Monday, April 14, 2008

Mind games...and Mr. Wonderful

A question for the followers...If you see a leader dancing with an inexperienced follower, and things are not going well, does that color your opinion of his lead, or effect the probability of accepting a dance with him?

The first part of this might be the obvious, that it gives you a perception of his lead. The lead itself, in and of itself. Good, bad, average. A state of grace.

The second part of this might be more abstract/nebulous and go more to this leader's mindset. Either he's a "tango angel" taking a newbie out, and this garners a positive vibe within you - affecting your mindset.

Or it could be that he made a mistake in his selection of dancers, or it could be an accidental pairing due to failed cabeceo (he meant to invite someone else) and you should not hold this against him.

Or it could color your opinion/perception of this leader more deeply. Do you now view/perceive him as a "lesser" leader?

All this in a view milliseconds of sensory inputs and responses. Perhaps even un/subconscious responses. There must be leaders that you just have a feeling about. You don't really know what in particular it is, but you just don't ever see yourself dancing with them. Right?

For me, if I see a follower dancing with a leader who I know is a hack, well, I'm trying to figure out what I think. Call this a post of self-exploration. This would be a follower who I haven't danced with yet. A follower who I first perceived as someone I want to dance with. But now I see she has accepted a dance from Mr. Hack, Mr. Wonderful.

Ah, now it's all coming back to me. My post was rapidly fizzling before my eyes/fingertips. I was wondering where the hell I was going to go with this.

There was a woman who always raved about Mr. Wonderful. Mr. Wonderul blew into town on occasion - blew in on his own wind. Mr. Wonderful wore red suede shoes. Mr. Wonderful thought he was hot shit. He "knew" he was hot shit. There was no other possibility in his self-absorbed little mind. Mr. Wonderful had a curious knack for being able to collide, like an asteroid, with the one other couple on the dance floor - 30 feet by 50 feet - 1500 square feet. His collisions were not isolated incidents. Ten couples, ten collisions. Four couples, four collisions. Collisions were an integral part of his tango vocabulary. Gancho, sacada, colgada, collision.

The woman swooned over Mr. Wonderful. "His lead is fantastic" she would say. The other women would say "His lead sucks. He's too harsh."

He always did way too much. It didn't look too bad, but you could see the weakness of his lead. The weakness of his lead was his forcefulness. He was a "handsy" leader. The woman often lost her balance.

I never danced with the woman after Mr. Wonderful came to town. Not just because of this, but mainly because she was a bouncer, a popper, a bopper. Yeah that's it, that's the perfect term - "bopper". She would bop and hit my chin and cause my teeth to slam together. I thought to myself, "Self, you should get a rubber mouth guard for this..."

Anyway, what's the moral of this post?

#1 ::
Obtusely, resist the urge to rave about a leader to other leaders. We might get our little feelings hurt.

#2 ::
What do you think (or feel) when a leader, who you thought you might like to dance with, but never have, now looks like he is struggling with his current partner?

#3 ::
Don't be a bopper. No up and down/vertical motion in your walk. Be tuned in to your connection, if you feel yourself sliding up and down on the lead's chest, or his cheek, or bumping the top of your head into his chin, that is a sure bopping symptom. Schedule a private to get yourself "de-bopped". Kinda like being "de-flowered", only better.

#4 ::
Does Alex "think" too much and read too much into things - as in "Shut up, stop thinking, and just dance Alex..."?


msHedgehog said...

Well - I know from experience that judgement from watching someone dance with someone else, whose qualities I generally don't know either, is quite unreliable. I've tried making an estimate and then checking it by dancing with the person, and I usually find my estimate was too pessimistic. Not always, but most of the time. But most of the good or bad is stuff you can't easily see.

Tassili said...

To tell you the truth, when I see a leader who is struggling with a follower, I
1) salute him for taking the time to train a new tanguera, which I was not so long ago and,
2) never think that he might be a bad leader, because I know that seeing a leader dancing does not give me any indication of how I will feel in his arms.
Which leads me to an interesting topic : do you think tango is a dramatically different experience for a leader or a follower? I am beginning to think so, after a conversation with a good friend of mine (leader). While I consistently fall in love for 3 minutes (and out immediately afterwards, don,t worry!), I let go and just indulge in the beautiful feeling (provided, of course, that the leader is good..:-), he said that it never happened to leaders.
Is it because of the very nature of what it means to lead/to follow, where the 1st means control and the latter let go and be receptive?
What is your opinion on that?

Caroline said...

There are 2 things that come to mind when watching a divine leader dance with an inexperienced follower:

A - he's dancing with her because she's young and pretty. Duh.

B - he's dancing with her because she had been sitting all night and he took pity upon her.

Either way, I would dance with him if he's a good leader and a nice guy. IT's none of my business as to why he would dance with a novice follower. Only reason I would not dance with a good leader is because I don't like his personality or because he comes off as lecherous.

Anonymous said...

And to be honest, sometimes we wonder why he is dancing with such an awkward dancer and he doesn't ask us - the more experienced dancers. Is it because we aren't young and pretty?

Alex said...

Yes, Anon, I know what you mean. I used the word "inexperienced", but he could really be struggling with a more experienced follower as well.

I had some of my best dances in Atlanta with a woman who had only been dancing 10 months, and some mediocre dances with much more experienced followers....

And by the way, Ms. Anon, I'm sorry we never got to time, okay?

Anonymous said...

Alex, yes. You think too much :-)

But several commentors have mentioned that watching is a very unreliable way to judge someone's skill. And as we all know, what works for one person doesn't always work for another.

I look for respect and kindness in the partnership. Assuming I don't know either partner, and the follow is clearly a newbie, is the lead trying to power-lead her through things she's tripping all over, or does he adjust to her level and just keep it gentle and simple?

If the former, I automatically dismiss him and refuse to waste my time with him. If the latter, I watch to see what he does with other follows, and if he continues to be skilled and thoughtful, absolutely, I'd give him a whirl.

studio wellspring said...

i rarely consider an awkward dance to be solely the fault of the leader {esp if i'm just watching it} ~ it's usually a combination of things. i get asked to dance by experienced leaders sometimes and i'm a novice tanguera, but i'm certain the main reason is because they take pity on me. but i appreciate it all the same. even still, i rarely sit for more than one or two songs, and i like to think it's because even tho i don't know every move in tango and don't have years of experience in tango, i have been dancing all my life so i naturally have balance, core composure, and musicality that an experienced leader can appreciate. plus i'm an eager & open follower ~ i don't have my mind stuck on what should be. sometimes having a great sense of movement, a wonderful embrace, and a flowing connection to the music can make up for not knowing how to do specific "showy" moves. right? i think the same goes for leads too.

tangomad said...

Yes I look. Yes my judgement is coloured. Yes I think "see how he is muscling that poor girl into place" and yes I think I will not dance with him. On the other hand sometimes I see a leader who is patient and kind and waits for the inexperienced follower to take her step and then I hope that maybe he will ask me for a dance later. In tango I was a fast learner. Some leaders stopped inviting me after a few months they moved onto the newer (and yes younger thinner and prettier) followers. What's the point? Some leaders get a kick out of teaching.

ModernTanguera said...

It seems to me that you are asking about a lot of different issues here, but in general I can sum things up by agreeing with Johanna (she took the words right out of my mouth ... or my keyboard, rather). I look for a leader who is respectful of his follower. I know leaders who always try to dance with new followers, because they want to encourage new dancers and bring them into the community (one thing that helped me stick with it!), but I also know leaders who prey on newbies, manhandling them and trying to teach them on the dance floor. It depends on the leader's approach to these followers.

But you also seem to be asking not just about dancing with inexperienced followers, but also with followers who have been dancing tango for a long time and have not improved. This seems to be your problem with the Mr. Wonderful type - followers are choosing to dance with a leader who is not a newbie, he's just bad. As a follower, I will dance with leaders who are inexperienced for the same reason that respectful leaders do - to help the community grow. But I try to avoid the leaders like Mr. Wonderful who are disrespectful, teacher-wannabes, show-offs, etc.

So my question back to you (and others) is this: Are there followers of the same type as your Mr. Wonderful leader? Followers who are blissfully bad? It seems like they would have a harder time surviving, given that they don't have the same asking power that leaders have, but I'm curious to hear what you think ...

Sorin said...

"Some leaders stopped inviting me after a few months they moved onto the newer (and yes younger thinner and prettier) followers. What's the point? Some leaders get a kick out of teaching."

Not to be harsh, but those leaders you mentioned might've decided that the direction you were evolving towards was not going to work for them. I try to dance with beginners, but not out of pity, but rather of a desire to promote what I consider good tango. If they evolve into a dancer I like to dance with, I will certainly dance with them later. If they are not, I will stop dancing with them and move on to the "next beginner".

Debbi said...

I have to say, there is a difference between an inexperienced follower, and a follower who has been dancing for awhile but still lacks basics. If a strong/experienced/good leader is dancing with an inexperienced follower, I am usually pleased to see he is being encouraging/growing the community/being a gentleman. I don't think less of him. I think more.
But when I see dancers dancing with someone who is either clearly a menace (as Mr Wonderful seems to be) or someone who just does not get it for whatever reason after years of dancing - and this is regardless of if they are a leader or a follower - I usually shake my head in confusion. Maybe they are friends. Maybe they are being an angel. Maybe they think that he or she is attractive enough to overlook the pain and suffering the tanda is going to offer.
I choose my leaders according to not only how well they dance, but how they make me feel in the embrace, their musicality, and how they connect with me. There are some technically proficient dancers whom I don't care to dance with as it is like dancing with a cardboard cutout. No emotion, no connection, no communication. Eehh. Not my type ;-)

Elizabeth said...

I really like what Sorin said. Leaders and followers who are smart will willingly engage in the cultivation of their own garden by dancing with new dancers in a warm and giving way, and later, well, those beginners are no longer beginners, but good and reliable parners in this grand adventure of tango. But also I understand what Debbi says about the difference between beginners and people who just stagnate. What is going on there? I don't want to try to help someone who is not open to growing.
You don't have to spend all night with the kids in training, just a tanda will do.

Anonymous said...

Of course everyone will tend to get tired of dancing with people that don't evolve. My experience is that people that are not evolving tend to not push themselves and develop an attitude !

I've seen great leaders dance with beginners that didn't make them look amazing. It takes two right?... but from my experience, sometimes you dance with totally beginners because you are friends with her and you want that person to become a part of the community.

Oleh said...

I thought to myself, "Self, ..."


Niki said...

a leader's choice in follower would not affect my desire to dance with him(or her). I connect with some leaders and not with others. The only reason I would refuse to dance with someone would be if they were inflicting pain, eg., consistently stepping on folloers' toes, being too forcefull with their right hand (twisting my wrist), trying to lead by pushing and shoving my lower back, etc. Even in those cases I would let the leader know how those actions affect me ('My wrist is a bit sore tonight, could you please be gentle with it?'said with a smile), and only if they then continued to cause pain, would i make the very conscious decision not to dance with them again.