Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance


The Joystick/Metronome Lead

It’s been said before many times that Argentine Tango is a very unique dance. It is a very challenging dance to learn and then to dance for a variety of reasons. Mostly your education has been a compromise of your body of how to do things. You’ve been shown X visually, and your understanding X is how to do something visually without a care as to how it feels to have it done to or with you. There’s usually an underlaying method that has not been taught or has been overlooked that can make X look AND feel amazing when done properly. The problem with that is that most people don’t want to learn ‘properly’, it takes far too much time to do something properly, so they take a shortcut which gets the same results and this becomes someone’s way of dancing rather that employing proper execution. Most of the time the issue with X is one of two things: 1.) Someone’s walk. or 2.) Someone’s Embrace. In Free View of Practica Tango Advice, we’re dealing with an embrace issue specifically for the Lead.

Tango gets most of its uniqueness from its embrace format: The very iconic asymmetrical embrace. Few social dances possess such a structure in exactly the same way. Greystone does because it’s borrowed from Tango. Kizomba does to a degree, again, borrowing from Tango heavily. But very few others do. In Today’s Free View of Practica Tango Advice, we discuss an aspect of that iconic embrace that tends to mar the experience for the Follower not necessary for the Lead. Mostly because said ‘Lead’ is completely unaware that they’re using one (or in some cases both, sadly) of these ideas.

That said, let’s dive into the The Joystick/Metronome Lead.

The Joystick Lead, let’s get a few things out of the way first. 1.) this is a purely a Lead thing, it’s not something that a Follower has a whole lot of control over (see below). 2.) truthfully this is all about resistance based dancing.

This type or way of leading is all about using the Follower’s right arm as if it were a ‘Joystick’ (hence where it gets it’s name from) to a video game to control, and quite realistically used to indicate direction, speed, and even certain pieces of vocabulary to the Follower by means of rotating either pulling the Follower’s arm towards or away from the lead. A good portion of the time the lead uses the Follower’s right arm as a means to stop them in concurrance with the lead’s right arm. While this might be considered “La Marca”, it’s not. That’s a slightly different, but somewhat similar, way of engaging the dance from a leading perspective. In the case of “La Marca”, it is done deliberately, consciously, and usually only with the lead’s right forearm and right hand. Never with the left! In the case of The Joystick Lead, it is done unconsciously due a lack of physiological control over the Follower’s motion.

Truthfully this way of dancing happens a good deal more than you might imagine. Sometimes, while it’s depicted in the video in the extreme, the reality is that this type of leading happens quite frequently. Most Followers have experienced this form of leading. How’s that ? Because the resistance based lead is nearly everywhere. And while what’s depicted in the video above is the extreme, what really happens is a push/pull so that the arm doesn’t necessarily move but the pressure to indicate direction and speed is there when it’s not necessarily required or needed.

Is this a desirable thing to do ? No. Obviously. It’s not. The funny thing is that while the practice of the form says that we don’t want to do this, you’re going to continue to do it because it serves your purpose. The fact of the matter is that they only way you’ll stop doing it, is when you’ve had it done to you! And after you’ve woken up the next morning with a sore shoulder because some guy decided to rip your arm out of your shoulder socket, you’re just not going to get the hint. Joystick Leading is only fun for the lead, and not necessarily for the Follower. So let’s be clear about this one: You don’t need it. At all. Ever. However a good number of you don’t or haven’t discovered the joys of Following or see no purpose in it, so therefore you’ll never see the pointlessness of needing to engage any level of this at all. Trust this, not only do you not need it, not only is the lead left arm a visual component only, but the reality is that you don’t need your arms at all in order to dance. We rely on the embrace far too much for stability and to indicate that X is desired and Y is to be executed. A Wild Idea: At your next practica, try a few tandas without the embrace! You will discover that yes, it’s hard, and you’ll feel like you need to hold on to your partner to keep them in front of you. The reality is that the dance is a conversation not a monologue of your thoughts and ideas, and that means that you must ask for something and listen (key word in the sentence) for the response.

The Metronome Lead. From the moment the music starts through the moment it ends, this particular type of lead will instead of keeping the ‘beat’ on the floor, they’ve transmitted that beat depiction to the embrace, and in specific to the Follower’s Right Arm, and the Lead’s Left. Each down beat is an upwards motion, each up beat is a downward motion. Thereby creating an inverse metronome effect. Truthfully you don’t see this type of lead all that often, not in the extreme as shown in the video. However, a good number of leads do actually engage this way of dancing in the minimal.

Is this a desirable thing to do ? No. It’s not. The reality is that you want to keep the beat on the floor and not in the embrace.

From A Following Perspective. There’s not a whole lot you can do about these guys. Honestly. As nice as they are as people, their embrace, and in specific their left arm shenanigans are going to cost you a visit to the chiropractor the next day. That’s the reality. So what can you do about it ? Several things actually, one of which is not depicted at all in the video. It’s to take your arm out of the equation. Remove it. Either drop your right arm which is rude, OR the more appropriate thing is to take his arm and pull it in towards you and place it on his chest and to hold it there. This has the effect of making the dance cozy, and also somewhat intimate. But it’s a viable option to having your arm pulled out of it’s socket! Still another one, which is going to sound mean and rude, but the fact is that you’d like to keep your arm in your socket ready for the lead who can dance with you properly: Say “no thank you” before this happens. You can see this Lead coming a mile away. Honestly it’s not like you’re not aware of this stuff. You’re watching them dance with every one else and you must see it. So the only thing you can do really is to avoid it like the plague. Say “no thank you”. While it won’t stop the Lead from doing it, it will stop it from happening to you! Now if you’d like to go the extra mile and explain why you’re saying “no thank you”, invite them to a practica for a tanda. And while you’re dancing, use the following phase, “I feel a lot of up and down with your arm, I wonder why that is so…” and several variations of that question and statement several times until they get the hint.

The Free Tip & Soup. Typically as a paying subscriber you would see some things here that are either missing in the video, or some other details that the video implies or does not make absolutely clear. However, because this an open version of Practical Tango Advice, you’re seeing all of it here. 😉 Enjoy this free preview of today’s Practical Tango Advice, and remember that this is just a small sample of what else is behind the the paywall of Tango Topics. There’s over 250+ videos, over 1000 pieces of tango music, videos to help you understand the music and what to listen for, tests, quizzes, exercise videos, all for one low fee. Consider either subscribing today or upgrading your subscription! 

The Truth. It takes a lot of work to do these posts and videos, this is one reason why they’re not free. I am a teacher and I have to make my living somehow and rather than teach local classes where there is political tango competition over students and class spaces. I choose to bypass all of that and instead focus my message on a much bigger tango community: the world. Usually these posts contain lots of information for you to take and learn from textually. If you can translate what’s implied into actionable language, then you don’t really need the video. However, having the video makes things about 10,000 times easier. 

Watch It On Youtube ? Why should you subscribe to this website when stuff like this is available on Youtube ? Because this stuff IS NOT on youtube. It’s just not. There’s plenty of videos out there that show you X, but not detailing what X is. Those videos are there for one purpose: To get you to go study with those teachers. And frequently they’re either after class performance videos, or milonga performance videos. And you’re missing the most important part: The teaching aspect. This video, and the videos like it on this site, are all teaching videos!

So, please, go right ahead, go watch all the presentation videos on youtube all you want. Because that’s what they are ‘Presentation’ videos. The couple’s that you’re used to seeing are performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they’re not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about ‘Social Dancing’. So please, go spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that 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.  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! (ahem) ME!  The goal of youtube videos is to entice you to go study with those teachers in person. The goal of these videos is allow 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 be done with it.

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.

In an hour long class, with the blind leading the blind through rotation of partners (uuuggggh!), you may glean a piece of the information you need and not get the whole thing, and you’ll miss important pieces that you’ll end up having to take a private lesson for to get the finer points. This way, you can watch over and over again, and get all the supplementary materials, and if you want you can still go take the class, only you’ll be better prepared to do so!

The Last Word. Tango Topics is little reminders and snippets of information that your teachers would have told you about but didn’t have time to or didn’t care to remind you for the umpteenth millionth time. Do you need videos like these ? Yes. Why ? Simple…you need as many reminders as possible in as many forms as you can get. In today’s Tango world it does take a village to raise a dancer. And that means having as many voices, reminders, ideas, concepts, perspectives as possible. This video and the rest of the ones that are sitting behind the Tango Topics paywall are that. While what you’re seeing above is only the smallest hint of what’s contained in the actual video. It should be enough for you to make a reasoned and intelligent choice that perhaps there’s something of value in this site and the videos that are here. Considering becoming a Gold, Gold Plus, or Diamond level subscriber today.

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