Why do you choose the partner you choose?

#61
Do you mean that the rule is that for a step of the leader, the follower has to know a corresponding step?
By example, if you are making a side step to your left, the follower has to do a side step to the right?
Obviously I understand that many, if not most, tango figures are asymmetrical. I have asked questions in the past about many of them: cross, back ochos, calesita—in none of those are the men's and women's moves simply a mirror image of one another.

It sounds as if a lot of people don't really understand why I'm asking for help; I think I maybe haven't expressed myself clearly.

Here's what I was told around the time I started to learn this dance, and repeated ad nauseam ever since (I paraphrase):

I was instructed to copy exactly the movements that I had learned, every time I executed any particular figure. (I say "movements" advisedly—some people are talking about the corresponding "step" but what I was told is it's not just the feet, it's the upper and lower bodies as well, i.e. I should do exactly as instructed with the feet, but also the knees, thighs, abdomen, back, neck etc.)

I was clearly told that as a relatively elementary dancer, I needed to execute everything exactly as taught. More advanced dancers had some leeway to "break the rules", apparently, but I didn't get to do that as a student. I was advised not to miss out a forward step, not to put in an extra side step, not to switch a step with the right foot for one with the left foot, not to forget to rotate the pelvis and ankles in an ocho, etc.

I was told that the reason for this discipline requirement was that if I did anything different from what I had been taught, the figure I was executing might not "work". This "won't work" is a very nebulous term and I inquired further but didn't receive any satisfactory response as to what it means.

So I presume that what is meant is that the women are also being taught precise movements, and the two are designed to fit together (not necessarily symmetrically, Krys, but fit together nonetheless), and that if I (say) substituted a left-foot step for a right-foot step, it would mess up the other person.

And the reason I am asking for help here is this. Does this requirement not apply to the man and the woman equally? And if not, if the woman is allowed to skip things out or change things, and the man is not, then what is the man's proper response?

For example, if during a calesita routine as described earlier, the woman doesn't do the spinning round on her heel bit, and instead executes a cross, should I go back and do all the movements associated with the male party in a cross, i.e. sidestep to the left, change feet, step forward again with the left while turning the body from the ankles up slightly clockwise, forward step with the right while returning the body from the ankles up to its original unrotated position, then collect the left foot level with the right? Or is it too late?

I think it's a reasonable question and I really don't understand all of the confusion, but I expect I didn't go into enough detail before. Sorry about that.
 
#62
"For example, if during a calesita routine as described earlier, the woman doesn't do the spinning round on her heel bit, and instead executes a cross, should I go back and do all the movements associated with the male party in a cross, i.e. sidestep to the left, change feet, step forward again with the left while turning the body from the ankles up slightly clockwise, forward step with the right while returning the body from the ankles up to its original unrotated position, then collect the left foot level with the right? Or is it too late?"

If it is a trolling, it is a very good one. Congrats. :)
If it is for real, which I doubt... what do you, All Sales Are Final, think is the answer to your question?
And how would your teachers answer, in your opinion? If you have not asked them yet, and by the way, why did not you?
 

Cal

Well-Known Member
#63
So I presume that what is meant is that the women are also being taught precise movements, and the two are designed to fit together (not necessarily symmetrically, Krys, but fit together nonetheless), and that if I (say) substituted a left-foot step for a right-foot step, it would mess up the other person.

And the reason I am asking for help here is this. Does this requirement not apply to the man and the woman equally? And if not, if the woman is allowed to skip things out or change things, and the man is not, then what is the man's proper response?
The follower shouldn't be doing steps automatically as though they are just called out from a tango playbook, like American football. The follower should be "reading" and responding to the movements of the leader's body. If the leader's body "writes" gobbledygook, well, then the follower will have a hard reading that and won't be able to move in the way the leader may expect. The fix for that is for the leader to get better. Conversely, if the leader "writes" advanced steps/movements but the follower is still a newbie with limited reading/execution skills, the follower won't understand the leader's movements (and actually might think it's gobbledygook) and won't be able to move the way the leader intends. In that instance, the leader needs to "write" something else that's simpler that the follower might understand.

If the leader writes gobbledygook AND the follower has limited skills, well, then it probably won't be an enjoyable dance for either one. Just muddle through it. Then work at getting better.

There's no specific "playbook" response to fix every misstep – sometimes you just have to figure it out on the fly. And that's part of the beauty of dancing.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#64
ASAF,

If you have not somehow gotten the wrong message from your instructors, you have been ill served by them. Sort of like the way Argentine Tango is danced on DWTS - not at all like the dance the people actually do; but in your case missing the improvised, from step to step, nature of the dance that most of us learned as an essential part of the AT experience starting as a beginner.
 
#65
ASAF,

If you have not somehow gotten the wrong message from your instructors, you have been ill served by them. Sort of like the way Argentine Tango is danced on DWTS - not at all like the dance the people actually do; but in your case missing the improvised, from step to step, nature of the dance that most of us learned as an essential part of the AT experience starting as a beginner.
I believe it is even worse. There is a claim of teaching/learning a social dance, and yet, the way say it's supposed to work according to them, any mean of communication between the partners (short of mind reading) is totally missing, and there is no way to understand where it fits!

There are instructors who teach in steps and patterns, and therefore, quite a few male students who execute patterns on the floor instead of improvising, and female students guessing the steps from the (usually poor) lead instead of really following. There is nothing new here. But at least in that case there is no confusion about who does what.
 
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dchester

Moderator
Staff member
#66
My responses are based on the following assumptions:
1) This is actually a true request for help.
2) The tango you are learning is not some type of stage tango or choreographed sequences, but rather, you are actually trying to learn to do social (improvised) tango, like what is done at a milonga.

There are several ways to approach this (rules, in your terminology), but in my opinion, the simplest way to describe it is:
1) The man indicates what he wants the follower to do (typically with his upper body), also called a lead.
2) The follower waits for, and then interprets the lead.
3) They both work together (accompany each other), to accomplish what is lead.
4) The leader can do whatever steps he wants, as long as he can lead and accompany the follower, to complete the step/move that he led.

The best thing in the beginning, is to do steps that make your leading as clear & comfortable (for the follower), as well as making the leading easy for you to execute. In social tango, what's important for the man is his leading, more than his steps (especially in the beginning).

It sounds as if a lot of people don't really understand why I'm asking for help; I think I maybe haven't expressed myself clearly.
That's one possibility, although a more likely possibility (assuming what you've said is reasonably accurate), is that much of what you've been told is incorrect.

Here's what I was told around the time I started to learn this dance, and repeated ad nauseam ever since (I paraphrase):

I was instructed to copy exactly the movements that I had learned, every time I executed any particular figure. (I say "movements" advisedly—some people are talking about the corresponding "step" but what I was told is it's not just the feet, it's the upper and lower bodies as well, i.e. I should do exactly as instructed with the feet, but also the knees, thighs, abdomen, back, neck etc.)

I was clearly told that as a relatively elementary dancer, I needed to execute everything exactly as taught. More advanced dancers had some leeway to "break the rules", apparently, but I didn't get to do that as a student. I was advised not to miss out a forward step, not to put in an extra side step, not to switch a step with the right foot for one with the left foot, not to forget to rotate the pelvis and ankles in an ocho, etc.

I was told that the reason for this discipline requirement was that if I did anything different from what I had been taught, the figure I was executing might not "work". This "won't work" is a very nebulous term and I inquired further but didn't receive any satisfactory response as to what it means.
Some of this is true, but not nearly enough, in my opinion.
In a class, (especially for beginners), it is valid that you should try to copy everything the teacher is asking you to do. The key point here is, in a class. At a practica you can experiment with other possibilities, and determine what works best for you. At a milonga, you only lead things that you can lead (and do) well. Different people have different skill sets and different body types.

Also, I didn't see anything mentioned about leading. The woman does steps because you lead them, not because she feels like doing something. The teacher really needs to explain what part of your movement is the lead. Hopefully the steps the teacher has you do, are ones that make the leading easier to do.

So I presume that what is meant is that the women are also being taught precise movements, and the two are designed to fit together (not necessarily symmetrically, Krys, but fit together nonetheless), and that if I (say) substituted a left-foot step for a right-foot step, it would mess up the other person.
Not true. If you understand the effect of stepping with the other foot, and lead accordingly, it would not mess up the other person at all. Changing things could make the leading easier, or more difficult.

And the reason I am asking for help here is this. Does this requirement not apply to the man and the woman equally? And if not, if the woman is allowed to skip things out or change things, and the man is not, then what is the man's proper response?
The woman should be doing what you lead. You do what you need to do, to lead well. As you become more skilled, more possibilities become available for what you could do, while she is doing whatever it was that you led.

For example, if during a calesita routine as described earlier, the woman doesn't do the spinning round on her heel bit, and instead executes a cross, should I go back and do all the movements associated with the male party in a cross, i.e. sidestep to the left, change feet, step forward again with the left while turning the body from the ankles up slightly clockwise, forward step with the right while returning the body from the ankles up to its original unrotated position, then collect the left foot level with the right? Or is it too late?
If you are properly leading a calesita, that's what she should be doing. If she did a cross: either the lead was flawed, she didn't understand the lead, or she doesn't understand that she should not be stepping unless she was led to step.

Now sometimes, things don't always go as expected, and then you have to deal with whatever she did. Depending on what it was she did, you could try to accompany her, or if you're not sure, pausing for a beat or two is not a bad idea, and then lead something else.

My two cents. I hope it helps.
 
#67
My two cents. I hope it helps.
It is extremely helpful, yes, thank you.

It does differ from what I see and hear at classes and in milongas (our community is too small to have true practicas as such); on the other hand, it is very similar in substance to what coaching I have received on this forum previously, while expressed in a slightly different way to help get the message across.

The cognitive dissonance I face is between what I receive through my eyes and ears "live" and the advice given to me on the internet, which is why it sometimes might seem as if I'm going back over ground already covered (it's not being reinforced in the physical world); however, that is all part of the learning process I guess! :)
 
#68
Obviously I understand that many, if not most, tango figures are asymmetrical. I have asked questions in the past about many of them: cross, back ochos, calesita—in none of those are the men's and women's moves simply a mirror image of one another.

[...]
I just took a very simple example (one side step) to illustrate. I did not mean that all figures are symmetrical nor you believe it.

Here's what I was told around the time I started to learn this dance, and repeated ad nauseam ever since (I paraphrase):

I was instructed to copy exactly the movements that I had learned, every time I executed any particular figure. (I say "movements" advisedly—some people are talking about the corresponding "step" but what I was told is it's not just the feet, it's the upper and lower bodies as well, i.e. I should do exactly as instructed with the feet, but also the knees, thighs, abdomen, back, neck etc.)
Agree with the fact tango is not only danced with the feet, and thank for the clarification in what you mean when you say movements and step.
In your opinion why upper body is important?

I was clearly told that as a relatively elementary dancer, I needed to execute everything exactly as taught. More advanced dancers had some leeway to "break the rules", apparently, but I didn't get to do that as a student. I was advised not to miss out a forward step, not to put in an extra side step, not to switch a step with the right foot for one with the left foot, not to forget to rotate the pelvis and ankles in an ocho, etc.

I was told that the reason for this discipline requirement was that if I did anything different from what I had been taught, the figure I was executing might not "work". This "won't work" is a very nebulous term and I inquired further but didn't receive any satisfactory response as to what it means.

So I presume that what is meant is that the women are also being taught precise movements, and the two are designed to fit together (not necessarily symmetrically, Krys, but fit together nonetheless), and that if I (say) substituted a left-foot step for a right-foot step, it would mess up the other person.
Follower just reacts to each of your movement. So each time you are moving your body, you should be thinking of the reaction you expect (and listening your follower to be sure she has reacted as you expected).

And the reason I am asking for help here is this. Does this requirement not apply to the man and the woman equally? And if not, if the woman is allowed to skip things out or change things, and the man is not, then what is the man's proper response?

For example, if during a calesita routine as described earlier, the woman doesn't do the spinning round on her heel bit, and instead executes a cross, should I go back and do all the movements associated with the male party in a cross, i.e. sidestep to the left, change feet, step forward again with the left while turning the body from the ankles up slightly clockwise, forward step with the right while returning the body from the ankles up to its original unrotated position, then collect the left foot level with the right? Or is it too late?

I think it's a reasonable question and I really don't understand all of the confusion, but I expect I didn't go into enough detail before. Sorry about that.
Yes you could do this. If I understand correctly what you are explaining, you will lead a second cross.
 
#69
My instruction was completely different. The instructor keeps saying things like:
  • "Try to surprise the follower"
  • "Change it up so it doesn't get boring for the follower"
  • "Suddenly do something different if you think she is anticipating"
This started right away in the classes. Even the first day, we were told to stop once in a while (ideally at a good spot in the music). After we learned rock steps and the 8CB, he said to throw rock steps into the middle of the 8CB to change it up, or use rock steps as a "holding pattern" when traffic forced a stop.

Something I observed: Patterns like the 8CB can be a vicious circle. At first I kept doing them over and over (perfectly understandable for a newb), so the follower thought I was going to do basic patterns over and over. Then when I tried to do something different, they would keep going with the pattern and I'd be forced to continue the pattern or do a full stop. Changing things up, even with just the occasional stop in the middle of a pattern, seems to keep the follows more responsive to the lead. It's also more variety, and lets me adjust the steps a bit so I can synchronize a move with the end of a musical phrase (often miss it, but boy is it fun when I nail it!).

This briefly flusters new follows sometimes, but I just say something like be ready for anything at any time. When they realize it is on purpose and not a mistake generally they can then follow sudden changes off of standard patterns.
All Sales Are Final (ASAF) said:
... I was instructed to copy exactly the movements that I had learned, every time I executed any particular figure. ... I was clearly told that as a relatively elementary dancer, I needed to execute everything exactly as taught. More advanced dancers had some leeway to "break the rules", apparently, but I didn't get to do that as a student. ...
 

Mladenac

Well-Known Member
#71
This briefly flusters new follows sometimes, but I just say something like be ready for anything at any time. When they realize it is on purpose and not a mistake generally they can then follow sudden changes off of standard patterns.
And what's most important in tango that those "mistakes" are not taken personally.
The more self correcting dancer becomes the better it becomes.
So when some "miscommunication" occures adaptation on both sides are needed.
That's are one of the essence of advanced dancers in my mind.
 
#72
For the follows, the instructor said to follow what was led, to the point of if he leads a "mistake" follow the "mistake." I have been impressed how the more experienced ladies can follow my mistakes so well even that can look good.
And what's most important in tango that those "mistakes" are not taken personally.
The more self correcting dancer becomes the better it becomes.
So when some "miscommunication" occures adaptation on both sides are needed.
That's are one of the essence of advanced dancers in my mind.
 

Mladenac

Well-Known Member
#73
For the follows, the instructor said to follow what was led, to the point of if he leads a "mistake" follow the "mistake." I have been impressed how the more experienced ladies can follow my mistakes so well even that can look good.
It seems that you experienced "Delusions of competence"
http://karenkaye.net/2015/06/13/delusions-of-competence/

We need to address several occasions where we dance tango:
1. class
2. practica
3. local milonga
4. festival milonga
5. tango encuentro
6. tango marathon

There are various levels of dancers and only in a class or in practica (if agreed) mistakes should be obvious and not corrected.
If dancer start to be nitpicking about mistakes a lot of people will leave.

If it's a social event the dancing should be "auto corrected" so couple dancing enjoys it.

I got a situation that a follower told me she had enjoyed so much she started making mistakes.
How should I dance if every mistake should be noticed. ;)
And that follower also told me that she knew she had made mistakes but it didn't affect my dancing.

My experience is that when the follower notices how I adapt to her dancing and "correct" our dancing she get more relaxed and makes fewer mistakes e.g. she reacts to my leading better.
 
#74
And what's most important in tango that those "mistakes" are not taken personally.
Yes, obviously, there is no need for a dancer to get butthurt in a social context just because something didn't work out on the dance-floor, that would spoil the event for everyone.

I think the real kicker is this:

In a class, (especially for beginners), it is valid that you should try to copy everything the teacher is asking you to do. The key point here is, in a class.
So given that the context is a class, if I am trying to copy everything the teacher is asking, and some others there are also doing that, but there are some who are not, I shouldn't care, right? Because I'm there to learn for ME, and if there are others who want to do something else, that's their problem.

BUT.

What happens when the person who is not copying everything the teacher is asking for, is the person you happen to be dancing with at that moment?

If I'm doing the thing, and she's not doing the thing, there is going to be confusion, right?

Not enough to warrant a tantrum on the dance-floor à la two-year-old, I grant you, but enough to justify asking questions on this forum and trying to pick it apart to learn from the mistake.

Or, enough to ask the teacher what to do. Which brings us to Lilly's comment:

And how would your teachers answer, in your opinion? If you have not asked them yet, and by the way, why did not you?
I did indeed. And as it happens, this is more or less exactly what they answered:

There's no specific "playbook" response to fix every misstep – sometimes you just have to figure it out on the fly. And that's part of the beauty of dancing.
...which is worse than useless for someone with limited experience who doesn't yet have everything in muscle-memory to use "on the fly". If you don't even know what you're supposed to be doing theoretically, you can't improvise... every innovator has to learn some basic skills first and that requires formal knowledge, even if it is later cast aside.

Of course, I have the option of taking the issue to a teacher privately. But that's an expensive and time-consuming proposition, when every slight distraction can turn into an excuse for a 30-minute, lesson-destroying exploration into the finer points of walking around a room.

So I understand that some, frustrated that I do not have all basic skills fully internalized yet, may accuse me of "trolling", just because I am asking very elementary questions; but it is helpful for me to get an alternative perspective here when I don't always understand what the instructors are getting at in class.
 

JohnEm

Well-Known Member
#75
My responses are based on the following assumptions:
1) This is actually a true request for help.
2) The tango you are learning is not some type of stage tango or choreographed sequences, but rather, you are actually trying to learn to do social (improvised) tango, like what is done at a milonga.

There are several ways to approach this (rules, in your terminology), but in my opinion, the simplest way to describe it is:
1) The man indicates what he wants the follower to do (typically with his upper body), also called a lead.
2) The follower waits for, and then interprets the lead.
3) They both work together (accompany each other), to accomplish what is lead.
4) The leader can do whatever steps he wants, as long as he can lead and accompany the follower, to complete the step/move that he led.
As ever I have a different point of view.

1) The man does more than indicate. If the bodies are embraced
together the bodies move together to a position lead by the man.
Both women's steps and men's steps follow there own respective bodies.
No interpretation necessary, it's as clear as crystal given the right
circumstances, it's those that are more difficult to achieve.
2) No! No interpretation, no time, you are dancing together.
3) Yes they work together, in harmony even, but accompanying
implies something looser than an Argentine embrace.
4) Agreed although my context is somewhat different to yours.
The best thing in the beginning, is to do steps that make your leading as clear & comfortable (for the follower), as well as making the leading easy for you to execute. In social tango, what's important for the man is his leading, more than his steps (especially in the beginning).
The best thing for a man is from the very start to forget your own steps
in order to concentrate only on the woman's, your own steps follow naturally
and as required. Priorities, priorities!
Also, I didn't see anything mentioned about leading. The woman does steps because you lead them, not because she feels like doing something. The teacher really needs to explain what part of your movement is the lead. Hopefully the steps the teacher has you do, are ones that make the leading easier to do.
The teacher shouldn't be having the man do any specific steps,
no specific foot positioning, it's all about body movement,
positioning and orientation. The feet will follow.


Now sometimes, things don't always go as expected, and then you have to deal with whatever she did. Depending on what it was she did, you could try to accompany her, or if you're not sure, pausing for a beat or two is not a bad idea, and then lead something else.
If you are in a clear and positive embrace then the pauses
are probably best in order to "find her feet" again.
My two cents. I hope it helps.
And this is my two pennyworth, two pennies
being worth more than two cents!

More seriously we all dance in different ways, and the Argentines
tend to make it much simpler and more direct than teaching abroad.
The resultant effect is a dance of connection and feeling which is
quite different and much more effective, although I would agree
that this opinion is a matter of personal experience.
 
#76
...which is worse than useless for someone with limited experience who doesn't yet have everything in muscle-memory to use "on the fly". If you don't even know what you're supposed to be doing theoretically, you can't improvise... every innovator has to learn some basic skills first and that requires formal knowledge, even if it is later cast aside.
From your reports it looks like some teachers tried to work on that with you: made you practice walking to music and deliberately stopping. Those are two basic things one has to be able to do in tango, and also what beginners usually recourse to when something unexpected happens: you can either walk, or stop if there is no space, until you regain your composure and figure out what to do next. But you dismissed it as "nonsense" and "not actual tango".
It is not the lack of internalized basic skills, and not the question asking that make some of us doubt you are for real. It is mostly the fact that you dismiss and ignore the answers.
 
#78
I wish! It would be a fun mental place to be. Alas, the closest I have come is the practica where a super advanced and super good follower made me look really good and I felt I was the best leader there... of course, I was the only male that showed up that day!
Still, you should congratulate yourself since it is not a given. Some ladies are better at leading than some men. ;)
 

Mladenac

Well-Known Member
#80
So given that the context is a class, if I am trying to copy everything the teacher is asking, and some others there are also doing that, but there are some who are not, I shouldn't care, right? Because I'm there to learn for ME, and if there are others who want to do something else, that's their problem.

BUT.

What happens when the person who is not copying everything the teacher is asking for, is the person you happen to be dancing with at that moment?
And what if the follower is 10 cm shorter/taller,
than the thing you did correctly with your partner doesn't work anymore.
Complexity of tango lies in the fact that we need to adapt continuously all the time.
There is not copying in tango, always adjusting.
The level you are adjusting is different at every level you acquire.
 

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