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Which tango move can the follower lead?

posted Jun 19, 2014, 3:29 PM by Sophia de Lautour
Q: Which tango move can the follower lead?

A: a parada

There are two different approaches to paradas in terms of leading and following:

1) The leader leads the follower to walk over (or around) his extended leg ('pasada'). The follower can decide to decorate but not when to walk forward from the parada. 

2) The follower decides how to decorate the parada and when to step over. 

I much prefer the second approach as it provides greater possibilities for dialogue between partners. For this reason a parada is one of my favourite moments in tango. It's a beautiful tango moment for a follower to express her musicality and commune with her partner. 

The parada, due to the necessary opening of the embrace, provides an opportunity for some brief eye contact - another form of communication and an addition to the dialogue - between the couple. Here's an opportunity to be playful or flirtatious  - however the mood takes you! 

Due to the more open embrace and the possibility of eye contact the parada also provides an opportunity for the follower to share  her ornaments with her partner. Unless a leader is looking at the floor and his partner's feet (not recommended technique!), he won't usually be aware of his partner's ornaments while walking in close embrace. Normally most of a follower's adornos will be unseen or felt by her partner. The parada thus provides a unique opportunity in tango for some 'show and tell'!

'...provides an opportunity for some brief eye contact'

On the subject of follower's decorations that are not seen or felt by her partner, some dancers criticise followers who ornament their dance - for the reason that the leader usually can't see or feel a follower's ornamentation. Their view is that if a leader can't see or feel it, then it's not worth doing. Using the same logic they would describe a woman who ornaments frequently as a "show off", even when the ornaments are appropriate to the music.  (see: 'Dancing Well or Showing off?'). In my mind, such an attitude is oppressive to women in tango, and tango itself. 

What is wrong with a woman expressing herself?! This presumes, of course, that such expression also maintains connection with the music and her partner. 

Similarly, and with said provisos, I love it when my partner ornaments in tango. Sometimes I might see or feel the ornament, oftentimes times not. It matters not. What matters is that my partner is enjoying some self expression to the music.

The renowned tango dancer Vanina Bilous shares a similar view. When asked what was the essence of her tango philosophy Vanina replied...

"It has to do with dancing from within, that is to say being true to oneself...If you lift a leg so that they applaud you, it means nothing, but if you lift your leg because it is what you need to do, I applaud you. And that cannot be explained, but you know it."1
Vanina Bilous

If an ornament is created, not for applause but because it's what you need to do to express the music as you feel it, in that moment, that's not 'showing off', it's delicious tango dancing!

That said, Viva la Parada!

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