The Follower's Apology
This will be a short, sweet, and to the point piece of tango advice that you may not want to read or for that matter agree with.
Here’s the short part: The Follower is always right.
Here’s the sweet part: The Follower is always right.
Here’s the to the point part: The Follower is always right.
Are we clear ?
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, this next bit is for the nay-sayers that will either completely contest that statement or come up with a reason why the Follower can be wrong…sit down, and listen…err…read, and you just might learn something.
Let’s get something out immediately, this isn’t Lead bashing, nor is it Follower Empowerment day at Tango Topics, nor is it blowing smoke up someone’s ass either to win friends and influence people. The reality is that this page has always been about speaking truth, and sometimes it speaks that truth a little too harshly for some folks to hear. Take for instance a few years ago when we published our manifesto on “Asking a Man to Dance!”, or it’s corollary “Asking a Woman to Dance!”. Both manifestos (which you should totally go read) favor one thing before you even begin to ask: working on your foundation!. So get that little thought out of your head that this post is all about the Follower. Not.
Now to the the reason why the Follower is ALWAYS right.
It is a very simple idea:
If, and only if, the Follower is being honest, and they’re following exactly what they felt at the moment that they felt it and did NOT correct for it, and they executed what they felt in the time that they had available to them, then they’re right.
There are only 2 instances when the Follower can be and is WRONG.
1.) When they self correct for what was felt.
2.) They step on someone.
Every Follower is taught from the moment that they start dancing, that whatever they do, that they’re in err. Further still that the Lead is arbiter of all that is good, honest, true, and right in the Tango universe. There’s just one little tiny issue with that reasoning. The Lead is wholly fallible and screws up more often than not, and if that’s true then why is the Follower Apologizing for the Lead’s screw up ?
Answer ? Because they’re trained to do precisely that. That’s why.
Now here’s the kicker, the part that will blow your tango mind. Even if the Follower is consciously aware that they shouldn’t apologize. They’ll still do it because it’s hardwired into them. We’re talking about unconscious, default behavior. The Follower will apologize for what was led without even thinking of it. It has become so wrote, so common place they can’t even see themselves or hear themselves doing it.
Is this desirable ? No it’s not.
Let’s put this another way so that you can see the enormity of the problem:
Let’s assume for the moment that the Lead goes to execute an Argentine Cross (steps 2 thru 5 of the basic 8, for those of you still thinking in steps & numbers), and doesn’t actually lead it, but instead infers it. Let’s also assume that the Follower is trained Follower that follows exactly what was led to a tee with unending attention to detail for what the Lead invoked. However, as the Cross is about to reach the actual crossing step, the Lead changes direction and tries to invoke another piece of vocabulary before the crossing step happens. The Follower stumbles due to the quick change, the Lead says nothing, and the Follower opens their mouth and says the following words: “I’m sorry!”.
To be fair, the Lead may have made that change due to navigational issues, musical issues, or a combination of both or any number of a hundred reasons that came up in that moment. The reason for the change, honestly, doesn’t matter. How the change was implemented DOES MATTER and it’s also the root of most Tango issues.
You would think that this is an isolated incident, or a made up scenario, or that it only applies to this piece of vocabulary, when it is anything but that. This same situation, a Follower apologizing for the Lead’s change of whatever, happens more often than you can even begin to imagine.
The reality is that a Lead will half-way invokes an idea and the Follower must, through some kind of mental trickery, read the Lead’s mind as to what on god’s green earth the Lead meant by that inference of attempt at an X. All the while the Follower must somehow come out the other side with an idea that closely resembles what the almighty Lead intended. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. And more often than not when the Follower doesn’t engage their mental telepathy that day they’ll shrug their shoulders and say “I’m sorry” for not being able to read the Lead’s mind and magically arrive at the desired piece of vocabulary.
Fortunately the Follower has a 1 in 3 chance of getting it right. 1 in 3 ? Forward, Side, and Back. And a 1 in 5 chance of picking the right thing that was intended. 1 in 5 ? 1.) Walking & Weight Changes. 2.) Ochos. 3.) Turns. 4.) Crosses. 5.) Cortados. Or the Five Social Figures (which you should go look at and study, religiously). It’s not Rocket Science, it’s Tango!
What this all boils down to is that when the Follower stops apologizing for what the Leads are leading, then interesting things start to happen. One of which is that the Follower becomes a lot more honest and more importantly consciously aware of what’s going on. Not like they weren’t before, but let’s just say it things become a lot more hightened as a result. Secondly, Leads become a lot more aware of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Ok enough preaching.
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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!
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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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