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Lead Exercises

Lead Exercises

Most Leads come to the dance floor with the idea in their head of what they’re going to do from the moment they come into the Embrace. This is not always true, but a good portion of the Salon, Marathon, and Encuentro Leads will already have the first few bars of music mapped out. While their dance is not entirely mapped out (tsk, tsk, tsk), the first few measures are, and this is based on the Neurology of Leading that they’ve trained themselves to do over time with experience. And from there they choreograph a dance on the fly that fits the music within the available space (again the Neurology of Leading). To the casual observer, they’re dancing fluidly. Seemingly effortlessly putting one idea behind another.  However, in order to get to this stage of dancing seemingly takes a long time to do.

There is the traditional method of trial and error to achieve this way of dancing: Which is lots of endless classes/workshops on vocabulary that they’ll almost never use, to pieces of music that they’ll never hear again (thankfully), and then spending lots and lots and lots of time social dancing, and ‘practicing’ (ahem), and throwing in a few private lessons here and there for good measure, and hopefully coming out the other side a slightly improved competent social dancer, which speaks nothing to their embrace, interpretation the music, their ability to execute vocabulary, or attention to detail, or leaving their ego at the door. This is the norm of how things are done. This is ‘trial and error’ because the Lead tries things out and the results are pretty hit or miss most of the time for a variety of reasons that are nuanced to detail here (that’s another topic for another day). Also during this time period, the experience can be long, usually painful, ego-bruising process (if they’re lucky), that can take upwards of two to three years at minimum assuming travel, number of partners, distance to larger and multiple cities, level of diligence and attention to detail in multiple disciplines: Technique, Vocabulary, Musical Interpretation, Codigos, Marathon vs. Encuentro vs. Salon styles of dancing, and a host of other things with the end goal being not just a competent social dancer, but rather a competent social dancer that can freely and fluidly interpret the music with their partners, e.g. dancing fluidly. 

What if we could shave off (to reduce by) a few months, maybe a year, this process, possibly cut it back to about 6 months entirely ? What if there were a series of stepping stones that could quite rightfully change how a Lead responds to the music, changes how they interpret the music, that reduces their inhibitions, their hesitations, and removes all repetition from their vocabulary choices, and removes any and all excessive usages vocabulary ? That’s where Today’s Tango Topic comes in. 

There is another method that creates this series of stepping stones (no pun intended) to getting the Lead to a place where they can freely interpret the music, and freely choreograph their ideas that map their vocabulary onto the music so that it fits perfectly. These are Lead Exercises.

The full video is not for sale. It can only be seen in its entirety with a Gold level subscription or better. 

What is a Lead Exercise ? This is a series of linked vocabulary choices that are practiced with some frequency on a weekly basis within the construct of 2 different embrace ideas, as well as with a metronome and NOT a piece of music. The reason ? A piece of music has lots and lots of nuances that can and do throw most people off, it confuses the hell out of them. So rather than work with a specific piece of music, we work with a time signature independent of the musical nuances, or in this case…the beat and ONLY the beat with pauses every 4 or 8 notes. So put simply a Lead Exercise is not about technique in this case, but rather a series of exercises designed specifically to retrain your Leading mind to respond to the changing conditions of the floor, the changing or challenges of Leading someone, what to do next, and most importantly to fix that tiny little problem of the hesitation described below. At the same time, this series of exercise also solves two latter problems of repetition and too much vocabulary by pairing things back to simple constructs to start with, instead of complex vocabulary sequences. Which is all designed to force you to work on the transitional elements rather than remembering steps, patterns, and figures that often fail and don’t necessarily help you all that much.

Difficulty Rating:  (3 / 5)

Following Perspective. Let’s get this out of the way immediately. When dealing with Lead Exercises, there’s quite literally nothing new here for you, no new technique, no vocabulary, nothing musically (because we’re dealing with a metronome), nada. However you’d be really remise to miss this opportunity in your own practice regime! Which is to say, that you should take the opportunity to practice your own technique and it’s execution within the construct of a metronome, AND within the construct of a Lead’s vocabulary ideas, while at the same time, working on your extensions, your stability, how your landing your foot on the floor, where it’s landing and practicing the repetition of these ideas, as well as staying in the embrace and staying ‘buttons to buttons’ with your lead, while at the same time not hanging, pulling, or pushing, not compressing, nothing but the lightest touch. While this video showcases 3 important beginning vocabulary choices, this same methodology of practicing what you already know and drilling down deeper into your own technique execution can and should be applied elsewhere in every practice situation. That said, there’s nothing new here for you except a golden opportunity to practice what you already know and making it second nature to you! 😉 At the same time while all of that is going on, this is also a really good time for you take apart what you’re doing and to not just do the same thing over and over again, but to analyze it and deconstruct how you’re executing X, Y, and Z. To slowly and mindfully practice what you’re doing, and to make minute changes to try things out, and to ask for feedback (in the appropriate places – AT A PRACTICA).

Leading Perspective. Assuming that you’ve gone through your first trial by fire, the “Oh my god, I am an idiot” experience, and your ego has survived intact only to come to the 2nd Trial by Fire of “What do I do next ?”. Assuming that you’ve landed here, understand something – Every Lead that you’ve ever seen, or will see in the world has gone through, or will go through this same stage. It is a very common experience for most leads.

Let’s create a scenario which happens quite frequently: You cabeceo a Follower, and they accept, you walk around the floor (not across … tsk, tsk, tsk) to get to them. As you try to enter the line of dance, you perform a male Cabeceo in the line of dance BEFORE you step onto the floor, because you heard that that’s the right thing to do (It is by the way). The oncoming lead accepts and creates space for you to enter the floor. You step onto the floor with your partner. You embrace. They embrace. You do your standard opening, which you don’t realize is your standard opening, and then it hits you….what do you do next ? You don’t have time to sit there and dither about it, you have to keep the Follower moving, right ? 

In that moment, one of 3 things can and do occur based on where you are at along the spectrum of your dance, well actually 4, but the 4th is the one we want and are trying to get to. So really there are 3 in this instance:

1.) The Hesitation State. At the beginning, for most Leads, you will quite literally hesitate between one vocabulary choice and the next. It’s a freeze really, you’re stuck as to what choice to make next. If learning to Lead Tango is like learning a new Language then you’ll know that learning to put two sentences together so that they flow from one idea to the next takes time and patience and practice. And for a while you’re going to sound like a blathering idiot. The same is true of Tango. So putting simple Tango sentences together to form complex ideas is challenging, there will be gaps. Those gaps ? That is the Hesitation State. Focusing on the hesitations, creates stress in you, and you don’t know what to do next or how to resolve it. It continues to happen, as the dance progresses. Add to that the stress to make the dance interesting, and to keep the Follower interested. It’s enough to make you blow a gasket! Mind you this is all your head. It’s not real. The Follower has enough going on to keep them busy, but in your mind it’s a complete disaster!

2.) The Repetition State. In this state you default to the same piece of vocabulary over and over and over again for one of two reasons:
       a.) Because you’re too nervous to do anything else due 2 reasons which will freak you right out, and create a state of mental anxiety based on:
              i.) The available space you have to ‘do’ anything. and/or
             ii.) The quality of the Follower you’re dancing with.
      You can not even conceive of doing anything else in that moment, so as a result you end up doing the same things over and over again. Think the ‘Rock Step’ Lead! and/or…
       b.) Because it’s familiar to you. It’s your go to move. Most of the time you don’t even realize that you’re doing it, unless someone points it out to you. And even then you’ll default to it because it’s easy, simple, and comfortable. Whether or not you execute is a different story all together.

3.) The Vocabulary State. In this state the Lead has attended one too many workshops, watched one too many youtube videos, and spent just a little too much time in every vocabulary class within a hundred kilometer radius. When you step on the floor, you generate vocabulary choice after vocabulary choice after vocabulary choice. Every 3 steps it’s a completely different idea. This is usually done without an eye towards creating structure to map what’s happening in the music, or a care that the Follower is actually Following them but usually being rushed (see Rushing the Follower) through their vocabulary executions. Generally, you dance like this because you don’t want to bore the Follower with all that ‘walking business’. Sacada, Volcada, Colgada, Gancho, Gancho, Gancho, Gancho, Rock Step, Rock Step, Rock Step, Volcada is more exciting and fun or so you believe.

To be fair, all 3 of these states are quite common among a certain class of Lead, and while you may not self identify with this stuff, trust that you’re doing these things on a regular basis, you just don’t know it. 

The Fundamental Stepping Stone! In all three of these states, while they are seemingly natural outgrowths of each other in succession, there is a something that is missing in your dancing abilities that can and does prevent all 3 states from occurring > A Fundamental Stepping Stone. Which is that no one, not a single teacher, has drilled into you a necessary series of vocabulary exercises while at the same time removing all the nuances, all the ‘stuff’ that can confuse you, which in the end actually helps you to plan out how you can and should respond as a Lead.

To be fair, this video series of exercises starts out with something insanely simple -> Parallel Walking > Milonguero (‘Lazy’) Ochos and Parallel Walking > Traveling Ochos. And while this is seemingy insanely simple vocabulary, doing it is a whole other kettle of fish! This is the foundation of what you will spend most of your time doing anyway, so why not practice it religiously ? What tends to end up happening for most Leads is  wandering all over the floor, aimlessly executing whatever strikes their fancy, and can fit. However the result is that the dance, from the outside looking in is haphazard at best, and a hot-mess at its worst! So why not replace those three experiences above with a practiced exercise that you can quite literally execute everywhere in all 3 dances (tango, vals, and milonga) ? This idea works because the execution is not arbitrary, but specifically built off the musical pauses, there is an actual structure there that quite literally fits EVERYWHERE in the dance! 

The primary goal is to drill into your body and mind two transition points Walking INTO Something. Where the ‘Something’ can be but is not limited to Ochos, Turns, Crosses, etc, and then back to Walking. The transition points ? Walking INTO Something, and Something INTO Walking or Turning, Or Crossing, Or…. It’s the transitions that you’re practicing, not the vocabulary itself! 

While we ideally want to be facile with our walk, which is another reason why we study the 6 Ways of Walking, we can just as easily employ just Parallel System walking as our starting point. It should be noted that the reason why we study the 6 Ways of Walking, and even though the link to the 6 Ways is a product link, you still need to study them, religiously. Why ? Because doing so will create even more options and opportunities for you so that you do not continually default to the same solution set over and over again. Put simply, repetition has its place, but not every 3 steps. 🙂

This particular series of exercises is a necessary stepping stone towards Choreographing a dance on the fly. It builds the necessary tools and The Neurology of Leading that we ideally want, further, it alleviates all the stress of what to do next because now you have a series of tools to do just that. While you could loosely call it a pattern, it is anything but that. It’s an exercise that quite factually translates to the dance floor immediately.

The reality is that choreographing on the fly doesn’t happen overnight. But the way it’s presented sometimes, not always, but sometimes, you would think erroneously that you should just be able to dance effortless and employ whatever vocabulary choices you want as you see fit. And that’s not the case. No one can effortlessly do this without extensive practice, extensive study, and extensive musical knowledge. Unless you have an ace in the hole: Lead Exercises! Which is helping you to step into dancing fluidly or dancing where you can choose your vocabulary choices on the fly and make them fit to the music takes time and patience just like any language, and that’s what this series of exercises helps you to do.

 

dancing in a small space ? watch these videos!

bsas-prep-title

About The Video. This video comes in at 21m:40s in length in 9 Sections. Lead Technique is explained here in the video. No Follower technique is explored. 

Section 1 – Introduction – 00:03:04
Section 2 – Walking Into Lazy Ochos – 00:01:35
Section 3 – Walking Into Lazy Ocho – The Other Side – 00:02:05
Section 4 – Walking Into Traveling Ochos – 00:00:48
Section 5 – The ‘Dropped’ Traveling Ocho – 00:01:03
Section 6 – The Close Embrace Variations – 00:02:59
Section 7 – The ‘Practiced’ Weight Change – 00:00:38
Section 8 – The 3rd Cross System Entry – Lead Cross Behind – 00:04:05
Section 9 – The Frequencies/Closure – 00:04:42

Video pre-requisites: 1.) 6 Ways of Walking. 2.) Milonguero Ochos. 3.) Traveling Ochos. 4.) The 5 Pause Types! 

Watch It On Youtube ? Why should you pay for this video, or subscribe to this website when stuff like this is available on Youtube ? Because this topic doesn’t exist on YouTube, that’s why. Not to this level of detail with examples of each idea, plus the subsequent and underlying technique videos that you’ll need to make this stuff work. This video is unique because it comprises most of the technique stuff and then divorces it from it. It shows the musical, it shows the vocabulary, and it shows a few exercises. You’d be foolish to look elsewhere for this stuff but go ahead. Look for it on YouTube.

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 a class or a workshop, you’ll spend weeks on this stuff and you’ll miss a ton of information that you actually need to work in a small space! 

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 Gold, Gold Plus, or Diamond level subscriber today.

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Leading Technique

Leading Technique

Leading. Often the first thing we see when looking at Argentine Tango is the Tango Lead. It’s that sharp, clear, clean visual that strikes us almost immediately. We see the the visual of someone leading, and it’s this confusion, appreciation, amusement, bewilderment and just down right awe (in some cases) of a ‘wow’. Next the thing that we pay attention to is what they’re doing, not how they’re doing it, but what specifically they’re doing. You’re waiting, with anticipation, for that next cool, flashy move that screams – ‘Good Lead’. And the last thing that you start to become aware of is the musical expression, meaning how they’re placing the what they’re doing in time to the music, not necessarily how specifically it relates (that’s called interpreting the music by the way) to the music but really the execution in time to the music.

Truthfully depending on where we are in/at in the spectrum of leading (the activity), then this explanation of the dynamic of leading can be an eye opening experience on multiple levels for a variety of reasons (again, depending on where you are on the spectrum). At the same time, that experience is what usually shapes us, defines us, and ultimately it will inspire us to want to study toward being like that which we see…to emulate it. 🙂 Or it may turn us off entirely for a variety of reasons, perhaps because it looks too complex, too difficult, or it’s too much, or not ‘us’ at all. Again, this all depends on where you are on the spectrum of leading. If you’re just starting out then literally everything you see everyone else is doing is nothing short of magical. The further you go towards the ‘advanced’ dancer and closer towards the teacher class dancer (those who could teach but don’t) realm the less magical things are and the more technical things become, and the more you want to figure out why X, Y, and Z happens. That’s exactly where this topic comes into play. 

This topic assumes that you’ve gotten beyond the “Wow!!! That’s Amazing!!” phase and have just started to get down to the actual business of leading. And to be clear, this topic also assumes that you’ve gotten beyond the rudimentary foundation of walking, embrace, turning, crossing, and leading ochos, and are looking for a change towards something that looks a bit more elegant than the random, haphazard thing you have witnessed at your local milongas that’s loosely called ‘dancing‘.

Perhaps you’ve started to pay attention to how someone is doing X, Y, and Z, and found it to be lacking or amazing and wondered….’how do they do that ?’. Or more than likely you have caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror as you turn a corner and are either impressed with what you see and want more, or generally you try to avert your eyes as you pass by a mirror or someone’s facebook picture of you. You generally try to avoid it because you know it’s just going to be awful to look at. The mere thought of you leading, or watching yourself lead, is an exercise in excruciating visual pain. You know where all the problems are at, you know what you have forgotten in the multiple private lessons that you’ve taken, you know that you should be practicing this stuff on a daily if not weekly basis but you don’t. You know all of this stuff…you’ve just forgotten it, and there it is in the mirror, staring back at you, unapologetic, and very truthful that you could do better than you are right now.  

If all of that is true, then this topic of Leading Technique is all for you. 

Check Please! The video above is small snippet of a full HD video (9 videos in all). You can purchase Lead Technique for just 79.95 not including your level discount.

 

The Reason Why. There is a very simple reason why we study the topic of Leading Technique. It’s because we want to look better in the role of the lead. It doesn’t get any more simple than that. The fact is that anyone, regardless of gender, can lead. However, to look elegant, and to do it effortlessly and with ease ? That’s technique!

The open secret is that leading technique is somewhat of an open book black art. Meaning ? That it does not take a Rocket Scientist to figure this stuff out and say, “I think I know what that is“. Quite honestly there’s no special magic to it, there’s no secret sauce, no hidden agenda, nothing like that. In it’s simplest form good leading technique is best defined in the execution of 3 simple things – forward, side, and back. In much the same way that Follower technique comprises these same things, lead technique does as well at it’s core. At the same time it also comprises the embrace components, posture, walking continuously – not just a single step, turning, crossing, ochos, and so on. Viewed from this perspective, leading technique takes on a whole different layer of madness that will drive you over the edge of sanity into the realm of minutiae and maddening subtlety. And that’s where having access to a good, clean, clear materials and resources is absolutely crucial towards you looking elegant and feeling elegant. The reality is that any idiot can ‘look‘ elegant, however feeling elegant to dance with ? That is a whole other layer of OMG! And that’s essentially what you’re after when you think of why you would want and need to study Leading Technique.

So the reason of ‘why’ boils down to – you are looking for a way to generate not just the visual representation of being a good lead that you associate with the “OMG” Leads (the person not the activity) in the room with but more important, the elegance of their lead, and the effortless by which they do those things that uniquely qualify them as a ‘Good Lead’.

First things First. When building a good Lead, you have to deconstruct a few basic things in that lead in order to change them from ‘yawn’ to ‘omg’. So what’s the first thing towards the transformation ? You would think that the thing to start with is the Lead’s walk. And you’d be wrong. No. The very first thing is their foundation of how they’re standing, their posture! Change their posture, and you change 70% of how they’ll move. Mind you, they’ll instantly revert back towards less than desirable ways of moving because they don’t know any better or different but that’s a horse of a different color. No, the very first thing you must deconstruct and then reconstruct in a Lead, is their posture and their relationship to the floor. How they hold themselves, and how they place their feet on the floor is absolutely crucial to changing them.

What’s next ? Again, you would think that this is about their walk. No. Again, it’s about the component elements of that walk, not the walk itself. And those component elements break down into two areas: The Extension and then Foot Placement! Meaning ? How they extend their legs, walking forwards (usually) and how they place their foot on the floor after that extension. Is this walking yet ? No. It’s redefining how to move while dancing. Re-writing the base code of movement and replacing it with something that, at the beginning, is going to seem insanely difficult, and later on will (with time and practice) become second nature. The walking part ? That comes later. Right now this is changing their posture, and their extensions.

Next is the foot placement and weight transfers. Probably the single most important thing you can do for a Lead is change how they place their foot on the floor and then resulting weight transfers that go with it. Truthfully this stuff is not sexy at all but boy does it ever define sexy when executed nicely. By itself, there’s not much to this, and you’d think that there’s really no point in how you place your foot on the floor but that foot placement is pretty much everything. Execute it right and the elegance that you seek is accessible. Execute it poorly and your ass is going to end up staring at a the ceiling and wondering WTF happened! Foot placement is everything! It’s not sexy but boy is it ever the core of the whole ball of wax!

What’s Next ? It’s at this point where we have to talk about Intention and Intention Based Dancing. The fact is that at this juncture a lead can easily go right off the rails, as it were, by thinking one thing and then doing another (read that as becoming a Resistance Based Dancer). All too easily. And it’s important to reinforce the ideals of Intention. Which are to suggest, invite, propose, engage, cajole, tease, intimate, and yes, intend to do something and then create space for the Follower execute what was intended. Failure to reinforce this stuff early on, and you’ll easily devolve into resistance, force, compression, rigidity and all sorts of undesirable ways of dancing. Which is basically what you’re doing right now, and no one is telling you that for fear of hurting your feelings, including your teachers!

The reality is that the effortlessness that one seeks can only be achieved through two means that are seemingly counter intuitive with each other. The first is through controlled, conscious, and contained kinesthetic and physiological movements. Precision based movement. And the second ? Honesty with oneself. All the technique in the world, no matter how much you execute it will not change you. You have to recognize that you need to improve and want to improve. And that starts with a frank, honest conversation with yourself. It’s the realization, and you’ll pardon the vulgarity of this statement – that you suck today, you’re going to suck tomorrow, and you will continue to to suck for a very long time going forward. And that as time goes forward, assuming the first is moving along at a nice pace, you’ll suck a little less than you did the day before, but not by much. At the same time you’ll need constant reminders to do X, Y, and Z. Because like it or not you are going to drift from what you saw once in a workshop, you’re going to veer from the path towards what is comfortable for you and what you can do versus what you need to do. You’ll misremember something, you’ll invent whole new ways or methodologies to excuse yourself from doing the work that needs to be done. And on top of that, you’ll abdicate your responsibility of doing X, Y, and Z, placing that in the Follower instead of yourself.

So effortlessness ? This is only one piece of the work on the road towards good, clean Leading Technique. Still another is being honest with oneself!

Achieving effortlessness ? Foundational exercises. Ballet rises (yes, even for a Lead) are a good place to start. Next are back cross twists, forward cross twists, enrosque twists, opposition and disassociation exercises, and finally arm/torso/head controlled movement exercises. Rewire that, replace it with contained, controlled movements and you’re onto something!

The Embrace. Once you have all of that checked off your list. You have to put things in their rightful context.  And that means working with the embrace. Because all of the above is absolutely pointless if your embrace is compressive and restrictive. So it’s at this juncture that we now employ the execution of intention based dancing within the confines of a skin-to-skin or fabric-to-skin or fabric-to-fabric haptic dancing. Better known as Tango Haptics, Meaning tactile compression information as it relates to Argentine Tango. Duh! 🙂

The reality is that a good portion of you reading this stuff have embrace issues that are quite literally standing in your way of being a desirable lead. Compression, Restriction, Force, Tension, Rigidity, Pressure, good lord, it’s a wonder that half of the Followers that you dance with don’t stop after the first 2 seconds and a.) slap you for squeezing the living daylights out of them. and/or b.) walk off the floor because you’re pushing and pulling and paddling them with your right hand and forearm. Seriously dude, if you had this happen to you, you’d probably drop the embrace with whatever idiot lead you’re dancing with and look him squarely in the eye and say “SERIOUSLY WITH THE SQUEEZING ?”. Not so much with that! That’s the reality. So if you wouldn’t want it done to you, why on earth are you doing it to your Followers ?

Now comes the hard part, a good portion of the Followers that you’re dancing with are not going to tell you any of this stuff because they have a.) A hard time speaking truth to power. b.) Don’t want to hurt your feelings because you’ll never dance with them again. and c.) They don’t have the language to describe to you X, Y, and Z and they don’t lead (a good portion of them don’t, but more and more are thankfully!).

Truthfully your embrace is absolutely key to containing all the work that you did above with your posture, extensions, foot placement, and intention. And an embrace that doesn’t need to restrict the movement of the Follower is an absolutely crucial step towards being a desirable Lead to dance with.

Talking About The Walk! Finally, we talk about walking, or more importantly how one executes all of the above within the construct of a walk and within the construct of the embrace and within the confines of simple movements like leading a traveling or milonguero ocho, or leading a molinete, or leading an argentine cross. Because each one of these movements require you to walk well, to walk cleanly, to walk with stability and equilibrium!

If we’ve done our job above, then the walk should become an extension of those ideals. It quite literally happens all by its lonesome. The walk is built above good posture, clean extensions, precise foot placement, and entry points to walking and everything else. Make those contiguous and constant and you’re on to something. The elegance that you seek is not in the walk itself but rather the stuff contained within that walk. The things already mentioned. 🙂

The Bridge To Better Dancing ? As leads, a good portion of what we’re going to be leading are Ochos (Traveling & Milonguero), Turns (Open Embrace, Close Embrace, or Milonguero), and Crosses (Argentine & Back), and the foundations of those leads are going to come from the things listed above – e.g. how the Lead moves in relation to what is intended or led. If that base  movement is clean, clear, controlled, and consistent, then the resulting leads for Ochos, Turns, and Crosses will be so crystal clear, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t done this work to begin with. And there’s a good reason why this work isn’t done at the start, because it’s minutiae, it’s much harder than the steps, patterns, and figures. This is precision kinesthetic control of your body to reflect a very specific visual representation of how you want to be seen doing something. Now we add the next component – how it feels! Each component by themselves is maddening, together if you don’t have the foundation for this stuff, if you don’t have a clear idea of what the end result is going to be will drive you right off the deep end!

The Leap of Faith. A good portion of the time when it comes to this stuff, you really do have to take a leap of faith that the person you’re getting this stuff from knows what they’re talking about (assuming that there’s any talking going on about leading technique to begin with), and can describe it in a way that works for you, while at the same time you can see the end results and are pleased with them. The caveat here is that a good portion of the time ‘technique’ is often masked inside the vocabulary and infrequently is it separated from the vocabulary. They go hand in hand, or so you would think. That’s not entirely true. You can take someone’s technique of how X, Y, and Z is done and marry it to the execution of different vocabulary with surprising results. But that’s a horse of a different color for another time. It’s only mentioned here as a factor in the separation of technique from vocabulary that it is possible to do.

About The Video. This video is 9 separate videos.

Video 1 – Overview & Exercise – 00:23:21
Video 2 – Opposition – 00:17:37
Video 3 – Lead Extensions – 00:04:08
Video 4 – Lead Foot Placement – 00:05:50
Video 5 – Lead Entry Paths – Part A – 00:03:00
Video 6 – Lead Entry Paths – Part B – 00:02:02
Video 7 – Lead Embraces Foundation – 00:14:54
Video 8 – Lead Embraces – Repositioning – 00:17:43
Video 9 – Enrosque Foundation – 00:12:20

It can be purchased for $79.95 or downloaded as part of your subscription with a discount.

The Ultimate Arbiter. The last word on this subject is not your teacher, it’s not this website, nor is it you. There’s really only one arbiter of good taste in this case, and it’s the Follower. If the class of follower that you’re used to dancing with approves of what you’re doing, you’re on to something. Truthfully they are the final word on whether or not you’re doing good things or less than desirable things. That assumes that a.) You have the fortitude to ask (at a practica) about how you look and feel to them. b.) That their response is honest. (Frequently they’re not for the reasons already stated above) and c.) There’s some kind of meaningful feedback that you can pull from the most basic of frequent replies “That was nice”. Which is the extent of what you’ll get most of the time, unless you ask a series of leading questions of what in specific was ‘nice’ about it.

You know you’re on to something when other people that you don’t dance with acknowledge the change in you and start to compliment you on the difference in you.

The Last Word – Change. Change isn’t going to happen by itself. It requires a few thing. First, a willingness to make these kinds of changes. Secondly, a good, reliable source for this kind of information. And thirdly demonstratable, repeatable information that you can play with, over and over again.

Fortunately you have one, and that’s this website and resulting videos contained with in. This site exists for this sole purpose. And in specific this topic of Leading Technique has a video series that you can either download (purchase), or subscribe to see it and the 150+ videos on the topics of Foundation, Walking, Ochos, Turns, Crosses, Sacadas, Colgadas, Volcadas, Barridas, Paradas, and a host of other things. All here for you to watch, over and over again. And that all starts with hitting that little green button that says “SUBSCRIBE”.

 

Follower Technique – Part 1

Follower Technique

The very words for most Followers boils down to 5 things, minus adornments and embellishments. 1.) Posture. 2.) Embrace. 3. ) Forward Steps. 4.) Side Steps. 5.) Back Steps. A good portion of the time this training also covers Body Position and Body Placement within the construct of the embrace (e.g. how to stay in front of and then with your Lead). The training usually stops there and does NOT include a physical dissertation on Disassociation or Applied Disassociation…but rather perpetuates the fallacy that a ‘pivot‘ is Disassociation and that they’re the same things – they’re not. All of this in service to do several things all that same time: a.) To improve the Follower’s kinesthetic capabilities with regards to the 5 things listed above. b.) To create a deeper awareness of the 5 things. c.) To give the Follower a slightly better toolset than they had previously. Usually this is done in a single 2 or 3 hour session whereby afterwards the Follower is supposed to have magically improved by leaps and bounds. Ummmmm…ahem….not bloodly likely, not today, not tomorrow, and not next week. Follower technique does not magically happen after 2 or 3 hours of ‘class’. It is a diligent study that happens over a long period of time of patient study, correction, influence, building skills, and most importantly – time, and lots of it.

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From a Leading Perspective most Leads (the person) don’t have the skill set, or the language for that matter, to describe, be aware of, or to witness whether or not a Follower is executing proper technique. This is mostly because they don’t dance the role of the Follower themselves. Isn’t it odd that a good portion of them dole out advice to Follower’s in attempt to ‘help‘ as to what the Follower should be doing though ? (ahem…it’s not ‘odd’, it’s down right rude and wrong) The only thing that they’re truly aware of is whether or not the Follower is in the right place, at the right time, when they asked (or in a lot of cases told, and shoved) them to be. They can sort of tell when it feels good, and they can tell when it’s not. Which mostly boils down to when the Follower isn’t ‘following’ what they believe they were leading (the action). This comprises the Lead’s understanding of ‘good‘ Follower Technique. Honestly the lot of them could give a damn if the Follower does X, Y, or Z just as long as they do what what was led. If they add anything, just make damned certain that it doesn’t get in the way of what the almighty Lead is leading, and for good christ’s sake don’t screw it up! And whatever is done, don’t miss anything!!! Or heaven’s forbid engage in an actual conversation or have a thought as to what should happen. That would be….tantamount to sacrilege! Pahhhh-leeease.

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From a Following Perspective a good portion of Followers DO know Follower Technique when they see it. They’re not able to describe what they’re looking at (mostly because they don’t have the language descriptors). However, they are able to witness and recognize it. Unfortunately that recognition is limited to the awareness of what they’ve been exposed to, which boils down to the prettier Followers that get all the dances and emulating their ‘habits’ which masquerades as ‘technique’ that those Followers learned from watching YouTube videos of a performance of someone else’s and then doing their own version of it! Ding! Instant ‘technique‘. 

From a Dancing Perspective as long as the dance is served, and everything comes out alright, quite honestly seemingly no one gives a damn. As long as there is no blood lost, no limbs injured, and there are smiles, giggles and laughter at the end of the tanda, quite honestly…no one cares whether or not ‘proper’ technique was executed or not. Until someone comes onto the floor, that is executing proper technique, and then the whole room is talking about nothing BUT that, and then all of a sudden everyone cares!

The Dancing Fact is that the ‘Technique’ actually matters a whole lot on multiple levels. It matters because the correct execution of that technique actually improves, not only the quality of the experience as a whole, but it improves each and every single step, which in turn improves the quality of the vocabulary being executed, which in turn improves the quality of the dance on the whole! It quite literally changes a dance from ‘meh‘ to ‘omg‘. However that ‘omg‘ has a lot of gradations built into it for one simple reason: It depends on the amount of study and practice time, the amount of detailed information that they possess and are able to access at any one time, and more importantly the level of corrective self behavior the Follower has employed previously to change or correct their abilities. So that ‘omg‘ is very subjective. However you do recognize the ‘skillz‘ when you see it and more importantly when you dance with it. The skillz are the difference between ‘omg‘ and “oh my f*cking GOD!!!” Execute them properly and you’re on to something that separates you from the run-of-the-mill Follower. Execute them poorly and you’re going to end up sitting more often than not. 

Quite honestly good follower technique rocks! The operative word in the sentence ? ‘Good‘. There’s lots of less-than-desirable technique out there, and there’s also a lot of desirable technique. And there’s a lot of technique out there for Export. ie: Show Tango masquerading as Social Tango. Stop and think about it, when you’re on a social dance floor do you need your legs flying all over the place or adorning and/or embellishing every 3rd step ? Seriously ? You would only do that if you were performing for the 15th row to Pugliese or Piazzolla based music when you have an entire stage to yourself and aren’t in the line of dance. In other words – stage tango. Proper Follower Technique executed within the embrace does not need to interrupt the lead (the action) at all, it only enhances the overall experience of the dance, the embrace, the walk, the desired vocabulary, and to a limited degree – the musical interpretation….or basically everything you do. 🙂

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Learning proper technique ? Really that’s the question. Do you want to learn ? And then when you’re done learning it, are you going to practice it ? Because learning it is one thing. Practicing the frak out of it is another. Truthfully you can learn proper technique but you absolutely MUST spend a fair amount of time actually practicing what you learned. Failure to do that, and you’re just putting money in someone’s pocket for an hour or two, and it was a complete waste of time because you’re not practicing it – daily! The fact of the matter is that if you don’t practice it, daily, then it’s not going to happen on a social dance floor when you need it the most. If you have to stop and think about it, you’re screwed. Hence the reason you practice the frak out of it. And yes, sadly, this does require repetition…but not mindless repetition but rather mindful, conscious repetition of watching yourself in a mirror, spending a few hours every week in front of it, going over what you can remember. 

Memory. Your memory is fickle. You’re going to forget key aspects of what you’ve been taught. So that means that either you spend a few hours a week with a private teacher which can get rather pricey over time or you invest in a few well produced videos from a few reputable sources. 

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Who to work with ? The question comes up, can you learn proper technique in person ? Yes. Can you learn less than desirable technique in person ? YUP! And the same is true of video work. What matters is the source of the information and goes right back to picking a good teacher or a knowledgeable source of the skill set. Which brings up another question, does that source have to be a woman ? Answer…No, it does not. It can be anyone that has spent a good amount of time studying the form of either role, gender doesn’t matter. What matters most is how deeply involved that person has immersed themselves in the form. Quite frankly, most men that invest in being a ‘good’ Follower want to be better than the women around them because they’ve recognized that they don’t want to be that ‘girl’ that sits. Further still they want to get it ‘right’, so they’ll invest hours…weeks…months in learning the intricate in’s-and-out’s of Following. Their goal is not to perform, nor is it necessarily to teach, it’s to understand the form as a whole. Truth be told there are more than a few really amazing male Followers in the world and to be quite honest with you, they blow the doors off your run-of-the-mill Followers and more than a few ‘performing’ teacher Followers IMHO.

Fortunately for you, dear reader, you have access to a teacher that has spent a considerable amount of time learning, relearning, exploring, pulling apart, putting back together, figuring out, asking questions, dancing, studying, more dancing, more studying, investigating, and then a lot more dancing (in heels), discovering every aspect of the role of the Follower from the Embrace to the Walk and back again. Now to be fair, while this teacher does spend a fair amount of time in either role, in class and on a social dance floor it does not necessarily make him all knowing – all seeing but it does make him…shall we say…’aware’, and we’ll leave it at that.  That being said you may wish to take advantage of that resource by clicking that green button below, just a thought…nudge, nudge, nudge… 😉 ©Tango Topics. 

Your Trip to BsAs

Your Trip to Buenos Aires

The fact is that for a lot of you, 2 weeks in Buenos Aires is all you can really manage. You’ll go, spend scads of money on airfare, apartment, shoes, clothes, privates with X and Y, and then spend every waking moment taking class after class after class in those 2 weeks. You’ll be filled with Tango morning, noon, and night. Milongas, classes, food, more milongas, more classes. Your every waking moment will be tango, tango, tango…which is the whole reason you’re there in the first place. You didn’t fly 10000+ miles to sit on your ass you know!

From a Leading perspective, yes you’re going to get your head handed to you from the moment you land, yes you’re going to be intimidated, and yes you’re going to have more than a few dances with people from all over the world that will challenge you, change you, and bless you…all at the same milonga in the same night. That’s day one. The rest is an uphill climb for a variety of reasons.

From a Following perspective, same as above. You’ll see footwork that will confound you and then you’ll want to take privates to be able to do just that. Go ahead, knock yourself out.

The Dancing Reality is:

a.) You’re not going to be able to retain 90% of what you’ve seen, heard, or practiced. Even if you video the end result. The “how” you got there will elude you. And it’s the ‘how‘ part that’s insanely important!

b.) Most of what you have seen, heard, or tried to practice, you’re going to screw up and misremember. You’ll think you’re doing one thing, when in fact you’re doing another! The kicker is that you won’t notice it.

c.) Most of what you will see, hear, and learn will screw with your head because a good portion of the information is specific to just BsAs. Meaning that it only applies to BsAs.

d.) Most of what you will experience from shows and classes is showy noise that does not and can not work in the line of dance. The trick is to focus on the social stuff that you can actually use in the line of dance. The real trick is being able to see the difference between Tango for Export and Social Tango!

d.) The trick to getting the most out of your trip to BsAs is working on your foundation (your walk, your stability, your underlying technique). This can create change in you. Steps, patterns, figures, or dancing like X, Y, or Z will not help you. Change comes from how the foundation is put together. 🙂 

e.) The Argentines are a lovely people. They are. They’ve been through hell and back again. There is one immutable fact, no matter how ‘nice’ they are, they’re STILL not going to dance with you until you prove that you have a handle on this Tango thing…that means:

From a Leading perspective: Following the line of dance, not killing your partners with crazy, bullshit vocabulary (all 502 Sacadas known to man, or the 410 types of volcadas, etc all thrown into one song), and not bumping into anyone causing blood or limb loss. While at the same time looking elegant.  All the while, making it musical, fun, and engaging for your Follower partners and showing them off! This may prove to be challenging for you because the embrace will be filled with levels of compression, and the walk will be a near constant ‘impact’ that you’ll feel of the follower’s foot on the floor – not to mention the hanging, the pulling, and the pushing. If you’re looking for ‘stellar’, you’re lookin’ in the wrong place! Good luck!

From a Following perspective: Dancing with the locals is a bit easier. They’re actually wanting to dance with you, and not because you’re stellar either. It’s because you’re Norte Americano. The fact that you’re female and susceptible to their charms is…icing on the cake! Truth be told you’ve never had a man woo you like an Argentine man will. And the attention is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced (unless you’re Italian, or from NYC, and in which case you got this).  

f.) The floors, at certain times of the years, are packed. Read that as Jan – Mar. That’s the ‘high‘ season. When every teacher in the known universe is in Buenos Fuckin’ Aires. The floors are packed with teacher/dancers…of a sufficient quality that will quite literally blow your mind. The rest of the year, if you’re looking for that experience…good luck with that. It’s like a ghost town by comparison. Keep that in mind when you’re booking your trip, and looking for the dancing reality that is Buenos Aires. 

g.) Two fucking weeks is not fucking long enough. Quite honestly, you’re wasting your time and your money by spending two weeks there. It’s a waste of money to rush down there for 2 weeks. You ideally want to be there at least a month, and really 3 and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Quite honestly those first 2 weeks is just getting the lay of the land. The rest of the time is figuring out how you’re going to extend your stay by another 2 to 3 months! Realistically, you’ll be afraid and isolated the first few days. You’ll wonder how on earth you got yourself into this mess. Going to the Milongas and classes and wonder ‘WTF!‘. In the end you’ll be so sad when you leave that you’ll have forgotten the depths of the horrors your were thinking just a few days earlier. 

h.) Learn to pace yourself. All the running around you’re going to do is going to tire you out no matter how old or young you are. You can not do it all. Realistically it’s about finding good experiences, not about the quantity of those experiences. Quality is the order of the day. And learning how to pace yourself in the face of those quality experiences in the mass that is BsAs is quite essential. 

i.) You’re going to find people that you groove with, and not groove with. You will dance really well with some people and not others. There’s a reason for this: You’re all at very different places in your tango development. The more experienced you are as a dancer will allow you to dance with nearly everyone and create a ‘nice’ experience, and know how to manage those dances to make them palatable for both parties. The less experienced dancer (the one’s that hang, pull, push,can not navigate the floor musically. And then a few days later…you’ll ‘magically‘ be able to dance with X, Y, and Z for some reason. Again, simple reason, you’re getting in tune with the pace of Tango, and the idea of Tango that is BsAs. That getting in tune will leave you when you go back home. 

j.) Tango is very different at home than what you’ll experience in Buenos Aires. Very different. And yet…it is the same thing. Which is to say that while it looks the same, the music is the same, the people are the same…the experience itself is vastly different for a reason:  Dancing in Buenos Aires is about a way of life. At home, you’re trying to imitate that way of life in a 4 or 5 hour time period through a Milonga. The Milonga is a way of life in Buenos Aires, better known as “Tango Es Vida”. Once you understand this thing, Tango then takes on a whole different way of being as does your ‘two weeks‘ in BsAs. ©Tango Topics.

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