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Getting followers to take bigger steps

Articles by:

  • JC Dill
  • Frank
  • Peter Niebert
  • Bruss Bowman
  • Stephen P. Brown
  • Alberto Paz
  • Jim Lane
  • Tom Stermitz


    
    Date:    Wed, 20 May 1998 19:58:47 -0700
    From:    JC Dill
    Subject: Getting followers to take bigger steps
    
    
    I was discussing this list with a lurker at a milonga a few nights ago, and
    he mentioned his enjoyment of the thread where followers discussed how they
    might motivate the leader to dance a simpler dance, and leaders gave
    suggestions on how to phrase such requests.
    
    He wanted to see if we could have a similar discussion about how leaders
    could motivate followers to take larger steps.  He finds that some
    followers never seem to take large enough steps that would allow him to do
    any embellishments between them.  If he tries to really *lead them* into
    *big steps* he feels that he is dragging them all over the floor, and
    doesn't enjoy the dance.  His regular partner takes long steps, not overly
    long but with enough space that he can easily embellish, do sacadas, etc.
    She's shorter than average, so it isn't as if her legs were real long, as
    if she always took huge steps and it was a measure impossible to meet.
    While I am quite out of practice, he found that dancing with me was
    enjoyable, apparently I take long enough steps too (I *am* tall, but I know
    I don't reach anywhere near as far as I can when I am in better form).  So
    his problem mostly seems to be with followers who take steps far smaller
    than average.
    
    Since some of these followers are close friends, not dancing with them
    isn't really a possible solution (so this isn't one of those "phantom
    problems" that FdM refers to).  This also means that verbal suggestions
    must be *very* tactful.  :-)
    
    Are there any other leaders who have encountered this situation?  Do you
    have any advice for this leader on how to improve his dancing enjoyment
    with these followers who are inclined to take small steps?
    
    TIA
    
    jc
    
    
    
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    Date:    Thu, 21 May 1998 06:29:20 EDT
    From:    FRSASSON
    Subject: Fwd: Getting followers to take bigger steps
    
    
     In a message dated 98-05-21 01:54:44 EDT, you write:
    
     <<  He finds that some
      followers never seem to take large enough steps that would allow him to do
      any embellishments between them.  >>
    
     Tia:
    
     In my experience, the size of the steps depends upon:
    
     1.       How experienced is the follower !!!!!!
    
               A beginner, and sometimes an intermediate dancer, as a rule, will
    take much smaller steps than an advanced experienced dancer.
    
     2.        How good the leader  is  !!!!!!!!!!
    
                In dancing with an intermediate to advanced tanguera for the first
    time, if the leader is tentative in his steps, (Principally his first salida
    or few steps). you can't possibly blame the follower for not doing what the
    leader wants her to do.
    
                However, if the leader is definite in his "step demands", and
    asserts his desires with a definite purpose in mind and movement, and on his
    very first step, gives a good long definite salida, followed by several steps
    with the desired length he wants his follower to take, he will instantly
    transmit a feeling of confidence to his follower, who then, usually, will
    follow in the length that she was shown.
    
                 Too many times the follower is blamed for the inadequate purpose
    of a weak leader.
    
                  Of course, there are exceptions to this and all tango rules,
    some times in cases where the follower is a "leading follower", one who no
    matter what, wants to impose her will on the dance floor, but mostly when the
    follower, even if she is an upper intermediate dancer, has not yet learned the
    full tango language, and therefore, has difficulty in understanding the step
    communication that the leader is imparting.
    
     Frank ( in Miami)
    
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    Date:    Thu, 21 May 1998 16:13:26 +0200
    From:    Peter Niebert
    Subject: Re: Getting followers to take bigger steps
    
    
    JC Dill writes:
    [...]
     > He wanted to see if we could have a similar discussion about how leaders
     > could motivate followers to take larger steps.  He finds that some
     > followers never seem to take large enough steps that would allow him to do
     > any embellishments between them.  If he tries to really *lead them* into
     > *big steps* he feels that he is dragging them all over the floor, and
     > doesn't enjoy the dance.  His regular partner takes long steps, not overly
     > long but with enough space that he can easily embellish, do sacadas, etc.
    [...]
    
    First of all, a technical comment: this is a typical problem with
    beginning followers, but it is not that they take to short steps; the
    problem is that they do not follow the length of the step being
    lead. It would not be right for the follower to taker a bigger step
    than is lead to give the leader space for some kind of dangerous
    gymnastics. For instance in a parallel step of both partners, the goal
    is to move the weight together and to bring it to a parallel position
    again. This explains one of the seeming miracles of Tango, that both
    partners place there feet in complete harmony without looking on the
    floor.
    
    As has recently been explained, lead-follow essentially works in these
    three steps: (1) the leader indicates the (length of) the step, (2)
    the follower executes the step, (3) the leader accompanies the
    follower in the step.
    
    Now, many beginning followers -- who really have not yet learned to
    follow -- just pick up the direction, not the speed, not the length of
    a step. They decide for themselves how long the step will be and even
    a good leader cannot hinder them in doing so. If he is a good leader,
    he has no chance but to accept the small step and properly accompany
    her. So what happens is that the follower blocks the joint movement
    from becoming big. The feeling of "draging" her over the floor maybe
    is, because your friend tried to do a big step in (3), as big as he
    wished her to do it, although she did not. That surely feels bad.
    
    The problem with the "small steps" usually occurs in ochos and
    everything built around ochos. Maybe the beginning followers have
    balance problems with ochos and thus take short steps to catch the
    balance. There is probably no way to avoid this, because ochos are
    IMHO *not* a natural movement (a movement occurring in everyday life),
    so how could any beginner have balance here from the beginning. So,
    beginners just cannot follow ochos lead big. So they take them small
    regardless of the lead and then get used to ignore this part of the
    lead, which they originally could not follow.
    
    
     > Since some of these followers are close friends, not dancing with them
     > isn't really a possible solution (so this isn't one of those "phantom
     > problems" that FdM refers to).  This also means that verbal suggestions
     > must be *very* tactful.  :-)
    
    Something is wrong here, I think. There are close friends, with whom I
    do not want to dance. They *must* learn to accept this, or our
    (forced) dancing will not be any good for the relationship. The
    problem is how to tactfully tell her (an assumed close friend, who
    wants to dance with me, but I do not want this) that it is better for
    both of us rather to look for other dance partners and stick to our
    other ways of communicating together! I wish I had a recipe for
    that. I will not allow anyone to claim the *right* to dance with me
    and I do not claim the right to dance with a particular person. Both
    partners have to agree on each dance.
    
    The situation is different, if I *do* like to dance with the woman
    (today), but I notice problems in her dancing (same day). Then, it is
    easy. By our dancing she will know that I like her and like to dance
    with her and she will not feel badly criticised by any kind of
    constructive suggestions. I do not recall a single woman, with whom I
    enjoyed to dance for any kind of reason (for the argument: not because
    of her skill, but maybe because of her musicality, or her heart), who
    was not willing to accept suggestions, after we had a few dances.
    
    There is a third possibility, that we have a bad day together (no
    harmony in dancing or at all), although on other days it is
    different. Then, maybe we stop to dance or get modest and do the most
    simple things together to find each other. But I would not make any
    technical suggestions on such a day.
    
    
     >
     > Are there any other leaders who have encountered this situation?  Do you
     > have any advice for this leader on how to improve his dancing enjoyment
     > with these followers who are inclined to take small steps?
    
    Now, how to communicate the problem about small steps/small
    ochos. Again, I assume that the problem occurs with ochos or giros,
    but not with simple steps.
    
    Let us say, it is a problem about back ochos in front of the leader
    (for other problems, similar comments apply), i.e.\ the kind of
    movement where the man takes simple side steps to the left, to the
    right, to the left again ..., while she is taking backward steps and
    turns in parallel to the position where the man places the foot, take
    another backward step in the other direction, turns, and so
    forth. Obviously, this movement can be repeated indefinitely, and it
    can be executed in small up to very big steps, or it can be executed
    with an overall forward movement (with lighter ochos of the woman) or
    even a backward movement of the man (with stronger ochos of the
    woman).
    
    To explain the problem (that she is blocking the lead in her backward
    ochos) to her I would play around with variations on this kind of
    movement (smaller and bigger ochos) and -- to give her a control of
    the "right" feeling -- alternatively joint side steps of both partners
    to the left, to the right, and so on ... . Both movements should
    essentially have the same feel, dynamics and so forth.
    
    This kind of exercise almost always works very well to eliminate or at
    least diminish the problem.
    
    After explaining the problem, doing this exercise a few times, I will
    dance with her another dance or two and afterwards truthfully tell her
    that it feels better now.
    
    
    
    ----
    
    There is another problem about small/large steps:
    
    
    Beginning and even intermediate dancers of both roles often try to
    avoid large steps in a certain direction because of fear. Many
    intermediate followers have told me that it is much more difficult for
    them to walk forward (while the man is going backward) than
    backward. The reason is that they fear to injure the leader, because
    they have to take a step where he is standing *now*. Beginning leaders
    have the same problem in walking "into" the woman. So watch them twist
    their spine in the attempt to be in front of the woman at the level of
    the chest for leading them, while they try to place their legs to the
    side of the woman for not kicking her.
    
    This is a psychological problem, and it can be solved by
    rationalisation that the partner will not be where I step and by the
    experience that properly kicking the partner while walking into
    her/him is not all *that* bad (sounds bad, but timidly avoiding ever
    to touch your partner while walking into him/her will never solve any
    problems). Also for this reason it is essential for both partners to
    practice with moderately soft shoes.
    
    Likewise, beginning followers and many leaders are fearful of
    executing (large) backward steps. There have been many comments about
    the harm of taking a backward step against the direction of dance. But
    the problem is not so much the direction of the backward step, but the
    fact of going backward, where you do not know, what is going on. And
    we fear to kick somebody by going backward
    
    Followers eventually learn to trust the leaders and thus to believe
    that there is space, where they are lead. Leaders eventually learn to
    know the situation around them well enough to know and use the fact
    that nobody can be behind them. But the psychological problem of the
    fear remains for both.
    
    Again the solution is to find out that bumping into somebody is not
    *that* bad. This is not to tell leaders to step backwards in a
    direction they do not know about! Not at all! But sometimes, they will
    be wrong and they will bump into a couple, which came unpretictably
    out of nowhere at the speed of sound.
    The lesson to learn is that there are ways to almost eliminate the
    danger of injury, e.g.\ by keeping your feet close to the ground and
    by being ready to instantly stop and redirect a foot that unexpectedly
    touches something.
    
    There are many exercises to overcome fear and to learn trust, in
    dancing and many other disciplines. Here is a particular exercise for
    walking backward without fear, which I have learned from Amira
    Campora: Place some chairs on the dancefloor (which is filled only
    with people doing the exercise -- and chairs), let the people almost
    blindly walk backward with the only aim to take big steps backward,
    but not to avoid contact with any chair or any person. So they will
    bump into chairs and into other people. As this happens, the goal is
    to instantly react by stopping and/or redirecting/reversing the
    movement. The lesson learned by our brain (department of trust and
    fear :-) is that we survive this exercise without bad bruises and so
    do the other guys too.
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    -- Peter
    
    
    
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    Date:    Thu, 21 May 1998 10:50:31 -0700
    From:    Bruss Bowman
    Subject: Re: Getting followers to take bigger steps
    
    
    /*
    He wanted to see if we could have a similar discussion about how leaders
    could motivate followers to take larger steps.  He finds that some
    followers never seem to take large enough steps that would allow him to
    do
    any embellishments between them.  If he tries to really *lead them* into
    *big steps* he feels that he is dragging them all over the floor,
    ............................
    Are there any other leaders who have encountered this situation?  Do you
    have any advice for this leader on how to improve his dancing enjoyment
    with these followers who are inclined to take small steps?
    */
    
    I struggled with this problem for a long, long time.
    
    Leader's embellishment of followers steps ( sacadas in particular )
    typically occur in within part of a turning element.
    
    Michael Walker was the teacher who best explained the problem set to me.
    
    The issue is one of sensitivity or quality of both lead and follow.  The
    key ( to me ) is to break down the elements of the turning lead into two
    distinct parts;  1. The pivot 2. The step.  This idea remains the same
    in forward, back and side steps.   As you practice leading/following a
    turn to the right or left break down the pattern into the smallest parts
    and pause at the end of each.
    
    For example:
    Describing the followers steps
    1.      Forward step
    2.      Pivot
    3.      Side step
    4.      Pivot
    5.      Back step
    6.      Pivot
    7.      Side step
    8.      Pivot
    ...........then the pattern repeats.
    
    Note: It is imperative that the follower track her feet during the pivot
    element and that she does not step until lead to do so.
    
    Once both the leader and the follower can really distinguish the
    difference between the lead for the pivot and the lead for the step then
    leading the size of the step becomes almost elementary.  If this
    sensitivity on both partner's parts doesn't exist then trying to coerce
    "larger" steps will be an effort in frustration for both people.
    
    Interestingly enough, for years I felt that the followers were not
    taking large enough steps for me to be able to work within.  Of course
    it couldn't have been my leading. ( this is sarcasm for those that don't
    know me! )  Over time as the quality of the turns became better I've
    found that my own "over stepping" ( aka Godzilla steps...Thump, Thump,
    Thump....ahhhhh  ) and incorrect placement of step are actually more of
    a problem than small steps by the follower.    For those of you that
    have been to the incredibly crowded dance floors of BsAs you know that
    for survival your steps must be VERY small and that there are dozens of
    leaders that are able to embellish the night away with the framework of
    these small steps !
    
    I would recommend working on the quality ( sensitivity ) of your turning
    and walking elements and step size will take care of itself.
    
    Best Regards,
    Bruss
    
    
    
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    Date:    Thu, 21 May 1998 14:03:21 -0500
    From:    "Stephen P. Brown"
    Subject: Re: Getting followers to take bigger steps
    
    
         Frank wrote:
    
     >In my experience, the size of the steps depends upon:
    
    
     >2.        How good the leader  is  !!!!!!!!!!
    
     >Too many times the follower is blamed for the inadequate purpose
     >of a weak leader.
    
     >[I]f the leader is tentative in his steps, you can't possibly blame
     >the follower for not doing what the leader wants her to do.
    
     >if the leader is definite in his "step demands", and asserts his
     >desires with a definite purpose in mind and movement, and on his very
     >first step, gives a good long definite salida, followed by several
     >steps with the desired length he wants his follower to take, he will
     >instantly transmit a feeling of confidence to his follower, who then,
     >usually, will follow in the length that she was shown.
    
     Yes, a leader who finds recurring problems with many different followers
     should look at what he is doing.  I would shift the emphasis, however,
     away from the leader's steps to how he marks the follower's steps.
    
     The leader establishes the length of the follower's steps not with the
     length of his own steps but by how much and when he shifts his and her
     weight.  If a leader takes a long step but is late in shifting his own
     weight or does not shift his own weight by a much as he steps, the
     follower is receiving an instruction to take a shorter step and with
     different timing.
    
     My regular partner, Susan, describes the best leaders as being still.  By
     this, she means that he has completely shifted his and her weight by the
     time a step (not figure) is completed.  In particular, his weight is not
     lagging behind, and then catching up with step.  Such stillness greatly
     reduces two common problems that are often blamed on followers: stepping
     too soon or quickly, and taking steps that are too short.
    
     Let me offer an example of how the leader's shift of weight affects the
     follower's timing:
    
     During a workshop in San Francisco a few weeks ago, Fabian Salas taught
     an inline barrida where the man does a cross-foot basic, and then sweeps
     the woman's right foot straight back with his right foot.  If the man has
     failed to shift all of his weight onto his left foot during the preceding
     step, the woman will tend to take a short back step with her right foot as
     he attempts to bring his right foot forward to touch hers to begin the
     barrida.
    
     A leader's attempt to bring his foot up faster will not work and could
     result in an injury to both of them.  The key to making the follower wait
     for the leader is for him to completely shift his weight onto his left
     foot during the preceding step.  Then the movement of his right foot does
     not mark any step for her.
    
     The idea of a confident step is one in which the weight is completely
     shifted, and there is complete stillness before the next step is marked.
    
     --Steve de Tejas
    
    
    
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    Date:    Fri, 22 May 1998 00:58:14 -0700
    From:    TangoMan
    Subject: A cure for "shortstepitis"
    
    
    On the question of short steps and how to correct the problem, I'd like to
    suggest the following concept which applies to both men and women when
    walking backwards.
    There is a natural length for the back step and it results from keeping the
    leg straight rotating from the joint at the hip instead of bending the knee
    as we do in normal street walk. Most cases of "shortstepitis" are caused by
    swinging the lower leg from the knee. A side effect of this is that there
    will be a lot of upper leg bumping as the upper leg has not gone with the
    lower leg in search of the back step.
    Try to have your body weight firmly loaded in the support leg, bend the knee
    enough to feel properly balanced and stretch the other leg as a unit
    (without bending the knee and using the joint at the hip as the rotation
    point)looking for the floor behind with the metatarsus (the ball of the
    foot), keeping the heel off the ground. At this point shift enough weight so
    the body is basically in the middle. When your partner advances, elongate
    the leg, set the heel down, bring the whole body weight to that leg and
    repeat the previous sequence with the other leg.
    There exists a possibility that if the man does not how to mark a back step,
    then the lady is out of luck if she is being held tight by his right arm (no
    place to go) against her back.
    Tangazos,
    
    Alberto
    
    
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    Date:    Fri, 22 May 1998 04:16:09 -0700
    From:    Jim Lane
    Subject: Re: Getting followers to take bigger steps
    
    
    
    Peter Niebert <niebert@INFORMATIK.UNI-HILDESHEIM.DE>:
    >For instance in a parallel step of both partners, the goal
    >is to move the weight together and to bring it to a parallel position
    >again. This explains one of the seeming miracles of Tango, that both
    >partners place there feet in complete harmony without looking on the
    >floor.
    
    Although it's clearly important for partners to take appropriately
    sized steps with each other, I disagree that this explains the miracle.
    
    Another thing that I was taught long ago is that, as a lead, I must
    always be completely aware of my partner's balance and weight.  In
    a tango dance position, if I close my eyes and my partner takes a
    step in any direction, I should be able to place my foot next to any
    part of hers just by feeling her balance.
    
    Jim
    
    
    
    
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    Date:    Fri, 22 May 1998 13:31:52 -0600
    From:    Tom Stermitz
    Subject: Re: Getting followers to take bigger steps
    
    
    >I was discussing this list with a lurker at a milonga a few nights ago, and
    >he mentioned his enjoyment of the thread where followers discussed how they
    >might motivate the leader to dance a simpler dance, and leaders gave
    >suggestions on how to phrase such requests.
    >
    >He wanted to see if we could have a similar discussion about how leaders
    >could motivate followers to take larger steps.  He finds that some
    >followers never seem to take large enough steps that would allow him to do
    >any embellishments between them.  If he tries to really *lead them* into
    >*big steps* he feels that he is dragging them all over the floor, and
    >doesn't enjoy the dance
    ....
    >Are there any other leaders who have encountered this situation?  Do you
    >have any advice for this leader on how to improve his dancing enjoyment
    >with these followers who are inclined to take small steps?
    
    I usually stay away from instructional posts. It is too easy to get lost in
    words. I never read those long, complicated ones.
    
    I find the topic of step length to be very interesting, however.
    
    It is easier for a follower to learn to step short than to start with short
    steps and learn to step long.
    
    Nice, long beautiful steps should be taught from the beginning. If your
    teacher doesn't do that, then I strongly advise you to find another
    teacher. It is so fundamental, that such a shortcoming definitely indicates
    an inexperienced teacher.
    
    In ballroom dance you deal with this differences in step length also, but
    perhaps only at a higher level of skill. In tango you are forced to deal
    with intense lead-follow issues including step length much earlier in your
    development.
    
    I have a deceptively simple excercise that I use frequently:
    
    Lead simple backward and forward walking with long and together steps. Vary
    the pattern. Change the the foot that goes back. Vary the rhythms. This
    excercise is even more distilled to its essentials if the follower puts her
    hands on the leader's chest.
    
    I say deceptively simple because most people are running around taking
    regular long steps without ever using the together step, except at the
    tango-close resolution.
    
    The practice forces the follower to do several things:
    --Learn to connect step-length with the leader's chest movement.
    --Wait at the half-way point since she doesn't know where it is going.
    --Slow down her stepping, instead of guessing and racing to land her foot.
    --She habituates to the alternating footsteps of tango, as opposed to the
    follower's right-foot lead of Ballroom dancing.
    
    <<The last point is one of my biggest pet peeves after the DBS. You go to
    certain communities of Southern California (which shall remain nameless),
    and the ballroom presence has habituated the followers to always step bask
    with their right foot. If I go forward, she uses her left (undoubtedly
    DBS-conditioning). This is simply wrong, yet I have even seen a teacher in
    LA instructing that one SHOULD step back with the left. We have some of
    this problem in Colorado also.>>
    
    Anyway, it is easier to start with the long-together pattern than to play
    with long and short.
    
    Tom Stermitz
    
    
    
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    Garrit Fleischmann May.98
    Email: kontakt(at)cyber-tango.com