Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

Today’s Tango Fact 069:  Men That Don't Study.

Men. Oy. Tango is hard enough, but adding ego to the equation just creates a whole other level of issues that most women can agree is a lot like a pissing contest.

Before we lay into this like white on rice: Being fair, not all men have an ego when it comes to Tango. A smaller number of them do recognize that Tango is a study. As such it requires them to do their homework, on a regular basis. And ‘homework’ in this case means private study, solo practice, solo study, musical study, on a daily basis. It’s one of the reasons why those men are usually very sought after Leads. And to be fair these aren’t your local presentation Leads that are being referenced. No. These are male leads that can switch it up between Milonga, Vals, and Tango, and always look very competent in whomever their leading and or dancing with, no matter how slow, compressive, restrictive, old, young, large, small the Follower is. They dance with everyone, and never complain about their partners. They usually dress for the occasion, they may be slightly balding, with a little bit of a stomach (which is a good thing). They never use their arms. They never push or pull. Their embrace is relaxed and very comfortable. They never hover over a potential partner. They always, always, always use Cabeceo. They’re always considerate and will walk a woman out to her car to make certain they’re safe. They always make their partners look good and feel good, no matter their level. They accommodate to their Follower’s abilities and rarely push them beyond that. And of course, there’s usually a line to dance with them. They have a good attitude, disposition, and are very genial people.

This is not who today’s Fact is referencing.

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There is a portion of Male Leads that do not study or study privately with their teachers on a regular basis to improve their skills. The suppositional belief is that ‘classes’, will suffice, and then they stop going to those altogether because they’ve learned enough. They only progress just far enough so that people stop staring, and those people stop complaining about X, Y, and Z. They settle into a routine of dancers that they dance with and because no one is complaining, then everything must be fine. And this is where they stop. They may go to an occasional weekend when someone asks them, but for the most part, they go to their weekly Milongas, they dance with their 4 or 5 favorite partners, and then they leave. Satisfied in the knowledge that they did their best, and their Follower’s seemed very happy with their dance.

Ahem. Cough. Ahem.

What they don’t realize is that just classes will not suffice. Classes are great for getting the overall idea or rough concept. The finer points of said ‘rough concept’ requires private study and lots of it to clean it up and actually work out all the bugs. Because like it or not, these L/leads have embrace issues, walking and stability issues, and a poor understanding of intention vs. resistance based dancing. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

A good portion of them are stuck in the idea that more vocabulary will make them better dancers, and that Followers want to be thrilled, wow’d with more vocabulary (38 kinds of sacadas in 3 minutes, every volcada known to man, 203 colgadas in the course of a tanda, etc). And this is not the case. Walking, turning, crosses, in time to the music, that is well thought out and executed is what Followers want, with an embrace that is non-restrictive. While at the same time allowing them the space to add their voice to the dance.

What these male leads don’t realize is that no one complains for 2 reasons: 1.) Most Followers don’t want to hurt their Lead’s feelings. and 2.) They don’t feel qualified to speak on the subject of leading so, therefore, are a bit confused as to what to say, and instead, default to ‘That was nice’, cutting off the Lead from going any further or deeper questioning. Meanwhile, the Follower in question is limping back to their table, smiling, and holding their lower back, hand, or forehead because they’ve had the living daylights squeezed (compression) out of them. And so that we’re clear on this, this is not an exaggeration. A good portion of leads squeeze their Followers to control them, contain them, in order to direct them with their embrace, when this is not something we want to do at all (see ‘Intention Based Dancing).

So why not study, why not take private lessons ?

The most common refrain is ‘money’. Who wants to invest in something that is just a hobby ? The second most common refrain ? Time! “I just don’t have the time”. Funny, they seem to be at nearly every milonga, and every practica, so exactly how much time are we talking about here ? And as to the Money question, doing the math, a single private lesson (depending on the city that you live in) is about the cost of all the Milongas and Practicas that you’d pay for the entry fee on in a month. So would a single private really kill them ? Truth be told, they’ll generally need more than one private lesson to correct their issues, but hey…let’s not quibble, let’s get them in the door first. The obvious reason here is willful ignorance: Tango is hard. And no one, especially men, want to be seen as ignorant. The fact is that a private lesson (done properly) will reveal ALL of their errors, and the areas where they are weak and have to admit that they don’t know what they’re doing. From finding the beat in a piece of music, to executing a milonga, to placing the Follower on beat without rocking from side to side to start, and a host of other things.

By stark contrast, women take more private lessons than men 15 to 1. Women are the first ones to sign up for a weekend workshop, and the first ones that sell out Marathons! Consistently. Men ? They drag their feet until quite literally the last possible moment and they seem to go well beyond that.

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The Tango Topics OpinionThe obvious answer is to get those men who do not study, to study with someone, anyone for the love of god, to take private lessons. Easier said, than done. It’s generally about this point we ask the women to step up and do 1 of 3 things. All are very radical suggestions for a wide variety of reasons.

1.) Stop dancing with those leads that refuse to study or aren’t studying currently.

Let’s get something out of the way here. Assuming you’re a Follower, and you’ve asked said Lead who they’re studying with and they say, “no one“. You could immediately suggest someone that you think might be good for them by saying, “Have you tried….” and insert the name of said teacher. And then here’s the hard part: When you’re done putting up with the pushingpulling, squeezing, not to mention the talking in your ear while you’re dancing with them, you say “Thank You!” and then don’t dance with them any further! Yes, that means you’ll dance less. Think of it this way, you’ll have more satisfying dances in the end. It’s not the number of dances but the quality of them.

Leads, do you see the advice we’re giving to the Follower here ? Do you get it ? It’s not about being snobby. It’s about cleaning up your act. Your act right now is so awful and so undesirable, that we’re actually telling Followers not to dance with you anymore. Do you see that ? Are you getting it ?!?!??!

2.) Encourage those that do study!

The same scenario as above, only the Lead answers this way, “I am! I’m studying with….” and they insert the name of a local teacher. This is where things get a bit tricky. Because if you’ve danced with said teacher, and you know what they’re like, and you know what their students are like, you have an understanding of what it should be like to dance with X. And if said Lead does not or is not feeling the way that they should, meaning their embrace, their walk, their vocabulary choices…then it may be time for an intervention and suggest to them that they go back to said teacher and invest in more than a few private lessons. So here’s how you do that: “Hmmm, you know I’ve danced/studied with X and they’ve got an interesting ‘style’ (this is a slippery slope here because the moment you engage in the style discussion it becomes a point of view…so let’s change that word to ‘ideas’)….ummm ‘ideas’ on the _______ (fill in one of these words: embrace, walk, vocabulary, musical interpretation) of the dance. May I suggest you study with X or Y instead ?”. Where X or Y is a teacher that you’d highly recommend. On the other hand if they’re giving you the name of a teacher that you highly respect and they’re still failing, suggest a more rigorous private lesson schedule than what they’re doing. If however they’re failing anyway, the key component here is to encourage them to study more, not less. And then here’s the interesting part, invite them to a practica by saying “Hey are you going to X’s practica on … ?” whatever day it is and then suggest you meet them there for a tanda or two. And then actually dance with them there and give them some feedback about one of the four things above that needs some refinement. The feedback in case you’re wondering is what it feels like to dance with them!

Leads ? Are you paying attention to the advice we’re giving to the Follower ? No matter what you answer here, you’re going to get hit with “DUDE! GO STUDY!”. Are you getting it yet ???

3.) Suggest that they take private lessons, and to study the role of the Follower.

One way for any Lead to get that they’re literally f*cking up, is to dance the Role of the Follower with a guy like them! That’s usually enough for them to get it and that they need to up their game. So … umm … Leads ? You know what we’re gonna say, right ? Good. we don’t have to say it. Now go do it. And in case you have a concern about it. Go look at this.

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