The Tango Pre-Lead
Leading, some would say, is insanely difficult. Others might say that once you get the hang of it, it becomes easier and easier. But no one says that leading is easy or a ‘snap’. There is some difficulty to it that does require some skills that must be mastered. When one starts out with the prospect of leading another dancer, usually there are more than a few assumptions that are quickly disproven when attempting to lead a side step, or a walking step, whereupon someone’s feet get stepped on, and then reality sets in. All is not as easy as one would assume. Usually at this point the Lead in question resolves to study how to lead something. Most Leads realize that the process of leading X, or Y is not all one thing. It’s a multi-sectional process that results in the Follower being led to want to step in a particular direction at a particular speed or frequency. Some L/leads want a shortcut to that process which usually results in the use of one’s arms to push or to pull the Follower, or to engage in continuous La Marca. The Lead, at this point, may not even recognize that they’re pushing, pulling, squeezing their Followers but are in fact doing just that. And since no one is saying anything, mostly because they can’t at a Milonga, they assume that all is well.
Some Leads advance beyond this stage of leading to a far more desirable form of the dance, and some don’t. The ones that do advance beyond the pushing and pulling stage, go much deeper by asking simple but pointed questions, “How does my embrace feel ?”, “Am I pushing you ?”, or “Do you feel compression from my right forearm ?”. They internalize this information and then consider how to change their embrace, how to change their walk, how to adjust their skills to affect global or minute changes at the point of inflection where they need it the most.
Some Leads view this type of advancing Leading Technique as a lot of arcane, detailed, intricate, and physiologically overwhelming information that one just does not need at all in order to have “fun”. However, those that have passed through and beyond that stage know intimately well that they’ve graduated to a better class of Followers, not because of their looks, or how they smell, or what they’re wearing, or what kind of shoes they have on, or how nice they are, but rather because their abilities have grown beyond the need to push, pull, and compress. They have graduated to a place known as Intention-Based Tango, and it is in this place that the Lead runs across this crazy idea that opens up a whole other world of possibilities for them. And that’s today’s Practica Tango Advice Topic: The Tango Pre-Lead.
What is a Tango Pre-Lead ? In its simplest form, it is an Intention-Based Motion or movement that precedes an actual step or the beginning of a figure or pattern. However, that preceding Intention-Based Motion is so small and imperceptible that anyone witnessing it might not necessarily see it to begin with. The only person that will feel it is the person that sent it and the person that received it. Generally, the Pre-Lead is a physiological direction of the Lead’s entire body and more importantly their inertia towards a particular direction that starts with their thought, and then that thought is directed towards the feet, or the spinal column as directional motion. Note what is not happening here, at no point are one’s arms are being used to direct the movement or vocabulary of X, Y, or Z but instead, it’s all about inertia of the Lead in a particular direction with their entire body. The arms, and hands only act as a conduit to communicate the intent not as a way to force to push or pull with or to magnify the intention.
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The Follower’s Side of the Equation while it may appear that there is really nothing here for the Follower to do in terms of what’s being asked of them when it comes to a Pre-Lead, that’s not the case. If anything the Follower has to be even more vigilant, even more aware to be able to respond to a Pre-Lead. While the video above doesn’t go into great detail about this, if at all, it does suggest that you do have to be aware of this stuff. Why ?
Let’s paint a picture for you: You’ve accepted a Cabeceo from a Lead, they round the floor to get to you, they walk to you, and get you from your chair (and you wait for them to do so), and then they escort you to the floor. They engage in a Lead’s Cabeceo to ….
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The Lead’s Side of the Equation …. Oye! There are so many places where a Pre-Lead can happen it’s not even funny anymore. Where to start with this stuff ? Hmmm….it’s a good idea if you just accept that all steps in Tango, Vals, and Milonga have to have a starting point. That starting point is the Pre-Lead. If you think or believe that any step in Tango, Vals, or Milonga doesn’t have one, and/or that your leading the Follower involves you pushing or pulling in any way, shape, or form, then you’re not engaging a Pre-Lead at all!
Let’s get something out of the way. A Pre-Lead is not step that leads into another step. No. That’s just one version of a chained step. A Pre-Lead is a motion that indicates direction, speed, and intent to engage a either a larger version of a step (as indicated in the video above) or a variation on a theme of a step! But make no mistake, it is the starting point of that step.
Here are some common Pre-Leads that you use all the time:
1.) Stepping in between…
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