Tuesday 5 June 2018

Leading Conversion Course - Playlist

This post talks you through my YouTube playlist of people I think it is helpful to watch if you are a woman who is a good follower and is learning to lead. Most of this will also be of use to anyone working on their leading; with the usual obvious caveats about who you want to dance with, how you want to dance, and what your priorities are. My own dance prioritises pleasure above prestige. YMMV. There are more videos in the playlist than the ones I'm going to talk about, and I might add more from time to time.

Léna Lamorelle

I suggest watching Léna to give yourself a mental picture of what a woman's body can look like, leading well. I hope it will help you visualise better what you want to do, without the visual confusion of a drastic difference in body shape.

Sin Palabras

Notice the beautiful walk from 02:00 and the turn at 02:17.

More videos - vals and milonga - in the playlist. You may also notice the waterfall* at 02:52, very characteristic of the French dancers for many years and popularised by Carlitos in this no-brakes vals. It took me way longer than I expected to figure out how this is done. It's fun but not necessary.

Oscar Casas

Some of Oscar Casas' teaching summaries are in English, some in Spanish. A lot of them give you simple, reliable ways to do really useful things without overanalysis. The ones with Ana Miguel are generally of higher quality, except for two essential ones with Mary Ann Casas.

Linear Salida

As an exercise, this is a staple of the Nuevo Tango teaching approach. Learn to lead back, side, and forward steps at will, then curve it and wind it up into a turn, then change direction. ("Nuevo" and what is often called "Milonguero" are essentially the same thing with a different sensibility or goal).

Note that this method of leading a cross - the 'lazy' or sideways one - is pretty bulletproof and will usually work well with beginner followers.

Shark Walk

Possibly the most practically useful two and a half minutes of tango video ever made. What Oscar does in this is everything you actually need for tango, vals, and milonga. If you are musical and sensitive to your partner, which you should be if you already follow well and you can learn to keep your place on the floor, you have everything you need for social dancing. Everything else is optional. Some people manage perfectly well with much less.

Analysis of systems

This begins with a simple, reliable way to lead a linear or salon-style cross. You can break it down further and get a lot of different options, but you'll also be completely fine if you just use this one.

Lots more in the playlist. One side note - I suggest ignoring Oscar's technical advice to followers, which he only offers when Ana isn't there.

Alexis Quezada

Alexis is a Chilean living in Barcelona and teaching in France and elsewhere with Celine Giordano. He is a 'lazy' leader, using solid technique and interesting musicality to create a very appealing, pleasurable, low-apparent-effort dance. He does practically nothing useless, superfluous or showy: watch any of it, pick something you like, and try to work out how to do it. You probably won't get it, at least at first, but it's almost impossible to avoid learning something useful while you try.

El Jagüel

The chained swoosh* at 01:05, and in general a wonderfully sensual approach to this beautiful Di Sarli instrumental. One I personally prefer to the 'mundial' style (often branded 'salon') with its intensely tedious, glossy, chilly turns.


Rocked ochos from 01:39 - and generally, this one is full of things that are brilliant in their simplicity.

Mañana zarpa un barco

Crossed walk from 00:35 to 00:41. This is technically not easy, and risky in social dancing, but it's a brilliant exercise to have on your list of things to try. The tango is followed by a calm milonga in the same video.

Milonga Criolla

I draw your attention to 01:09-01:15 and 02:08 to 02:18. Sure, I can lead those movements (the second is just a well-timed weight change), but would I ever have thought of leading them then? Admittedly both of these require an excellent partner to be worthwhile; they would be utterly wasted on someone who just follows and doesn't dance with you to the music.

Alexis feels absolutely solid to dance with; he is extraordinary at creating stillness and a sense of perfect security and calm, to which the face like a decaf koala contributes less than you might think. On a good day, I remember to aim for that stillness in my own dance.

Melina and Detlef

This is a summary of a fundamentals class. The verbal explanation is in slow French with a German accent, but this is still useful to watch even if you don't understand French well, or at all. I provided a translation some years ago. They discuss posture and embrace, and then give one very simple and reliable way to lead each of a weight change, a side step, and a walk.

Their book provides very useful information about various technical options, with tips for productive practice, and the accompanying DVD includes a good way to practice pivots at home without injuring yourself. You can use it as a comprehensive course, but even if that's not your approach I recommend looking at it if you are in a position of having to teach or mentor anyone, especially yourself. It will save you quite a bit of time if you can figure out how to make best use of it - my full review and user guide is here. Check the troubleshooting checklist hidden on page 156.

Oscar Moyano

A video I find not so much useful, as motivational.  I watch this sometimes to reconnect myself with how I want to dance, and avoid getting sucked into how other people want to dance. My favourite bit is the sensual perfection of 01:35, which is how those are supposed to work.

On using video

I've made this playlist because it contains a lot of things that have been very useful to me. However, bear in mind that it's very difficult to comprehend, visually, a movement that you can't already do yourself. In case you do what I suggested above (pick something you like from a video and try to work out how to do it) I want to prevent you getting discouraged by telling you that at least all the following things will happen, and they are normal and completely OK:
  • You will spend hours watching and rewatching, just not being able to understand what on earth is going on. Tip: if you save a copy of the video using something like savefrom.net or whatever you normally use, and then watch it on a tablet, phone, or computer with a free media player like VLC media player, you can play it in slow motion. It will still take ages. Try to work out just part of it and go from there.
  • You will spend hours trying to do a mirror-image of whatever it was you saw, which is much more difficult than the original version.
  • You will totally misunderstand what was happening and learn something else entirely. Eventually, you will work out what it was you actually led.
  • It will just not work because crucial information is missing or something you had overlooked is much more important than the thing you noticed. You will come back to it a year later and find out what the thing was.
  • Etc. Don't worry about it. An account of my own approach is here.
* In this post I use my own English names, like "waterfall", "swoosh", and "rocked ochos" for some things that don't have established names in English. These are just my names for things that need names.  They're probably not the same names you would come up with if you didn't know how they felt to follow. Go ahead and use them if you like them, but don't expect anyone to know them. I think 'swoosh' is obvious, and 'waterfall' refers to the tumbling, chaotic sensation of following it.