The Lead Back Step Issue
The issue here is really clear. But for those of you that are living under a rock or your teacher hasn’t beaten this into your heads yet, then this topic is for you. And while it’s not a sexy topic, it’s an insanely practical one that you need to make part of your understanding Today going forward. The issue ? A good portion of Leads, while they may not realize they’re doing this, are creating a huge problem in terms of floorcraft and navigation: Taking a step backwards in the line of dance!
However, stepping backwards is only one piece of the problem. The other piece is stepping out of your lane of dance. So that we’re clear here, backwards is a navigational problem, stepping out of your lane is a floorcraft issue. And you want nothing to do with either. Both are equally a rather nasty problem and it’s these two co-combined problems (usually in the same lead) that create less than desirable floorcraft for dancing with the rest of the room. It’s a nightmare to dance in this environment when you have leads all over the line, and out of their respective lanes of dance, invoking vocabulary everywhere that rightfully has no business being there. But because no one has said anything to you about it, and reinforced this idea in you, you don’t see this as an issue. But it is a problem for every couple behind you and your partner.
From a Following perspective, you believe you have absolutely no control over this one, or so you would think. To be clear, while you may not be able to do anything about the floorcraft issues (not to a greater degree), you can do something about the navigational issues. Let’s back up a bit. A good deal of teachers, Follower specific teachers too, do not talk about or mention that you do have a navigational responsibility. One which is not only vital to the survival of the couple, but important to your own personal survival. How’s that ? You can quite willfully and knowingly open your eyes and watch where you are being led to, and thereby make a very clear choice to do something about it, we’ll get to that in a moment. Before we get to that part, it’s important to recognize that a good portion of you reading this dance with your eyes closed. While you may not realize this, your stability issues stem from the fact that your equilibrium is being compromised when you close your eyes, you are also abdicating any responsibility to the navigation of the couple to your Lead (the person, not the action). A Lead whom you have witnessed time and time again bump into other couples. A Lead who you know personally to squeeze, pull, push, and … ahem … ‘give advice’ (read that as: ‘teaching’ or ‘leading with their mouths’) on a social dance floor. A Lead that is a navigational nightmare. They may be nice people but let’s get real, they’re a hazard! And the moment that you close your eyes because you want to ’feeeeeeel’ (good christ, seriously ?!?!??!) the lead (the action not the person) more precisely you quite factually give up any and all control over what is going on within the construct of the dance (not the embrace). So what can you do aside from keeping your eyes open. Really you have 2 things that you can do. One you can see the problem happening and refuse to take a step. Especially when you can see that the lead is going awry! And while that may sound harsh or hard or willful. Think of it this way, there’s blood involved here and more than likely it’s going to be yours or someone else’s. So to prevent blood going all over that nice dress and causing an incident. Refuse to take the step! Ok, that’s the not nice way. There’s a simpler method and that’s to squeeze the living daylights out of your partner! Use your embrace to stop your Lead! They may actually thank you for it, but don’t count on it too much. Then again, they may not listen to it and continue doing what they were doing. So it’s at that point, and probably too late, that you employ refusal!
From a Leading Perspective. Have you lost your damned mind ? Dude, this is really simple — stop taking a step backwards in the line of dance! You’re creating a navigational hazard every time you do it. You’re making the Leads behind you work much harder than they should. If at the very least if you must take a step backwards in the line of dance, you could at the very least angle the step diagonally against the lane thereby not creating such a navigational hazard! The problem is that you have a fear of what to do with obstacles, when you reach one, you quite factually back up away from them. It’s instinctive in you. However, there are other solutions. 13 possible solutions to them to be exact, and I just gave you one – angling the step! However that gets old after a while, repetitive! There are 12 more. Stepping backwards is not only less than desirable, it’s also bad dancing. Tsk, tsk, tsk! However there’s an equally egregious error you are creating — the floorcraft issue: Stepping out of your lane of dance. Mind you a good portion of you step out of lane of dance because you were taught any number of tools. For instance —The opening step of an argentine cross, a salida step, the opening to cross system, the opening to traveling ochos, just to name a few. That side step is a floorcraft killer. It needs to go away. You don’t need it. Take it out of your dance. Most Leads see that and immediately start thinking ‘Turn’. Mind you a good portion of them, in today’s tango world, think turn anyway but let’s not add to the turning problem anymore than we have to. To be fair, this stuff is hardwired in you. You’re not even aware that you’re doing it. You have to have someone slap you each, and every time you step out of your lane of dance to get you to become aware that you do not want to do this. And so that we’re clear, the solution is not to move into the center of the room so that you can do whatever you want. No. That doesn’t solve the problem, it only further exacerbates the issue and delays the inevitable that you need to learn proper floorcraft. And the sooner you do, the better you’ll become as a dancer. Truth be told, learning proper floorcraft is really the key to that better dancing across the board. You wouldn’t think that because all you can see right now is the limits of the what you can’t do. But those limits that you see now are actually doors to what you can do! You just don’t see it that way right now. You will. Eventually. Once you start engaging better floorcraft. Solutions that you didn’t think were possible are possible without all the crazy vocabulary! Truly, less…is…more!
From a Dancing Perspective, the fact is that you’re going to keep doing what you’re doing because you don’t know any better. You like it. You don’t see an issue with it, and the mere fact that you’ve just watched a 3 minute video and read a few words on the subject (assuming you stuck with it) is not going to change a damned thing in you or your partners. Nope. These are hardwired issues and the fact is that when you’re dancing you just go on autopilot from a leading or following perspective. And until you start to create a better, cleaner, more reasoned way of dancing two things are going to continue to happen. 1.) You’re not going to get to dance with that 10% of the room that you’re itching to dance with. Why ? Because you’re a navigational and floorcraft nightmare with zero responsibility! 2.) You’re going to dance with the same people, creating the same problems, creating the exact same outcomes of less than desirable dancing experiences. Better known as a.) visiting the chiropractor the next morning. and b.) recovering with blisters, bruises, and loss of blood. Hey, it’s your choice my friend. If you want to keep doing that, go right ahead. There is however a better way.
A Better Way. There is a much better way to solving these problems. And that means you might want to actually either take a class, but that’s not really going to help because you’ll forget it almost immediately. What you need is from a leading perspective, as well as a following perspective, is repetition on multiple levels. But not mindless repetition but rather mindful repetition. Patient, clear, didactic deconstruction of your kinesthetic movements, and the reminder after reminder to change. That kind of repetition.
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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 voabulary there, or how to make things fit. These 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 Perpective as well as from a Following perspective!
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