20 September 2010

"Landing" her first

One of the most significant learning experiences I've ever had (in tango) was knowing when my partner has landed her weight BEFORE I lead something else. It makes for a better, smoother dance...

A leader in learning
I remember the time when I was first learning to lead in tango. Woe to my partners at the time as I was very consistent—In knocking them off their axis. I would go from move to move and it seemed that they could never keep up with me, nor keep their balance.

Much to my chagrin, their awkward debacles were my fault! Later in my (tango) learning process, I realized that I kept knocking them off their axis because of two things. First, I was impatient. Second, I was impatient because I didn't know if my partners had finished shifting their weight or not.

I had made the mistaken assumption that my partners knew what to do. What I should have done was to learn how to lead properly.

A major epiphany–Shifting weights
My epiphany lay in the fact that in order (for me) to go from lead to lead, I had to get the timing right—I needed a signal.

I figured out that the signal I needed was to know when she "landed" her weight. That's when my partner has completed her movement. This, I needed to know before I lead my next thing.

Our chests are connected to our feet
This is one technique I use to know where my partner's weight is. Since I dance exclusively in close embrace, I used our chest-to-chest connection as a telegraph by concentrating deeply and feeling her movements.

I find it difficult to explain all the nuances, but here is my rule of thumb. There are three movements after I initiate a lead. First—she answers my lead by responding to it. Second—She follows my center, then returns to align with it. Third—(My epiphany) I feel her feet touch down, then, she settles and her whole weight "lands" on her leg.

That moment is the moment I know that she's ready. It's the signal I was looking for! It's the (only) time for me to lead something else without knocking her over!

In tango, many simple things make so big a difference. This is just one of those examples. That single learning experience of knowing when my partner lands her weight made all the difference from attempting a judo takedown to a smooth giro.



LimerickTango said...

The corollary being that she transmits when she lands which isn't something that followers are commonly told to do.

A regular example of what you describe occurs in the ocho. The lead knocks the follower off axis by pivoting her for the return sweep before she has completed the original step. I actually advocate that the follower resist the signal to pivot until they have made the step as otherwise the leader will never learn that they are executing the movement incorrectly.

tangocherie said...

So true! The man must give the lady time to finish the step he has led her to do. But often the man is nervous and rushes on to the next thing, creating havoc.

360-927-9601 said...

Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!!!

msHedgehog said...

How long did it take you and how did you learn to feel where her feet are? I was discussing this with a friend who said his ability to detect it worked its way downwards slowly - he had a sensation of knees first.

Anonymous said...

I agree that usually its the lead that is wanting - HOWEVER - the followers can improve the following:

1. Transmitting that they have landed. I dislike dancing with followers who flat and you can't feel where there feet are or whether they have landed. I'm sure they take great pride in their ability to move without stepping but this is unhelpful. Milongueras from BA definitely let you know where they are.

2. Move to the speed set by the leader. No good if the leader waits for the follower to land - if it is not the speed at which the leaders wants to interpret the music. So frustrating doing steps in a quarter of the speed the music wants you to.

AmpsterTango said...

@ msHedgehog:

It took me about a year and a half to figure out where her feet are.

As to how, I learned it dancing in close embrace. If I concentrate on her, I can feel (through my chest) where her weight is. I can feel when she rises slightly as her weight travels from one side to the other. I can feel her when she's a the apex of her movement. I can feel her settle down, and finally land all of her weight on one leg. Where her weight rests is where her feet are.

I also try to help her time her weight changes by trying to lead as best I can. I do this by leading/placing her upper body to where I need it to be, which then allows her to put the appropriate leg beneath her.

AmpsterTango said...

@ Anonymous:

Regarding the can't feel some followers: I encounter this sometimes with followers who have a deep background in Salsa and/or ballroom. Their share their weight between both feet.

As for the the followers who don't move to the speed of the leader, I encounter this also on occasion.

My solution (not easy) to both of them is to try my best to lead them well. I do this with a combination of trying to vary my embrace, and my body movements to transmit... "Please wait for me—with a loving smile," and try to land her myself. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not. In either case, I try to make it a good dance for them.

I tried to write express that in an older post—>(Dialing in)—> http://ampstertango.blogspot.com/2009/05/dialing-in.html

Joy in Motion said...

Nice, Ampster.

I believe this opens the door to truly being in the moment and engaging in a two-way conversation with your partner. You can react to each other at each step instead of one or both partners already moving onto something else. There is so much more improvisation and in-the-moment magic that can happen when you understand this concept. The simple things do indeed make the biggest difference. This is one of the essences of the dance.

"judo takedown to smooth giro"? LOL, love it!

Anonymous said...

Ah, I've missed you! Been very distracted with other stuff these days. Just wanted to comment that for me, this is THE single most important detail of Tango.

And to tell you that the googly-eyes on your pictures slays me every time.


AmpsterTango said...

@ Joy in Motion: I believe it to so true, and share your sentiments.

@ Johanna: I've missed you too!