Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Someone posted a comment on Leading, linking me to his thoughts on followers and their necessary traits. I didn't read it, since being both a follower and a leader leaves me with plenty of fodder for my own posts, and if anyone here thinks I don't have as many opinions on following as I do on leading, they clearly have never been here before.

Here's the "Following" post that was originally going to go up tomorrow until I found this amazing video clip and couldn't wait any more.

The four walls that a follower needs: patience, balance, a good embrace, musicality.

I'd say these are more or less in order of importance, mostly because patience refers both in waiting for the lead and in learning how to follow well. While a man can build the walls of his house in six months, a woman has to learn how to stretch her leg out fully behind her in a four-inch stiletto toe-first, and maintain perfect balance freehand, and if you think that takes less than a year you're an optimist and also a little delusional.

Clearly, the balance has to come next, and the embrace, because, though it's sad to say, a nonmusical follower with good technique will get dances over a musical follower who feels heavy or wobbly.

Followers, you cannot anticipate the lead; if he leads it badly or muddily, don't do it. To not follow a bad lead will embarrass him, but to anticipate a move and guess wrong embarrasses you. Just because he did something six times in a row doesn't mean he'll do it the seventh time. Wait and see.

Balance is more important than extension, embellishments, or attitude. At the end of a giro, you should be collected; a beautiful, off-balance boleo is not worth it.

A good embrace is not a vise, and it is not a hovercraft; find a comfortable position, and know that it will change as you move. Adapt. Don't use his shoulders as a prop, or his shoulder blade as bread dough. No kneading, no gripping, no holding on for dear life. If you have to hold on for dear life, don't dance with him. An embrace is just that; hug the guy and go with it.

Musicality in a follower is not appreciated as it should be, but if you are musical, so much the better for you. It might not benefit you with leaders who don't know how to wait or give space to the follower, but it will seep into your dance nonetheless and turn you from a follower into a dancer. All the other walls you build for your leader. Musicality is a wall you build for yourself.

This is a demo done by Natalia Hills and her partner; she has flawless balance, supported and relaxed posture, musical embellishments. Perfect long steps. She doesn't follow; she dances.


La Tanguera said...

Oh My God!!! I loved the video, she's amazing!!!!!!! Thanks!

I loved your post. The most interesting insight for me was that on musicality (the other walls you build for your leader, this one you build for yourself). It may be true, but I'd add that a musical follow can also help a not so musical but receptive/sensitive leader get better... there are good effects to the leader and the tango community as a whole coming from that...


Anonymous said...

Just as I threw in a few comments about your entry on leaders, I'd like to say that followers should also be considerate. By this I mean just because it's the leaders job to make the follower feel pretty, the follower shouldn't take every possible oppourtunity to embellish. Or backlead. While I enjoy it when the follower has a voice and occasionally physically suggests doing something, it gets frustrating when followers take advantage of a leader's patience. (My solution to excessive backleading is just stopping and turning whatever it is the follower is doing into a grapevine turn. I just give the lead into it, and the follower usually catches on when they feel their own momentum dragging them around and not my chest.)

Tina said...

Ha! I took a workshop once from Natalia and Francisco, he is just a fab teacher. And she is beautiful.

My personal rule for both leads & follows is " 'Che' - just dance." ;-)

K i'm gonna watch the video again.