Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

Intention Based Dancing

Resistance, give me resistance! I can’t feel you!“. Followers hear this so often that it begs the question if Leads learn this as part of their technique classes on “How to be annoying in 10 seconds or less!” or “10 things to say to your Follower that will piss them off!”. Piss them off ? Yup. Why ? From a Leading perspective you’re screaming to your Followers that you need to control them, and that’s all you know and or can hear. From a Following perspective, it screams…”I am unstable” and “I need to hang on you!”. Tango is all about nuance, and that means asking your dance partners to move in a way that does not use ‘force’ on any level. While you think or believe that you would never, ever, force your dancing partners to do X, the fact is that you do it constantly with every partner. Until you are properly trained to hear this aspect of dancing, you will continue to do it. Today’s Tango Topic deals with the first step in this process of changing how we dance for the better. This topic is only a stepping stone. While the article and video, and really this website are those first stepping stones, the reality is that this is all about learning the kinesthetics of the situation, and that means studying with an Intention Based Teacher. But first we have to define, Intention Based Dancing.

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What is Intention Based Dancing? In its simplest form ‘Intention’ is really about not using pressure, tension, or force, with one’s arms, or hands in any way, shape, or form to communicate an idea, a thought, or a movement. But rather the idea of ‘Intention’ is to intend to do something. To propose, to invite, to advice, to guide, to profer…these are all statements that we, as dancers, are asking our Partners to engage X. Where X can be, but is not limited to, a specific piece of tango vocabulary (Ocho, Cross, Molinete), a timing change, an embrace change, etc. Typically Intention is action of the Lead to the Follower, however the Follower can and should reciprocate this idea and practice as often as possible. We propose to our partners that we would like X to happen. That proposal is generally an extremely light physiological, and tactile contact, where the contact is not pressured at all. But rather the direction that we are going in is the intention of what X can be. This is the foundation of Intention Based Dancing. Because, as a rule, we use this technique throughout the entire lifecycle of a dance with our partners. 

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From a Following perspective: Truth be told, you have been told so often, in nearly every class or workshop, by Female teachers (who rightfully should know better) and Male teachers that you must … ‘wait for your lead‘. As a result, that waiting turns into lag, or hesitation, in you. You get so used to ‘waiting’ and hesitation that you become reliant on that hesitation to do everything! That lag results in the Lead needing to push or force you to do X, Y, and Z which as a result turns into…resistance. In this instance, you want to move with the intent of what is being asked of you, quickly and decisively. As you feel the intent to move, GO! Don’t sit there and wait to be pushed to do something…GO! This is better known in the Tango Topics world as MYA (Move Your Ass). These statements can easily lead one to believe that we’re talking about an out of control Follower, or a willful Follower that is willy-nilly going wherever they feel the need to. That’s not the case. The intent in this case is very small, your goal is to read that ‘small’ part and then to interpret it as either forward, side, back, or incremental, and either linear or circular and then to go with it while at the same time following a basic principle: Staying ‘with‘ your Lead. 

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Have you seen any of our entire Leading Technique Series ? It’s over 5 hrs (18 videos) of Lead Technique covering your Extensions, Feet, Posture, Embrace, Walk, Embellishments, Traveling Ochos, The Follower’s Molinete, The Argentine Cross and more…

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From a Leading perspective: You believe erroneously that you must apply force, pressure, tension, and ask for resistance to get what you want out of your Followers. When the complete opposite is true. Yes, you can apply force to them to get them to do what you want. This methodology, however, says that you must control them. It also says to them that you don’t trust them and can’t rely on them to listen to what you’re leading, and then to execute it. Furthermore what it also says is that they will never, ever be able to hear the level of precision that you desire the most. Put simply if you don’t take the ‘guiding’ (ahem… and this is being kind when using that word…it’s more ‘steering‘ and rough steering at that) platform of your arms and hands away from them, then they’ll never be able to control that stuff themselves because you’re too busy being heavy-handed. As a result they’ll never learn how to manage their own stability, and their own bodily control. Further still, you’ll never learn to lead someone with nuance instead of Force! And beyond that, you’ll never be able to tell when you have a Follower in your arms that responds to effortless dancing because you’re too busy over-functioning, over-managing, over-controlling them! Further still is that there is no way to separate what’s your’s and what’s theirs if you’re constantly forcing your dance partner to do X, Y, and Z. There’s only one game here, and that’s you telling, or dictating to the Follower what they should do. The whole point is to suggest, invite, engage…not tell! No one, absolutely no one likes to be told what to do. So if you don’t like it, what on god’s green earth makes you believe the Follower is going to enjoy it ? 

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From a Dancing perspective: Most of this topic has dealt with resistance and it’s deleterious effects on the dancing couple. However, what would happen if you removed all that ‘stuff’ above ? What would happen if you were to engage stability as a Follower, where you didn’t need to be so heavy handed as a Lead ? What would happen if you were be responsible for your own walk, your own embrace, your own individual component of the dance ? What would happen ? Freedom is what happens! Options and opportunities happen! At first there is a lack of precision that occurs, and then later on the more that you practice this way of dancing the more precise control you have over the tiniest of things. For one thing there’s less sweat! This was of dancing is almost unreal! The dancing couple that is engaging in Intention Based Dancing is lighter, appears and acts effortless, there’s less stress on the couple as a whole, and more over far more precision in technique as well as musically. Over time what ends up happening to those people that dance from intention, both parties enjoy the experience and can then access the whole reason that they’re there for in the first place: Tango Nirvana. Now comes the kicker – a good portion of the better dancers use this ‘way’ of dancing. They don’t require the things described here because they know that something else is possible! Not all of them but a good portion of them employ this way of dancing.


Think of This: Applying resistance, tension, force, compression: Each time that you apply any of these things in any level of measure, it’s like a jarring transition from sleep! Do you like it when your alarm clock goes off first thing in the morning ? Probably not. Guess what ? You’re doing the same thing here with all that stuff to your dancing partners!

How do you change ? First do you want to change ? Put another way, do you want to wake your partners as if you were an alarm clock ? Probably not. Guess what ? You’re doing just that in a myriad of ways from your walk to your embrace to the choice of vocabulary. From a ‘THUD‘ to ‘Compression’ and everything in between. So if the answer to that question is a “I’d like to do that but it sounds like too much work and too much effort…” then thank you very much for reading, and have a lovely day!  Otherwise if the answer to that question is an emphatic “Yes Miles!!!” then there are a few solutions for you.

1.) Register as a free user, and you can read the rest of this article in its Entirety.
2.) Become a paying subscriber, and then you’ll have access to all the video content that is sitting behind the paywall. And more than a few of these videos discuss intention based dancing in detail.
3.) Try to work it out on your own. Good luck with that. 🙂

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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