Are You a Leading Cheater?

The best dancers are supposed to be able to lead anyone, regardless of the follower’s level right?  Really?  We have always questioned this “fact”.  How is this possibly true?  If a woman does not know how to embrace the man, if she doesn’t understand what the lead feels like (in general), if she is lacking necessary technique, then what?  We’re not saying we haven’t seen all these “great teachers” lead women exactly where they wanted them to go.  We are saying that these “great teachers” are often totally cheating in doing so.

Jorge is not one of these “great teachers” and cannot, for the life of him, make his followers do “anything” he wants.  Apparently Jorge is not a very good leader then.  He must have been lied to over and over again in Buenos Aires because he was consistently told how clear his lead was and how he lead with his full body (by teachers and dancers).  The main criticism/feedback was to “increase the font size”.  That is, his lead was clear and good, but he could make it even clearer, even better, even bigger for those women who weren’t very sensitive followers.

Why can’t Jorge make the follower do what he wants?  The answer lies in the question with the word “make”.  It is not in his nature, his personality, or his dance to “make” a follower do anything (nor is it really in the nature of Argentine Tango).  If he feels that his follower cannot follow a certain movement, he simply will not do it again.

Entonces, what is meant by “cheating” in the lead?  Leaders can cheat in one of two ways: with the killer left arm or with the killer right arm.  Let us describe what we mean.

The killer left arm is popular among some in our Tango community.  It is actually taught by some as the proper way to lead in Tango.  And in all honesty, if the follower offers enough resistance with her right arm, the leader can basically lead the follower to do anything.  Does it feel nice for the follower?  Well that depends.  If you are a follower with an ego who just wants to be perfect at any cost, the answer is yes.  However, if you are a follower in love with the dance and the embrace, the answer is no.  And well, the answer is a definite no when the man uses his left arm so much that you are left with a sore shoulder after the dance (there are a few of these leaders in TO and many followers complain about it and don’t enjoy dancing with these men, but saying no is just too difficult).

The killer right arm, conversely, occurs when the leader crushes his follower.  In this situation, we are not speaking of the awful right HAND lead.  You know what we’re talking about ladies.  That evil hand you feel on your back pushing and pulling you through ochos.  Shudder!  No.  We are speaking of the men who cannot trust their followers (often with good reason) to embrace or follow the lead.  Therefore, these men crush the living daylight out of their followers so there isn’t a chance a step will be missed.

A good leader invites his follower to move with him and a great leader finds a way to invite the follower with little choice of rejection.  The use of arms and excessive muscle cancels out the chance for an invitation.  All we saw and felt of the good dancers in Buenos Aires were comfortable cloud-like (close) embraces that used the body (with arms being an extension of the body) to invite the woman to  follow.

Here’s the analogy: Tango is often compared to a language.  Therefore, if a woman visits Argentina with no knowledge of Spanish, can a man really make her understand what he wants her to do?  He can of course use body language, but if some of the body language is different between the cultures, this will be of little help.  Perhaps he’s asking her to join him for “mate” and holds an imaginary cup to his face with one hand while holding and imaginary straw to his lips with the other hand.  This could easily be misunderstood or not understood at all.  He could use “force” and drag her to his place and show her the mate gourd and straw, but is this really an enjoyable experience?  In other words, it does not matter how great his body language is.  If she does not have some basic knowledge of the language, he will either have to force her to understand or they will both look a little silly not being able to communicate with one another.

For us, the moral of the story is that women need to be taking “Spanish” classes before attempting to communicate with advanced speakers. Men who do not want to use force, have every right to speak only with women they feel comfortable communicating with.  When they both decide to show up at a “Spanish” practica, then they can attempt to communicate together because it is a place of practice.

To further add to the analogy and as a side thought… After one spends time learning, practicing and speaking a foreign language in a foreign country, it is usually the case that the foreign language will deteriorate when one returns to the home country.  When no one else is speaking that foreign language, it is quite difficult to maintain the level previously achieved unless one continues to communicate with others of the same or better language abilities.  So why is it so difficult for people to understand why we, for example, do not want to dance with people who do not dance with good technique and a proper embrace?

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About Movement Invites Movement

We are relatively young Argentine Tango dancers and teachers who are married both to each other and the dance. We truly found Tango after making an 8-month Tango pilgrimage to Buenos Aires and we are using this blog to share our thoughts and feelings about our Tango experiences. We are not aspiring authors and our writing skills are questionable, but we write our truth. View all posts by Movement Invites Movement

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