Monday, 5 May 2008

How do you know?

Leaders - when you're watching the floor, when you're deciding whose attention to attract, what do you look for specifically?

Leave aside height and physique, things that are particular to you and that don't change. What facts help you determine, by watching, whether you want to dance with someone? And supposing you later dance with that person, do you ever get a surprise?

I was thinking about this question last week. This is a rather extreme example, but I was chatting to a lady sitting next to me and we remarked that a particular leader, who neither of us knew, who neither of us had yet seen anywhere else, and who neither of us had ever danced with, was pretty much on another planet compared to anyone else on the floor. And it was a small room full of good dancers.

We weren't in any doubt, but if you ask me 'how did you know' I find it quite difficult to answer. But I'll do my best.

He wasn't doing anything spectacular. Posture is part of it. There's also proportion; his feet moved firmly and positively, but the steps were modest in size. They were right for the room, the music, his partner, and him. But I think that it was mainly musicality; the rhythm and flow of what he was doing expressed the music in a natural and interesting way. One thing did not necessarily follow another. A cross was not necessarily completed, a turn did not necessarily go all the way round - they might reverse themselves and turn into something else at any moment. It was not a mere harmonious arrangement of bits - it was dancing around to the music, and it was done beautifully. We agreed between ourselves that he was a total pleasure to watch.

If I get a dance with him, I'll let you know.


Anonymous said...

Well, when I watch the floor, I look for followers who look as if they are enjoying the dance. And if they seem to consitently enjoy dances with different partners, they're the ones I want to ask.

I've found that this type of dancer will usually connect very quickly even if the music is not particularly inspiring will provide enough input to the dance to make it enjoyable.

Anonymous said...

That's a great idea David :)

Anonymous said...

I don't think I am influenced much by watching - probably because I am usually dancing every track! If there is a new face I am thinking of asking, I sometimes take a quick look if she is dancing near me. This won't usually determine whether I ask her or not - but if she doesn't look nimble, I won't ask her to dance milonga.

To answer a specific question you asked, I do come across ladies who "look great", but don't "feel great". Equally, some of my favourite partners may not look the greatest or have the best posture, but the CONNECTION is great!

I think some followers try to look good, perhaps with a lot of adornments, at the expense of the connection. An analogy I like is a cake. What matters to me is how it tastes. If it is decorated nicely that's even better - I would never want the decoration to compromise the taste!

tg said...

Your description of the mystery dancer intrigued me because it's almost word for word how, a few years ago, I described 'Tete' Rusconi dancing with Sylvia Ceriani. I'd been going to tango classes for just a few months and chanced on three videos of them on YouTube (there are a few dozen now). In class I'd been taught 'the gyro', 'the ocho', 'the cruzada', 'the voleo', 'the saccada', and at first I couldn't work out what Tete and Sylvia were doing; it seemed to be tango but just didn't fit these neat categories. They didn't dance 'moves': their dance was one fluid movement that fitted the music from start to finish.

I watched those three videos over and over again, and saw how an ocho could be part of a gyro that could be turned by a saccada into a walk, that crosses could appear out of nowhere or not appear when you expected them, that voleos weren't ornaments on the surface of the dance but movements or transitions between moves. Above all the musicality of it was overwhelming: Tete seemed possessed by the energy of the music. 'Let the music come from inside you' someone advised me the other day.

So I wonder if your mystery dancer might be from BsAs or has danced there a lot. Hope you find out soon!

What do I look for when deciding to dance with someone? Actually I'm looking for someone to dance with! I can't say I watch the floor and pick a partner, although I've watched partners I'd like to dance with. I pick a partner who's sitting down and looks as if she wants to dance. The question is, how long do you dance with her? If you feel she's not engaged, is looking over your shoulder at the other dancers, if she tries to add gratuitous ornaments all the time or steps out of the beat, if she want to dance at arms' length or is just hard to lead, then three tangos is usually enough.

But if I ask someone I've never seen before and find immediate connection, three tangos is never enough!

msHedgehog said...

Very interesting comments - and I think a beginner follower would be reassured and encouraged by them. They all seem to suggest that it's good to pursue a broad competence, rather than stress about technicalities. I love David's comment, the first - it seems so patently right and obvious, but somehow I'd never thought of it so clearly.

Anonymous said...

Yes, a broad competence is what allows you to dance with anyone who asks, the rest is down to how you connect to this partner and the music and how you find the enjoyment in this combination.

La Nuit Blanche said...

i usually first look for how a man asks a woman to dance. i've found that the invitation reveals a lot about a dancer. i've also found that some men who look good on the outside, can be painful to dance with inside the embrace...

and i don't mind if the man turns out to be a beginner. if the invitation was gentlemanly, he is usually gentle and careful enough not to be too terrible to dance with... and a year later, if he turns out to be a good dancer, i will have added one more good leader to my dancecard. :-D