Today’s Tango Thought 116: The Male Follower
Let’s dispense with some outrage first and foremost: Some may see this topic as absolute heresy! That will discussed at the end of the post. This post isn’t about the benefits of Following for the Male that wants to Follow, of which there are many, such as hyper awareness of all the things you do not want to do to your Follower as a Lead! No. Nor is this post about dancing in heels (which can be quite educational on many, many levels), nor the benefits of actually doing that kind of work (of which there are many benefits). Nor is this post about the simple fact that some men do enjoy Following quite a bit (the author included) and are actually (contrary to what you might believe) pretty good at it. No. Today’s Tango Thought is all about Men That WANT to Follow and some pointers that you want to think about going forward. 🙂
Here are some helpful tips going towards becoming a Male Follower. This is by no means, a comprehensive list. These are just some of the more prominent ones that are important for the Male Follower to start thinking about so that they become….better Followers.
1.) You Have Mass! In case you’re not aware of this stuff, you have bodily mass. More so than your female follower counterpart. As a result you are slowER, more prone to lethargy, and completely bulky! Your mass is distributed top down (a much bigger torso) and bigger legs. Because of these facts, if you want to Follow socially, or even privately you have to work extra hard, harder than a female follower would have to, to overcome your physiological mass. The goal ? To make it appear and really ‘feel’, as though you were light as a feather, that the L/lead doesn’t feel the mass of your body overtaking their ability to lead you. This is can be achieved (the author is living proof of that) with a little due diligence, time, patience, and good, clean instruction (ahem, this site is a good resource for that stuff – follower technique). A good example of this is engaging the Follower’s Molinete! Quite possibly the single hardest thing the Follower has to do in the dance. In the Follower’s Molinete, a Male Follower gets an education beyond their wildest nightmares and dreams all at the same time on multiple levels. Ideally we want to control our mass to the point where in the disassociative movements the Male Follower’s mass doesn’t overpower and make it feel as though they’re in control of themselves, that they’re also not tipping over or about to bust a gut to do it!
2.) You Suffer From ‘THUD’! The fact is that most men that start out with Following never get beyond the rudimentary aspects of the Follower’s back step. Meaning they extend their legs and that’s about it. If that. They don’t realize, again, that they have more mass than their female counterparts. And as such they are more prone to ‘THUD’, than their female Follower counterparts! THUD is a Tango Topics descriptive that describes the Follower’s foot impacting the floor with force in an uncontrolled fashion. We want to remove that entire impact process and replace it with good solid technique instead! The THUD comes from the fact that their legs are heavier, their foot falls will have greater floor impact than their Female counterparts. Therefore they’re more prone to THUDding. Ideally we want to make our walk, as followers, so easeful and effortless that there is no impact on the floor felt up through the leg and then the spinal column and out through the embrace. No Thud! Thud ? Not desirable at all.
3.) MYA! This is a descriptive acronym used to describe Follower’s motion, and really applies to the Male Follower, again due to their mass. Most male Follower’s don’t realize that they do actually have to move with some alacrity, more so than their female follower counterparts. They need to be nimble and quick. “MYA” in case you haven’t gotten it yet, stands for “MOVE”, “YOUR”, “A$$”. Meaning the Male Follower must move themselves and not feel like a ton of bricks in their lead’s arms, and be quick about it. They can not be lethargic in any way, shape, or form. You know those Followers that you’ve danced with that feel as though they’re moving through quicksand ? That’s you, or that’s the perception of you. You want to remove this perception and MYA ASAP. 😉 The Tempered MYA. Let’s be clear about something here, this isn’t rush, rush, rush everywhere. No. Rather, in the beginning, learning to listen to what you’re being asked to do and then executing it with all due haste…or in other words MOVE YOUR A$$!
4.) Your Bulk! This is one thing you can’t get away from. Your body has more bulk to it than your female counterparts. As such is the case, you want to negate that as much as is humanly possible, and with all due diligence as possible. Your bulk is going to cause a problem later on, because objects that have a greater mass tend to require more power to start and to stop their motion, thereby resulting in what this author refers to as ‘Tango Shudder’ or the ’Tango Recoil Effect‘. The Recoil Effect is the act of using so much power to stop your leg results in a physiological ’shudder’ of the leg at the end of the step (minus the thud), which is felt up through the spinal column and out through the embrace! You must learn to negate this effect, and not only negate it, but contain the effect to the point where no one, not even you feels it any more. 😉 That’s going to take you a little while to control, but with time and patience it can be done. Oh and one more thing on this topic of your bulk, your arms! They have bulk, be conscious of this fact and lift up your arms, do not lay them directly on your lead’s body, you want skin to fabric contact and absolutely NO PHYSIOLOGICAL WEIGHT of any kind anywhere at all at all points of contact.
5.) Disassociation/Applied Disassociation! You must, must, must, must, must, must, and one more time with feeling….MUST learn to disassociate and then to apply that disassociation with ease and effortlessness. Without the recoil effect, or shudder, or tension in your arms, hands, or neck! You must be able to float through the motion of the disassociation. Most male Leads never learn about disassociation. Or as soon as they do, they quickly forget about it and stop using it to actually Lead the Follower to say an Ocho or Molinete ? God help them if they do because then they realize all those Ochos, they’ve been leading for ages on every Follower between here and Oshkosh, that the Follower has been working their ass off to try to do what’s being asked of them. They finally realize that applied disassociation is a boatload of work that they had no idea even existed. Mind you this is not a pivot we’re yapping about. This is disassociation my friend, clean, pure, and simple. Learn it, know it, live it! Why is this skill important ? Every turn, or any level of rotation, or revolution in the dance requires this skill to have been mastered so that said rotation is executed! And as modern Tango is no longer a walking dance, but rather a turning dance, you’re going to spend most of your time (sadly) engaging in the Follower’s Molinete! And that means, DISASSOCIATION and APPLIED DISASSOCIATION! Got it ? So in short, learn it, know it, live it!
These are just some of the points that you need to be aware of if you want to learn to Follow.
The Wrong Chromosomes. You’ve got the wrong chromosomes for the job that you’re wanting to do. The body parts are all wrong in some people’s minds, and in the wrong places. Don’t let this stop you from exploring what is quite possibly the most eye opening experience you’ll ever have. Some female followers are going upset with you because (assuming that you’re dancing with another male lead) you’re taking 2 potential leads out of the rotation of dancing. Some will criticize that you’re Following poorly and your execution of technique is less than desirable. It will improve by the way. And some will turn a blind eye because honestly it doesn’t matter to them. Trust this one singular point: if you’ve done the 5 things above, the biggest problem will be getting dances to continue your practice, study, and social dancing! 🙂 Don’t let a little thing like a Y chromosome get in your way of what is truly a very fun aspect to dancing!
Oh The Heresy! Let’s be really clear about something: There are some that see a man as Following as upsetting the natural order of things. Hmmmm, there was a time, historically speaking, when men danced with other men, and they weren’t allowed to touch a woman and learn to lead until they had passed through the role of the Follower! Heresy! HA! No, in order to learn to Lead and to lead well you must know what it is you are leading, and that means you need to know how to do it. To do a thing is to know a thing. The same applies in Tango. This is not heresy, it’s important information that makes the Male Follower a much better and much more respectful lead! The author’s father used to say “Never ask another man to do a job that you haven’t already done yourself”. So it is only fair that the Male Lead understands what they’re doing because they’ve done that job themselves.
Body On Body Contact. There is one thing you’re going to have to get over, and that’s committing to the embrace, and really body-on-body contact. Yes there’s another male in front of you, more than likely, and the sexual gender issues that you have in your head are all turned upside down. Get rid of that stuff. It’s going to get in your way. You have to get place your body on the Leads just as if you were in male/female dynamic. Nothing changes simply because you’re dancing with another Male Lead. No you’re not going to be the sexy girl that said Lead has in their minds, but trust this, that if you do your job right….it really won’t matter. This isn’t about sex, or being sexy, it’s about skillz, mad skillz. Trust that there are Male Followers out there that have invested oodles and ooooooodles of time, effort, and energy into Following and they’re absolutely fabulous at it. And if they can do it, and look fab while doing it and make every lead WANT to dance with them, you can too. Yes the beard/mustache thing isn’t the ideal, but honestly that stuff doesn’t matter….it really doesn’t. What matters is how you execute your skill set! This is about dancing my friend, not about getting laid!
One More Thing. Becoming a good follower isn’t about boleos, ganchos, or even Follower Technique. It’s not. One might argue that it’s all about the Walk, and there’s a good amount of substantiating information to support that vantage point. However, Tango Topics would state that it’s really about listening (not waiting) to what’s going on, your response time, cleanliness in how you do something (sloppily or cleanly), and sharp execution. And then later on we amp that up to make your skills, and your execution feel effortless and delicious to whomever you are dancing with! So that the gender issues disappear and you’re really just a dancer at that point. A dancer with mad skillz!
Let’s be absolutely clear about something: To become a good follower is not something that you’re going to get in 5 minutes of a class somewhere, it’s just not. Get that thought right out of your head. This stuff takes time, patience, persistence, and oooodles of practice to develop! Months of study, years of work. However the rewards are well worth the time that you put into studying it on multiple, multiple levels. So our advice to you, is go study. Work hard. And things will change.
The Real One More Thing. That bit above about the ‘Wrong Chromosomes’ isn’t an off handed comment. It’s real. Just to reiterate, you’re going to feel like no one is going to want to dance with you. Get over it. There is some truth to it. But don’t take it personally. We all go through that stage. And then we find people that want to dance with us. There will be some that may find you to be a desirable Follower. This assumes that you get rid of the 5 most common errors that a Male Follower has to negate. If you don’t, then you know what ? They’re right for not wanting to dance with you. You have to negate your mass, you have to negate your bulk, you can not hang, you can not pull, you have to be agile and ready to go, go, go! If not, then your ass is going to sit. Sorry to be blunt about it, but the facts is the facts my friend. Clean up that stuff, and then you got nothing to worry about.
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