Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance


Rushing The Follower

‘Rushing’ The Follower is loosely defined as a state where the Lead goes from one piece of Tango vocabulary (walking, ochos, crosses, molinetes, etc) to the next, leaving the Follower behind to catch up with them constantly; AND/OR by pressing (driving) the Follower to do X, Y and Z in a way that may seem ‘normal’ to the Lead, but is quick or fast to the Follower and still the Follower must ‘catch up’ (speed up), and does not necessarily adhere to the timing of the music (beat, pause, phrase). In Today’s Free View of Practica Tango Advice, we display and discuss this aspect of Tango happens with some frequency, this is ‘Rushing’ The Follower.

From A Following Perspective, this is ‘old hat’, meaning that you’ve been the recipient of this kind of ‘dancing’ more times than you can shake a stick at. Mind you in some way, shape, or form, a good portion of the Leads (people, not the action) that you dance with on a regular basis ‘force’ you do to X, Y, and Z. And while this isn’t necessarily desirable, it’s what happens. They use the physiological compression of their right forearm, or use their right hand to create ‘la marca’, or a host of other ideas to indicate that they want you to do X. Where ‘X’ could be an Ocho, the Follower’s Molinete, or an Argentine Cross, etc. However, that’s not what ‘Rushing’ The Follower is about. While that stuff happens all the time, and there is a way that you can stop if from happening (stop dancing with those people!), that’s not what ‘Rushing’ The Follower is about.

This topic is all about the speed at which you, as the Follower, are being ‘led’ to do something. Quite factually ‘pressed’ to do something at a speed that which is uncomfortable for you to keep up at. A rate that seems well…pushy. The Lead engages an idea and proceeds to the next idea without listening for the response and then proceeds to the next idea. The problem ? Is that it leaves you behind and you’re left to ‘rush’ to catch up with the Lead. From the Lead’s perspective they’re doing things at the speed at which they think or believe is ‘ok’ for them but in reality they’re driving you without the realization (or perhaps they do). To be fair, and not to Follower bash because this is all about a Lead issue, there is the side point of ‘alacrity’. Meaning ? That you do, as a Follower, lag in certain places. It’s just what happens. Some Followers don’t realize that they lag, that they’re moving as slow as molasses, or feel like their feet are stuck in quick sand or walking on a sandy beach in heels. But that’s the reality of it. ‘Alacrity’ in this case would mean that the Follower is actively engaging in the idea of MYA or “I MOVE ME”. What’s that ? Put simply it means that when the Follower feels the intention to move (the lead – the action and not the person), that they don’t sit there and wonder “gosh, hold on a moment, let me get my map and a flash light so that I can see where I’m going…”, but instead they’re off to the races (as it were)! That’s ‘Alacrity’ or what Tango Topics refers to as “I MOVE ME” which can be found in Tango Truisms Vol 3. – 968.

What can be done about this little Lead issue ? Not much. You could plant your feet, and/or quite deliberately, and decidedly slow your movements, but unless you have a desire to get shoved, there is an easier way. Don’t dance with that Lead, period. This is one reason why you watch the floor BEFORE you put your shoes on. It allows you the space and time to pick out certain Leads that you’d like to dance with that look pleasant to dance with and avoid (like the plague) the rest! This assumes that you are at an unfamiliar Milonga. However in the case of the local Milonga, and you have friends there that you know you’re going to dance with, the sitting-and-watching thing isn’t practical. So when you’re in a familiar place and you know mostly everyone in the room you can invoke something far easier: You always, always, always have the option to say “No Thank You”. Always. You are under no obligation to dance with anyone that looks as if they push and pull someone around the floor. It is perfectly acceptable for you to say “No Thank You”. And yes for those Leads that you are friendly with that do this, it will be hard for you to say it, and hard for them to hear it, and they’ll press you on the point even more when they Cabeceo you. They’ll even go so far as to extend their hand, come and sit down next to you, and/or chataseo you to get you to dance with them. But the fact is that these Leads are generating this way of dancing, and if you’d rather not visit the chiropractor the next day, simply to appease some Lead’s fragile ego for 9 to 12 minutes (depending on the length of the tanda), it is in your best interest to say “No Thank You”. So the best course of action ? Learn to say “NO THANK YOU” and mean it!

From a Leading Perspective, you rush. You don’t realize you’re rushing, but you do. Where ? In crosses (see 5 errors of the cross), ochos, turns (see the lazy man’s turn below). You are racing or going ahead of the Follower.  Which is to say that you lead (action, not person hence the lower case ‘l’) the Follower to one idea, and then (this is the problem child) move on to the next thing without checking for continuity. Or more importantly actually caring that they executed what you ‘asked’ them to do. Typically your idea of ‘asking’ is more like a monologue and being dictatorial, even though you probably think it isn’t at all. You’re going to bristle at this idea that how can some webpage from some guy who you’ve never met know how you dance ? The fact is that the page and the guy doesn’t. It’s a generalization of what has been witnessed time and time and time again in many places in the world, on many dance floors.

This is about perception vs. reality. The perception is that more than likely you’re bigger than your Follower’s, physiologically speaking. And because of that fact, you are used to your physicality more than they are. Put simply this is a case of “not knowing your own strength”. In this instance it’s not just about your physical prowess, and one shouldn’t focus on ‘strength’ as the sole measure here. But instead focus on the speed at which you ‘ask’ that something be done and the way in which you ask it. And the ‘ask’ in this case is usually done with your hands, and your forearms, with strength, tension, rigidity, and yes…force. However, it’s also the speed at which go from one idea to the next without stopping in between, or even after you ask for X, which is the real issue here.

So how you can you make this more desirable ? Well the simplest answer is to stop doing it. However, the fact is that that is not enough. Why ? Because this stuff is ingrained in you. You have a very specific way of dancing at this point and quite honestly you like what you’re doing. It’s not desirable, which no one is going to tell you, and if you ask for feedback (please see this link on feedback), you’re not going to get confirmation that it’s less than desirable because the Follower will tell you what they felt without really telling you what they felt. “It was nice” (…to be moving, ….to be out of their chair, …to get a dance with you today, etc) and the idea of telling you the unvarnished truth that you’re compressing the embrace [ a.) they don’t have the language to tell you that. and b.) they don’t want to hurt your feelings even if they did have the language for it.] is just right out, it’s not going to happen unless you dig a little deeper beyond “how does my embrace feel to you ?”. But again this isn’t solely about the embrace, it’s about the speed at which you engage an idea and more importantly the quick succession of ideas WITHOUT (it’s the ‘without’ part that’s important here) following through WITH the Follower as they’re doing it.

There is an important part to Leading that is sometimes forgotten that while you may be in charge of what’s going on (ha! if only) or think that you are, the fact is the Follower has a great deal of control over not what is done but more importantly how something is done. Which means that if they wanted to, and unfortunately they don’t, they could really slow things down and/or speed things up. Unfortunate ? Because it would be a wake up call to the Leads that dance with them that there is someone in their arms that they need to pay attention to. Leading is about guiding, not about control. This is the thing about being a Lead that is sometimes (ok, mostly) forgotten. And so that we’re clear about this ‘guidance’ does not need to be about micromanaging every aspect. Nor does it mean to push and pull, or to create forearms of steel and gently prod someone. No. Guidance in this case means to go with the Follower in their motions and then ever so slightly redirect the end result into something else within time to the music. This takes patience, timing, and planning! Unfortunately most Leads don’t want to do this kind of leading. Why ? Because it’s work. It’s far easier to push and pull and rush from point a to point b, and the Follower does what they can. There’s a problem with that line of reasoning. And the problem is that … hmmm put yourself in the Follower’s shoes, how would you like it if someone dragged you around ? Probably not a whole lot. Right ? Ok, so what is the harm in actually going with your Follower’s into what you are leading them to do ? None.

From a Dancing Perspective when a Lead goes with their Follower from X, to Y, to Z and back again the result is that the couple looks relaxed. Further still it makes the Follower feel as though they’re actually dancing. Which as a result makes the couple look even better! And truthfully looks and feels like a lot more fun. It also allows for an actual Tango Conversation to occur instead of a Lead Monologue that happens so often. Conversation ? Yes, it allows for there to be space for the Follower to interject an idea that they’re hearing the music. To decorate even. And if we’re talking about the roles of the Active Follower and later on the Desirable or Delicious Follower then that also creates other options and opportunities for them to quite literally change the construct of what the dance can be about, and not just making it pretty with a decoration or two. 

The Free Tip & The Soup. Typically as a free or 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

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 GoldGold Plus, or Diamond level subscriber today.

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