Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Okay, this is the bastardy grump post I did not post before, but it keeps coming up and I figure I might as well post it instead of boring all my tango friends with the same grump endlessly.

If you are a man in tango, you probably: are a man (sounds obvious, but bear with me, I have a point), walk foward, dictate the dance.

Despite what a lot of you guys seem to think, none of this makes you a leader. It just makes you a man in tango.

What makes a leader: a good embrace, intent, musicality, ability to pause.

These are universal constants. Now, you don't have to move like Zotto, or have the musicality of Julio, or pause like Gavito; they are masters, and you need only be competent. Take a breath, back away from the YouTube, and relax.

However, to be considered competent, you MUST have all four of these things. There is NOTHING that will make up for a lack of these things. No pattern or cologne or pair of snappy shoes will make up for any of these four things, much the same way as really gorgeous furniture will not make up for the fact that your house only has three walls. You need all four.

If you have great musicality but no intent, you'll step on me. If you have musicality but no ability to pause, you'll artfully dance me around but be unable to collect me. If you don't have a good embrace, I won't have confidence in anything else you do.

These four things take dedication and some time to develop, but by six months of any kind of class or practice whatsoever you should be able to listen to the music, walk nicely without stepping on your follower, and collect without wobbling.

Your followers need it. Really, we do. We don't need sacadas. We hate ganchos. Boleos injure other dancers. Just listen to the music and walk nicely. Let us know you're there. If the music allows, stand quietly with us for a moment; balance us, check in on us. We just want safe houses, really.

If we say no to a dance, and you ask why, we may say a lot of things, but what we're really telling you is, "Your house only has three walls."

If you think you can't do it, or you can't imagine what I mean, or you want proof it looks cool enough, this is Jorge Dispari walking with his daughter Samantha.

Online Videos by Veoh.com

Just saying.


La Tanguera said...


Absolutely!!!! Wonderful, funny and pointed post, as usual. Glad you decided to publish it, finally!

Many thanks,


dekay said...

Here are some thoughts from the "other side"

La Planchadora said...

Hi dekay,

As a leader myself, I'll be compiling my own notes on followers; but thanks anyway!

Cherie said...

This is a great video!
Jorge walks naturally, but with grace, he's in time to the music, he pauses, he's a perfect milonguero!
Thanks for the posting!

Anonymous said...

Another weird thing i've noticed: whenever I turn up and lead at an improvers class, at first the women are a bit nervy and react as if i'm some kind of predatory lesbian, but after a couple of dances they say "oh, you're better than most of the men!" and hang on to you. Why is it that women learn both roles so much faster?

Anonymous said...

Most women don't treat me as a predatory lesbian, they just sort of ignore my existance/rotate around me/refuse to engage the embrace. And then they're usually pleasently surprised when I don't lead them into anything or make them take uncomfortable steps or whatever. The best is when they realize that I *gasp* WAIT for them to finish their step. (I do lead semi-regularly, but not strangers, so this refers to people who don't know me or don't dance with me enough to realize that I try to be considerate.)

Which brings up my only real comment on your entry: leaders also need patience. Lots and lots of patience. They need to wait while the follower finishes her step and not rush into the next one. They need to occasionally wait while the follower does some fancy footwork (as it is the leader's job to help the follower feel pretty.) They need to work on their own lead to make sure it's clear to the follower.

And leaders totally need stability. A follower needs to be able to trust the leader. This goes beyond both balance and embrace. A leader needs to be like a Degas statue: Graceful, balanced, and stable. (I was going to say gargoyle, but creepy is not a good quality). Even when the embrace is inviting and comfortable, a leader needs to be able to physically articulate that he is there and he won't fall over or cause the follower to fall over because he's anything less than a graceful, moving statue.