Wednesday, 28 April 2010

An aspiring leader

If you are a follower then learning to lead brings up some interesting issues. When I first started following, I would anticipate moves too quickly, I didn’t wait for ‘la marca’, I just guessed – incredibly frustrating for the leaders I was with! When I was trying to solve this problem, I decided that it might be good to learn to lead, my logic being that if I understood how frustrating it was to have a happy-go-lucky kind of follower, I might improve myself.

I mentioned this to my teacher and quite rightly (I now believe) she said she thought it was too early for me to try and learn the other part; that it would confuse me and make me less coherent. By this stage, I had only been dancing about 8 months (!) and now looking back on it, I think what a ridiculous idea! My teacher was very kind and told me that originally in BA, men used to learn to follow for about 2-3 years before being allowed to start to lead and that perhaps I should think in terms of that time period. My outlook has changed a bit now (I’m a much better follower) but I still think it is important to learn to lead but I understand now realistically that still might be some way off.

The other night however, I was asked to lead in a class where there were too many women. It didn’t go well and afterwards, I tried to think about why I led so badly and what makes a good leader. I realised that my problem was that I couldn’t convey my meaning across to the other person and that makes me feel very one sided. I can understand the language (ie: following) but I can’t speak it myself (ie: leading). However, when I say ‘understand’ I don’t mean that I can explain why I know what a particular signal means, I mean that somehow I just ‘know’ what to do. This means it is very hard when I’m dancing with a leader and they ask me why a move went wrong. ‘What would make you do X or Y?’ they ask and I can’t give them a sensible answer.

When I explained this to a friend (a leader), he said that he experienced it the same way but as a leader. He obviously could say ‘I do X and Y and she moves Z’ but this was only how it worked for him in a class situation. Once he was out on the dance floor and caught up in the tango, he just responded to the music. Moves came out of his lead without him consciously planning them and sometimes something magical would happen. Everything would flow from one to the other and then suddenly he’d realise the music was drawing to an end, and he had been dancing seamlessly and unconsciously for the last 2/3 minutes.

Something to aim for!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Just like on the Discovery Channel ...

There are some leaders that I truly love to chat to. They think the same tango way that I do and always have interesting conversation. Most of these leaders that I chat to, I enjoy dancing with (it must be that because we think and talk about tango in the same way, then we both often dance tango the same way); but if we are sitting and having a conversation, I don’t assume that they are going to ask me to dance. What I mean is I’m not making conversation so they will ask me to dance and I am pretty confident that they feel the same way. At that moment, we are two people talking about what we love.

Which means I become quite bemused when a particular leader turns all macho and suddenly blocks out another leader. This has happened a few times recently. I’ve been sitting, having a nice conversation with someone when I will realise that a tanguero has approached our vicinity and is hovering just on the edge of our periphery. Now I might be fully enjoying the conversation, so deliberately don’t make eye contact with this new leader but suddenly I’ll notice that it’s as if the hairs are up on my friend. Suddenly, he seems to lose the plot in our conversation and the next moment, he is on his feet, back firmly to the new tanguero and crying out ‘lets dance’.

It amuses and bemuses me, because I am sure that if we were at an empty-ish milonga and just chatting, the leader would not have asked me to dance at that particular moment but suddenly, it’s as if there is a subconscious mini showdown going around me.

It also brings to mind, those Discovery Channel programmes which show you a pack of lions with one male and how they react when a new male enters the area. Their pose changes and even if they are far away from each other, you can still see them squaring off. Its amusing how tango brings out these animal instincts in even the most mild mannered of tangueros.