Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance


Five Common Lead Errors

Today’s Tango Topic is for the Lead. It is for the Lead that wants to see a few tango habits that they may not be aware of. It is for the Lead that is on a pathway towards greater and greater physiological and kinesthetic awareness. It is for the advancing Lead that wants to create a dancing experience that is extremely desirable for their Followers and really for the entire room. 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 minutiae, or nitpicking, or being a Tango Perfectionist. And for those that just want to have a ‘fun’ time out social dancing, 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. There are cute cat videos that await your attention on Facebook that you haven’t seen today.

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 Follower should tune out, in fact ideally we want the Follower 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.

Today’s Tango Topic deals with 5 of the more common elements that happen for the Lead without involving the embrace. It should be noted that these are not the only things, it just means that we didn’t have time or space to include the entire list here or to shoot them all. To be clear, there are a host of things that a Lead needs to be conscious of in order to create a dance that is desirable. Like for instance:

Embrace (duh).
Kinesthetics (Physiological Pressure)
Foot Placement.
Weight Change.
Vocabulary Understanding.
Vocabulary Execution.
Musical Understanding.
Musical Interpretation.
Musical Execution.

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.

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That Said!

From the Intensive Process comes Five Common Lead Errors that Tango Topics has pulled from its archives, reshot, retooled, and condensed into byte/bite-sized chunks for easy digestion. It 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.

These Five Elements, by themselves, won’t necessarily create a dance that’s unbearable or undesirable for most Followers, but over time, because we’re dealing with ingrained leading habit, these behaviors tend to repeat themselves so it is very possible for a lead to generate an experience that is marred by these things. Thereby creating an experience for the Follower that is less than desirable. 🙁 It should be noted that assuming if you just make these 5 changes that 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! These things will only clean up these errors but won’t fix the underlying problem (see the section the underlying problem below).

So without further adieu: Here are 5 Common Lead Errors.

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1.) Stepping Away From The Standing Leg. This first topic is seemingly innocuous. Almost a throw away until you realize that where you step and how you step has monster implications and reactions on the embrace and how your partner embraces you. So put simply, this isn’t an innocuous topic, it’s probably one of the biggest issues on this list aside from the next one. How, and in this case WHERE we step is insanely important. There is a sweet spot to where we want to step. And while the video above shows you one example of where this comes out, what it doesn’t show you are all the places where this can and does occur. So here’s a list of those places off the top of our head: Hmmm….you see only a paying customer gets to see this list, and since you’re not one, not so much with that. However, here’s a tiny taste – Think of the Argentine Wrap and/or Argentine Gancho that if you don’t step into the right position things tend to go awry. We mention these two because they’re the more common places where these things come up. In any case, this is just a small example. But what the video doesn’t talk about is one reason why we want to fix this issue, and it’s the one we alluded to above. Because this can and will affect your embrace. The closer you are to the Follower’s standing foot, the easier the walk becomes. Most Leads tend to blame their Followers for their walk when in fact it’s the Lead’s foot placement that generates the issue of Follower stability for a variety of reasons. Either the Lead is too close, or too far away, which can and will create an instability in the Follower where they’ll either topple forwards or backward. It should be noted that sometimes we’re talking about an egregious amount of space away from the Follower’s standing leg, and sometimes we’re talking about more than a few millimeters.

The Sweet Spot ? As alluded to above there is a sweet spot, the ideal distance, as to where you want to step or place your feet from the Followers, as far as walking is concerned. However, seeing it done and doing it are only 2 pieces of the puzzle. For this stuff to be successful you need to develop your proprioception skills. So that you can feel where your feet are in relationship to the Follower’s at all times. You must be able to feel where the Follower’s weight is at all times. This too is part of the skill of Proprioception that you absolutely must develop and then deploy!

2.) Wandering Giro Center. First a little Spanish lessons: ‘Giro’ is the Spanish 1st person singular verb form, which when translated into English means “I turn”. However, when we apply this to Tango it means that “I LEAD a Turn”. Ok, not really but that’s sort of what it implies. 🙂 A ‘Giro’ is the Lead’s side of the equation of the Follower’s Molinete where the Lead is the center of the Follower’s Molinete, they typically act as the anchor to that Molinete or circle and the Follower revolves around them. So whats a “Wandering” Giro ? It’s the Lead’s side of the Follower’s Molinete but where the L/lead continually moves the center of the Molinete. And in doing so the Follower’s Molinete becomes oblong, construed, distorted and/or a boatload of work for the Follower to actually follow the leads.

Most Leads don’t realize that they’re wandering or moving the center of the circle, and thereby making the Follower work harder than they need to.  Ideally as L/leads we want to stay over one point, however that may be somewhat challenging that you may not be aware of. The reason it’s challenging is because some Leads have their heads down or are watching their Follower’s feet in the turn to validate that the Follower is stepping in the right places. Ideally we don’t want to do this. This should be felt by means of the skill of Proprioception. However, knowing it and doing it, are two very different things. Still another reason has to do with the Lead’s posture and the dreaded ‘head-tilt’. Uuuugh. What’s happened is that the Lead’s sense of equilibrium is a little off due to the Head-Tilt, and so they ‘wander’ a bit in the turn. And sometimes, it’s not a physiological error, it’s a habitual error. They just do it because they don’t know any better.

The reality is that if the center of the circle moves even by a few millimeters, it will seemingly not create a problem. And that’s not the case. Those ‘few millimeters’ are magnified in degrees of the arc or the distance that the Follower has to cover in order to ‘catch up’ with their L/lead. Sometimes this turns into the Lazy Man’s Turn and/or Armpit Dancing! 🙁

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3.) Stepping Into The Middle. This tiny little problem comes up in Sacadas, it’s where the Lead will step in the middle of the Follower’s feet, where they’re expecting a Sacada response (a leg displacement or a clean resolution displacement), and they’ll end up with one of 3 things (note: the video only notes 2 of them): 1.) The Follower ‘hears’ the Sacada step as a Wrap or Enganche. 2.) A sweeping Leg Displacement without a resolution (as shown). or 3.) [not shown in the video] A Rebounding Enganche where the Follower’s leg will rebound off the Lead’s and thereby create, by choice and habitual response, a small circular Boleo! This is not the Follower’s fault. It’s the Lead’s because the Lead is being wholly unclear in where they’re stepping. Sometimes due to the position of where they’re stepping, and thereby their leg placement, it can appear and feel a little intimately invasive, and the Sacada by definition should never be.

4.) The Unled/Led Ocho. This particular form of the Ocho is clearly an error. Most Leads start out leading a little bit of Disassociation when they’re leading Traveling Ochos, and then over time, slowly but certainly they realize that the Follower (once they’re trained to respond properly) that less and less and less and less physiological disassociation is required to get the same response out of the Follower. It’s like magic. And pretty soon before you know it, they’ve dropped it altogether. It’s right about this point that they start to use their hands and arms and push and pull a bit to get the same response. “If I push here/pull there…they ocho!”. While that may not be the conscious thought that happen in their heads, in the end it doesn’t matter. The L/lead stops actually leading their own Disassociation which results in Applied Disassociation (or what you erroneously think of as a ‘Pivot’) in the Follower. So as a result the Follower has to infer “Ummm oh wait, I’m supposed to ocho here because the Lead is pushing there/pulling there…”. They get used to every L/lead that they dance with exhibiting this kind of behavior so it becomes standard operating procedure for them. This is how the dance is supposed to happen.

Not. 🙁

Ideally we want the Lead to actually Lead their own disassociation, and to actually lead the Follower’s Ocho. Just as a side note, typically the Lead’s right side is almost never actually led. It’s the closed side of the embrace, and the one that’s inferred the most. The Lead (person) will sometimes lead (action) the left side of the embrace (open side), and think or believe that they’re rotating/disassociating on the right side of the embrace (closed side) when in fact they’re not.

So as a result of all of this not actually disassociating: The Follower Infers an Ocho. When in fact they shouldn’t Ocho at all.

5.) Blaming The Follower. This one is more psychological more than anything else. It’s where the Follower is led to do something and the Lead changes their mind quickly and does something else, and as a result the Follower has to magically read the Mind of the Lead that while they were feeling ‘X’ coming from their lead (the action), the were actually being led to ‘Y’, and then the Follower Apologizes to the Lead for missing the lead (action).

Say what ?

You read that right.

The Follower is apologizing to the Lead for the Lead’s mistake in the form of “I”m sorry for not being a mind reader”.

9 times out of 10 the Follower apologizes for a lead’s mistake in leading something or half leading something.

As a direct result of this the Lead tends to Blame the Follower for their inadequacies and their own mistakes.

There’s a lot more to this ArticleThere’s the extensive Lead’s Perspective, the deeper Follower’s Technique Perspective, and sometimes we throw in a complete Dancing Perspective part, all of which are only visible to Tango Topics Freemium Registered Users, Gold Subscribers, Diamond Level Users, and Milonga Madness Users. To become a Freemium user, Registration is absolutely 100% FREE, click the button below, and you get access to this article, and over 400 videos, hundreds of articles on a wide range of Tango Topics. So what are you waiting for, go register, then login to your Tango Topics Library page and then select the “ARTICLES” button and you’ll see this article with all that good stuff in there. Easy. No ? 🙂

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The Case For WHY You Need This ? Actually, you don’t need it. Huh? Hmmm…that’s no way to sell videos or subscriptions. You’re right. It’s not. That’s because we’re not in the business of teaching you useless vocabulary that you probably don’t need. Stay with us on this one, it’s not going where you think it is. From a very specific point of view, this is cool vocab. No doubt about it. However, from another point of view, the social dancer who’s been dancing a while, a long while, this is nothing more than vocabulary that doesn’t further the cause of Social Dancing. Now here’s the kicker – Both, yes, BOTH points of view are valid. Here’s why:

From the Social Dancer’s point of view, you’re never going to use this stuff. Maybe once in a blue moon, but in reality the better that you get, the less you use this stuff. From their point of view, it’s four pieces of vocabulary that you need: The 6 Ways of Walking, Traveling Ochos/Milonguero Ochos, The Follower’s Molinete/The Milonguero Turn, and lastly – The Argentine Cross. That’s it. That’s all you need. From the Dancer’s point of view that’s hasn’t mastered this stuff yet, this is cool and you want to play with it, and to be able to master it. To find it’s in’s, out’s, how’s, and why’s, and mostly to have fun with it. Both points have their merits.

And now to the one twist in our point that you probably weren’t expecting. This stuff actually has validity, maybe not from a social dancing perspective, immediately, but more from a movement, and musical perspective. The fact is that this is all about one thing and one thing only: Skillz!

There’s a reason you study vocabulary like this, and it’s not because it’s cool (it can be), or that’s it’s musical (it is), or that it’s fun (it is that), or that it adds a little spice and variety now again (the once in a blue moon methodology). It’s because it’s all about your Foundation. Or put another way, because this vocabulary works your foundation in a really good way, by breaking down the movements to their component elements, so then you can become a much more fluid dancer so that you can use it, or not. It’s about availability, accessibility. Not about using it. Using it is entirely up you. But working the instrument, that’s what this vocabulary does. It works your instrument, … ahem…that’s you in case you weren’t paying attention.

No one wants to admit that they need help. That their dance isn’t stellar. Furthermore, you really don’t know that your dancing skills aren’t absolutely amazing until you see a room full of people all dancing way better than you are. And then you see it and feel like the poor cousin at the kiddie table during a holiday meal. There’s a reason those people have achieved ‘better’. It’s doing work like what you see in the video above. Being able to turn this stuff on and off as if it were a switch. A good portion of the time when we’re dancing we only think about the ‘cool’ toys in our dancing and we neglect the one thing that makes those cool toys possible: Our Foundation. That is, in case you’re not paying attention, this video series and others like it.

The Wrap Up: These are the 5 areas where there we see common errors where things can and do go awry. “Awry” probably isn’t the best word there. Party these errors happen due to habit, and partly it’s happenstance, and sometimes it’s just an execution of poor floorcraft.

Let’s be clear about something, this isn’t about Perfectionistic Tango. Yes Tango can be ooooodles and oooooodles of fun. While for some the fun can be just on the surface, and that’s fine. There are some dancers who get their enjoyment from working in the minimal and more importantly the smaller seemingly infinitesimal! This is a vastly different kind of enjoyment of the dance. In this instance, that enjoyment comes from having cleaned up errors like this so as not to mar the experience of the infinitesimal communication that can happen between Lead and Follower to allow for a completely free flowing communication where the physical constrains do not get into the way of that line of communication. And errors like these mar that line of communication because the Lead is quite honestly stopping the communication. 🙁

Some Leads, once they learn how to do something, do not want to have to go back and re-learn how to do something properly. They view it as a point of ego. They already know how to do X, Y, or Z. What they may not realize is that they’ve drifted from the relevant material, and thereby are generating errors via their physicality. The tiniest thing can throw off their leading ability and they may not be aware of it.

So it’s generally a good idea to video one’s self periodically to watch for postural issues, vocabulary errors, walking errors, and yes musical errors. And once or twice a month to get one’s self into a private lesson to address or at least look at one’s errors. And, yes…you are generating them on a regular basis, you’re just not aware of them. And if you’re thinking that no one is complaining so they’re nothing wrong. There’s a reason why no one is complaining….it’s because they can’t. The rules of the Milonga prevent any kind of feedback that would give the Lead any indication that something is amiss. Then there’s the fact that the Follower generally doesn’t want to hurt a lead’s feelings by telling them that they’re squeezing the living daylights out of them, or more to the point that something isn’t working. However, they may only understand that X works with everyone else, and it doesn’t work with you but they’re not sure why. Where ‘X’ is a piece of vocabulary. So a bi-weekly private lesson series to address your issues isn’t such a bad idea. Then again, in lieu of the local teacher that you may not trust. You do have access to a resource that can clearly explain X, Y, and Z: TangoTopics!

This video shows you Five places, which isn’t an exhaustive list, where you can change your dance for the better but unfortunately it  doesn’t show you how to fix it, or how to change it. For that you may want to subscribe to Tango Topics and look at the vocabulary videos and their corresponding articles as a subscriber to help you to change these things. To understand why something works and then how to change it for the better!

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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