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September 22, 2007


Lecturing on the dance floor

Recently read a thread in a Tango forum which prompted the following thoughts.

From time to time, I have noticed that certain leaders have a tendency to lecture/teach their partner on the dance floor, or immediately after the finish of a tanda, during a milonga. To me, this really should not be tolerated during a milonga!

Well, if a leader can’t lead the follower to do something – no matter how simple the movements may be – most likely you are simply not as good as you thought. Secondly, even if the technical fault genuinely lies with the follower, e.g. she is a fresh beginner, there is no point in making her feel even worse by informing her what she is supposed to be doing, is there? The take-home message is that if you can’t lead, then you have lost the plot, so just move on and lead something suitable to your level. Leave the (your own) practice and advice-giving to pracaticas.

For the followers, and especially for the beginners who are easily intimidated, it’s time to walk away knowing full well who is a capable dancer, and who is not… 😉

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  1. Sep 23 2007

    When I first started out, I was too intimidated to walk away from this sort of behavior. But now, I’m a little wiser. My last visit to Montreal to dance found me in this situation, I did not get a lead for a high wrap over both the leader’s legs, so he kept leading it, when I finally realized what he was doing, I simply refused to do the wrap as it was a crowded floor. So he stopped and explained to me the mechanics of what he was leading. At the end of the song, I thanked him and walked away. It was inappropriate of him to behave this way, and I no longer am worried about what leaders like this think of me. Although, I know that when you are a beginner, it feels like the end of your tango career if you dare to do this. It’s a sticky situation…. even though it should be clear cut.
    (Oh, and I enjoy your blog very much!!!)

  2. Sep 23 2007

    Hi! I just discovered your blog, and have been enjoying your posts!

    Another thing that bothers me (a follower), is negative feedback, at a milonga. I ran across a couple of men this past week who, when the song ended, shook their heads, sighed, and told me, “Argh… no connection!”

    The insensative remarks and attitudes of these people made me walk off the floor, unable to endure the thought of the rest of the tanda. I would rather be wordlessly walked off the floor at a milonga, instead of hearing negative feedback — or instruction.

    For both men and women: just shut and dance! Or end the tanda early if it’s not working.

  3. Sep 24 2007

    Hi Debbi,

    Thanks for your comments. By the way, it just so happens that I am also enjoying accounts of your trips with Sorin to the milongas in Boston and Canada!

    Yes, although I am not a follower, I can definitely sympathise with the insecurities of people just starting out. After all, “How dare they not submit to MY advice, someone infinitely far more experienced!?!?!?” 🙂

    Here is something that Andrea Misse mentioned during her recent tour to Hong Kong which you may like to pass on to others in future. To get away from these lecture-prone leaders, you can say something to the effect:

    “Your dancing is too good for me right now. Let me practice a lot more before dancing with you again – if ever…”

    Being tactful in the Argentinean tradition!

  4. Sep 24 2007

    Regarding the comment on negative feedback, I am afraid that I am also guilty of this occasionally, although very rarely these days. Fortunately – or unfortunately depending on how you look at it – I only do this to my regular partner. The result is almost the same every single time: leaving both of us feeling extremely annoyed…

    So for the leaders, the moral of the story is that no matter how close you are to the person, either shut up and enjoy the dance, or pay heaps and heaps of compliment on your partner! After all, we all have good nights and bad nights. Sometimes, things just don’t work out: the problem may be you or her, but just accept it and move on.

    Happy dancing!

  5. Jean-Michel
    Sep 24 2007

    Hi Louis,

    Great post! Unfortunately lecturing leaders are in most cases far from being the best ones on the dance floor. Indeed that’s the reason why they need to lecture, because those, who can, do, and those, who can’t, lecture!

    Once in a while, I invite very beginner followers. I usually do not lecture followers and I try to give only positive feedbacks (if giving positive feedbacks isn’t possible, then I stay quiet and talk about next day’s weather…)

    When I feel a beginner follower has a potential to become a good dancer, I sometimes ask her whether she minds I give her one advice. When she is OK with it, I try to share with her one tip, which when I started, helps me in my dancing.

    Like: “try to relax a bit more” when I feel she is tense or “try to keep your posture up” if she has a tendency to sink or “be lazy” if she has a tendency to go to fast or “if you don’t feel it, don’t do it” when I feel that she feels compelled to add unnecessary things to show that she is dancing…

    In any case, I only mention 1 point at a time in order not to make her confuse. Also, I never lecture on moves. Milonga is a social party, let’s keep it enjoyable for everyone.

    The tango connection like any relationship is based on confidence and trust. It should be a relationship between 2 equal individuals. There should be no teachers or students on the dance floor, only friends.

    By the way how was Taippei?
    PS: for all English speaker, my name sound like I’m a girl but I’m a guy : )

  6. Sep 24 2007

    Hi Jean-Michel,

    Thanks for the comments. This particular topic must be striking a chord with quite a few people because this simple post has suddenly become the mostly commented on this blog!

    Totally agreed about the positive feedback. In fact, I was at the receiving end in Taipei recently so I can identify with the “after-glow” that a positive feedback can bring!

    ps, For my quick impressions of the Taipei Festival, see my email to Royce.

  7. Sep 26 2007

    jean-michel: that is a very tactful way to offer tips. i have never felt bad when a leader asked, “may i give a small tip?” it makes me eager to learn from a more experienced, and obviously gentlemanly leader. 🙂 bises–.

  8. Sep 26 2007

    YY, i am going to use that next time! “my dancing is not advanced enough for what you are trying to do. let me practice AT A PRACTICA, and let’s try it next time.”


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