Learning to lead in tango is a complex endeavor.
We all remember those painful times of going to class (or practicas) with a beginner leader. He was slow to pick it up, he’d step on our toes or bump into our knees, he’d repeat one move over and over and over again, and still not get it.
And then the milonga situation, where he’d totally stress out and just walk all the time and worry about boring us. Or, just as bad, he would start executing a sequence learned in class, but that meant he stopped the flow of the ronda and over his shoulder we could catch the impatient looks of the leaders behind.
I’m not proud of it, but I’m usually not a particularly tolerant or patient person (especially with eternal beginners).
But once I started leading and dealing with exactly the same issues as male leaders, I somehow grew a seedling of both tolerance and patience for men who are starting to learn to dance tango.
Leaders indeed have a very hard job at the begining.
They have to master their own movements (which may often be complicated enough if they are starting to pick up a new dance as grown-ups).
They have to learn how to show their follower what they want her to do. That’d be manageable, if they were allowed to use their arms - but any tango teacher worth their money should tell them that’s out of question.
They have to listen to music and at least respect the rhythm and stop motionless on the final note, if nothing else.
They have to memorize a certain amount of steps (because the majority of tango lessons are still based on sequences of steps).
They have to navigate the space on the dancefloor. That can be really terrifying, trust me. There are couples coming from all sides, it is hard to predict where they will go, some take up an enormous amount of space or come and squeeze you into a corner. And they give you mean looks if you are not behaving up to their expectations.
Then, of course, there is this fragile wonderful lady in his arms and she smells beautifully, her skin is so gentle and her hair is tickling his cheek. That by itself would be usually enough to mess up with man’s senses and his ability to concentrate.
But no. There is more. There is the sneaky loud inner voice who keeps telling the man that he is not good enough for her. He is probably boring her to death by dancing the same old simple steps over and over again.
So, the next time we have to dance with a beginner leader, let us just keep all of this in mind. They are going through an enormous amount of beginners’ frustration and they could use all the encouragement they can get.
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I'm Hannah A. Tomšič from Ljubljana, Slovenia. I'm in love with both leading and following in tango. It is wonderful to explore tango indefinitely and to help others learn. Please, join my quest. Ask a question, tell me your story, make me see another perspective. We are all here to learn from each other.