I often say to followers to “walk as if they were a queen” if I feel their forward walk is lacking confidence and energy. That normally works! They walk bolder, with confidence (what I’m going for) and mainly, with their torso instead of over reaching with their legs.
The other day I realized that everyone knows how to walk as if they were queens. Very interesting for a country that never had monarchy 🙂
Why can’t I pivot like the pros!
A while ago, after a one on one with a teacher, I realized that I was developing an unbalanced way of leading. This caused physical fatigue after a while. While I have my own theories about why I developed this I won’t bore you with them. The teacher lead me like I was leading him thus making it very obvious to me on how it felt. Not as great as I’d like to. 🙂
More recently I made the interesting find that some followers are very good – and vocal – to notice unbalances and others are not. While attending a practica before a milonga I asked a respected follower for her opinion on things to work on and develop. She did not say much besides the obvious. I don’t believe she was being shy. On the other end, another really good follower has been telling me for a while to relax a part of my body. She’s always said it to me in a very kind way. She’s a very kind and serene person.
While dancing with the latter follower I’ve always focused on doing that but I was never clever or dedicated enough to understand the root of the problem. I believe I have now furthered my understanding of the issue, figure out one of the root causes and also how to better cope and deal with it.
I’ve learned throughout this process that I need to explore much more the tips I receive. With a different approach that is. Now, every leader gets lots of tips. They tend to be freely shared by younger and less experienced followers. They also tend to be less useful since you’ve gone past that hill already. On the other hand, what is really important is to get ahold of the tips given by experienced but seldom vocal followers that you believe have a deeper understanding of the dance. I’ve learned not to see them as the root or issue but as more probably than not an effect of something each person needs to dig deeper and figure out within their dancing why that may be.
I’ve got lots of stuff to work on for a while now…
Am I the only one that doesn’t really like the jumpy holding hand?
Some followers even back-lead me that hand motion.
There’s something grandiose about a follower that truly follows, committing themselves to the moment and lead. It seems you only get that in blank slate beginners and extremely advanced dancers.
Too bad 90% of a follower’s tango life is spent between those two stages.
Practicing with beginners is great at many levels. It pushes my technique to boundaries that I normally don’t emphasize so much. For example, it’s challenging not to use my arms to overcome their insensitivity to the lead, thus leading me to be even more clear and powerful.
They feel raw, rough edges accompanied by an enjoyable naïvety.
Some beginners believe I’m a good dancer just because I was trying some acrobatics with someone before. I don’t like that. More often than not, those acrobatic moves didn’t feel good to any of the involved parties. Stumbling in their difficulties, they don’t (yet) realize that I am working on the same exact concepts they are.
Recently, while practicing with someone new to the dance, I tried to dance in close embrace. I had never danced in close embrace with her before. In fact, the only dances I had with her before were the two previous ones, in the same tanda. I immediately realized that she was used to using the arms instead of focusing on my chest to understand the lead. She did not realize what really having and nurturing a connection meant.
I proposed to practice without arms for a couple of songs. Soon we both realized how she was not matching my step size and rotation, causing her to come short of my new position almost every time. I encouraged her not to be shy in her movements and move with more courage and determination. Two songs later she had changed her attitude and was now becoming an active follower, powering her own steps. Before we parted, I tried to convey how the chest can have very subtle leads and how becoming more sensitive to it would open up possibilities in her dance. We both smiled and felt nourished with our short interaction.
Yes, she did not learn how to follow in close embrace in just 20 minutes. How could anyone anyway? I’m not a professional teacher and my experience in helping others has been rather limited too. I was just a guy that acceded to someone’s wishes to share some of my experience and ideas about the dance. What motivated me to write this romanticized version of the events was the end of the conversation: “You have totally changed the way I see and understand the dance. Thank you!”.
Beats any compliment from an hotshot. Thank you!
I am always amazed at how fast people dance a lot of songs. I believe this normally stems from lack of dynamics in the dance as well as from the phobia of doing too little. I’d like to talk a bit about what is – for me, a mere humble beginner – the most important technical aspects of a dancer: dynamics and plasticity.
First of all, I felt like writing this post after watching this youtube clip from Virginia Pandolfi and Fabian Peralta. Feel free to watch it before, while you read(!) or after.
Now, what is more obvious to me in this clip is that they’re both taking their time. Fabian is keeping a constant communication – invisible to the more naïve eye – and giving her time to feel the music. Yes, this whole dancing thing is about the music. Now, their dancing is artful to me because while there are slower moments, they’re not really pauses. They’re just full of dynamics, just like in music you can have staccato, portato, marcato, legato, etc. The notes can be the same, but it’s all about how you connect them, how you travel from one to the other, in this case, how you finish a turn or how you resolve – or not – a cross.
In my mind, plasticity is one’s ability to change the quality of the dance in a continuous way. In physics, there are phenomena that are discrete, such as energy layers in atoms: there’s only discrete and determined energy values that electrons can occupy and change between. On the other hand, you can also have much more non-discrete events – or that have the quality of – such as a spring: you can push it more or less depending on how much force you’re aiming for. Plasticity is, then, the quality of being able to work under a wide gamut of dynamic possibilities but – even more importantly – to change between these regimes in a gradual manual.
The more cunning/experienced of you will point out that this stems for the ability of being relaxed, connected to the floor, sensitive to the leader/follower, etc. Yes, all this is true. However, I feel that a lot of dancers are cultivating technical skills without an encompassing goal that puts them together and builds a newer quality. For me, these two are ultimate technical quality/skills to achieve for.
Today I understood a bit better a move I have been working on and off at practicas for some months now. Not that it’s insanely difficult in the sense that only a handful persons in the world can do it. The thing is that it’s so intricate and with so many options that I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to understand more deeply some of the nuances of the whole thing.
Today was different because somehow I could make better use of one idea that Melina and Detlef taught at a workshop some months ago. When thinking more about the concept and applying it, a lot of things and options suddenly opened up.
Morale of this story: Even if you don’t feel or foresee the benefits immediately after a class, don’t despair. It may come and dawn on you later on in your tango life.
Recently someone commented on my dancing: “Your upper body does something and your legs do another”.
I’m still trying to figure out if it was a compliment or what. I do know what she means (!) but I also know why I do it and why I love doing it…