Tango Argentino > Good article on why leading in not more important than following

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Someday, Jun 4, 2017.

  1. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Steven never used the term "apilodo," but that is a term that describes the style he was teaching. In apilado the partners form a single vertical axis rather than maintaining their own axis. Your partner can "make you" take a step by simply "moving away" from you. (or you can "break in the middle while keeping your feet in the same place)

    You know the saying about four legs, two bodies, and one heart.
    You don't take a step independent of your partner. The two of you step together. This is much more so in the apilado style than other styles.

    "We began with the idea of a well integrated body that healthfully takes gravity to the ground through your body."

    I could "always" tell where a Steven Payne trained female's weighted foot, and axis were. That makes the dance so much more enjoyable and full of possibilities.

    I guess we can work our way through the physics of dance and the imprecision of dance vocabulary, again.

    The main take away here is that there ARE some people who gave an equal emphasis to the two haves of the AT partnership. But those folks are few and far between.
  2. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    Ah. Thanks for the clarification. Apilado=constant pressure between partners, so that either partner can modulate that pressure to control the dance. It is still pressure, not step size, that is the driving mechanism. No?
  3. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I'm going to say yes and no, because there is the question of how does the woman create and control what the man perceives as pressure.
    I'd say, "creating pressure" and the size of HER step are very closely related. And here we begin to parse a "step" and note the importance of the woman putting the heel down and putting her weight "into the floor."
    If you've ever "asked your partner to step towards you by "leaning away" from her rather than simply pulling her along as you move backwards, you maybe know what I'm trying to convey. (or danced the role of the follower)
  4. Joy In Motion

    Joy In Motion Active Member

    Thank you so much; I really appreciate your comment. (I’m the author of the article in question.)

    The second sentence actually does put my first sentence in more context: "In the most common analogy for the dance partnership, the follower is the picture and the leader is the frame. But when it comes to the skills required for these two roles, the frame seems to get all the attention while the picture fades into the background."

    My intention was to contrast this common analogy (which places the follower front and center) with how we judge skill and difficulty in the two roles (putting the leader front and center). My intention wasn’t to endorse the analogy at all, only to use it as a tool. I actually dislike the analogy and was using it tongue-in-cheek, as in my circles this analogy is believed to be totally inaccurate. But I can totally see how just the fact of repeating it, especially in the opening line of my article, may make it seem that I support the analogy, and it seems obvious to me now that the average reader wouldn’t necessarily be able to discern this. I didn’t even consider these things when I wrote the opening, but now I can see how someone might (and did) read this and just assume that’s how I view the dance partnership, and that is definitely not the case. With this in mind, I have edited the opening section of my article. Thank you so much for calling me out on this so I could reevaluate how my words were coming across and make amends to more accurately reflect my worldview and my dance views.
    itwillhappen and oldtangoguy like this.
  5. AlanJones

    AlanJones New Member

    Energy, not so much.

    Interesting, the energy...One of the best teachers in Europe taught it with an ocho, giving this either in part or all the way through to the music. I liked it, as the partner isn't sure what is coming and can join in through the figure!
  6. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    Maybe - maybe not. Let's perform an experiment in mind that eliminates all those factors, especially teaching.
    So we take a representative group of people and decide randomly who should lead and follow, especially gender independent.
    And we build a perfect practica, where all the time partners are available, well skilled and smiling - but they don't say anything more than "thanks".
    Every participant can look or dance and we're not in a hurry - when half of the group feels ready to dance at a real world milonga the setup changes to exactly this.

    How will leaders and followers experience the situation - is leading or following more difficult?
  7. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    I used to think that maybe women had more natural talent for dancing: maybe they should be the leaders. I was disabused of that notion when I observed a group class with a couple of lesbian couples. The leaders in both couples were making the same dumb mistakes the average newbie male would. My takeaway from that observation was that yes, leading is difficult. Period. Regardless of gender.

    I often ask newbie women, some who've never had a dance lesson, to dance. Fresh off the street there's a spectrum of ability that ranges from refrigerator to "Are you sure you've never had lessons?". But the average women fresh off the street can follow at least simple basics with minimal instruction ("The rhythm goes SQQ starting with your right foot") and we can have a pleasant dance even if it's just a basic. I doubt that even an experienced follow would get the equivalent out of the average male fresh off the street.
    LateToTheDance likes this.
  8. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    There are also men (and women) who are natural leaders, and who are, presented with a partner, intuitively know and/or very quickly figure out what to do.
    The thing is, in our culture those kind of people seldom want to take up dance classes. :) Especially men.
  9. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I am not fond of "weight" personally - i don't think leaders are feeling the followers weight, but their resistance to movement, which is a function of alignment and footwork. A book on lying on its flat side is impossible to knock over, when on its narrow side it is easy - the weight is the same. Sliding something over a rubber mat is difficult, sliding the same over a soapy plastic sheet is easy, and if the thing is actually pulled by another force in the same direction is is even easier. So even when we imagining the follower to be completely passive what the leader has to deal with is alignment and friction with the ground. And i would argue that followers work these two aspects of resistance to movement independently from each other, and leaders have to be aware of them separately, too.

    Lets think about this in terms of bases. If the leader marks a small step, and the follower takes a large step and the leader is not able to follow the follower into the space they have opened then then follower misjudged the length of step the leader is able to support. The leader is between axes during the step, they can't be pulled off axis - the problem only comes when they are not able to step far enough to put a base under their new axis. And that happens because the step length is determined not only by the degree the center moves, but also by the music. A longer step has to be faster to arrive on same beat as a smaller step, and a lot of being able to set a leaders (or followers) feet is about this relationship between speed, length and timing, and how to communicate all three in the initial mark (for the leader leading a step), and during the step (for the follower shaping the couples movement).
    In terms of timing of walking forward it looks something like this:

    1) The leaders center moves
    2) The followers center starts to move
    3) The followers feet move supporting the followers center as it continues moving beyond where they would lose their balance
    4) the leaders center continues moving, and the leaders feet move to support the leaders center

    Now what determines the step length is a delicate combination of the pressure and the speed of pressure at 1), the relationship between those two and the length of the pulse in the music, where the followers center stops at 3) and where the leaders center stops at 4).
    The leader is moving into the space vacated by the follower. If the space opened at 3) is larger than the leader expected they can actually not do much against it, they have given up their base at the beginning of their step, and the follower can extend this step into more space. There are limits on much this step can be varied by the follower without the leader losing their axis, just as there are limits how long a step a leader can mark without the follower losing their axis. Basically the leader feels how the geometry of the couple is changing, and adjusts during the flight of their step to accomodate this, just like a follower feel how the geometry of the couple is changing, and adjusts to accomodate this. The leader already has given up their axis when they leave their base, and the follower moving that unmoored axis more than expected only leads to the step extending.

    One of the core skills required of a follower to do that is having a good connection, and awareness of the leaders geometry, and that is again something that we often don't practice enough. Just like the way leaders use pressure, timing, and alignment to communicate step length and dynamics - as a leader it is no problem to get a follower of their axis in a front step by miscuing them about our intentions, and then either running them over because they read a shorter step than we did, or having then hang overextended because they read a longer step than we did - and we all remember how difficult it was as beginners to get this down, and how we did all kinds of 3-track and 4-track cheats to avoid having to be precise with that ;).
  10. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    Reflecting on this, I have to agree. I really did mean resistance to movement, but also pressure. I can feel pressure when I am stationary, which tells my that, perhaps, the follow wants me to mark a small step, or she wishes to manage the direction of my step. But if I move contrary to that indication, my partner still has two choices: 1. Do not resist and go easily with the lead. 2. Resist the motion.

    So, in reflection, I'm imagining pressure as a largely static phenomenon, and resistance to motion as dynamic.

    But perhaps I need to think about this a little further.
  11. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I usually don't consider feeling pressure when stationary to suggest that the follower wants me to mark a small step - i tend to think of the stationary pressure we set up like the coiling of a snake, creating energy for movement. This might be a consequence of me preferring parallel counterbalanced close embrace, so the couple has coiled energy when standing still, and relaxes into motion, which is in some ways the reverse of other frameworks where the couple is relaxed when standing still, and then creates centrifugal and linear motion energy in movement.
    So i see 3 choices once couple starts to move (and the couple starts to move because the leader increases the energy, and the follower allows the coiled energy to transform into motion - we are both to some extent actively deciding to make it happen - the only reason this works is that the music provides a framework with limited options where it is sensible to move - as the leader (i.e. being usually heavier than my partners) i probably could force my partner into the step by just not stopping increasing the pressure, but what happens in practice is that if i mark, and they don't go we maintain the now higher coiled energy, and i wait for wait to see how/when they wants to use it - most often it is us not being quite on the same page with what phrasing we want to use, and synching our musicalities):
    1) Do not resist / release energy to get back to the level of coiling at collection that we had before - the couple moves as much as i expect due to my mark
    2) Resist / release less energy - we move less
    3) Amplify / allow the coiled energy to completely deplete, or even "overdraw" our energy budget by moving further - in these cases i as the leader can also feel using the connection what is happening, and i have change my footwork / step longer to maintain/refill the energy in the connection. The key to that is that i have to feel this during the step, so i can follow and fill the empty space they have created. If i feel this too late i am going to step too short, and the geometry of the couple will break. How to communicate this, and figure out how far they can deform the couple without it breaking is a tricky skill, and (kinda repeating myself) something that is rarely taught and instead seems to pop out of nowhere with advanced followers.
  12. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    I have a theory about this. I think a big contributing factor is that leads can improve via group lessons longer than follows. Not because teachers teach to the leads and leave the followers behind. Most of the group lessons I've taken give equal attention to the follows. I think it's because follows are much more dependent on their partner while learning than leads.

    When I take a group class as a lead, I can be paired with a follower who's out of her depth and still get some learning done. But I've taken group classes as a follow, and it's brutal. If I'm with a lead who can't at least attempt to execute the class concepts, I'm out of luck (not from a lack of trying). And it is so, so common these days for people to take classes above their level. It was very disheartening for me trying to improve my following.

    Great respect for follows who stick with it and keep improving.
  13. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    The pressure can change. It increases if the follower is resisting moving (like stopping earlier than you intended). It decreases if she steps farther away than you intended (unless she leans into you more to increase the pressure). FWIW, it's also possible for the direction of the pressure to change as well.

    IMO, both people need to be able to detect the changes in pressure, which enables them to work together, to adjust as needed.
  14. Someday

    Someday Member

    Sorry for the delayed response on my part and thanks for the thoughtful and detailed responses.

    My motivations in posting is that I have seen many of the traits discussed in the article shared with classes and specifically followers. Such comments (in the article) as:

    “It’s always the leader’s fault”

    “Don’t think, just follow”

    or as I’ve heard in classes, “all you have to do is hold your posture and axis and I can control you” or where the male teacher takes the leads to teach them steps and the follower’s assistant has the women do a grapevine step and that’s it.

    Since I mostly lead and sometimes follow, the article made me appreciate the complexity of the follow in greater detail. And, how much of following is really ‘doing everything the lead is doing but backwards and in high heels’ to paraphrase Ginger Rogers. So, it’s perhaps with some guilt that I bought into some of the above dismissive statements about the follower’s role. That’s my fault and it’s good to be reminded that there is another, more wholistic (partnership/connection) based view which doesn’t “…always blame the leader”. One of my take-aways is not to use the above expressions (I’m guilty of “it’s always the leader’s fault” most often said as a way of acknowledging that there was a mistake, taking responsibility even if it wasn’t my fault so that we can move on). I say it more as a courtesy to indicate ‘no fault’. Perhaps a ‘sorry’ is more appropriate as it doesn’t indicate fault and doesn’t free the follower from accepting a role in the movement. By the way, I’m speaking of classroom efforts or a practica, not a Milonga where I generally don’t say anything and we just move on. What do other’s say when there is a mistake in the movement?

    The author points out that more ladies try leading than men try following and based on my experiences, it seems to be true. The author emphasizes the value in leads learning to follow and I wholeheartedly agree. I wouldn’t want to spend all my time following to be sure, but there is a lot to learn in being on the receiving end of what I’m giving when I lead.
    PS. Glad to see the author of the article responding.
  15. Someday

    Someday Member

    Tom, you are so right on this topic. It's the number one complaint of my wife who used to attend classes with me. As you say, as a lead, even with a newbie follower, there is usually something to learn. But an experience follower has to bear with the lead no matter what their skill level. Often times, leads are so tensed up in trying the movement themselves, any feedback from the follower is ill-received, and this may (or does) have repercussions at a practica or milonga where the follow might not be asked to dance even though their feedback was delivered civilly and constructively. So, unless she is specifically asked, my wife kept quiet and suffered through it.
  16. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    Yes - and one can think about whether that's a consequence of the difficulties of leading ... or whether the teachers are bad teachers (and students that pay for that are stupid students) ... or whether the guys are bad guys. (Just an open question, maybe tango attracts bad guys more than other activities, too.)

    My SO accommpanied me honestly in regular classes as long as I needed that. And she was unburdened when I stopped it the time I was at a level to dance unstressed at milongas. (Beside that round here we rotate the partners not often.)
  17. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    On leaders' path tango is more difficult at the beginning.
    On followers' path tango is more difficult at advanced levels.
  18. tangomaniac

    tangomaniac Active Member

    I remember a woman posting to Tango L that leaders get 80% of the benefit in group classes in learning how to lead a figure. The women get the remaining 20%. She wrote that a woman's purpose was to help a man get better. A lousy leader doesn't help a woman get better. (I won't get into the arguing that sometimes ensues when a woman follows what a man leads, NOT what the man thinks he is leading. They are not always the same.)

    BUT they pay the same for the class though they don't get equal benefits.
  19. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    I remember a women's technique tango class, given by our local female teacher together with an invited argentine maestra (probably Carla Marano, not sure). T'was forbidden to men except for the last part of the last workshop, were leaders were needed. So we leaders entered the class 20 minutes before the end.

    "What you doing here? Oh yes, we invited men for the last part" were the welcoming words of the two teachers. "We won't be needing you, the sequence is very simple and it uses the elements we've been working on during the whole afternoon. But you can watch."

    And yes it was a simple sequence. Yet none of the pupils was able to lead it. The two teachers demonstrated the sequence again. The pupils switched, the one who had tried to lead becoming the follower. It was not better.
    One teacher looked at the clock on the wall, saw that there was not much time left, and asked us to join in.
  20. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    I think that your blog opening was just an indicator, not the real point.
    Rather this one:
    Me and everybody I know personally has the experience, that in general it is much more difficult / takes much more time to get "proficient" for a leader than for a follower. Given that is it not helpful to declare this simply to be an illusion and bring some arguments that IMHO cannot get couterbalaced against "leading".

    It would be totally sufficent to show methods how that imbalance in the beginning can get balcenced better and to build a bridge to the situation of advanced following.
    Positive: there are some methods in your blog article and some in this thread.
    But why do I miss the obvious: to teach femals and males both roles from the beginning?

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