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He's not a zimmerframe

posted Sep 7, 2014, 3:09 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Sep 7, 2014, 3:09 PM ]

Sharing a post by one of my favourite tango bloggers Terpsichoral Tangoaddict on the importance of proactivity for followers...


It's a complaint that probably every single one of my favourite leaders has heard. And some have heard it often -- or very often, depending on their local tango community, almost always from less experienced or less skilled followers. "You don't have a strong enough lead." (This may take the form of a variant, such as, "you need to hold me up there" or "you need to support me more"). Those who hear this the most often tend to be the subtlest, most snuggliciously sensual and careful leaders I know -- so much so, that when I hear a man say that women locally complain that he "doesn't have a strong enough lead", I get quite excited because I'm certain that I am going to love his dancing. I think this complaint usually comes from a very common misconception on the part of followers, which arises from ideas of the follower waiting, not anticipating, 'surrendering', shutting her eyes and just 'letting go', along with other images of passivity which are so easily misinterpreted.

When you follow, it's important to be attentive to and aware of the leader's movements. You want to move in ways that respond to him (or her), adding your own musicality, personality, adornos, etc., sure. But, make no mistake, he's not there to help you move. Your embrace needs to be tender, to be committed, but don't use it to hold yourself up. It allows you to feel where the other person is and to enjoy the sensuality of their proximity (if you can), but it's not a zimmerframe. His embrace might be dreamy, but don't lie back and think of England...

He might signal the directions you are going, but you are the one responsible for moving your own body ("followers, move your mass!" as my teacher Marcelo El Chino likes to say -- and I often say something similar, which, er, rhymes with that). You are responsible for your posture, your balance and every part of your movement through space. If you need to propel yourself, use your feet against the floor. If a space is opened up for you, actively fill it, don't wait to be dragged. If you end up in an awkward position, correct it if you can. Don't wait for a nudge, don't wait for a shove. If you feel his body preparing to step on those fast triplets, go with him! He's relying on you to be hearing them too.

The leader isn't your babysitter, he's not a motorcyclist whose bike you're climbing on the back of, he's not a taxi service to chauffeur you around the pista, he's not your gigolo, he's not a service top. He's not there just to pleasure you (as a friend once said, "tango is the ultimate 69"). Above all, he's not there to give you a dance. The dance is something you create together. He's not there for you. You are there for each other.