Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Technique and walking simply

Some time ago, I asked a question on Ask Arlene’s page asking how, having learnt for about 18 months, I could improve my tango (and especially my follower technique). There were lots of helpful suggestions and ideas (several of which I implemented) but the one that has made the most impact on me and my dancing has been taking a regular technique class. Sophie (who had suggested this idea) had said that some people shied away from technique classes as it highlighted faults and for me, this has been the lynchpin.

The classes I have been attending have been for women only and while I think they are very good, they are also not the most ‘enjoyable’ of classes. Surrounded by mirrors and other followers, all of my steps and technique are magnified and I find myself looking aghast as I perform another wonky boleo or realise how clunky and ungainly my walk is. Practising alone on the spot (most of the time without support) really emphasises the importance of staying on one’s own axis and points out how most followers (sneakily) lean on the leader for support. The first month was not fun but since then I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my dancing and have had several comments, especially about my walk which I have been particularly working on. I've become an avid reader of Tango and Chaos which has some useful pages on milonguero style and techniques and although I’m still nowhere near to walking as smoothly as my technique teacher, this subtle improvement has hopefully started me on the right path!

The only problem with this new development, is that not that many leaders just want to walk – even in a practica. Many of them, keep throwing in 'pesky little steps' and so I’ve actually had to ask certain leaders if they don’t mind just walking with me during a whole song. A few don’t mind but others get quite uncomfortable (I think they feel it makes it appear as if they don’t know any steps?!) and still throw in a quick boleo just to liven things up. I feel like saying that sometimes we honestly don’t need all those extra steps; sometimes we just want to move with the music and ignore all the other delightful tangents that distract us. Let’s just walk; simply.

I really like this video as they both walk very elegantly and precisely, but also in a relaxed manner.


  1. There's much written about leaders who concentrate on improving their skills in the fundamentals of Tango and the reasons that they should do so. Very often it's also stated how much followers appreciate doing the 'simple' things. However, it's certainly been my experience and that of other leaders that for every follower who does wish for 'simple', there's another who will literally ASK for the fancier, stage performance efforts; bring on the "double sacada, gancho, barrida" they cry! What's a poor leader who wants to merely please their follower supposed to do?! ;-)

  2. Let's assume that half of the followers want fancy stuff, the other half "simple" stuff.
    In my part of the world (Norway), it seems that most leaders, let's say 95%, tend to assume the followers want fancy stuff and tend to direct their practice at fancy stuff. Of course, these numbers are more or less taken out of thin air, but it seems that leaders tend to overestimate the average follower's attraction to fancy stuff. This means that one has a much greater chance of becoming a popular dance partner by "specializing" in the "simple" stuff. ;-)

  3. Unless a follower tells me they like simple stuff, its difficult to tell whether they like the simple stuff or flashy stuff.

    Sometimes I observe who she dances with. If she is always dancing with men who spins like helicopters and kicking everywhere, I'd avoid asking her for a dance.

    Sometimes inbetween songs I may be able to deduce what the follower is into from the teachers they go to or if I lead a parada, how does she walk over my leg? Does she do a couple of kicks here and there, dance a bit on her own and then walk over?

    Like attracts like - if you want to dance with men who do simple things, my suggestion is don't waste your time on the ones who does flashy stuff as you'll only gain the attention of stage dancers and put off the social dancers. Having said that, tango evolves for many people so don't blacklist anyone for too long :)

  4. 3M: I understand that it can be frustrating. The leader has a responsibility to make the follower enjoy the dance and maybe he(she) may feel at times that they are having to please two very different sets of dancers. It’s almost as if you have to keep tabs on who likes what and where and how – but then isn’t that the fun of women and followers?! LOL
    Certainly, some followers will want all the flair and hoopery of double sacadas, boleos etc but I guess you just need to know who these people are and decide if this is your style as well – you simply can’t dance the perfect style for everyone and it’s impossible to try!

    On the other hand, I can’t image how any follower (even one who loves ‘hyperbole’!) could be led in the above dance and fail to enjoy the musicality and elegance. I know it would make me feel like a Queen.

    Jarle: Let’s keep pulling numbers out of the air! ;-)

  5. I have done technique classes and they are not necessarily fun. They are bloody hard work. Doing a tango walk in 4inch heels on your own axis is a feat to be mastered. And we do it backwards!

    Boys, boys, boys! You cannot be all things to all women no matter how hard you try, so don't. If you prefer to dance large, well then do that and expect not to dance with women who prefer close embrace and dancing small. If you prefer to limit your movements and repertoire, although in time and feelig to the music, then if the woman wants more fancy footwork, you may have to tell her that you are not the man for that. Simples.
    I always look at the dance floor to see how the men dance and if I like what I see, then I make sure I get their attention for a dance. If I accept a dance from someone I don't know, then I expect to dance in their style and save the memory for future reference. If they are being too tricky, I might ask them before the second dance to keep it simple as that is what I prefer.
    This isn't rocket science.

  6. Yes - it is not possible to please everyone. You have to decide which way is the one you think is right, and do it well. Those who do not like it, do not have to dance with you. The women don't dance with people whose dance they don't like - at least, once we've had time to form an opinion, we don't.

    At any rate, I shouldn't think you would really disbelieve what someone says about her own preference, or on the other hand assume that any of us speaks for anyone but herself.

    But in deciding which way to go as a leader, one of the things you might consider is who prefers what. Does the dancing of one group or the other appeal to you more in some other way, or is it the same?

    @golondrina - email me about a practica where you can walk.

  7. I have to admit that I'd already chosen the style of Tango I most wanted to learn, develop and hopefully improve some time ago. Indeed at a recent milonga, after a tanda, I commented to my follower (in an ever-so-slightly 'apologetic' tone) that I do very little [in the way of anything fancy]. She immediately replied (sincerely, I believe!) "Yes, but you do it beautifully." That totally made my night ;-)

  8. What a lovely comment! One to remember when I find a leader that likes to dance simply/elegantly.