For Leaders: Let’s make our partner feel like they’re gliding, no matter how simple or complex our movements are. Their embellishments are invitations for creative interaction, and not there to throw us off. The occasional mistake won’t fluster us. We can work with errors, improvising them into something else. We can adapt to each follower’s ability level and style of movement. Beginners don’t bore us, and advanced dancers don’t intimidate us. We’re leading, but we don’t feel the need to constantly impose our will.
For Followers: We can handle whatever our partner throws at us. A small misstep here or there is nothing to freak out about, because overall we’re making the dance work. We are unflappable. We can trust ourselves to stay on axis. There’s no reason to anticipate the next move because we’re ready to step anywhere on a moment’s notice. The next figure is an adventure to look forward to, not a potential disaster waiting to happen. We can handle this.
If we have the attitude that we’re ready for anything, we probably will be.
Let’s pay less attention to the worries – Tango is not as scary as we think it is.
Followers – here are some things we need to stop doing when we tango:
Compromising balance & axis to accommodate our partners: Our motivation is to be helpful, and that’s very nice. But making things difficult for ourselves to help the leader doesn’t help anyone in the end. It’s better to calmly stand our ground, and let the leaders figure things out on their own.
Apologizing too much: It’s ok to acknowledge the occasional error, but frequent “I’m sorrys” might mean we’re admitting responsibility for the leader’s mistakes. We can take responsibility only for the elements within our control.
Trying to take over: It’s like trying to use a computer mouse connected to a laptop while someone else uses the trackpad. It’s funny for a while, but ultimately unproductive. Let go. The leader’s role is to make us look good. It won’t happen unless we trust them.
Getting ahead: I know we’re eager to get dancing as soon as we arrive at a milonga, and maybe we’re with a partner who’s (thankfully) easy to read. But moving ahead of him/her is like peeking at the last page of a novel to see how it ends. Spoilers are bad for books, movies, and tango.
Following a bad lead just to be polite: Yes, we often know what leaders want us to do. But doing – or worse, guessing – what leaders want out of politeness only reinforces negative leading habits. It also makes us magnets for bad dancers. So be polite…about insisting that we be led clearly.
Fear not – I’ll pick on the leaders in the next article.
Feel free to add more to this list in the comments section…
With every partner and every dance, there comes a measure of unpredictability. Followers obviously don’t know what the leader is going to do. And leaders don’t know exactly what kind of dynamic the followers will bring once the tanda starts.
When we first size up a partner, we often have an idea of how we think the dance will (or should) go. But instead of forcing that idea into reality, let it play out. Let’s give our partners a chance to surprise and delight us.
Instead of being looked upon with fear, it’s more useful (and enjoyable) to regard uncertainty with a sense of adventure. Of course, a good dance is not guaranteed. But good dances never happen if we obsess over everything that might go wrong.