this might be a reflection of where i come from more than anything else - i am working hard on giving followers room to breathe in my tango. For me it has helped my dance enourmously to start thinking about it as having to make overall sense to the person i am dancing with - if i follow every single whim i am having i take away her agency in the dance, because instead having a dialogue about the music she ends up having to be completely reactive.

Gssh
 

bordertangoman

Well-Known Member
#59
I thought you taught; couldn't you attempt to teach apilado
and increase the participation?
i teach across the spectrum of possibilities in tango. I don't favour one particular style in my teaching, and yes apilado gets included, but it doesnt work for everyone and its going to be a while before some people become proficient at it.
 

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