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

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

  1. LKSO

    LKSO Active Member

    Here's a different perspective:

    I can dance the woman's role very well and I have never learned any of the "steps" (e.g. ocho, molinete, etc.) However, I can do them perfectly fine as long as the man is clear in his lead. But, the problem is that most men don't dance very well. I hear the music but the men don't respond to it. For example, there may be a climactic phrase but we are just walking like the climax doesn't even exist. This bothers me because I feel one thing but my body is doing something else. At this point, my passivity feels wrong and I am tempted to move on my own. This may be the reason why many women become frustrated with simply being a "follower" because following these men is like a slow drive through hell.

    But this is simply the result of having such a low ratio of skilled male dancers to begin with. And for women, the likelihood that they would dance with a skilled male dancer is quite low, especially if the woman is also of low skill. Having dance after dance with bad dancers is no fun, either for the man or for the woman. This is probably the reason why women are so frustrated.
    Lui and Kelena like this.
  2. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    Yes I'm joking. Since i have danced with one follower where the lead disappeared and it was incredibly playful, I appreciate that input when it is skilfully done, but quite honestly there are maybe three dancers I have experienced who are good enough to do that.

    I am not making a general remark about a woman's right to be heard.

    I dance with the woman I'm with, not some notion of how I think she should be. So some like to play and if they do it well, I'll play, if they do it badly then I might not chose to dance with them again. One dancer turns every forward ocho into a lustrada, that is just annoying. But I rarely lead paradas anyway since IMO they interfere with the flow of the dance, and they are better suited to the stage and for an audience.

    I disagree with GSSH's remark "in my opinion in non-traditional music the risk of being domineering might even be a bit larger, as the leader is becoming less predictable for the follower, it sometimes becomes "leader dances and expects the follower to wait for every impulse, and then gratiously gives her a few seconds where she is allowed to dance, before he picks up the reins again").

    Dancing to slow non-traditional music seems to be the forte of a relatively few number of dancers. Most don't seem to know how - this applies equally to both leaders and followers. But I very much enjoy it but finding a follower who feels the nuances within slow movement is pretty hard.

    So given the quality of followers available i would rather they dance well without "active following" if it detracts from the dance. I can think of at least one dancer who I like dancing with less now, because she is always trying to "do stuff" but the result is clunky dancing. Maybe she's just getting old..
  3. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Disclaimer: I know JanT won't like this and I respect and understand why. On the other hand we don't all live in BA and get to dance with the milongeuros very week!
    JFM -- you have a different experiences from those I have dancing in BsAs. I would like to share my thoughts.

    So I've been reading a lot of posts in various threads about the 'follower' just following, or the follower creating part of the dance.
    Is it possible that the dislike of calling the role of the person facing away from the line of dance 'the woman' for PC reasons (I agree that calling it the woman's role is heteronormative and not always the best use of language depending on who is in the class) has led to an over-simplification in terms of roles within the partnership?
    When I write or speak about tango, I refer to the man and the woman. Each has a role in the dance. The woman is not submissive, but sensitive to the man who creates the dance for her. She brings her sensitivity to the dance.

    I can see why, and agree that the primary driver of the dance by way of choosing when to step and in what direction is the 'leader'. Clearly only one person has a view of the dance floor in the direction of progress and because women are on average smaller, a woman might not have much peripheral vision depending on her partner (or man if he is short and following a taller man!).

    Women can be more selective about their partners. I am short and prefer to dance with men who are about my height with heels. He isn't the only one with a view of the floor. I dance with my eyes open, looking over his shoulder, and using peripheral vision to help him. If we get too close to others on his blind side, I adjust so he knows. I am all for women dancing with eyes open and awareness of others on the floor.

    But this doesn't mean the other person can't contribute by interpreting the music in the way that they step or when.
    That's what it's all about -- putting your feeling of the music into your dance.

    Isn't it nice to feel like a conversation is going on and that you are creating the dance together?
    That is WHY we dance. Another form of expression.

    I'm not picking on JohnEm, he's just the most recent person to have use the phrase "one body four legs".
    If you haven't had the experience, you don't know what you're missing.

    To me that doesn't proscribe the 'follower' from influencing the dance, if you mean that the two bodies are in tune and responding to each other. If on the other hand it means 'my body with two extra legs that I'm borrowing from someone else for 10 minutes' that doesn't sound so poetic.
    Two are so intune they dance as one body. How's that?

    I can see how, as a beginner follower or whatever, when you still have to work hard to interpret what is being led, dancing with a really excellent leader who doesn't require any effort on your part to follow can be really nice and enjoyable when you totally surrender and let him do all the work.
    Two share in making the dance a pleasure for each other. It isn't work.
    Having a break from resisting hideously over led ochos or being flung around in a giro that gives you no time to complete a step is blissful and completely switching off can be very very nice.
    It's always a woman's choice to dance. Learn to be choosy.

    There is a point, when you no longer have to 'work' to follow where being moved around like a piece of furniture is very pleasant but not quite fulfilling. You dance with the same guys week in, week out and they all have things they like to do at a particular time, in a particular way for most pieces of music that come on. Or they just do Miles's golden nugget the whole time, but with a beautiful embrace (JK!). Shoot me for being a bi*ch, but I get bored.
    The men with whom you dance don't get what tango is about. If they don't dance for you, why dance with them? Exercise? you can go to the gym or park for that. No woman gets bored dancing with a milonguero in BsAs. Trust me on that.

    There is a point when having no influence at all is dehumanising. It always makes me smile when someone points out a follower and says "she's dancing by herself" and what you see is her following by rote 90% of the time but every so often she puts in an embellishment or takes two tiny steps instead of one big one. OK yes, if a woman is back leading or ignoring the leader to a large extent, maybe she's dancing by herself, but if you think the other way, if the leader never listens to the follower, or doesn't like listening to the follower... maybe he is the one dancing with himself.
    True. He thinks that tango is about steps.

    Why bother dancing with another person if you aren't interacting with them except to control them? Why not just dance with a robot or a rubber crash dummy... or dance on your own?

    Well said.

    One day your tango will come from inside, and you won't want anyone to laugh.
    I'll probably get pedantically ranted at for this but I just wanted to describe a little of why followers sometimes want to have some input. I find it much more rewarding when I am allowed a bit of back and forth and if it's playful music... maybe to make my partner laugh without compromising the flow. I agree that back leading and endless big adornos are distracting and unpleasant... but hey guys I often hear "we're doing it to please the follower, it's all about the follower!" ... maybe sometimes you'd let us please you!

    One day your tango will come from inside, and you won't want anyone to laugh.
    The way you please him is to enjoy the dance together. He knows it without a word being said.

    Not trying to start an argument just trying to put forward my view on the role of the person who can't see.

    Interesting perspective. Stay in the moment with the music. If you can't give 100% of yourself in the dance, don't dance at all. You will only cheat yourself and your partners.

    Who told you to close your eyes? That is no part of social dancing. Tango is a social dance.
  4. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I reread the original post the other day, and have been pondering it a bit. I haven't bothered to read the entire thread; I was keeping up with it until recently, when the thread exploded with posts and went off the rails for a bit. But some musings on the topic...

    Whenever I've encountered a situation where I'd be tempted to describe it as "one body, four legs" it was the absolute furthest from "borrowing someone else for 10 minutes" that I could possibly imagine. I've only had it a couple of times, but for those times it was a bizarre sensation of panic (Oh my god I can't feel the lead! Where's the lead?!?! Where's the LEAD?!?! WHERE'S THE LEAD?!?! OH MY GOD WHERE IS THE FRICKIN' LEAD?!?!?!)...followed by the realization that dancing had been happening for the last 30 seconds, without any effort to follow at all. No thinking, no wondering, no feeling-the-lead-then-following. Just as if the two of us were spontaneously making the complimentary movements to the music at the same time. Absolutely, mind-blowingly divine. (Like, "'scuse me while I go outside and have an afterglow cigarette for a moment. Oh, I know I'll smell like smoke and no one will want to dance with me. Don't care. Could die happy right this instant. The night has now been made perfect...going home. *fans self*) You know I'm no friend of JohnEm (again, mentioning him here because you have), but in this one instance I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe this is the sort of experience he meant by the phrase. It's something that never ever made a damn bit of sense to me...until it happened.

    For me the desire to switch off v. be active has an interesting correlation to a leader's skill. I'm not sure how much of this differs from what you're saying because I don't, at this point, consider myself a "beginner follower," but still... Yeah, with some guys it takes all my effort to just follow--the lead isn't clear, I have to work to keep from being pushed off my axis by guys who can't lead, I have to work to just follow when he's stepping because it bears no relation to the music (I really should find a way to keep better track of who I've put on my Do Not Dance With list.).

    With other guys...well, you said it perfectly:
    It'll have to be a murder-suicide then, because I get just as bored as you. (I've never claimed to not be a b*tch.) This seems to be the vast majority of the guys I encounter. Oddly enough, while this would be the time you'd think I'd be the most interested in trying to influence things a bit...it really isn't. I find myself spending most of the time just trying to be present, to not check out, to not zone out. Shuffle, shuffle, cross, media luna, shuffle, shuffle, hesitation, shuffle, side step, side step, broccoli, milk, pork chops, cat litter, don't forget to take the car in for an oil change. What? Oh, yes, thank you for the tanda. Butter, shampoo... You get the point. And I've tried influencing these leaders...and invariably it doesn't work. These are the zombie leaders. No feeling through the body. No change in anything other than the basic steps (and even then, not much) from one sort of music to another. If I try anything (maybe holding a beat a bit longer, or trying to make my body feel different, or anything to suggest musicality) it goes over like a lead balloon. To quote the movie that got me to want to dance in the first place: "It's like dancing with my mother's ironing board." And as much as I love a good embrace, I don't wanna hear that crap line about "it's all about the embrace, with the music." When I'm dancing with an ironing board, you can be sure there's no decent embrace going on. No subtlety, no give, no feeling...zombie leader. Arm clamped around my back, other arm invariably at some damn angle that leaves my shoulder aching, sometimes squeezing me half to death without giving me room to breathe or move (we're not all pretzels, no matter how much we'll get dinged for not dissociating enough--my back just does.not.do.that any more), other times trying as hard as possible to get as far away from my--OH MY GOD SHE HAS BOOBS!--chest as possible while still staying in "close embrace." Nothing to enjoy in that sort of embrace at all.

    This, to me, is when dehumanizing really kicks in. I don't know if it's not wanting to listen to the follower, or just not being good enough to. (I have suspected for a very long time now that much of the "preference" for simpler steps is really just a mask for "I can't be bothered with technique or actually trying to be any good.") But this is when I really feel like he is dancing by, and for, himself only. And you're right...why are they even bothering to dance with someone else? And why am I bothering to dance with them? (See: needing to keep better track of my Do Not Dance With list.) And why should I drive an hour each way to dance with guys like this at a milonga? And aren't there any guys who are better than this? Why am I even bothering to dance tango at all any more? (My current situation...which it's been very hard to get myself out of, I'll admit.)

    But then...but then...you end up
    . And this is when--sometimes--I really feel the urge to play and really try to deliberately add my own "influence" to the dance. They really _get_ the music. They're listening to me. I can feel a sense of listening, and almost playfulness, in their lead. If I move my body differently, they'll match it and let that inform the steps. They play what I could only term "musical jokes" with the music and the dancing. They are actually paying attention--first to the music, which is informing the dance to the point I can FEEL it, and FEEL the music. And they're paying attention to what I'm doing, and responding to it. Those are the leaders that make me really want to add my own personality.

    Perhaps I should take the time to point out that I am NOT talking about hijacking. I am not talking about dancing only for myself. I'm sure I'm talking into the wind and I'll get accused of it anyhow, not that I'm mentioning any names. *ahem* But haven't you ever played with the timing of a step through your body--knowing where your feet had to go and when, but letting your body play a bit in the space in between--and had a leader feel that, and when you're ready to move your body to follow your feet again he'll hold you there just a fraction-of-an-instant longer? Or you do something through your body, he likes it, and leads the step that made you want to do that thing with your body in the first place? Or when you get led in a step-over, you take the time to establish eye contact just for a split second, and it's electrifying? Not actively changing the dance, not hijacking, not dancing for yourself. Playing with, and for, each other.


    And then we get to the "sometimes" I mentioned two paragraphs up. Sometimes, with some really great leaders, I don't feel that playfulness or that listening. I don't feel anything at all. No lead. Just...the embrace. Just...the music. These are the "one body, four legs" dances. These are the dances where, when the music ends, it's like surfacing, like coming back to my body, back to reality, back to myself. There has been nothing else in the world other than the music and the embrace and...well, god knows what, because I'm usually so out-of-my-head I have no real concept of anything around me. I don't feel the urge to "add to" these dances...because I don't really ever feel the lead enough to know what to play with. It's below that level of consciousness. I feel confident, though, that there is plenty of musicality and "active following" (whatever that bastard of a phrase means) going on. Tansendant.
    Denada Dance likes this.
  5. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    What if you find transendant experiences rather dull?

    I did a lot of following yesterday in a workshop. I just closed my eyes and relaxed, tried to do everything women are supposed to do. It was just so effortless it was really really dull.
    I was bored. Is this really what all the fuss is about? :rolleyes:

    I've had similar (and more enjoyable) experiences doing that thing where a circle of people hold you. You just relax mentally. And doing Tai chi push-hands with two other people.

    If any woman wants to be active because she's bored while dancing with me then its absolutley fine by me.:D I had one fun dance when I started doing toe taps and the guy leading me started playing..
  6. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Maybe it was the leader's fault.

  7. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Yes, I was going to suggest this. I've certainly had boring conversations. I guess it can happen in dance, too.
  8. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Were you wearing heels? Do? Dull? Bored? Fuss?
    It sounds like you are ready to quit and find something more enjoyable to do.

    Where did you get the idea that tango is fun? If that is all you want, it is no wonder you are bored.
  9. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    No I just don't want to be a follower, and as i said I want to dance with ladies who engage with me and the music, not anal or muppet followers.
    Fun isnt all that I want, where did you get the idea that it was?
    Perhaps i should have made it clear that this was a milonga I was dancing too. Its okay to have fun whilst dancing a milonga isn't it Jan? I have seen dancers smile whilst dancing. Is that allowed?
  10. Kelena

    Kelena New Member

    Can a smile be forbidden? :)
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  11. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    (As an natural scientist) only want to add that smiling stems from baring one´s teeth. Still moments of shock, riding roller coaster, meeting your line manager,
    ..... and of course being lead often results in simultaneous elevation of both mouth corners.

    And welcome to DF, Kelena!

  12. Kelena

    Kelena New Member

    Thanks for welcoming "opendoor"!
    I smile a lot "playing" all my roles - as an ex scientist biologist and as a follower on the dance floor without thinking what neurotransmitters were involved ;)

    Wonderful picture of a smiling follower! (of you "opendoor" ?)!!!
  13. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

  14. Kelena

    Kelena New Member

    :) very good photographer! is he also a tango dancer?
  15. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Him? :cool: Honestly, I linked my photo to put myself into the play... (Just kidding)
    Kelena likes this.
  16. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Uh huh...
    Kelena and opendoor like this.
  17. Señor Gancho

    Señor Gancho New Member

    I have a teacher who despises embellishments and consistently tells women in his class not to do them, but I disagree with him. I think adornos can add a great deal to a dance. They help describe the music and give simple steps more pizazz, breaking up repetition. I like to feel that the dance is a conversation as much as anything, and when I talk to someone and they just nod and don't say anything back, it gets a bit wearisome. Pausing and inviting the follower to interpret the end of a phrase also gives me time to think about what to do next!

    The main thing, I suppose, is that these adornos don't interfere with the lead. I once danced with a lady who had just completed a workshop in women's styling and technique. Dancing with her was exhausting, she embellished every single step so much that I couldn't tell what leg she was on and completely messed up my timing. All I could hear was the air swishing around as her legs went mental and she nearly kicked me at several points.
  18. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    If you're in a social dance class, your teacher is correct. Embellishments are for performance, not the social floor. Looking for pizazz in tango isn't going to help you feel it. It takes time for women to learn they don't have to embellish every single step. They want to use what they paid to learn, but is not necessary.

    Feeling tango comes when you stop thinking steps and get lost in the moment with the music.
  19. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Ok, this is a personal rant, but I think that the image of "dancing as a conversation" is one of the things that should never have been started. We aren't (well, should not) take turns talking to each other, and responding to each others points, so on.

    The image I like is the image of "dancing as surfing".
    The relationship between the leader and the follower is like the relationship between the wave and the surf. She has complete freedom to do whatever she wants - under the one condition that she has to stay on the board.
    The same is true for the relationship between the follower and the music, and the leader and the music.
    As a leader I am not pausing and inviting the follower to interpret the end of a phrase because I have been talking, and now it is her turn, but I am pausing because I follow some the music, and it gives me space to do so, and the follower is not interpreting my pause because I have given them that space, but because they are following a different line in the music, and they also understands my relationship with the music and our geometry, and trust us that we are both listening to the same music, which means she knows how much space there is, and where I am going to go next from where.
    (of course in reality there is a feedback loop in there - as a leader I am riding the followers energy and their relationship with the music as much as they are riding mine, but I have not yet found a image that conveys that well - it is not a conversation (which to some extent implies (at least to me) taking turns, and that we are conversing with each other, but in some ways it is more like a teamsport, like a soccer game: the follower is the striker, and the leader is the midfield, and the music is the opposing team - we see the same openings, and react to them in synch, but what the midfield does is conditional on where the strikers are, and what the strikers do is conditional on the midfield. And sometimes an interpretation of the music surprises us, but if it is a good surprise or a bad surprise depends on the question if the striker read the positioning of midfield as well as the positioning of the other team, and if we actually are going to be able to pass there, of if it is just going to create chaos in the midfield and catch everybody off position. - or as a similar image the leader is the quarterback and the follower is offensive line and the receivers - we get to call a play, but how it develops, and who we end up passing to depends on what the other team (i.e. the music) does and the ability of both the quarterbacks and the rest of the teams to read and react to that.

    Ok, this is exactly as ranty as i thought it would get, but i think the basic point is that for me tango is not a converstation between the leader and the follower about the music, but is is the leader and the follower tag teaming the music - an adorno is not something the follower inserts into gaps the leader offers them/that the more or less forcefully carve out of the leaders dance, but they are moments where the follower has an opening /sees a threat the leader doesn't, and they basically say "i got your back/i got that one/i cover that flank, you cover the other one/you can't take this one, step out, and i will take care of it (or the leader asking "this one is too much, can you take over?".

    YMMV, and all that
  20. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    That was a long time ago :)

    Let me try to expand the metaphor i have started above to this: I feel a lot of non-traditional music does not offer a interesting "opposing team" -the rhythmic lines tend to be too predictable, and the melodic lines tend to be too un-predictable. So the team i am playing against consists to 2/3 of stationay practice dummies, and 1/3 of randomly bouncing beachballs, and our team has trouble setting up a strategy and identifying openings. Now this a great environment for one person to say "lets run this drill", and maybe switching roles and then the other person calls the plays, but as there is relatively little going on the playing field it is hard to actually play the game. I don't really like calling plays if i don't have the feeling that the follower would have called the same play/a similar play because that is what the situation on the field favours. Sure, sometimes hail mary plays are fun, but they are not something to base a whole game on.


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