Tango Argentino > Dancing with or through your Partner?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by tido, May 3, 2017.

  1. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    That's the way I strive to dance with my SO. It's not an intrinsic feature of "Tango", I simply apply my cultural imprint of a partnership. Others may act different in that matter and be happy.
    But I spend perhaps only that one tanda with a stranger. It might be more pleasant if we keep it simple and stable - I "lead" and she "follows" (put in your politically correct wording, of course).
    opendoor likes this.
  2. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    There is a third possibility/philosophy (and maybe more). This was taught to me by an Argentine master, and repeated by a few others. When I've had the opportunity, I've asked a few other Argentines about it, and most did agree with it.

    Simply stated: I indicate my intention, then we both work together to accompany each other. No one follows anyone.
    oldtangoguy likes this.
  3. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    The way i am am at the moment conceptualize what the relationship between the two dancers in tango is/should be it is not about the relationship between the leader and the follower, but for both the leader and the follower about the relationship between them and the couple. The leader leads the couple using leader technique, the follower leads the couple using follower technique.

    So everything i as a leader do is about maintaining the couple, and in the same way what the follower does is about maintaining the geometry of the couple.

    I am not really sure if i have good imagery for this - maybe if we imagine the couple as a car then the maybe the leader is the front wheels, and the follower is the rear wheels (in a rear drive car), and we both work together to keep the frame intact and the whole thing on the road (and the ronda and the music is the street).

    Another image that in some aspects works for me is that in some ways it is like surfing - the leader is the wave, the follower the surfer and (this is where the image kinda breaks down) the couple as a whole is the surfboard.

    I am not a big fan of thinking of leader leading the follower - i see too many people dancing a tango that is essentially taking turns in dancing - first the leader expresses his dance and the follower is neutral, and experiences the leaders dance, and then the follower either is given an opening or takes one, and then the follower dances, and the leader is neutral and experiences the followers dance. If we both think about how our relationship creates and maintains the couple then we can both dance at the same time.
    oldtangoguy likes this.
  4. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    Suppose the couple takes an ordinary step, front for the "leader", back for the "follower". How does that happen? Do you mark the step and then accompany the "follower" as she responds, whether it is what you expected or not? If not, how do you and the "follower" interact?
  5. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    Suppose I indicate my intention to step forward. Can my partner ignore this and step side? Or perhaps refuse to go? Of course. But I would argue that if she does take a back step, she is following my intention.
  6. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Well, as a preface - this is pretty much what one of my exes used to call "tango mysticism". i think that the language we are using when talking about something as complex as tango does not actually capture "reality", but serves more as a debugging tool, highlighting certain aspects, and by doing so necessarily obscuring others. That is why it is often extremely jarring seeing beginners trying to use great advice that was pretty obviously given in another situation, for other people, for a different problem.

    The way this is happening is pretty much like a ouja board works (as far as i have read - i have never actually seen one in real life) - using the embrace the leader and the follower jointly create the couple, and by being in the embrace they more or less consciously transmit their intention about how the couple should move to the couple. When leading/marking a step forward the leader deforms the geometry of the couple/pushes the ouija towards the follower, and the follower does something to keep the geometry of the couple intact, which will most likely be stepping back.

    So, how is this in reality different from "the leader leads, the follower follows" or "the leader marks, the follower leads, the leader follows"? In all cases the leader steps forward, the follower steps backward.

    I think the differences between the different metaphors is when we use them to try to figure out what the options are when playing with movement when practicing or when dancing for real at a milonga, and trying to debug problems, either on the fly while dancing, or cold when practicing.

    Lets use
    What happened if the leader indicates his intention to step forward, and the follower steps to the side? I agree if they take a back step they are directly following the leaders intention. But i would argue that a follower can do a sidestep and it is a perfectly good part of the dance if - and it is a big if - if they _don't_ ignore the leaders intention/mark/leading. Which would require them to do the side step in such a way that it keeps the leader balanced, does not mess with the leaders timing (in a way that throws the leader off), and keeps the couple intact (no pushing/pulling on the embrace, no radical shifting of the energy - in this example the follower would have to do some tricky work with dissocation and the timing of their steps in relation to the leaders steps, i think).

    Now this is a somewhat difficult example - the follower working with the leaders front step in this way would turn the couple (depending on the length of the step of the leader) by maybe a quarter to a half turn turn, as we have ended up in basically a giro, and in general i think that changing direction of the couple in a completely unexpected way by the follower is somewhat tricky, as the leader in general is the one that can see down the line of dance - there is probably a space they wanted to move into to keep the ronda going, and instead the couple is now stationary and will have to do some more turning or something to get back to moving down the line of dance. There is somewhat more flexibility in how the follower can work with the couple when the leader is not simply moving the couple in a straight line into a space the follower can't see. but even in this case easier examples are possible, like the follower taking a shorter step than the leader intended, a follower taking three steps instead of one (or even an 1.5 ochos)- they will still end up in the same spot, on the same axis (it is not really neccessary to do so, but the leader not being confused about what foot the follower is on is part of maintaining the integrity of the couple).

    Basically as long as the follower think about the couple and the leaders timing and balance the same way as the follower does this opens up a lot of options - but the key is in not ignoring the intent of the leader, but percieving more of it, and the options within that.

    And all this ignores what i consider the most important part of this - the shared experience of the music. I currently think that the music is far more important to leading and following than we usually give it credit for - a lot of the complexity is only possible because both the leader and the follower are aware of the phrasing of the music.
  7. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    I think an intention is indicated in different ways, depending how you hold each other. I only dance in close embrace, so I can not discuss open embrace.
    In my situation, my follower and I are chest to chest, forehead to forehead so when I move (in any direction) we move. There is no room for going different ways.
    No follower that respects herself and Tango will "refuse to go" or "...ignore this and step side".
    The key is to give a clear lead, without hesitations.
    oldtangoguy likes this.
  8. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    Thank you. My question was (slightly) facetious, questioning dchester's comment that "No one follows anyone" is a useful/valid approach to dancing tango.
  9. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I would say the opposite - no follower who respects themselves and tango will go just because the leader wants them to.

    Some of the my most memorable dances were with "vieja milongueras" - which is probably more difficult as a leader than getting a dance with a "milonguero" is for a follower - it took me months of regularily showing up and "dancing like an argentine" to move through the invisible barrier that divides the local milonga from the visitors milonga, and there are very few of these old school female dancers (well, at the milongas i went to - my slice of BA was semi-traditional (cachirulo, yira yira, milonguita, that kind of place)) - it seems that the men go back to the milongas when they become widowers, or never leave, while the women don't seem to come back. And with them it was very clear from the moment the embrace sets what they hear in the music, and dancing against the music is not going to happen. But if you are in the music, the phrasing, then dancing with them becomes magic - completely flowing and communicating invisible nuances. (this has really influenced my thinking about how shared experience of the music is an important component of leading). We talk a lot about the way old men dance in BA, but not enough about the way old women do - they have weight, and presence, and they don't go anywhere if they don't agree that it is a good idea to go there. (Interestingly enough i talked with several old, and quite "milonguero" (in the old sense) leaders in BA who claim to vastly prefer dancing with tourists (specifically japanese tourists) compared to because they are less work and less likely to break their balls - but then in general the actual power dynamics between machismo and argentinean style femininity is quite fascinating. I sometimes wonder if we have mostly lost half of the tango - the followers role we see today is followers tango as taught by leaders, and i think it is strongly influenced by travelling male tango teachers teaching and performing with physically gifted beginners with limited experience in tango. Whatever the original followers tango that was taught by followers to each other both at home and implicitly by social pressure at the milongas was does not seem to have a lot of presence anymore - at least i don't know any teacher or performer or even social dancer who claims a lineage starting with a follower of the golden age.

    I think it is an often useful approach - picking up the example above - if i walk forward, and the follower redirects the energy by sidestepping, so that afterwards we are turned by a quarter turn - who followed whom? i did not really lead that move, and neither did she, but the couple moved. (again, this is a somewhat extreme example, and it would require a very skilled follower to do this in an enjoyable way). Tango as something emergent from both the followers and leaders input. (but i suspect that our reactions to dchesters comment are based on _very_ different mental images)
    sixela, itwillhappen and rain_dog like this.
  10. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    Gssh, you and I live on a different planet... The follower will no go anywhere "just because the leader wants them to" - she will go where the leader leads her! Want is not dancing terminology...
  11. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    She can, but then she is likely subscribing to a different philosophy from mine. FWIW, I don't make the claim that my philosophy preference is the only "truth".
    OK, that's fine. I'm not trying to tell you (or others) that their philosophy is wrong. I was simply trying to point out another possibility / philosophy.
  12. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Actually it's "want".
    I'll take an example from a festival abroad that I attended with two friends (a guy and a lady). My lead is intrinsically coherent, I won't, say; lead the start of a turn the way I lead a forward ocho. My friend's lead is also coherent. Yet his lead of the start of a turn is not like mine. Even more confusing for the lady, his lead of a start of a turn has some similarities with my way of leading a forward ocho.
    In other words, our lead is the same but what we want the lady to do is different.
  13. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    And I didn't take it as such. I was really just trying to understand what you meant.
  14. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    I would not be able to judge other people's lead by observing them or listening to their statements. I don't think it's possible.
    As far as what you are describing, it sounds like the movement looks the same. That does not assure that the actual lead is.
    All I know is that when I lead my partner in a clear way, she follows the lead, and if she doesn't it's because I made an error of some kind.
  15. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    That's exactly the opposite of what I explained with my example, which comes from a real situation with a real follower and a real other leader.
    And that's not my interpretation, that's what the said lady told us. Our very same lead has two different meanings. Yet when dancing with any of the both of us, when the other leader is not there and she does not have to constantly switch between us, it is perfectly clear to her which step we want her to take.
  16. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Can you expand on this idea of "cohenrence"? In my view of tango (which is also heavily influenced by having started as very much as a nuevo dancer and thinking that everything can and should be deconstructed into two basic components - step + pivot) the start of a turn _is_ a forward ocho?

    I think the example we are working with (leader stepping front, follower stepping stepping side instead of back) is not really helpful for this conversation - while i think it is theoretically possible for a follower to do and maintaining the integrity of the dance, i don't think it is something that actually happens on the dancefloor outside of longtime partners playing with each other. I have seen followers delaying the first step to the next beat, though, and depending on the music i have been either ok with that, or had to agree that their choice was better for our dance.

    I spent a lot of time exploring the area between "leading creates the followers movement inevitabely" and "follower does whatever they want, and the leader is pulled along", and i think as leaders we rely much more on followers collaboration with our wants than we would like to think. Good experiments are: Dance a complete slow tango doubletiming it and using milonga vocabulary (even more interesting with waltzes). Giros are interesting too - a great thing to try are what i think of as extended patterns - instead of front-side-back-side going front-front-front-side-back-back-back-side. Exiting giros on the "wrong" followers step similarly creates interesting effects. Other vocabulary that has strong assumptions - and therefore is easily breakable - are sandwiches - doing a sandwich, but instead of opening space just walking out of it forward into a cross always gets interesting reactions (hopefully amused - i only do these things with followers that are either practice partners or friends). Now with a clear lead, and a good follower these things are all possible, but they don't actually make for a good dance - i can do them once as a joke, but it is obvious that i am intentionally breaking the followers dance, and if i do it all the time i will get a follower that is painfully neutral and has no relationship with the music and with the dance besides experiencing the leaders relationship with the music and the dance (and their only real choice becomes choosing leaders).

    So, lets pick an example that was talked below - the timing of giros. If i lead a giro i in general don't lead the timing - i could if i was really interested in it (and gave up the opportunity to do some leaders adornmens, and i cherish those rare moments ;), but i am more interested in what the follower does. So when i start a giro and am on one leg, and wave my other one around i have absolutely way of leading either SSSS or SSQQ or even if she walks front-front-front-front. I trust that they know that i want them to maintain my balance, and they might also assume that not going QQQQQQ helps me if i want to kick into their steps, and so on, but all of that is not lead. I have danced with followers that couldnt care less about giving me space to kick, and did front-front-front in doubletime.

    If a giro is lead in a clear way what timing will the follower have (the leader is doing enrosques, so they are not setting every step of the giro)? what footwork? is it possible for them to have a different timing without the leader having made an error?
  17. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    OK, sorry for misunderstanding.
    There are two commonly stated philosophies for how the lead & follow works. Over simplified, they are:
    1) Leader leads, the follower follows.
    2) Leader proposes, the follower decides, and the leader follows the follower.

    What I was saying, is somewhere in between those. Both people have a responsibility to accompany each other. They move together, and with each other. No one leaves the other behind, nor forces them to catch up. It's a shared responsibility.

    This makes more sense (at least to me) when talking about something like the molinete.
  18. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Do you mean that you have absolutely no way of leading either SSSS or SSQQ or even if she walks front-front-front-front.
    If that is the case, let's discuss that.
  19. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    In course of my life I learned that when you have 3 people you have 5 opinions :)
    But for me - only one opinion exists: The leader leads and the follower follows. Period. Otherwise it would be Suggester/Follower and Decider... I call it back leading, which is a big no-no.
    I did hear about the #2 philosophy, but neither me nor any of my Tango friends buy it.
  20. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Many opinions exist, and I do have my preferences. However, I'm not trying to tell anyone else what to do, nor criticize their preferences.

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