Sunday, May 8, 2016

It Isn't Always the Leader's Fault

How many times have I heard it?

 "He arm-leads".
 "He muscles his followers".
"He overleads".

 So I want to talk about one of the main causes of overleading:

The Follower.

 There are 3 major ways that followers cause the leader to overlead:

1: The Passive Follower
 Followers, I know you have heard over and over again, "Wait for the Lead". That is excellent advice. BUT that does not mean "Make him tow you around like a broken-down car". Drive yourself. As soon as you feel where he wants you to go, GO THERE. You may be wrong. Risk it. Trust your instincts. They tend to get there faster than your brain. The more experienced you are, the less likely you are to be wrong.
When you are walking backwards, you do NOT need to wait for the lead for each step.  As long as he is not stopping, he IS leading. Just keep walking, while listening for a lead to tell you to do something else. Likewise, gyros need your own energy in order to work. Let him guide you. Do not make him push you. The lead is not a tow chain - it is a turn signal and a break light.

2: The Floppy Follower
 This applies mostly to open embrace, and isn't as big a problem in a connection where the lead comes straight to your core and not so much through the arms. If you are getting the lead through your arms, then you must maintain the integrity of your dance "frame". If you let the shape collapse, his arm will follow it, looking for connection.

3: The Unbalanced Follower
If you are not on your axis, the leader literally has to support you. This means he has to work much harder to lead almost everything. Balance exercises are, in my opinion, the absolute MOST important exercises the follower can do on her own.

First step - try to find a relaxed, natural stance. Stand up straight. Lift your head. Relax your back. Pull your hips lightly back so they are over your feet.

Do not artificially collect your feet. The position with your weight on the ball of the foot, legs glued together, is about the most difficult position there is in which to balance. We are dancing Tango, not Ballet. So let your feet collect naturally in the course of the dance, and try to spend more time with the legs apart and the heels touching the ground.

Second - learn to find your axis. Your axis is the line that passes from the top of your head through your center of gravity, straight to the floor. It can be on one or both feet. If it is on one foot, it will pass straight through the point where that foot connects with the floor. When we walk, we pass it from foot to foot. When we pivot it must be through one foot only.

Third - ground yourself. Let your standing knee be soft - not super bent, but not straight. Let them act as shock absorbers as you take your steps, bending and straightening in a natural way. Dance with your whole foot, pushing through it, using the floor for your energy. If you start to lose balance, soften the knees a bit more and find the center of your foot.

Fourth - Get off your toes. Walking on your toes is the most unbalanced way there is to walk. And tango is all about walking.

To sum up: Do not blame your leader for over leading unless you know you are not contributing to the problem. While a good leader can neutralize some of these problems, there is only so much he can do.

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