Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

Five Common Follower Errors

Today’s Tango Topic is for the Advancing Follower. It is for the Follower that wants to see a few tango habits that they may not be aware of. It is for the Follower that is on a pathway towards greater physiological and kinesthetic awareness. It is for the Follower that has an awareness about their technique and how they’re executing it. It is for the Advancing Follower that wants to create a dancing experience that is extremely desirable for their Leads. If this sounds like you, then read on. If not, then don’t bother with this stuff. Honestly. It’s a complete waste of your time. And no we’re not kidding. Why ? Because what’s above and below is about what some call being a Tango Perfectionist. There are those Follower’s who just come to the Milonga to meet people, to get out of the house, to have a nice time, maybe have a glass of wine and talk with their Tango friends. If that’s you, then these things, as far as you’re concerned are a complete and utter waste of your time. So don’t bother reading any further. Better yet, here’s a nice cat video you should go watch…

Also what’s contained in the video above, and what’s in the article below has absolutely NOTHING to do with Follower Technique in any way, shape, or form. There’s no information here for the role of the Follower. However, that doesn’t mean that the Lead should tune out, in fact ideally we want the Lead to tune in here. Why ? So that they can recognize these things when they happen and point them out during practicas and or private practice with their partners, and more importantly be aware of them so that when they happen, they can at the very least not freak right out!

Just as a very important aside, what’s seen above in the video and what’s discussed below should not be seen as Follower Bashing, or blaming the Follower from a Male writing perspective, or piling onto what amounts to blaming the Follower for everything. No. Let’s be clear about what this video is about: These are reminders, and nothing more than that. Everyone needs reminders about what NOT to do. The more visual, verbal, kinesthetic, physiological reminders you have, the less that you’ll make these mistakes.  Also if you want some equal opportunity remindering going on, please go look at the Five Common Lead Errors. This site equally reminds both roles that they have work to do! It should also be noted that Leads reading/watching the video above not get all high and mighty, that it validates their line of thinking. Not. The Lead has issues and needs just as many reminders if not more.

Moving right along, today’s Tango Topic deals with 5 of the more common elements that happen for the Follower without involving the embrace. It should be noted that these are not the only things, it just means that we didn’t have time to include the entire list here or to shoot them all. Not to mention we do mention some of this stuff in the 9 Spaces of the Active Follower. So not to be repetitive, we’ve shortened the list to just the 5 most common elements. To be fair, there are a host of things that a Follower needs to be aware of no matter what stage of their development they’re in, in order to create a dance that is desirable. Like for instance:

Embrace (duh).
Kinesthetics (Physiological Pressure)
Posture.
Stability.
Foot Placement.
Leg Extensions/Projections
Weight Change.
Walk.
Vocabulary Execution.
Musical Understanding.
Cabeceo/Mirada.

and that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. This listing is just a small taste and by no means the exhaustive list of things a lead has to be conscious of. Nor is the video above meant to be an exhaustive list, more like a brief reminder of things for you to consider. It should be noted that this list looks an awful lot like the Lead’s list. With a few notable exceptions, most notably the musical interpretation parts! So why not include those here ? Because they’re not required for the role of the Follower. They ARE required when the Follower wants to start their transition from Beginner Follower to Passive Follower. And then once they’re mastered the role of the Passive Follower, which takes a good long while, then from Passive Follower to Active Follower. Once they’ve started the transition the Follower does need to start interpreting the music and to be aware of those possible or potential musical interpretations. 😉

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That Said!

From the Intensive Process comes Five Common Follower Errors that Tango Topics has pulled from it’s archives, reshot, retooled, and condensed into byte/bite sized chunks for easy digestion.

This is by no means going to change your dance. Not one little bit. In order for change will only occur, if you put the time in to actively take charge of your tango (re) education. And that means concerted, continuous, near daily reminders about the execution of technique, solo practice, private partner practice, private lessons, and social dancing. It means working on your foundation with clear, detailed, and intricately laid out instruction with oodles of visual, verbal, textual, and kinesthetic examples. Every. Single. Day. It means practicing daily. It means daily solo work. It means daily consumption of tango music. It means analyzing your dance in a constructive fashion with detailed, honest, and clear language to describe what’s actually happening instead of the tried and true euphemisms of tango (“Being on your axis”, “I need resistance”, etc). It also means using video and video feedback of the foundational technique (how you’re walking close up, from the hips to the feet, from the side, and from the back/front) replayed, then demonstrated to the dancer, and then having the dancer replicate what they’ve seen with oodles of video trials. Doing it once correctly is not enough. Doing it a hundred times the same way without error is better! This, for those of you who think this is crazy talk or Perfectionistic Tango, is what Tango Topics has developed and is known as The Intensive Process.

These individual elements by themselves, won’t necessarily create a dance that’s unbearable or undesirable, but over time because we’re dealing with ingrained habit, and behaviors these things tend to repeat themselves so it is possible for a someone in the leading role to generate an experience that isn’t exactly desirable. However, understand that if you just make these 5 changes, this is not going to improve your ability to dance. Nor will it improve the execution of your vocabulary. Nor will it improve how you hear the music. It will not improve your embrace, or your other habitual errors that you aren’t even aware of! The only way these things will change is with continued, concerted, and detailed study of your movements with a qualified instructor of The Intensive Process!

So without further adieu, here are 5 Common Follower Errors.

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1.) Lifting The Foot Off The Floor. The video clearly shows that when the Follower extends their leg, their foot comes off the floor on upon ‘landing’. This is not desirable. Ideally we, as Followers, want to keep our feet in constant contact with the floor at all times in a myriad of different ways. Sometimes the foot landing generates a “THUD!” as direct result of the lift itself. There are several reasons why the lifting error, and why the THUD! error occurs. Whatever those reasons are, the end result is that as a direct result of the primary issue the Follower is generating an instability in their walk. Their walk becomes inconsistent and uncontrolled. It’s not like they’re wobbling all over the place like a jellyfish, no. But they do become unstable and they have a greater tendency towards using their arms, and specifically their hands to stabilize themselves using their Lead to do so. As a result there’s greater tendency towards the Lead feeling the Follower as leaning or hanging. And if this is in Close Embrace, everything is magnified! Part of the role of the Follower, in the execution of their technique is about generating consistent physiological exactitude, and predictability to a certain degree. This is why it’s important that the Follower practice the execution of their technique over and over and over again. So that they can generate consistent, predictable, definable executions of X, Y, and Z. 🙂 And that starts with their underlying technique of how the execute their foundational movements. That’s why it’s also important that the Follower go back and revisit their foundation repeatedly, as well as not just revisit, but video what they’re doing and how they’re doing it to prevent these issues from occurring in future.

2.) Bent Knee as the Leg Extends. This item should be a no-brainer but sadly isn’t. And while you may think that it’s nitpicking, or perfectionistic, or anal. The reality here is that the bent knee on the extension has two very important reasonings why this is a monster error that Followers may want to remove from their execution. Why ?

a.) As the video above points out, the leg line that is generated is unflattering to the Follower, and the couple as a whole.

b.) The lines that the Follower generates is witnessed by other dancers and sometimes, while the Lead my not be able to distinguish why they don’t want to dance with a particular Follower, this aspect does come up. It shows that the Follower isn’t extending or projecting far enough which in their minds shows that the Lead will have to work harder than they’d like to.

Ideally, as Followers, it would be very desirable the leg to fully extend or more importantly to create a straighter line with the leg that matches the L/lead’s visual leg line. So in short this means that the Follower wants their knee not to bend in the middle (Or during the Perihelion phase) of the step. We want the knee to ‘pop’, where the back of the leg and the knee become fully distended. Some will hear this as the Follower’s knee never bends. And that’s not the case at all. The knee has to bend in order to take weight. This full extension of the knee area is only temporary. It only happens for a micro-moment and then we move on from that.

3.) Stepping Away in the Molinete. This tiny little problem can occur in all three steps of the Follower’s Molinete. However, it happens with greater frequency in the Follower’s Back Step of the Molinete. There are 2 primary reasons why this error happens.

a.) The Lead’s hips are typically in the way of the Follower, so as a result it’s impossible for the Follower to complete their Applied Disassociation and then to extend their leg around their L/lead. Thereby the Follower steps away from the Lead specifically in their Back Step.

b.) Habit.

This last one is where things get dicey. They’ve had to make this accommodation with Leads so often that they believe that no matter what happens they should step away so much so that they do it by default without even thinking about it. That’s the only way that things can happen. This is their default behavior. And this is the problem right there. To be fair, a good portion of the L/leads that a Follower dances with will exhibit this problem. However, what they may not realize is that the choice itself has other unintended consequences. One is that the circle that they’re generating with their Molinete becomes oblong, thereby creating a choice for the Lead to either compress the Follower to ‘keep them close’ or to force the Lead to step into a misshaped Follower’s Molinete, specifically on the Back Step! Which as a result creates an instability in the couple. Some Leads use their physiological, their physical strength to force the Follower to stay close, which as a result slows the fluidity of the turn itself. And then we end up with half turns which co-create gaps or holes in the line of dance because we’re not completing the Molinetes that we desire to. Uuuuuugh. It’s like a string of dominos. One thing leads to another. It should be pointed out that the Lead (the person, not the action), generated this entire issue simply by keeping their hips in the way!

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4.) The Unled Auto Ocho. This particular form of the Ocho is clearly an error. It’s where the Follower feels a Traveling Ocho starting and they continue on doing them, even though there is no actual lead (the action) for them from the Lead (the person). To be fair there are a fair number of teachers and schools of tango thought that say that the Lead should start the Follower off on a vocabulary item, and the Follower’s responsibility is to continue that idea until directed to do something else by the Lead. Then there’s a school of thought that says that the Lead leads everything, and leaves nothing to chance. Then there’s the school of thought that says that the Lead acts more as a guide allows the Follower to invoke what they felt, and that if the Follower doesn’t get what was ‘led’, that the Lead should just go with what the Follower is doing. None of that stuff is helpful. Ideally what we’re seeking is the Follower to no Auto Ocho on their own, but rather to ‘listen’ very carefully to the Lead at all times instead of Auto-Anything (Ocho, Molinete, Cross, etc). At the same time the Follower wants to invoke a simple rule: If you feel it, then go there, if you don’t, then don’t go there. To be fair, most L/leads are not clear with their intent. They’re halfway between this or that, and the Follower has to infer what’s happening 80% of the time. At the same time, you also have to remember that the Follower has more responsibility in today’s Tango world than they did 40 years ago. Their Molinete, their Ocho, their Crosses are all controlled more by their own executions than by the Leads that invoked them in the first place! So as a result they have much more autonomy than they did 40 years ago. That said, they still have to listen intently and make a rapid decision as to whether they were asked to do X. If not, then don’t. This advice gets into a tricky area when we’re talking about the 9 Spaces of the Active Follower! Because an Active Follower would look at that statement of “IF not, then don’t” and then apply a reason to do. One of them would be the simplest of all, “If there’s musical reason, then do!”.

5.) The Automatic Argentine Cross, need we say more ? Sadly we must. The Follower has been led to so many crosses in their Tango life by now it’s not even funny. So as a result this frequency they have developed over a period of time of what Tango Topics calls ‘Default Behavior’. This is where they have certain ways of doing things, certain responses, that becomes their standard or go to methodology. Most of this Tango Topic concerns Default Behavior. As a result of this Default Behavior they ‘hear’ two steps outside partner coming from their L/lead, and they’ll automagically cross on their own. To be fair, or clear, this is as much training as it is default behavior, as there are some Tango schools that teach this idea. The idea ? Again, two steps outside partner, the Follower should cross their feet no matter what. There’s some plusses and minuses to this line of reasoning. One of them is that it creates certainty, predictability in the Follower. You know that if you invoke this with a Follower that X will happen. The minus is that if the Lead wants to invoke something similar two steps outside partner and NOT end up in a crossing step, then there’s an issue! You can obviously see why this is a common error. As it happens in a dance where the Follower may be led to those same two steps outside partner and it’s not an Argentine Cross at all! An example of this would be perhaps an Outside Snake Walk (one of the Six Ways of Walking) or a Walking Alternate (another of the Six Ways of Walking). Both of these elements invoke two steps outside partner, and neither end in the Follower crossing their feet! And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The Proverbial Fix-All. The reality is that we’re dealing with habits here, and habits no matter how ingrained they are, are very difficult to break. Which is to say that even if you have the reminders and the reasonings for those reminders above laid out clearly, you’re still going to do these things. And the reason is that it’s unconscious habit. And the only way to break those habits is to perform a simple but very difficult test at the beginning of every movement: ‘Listen’ (or Physiologically Feel) what’s being asked of you. If it’s X, then do X. It’s that simple. That’s sometimes easier said, or written, than it is done for a variety of reasons, most notably the Lead that you’re dancing with isn’t exactly Mr. Clear or Mr. Clean with what they’re asking you to do. Further they’re squeezing the living daylights out of you. Further still they’re tilting their head into you, or they’re so unclear that you’re quite honestly having to guess what the frak X, Y, and Z was and you just hope you go it right. We understand that may happen. However, these 5 Common Follower Errors are not for when you’re dealing with the Local Unclear Lead that can’t dance their way out of a wet paper bag with a map, a flash light, and a guide dog. No. These suggestions and reminders are here for your ultimate goal of dancing with that Delish Lead that’s visiting from God knows where!

Back to the ‘Listening’ Advice: At the beginning it’s going to be challenging and you’re going to miss a lot of stuff. But remember that Tango is a lot like a foreign language. You’re not going to get the nuances of that language for a long time to come. As time passes you’ll get more and more and more familiar with the language and become more fluent in it. Which is to say that the more that you dance tango the more that you’ll make fewer and fewer mistakes with what you heard and that test will go much faster so that you can make a judgement call as to what’s happening. It should be noted that this is a very necessary and required step towards becoming a Passive Follower, on the way to becoming an Active Follower.

The Missing Information. Dearest Reader. TangoTopics is glad that you want to read this Topic, so that you can dig a little deeper into your foundation, into the music, into the codigos of the dance. However, you’re missing three important parts to this Article: The Follower’s Perspective, The Lead’s Perspective, and The Dancing Perspective. Which can change your thinking by informing of some important pieces of information that you may not necessarily be aware of. Watching a 5 minute video will not help you to change. Change is a concerted effort and requires a little thinking on your part: Becoming a Freeium User! As the name implies, it’s FREE. Register. You get to see everything above, and a whole lot more! 😉 Have a nice day.

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Why should you subscribe instead ?  Several reasons.  1.) Probably the biggest reason is to save a boatload of money. Buying these things outright isn’t cheap. Besides when you buy you only have access to the one video. Subscribing, on the other hand, gives you access to everything else so you can see the foundational material that goes with this stuff. 2.) Even if you’re a Free User, you’ll get access to free tips that aren’t available to anyone just reading the post like this one. 3.) Sometimes there are slightly different versions of the videos, that add a bit more content for the free user vs. an unregistered user. 4.) Because the Dancing Perspectives (Lead, Follow, and Dancing) are hidden to the open user. And that’s where all the information is at, unless you actually subscribe. Until you do, those very important textual descriptions of what’s going on for both Lead and Follow you want to read. 5.) And the real reason you should subscribe ? If you’re used to YouTube videos where you’ll see a performance, those Youtube videos don’t explain or walk you through how these ideas work! That is why! What you’re seeing is a presentation, a performance. Not how things work! And what you really need to see is how things work, and more importantly why they work! This website shows you that and more! 

Remember that what you’re seeing is a couple that is performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they’re not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about ‘Social Dancing’  or how to make things function on a social dance floor. Social Dance floor ? Your local milonga! They’re showing flashy moves as a presentation! But not stopping and talking about how this works, why you’d want to put that piece of vocabulary there, or how to make things fit. This website is all about those things and more!

You could watch those videos and thereby spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that particular situation. Bend your body this way or that, twist and force this position or that. Place your foot here or there and figure it out. This is known as Tango Twister.  Which can be a lot of fun, but more than likely it won’t help you, because you’re missing something: The explanation from an experienced teacher showing you how to properly excute this stuff from a Leading Perspective as well as from a Following Perspective!

The goal of YouTube videos is to get you to study with those teachers in person. The goal of Tango Topics videos allows you to work at your own pace, in the comfort of your own space, so that you can play them over and over again to improve your understanding of the vocabulary or technique being described to therefore better your dancing experience. The goal of classes and workshops is to get you to come back over and over and over again, thereby spending more money with that teacher. This website and the videos under it are here to act as a resource for you to help you to improve your dance. Pay once and you’re done.

Eventually, one way or another you’re going to pay for this lesson, either here and now, or with them. TANSTAAFL! The difference between that lesson and this ? Is that you get to play this lesson over and over and over again. Further still, there are supporting materials (other videos) that help to explain the language and the underlying technique of how and why things work, so you can easily reference those things in the corresponding articles that go with the material, and or any language in the Tango Topics Dictionary. 

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