Monday, May 19, 2008

Tango Sin #2 For Men: Throwing Your Partner Around Like A Ragdoll

And, yes, I committed this sin in my first year of tango, too. You know what it usually looks like--a guy is doing a fine job of leading his partner, nice salida, elegant backward ochos and then, bam!, he throws her like a ragdoll. She's jarred and continues with a look of dread; he's oblivious and continues with a look of anticipation planning his next big move.

Or so it normally goes. I was watching this very type of scene two Sundays ago--the guy wasn't being respectful of his partners body even though her discomfort was obvious. I honestly don't know if the guy had any idea how uncomfortable this was for her, but I had the feeling he didn't. Finally, he jarred her one too many times and she appropriately walked off the floor.

What an unfortunate and frustrating experience for her. She was there to have a great time and now she's having to worry for her safety and feeling the awkwardness of having to leave her partner on the dance floor. There were a lot of glancing looks as people tried figuring out what had just happened. Fortunately, I think the guy got it because during his next dance he didn't try any of his show moves and his boleos became more subtle.

Women, I will never try to excuse my own bad leading from the past (I'm sure many would question my use of the "past", but please throw me a bone). Nor will I try to excuse the lead of some of my brothers. But I will try to explain it.

Why do we sometimes lead moves as if our follow is a ragdoll?

Because too often we don't take enough classes to properly learn moves and we end up leading them badly. As a result of not having really learned the moves, we don't know strong our lead should be in the beginning.

When new leaders (and sometimes more experienced ones, too) start going to milongas, the confusion mounts because there's a lot to remember and we start hitting sensory overload (difficult dance to learn, sultry music, close embrace tangos, sexy women, great people, the chattering crowd, the flowing line of dance...). You add all this up and then combine it with the challenge of having to gauge how strong your lead should be for different moves and, unfortunately, most of us make mistakes in the beginning.

This is why, brothers, it's important when you're starting out to please practice your new moves in classes and practicas before surprising a women with them at a milonga. And if you're determined to try a new move, err on the side of leading the move too gently at first and only increase incrementally as necessary. What's the worst that can happen?...the move doesn't work, but at no risk to her. I can tell you it took me well over a year to get boleos down and I'm shocked now by how boleos are a simple transfer of weight. I lead them now with half the power, but they're twice as effective. Less is more.

So, brothers, lead her safely. If we're respectful of our partner, we'll have a new friend who will gladly dance with us at milongas for years to come. And what could be better than that?


Triman Beaumont said...

we have a lot of social dancing courses in CR, almost everyone (every guy, every girl) attends them during whole winter in the age of 15 or 16. and every dance master has a lot of assistants. if you watch them dancing in gala, you can BET that they will dance JUST T A LITTLE BIT BETTER better then newbies but doing VERY LONG steps. i suppose that making unexpected long and strong steps/moves is one of the natural phases in the process of dance learning. :-) i did the same :-)

Mark Andersen said...

Thanks, Triman. I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, but I actually lived in Prague for 6 years. Prague is an extraordinary city. My brother lived there for 7 years and his Czech wife (Renata). Actually, they're having their first baby in July.

Anyway, I ran the Business School at a small college in Prague (Anglo-American College). All the Czech students were good or better dancers for exactly the reason Triman is saying--Czech high school ("gymnazium") students are required to take dance classes and that's a big benefit to them later.

For anyone out there who hasn't been to Prague and the Czech Replublic before, please go! It's amazing.