The Expectant Cross
For most Lead/ers (and Leads) we lead the Argentine Cross so often that we stop thinking about actually leading it and it just sort of 'happens'. The reason it just happens is because of it's ubiquitousness, its frequency. You do this enough times and even the most battle hardened Follower will cross their feet just to shut you up so that you'll stop asking for the damned thing!
The Problem: This is clearly a Lead/er (and Lead) issue. Contrary to what you may have been told the Argentine Cross is not two steps outside partner and the Follower automagically crosses their feet. If that were true then walking on 3 tracks would never happen. No the problem is the fact that we, as Leads, are expectant that we go to the cross, and then the cross just magically happens. We walk, they cross. Viola! Moving on to other things. Not! No. Not 'moving on to other things'. The problem here is that you, as a a lead, are entirely expectant of the Follower crossing their feet every 20 steps.
From a Following Perspective, 10% of this problem is your issue, the other 90% is your Lead. The fact is that you should adhere to one singular rule at all times (as a Passive Follow, not as an Active Follow -- not yet at least). The rule (again as a Passive Follow - this rule doesn't apply to the Active Follow) ? If you don't feel it, you don't go there. It's a pretty simple rule really. If it's not led, then you don't go there. More clearly – if you're not aware of what your Lead is proposing, suggesting, inviting, engaging, while they're attempting to being insanely clear about what they're leading – minus the arm pulling, tension, resistance, forcing, pushing, and pulling that generally passes for leading at most milongas....assuming there is none of that business going on, then there's only one thing left: If you didn't feel it, then there's absolutely no reason for you to do anything. Period. No lead ? Then listen (note the language there....'listen' not wait....'listen' for what's going on). Do not give the Lead a Cross, simply because they stepped outside partner and took two steps. Unless, and there is always an unless, one of two conditions has been met. Condition 1.) They've actually generated the proper conditions for an argentine cross to exist. or 2.) It's at a Milonga. If it's at a Class, a Practica, a Guided Practica, a Workshop, or a Seminar, then don't cross your feet unless led to do so. Assuming what's already been discussed. Every time that you do give a Lead a Cross, it reinforces the belief that they've led things in a desirable manner that is conducive to dancing. And every time that you don't, you force the lead to ... well ... actually guide, invite, suggest, cajole, propose, intend,... ummm lead a cross! Mind you a discussion might ensue of why you're not crossing your feet. Which may involve a teacher or two getting a teacher to discuss the matter. But that's what they are there for anyway. 😉
At the same time, because we've broached the subject of the Role of the Active Follower, you do have a golden opportunity here because your lead isn't clear, they're not necessarily paying attention to what they're leading at this point, this is an opportunity for you to interject an idea or two. More important to our point: To take a modicum of control and quite literally, if not factually, redirect the next step! I know...HERESY! Absolute Heresy! How dare I advocate a Follower interjecting an idea of their own....eeeek!
Believe it or not, you can slow the Lead down at this point to accentuate what's happening in the music, you can speed it up, you can even control what step will happen next, and more importantly where you want to go! That's a part of being an Active Following, we want to start to engage with what's going on! That's why the language above is LISTEN and not WAIT!
However, as an Active (not Passive) Follow, there are 2 rules that we have to adhere to as Followers in this instance: 1.) If it's not in the music, then it's not on the floor! 2.) If you're going to redirect the lead, then you have to have an exit strategy for where you're going next and more importantly how to get out of things! In other words – a plan! To be fair it is important to recognize that a good portion of Leads freak right out when you 'screw up' (which is really their fault to begin with because they weren't clear) and then you take responsibility for by saying "sorry". One can only imagine if you interject an idea or two and watch what happens then. Talk about losing your proverbial mind! Good lord. So a.) Pick your Leads very carefully with this 'active' Following business, and b.) whatever you do, it's got to be musically driven!
While this post is not on the Role of the Active Follower per se, it does touch on it considerably because the cross is all about the role of the active Follower for a variety of reasons most notably because the Cross is the Follower's vocabulary, not the Lead's. That said it should be noted that as a Follower, this whole Active Follower business is a little scary at first but once you open the door way to that happening....really cool things can occur! Cool and wonderful things actually.
From a Leading Perspective, 90% of the reason why the Follower does not cross their feet is really your issue. Let's call a spade, a spade: You expect a cross to just 'magically' happen. The fact is that a good 99% of your crosses aren't led in any way, shape, or form. You step into a parallel system cross (not exactly the most elegant crossing structure in the world, it screams 'beginner lead' ) and then take 2 steps, and the Follower just 'crosses' because they're supposed to. Right ? There's no question in your mind, or theirs. Right ? The problem is that is the problem! You're not actually leading. You're abdicating control of options and opportunities for both roles at this point. Every time that you expect a cross to magically happen, you create the situation for the Follower to actually take control and choose what's going to happen next, whether or not you or they are aware of it. Mind you a good portion of Followers don't do this, and they should because it opens options and opportunities for us to make other choices. At the beginning those choices are haphazard and untried and you're going to stumble a bit. But in the end your versatility goes right through the proverbial roof! And we want our versatility to do precisely that!
We want to encourage an active participation behavior from our Followers because it makes them feel as though they have a voice in the dance. Why ? Answer - Imagine someone dictating to you what you should do all day long. Every hour of every day. You have a mind of your own, and you do like to solve problems your own way. You don't like to be told what to do or what to think. But that's exactly what you're telling your Follower to do each and every time you dance with them. "Don't think. Don't move, unless I say so. Don't have an idea! That's my job!". How boring is that ? Ideally you want them to be a co-creating partner in the dance. Not just a vocabulary plaything. Which is precisely what they are now. By going at things in a slightly different way, you open the doorway to a far more satisfying and co-creating dancing experience than anything else! Don't mishear this as 'Passive' dancing is bad (which is what happens a good portion of the time), it isn't fun and Miles said....not! Some people like that. They like turning off their ability to chose and would rather let someone else do the driving. But then ... (there's always a 'then') a piece of music comes on that they really like and well...they get involved and would like to make a few choices on their own. But unfortunately they're with a Lead who just doesn't allow for this stuff. And it feels kind of limiting. And once they've gotten used to making a few choices, they'll want to do more of it and make it a regular part of their dance to interpret those musical ideas they're having in their head.
Put another way, ideally we want to create 'space' for the Follower to have a choice in what they're being asked to do. Doing so generates a sensation of comfort that you're allowing the freedom to choose, which in turn generates an investment in what they're doing and more importantly how they're doing it. All this from an Argentine Cross!
The Dancing Reality is that no matter what's written here, no matter what I say as a teacher, you're not going to change what you're doing. You're going to keep doing what you do because you a.) don't know any better. and b.) It's comfortable. c.) Change is hard. d.) All this business of the Active Follower is absolute crap (unless you're the Follower in which case, they completely get it).
Thought is hard. Better...yes...better is hard. So who wants to do all that work to be better when it's so much easier to just to continue doing the same things over and over again! The reality is that you would rather continue down the pathway that you're on than to change what you're doing. The reality is that you like the automagical cross. It just makes things soooo much easier for both partners and really the whole floor if the Follower just crosses their damned feet. It means that as a Lead, you don't have to think so much. And as a Follower we can have about 10 seconds of what is essentially 2 and a half minutes of pushing and pulling, of peace. That's the reality.
Fixing it ? Well, there's a really simple solution, it's something that both lead and follower must do. Hmmmm, however as a FREE user, you're not able to see the full solution, you have to upgrade to either a Silver, Gold, or Diamond level user! Once you do that you'll be able to see this solution to this problem as well as over 100+ videos on tango technique, codigos, and more. Just click that little button below that says "SUBSCRIBE".