Height difference; avoid, open embrace, or some other strategy?

#41
I have been having trouble establishing a solid connection with my shorter lead. His legs are significantly shorter than mine and when we try closed embrace everything feels very "off and odd". Even open embrace doesn't feel right. Tango is probably the one dance I know very little of and I have decided my biggest problem is establishing a connection, and this tends to affect me with taller leads as well. I get the points of contact and leading through the core but I have yet to have a dance where I can really feel what my lead is trying to get me to do. It has gotten to the point where I avoid dancing tango and will sometimes turn down a dance at a social if it is tango. I'm just not confident that I can do anything but walk and step on my partners feet and get in the way.
On the flip side my partner loves tango and drags me through it but I just can't do it! I can't connect and feel it and am always behind the beat. Is this mostly an issue with my lead being short or my form just being "that bad"?
I dance Apilado ("Stacked") style. I lean INTO my partner, not ON my partner. Because I'm slightly angled (A frame), I use my torso to lead because my upper body moves BEFORE my feet.

I see a lot of men dance flat footed so they can't give their torso to their partner. They tend to move their feet first and when the woman doesn't move, they use their arms.

This video may explain better. They are connected at the torso. There's plenty of space on the floor because the woman moves first from the lead.
 

dchester

Moderator
Staff member
#42
I have been having trouble establishing a solid connection with my shorter lead. His legs are significantly shorter than mine and when we try closed embrace everything feels very "off and odd". Even open embrace doesn't feel right. Tango is probably the one dance I know very little of and I have decided my biggest problem is establishing a connection, and this tends to affect me with taller leads as well. I get the points of contact and leading through the core but I have yet to have a dance where I can really feel what my lead is trying to get me to do. It has gotten to the point where I avoid dancing tango and will sometimes turn down a dance at a social if it is tango. I'm just not confident that I can do anything but walk and step on my partners feet and get in the way.
On the flip side my partner loves tango and drags me through it but I just can't do it! I can't connect and feel it and am always behind the beat. Is this mostly an issue with my lead being short or my form just being "that bad"?
Usually with these things, there's blame to go around, (i.e. it's rarely 100% one and 0% the other). Without actually seeing you dance, it's hard to say what needs to be corrected, so I'll just give some general advice. When there's a big height difference, the best thing might be to simply accept that and not change your posture to try and compensate. Simply lean into him, and you connect where ever you both line up. Then adjust the arms so that it's comfortable for both.

For the comment relating to being off the beat, again I can't see what happening, but as a follower, one thing you should aspire to do (at least in the beginning), is to start you foot moving as soon as you feel his chest indicating it. (i.e. Your foot starting before his foot does, is fine. Your foot starting after his foot, is not good, and again, it could be as much the leader's fault as it is yours). However, you do want to land (change weight) together, on the beat. It takes some practice, though.
 

JoeB

Active Member
#43
Get creative; I dated a girl who was 5'8" and wore 6" heels to two step in. I'm 6', so I could easily lose track of a short couple behind her. Just need to turn from time to time to get a look around and map out where everybody else is. Otherwise, enjoy the view.
 
#44
I have been having trouble establishing a solid connection with my shorter lead. His legs are significantly shorter than mine and when we try closed embrace everything feels very "off and odd". Even open embrace doesn't feel right. Tango is probably the one dance I know very little of and I have decided my biggest problem is establishing a connection, and this tends to affect me with taller leads as well. I get the points of contact and leading through the core but I have yet to have a dance where I can really feel what my lead is trying to get me to do. It has gotten to the point where I avoid dancing tango and will sometimes turn down a dance at a social if it is tango. I'm just not confident that I can do anything but walk and step on my partners feet and get in the way.
On the flip side my partner loves tango and drags me through it but I just can't do it! I can't connect and feel it and am always behind the beat. Is this mostly an issue with my lead being short or my form just being "that bad"?
Hi Wolfie,
I have a few questions to try to understand your situation better.
First, I just want to be sure you're dancing Argentine tango, not ballroom tango, correct? Because these two dances are quite different from each other.
Also I am wondering what are the other dances you do that you are more comfortable following?
Also I am wondering what is the height difference between you and your partner? (take heels into account.)

You say you have problems following taller leads as well so it sounds like you have problems following tango no matter who you are dancing with? Or are there some tango leads that you can follow?

Here is my take on your situation. I came to tango after having danced ballroom and salsa first. And I have to say that tango is very different from those dances. My first 2 to 3 years dancing tango I too felt that I was merely making one mistake after another on the dance floor. So I don't know how long you have been dancing tango, but maybe you just need more time to practice and learn the dance. And more classes and/or lessons to improve your following.

Also the embrace in tango is very different from ballroom and salsa and swing and it took me a long time to be able to do it. You need to kind of push your chest/rib cage forward against your partner. I think of it as putting my heart close to his heart. I find if the height difference between me and my partner is greater than 6 inches then it is hard to do the close embrace effectively. I can still follow the open embrace / modified close embrace but it is different.

What helped me in open embrace is the concept of keeping my shoulders parallel with my partners' shoulder. Kind of like our two shoulders are two sides of a parallelogram.

I find flowing in tango is different from other dances in that it demands more precision and concentration. In ballroom dances your feet follow a basic rhythmic pattern but in tango your partner places you on the foot he wants you to be on (which may or may not be opposite of his footwork) and there are many different ways of interpreting rhythm on each song. So all of this demands a focus on following that is more intense than other dances.

So I am not sure if all of this relates to your situation or not. But it is not surprising to me that you would find following tango harder than following other dances. Keep working at it. Don't give up!:):wacky:
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#45
It has gotten to the point where I avoid dancing tango and will sometimes turn down a dance at a social if it is tango.
I'm wondering if we are talking about the same tango. I wouldn't expect what some of us (people who post here for instance) think of as "Argentine Tango" to be danced at a "social." Rather, places where AT (again, as we know it) is danced at practicas and milongas. Another form of tango is danced at studios that don't specialize in "Argentine Tango," although they may call it that.
The dances are significantly different.

It would help the discussion it we knew.
 
#46
So I guess I feel kinda silly and embarrassed now. I never really knew there was a big difference between tangos. Someone told me once AT was more social than ballroom so I guess I assumed that is the style more people adopted. But yes I do believe I do ballroom tango not true AT.
 

ArbeeNYC

Active Member
#48
Personally prefer to dance with women my own height or maybe a tad shorter, but not too petite. That balances things out and makes for a more comfortable dance. Unfortunately, I'm not very tall, about 5'9" and there seem to be a lot of tall followers (and add heels into the equation). I've tried dancing with taller women but it's just not that great for either partner. Slightly taller is OK, but beyond that, not so much. At some point it's about the mechanics of two bodies in motion. It also looks better aesthetically when the couple is matched.
 
#49
I am a tall follower, and with heels even taller, taller than most leaders, so I got used to dancing with shorter leaders. When I dance with someone that is quite taller than me it feels more uncomfortable. Maybe it is because that happens rarely and I am not used to it. I even dance close embrace with some shorter leaders and it is much more comfortable for me than having my face burried in his chest and not seeing a thing. But, I guess it is not comfortable for them. :p They ask me though and I never turn down anyone because of height issues. It is even hard to find a lead at my height. That is the best yes.
 

Zoopsia59

Well-Known Member
#50
I am lucky to be of average height for a USA woman (5'5"). I'm taller than a few leaders (when I'm wearing heels) and shorter than others. My heels are mostly in the 2.5" - 3" range, so even in them I'm not VERY tall.

I haven't had anyone avoid me as a partner due to my height, although I did have a very tall (6'-6" +) visiting leader specifically ask me to dance because I was taller than most of the other available followers that night.

I have noticed that a few of my favorite taller leaders feel very different to me (and get thrown off by the change) if I wear flats. However, these leaders have to dance regularly with followers shorter than I (some of them are still shorter than 5'5" even in their heels!). So it was probably not so much an issue of the leaders not being able to dance well with a shorter follower, but that they aren't accustomed to ME being shorter. Plus me not being used to connecting to them so low.

But generally, leader height is never an issue for me. One of the few situations in which being "average" is an advantage!
 

tangobro

Active Member
#53
The leader reaction is maybe not a height issue but about the heels. The step flow can feel different when the follower is using high heels compared to flats.
Yes! There are VERY few women that I've found who I feel as comfortable dancing with when they are wearing flats as when they are wearing heels. Just last night I declined one of my favorite ladies for that reason. Gabriel Missé and Analía Centurión spoke to this issue in a workshop, saying that it was best, even to practice in the same type of shoes that would be worn to the milonga to dance in. I think part of what may contribute to the problem is that many women in flats tend to dance on tiptoe.

The main difference I make when dancing with taller or shorter followers is step length. For me, the embrace is always dictated by the woman. My default & preferred style is often called "close embrace". Significantly taller women may choose a more open embrace. I'm about 5'8" and for some of the taller women in my community my head is at about the level of their breasts.
 
#54
Some followers prefere flats but others change shoes when the pain is just too much.
In Europe especially in Germany many followers tape their feet and they told me that this is the only option to continue to dance. I have seen red, black, blue or modest white tape

2015  Bandage-1195.jpg 20150803_221208 RED tape on feet (2)b.jpg

I am sorry to push a side track so hard but I want this info to reach every single follower who can be helped by this.
 

Zoopsia59

Well-Known Member
#56
Wearing foot tape is a strategy for when there is a large difference in heigth?
I think the point was that women end up changing their shoes during the evening when their feet hurt and it affects their dancing to go from a high heel to a low heel or flat. At the very least, there is an adjustment period that may affect one or more tandas.
 

Mladenac

Well-Known Member
#57
I think the point was that women end up changing their shoes during the evening when their feet hurt and it affects their dancing to go from a high heel to a low heel or flat. At the very least, there is an adjustment period that may affect one or more tandas.
some wear two pairs as padding is flattened due the long hours of dancing.
 
#60
Being fairly new at this, about 1 year and a quarter, I'll take any dance I can get. If someone is sitting, I will cabaceo them. Not to brag, but in the last 15 months I have danced with hundreds of different ladies, and some men. I struggle mightily with shorter followers. I'm only 5'9 myself. For awhile I was using a visual of a dance with my daughter. (I only have sons). Lately I have been bending my legs during parts of the dance. That's a good workout. I've encountered some truly tall followers. One of my slightly taller followers seems to dance with me in a perpetual volcada which puts us cheek to cheek. As I am not the youngest gentleman, I find that to be a lot of weight falling down on me during an entire tanda. All in all I guess these are good problems to have.
 

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