Posts Tagged: following

Invitations, Proposals, Esperar y Seguir

As I am here in Berlin also waiting for invitations and making proposals, I thought of leading. Invitations, Proposals, Esperar y Seguir are they all the makings of a great leader? I thought about how the role of the leader has had so many explanations on how it is supposed to be or how it is supposed to happen. (I apologize in advance for using the terms he and she or her and him only to make my writing easy and fluid, not to discredit any leading and following done by the other gender.)

And ironically I was at milonga in Wuppertal recently (prior to coming to Berlin) and they were showing a BBC 4 documentary, La Confiteria Ideal: The Tango Salon (of which I am unable to view on youtube here in Germany – but you might be able to see it in the US, not sure. You can let me know!)

But anyway the point is that Javier Rodriguez (famous tango dancer) says in the video something to the effect – that he really has 2 options as a leader: esperar y seguir. “To wait and to follow”. However, I’d like to comment on the verb esperar, which yes, means to wait, but can also mean to hope and to expect. So this waiting implies an activity as opposed to a waiting in passivity. I think of this in body posturing as well. I see sometimes in my students that when I say, “wait for her”, their body posture changes from forwardly present and seemingly active in appearance (I see this posture as being forward) to passive and checked out energetically, sometimes seen as the posture shifted towards the heels. I try to make this distinction by saying that it’s an active moment of waiting, not a “check out, have a cocktail and a cigarette, moment”. (ok, not the most appropriate image for certain audiences, but I hope you get my point.)

A possibly more useful word would be to say that the lead is listening to his follow and waiting for her and by doing this the follower can often inspire the leader to lead something different or unexpected. Very exciting! And of course the leader needs to be ready for this, which goes back to the embrace. Through the embrace the possibilities will always be dictated: where the waiting with anticipation is, the listening, the following.

I know that Fernanda y Guillermo who now have a school in Boston enjoy using the terms “propose and dispose”, which I interpreted as meaning exactly what we are discussing: an opportunity is given and the opportunity is interpreted!

I have found however, that sometimes the leader has learned a pattern without understanding this concept fully and so the follower might be left in the unknown, guessing or not moving at all. I experience this often at a parada or a stop. The leader has stopped me and expects me to read his mind because he has blocked all other options through his embrace. Where is the invitation? l get the waiting, usually, but then what? The waiting Javier is talking about is usually preceded with an idea for the follower, the lead, the marca, the invitation. So the leader has to be clear in all aspects of his embrace, lead, and intention as to what he might want from his follower. And then he accompanies her, follows through with her, dancing with her!

If I open the door for you the path for you to enter is clear. The same in tango. Is your door half open? did you step in front of the path or abandon the path once you created it?

PS Just to clarify – my context for the use of the word proposal: put forward (an idea or plan) for consideration or discussion by others.

PS2 – sorry no pictures this time.

 

 

 

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About Leading and Following

Tango LegsI have always been a bit obsessed with the desire to be clear and to be understood. Maybe it was my upbringing in a bilingual household with an emphasis on reading and writing skills that imbued me with this desire. Whatever the origins, it is funny that now I teach, and am always seeking more clarity and ways to create understanding for my students.

For me language gets in the way of dance. How do we possibly describe what goes on in our bodies to another person? How it moves? And will your experience be anything like mine even if you can describe it to me?

And here is another example where this is true. In Spanish there are no words for lead / follow. What they do say is the man / the woman. And in teaching when they speak of the lead they use the word marcar which literally translates as to mark. For example: El hombre marca el boleo. Which translates literally as The man marks the boleo.

So where does this leave us?

For me, the American cultural implications of the words lead / follow aren’t enough to describe what these 2 roles are in the dance. I find that the word follow implies a passivity. Follow is defined by my online dictionary as – go or come after (a person or thing proceeding ahead); move or travel behind. I don’t think there is such passivity as is implied by the word when dancing tango. And the word lead reminds me of what you do to a horse on a lead.

Regardless of gender (see Queertango) and the role you choose to dance they each need to imbibe certain qualities and characteristics. Each role is important and Argentine Tango doesn’t exist without them. Some qualities without getting into describing movement, might be viewed the same as for any leadership role: assertive, open, creative, humble, just to name a few. And I have taken on the word compañera or companion to replace the word follower, for now. Honestly, the dictionary definition still doesn’t do the word justice! But how ironic that in looking for some pictures to post with this blog, I came across signs that say Follow ME, with the implication that the one with the sign is a leader. For those who have danced long enough know that these 2 words begin to change their meaning in the dance too. Often times we hear teachers say, The leader needs to follow the follower. Which will confuse any beginner.

I try experiments with my university class. I explain to them what I have posted here. I have found that semesters where I try to change the word for follow to something else or even raise the awareness, that the outcome tends to be different for the compañeras in the class. I don’t have any hard statistics on this but those compañeras seem to enjoy the dance and stay dancing through the club on campus or through my classes more so than in other semesters.

What are some words you might use to describe the roles of leading and following as you are understanding them in the dance?

 

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About Embellishments

Many of you have heard me speak about embellishments and most followers are dying to figure out how to include them in their dancing. Followers Embellishments 1My experience is that leaders take their time in their excitement to learn these. (Maybe because they are called embellishments!) Sometimes there’s confusion as to what is an embellishment and what’s a led movement.

Recently I was pointed to an article on embellishments that I will reference here, another blog with insights from tango maestra, Olga Besio.  I particularly like this article as it paints a beautiful picture of the notion behind embellishments and it is a very holistic approach to embellishing which I think we can all strive for. In the meantime…..

I find that often students ask how to embellish. We see other dancers embellish and we remark on the expressiveness of the embellishment. And possibly even notice it as a movement that looks independent of the dance, as if all you see is the embellishment. My preference would be that I don’t notice the embellishment as a separate entity from the dance but that it appears to belong there in the meaningful exchange between leader and follower.

In the sited blog the embellishment is spoken about as an emerging expression from an understanding of the dance as a dialog and I totally agree. But I also understand the beginner follower’s desire to explore the possibilities.

With my students (in the US) I experience followers (more than the leaders) who want to embellish sooner rather than later or they are Followers Embellishments 2nervous or even fear trying to tackle adornos, as they are also called. I realize that the blog article doesn’t promote followers copying or having leaders wait for a follower to embellish, however, as a teaching tool, I think it is helpful for followers (and leaders) to model the behavior of possibilities. I am known to encourage followers to watch others and experiment with ideas to create their own toolbox of embellishments. I also think that with practice and with awareness through our growth in the dance we begin to fully understand how an embellishment can emerge from our bodies as a result of listening to our partner and the music. What magic to see an adorno materialize from dancers as a reflection of the music, their communication and their passion.

Most commonly teachers refer to embellishments as something to be done only with the feet and the legs. Many teachers also encourage them to include any part of the body. I recall dancing with a follower who had quite a repertoire of body embellishments. She wiggled and wagged and swam in my arms for an entire tanda. I found it quite distracting at the time. Who knows what she thought of my leading but my experience was that I was letting her have a monologue of expression as opposed to a dialog. Maybe I missed out or maybe we just chose to express and share differently.

What do you think of embellishments?

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