Cross – The Argentine Cross

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Social Collection

Social Collection

Collection”, this is an odd word in the Tango world. It has come to mean that we, as dancers, want to bring our feet ‘together’ in some fashion. Some people refer to this idea or concept as “closing” your feet. Meaning to close the gap that naturally exists between them from a standing position where our legs are slightly apart to create more stability in our stance. ‘Collection’ is a refined version of this idea that exists 2 primary reasons. The first is very practical. And the second is purely visual. We’ll get to those in just a moment. There is another form of Collection that we want to start to be crystal clear about in today’s Tango world.

There’s a very clear reason why we need a clearer distinction of this word we use to define “Collection”. The reason has everything to do with the competition based Tango that is occurring with greater and greater frequency - The Mundials come to mind. As such there is greater attention to detail on precision based Tango that is more focused on what things look like than their social function counterparts. Hence a bit of distinction that is required when talking about ‘Collection’ or more importantly ‘Social Collection’.

The Visual Idea. From a Leading or Following perspective, when we’re talking about Collection what is generally taught is usually the visual idea of collection. Not just bringing your feet together but generating a visual inverted triangular tapered form of the body to the legs to the feet. And as such we want to make that taper as clean, and sharp as possible. So for this reason you’ll see a good portion of dancers who have been taught to will pull one leg slightly behind the other, and one foot off at an angle. In either Lead or Follow it’s right behind left for a variety of reasons. The reason this is done is to remove the gap between the shins and ankles that naturally occurs in some people’s legs and feet. Further it creates that ‘nice’ taper that we desire. Why not left behind right ? Because from a salida step we tend to go (lead) left into (follower) right. Meaning that the Lead will step forward with their left leg/foot first, and the Follower will step backwards with their right. The visual idea is really all about the visual lines that are generated in either partner when coming together and creating a nice architecture. That’s it, that’s all and Collection, in the way that it’s taught and presented above, in both partners contributes to that.

The Practical Idea. From either roles perspective the idea of Collection makes things very clear that we’re in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time. From the Lead’s perspective it helps to clarify that the follower is in the right place when they collect so that they can proceed. It’s really easy to see or in this case ‘feel’ that the Follower is off and then to adjust for that ‘off’. Frequently however, that off is never adjusted for and the Follower ends up in the Lead’s armpit. 🙁 From a Follower’s perspective it’s the same idea only that when your lead collects it creates certainty in you. Think of the ‘cowboy walk’ when leading any of the 8 types of ochos.

From a Dancing Reality Social Collection is really about the practical idea of bringing your feet together not for the visual idea but rather out of function more than anything else. It makes things rather simple and easy, that you’re not performing for the 15th row! Social Collection doesn’t mind that there is a tiny gap between your legs at the ankles to the knees, but rather it’s more important that you’re in the right place at the right time. Now if you want you can go the extra step (no pun intended) by creating a cleaner visual, however most people don’t and won’t go that extra step because it’s too much work for them. It’s another thing they have to remember and that’s already too much for them. So again, we’re at Social Collection. So if we define Social Collection as being too lazy but being practical. What’s it’s opposite ? Performance Collection! And that’s a whole different animal.

The reality is that a good portion of you are going to look at this video above, disagree with it because your teacher told you ages ago that collection is supposed to be the visual reason. But in reality do you actually understand any of what’s been said above ? Or did you just watch the video ? There’s a reason why we want Social Collection above all else that has not been mentioned, and it has everything to do with the role of the Follower as they’re being led to an Argentine Cross. Mind you this is just 1 of 3 reasons, but this is the most prominent. Think Armpit Dancer, and you’ll begin to get an idea of what’s going on, as a matter of fact, go look at that video, it talks about this aspect of Performance Collection. That’s the reality. Put simply if you as a Lead, want your Follower in your armpit, please keep doing what you’re doing, and pay this topic no mind.  Or if you as a Follower like being in your Lead’s armpit and quite literally behind your lead, then again….don’t pay any attention to this topic. It’s a complete waste of your time.


Changing It. The reality is that you don’t necessarily need a class to change this stuff. The video above is enough to give you ideas on your own. However, what you do need to the rest of the reason why we do this stuff. This topic only gives the 1st of those 3 reasons. It’s not enough. But for the rest of those reasons, you either have to do one of 2 things. 1.) Buy the foundation series of videos that talks about this stuff. Or 2.) Subscribe so that you can see the other paragraph that’s here for Gold, Diamond, and Intensive Level users. 😉 You see if you were any one of those users, then you would see about 100+ videos that talk about this stuff, show you why X, Y and Z works the way that it does. But alas you’re not one of those users. 🙁 Sadly. But you can change that by hitting the green button below.

The Arm Pit Dancer

The Armpit Dancer

For most dancers their embrace is theirs and theirs alone. It's what separates them from everyone else. It is their signature. Regardless of whether or not that embrace is desirable or not. Mind you they may not realize that their embrace is not desirable, they may not realize that the quality of their embrace is desirable. We like to believe that our embrace is the finest thing since sliced bread, and yet it is that embrace that causes more problems than it's worth for a greater number of dancers. Take for example an aspect that is frequently passed onto dancers learning close embrace (which turns out to be a grand fallacy) that the Follower must apply 'Resistance' (which generally ends up as 'Rigidity') in order for the Lead/er to feel them. Or still another that the Follower should wrap their left arm around their Lead's shoulders.

Each of these issues, and many more that aren't listed here create physiological stresses on the couple that we don't want. And as a result we end up having to compromise our natural bodily structure to compensate for what essentially amounts to an uncomfortable embrace.

To be clear, and fair, the embrace is not the only problem child here. The other major component to nearly every issue that you can think of comes from one other place, it's the walk. Or more importantly, one's stability in one's walk. Do not discount what you'll hear in the videos above, and this article as "Ahhh I just need to fix my embrace and then all will be magical!". Nope. You must, must, must, must, must ... let's stress that one more time with feeeeeling -> you must work on your walk, and in specific, your stability in your walk. And there are loads of exercises you can do to correct for that, one of which has already been covered here "The Ballet Rise".

The Problem: The embrace is massive component to the dance being successful on any level, and yet there is another component is just as important but very infrequently talked about. What's that ? Body Position and Body Placement for both Lead and Follow! Body Position is where you place yourself within the construct of the embrace, Body Placement is what you do with it (e.g.: vocabulary). The issue is that getting this topic right is the dividing line between 'ease' and 'work', between 'pain' and 'pleasure', between "ouch" and "aaahhhhh". And yet, no one talks about this thing. So what specifically is the issue ? The fact that a good 90% of the time both Lead and Follow will enter into an untenable embrace structure based on their respective Body Positions right from the start of the dance where the Both dancers will quite literally either place the Follower into their Lead's Arm Pit, or the Lead will readjust to have the Follower there from the start. And in that we have what is known as "The Armpit Dancer". 

From a Following Perspective, this issue is as much yours as it is the Leads' issue! You either went directly to the Lead/ers arm pit or more importantly you drifted there by means of every cross, turn, and ocho you were 'asked' to execute. In short, you are just as responsible for this as the Lead is for allowing the problem to happen in the first place. Let's go on the theory that you went there by comfort, not by drift, that will happen later anyway. By comfort means that you don't know anything else. You went right into the armpit of you Lead because you don't know any thing different. It's all you know. And quite honestly no one has probably told you that you have a responsibility to be actively ontop of being in front of your lead, and being in their armpit is not that place. Placing yourself in the armpit is less then desirable on several levels: 1.) You're making work for yourself. 2.) You're instantly behind on everything that is being asked of you. 3.) You're more than likely going to end up in long forward steps because of your position.

Let's be clear about something, there are certain aspects to the Modern Follow that did not happen 50, 30, and maybe even 20 years ago that does happen today. One of those things is that certain pieces of vocabulary mentioned above are all yours. The Lead may ASK (operative word) for it, but you're the one that has to execute it with some degree of precision and awareness. And that means that while there's nothing that you can do about the speed of one of these pieces of vocabulary, there is something you can do to change how things are executed because you're the one that's doing the execution! Put simply you are responsible for Forward, Side, & Back, and just how much disassociation you engage to execute X, Y, and Z that is being asked of you. You must place yourself in the right places at all times to allow for these things to occur. That means a.) Execute. b.) Get there in a timely fashion (read that as being on beat). This part is optional, but mostly quite desirable c.) With elegance! Generally the problem is that you have allowed yourself to 'slip' in any one of those three steps, in specific the back and forward steps of your Molinete as well as the back step prior to the crossing step of the Argentine Cross.

To 'slip' means that you are out of alignment with your lead. While the video above talks about the Follower's Molinete where this occurs repeatedly, it also occurs in the Argentine Cross, and you as the Follower need to take control so these things don't happen. One of the things in your way, unfortunately is a Lead's embrace that is restrictive that won't allow you the freedom to move across and around your lead's body. If the embrace isn't restrictive, you have the tools you need to accomplish your goals! Technique, and Space! Now the only thing you need to do is execute.



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From a Leading Perspective, this one is as much your issue as it is the Followers! Why are you responsible for this issue ? 1.) It's your embrace. 2.) You have control. 3.) You're the one that's choosing vocabulary, not the Follower. 4.) Navigation! 5.) One of your jobs as a Lead (you have 3), is Music. Your job is to select the beat that the couple is dancing to and on. That is why you are responsible.

Let's go on the theory that you are ignorant of why placing the Follower in your armpit is not desirable. That you're doing what you're doing out of your own physiological comfort and ignorance:

Put simply, the Follower has a ton of physical work to do. You, my friend, have a different kind of work to do. While the role of the Follower is all about the physical, your role is intellectual - it's all about planning. You think, they do. Mind you if you think and do for them, there's not a whole lot for them to do except look nice and smile. Which is precisely what Tango was for many decades. That's not the case in today's Tango world, it's changing...slowly. The role of the Follower has expanded more over the last 2 decades. And as a result, they have more to do, and you have less to do. The more ? They're essentially being asked to execute a turn - the how the turn is done, but not when that turn is done (that's still your job). Still another instance is that they cross their feet automagically because you're not leading it 90% of the time. Still another is that in traveling ochos (what you call 'back ochos'), they're deciding how to ocho and how far that ocho goes, constantly. Put simply, they're doing the heavy lifting, while all you're doing is thinking about what should be done in time to the music.

Those three things (and there are more, these are just the prominent ones) are physical labor for the Follower. Specifically the 1st and the last. Why ? Because they require disassociation and applied disassociation (what you mistakeningly think of as a 'pivot') on the Follower's forward and back steps of their Molinete, and their ochos. 9 times out of 10 you'll start a turn to the Open side of the embrace (Lead left), using the Follower's backstep as the opening step either from a stop (bad idea by the way, see a future WHIC video on this topic), or from an ocho (better idea). That disassociation (from you) and applied disassociation in your follower tends to land them right in your armpit and thereby makes it difficult for them to get around you (for a variety of reasons which are not discussed here) for the remaining steps of the turn. The same is true of the ocho! In short, this stuff is work for them, and every time they move from the armpit, they're having to stretch to go further around you just to end up in the same place. What makes that even more challenging is that you compress the embrace, you turn away from them in turns and in crosses you place them in your armpit deliberately, and you move the center of the circle or you close the distance in crosses, and/or pull them with your left arm, your head is in the way of the turn or cross (watching their feet). Each and every time that you do this it makes their job harder and harder.

The Dancing Reality. The reality is that this stuff is going to continue to happen. And these words will make no difference. You'll keep doing this stuff and stressing your heads, bodies, and dances to the breaking point. The reality is that you like dancing like this. You like dancing in pain. You like working harder than you have to. You like force, tension, compression, and resistance. That's the reality. You see other people doing it and seemingly having fun and think, that's what I should be doing. What you may not realize is that these people are ignorant of what's supposed to happen. It's only after they start rubbing muscles and tendons, that are seemingly strained for some odd reason (!!!!!), and they need a massage or a chiropractic visit the next morning that they realize that Tango is the cause! So 'no' you shouldn't be doing that. What you should do is fix it!

Paying For The Soup. Change can happen, but only if you want it to happen. And 'want' is the key word. First and foremost you have to see that this is an issue. If don't, then so much the better, that means less work for you. But the reality is that this is a ton of work for both Lead and Follower. Further still you are contorting your bodies to make it happen, and then you wonder why you're paying a chiropractor every few weeks for an 'adjustment'. There's a reason for that, and that's because you're contorting your bodies to dance like this. Here's a helpful hint - STOP DOING IT! As arrogant as that may sound, and quite frankly the whole thing is arrogant, the fact is that it's not arrogant if you see it as a helpful bit of advice that can stop you from being in pain. 

The Soup Part. This website isn't a free resource. All the toys that can actually help you to change your dance are all behind a paywall. If you want access to the toys that means you have to subscribe. If you want access to the free resources, all you have to do is register. That's it, that's all. There are quite a few resources for the free user. However, all the good stuff, and really the up to date stuff, will cost you about .66 cents per day. It's that simple.  If you were a free user, this paragraph would actually be about a tiny free tip that could see, but you can't because you haven't registered yet! If you'd see the tip.