Follower’s Rant January 21, 2015 / tangoclay / Musings 10 What’s the most annoying things that tango leaders do that make you crazy? Here’s your chance to rant about it–and make suggestions on how you can communicate this to your leader. Just write your comments and replies below.
Single most annoying thing a leader can do is lead with his/her left arm. I totally agree with Debbie – those dances are not enjoyable, my right arm is fatigued and I am in pain the next day. I now either mention it to the offender and/or collapse my right arm and make it go limp. I am assuming most leads would want to know if they are causing physical distress to their partner.
Agreed! I have 9 years of tango, dance with many leaders less experienced. My friend led a parada, and when I engaged in foot play instead of merely crossing over, he said, “what do I do now?” I answered, “you wait for me to finish.”
There’s no point in having adornments if you are merely rushed into step after step.
We need more Zen in Tango, breathing and truly being present in the music AND with your partner.
The single most annoying thing a leader can do is try to lead the woman’s adornments. Women do not have a lot of leeway to be in control in tango, and this is one of the ways that women can express their own style, personality and musicality. An accomplished follower knows much more about adornments than any leader, and has a much greater repertoire than a leader can imagine. It is selfish when a leader either insists on leading adornaments, or does not allow time for the woman to interpret her response to his lead in her own way ( and I am talking about experienced leaders here, not beginners yet to have knowledge of how adornments can be incorporated for both partners).
There are two things that bother me the most right now. One is when leaders instruct me through an entire dance at a Milonga. I recently had a lead whisper into my ear the entire time where to place my feet and body next with each beat of the music. Wow. I tried the make the best of it, though. I thought to myself, “I am either going to really hate the next ten minutes, or I’m going to try to learn something.” I didn’t learn a thing, but I did relax a bit. However, I did not remotely experience the unity and joy of improvising together that I crave and seek on the floor. I just felt like a child being schooled by an arrogant headmaster. It was not art. On a related note, when it is appropriate to help one another at a practice (I actually DJ at and run a weekly practica), I really would rather leads engage in a two-way conversation about the dance. I do not like being dictated to by the lead, as if I do not have anything to contribute to the conversation. When leads are open and willing to learn from me, I am open and willing to learn from the lead. I am learning to lead right now, and I am trying to practice what I preach. I always ask my follow what he or she thinks about what we are working on. I also always say during the practice, “Please always be kind and loving to one another. That is why we do this dance.” Thanks, Clay, for this forum!
One solution: Say “thank you” and leave the floor after the first tango of the Tanda. It is the height of rudeness for either a man or woman to “instruct” their partner at a milonga. No reason for you to be so polite as to finish the entire Tanda.
There is one thing a leader can do which makes it seem 100% impossible to dance, particularly in close embrace. If the leader is taller than me (as most are, I’m 5′ 3″) and he holds his embrace up high, so that my left side/left shoulder is continually being held up off the ground by the leader, I am quite literally and physically forced into a continuous lean to my right and/or on my tip toes.
The only solution to this that I can think of would be anti-gravity shoes that would allow me to float upward so as to match the leader’s embrace while remaining upright.
No one can dance like the leaning tower of Pisa. And this is not a simple matter of me adjusting something so as to make it work. Most men are stronger than most women. This is about physically forcing a woman to lean over or to stand higher than her natural height. When a leader holds me up off the floor, he is literally holding me off the floor.
I have yet to find a solution to this (in a Milonga setting where it is improper to ask the leader to correct his embrace) other than to never again dance with such a leader. I can not think of anything I can do to physically adjust myself so as to make it possible to dance with a leader who does this.
While discussing step patterns is not proper for a milonga I’ve always felt that comments regarding the comfort of the embrace are appropriate at any time. If I sense there is an issue I will often ask- Are you comfortable? If she is not I always learn something valuable by adjusting. I would rather dance a tanda with someone who has expressed her needs than someone who is trying to endure an uncomfortable embrace thinking she is being polite by not speaking up. The moment to speak up is after the first song of course. It’s best not to speak while dancing.
I’m 5’9″ tall, have a very arthritic right shoulder and had a dance partner who was 5’1″. There were two solutions that we used. You won’t believe the one we used most but it was what she did. The one we used most were 5″ platform shoes with even higher heels. She ended up almost my height and the embrace was very comfortable for both of us. She did occasionally fall but since she weighed less than 100 lbs, I could barely tell. The other solution was that instead of my right arm going under her left, I put it over her left. There was a little less “solidity” to the connection but it was easy for both of us.
One tactic I have used when dancing closely with a (tall or any) leader who continuously ” lifts ” the follower’s left side/armpit is to shift a bit in front if I’m on their side and take my left arm straight up over the front of their shoulder. Then slide your shoulder blade down and towards your spine like you would in yoga. This creates a very smooth line and takes away the leverage of the leader. If they continue to try to lift up, their hand will just slide up your back or they will have to clutch your back or grab your shirt. It’s not the most comfortable thing to do ( I find after awhile my hand goes a bit asleep from holding it so far above my shoulder) but the leader cannot lift me off my feet unless they actually grab me.
Another tactic I have used, and only a few times in the seven years I’ve been dancing, is to literally hang my body from the armpit on their embrace. It would be like taking your left arm over the top of a fence, then holding yourself up by your armpit while you pull your feet off the ground. (The same kind of muscles you would use when doing push-ups or plank position.) Even at 90 pounds, there are few leaders who can straight bicep curl your weight. Unless he’s Arnold, the biggest guy’s arm will wear out usually within 30 seconds to a minute. If you do it subtly enough, (as in – as they start to lift, you transfer wait to their arm )they will usually relax because they simply cannot sustain the muscular effort required to truly lift that much weight. Plus you are using your weight to counter their strength instead of fighting with your muscles -gravity always wins!) They may lift you off your feet, but they won’t be able to make you bend to the right, because you will be hanging straight up-and-down from your left armpit. 😉
It’s kind of evil, but the lift and throw move is something in martial arts to take your partner/opponent off balance and throw them to the ground, and if it is done continuously it is very uncomfortable for the follower. You can shift a little of the discomfort back to the leader with the above tactics, and perhaps they will start to gain a little more self-awareness. I know that most leaders are not doing this maliciously or even understand how it affects their follower, but these are two little things I have found to help me hold my ground with an embrace such as you have described.
Pull his right arm down to your shoulder level to adjust.
We have a friend who is 6’8″, it is difficult for even the tallest woman to meet that embrace.
Oscar Casas answered the question in a workshop last year that the woman may hold the man under his arm instead of trying to reach his height, that way you are not so off balance. Try it with a lead you are comfortable with.