The Follower’s Exercise
There are many exercises that one can do as a Follower to improve one’s abilities and executions. To clean them up, sharpen them, hone them. This site boasts a few that have helped over the years and that I teach the intensive student to use to strengthen their tendons and stretch their muscles, and mostly to retool their neurological awareness as well as their thought processes. However, there’s one exercise that I make every Follower student do in their private lessons. It’s the first thing they do when they come into class. More over it is the single most important exercise that they can and will ever do for so many reasons. 11 actually, which you’ll see in just a moment (assuming you’re a subscriber, and if you’re not then you can still subscribe for the $99.00 deal). This exercise is, on one level, a precursor and set up for doing everything that the Follower will ever do in Tango. Secondly, it’s also set up for a very important technique that gets talked about but never enacted (disassociation/pivot). We’ll get to what those things are in just a bit. And lastly this exercise is seemingly really, insanely, simple. It is anything but that for a wide variety of reasons. Why ? Mostly, it requires exacting precision, control, and an attention to detail that more than likely will drive you batty. It does that with each and every Follower that does it for 2 reasons.
1.) The attention to detail is absolutely crucial to your awareness and your control.
2.) The Turn Out Factor (More on that later).
On the surface, just looking at the sample above, it looks like 4 steps, in the extreme, that you’d never…ever do on a social dance floor. So as far as you’re concerned you’re gonna say to yourself “That’s ridiculous! No one dances like that!“. And you’d be right. You’re never, ever going to dance like that. Ever. Except when you understand a few things about the exercise that a.) It’s set up for other things. b.) it’s doing things in the extreme so that doing them in the minimal, later on, is a piece of cake. c.) it’s creating a level of precision and control that as a Follower you more than likely may not possess today. And d.) It’s one long isolation technique (more on this later). That said, let’s dive into the video that we’re calling: The Follower Exercise > One Exercise To Rule Them All!
A Few Things…
1.) This exercise can be done by seasoned dancers, and should be actually, but won’t be for a variety of reasons, as well as the absolute beginner. a.) The seasoned dancer doesn’t read this stuff, they feel it’s beneath them (mostly). b.) The seasoned dancer will take one look at the video above, or just screenshot image and completely disregard what’s here because I’m barefoot. And lastly, c.) I’m a man talking about Follower Technique, what on earth do I have to possibly state about Follower Technique let alone a Follower Exercise ????? Answer, quite a bit. Which you can review here.
Truth be told, the sooner that you start doing this exercise, the easier things will get in more ways than can imagine.
2.) The simplicity of the exercise itself is beguiling on multiple levels, and also exceptionally frustrating IF and ONLY IF you are honest with yourself. If you’re not honest, then the exercise is exceptionally easy and a complete waste of your time.
So what are you being honest about ? Where you’re landing your foot and more importantly HOW you’re landing your foot (supination), where you’re sending your leg (the extension), how much opposition you’re actually engaging (extreme opposition), what’s going on with your arms, hands, and your head (where’s your head pointed)! This exercise, done properly, should challenge you in every way possible. The tolerances involved should push you to your extremes, it should push you beyond your comfort zone. And that’s what we want, we want you outside of your comfort zone. Why ? It is only through pushing beyond that zone, that change and awareness begins to happen. Further the exercise is the embodiment of a simple but overriding principle of Tango Topics: Overshooting to Under do! Why is that relevant here ? Because if you can do this stuff in the extreme, then doing it in the minimal, will be a piece of cake for you, because you’ve already done that and more! That’s why. So you being honest with yourself and what your body is doing is kinda important.
3.) Seemingly you’re never going to apply any of this stuff. Not true. You’re going to apply it everywhere. Here’s just 2 benefits. a.) You’re extensions. Sometimes called ‘Projections’. Cleaning those up will visually create the lines that you’re looking for. Do yourself a favor, video your walk going backwards from your hips down, from the side. Do it in skin tights or stalkings please, not a skirt. You need to see your legs. You’ll be surprised at a few things, most notably how much you bend your knees (more on this later), and more importantly how unattractive and inconsistent your extensions are. b.) You should start to notice how unstable you are. How much you wobble when you walk, and the fact that you more than likely can not follow a straight line going backwards! And all done without holding onto someone else. If you’re wobbling that much by yourself, imagine what’s happening in the embrace with someone else!! For those of you that will argue, “that’s what the Lead is for”…No, it’s not. No one likes to be used to hold someone else up. No one. If the roles were reversed (and I have done this with Female Follower students), more than likely you wouldn’t like it either. So what on god’s green earth makes you believe that a Male Lead/er would like it ? Answer ? They don’t. So…not so much with that. This exercise will help you with your stability, with your control, with your executions of everything that you can imagine and more that you can’t.
4.) Socks or Bare feet. In the video above I’m not wearing any shoes. That immediately and completely discredits the validity of what I’m saying in the video. To those people I say this: The barefoot thing is all about feeling your foot in contact with the floor. The shoes, whether you know it or not, are compensating for you in more ways than you’re currently aware of. So we want to remove any and all compensation! We want you to feel the floor with your foot and not the shoe impacting the floor. And remember this is an exercise.
Further still on this topic, at some point later on, we do engage what we call ‘heel work’. Where we engage all of the work above, and then some to apply it in heels, only because you’ve done it with precision, control, containment, and you’ve built up the necessary strength in your tendons, it’s not so much of a bother to be in a pair of heels. The only difference now is that you have control over them. Versus wobbling all over the damned place.
Put another way, as you know a pair of heels is not an easy thing to manage. They’re wobbly bits that seemingly has you balancing on the head of a pin. Yes you look hot in them, and they’re very sexy but let’s get real ladies, those things are downright uncomfortable after about an hour in them. And if you haven’t trained yourself to be in them, properly, that hour seems like six! And 2 hours….good lord, let alone 6 hours in them!!!! Training ? What training ? Isn’t endurance enough ? No. Endurance is not training. It’s learning to manage the pain. You can learn to be in a pair of heels through a process that we call “The Ballet Rise”. Only through doing this work can we build the necessary tendon strength that we’ll need going forward to be in a pair of heels, in a controlled, contained way.
Realistically though, a foot, any foot, shouldn’t be in a pair of heels. It’s not good for your blood flow to the foot and the toes. It’s not good for your bones in the long term, and the joints in specific, not to mention the cartilidge of those joints. And it’s certainly not good for the nerves of the foot. How’s that ? The Plantar’s Nerve which sits just behind the pad of your foot and is the one that you keep rubbing in the arch of the foot. That nerve, is the one that is attenuated when your foot seemingly goes ‘numb’. It’s numb for a few reasons. 1.) You’ve been impacting the shit out of it all frakking night long. 2.) The Lead/ers that you’ve been dancing with have been drilling them into the ground with hard, driving steps. And 3.) You’re in a pair of 3 in heels that are cutting off your effing blood supply!!! What did you think was going to happen ??? Your foot was going to sing an aria at being placed in a frakking prison ??? Seriously ????
So let’s be sensible here, and work up to being in heels. Start in bare feet or socks, it’ll make your life about 10,000 times easier, for now. Later on, we end up doing heel work. Sadly before this site goes off-line we never get to that heel work. That was originally only done in private session with my intensive level students. 🙁
This article contains the following topics that you want to register to see with full examples even if you’re not a subscriber:
1.) The Turn Out Factor!
2.) Leg Extensions (Part 1)
3.) The Straight Line on the Floor!
4.) The Pigeon Toed Feeling.
5.) The Weight Transfer.
6.) Opposition Explained.
7.) Extreme Opposition Used.
8.) Homo-Lateral Movement.
9.) The Long Extension (Part 2)
10.) The Knee Bend (Compression).
11.) The Little Lean We Don’t Want.
12.) Your Body Wavers.
13.) The Isolation Technique/Ballet Rises
14.) The Eleven Reminders.
15.) The Actual Exercise (seen above).
16.) The Leg/Foot Reminders.
17.) The Checklist.
These are the 17 topics that are covered in this extensive article that goes over every aspect of this very important exercise and then some. It’s a full treatise on how to extend one’s leg…as a Follower. Everywhere!
Have you seen the Milonga Madness series ? Over 2.5 hrs of pure Milonga Instruction GOLD with one of the best Social Milonga Teaching couples alive: Detlef Engel & Melina Sedó! It covers everything you need to know to get you up and running today with Milonga. Don’t delay, subscribe today!
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.