Tango Argentino > following or 'dancing the woman's role'?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by jfm, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member

    I hope you all don't mind if a ballroom person butts in here, but I'm a BR follower who, well, follows; we have no routine. And all the questions and comments you've made here have been questions and issues I've dealt with as a BR follower. When it's good, when the leader gives me where/when/what/how much, and then lets me respond to it, it's very good indeed. But rare is the leader who demands or expects that from me; many are surprised and displeased when I respond fully. So I go back to being a good girl.

    The OP said:
    In the immortal words of Oliver North's lawyer, I am not a potted plant.
    Subliminal and jfm like this.
  2. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    There are (at least) two completely different meanings for the term "active following", without getting into more subtle differences/variations for the two camps (or definitions).

    To be clear, one of the definitions has to do with the follower providing her own energy to do the steps that are led (rather than the guy pushing her around).

    The other definition (which the OP was talking about) is about the follower at certain times (for lack of a better term), is providing her own intention (different from the leader's) relating to either navigation or timing (and maybe other things that I'm not even aware of). To make this definition even more complicated, I've also heard various rules (making it inconsistent) for when the follower should do this.

    Clearly, it's hard to talk about this when everyone is not crystal clear on what exactly they are referring to. I think it would be helpful when people ask questions about various terms, they would include their definition of the term, so we would actually know which definition (and variation) they are actually asking about.

    To make matters worse, the fanatics on ALL sides of this debate (similar to fanatics on both sides of any debate), tend be be similar types of people, in that they tend to be intolerant of differing opinions and philosophies (i.e. if you don't agree with how I was taught this (or currently believe this), you are wrong).

    Now I try (at least some of the time) to be a bit more pragmatic about these things, since it's an art, and can not be resolved by solving some equation that gives the correct answer for all cases. While I admit to having a preference, I concede that my preference is just that, and thus I accept that others will have different preferences.

    Some styles/philosophies are incompatible with others. I get it that not everyone likes my preferred style for a given song. I also get that I'm no where close to being perfect in my given style either. However, people with a little tolerance, find more people they can enjoy dancing with. However, if you care more about an agenda than enjoying the dance, unspecified results may occur.
  3. jfm

    jfm Active Member

    No you are misinterpreting me and putting words on my fingers.
    I meant both of those definitions but NOT ever messing with navigation because as I pointed out in the original post WE CAN'T SEE and that role has been assigned to the leader, hence him being the leader.
    I am NOT a fanatic, I don't do it all the time, and I don't claim that everybody she have to do it. If I am moved by the music I will change how I respond to the music to COMPLEMENT the intentions of the leader. I am not into hijacking or messing up and interrupting, if I can add an embellishment I might, but it's more about expressing myself in the way I move. It should also reflect how the leader is leading and what he is doing to COMPLEMENT his interpretation. Most of this stuff would only be visible to people watching if they are super experienced, or more likely, if the person is doing it wrong.
  4. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Sometimes I have a certain idea about the music and the dance, and I dictate what we'll do as a couple, but it doesn't last for long. Other times I am intentionally vague, allowing my partner to make choices. I have favorite partners who respond very differently to this.

    One partner is very active in her following and I have to be alert to what she's doing. She often includes her ideas to the dance, sometimes even contradicting what I've lead. I'm okay with this and we have a good time. She's a skilled and creative leader, too.

    Another partner follows me like the shirt I'm wearing. She is totally absorbed in following me and picks up on every subtlety I give. However, she never, in the least tiny way, does anything on her own.
  5. jfm

    jfm Active Member

    My problem is with people who claim that women should have no input into the dance at all other than plodding around relying entirely on the man to interpret the music as if she is deaf, or worse, being dragged or thrown around with no control over her own body, which is what a lot of guys seem to want. As I said before, they treat us like a rag doll.
    Gssh likes this.
  6. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    What does "having a voice in the dance" mean to you? I try not to use terms like that (since they are extremely ambiguous, and seems to have different meanings to many people).

    Do you consider your embrace to be a voice, or do you feel you only have a voice when you are deciding some of the steps?
  7. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    If you are not messing with navigation, then what exactly are you talking about? I made an assumption (apparently incorrect) that you were referring to the philosophy of (or one of the variants): The man invites, The woman decides what she will do, and then The man follows her.

    An embellishment that doesn't cause the leader to have to do something different from his intention, should not cause the leader any concern, (in my opinion).
  8. jfm

    jfm Active Member

    There is more to taking a step than the direction and whether or not you physically powered yourself, or the guy hefted you from one foot to the other. I don't know how to explain it other than I already have, I can only think that either this is a concept outside your experience or mindset, or more likely that you are not actually reading what I have been writing, or you are only mentally registering things that you think are important.
  9. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    OK, assuming that's it's outside my experience or mindset (rather than outside your ability to articulate), would you attempt to explain what these "more things to taking a step" that you are referring to?

    Maybe another way to approach the question(s) might be:
    What are these leaders preventing you from doing, that you desire to do?
    How is this "voice" being expressed, that is not being listened to?
  10. jfm

    jfm Active Member

    I have many times and so have others.

    "If she is making her steps feel different depending on the music (smooth, sharp, languid, powerful, gentle) or very slightly playing with the timing but in a way that immolbilisises him so that he's not going to 'kick' her (as apparently men are wont to do if their follower deviates from the rigid instruction laid down), how would you know by watching?"

    Also read the original post, what GSSSSh has said and what Peaches amongst others have said.

    And also I like how when Andabien asked me a question about clarifying my point, you thought you should answer for me.
  11. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    The one thing I took from your above post is that it seems you wish to change the timing of a step (and my guess is you are not able to get leaders to respond to your desire). If this is wrong (not a part of what you are talking about), then let me know.

    If my statement is correct, then possibly you might take a lesson from someone skilled in this, to improve how to communicate this to the leader (of course it would likely work best with a leader who is receptive to this).

    I'm trying hard to ignore the angst and misunderstandings you are getting from my posts, but let me try to clarify one of my posts. If I am saying I know of two different definitions for a given term, it in no way means that you or anyone else has the same definitions. I wasn't speaking for anyone but myself, and in fact was simply trying to explain why it's difficult to talk about these things, when different people have different meanings for the same terminology.
  12. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I completely agree with that - and i think this is to some extent a structural problem:

    1) leaders getting sold on "there is no counting, no rules, we are completely free to move in ways that whatever feelings the music evokes, or mabe the last dinner, or the sunset"

    2) followers getting sold on "if you just play rag doll (one of my friends calls it "being used as a dance tool") a expereinced leader will make you do all the advanced moves within a few months"

    1) leads to leaders who confuse tango with a solo dance, which makes it impossible for followers to be ahead or even in synch with them, except when they activly disrupt the leaders solo interpretation and replace it with their own solo interpretation. For leaders it has the advantage that they can feel advanced and musical immediately, and any criticism can be countered with "but this is what i felt in the music". The alternative - dealing with the structure of tango, and how to be boring so that the follower can play, too, is much less accessible and offers little immediate payoff.

    2) leads to followers confusing being a good follower with having as little input as possible. The alternative - dealing with the structure of tango, doing active following and so on, from the start again offers much less immediate payoff - both for followers (who wouldn't get to be danced through things that they are not yet able to match the leaders in) and leaders (who would loose quite a bit of the leader power trip that is admittedly quite nice) (and i suspect that it would equalize the learning curves - the idea that one can become a good follower in 1 year, while it takes leaders 5 years is in my opinon one of the most damaging myths in tango. Yes, in one year one can get the skills to be lead through anything, but the skills needed to active follow and shape the dance, i.e. to have a voice as a follower seem to develop at the same rate as leaders skills).

    I keep seeing this over and over - skilled dancers learning tango, being able to follow everything within one year, being able to follow everything perfectly within 3 or 4 years, and then dropping out because there is nowhere to go, and maybe one or two leaders in the community that are maybe fun to dance with. I think as leaders it is to a large extent our fault that tango does not seem to be a sustainable hobby for the very best followers. Sure, the "ragdoll" paradigm creates a environment where a teacher can grab a beginner immediately show of most, and within a few months show off all of his skills, but only by not actually letting her dance, - it might have a function when teachers start communites from scratch, but it is not needed (or useful) in a more mature community.

  13. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    What is this "no counting, no rules" thing? Are people really teaching that you don't have to move to/with the music? That's a pretty important rule, I would think.

    Personally, I think there are all sorts of rules for most every style of tango. It's just that the different styles have different rules for some things. Typically, the debate is about whose rules are "the one and true set of rules".

    As for me, I think it depends on the environment / situation / music / partner / etc., to decide which rules to use and when.
  14. jfm

    jfm Active Member

    Thank you Gssh, that pretty much sums it up. I'm just going to bow out of this entirely now, because I'm tired of being told:
    that I don't know how to dance and need private lessons
    that I'm inarticulate
    that tango is not the dance for me
    that I should shut up
    that guys who don't follow as their primary role know more about my experience than I do
    that I should learn to lead to find out how hard it is
    that a woman needs a man to answer on her behalf
    that a woman who makes a point is really asking for advice
    that I'm saying something entirely different to what I am reading when I review my posts
    that women should be seen and not heard, both on the dance floor and on this forum.
  15. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Miss that donĀ“t-like button. Cutting in late, but I absolutely find it not ok that you blame these guys. The followers are to blame who put up with this attitude without complaining! Do you actually believe that patriarchy should be abolished by pashas? Dreamer!
  16. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    When the community accepted me as a true leader the attitudes towards leaders start to flow over me and I became a masculinist. I definitely became a masculinist!
  17. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Here's a thought for how to go with this thread: Maybe people could tell us scenarios (either successful or failed), when the follower was trying to do something different from the leader's intention, and how they communicated it. From the leader's perspective we could talk about the ways a follower could best communicate that to us. However, I'm not looking to debate about whether she ought to be doing that, but rather what's the best way to communicate (backlead) it.

    The one example I can provide that I felt was done well (by just a few people) was when the follower wanted me to just pause while she did some kind of long embellishment. The best way I've had this done to me was by the follower pressing down (just so slightly), to pause me. It was much more clear what she wanted, rather than the follower just ignoring the lead, doing her own thing, and letting you figure out what to do about it.

    What are other's thoughts on this?
  18. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Only want to add that followers also got a mouth! Actually soooo often in my first years I had to listen to "please slow down, Andreas", or ".. allow me time to..."
  19. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    It can also be a more overall impact. When a follower is hilarious I gladly take all the fast possibilities in a song. It is not a decision, but we just melt together and chase the steps.
  20. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    I remember an advice from my follower days - If the leader is a frenetic figure guy I was supposed to take the ochos veeeery slowly and he will calm down

Share This Page