The Italian Solution

Tango presents many challenges from it’s walk, to the vocabulary, and then the music, but none more challenging than the many issues that stem from an embrace just isn’t working for one of the two partners. Frequently it’s the Lead that generates these issue through too much compression, and/or (at the same time) asking for ‘resistance’ from their Follower so that they can ‘feel’ the Follower’s movements. This is of course a fallacy but those leads that enjoy this way of moving don’t know that, nor will they ever until they walk a few miles in a Follower’s shoes and have this done to them. It’s generally at that point that one of two things happens  for them, 1.) they have a new found appreciation for all of the Follower’s that they’ve danced with, and/or (it’s both sometimes) 2.) they realize that they’re generating this problem and they need to stop. This is usually the evolution of the Lead at this point. However, in today’s WHIC posting, this is not necessarily about the Lead, but rather about the Follower, and an issue that comes up for them in The ‘Italian’ Solution.

From A Following Perspective, you have been dancing for a while, and somewhere in your recent past, you have heard some one say to you, or a series of teachers, that you need to ‘connect’ with your partner and stay with them. While the language of this statement isn’t wrong, it’s also just not accurate, or at the very least, not complete. ‘Connection’ is this nebulous word that doesn’t really help you out a whole lot. Everyone uses this word to mean a host of different things, not the least of which is physiological contact, which is the last thing that it tends to mean and should be the first but isn’t. Sadly. ‘Connection’ could mean almost anything from staying in front of your Lead to the emotional sensation of the experience of dancing with someone. And mind you that last one is entirely subjective, and doesn’t really help you to diagnose issues. In that piece of feedback of ‘connection’ with your partner somehow that got translated to you as you need to make yourself ‘heavy’ and place yourself in your Lead’s embrace by placing the full weight of your arms into your Lead’s. And in specific your left elbow as it crosses over your Lead’s right. That contact point is a sore spot. And by placing all of your weight there, you’re quite factually creating a point contact where you’re stopping your own potential rotation as well as motion. Truth be told every time you place weight on the lead, no matter where it is, you create more places of friction. And quite honestly, as crazy as this may sound to you, you don’t want to create friction, you actually want to do just the opposite. Less friction is GOOD not bad. Why ? You actually want to be able to float within the Lead’s embrace. The ‘floating’ allows for a free range of motion and movement to do what is being asked of you. Specifically in turns, and ochos! The more friction, and if we’re being persnickety, ‘resistance’ (the evilness known as resistance based dancing) that you generate, the more difficult it is for you to do your job.

A word about the video above. While the video above shows the problem from a Leading perspective, this problem also exists from a Following perspective as well, meaning that the Lead is generating this problem instead of the Follower…and The Italian Solution also works in the reverse!

From a Leading Perspective, you have been taught, told, shown, in a myriad of ways that pushing, pulling, and really ‘resistance’, can be a good thing. Several very prominent teachers use this idea to further their cause. When you ask for, get, and then use resistance, the resistance does allow for sharp, crisp, and controlling the Follower’s movement. And while there’s nothing wrong with this idea IF and ONLY IF you are performing, however this is not performance based tango but rather social dancing, so therefore we don’t necessarily need it. At the same time with regards to resistance, there’s the nebulous idea of ‘connection’ and having the Follower’s arms on you so that you can feel where they are in space in time, instead of engaging the skill of Tango Proprioception (which is another tango topic that we will discuss later on). This idea of ‘heavy’ physical contact creates a series of solutions and more often, in modern tango, problems for us, not the least of which is having to heft the Follower around, along with having to overpower them in a myriad of ways. When this idea is applied to the embrace, and in specific the Follower’s left arm over your right (as it goes around your Follower’s in close embrace), that ‘weight’, as has been said, stops the free range of motion. And ideally we don’t want to do this. It should be noted that a Lead can generate this same problem for the Follower by compressing the embrace with their right arm!

Some of you that are reading this have experienced this kind of dancer and find it to be pleasing, some find it annoying, and some find it down right strenuous to dance with someone like this. It’s just too much fucking work. At the same time, now comes the next problem in conjunction with this and that’s where the dancer has been trained to place the (Follower Left or Lead Right) arm around you. That arm placement can create a myriad of issues and challenges for you to overcome. Oy!

From a Dancing Perspective, this dynamic happens with such frequency that you’d think that there was a technique class being taught on this stuff. And there is. Quite frequently. The problem with those classes is they’re not necessarily wrong, it’s just that in a more modern version of tango the idea of resistance based dancing is not necessary. It has been replaced by intention based dancing. Think of this stuff as ideas within a spectrum of ideas. The better dancer has no use for these ideas, which is one reason why a good portion of them won’t dance with you. It’s not because they’re being snobby, ok…that may be part of the reason that the holier-than-thou won’t dance with you, it’s generally because your embrace isn’t enjoyable to them, and then there’s the issue of your walk but that’s a horse of a different color. From a dancing perspective this whole idea of resistance based dancing just gets in the way of actual dancing. It’s work Folks. It’s that simple. But you won’t know that until you have had the experience of Intention Based Dancing. And once you do, you won’t want anything else.

The Italian Solution. When it comes to the issues, for either Lead or Follow, of the embrace historically there are really only two ways to deal with these things: 1.) Suck it up and deal with it. Which generally leads to one or both partners counting the moments until the Tanda is DONE! Not a pleasant experience for either. or 2.) Engaging in the little while lie of “Gosh, my ____________ (enter body part that is being abused - arm, shoulder, neck) was recently ____________ (strained, pulled, pushed, squeezed, etc) and it’s (still, very, quite) _______ (enter adjective to describe the pain that your current partner is placing on you) could you go a little easy on this….” which they’ll completely forget about steps later because they’ll go back to doing what’s comfortable for them. Not because they don’t care about you but because they just don’t know any better. There is a 3rd solution, which bypasses most of this gobble-gook, which we call - The ‘Italian’ Solution. What is it ?


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Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing you in class!