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The Follower's Shortened Side Step

The Shortened Side Step.  The Follower’s Molinete in one respect it has become the staple of the dance due to the fact that the dance is no longer a walking dance but rather a turning dance. This, aspect, is due in part to the fact that the Ronda (the line of dance) no longer moves, it hesitates, it hovers. As such is the case, we have become students not of the walk, but of the Follower’s Molinete and the Lead’s Giro in Open and Close Embrace. More the Close Embrace variety more than anything else. And so that we hit all the hot spots here, that idea of Close Embrace is in an Open Vee, Closed Vee, Pseudo, Berlin, and/or Square Embrace format. In any and/or all of these varieties of the Embrace the Follower’s Molinete and the Lead’s Giro is the staple or go to turn. Even though there are 7 other types (Milonguero Turn, Ocho Cortado – Circular or Linear, Single Axis, Colgada Turns, Rock Steps, Walking Turns, and Calesitas.) that we want to use to create a little bit of variety with our dance on multiple levels. Not just from a vocabulary standing but from a musical interpretation position. But that’s a horse of a different color for another day. As it stands with the Follower’s Molinete there is a huge or monster issue that happens in that turn that is created by 4 separate issues that create a less than desirable experience for both Lead AND for the Follower. Before we get to those 4 issues. So without further yappage, the Follower’s Shortened Side Step.

What is the Follower’s Shortened Side Step ? It’s exactly what it sounds like, it’s a side step that is much, much smaller. By default when we’re performing the Follower’s Molinete (as Followers) you may have been told early on by various and sundry teachers that we want to create evenly sized steps. The reason for this is really simple: Predictability! That predictability is, so we are told, a way for the Lead to be able to rely on the consistency of your steps as a Follower. They require it. They need it. They can’t possibly dance any other way. That’s not true by the way. There is another way which Tango Topics teaches and promotes, and that’s Intention Based Dancing. Part of the goal of Intention Based Dancing is to create a hyper-awareness in the dancer so that they can and should be able to ‘feel’ via their nervous system the small and seemingly imperceptible changes that can occur in someone’s posture, body position, body placement, weight position, foot position, foot placement. And in ‘listening’ to those cues we can surmise where someone’s body is in space and time and then enact Newton’s 3rd Law of Thermodynamics in real time! So the Follower’s Shortened Side Step is really a side step that allows for a Lead to have not only predictability but also gives control back to the Follower. Control ? You see in this entire discussion of the Follower’s Side Step of their Molinete, they’ve lost control over their choices. They’ve been told this is how things are supposed to be done, when in fact they have oodles of choices. Lots really. This idea of the Shortened Side Step is just one of them.

Difficulty Rating:   (1.5 / 5)

From A Following Perspective your reasoning for engaging in a Shortened Side Step is below in the Leading section, however you as a Follower have been led to Molinetes that just don’t or won’t work and as a result have to make a few modifications (we’ll call them that) in order for your Molinete to work, or function. One those modifications is shortening one of your steps. You could shorten the Forward or Back Steps around your Lead. However doing so creates an issue of even smaller steps and less circumference around your Lead, which as a result creates even more steps. So ? Not so much with that. 😉 Then there’s the real issue of time. Time ? You barely have enough time to get around the Lead as it is. So doing all three (forward, side, back) equally sized steps is almost batshitcrazy! Almost. It can be done, but unless your technique is spot on, and the Lead is actually respectful of your abilities (they’re frequently not, they rush through the turn), and or you’re in a slow tanda. Forget it. It’s just not going to happen. So as a result you end up having to cut a corner here and there. Further still most of the time you end up in the Lead’s Armpit by the time you finish your Molinete and it’s just absolute insanity from that point forward! You feel like you’re racing to catch up with your Lead and you never do, and that’s in Tango or Vals. God help you if it’s MILONGA!!!! And then considering the fact that you spend most of your time turning, turning, turning….it’s no wonder by the end of the tanda you’re plum tuckered out (tired). There is another way!

Enter Shortening of your Side Step. Now to be fair, this advice does not come without a caveat. Doing so will create some ‘issues’ with Leads that want to control every single aspect of your Molinete. And there’s a good reason for it. The fact is that a good portion of what Tango Topics refers to as ‘Speciality Vocabulary’ is built off you invoking a large, and consistently sized, step in your Molinete. A good piece of Specialty Vocabulary is what Tango Topics refers to as the venerable ‘Sacada Turn‘. Wherein you are starting out from an Argentine Cross position, and then are led to a Follower’s Molinete as a result. That turn relies heavily on the predictability of a.) the size of your steps. and b.) that you actually have a side step at all. So if you shorten your side step, or remove it, in that movement, the resulting Sacada that the Lead is looking for can not and will not happen. 🙁

That said, the pluses of shortening the Side Step are that you are now able to get around your Lead in a timely fashion and gain a measure of control in executing what’s been asked of you. Phew.

The Assumption. The suppositions above assume that we’re talking about shortening your side steps, everywhere! We’re not. 🙂 We’re suggesting you engage this idea in one place and one place only: Vals! Engaging the idea of a shortened side step in Vals, and in Vals ONLY then makes loads and loads of sense for a variety of reasons. With Tango you have 4 notes to play with and you always feel like you’re rushing to catch up with the Lead. In Vals, it’s just crazy, now you only have 3! What would happen if you instead, shortened or even removed the side step ? Control is what would happen. You could and would feel like you’re able to do what’s being asked of you! That’s what’s would happen!

One More Thing. While there is a technique to doing this, and this version of the article only talks about it in passing, unless you’re a paid subscriber, the simplest solution here is to make the side step very small, but then we want to not only make it very small we actually want to turn it into something else that is far more beneficial to us as Followers. And that’s what this topic is really about. So if you want to see the technique that we’re advocating, it wouldn’t kill you to register and then subscribe. There’s some great material here for the Follower. Typically, most classes, focus solely on the Lead and what they have to do in order to lead you. And there’s really nothing there for the Follower, no advice, no help, no hints, no insights. This site, if nothing else, focuses on the Follower’s details first and foremost. Contained within each video, and every article you will see the Follower has prominence first! With a few notable exceptions, Music being chief among them. So consider subscribing today and take your dance to the next level.

From a Leading Perspective, there are 4 things you are doing that generating a less than desirable Follower’s Molinete whereby the Follower may have to resort to a Shorter Side Step than you would desire. Sadly, you’re going to have to get over it. And there’s no sense in blaming the Follower for doing this, or getting angry at this page for calling a spade a spade. The fact is that you are generating the problem that is necessitating this choice in the Follower. So before we get to how you alleviate the problem, we have to at detail the 4 Common Issues that you are generating that create the necessity of a Shortened Side Step in the Follower!

1.) Squeezing the Living Daylights out of your Followers with your right forearm! You may not realize it, your Follower’s aren’t going to tell you this (especially while you’re dancing with them), and furthermore no one is going to criticize you, or correct you. They can’t. It’s a Milonga. Remember ? But the fact is that unless you relax the forearm a bit towards what Tango Topics calls ‘skin to fabric contact‘ (see: Tango Haptics) and nothing more than that you’re going to continue to have embrace issues. Put another way: Squeezing or compressing the embrace creates a dynamic that stops the Follower’s body motion and more importantly their body rotation. The reality is that you may not even be aware that you’re generating this behavior. Only an Intention Based Dancer can tell you this. Think, and then do, lite and soft almost barely touching the Follower’s back. If at all! 😉

2.) Leading From The Armpit. You may have been told 10,000 times that you want to be in front of your Follower. So here’s 10,001: You want to be in front of your Follower, ‘buttons-to-buttons’ as it were. And yet where does the Follower end up ? In your armpit! It’s not the Follower’s fault quite honestly. You allowed this to happen, and furthermore you created the problem to begin with for a variety of reasons. Mostly notably because you lined up that way, mostly. Go look at the Berlin Embrace, or it’s kissin’ cousin, the Pseudo Embrace as reference. And if your embrace structure looks like this, then you have an issue that needs to get resolved. Part of your job as a Lead is to continually manage the Follower’s position in relation to yourself and what you lead. Failure to do this and you’re making the Follower work harder than they need to compensate for the fact that they’re behind you and your rushing ahead of them, and as a result they’re behind trying to catch up. Then there’s the whole aspect of you actually listening to what you’re leading in the Follower’s Molinete in response to your Giro. And not to mention, but we will anyway, the speed at which you generate the turn….thereby rushing through it. All of this is not desirable. These combined elements create a Follower’s Molinete that is, to put it mildly, unpleasant to dance with

3.) Watching the Follower’s Feet. Not all of you do this, but a good portion of Leads do in fact watch the Follower’s feet while they’re turning. Who cares ? As far as you’re concerned, watching your favorite dancers, Chicho & Juana for example…Chicho watches Juana’s feet from time to time. Or Horacio Godoy, or Sebastian Arce, or…. So if they do it, there’s nothing wrong with it, right ? Well, “yes there is!”. There is something that is less than desirable about it. Several things actually. a.) The Visual Line that you as a Lead are responsible for. You, in the role of the Lead, are responsible for what the couple looks like, the lines that are generated, and how elegant the couple appears. Why ? Because like it or not this is an elegant dance. And that means that there is some level of refinement and refined social happenstance that we’re always edging towards. Watching the Follower’s feet ? Not so much with that. It breaks the visual relationship of the couple, and makes it look like you don’t know what you’re doing. b.) Proprioception. The fact is that you have to be able to ‘feel’ where the Follower is in space and in time by sensation alone! Watching their feet does not build this skill. There are, and will be, times when you can’t see where the Follower is at, but you will want to lead a moment and will need to feel them. A back sacada for instance. And if you haven’t built this skillset of proprioception, then you are going to have issues. And lastly c.) Chicho knows those rules. He CHOOSES to break them. The same with any professional dancer. They know what they rules are, they know what they’re doing. They have spent a lifetime building a very specific way of dancing that promotes a very specific idea. When Chicho is watching Juana’s feet, he’s doing it for a reason. You are an entirely different story. You’re doing it because you don’t know any better, it’s unconscious behavior. He’s doing it because he can! There’s a difference. That and he’s Tango Royalty so he can do almost anything he wants. You, on the other hand, not so much with that! So unless you’ve suddenly become Tango Royalty, then lift up your head and stop watching the Follower’s feet.

4.) Your Hips are in the Way. This one you get for free. The Follower is trying to take a Back Step around you but unfortunately YOUR hips are in the way. The fact is that a good portion of the time when you lead a Follower’s Molinete to your Giro, your hips are forward. As a result the Follower can not ‘get around you‘. There’s no space. So as a result they end up going away from you. Do this enough times and the Follower’s Default Behavior becomes this. If you move your hips back slightly, ever so slightly, the Follower now has enough room to get around you in their Back Steps! However, remembering to do this, and actually doing it are two very different things. This is not something you’re going to remember to do. You must be taught to break your habits to generate this idea in nearly every Giro/Molinete structure that you lead. Your habits will get the better of you until you have someone that can train this behavior out of you. This is not, so that we’re clear about this, an egregious movement. It’s not breaking at the waist forwards and/or tilting the chest into the Follower, we’re talking about 2 millimeters backwards with your hips. It’s just enough, to create space for the Follower. That’s it, that’s all.

It should be noted that you could lead the Follower to a Smaller Side Step, or the specific technique that we’re ideally looking for here. There’s nothing wrong with that. Such thinking and action should actually be encouraged for you to do so. However, to do so would mean fighting Follower default behavior (which can be done) and your own default response to it. Further still while this can be led via Resistance Based Dancing (Force, Tension, La Marca, The use of one’s arms … tsk, tsk, tsk), Tango Topics eschews this methodology for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is that it’s compressive and pressured, and wholly unpleasant. 🙁

One more thing. While there’s not much here for you in terms of the Follower shortening their side step to get around you. Or for that matter you leading it, there is one thing that Tango Topics would like to remind you of: Do not blame your Followers for your inabilities. When something doesn’t work, or something goes awry, smile…nod…and move on. Do not under any circumstances a.) repeat the same movement over and over again, expecting different results. Or b.) stop and explain it to them like a 5 year old while you’re dancing with them. If something doesn’t work. Move on and say nothing about it. It’s not your place to criticize, or to comment on their abilities or their skills as a dancer in any way, shape, or form on a social dance floor. At a practica, maybe, but that’s only if they invite or ask for feedback. But never, ever on a social dance floor.  Not even if they ask you in the line of dance at a Milonga. Never. Ever. 🙂 This is about social dancing, not teaching!

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About The Video. This video is 10m:51s in length in 2 sections. Lead causes and then Follower Technique is shown in the video only. There is virtually no Lead Instruction in this video.

Section 1 – What happens! – 00:09:09
Section 2 – Follower Detailed Technique – 00:01:41

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The Missing Information. Dearest Reader. TangoTopics is glad that you are reading this topic in the hopes that it may get you to question and to dig a little deeper into your foundation, into the music, into the codigos of the dance. However, this topic only scratches the surface. Because you’re only seeing half of the information. You really do need to see all of it. If you had registered or ponied up the kingly sum of $7.95 for your first week, then you’d either see a free tip here, or if you’re a paying subscriber you’d see some detailed notes about the video that were either left out of the video or were an afterthought to the video after it was shot! However, because you haven’t gone and registered at least, you’re missing some helpful information that could give you a tip to making your dance a better experience for you and your partners!

Why should you subscribe for access ?  Several reasons. 1.) Even if you’re a Free User, you’ll get access to free tips that aren’t available to anyone just reading the post like this one. 2.) Sometimes there are slightly different versions of the videos, that add a bit more content for the free user vs. an unregistered user. 3.) And real reason you should subscribe ? If you’re used to YouTube videos where you’ll see a performance, those Youtube videos don’t explain or walk you through how these ideas work! That is why! What you’re seeing is a presentation, a performance. Not how things work! And what you really need to see is how things work, and more importantly why they work! This website shows you that and more! 

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!

The goal of YouTube videos is to get you to study with those teachers in person. The goal of Tango Topics 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 you’re done.

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 of how and why things work, so you can easily reference those things in the corresponding articles that go with the material, and or any language in the Tango Topics Dictionary. 

– 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 subscriber today.


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