Following … a leader, and my tango heart

I had my third private as a follower, and while I missed plenty of things, I for the first time had an experience of Just Dancing from the follower side.

I also decided to follow my tango heart when it comes to when, where and how I dance …

Just Dancing as a follower

I still remember to this day that point, 18 months into tango, at which I could for the first time Just Dance as a leader.

Suddenly I was no longer thinking about a forward ocho … a giro … a back ocho … a planeo … a contra-giro … a voleo … Instead, I was just dancing.

My third private as a follower was the first time I found myself Just Dancing while following.

I mean, it only lasted for about two minutes of the one-hour lesson, but those two minutes were wonderful! I wasn’t thinking about what Diego was leading, wasn’t anticipating what he might do next, wasn’t thinking about how I was positioning my left hand, or how I was holding my right arm … I was just moving in sync with the lead. Diego said it felt the same to him.

I stress that I am nowhere near the point of attempting to follow in a milonga, but when I think about how long it took to even get a taste of this as a leader, it’s certainly hugely encouraging!

I also absolutely love the feeling. It’s a completely different experience to leading – really to the point where I would say they are completely different activities. Which is posing an interesting question …

My motivation for learning to follow was to become a dual-role dancer, and the thing that spurred that desire was seeing intercambio dances – where dancers would swap roles during a tanda, or even during a song. A friend who started as a follower before starting to learn to lead says that she has no interest in that: she wants to either lead or follow a complete tanda. I now understand that.

It’s way too early to say where I may end up with this adventure, so for now I’m also trying not to anticipate where it may take me.

The same friend said I was going to struggle with switching off my own musicality when following. She was right. I’ve mostly found that I almost needed to stop listening to the music if I were to avoid anticipating, but by the end of this lesson I was somehow finding the secret to listening to the music through the leader.

Any experienced follower will immediately know what I mean by that. For leaders with no following experience, it might not make much sense, and I don’t yet have a good way to articulate it. The best I can say is that I’m listening to the leader in the foreground and the music in the background – but, for those magical two minutes, there was no separation between the two.

Did I mention that I’m loving this?

Following my tango heart

I know it might sound like I’m obsessed with floorcraft above all else, but while it may not be the single most important thing, it is, for me, the foundation for the flow-state I want to be in when I’m dancing.

I want to be be flowing with my partner, with the music, and with the ronda. That isn’t possible if there is no ronda to speak of. As I’ve said before, it only takes one selfish leader to completely disrupt a ronda. The couples next to them have to take evasive action, and then the couples next to them have to evade the evasion, and so on. Even if it’s not as bad as that, it’s impossible to lose myself in the three things, because I’m having to focus on being a bodyguard.

I’m not going to name milongas here, though I think quite a few London dancers will easily guess.

Milonga 1 is one I used to love, for its atmosphere, for its music, and for its friendliness. But I stopped going there after returning from BsAs because the floorcraft is completely non-existent. What I look for in a milonga has changed, and much as I still appreciate it for those three things, I’ve lost interest in dancing there because a flow-state is simply impossible.

Milonga 2 is, in theory, a relatively traditional one. But there is no inner ronda when it is absolutely busy enough to require one (just an outer ronda plus a chaotic middle), and it always has a couple of wannabe performers who take up way more than their share of the space, and who apparently expect everyone else to stay out of their way. (Not always the same leaders, but I don’t think I’ve ever been there when there were fewer than two of them.) I said once before that I was going to stop dancing there, then gave it another chance, but after my last experience there I really do give up.

I guess I shouldn’t mention the London milongas I will still go to, lest I give away the others by a process of elimination! But I dance at two which have a high standard of floorcraft, so I’m going to vote with my feet. There are also some others a little further out which I haven’t yet tried, and will.

Plus, as I’ve said before, I’ll be dancing more outside London. I’m booked into two festivals in November, and will be looking to dance at more festivals/marathons, both in the rest of the UK and in Europe. And, of course, returning to BsAs for another month in March of next year.

Quality over quantity

Fortunately, the obsessive stage ended a while back (says the man who now spends at least one month a year in BsAs!), so I have no problem staying home rather than going to a milonga which feels more like a riot than a ronda. Eliminating a couple of milongas does mean I’ll be dancing less than I have been, but I’m happy with choosing quality over quantity.

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