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"Paddling" The Follower

‘Paddling’ The Follower. Is in it’s simplest form a way to control or direct the Follower’s motion or movements through the use of the Lead’s hands and/or Forearms. Today’s Practical Advice should not be construed as the Lead engaging ‘La Marca’, that is something that is very specifc that is done either to the music, or to indicate specific piece of vocabulary. This idea is done independent of La Marca, without relationship to the music, or to a specific movement that is (ahem) ‘requested’. ‘Paddling’ The Follower is without specifics and is usually highly unpleasant use of force. It is shown here to you in a slightly exaggerated format. Slightly. However the fact remains that this does happen, and to a greater degree more often than we would like in small ways and sometimes in larger ways, the overt ones that we can actually see. Most of the time this stuff is felt by the Follower and it almost (‘almost’ being the operative word) goes unseen, unless you know exactly what to look for in ‘Paddling’ The Follower.

From A Following Perspective, let’s get a few things out of the way: When a Lead is compressing (squeezing) the embrace and or limiting your motion even while they’re asking for X, Y, and Z, and/or constricting your movement by means of compression then you not being able to execute what’s being asked of you is not your fault! Read that again, several times.

You’re going to feel that the Lead is pushing and pulling you around, and they’re going to get upset, and then you’ll feel the tension that you’ve missed something repeatedly. This is really not your fault. You’re going to think that there’s something wrong with you. You’re going to think that what you’re doing or more importantly how you’re doing something is wrong, or bad, or incorrect. Stop right there. No! While you may have issues about the speed at which you are executing the lead’s ideas, this is not about you. Got it. It’s not you. It’s the Lead.

Secondly when you have a L/lead that is making it nearly impossible to lead you, in what is easily described in ‘the armpit dancer’, then again. Don’t blame yourself. It’s not you. It’s them. And until you realize this the easier your tango life will be. Until then you’re going to go to lesson after lesson, class after class, private lesson after private lesson looking for answers  from every teacher in your area and they’ll all give you 15 different answers and nearly each one of them will all blame YOU and not the lead. Mind you this does not excuse the necessary work that you probably need on your FORWARD, SIDE, and BACK steps, nor does it excuse the hanging, pulling, pushing, resistance, tension, force, and compression the you’ve got going on, nor does it excuse the equilibrium and stability (what you erroneously think of as ‘axis’) issues that you’ve got going on either. All of that stuff is present and true. However, the fact remains that you have a lead that is quite literally pushing and pulling you around the floor or in this case, (ahem – ’throat clearing sound’) ‘paddling’ you with their right forearm and right hand to direct you.

What can you do about it ? The simplest thing is to avoid it all together! First you have to know what it looks like (see video above). Secondly you’ve more than likely danced with this (ahem) lead before so you know what you’re getting yourself into IF and ONLY IF you say “YES” or agree to their Cabeceo. So the best way to avoid this stuff is to quite literally not see him. Do NOT accept their cabeceo. Every time that you do, every time that you dance with them, you are codifying their abilities which at this point are less than desirable. So, do not say ‘yes’ to these invitations. Regardless of who they are, no matter how much you like them as a person, or know them personally. The answer to this question is “NO”. And if you want to be ‘nice’ about it say “No Thank You”. But the important word there is “NO”. Got it ? Avoid this lead at all costs.


From a Leading Perspective, dude….you have issues. Someone somewhere taught you that it was ok to push and shove your Followers around the floor, and it’s become so engrained in you that you can’t even conceive of hearing that you’re doing something that is so reprehensible that you can not imagine at this point that I’m talking about YOU! Yup. I am. The issue is your right arm, and in specific your right forearm, and right hand. You are using this to direct the follower’s motion in turns, crosses, and ochos, and any derivation therein. The fact is that this is not desirable. Imagine you were on the receiving end of someone deliberately shoving you, would you like it ? Probably not. You’d punch the guy that did it, right ? Same thing is true here. The only reason the Follower doesn’t slap the living shit out of you is that she’s operating under the mistaken assumption that this is ‘Tango’. It’s not. It’s a wrestling match, and you’re the wrestler! So the simplest thing that you can do to stop it from happening is to quite literally stop doing it. However, about 3 steps later you’re going to go back to doing what you were doing before, and there’s a reason for that. The reason is that this stuff is engrained habit at this point and to change it is a conscious effort. One that you’re not currently ready to deal with on a multitude of levels. Not the least of which is you more than likely have stability issues in you that you erroneously blame the Follower for by stating “You’re off your axis”. You know there’s a reason why they’re off their ‘axis’, it’s because YOU placed them there! And just so that we’re clear, ‘axis’ is a fallacy. This is really about equilibrium and stability, not axis. So replace the word equilibrium where you see ‘axis’, and it starts to take on a whole different meaning. This is about retraining you to unlearn what you have learned to dance without compression, force, tension, or resistance in your embrace. Do that for just 10 steps, and see what happens. Think, and then do ‘Lite as a Feather’, and see what happens. It’ll be very hard. Very hard. I know this because I was once you. I made this mistake so I speak from personal experience. I don’t make this mistake anymore.

To be fair NOT all L/leads are like this. Some of you are only doing this in certain pieces of vocabulary, turns for one, crosses for another. To be clear, this is not helping your case, or your MO for getting the dances that you want. You may say, “Well no one complains, Miles!”. And you’d be right. There’s also a reason for that. They can’t. It’s a milonga. There are social rules about not discussing technique on a social dance floor. So that line of reasoning doesn’t follow. Just because no one is complaining doesn’t mean that it’s not true. In this case, it is. So here me when I say that if you release the constriction that you’ve go going on in the turn and allow the Follower to do their job, your job gets 10,000 times easier!

Truthfully some of you reading this are quite lovely to dance with. I dance regularly as a Follower, for 2 reasons. 1.) To keep my skills fresh. and 2.) because I really do enjoy following a good lead. 😉 I say this because I know from whence I speak. I know what it is like to have a Lead dance with me and their embrace is effortless towards a Follower with skillz. And the experience is quite lovely and that’s putting it mildly!

There are Leads out there that don’t do this at all in any way shape or form and to those leads this article will mean and should mean nothing at all. The moment that you can stop managing the Follower in every single way, is the moment where there is actual dancing! However, that moment is exceptionally difficult to reach because the dance is marred far too easily.

From a Dancing Perspective the fact is that this is going to continue to happen to every dancer, everywhere and this tiny little blip of information that you’re seeing, reading, and hearing right now will go unnoticed. UNLESS YOU do your diligence and start sharing this stuff far and wide with your friends, their friends, and so on. There is a solution here and while the solution sounds simple, it’s not. It’s quite literally a mind shift from the perspective of the Lead. They have to give up the ghost as it were, and until they do, things will continue to be exactly as they are. There will be no change in the status quo.

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