by Mitra Martin
Being a great follower is all about being observant and empowered. Use every group class as an opportunity to practice these skills of “Courageous Followership.” Here are some specific tips.
Partners and Roles
❀ Bring a partner. Consider asking another woman to be your partner. Most of us find that it’s easier to recruit a woman partner than a man, and it’s just as good for your dancing. Thanks to Sharna for this idea !
❀ Switch roles, no matter who you’re partnering with. Let the teacher know at the beginning you are planning to.
❀ Bring different-heeled shoes so you can choose which shoes you want based on who you will work with and which role you will dance.
Engage the Teacher
❀ Practice the material until you have specific questions. Ask these when the whole group is convened, or when you speak directly with the teacher. Be assertive ! Ask your question ! The teacher is there to help you and wants to be of service.
❀ Lead the teacher, so you can feel how she does it. This is often incredibly valuable and illuminating; of course, to do this, you need to know how to lead ! Hello 100-level !
❀ If you can’t lead, then ask your leader to dance with the woman teacher and then describe to you how it feels. Ask him to tell you about specifics like: ‘What did her embrace feel like ?’
❀ Ask the teacher to do it with you and tell you what you need to work on.
❀ Use every opportunity to improve your technique. Any intermediate woman dancer has already been given countless bits of technical advice relating to different body parts such as arms, neck, shoulders, ankles, center, toes. Select ONE you want to keep in your awareness for the duration of the whole 1-hour class. Verbalize to your leaders where you’re focusing.
❀ Practice adding or inventing embellishments !
❀ If the class is on a figure/sequence, learn it so that you can re-create it with or without the leader. Try to understand what is interesting/challenging about it. Write it down.
❀ If it’s not working, or if you find yourself working with a dancer who can’t yet lead what is being taught
⋆ Switch to a practice hold. Say to your partner “let’s figure out the footwork in practice hold so we can see what’s going on”
⋆ Identify exactly when the connection is lost/weakened. Say to your partner, “In this moment here, I’m not sure what you want me to do.” Or say to the teacher, “I feel the connection gets weaker here, but I don’t know why.”
⋆ Try to lead it yourself
❀ Ask someone to videotape you right after class, and watch the video critically. Video never lies.
❀ Ask your leader to surprise you. Ask him to mix the class material in with other elements so you can practice actually following.
❀ Sit down when the teacher is speaking, so your legs and feet do not tire
❀ Stretch your feet, calves, hamstrings, and back before you put on your shoes and after you take them off
Beyond classes, one of the most useful things is to talk with other women about the process of growing in Tango, physically and socially, and learning what has worked for them. To find out more about what women in Tango are up to, check out tangomujer.org.
Women, what are your tips to other ladies learning Tango ? What works for you ? How can they get more out of group classes ?