Another hit of the following drug, in a joyful private with Emma

Tango has an astonishing ability to energise. I’d been woken at 4am by a certain chocolate-coloured feline who decided to make a heroically unsuccessful attempt to jump onto the living room window-sill. I was alerted to this fact by the sound of two cacti pots crashing to the floor. (Orange Boy had a solid alibi as he was asleep on my pillow at the time.)

I didn’t get back to sleep, and when Emma arrived for my private some 14 hours later, I was feeling not dissimilar to the cacti. But as soon as we danced the first song, I found myself feeling as lively as a 4am cat …

At the end of April, I’d decided to take another pause in my privates while I figured out my next step.

So much has changed in my dance that the last thing I need is more input. I wouldn’t so much be quenching my thirst as drowning in a deluge!

So for now, I’m just going to relax, enjoy dancing, and resume again as and when I feel ready – and once I’ve figured out whether or not it’s the right time to continue the adventure in following.

My last pause didn’t last long – just six weeks – and this one was almost exactly the same length.

As for following, the Sheffield Tango Festival answered that one: I literally followed for a grand total of one song, and immediately decided to resume work on this. Leading is a highly-addictive drug, and I seem to have reached the point where following is too.

Back to learning to follow

But there was one quick item on the agenda first: I wanted to make sure Emma approved of my new embrace, so I led her for one song. She did. Very much!

There turned out to be yet another bonus from this: I instinctively entered the same embrace as a follower. Emma said it felt wonderful, and I found it made following significantly easier.

I told her that as I’d switched my focus back to leading for my BsAs trip, I hadn’t done much in the way of solo practice for follower pivots. I was aware I needed to do that, so suggested we stick to steps and rebounds for this lesson, and focus the work on my responsiveness as a follower.

Emma gave me quite the challenge here! She was leading lots of interrupted steps, of different sizes, as well as some double-time. Given that I’ve barely gotten my feet wet yet as a double-time leader, this did require my full attention!

Diego had briefed me to be late and slow, and that worked well with his industrial-sized lead and careful pace. But Emma’s lead is more realistic in its signals, and the speed of the interrupted steps meant I found it hard to apply that approach here. I found myself feeling tense as I was worried about missing signals, or not reacting quickly enough. I had to tell myself the same thing I’d told to many other beginner followers: just relax! Don’t worry about missing anything, and let the leader take care of things.

I told Emma I wanted to try an experiment: when in doubt, not moving. That is, if I was unsure of the lead, I would remain where I was. This immediately felt better to me, and Emma confirmed it was the same for her. By relaxing more, and remaining stiller, it was easier to read more subtle signals.

Usually, with privates, there’s a pretty clear pattern:

  • I present my current challenge or goal
  • The teacher provides guidance
  • We try it, and they provide feedback
  • I make small improvements in the course of the lesson
  • But mostly I reap the dividends later, after plenty of practice

But this lesson was different. Despite the degree of challenge presented, the amount of progress I was making within the course of the lesson itself was really clear. Emma would explain a point, we’d dance a song, and there would be a very significant improvement right away.

Don’t get the wrong idea: I missed plenty of things, and made plenty of mistakes. But I was amazed how much difference I was seeing from one song to the next, and Emma was clearly delighted too! There were quite a few high-fives.

She said that the ideal follower state was to be relaxed, but fully present. As with so much in tango, there’s a paradox to that. On the one hand, grounded and still where I am, moving only when I receive an unambiguous signal to do so. On the other, ready to move in an instant. That … will take a while!

I think tango would be much easier if I were a cat. As would the rest of life, for that matter. That’s definitely my reincarnation plan.

But, as tricky as it was, there were periods of effortless flow; I was making obvious progress; and I was loving it. Following is going to take a lot of work, but I have plenty of incentive: I want more of this drug.

Photo: Daria Durand/Unsplash

3 thoughts on “Another hit of the following drug, in a joyful private with Emma”

  1. Commiserations on the unexpected 4am start to the day! I had a 4am start too this morning when I was awoken by the persistent calling of a Cuckoo and Pheasant who I think were working in cahoots. That’s life in the country for you!

    It’s interesting to hear about your experiences with learning the follower role. My best advice would be to try to flow with the music, once you have mastered the basic moves e.g. walking backwards, pivots and the cross. The music will tell you when the double time steps are coming, that’s assuming you know the piece well. Which piece did you choose for your practise session? Di Sarli perhaps?

    We worked on double time steps too in my group class this week. And, I am learning how to Lead after a dozen or more years spent thoroughly enjoying the follower role. I was thankful that most of the followers in the Tango Essence group are quite advanced dancers so they were very helpful in sorting out the minor issues which I found were holding up my progress, like the huge fear of stepping on the followers toes. Being wonderful followers they encouraged me to be more courageous and purposeful in my leading in the knowledge that their backward steps would leave me plenty of room to make progress on the floor. It worked a treat and I can report that I’m really enjoying the whole experience. I do believe though that as I’m learning the Lead role I should stick to dancing with advanced followers: I think my progress will be hindered if I only dance with beginner followers.

    I believe you met one of our delightful Tango Essence ladies at Sheffield recently, she’s called Samantha. I told her to look out for you and she reported to me that your dancing was ‘divine’. Her word not mine. I’m certain I will find the same, that’s if we can actually locate one another for a Tanda or two, at tomorrow’s milonga at the Argentine Ambassadors Residence in Belgravia. We are a group of 11 dancers travelling from Wales for the event, so listen out for the presence of a Welsh lilt in the room which will help to point you in my direction.

    By the way, is there any way you can include a Mastodon social share button for your posts? This is where I usually share your work. Why, because Facebook is dying.

    Hwyl, Rhi.


    1. I actually found one of the hardest things was switching off my own interpretation of the music! Indeed, initially I almost had to tune it out, but I’m now slowly getting the hang of listening to it through the leader. I let my leader choose the music, though, so I at least mostly avoid my favourites!

      Yes, beginner leaders with beginner followers is a tough combo! I have followed a few men. Learning to follow is definitely influencing my lead, in all kinds of ways! I’ll probably write a specific post about that a little further down the line.

      I do indeed remember Sam, she’s a delightful dancer!

      Please do introduce yourself. I’ll be wearing either black or very dark blue tango trousers, and a white linen shirt. Or accost random followers – I’d guess more will know me than not.

      I very much look forward to dancing with you! Let’s choose a lyrical tanda. 🙂

      Mastadon button added.



  2. Hi Ben

    Excitement is mounting here in Swansea – we are bound for the milonga tomorrow night at the Embassy. Eleven of us will be travelling to London full of anticipation for a wonderful night’s dancing. I hope I’m fortunate enough to locate you for a Tanda or two.

    Good post today. Have you danced follower role with any men yet, and how do you find it? I’ve read other men’s experiences of following, like Ivica Anteski and Dimitris Bronowski, who said that it had an influence on the way they Lead going forward, it changed their style.

    ​Sending you warmest wishes and Tango hugs

    Rhianne (rhimorgangriffiths)

    p.s. No longer on Facebook


Leave a Reply to rhimorgangriffiths Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s