Tango Topics | Social Dancing Tools

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. 

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