Following is really starting to click, thanks to a lesson I learned in motorsports

I’m really amazed at how well following is really starting to click now! And it’s all down to an approach I learned in my pre-tango obsession: motorsports.

The biggest problem I had when I started this latest tango adventure was anticipating the lead. I was listening to the music and knew how I would interpret it. At best, I would be expecting to move in one way and then have to quickly switch gears in my head to follow what was actually led; at worst, I was doing completely unled movements …

Diego had already given me a couple of pieces of the puzzle. One of them had made sense immediately: think ‘magnetic feet’ so that I would always collect, and then wait to see whether a full step was being led. Another was to be slow in responding, which initially felt easier to say than to do. That changed in yesterday’s lesson.

Slow in, fast out

In motorsports, there’s a way of driving through a bend known as ‘slow in, fast out.’ The idea is that you enter the bend unhurriedly, at a speed which ensures you are in full control of the vehicle as you turn in. You then accelerate through the bend, sensing the limits of traction, in order to allow a fast exit. The theory is that this is actually faster than rushing into a bend already on the limit of control – and it’s definitely true in my experience.

In yesterday’s lesson, Diego urged me to almost let him ‘drag’ me into a movement. Not in the sense of moving a fridge – he still wanted me to propel my own movement – but in the sense of letting him get a little bit ahead of me.

This initially felt very odd, like I was off the beat, but within the space of a single song, it suddenly clicked. The gap between him starting to move and me starting to move was incredibly short – but still perceptible. The amazing thing was that it didn’t feel like I was arriving behind him.

I think what was happening was this:

  • Diego would begin a movement
  • As soon as I was sure of the direction, I would begin to follow
  • As I started to move, I would determine the pace of his movement
  • I would then be able to accelerate as required to match pace and land at the same time he did

Slow in, fast out.

This was a whole new level to my following. I was no longer anticipating movements, nor panicking at missing something. What was previously tense now felt much more relaxed.

It felt like a night-and-day difference to my previous lesson, and Diego agreed with my assessment. He was able to lead changes of pace (like one cross with a pause and another without), interrupted steps, and any kind of rebound, and have me follow it.

Still a billion technique lessons to address

Of course, I still have approximately one billion technique issues to address. The bad news is that I know from my experience of leading that progress with technique is mostly very slow. The good news is I know that, however painfully slow it may feel, the work pays off.

Additionally, a lot of the technique challenges are things I can practice on my own. Early in my leading journey, I did about 20 minutes of solo practice every morning, before it became less frequent. I now need to get back into that habit to work on my new list!

But I’m loving it

I said earlier that I’d had about a two-minute experience of flow-state as a follower, and absolutely loved it.

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.

In yesterday’s lesson, I would say that I was in that flow-state a lot of the time! It really is a lovely feeling.

Diego is now away for a while, but Emma is back, so next month’s lessons will be with her. I can’t wait to continue!

2 thoughts on “Following is really starting to click, thanks to a lesson I learned in motorsports”

  1. Maestro Augusto Balizano advised me that as a follower I should dance every step as if it was the last step of the tanda. Don’t rush; wait, wait, wait…arrive on the last third of the beat (if that makes sense).

    Liked by 1 person

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