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Notation: This Tango Topic was originally written on June 3rd, 2016. It has been updated and expanded.

Follower Technique

For most Followers the words “Follower Technique” boils down to 5 things (minus adornments and embellishments): 1.) Posture. 2.) Embrace. 3. ) Forward Steps. 4.) Side Steps. 5.) Back Steps. Sometimes this line of thinking may cover the concept of Body Position (where one is in relation to the Lead) and beyond that even, Body Placement (what one does with that Body Position – e.g. vocabulary) within the construct of the embrace (e.g. how to stay in front of and then with your Lead). The thinking usually stops right about there. Most Follower’s, and even Leads don’t even consider that Walking-in-Opposition, then Disassociation, and then finally, Applied Disassociation as a basis for Follower Technique, and why it’s an important piece of the equation in certain pieces of Tango Vocabulary (such as Traveling Ochos, or the Follower’s Molinete). Today’s Tango Topic deals with explaining this stuff and then going a little deeper with these things. It should be noted that just because the title is “Follower Technique” that the Lead should tune out because there’s nothing here for you. And that would be flat out wrong! This topic is not just for Followers looking for a hint, any hint, that could boost their understanding. It’s also for the Lead wanting to understand what the Follower has to do in order to stay with them. So without Further yapping, Tango Topics Presents: Follower Technique.

What is ‘Follower Technique’? In its simplest form, it is a series of skills that when put together create a ‘dancing platform’ for the Follower. This is a platform that the Follower builds into their body through painstaking, detailed, carefully crafted motions that consists of: How to walk forward, side, and/or back; What one’s stance or posture should be like and under what conditions it may change; How to embrace and where and why;  What Close Embrace wants to be; What Open Embrace wants to be; Where and how the Follower has to be in relation to their Lead, within the different embrace types (‘Close Embrace, Open Embrace, Vee Embrace, Open Vee, Closed Vee, Berlin, etc) so that they’re always…always…always in ‘front of’ their Lead;  How to land the foot; How to extend the leg; Where the knee bend occurs;  Why one would ‘open’ one’s hip and under what conditions;  How to generate a slight open ‘v’ with the feet, and when, where, and why one would want to do that….just to name a few. For most people when they hear the phrase “Follower Technique” they think ‘pretty’ feet or most people think of Follower technique as just the Follower’s Back Step or a Forward step in the Molinete, and everything else just sort of works.

That’s not true.

Follower Technique is an economical, efficient, movement platform that is based on decades-old work, that many Followers have passed down from one Follower to another, who have been out social dancing within the Milonga experience. And then taken that social dancing knowledge and refined it, honed it, made it their own.

Follower Technique can go a lot deeper…a lot deeper! In Deeper Follower Technique, the Follower studies all three of the three primary steps and then takes it to a whole other level. Truly, Deep Follower Technique is all about the detail, it is all about the precision. And lastly, but not the least of which is that it’s all about the execution! Yes it is learning about to use one’s feet in relationship to the structure that is Argentine Tango, but it is also about learning how to use one’s body in an efficient, economical, and elegant way that accentuates themselves as well as their L/lead and what’s being done, while at the same time keenly aware of one overriding principle: One Step At A Time! But contained within that step is a monster amount of kinesthetic awareness, body consciousness, physiological history, a corporeal locomotion, muscle memory, tendon memory, nervous system memory, that when executed altogether – creates that one singular step that brings into it all of the things mentioned before.

This is Follower Technique.

Is Follower Technique easy work ? No! Although to listen to some Leads spouting their idea of what the Follower should or shouldn’t do, you’d think it was a cake walk! Ummm in a word, “NOT!”. Is Follower Technique, as a whole, something you can learn in an afternoon ? Possibly, depending on the teacher. But really Follower Technique takes more than a few sessions to work out the bugs (as it were). This isn’t about balance and stability, yes those things are there but there are other things to consider. In the end Follower Technique wants to become rote behavior, second nature, a naturally built-in response, or default but controlled, contained, and conscious behavior in the person that is dancing the role of the Follower. So a better answer to that second question is “NO”. Follower Technique is going to take a while. And anyone that tells you different either hasn’t studied the role of the Follower for very long or is lying through their teeth. The fact is that Follower Technique takes years to get, then to adjust and finally to perfect. And going further down the rabbit hole what works for some people may not work for everyone! In case you were unclear on this part, some people’s bodies are built differently, and that means their anatomical areas may not necessarily line up with what some Amazing Follower Teacher has said and/or shown. So, no, sometimes other ways of moving have to be employed. Follower Technique is not a one size fits all! Some of it is, and some of it isn’t. The part that is confusing about it, is figuring out which one is which! 😉

From a Following Perspective a good portion of Followers do know Follower Technique when they see it. They may not able to describe what they’re looking at, but they are able to recognize it. Unfortunately, that recognition is limited to what they’ve been exposed to. Meaning they’re only able to recognize what they’re familiar with…most of the time. This is a plus and a minus at the same time.

Let’s get right down to the crux of this stuff: ‘Follower Technique’ matters a whole lot on multiple levels, because the correct execution of physiological movement actually improves each and every single step that one takes. Which improves the quality of the vocabulary being executed, which improves the quality of the dance on the whole! One tiny change here, or there, can quite literally change the outcome a dance. It really is that big. So it stands to reason having good, clean, clear Follower Technique is paramount to better responsiveness in one’s dancing.  Put another way: It quite literally changes a dance from ‘meh‘ to ‘omg‘ or sometimes to ‘omFg‘! However that ‘omg‘, or ‘omFg‘, has a lot of gradations built into it for one simple reason: It depends on the amount of study and practice time that the Follower has spent on working their skillz. It also depends on the amount of detailed information that the Follower possess and what materials they’ve been given to study with, and how they’ve been given that information. Further still those gradations also depend on one’s own hyper self-awareness, and more importantly, the level of corrective self-behavior the Follower is willing to employ to change, modify, and/or correct their skillz.

It’s just Forward, Side, and Back…NOT! There’s more to it than that. A lot more to it. And while it is seemingly easy to ‘just‘ follow (As if!). The reality of Following is far greater than those three steps. First and foremost it is learning how to extend one’s leg, and land one’s feet in such a way that allows one to move with ease, while at the same time keeping the partnership together all the while allowing the couple to move effortlessly, but doesn’t feel jerky or bouncy. That right there is a tall order nad takes a while to get. Secondly, then to clean up that walk visually on the first pass, so that the Follower isn’t generating a ‘crab walk’ backward with bent knees, and uncontrolled foot placements, which invariably end up as ‘THUD’. Thirdly, it’s recognizing that the walk is connected to one’s embrace and that if the walk is clean, the embrace does not need to be compressive, restrictive, or pressured, and yes that means NO RESISTANCE, No Tension, No Force is required….ever. Fourthly, at some point along the curve, the Follower recognizes that their own internal stability is based on how they engage in their walk. Too far to one side, or too far to another side of their foot and their wholly unstable. Fifthly they recognize the root of their issues is/are their weight transfers from one ‘step’ to the next, and how they land their foot, and in what position. Lastly, they recognize their own Posture, and how their body moves in space and time in relation to their Lead (this is known as Body Placement). Forward, Side, and Back is just the beginning of this stuff. It’s the tip of a very large iceberg.

Follower Technique is Execution! Probably the single most important part of Follower Technique is it’s Execution. This is the bees-knees as it were. If the execution of how something is done is done poorly, sloppily, or haphazardly, then everything is off. That’s not a joke. That’s reality. Wobbling, Wavering, Wandering in how one executes a step, will result in the entire platform (walk, embrace, posture) being ‘off’. Precision is the name of this game, and the more precise that execution, the more exact it is, the more controlled and contained it is, the more practiced it is, the more it becomes effortless. Alongside that execution is the ability to control the power, and or strength of that execution. Meaning how much effort is required to do X, Y, or Z. And what goes part and parcel with that is a hyper-awareness of what is being led to generate this stuff. If all of that sounds about as fun as watching paint dry think of it this way: It’s a little like walking into a house that one just bought and then realizing that the walls aren’t painted, the floors aren’t safe and will need to be replaced, and the roof leaks! Which ultimately means spending a lot more money than what one spent to buy the house. Not so much with that. So as a result we want to learn to execute our technique with control, power, and containment.

That said there are 5 Guiding Principles of Follower Technique that we want to keep in the back of our minds:

1.) Always, always, always overshoot to underdo! What does that mean ? It means that the Follower must extend their capabilities to their upper limits and then continually expand them beyond what they think they can do. Why ? Because if you can do this stuff in the extreme, then executing something in the minimal will be a piece of cake!

2.) If you have to think about X while it’s happening then it’s too damned late! Meaning ? That if you have just finished a class with Famous Teacher “A”, and then you go out social dancing afterward and suddenly in the middle of dancing with your favorite Lead as they’re leading you to ‘Y’ tango move, you suddenly remember what you ‘studied’ in a lesson with A. Blip. It’s over. Damn it!!! You missed it. Why ? Because you had to stop and think about it to recognize it for what it was. It was a bit off from what said Famous Teacher A showed you, but that was a “Y”! And you missed it. Is it the end of the world ? No, it’s not. But if this continues to happen, it means that you are not prepared. And prepared, in this case, means…see #3!

3.) Practice, Practice, Practice, Practice, and….ummm…wait for it….PRACTICE. What does THAT mean ? Practice means solo practice time. It means that one spends a good deal of one’s time working in front of a mirror, without heels (that’s another point on it’s own) working on how one moves and making it clean, clear, effortless so that you build muscle memory. So that when said Amazing Lead comes along, and they will, eventually, that the Follower is ready for the experience instead of fumbling through it trying desperately to remember what Famous Teacher “A” said…yup, too late all because the Follower didn’t spend enough time practicing. Practicing also means working with a regular series of partners that are diverse enough in their skill sets that the Follower gets a wide range of experience to execute what they’re working on.

4.) Have a plan! This one is so dead simple but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t have a plan. Here’s a good one. Start every Solo Practice session with extensions (in case you’re wondering ‘YES!’, Tango Topics has a video on this idea, several actually), and then spend about a half hour warming up with that stuff. And then going deeper into your regime on Forward, Side, and Back, Body Position, Body Placement, Weight Transfers, Foot Position, Foot Placement. Here’s still another one, start every individual couple practice time with the first tanda doing nothing but ‘walking’. That’s having a plan!

5.) Flats To Start With. Really. These things are your saving grace. On multiple levels. Do your solo work and practice sessions in flats first and foremost. You’ll spare yourself oodles of pain later on down the line. The reality is that the Follower needs to be able to feel the floor, and the heeled shoe (sometimes) obscures that feeling. And sometimes, depending on the manufacture of the shoe, it actually compensates for the stability of a particular movement.  More often than not a heel deadens the sensation of the foot landing on the floor, or the impact of the foot on the floor. A flat does not do those things. The Follower feels the floor and their ability to move across the floor.

What To Focus On ?  The Follower wants to pay attention to these things in sequence:

1.) Posture, Posture, Posture. Learning what it means, from a Tango Perspective, to stand upright without creating rigidity in one’s body or stance. Learning how to elongate one’s spinal column without injury and/or pain. Learning how to lengthen one’s body, how to stand, how and why a slight compression (a micro-bend) of the knee is incredibly important…everywhere! That’s a hint by the way…the rest of this type of information is in the Foundations Video Series. However, one’s posture will affect the next 8 points. Hunch over, and nothing looks desirable. Ramrod straight, and you end up looking like a Robot. We want something in between that is comfortable and maintainable.
2.) The Weight Change, and later on the weight transfer. A weight change is done from a standing or collection position. A weight transfer is done from passing through collection position!
3.) The Leg Extension Begins Where? The leg extension comes from a very specific place, and understanding what that place is and under what conditions, and why is insanely important. As a.) The conditions are not always the same. and b.) The Extension is not always the same under certain conditions.
4.) Extending The Leg. This is actually extending the leg from a static position and working that extension over and over and over again. But more importantly focusing on what that looks like from multiple angles, using video from the side and from the front and back, and not just a mirror. Mirrors can and do ‘lie’ quite frequently. “Lie” isn’t the right word there. More like when you’re looking in the mirror, you only see a moment of time, not the entire thing. And you want the entire movement over time. It is for this reason that the Follower wants to use VIDEO from the side, and front, and back…constantly IN ADDITION to the mirror!
5.) The Shape of the Leg over that same period of time – where the knee must bend, and why, and under what conditions because they’re not always the same!
6.) Landing the Foot, where, and what part of the foot one lands on, and under what conditions. Because again, it’s not always the same. Which may come as a surprise to some of you reading this and wondering what those conditions might be. Here’s a helpful hint: SUBSCRIBE!
7.) The Shape of the Foot in the landing on part 6 above. The reality is that the shape of the foot creates the end point of the step and if that shape looks shoddy, then the extension that created it will look shoddy. 🙁 Shape ? It’s very important!
8.) The Weight Transfer. Now the weight transfer comes into play because more than likely you’re in motion after the first step….and now you need to understand where that weight transfer comes into play and why steps 3 – 7 are insanely important! Because now you’re in motion and while the static positions of an extension are nice to look at, that’s not where the problems come up once you’ve got the extensions down (or so you think), it’s the transition from one element to the next!

Now without going into a lot of detail, that’s what the video series is for, you really do need constant reminders, constant practice, and constant visuals to guide you towards a better way to doing these things. This is, unfortunately not something you can do on your own. You do actually require someone else to, at the very least show you what you need to focus on. Those 8 points above are all fine and good in text, but seeing it is very important…hence the video thing. This is an hour long video series that goes into great depth.

Have you seen the Milonga Madness series ? Over 2.5 hrs of pure Milonga Instruction GOLD with one of the best Social Milonga Teaching couples alive: Detlef Engel & Melina Sedó! It covers everything you need to know to get you up and running today with Milonga. Don’t delay, subscribe today!

Milonga Madness with Detlef Engel & Melina Sedo

Class/Seminar Work vs. Video. Work. There really isn’t an either – or. The reality is that the whomever is studying the role of the Follower needs as many reminders, and valid examples of what should happen within the construct of the 3 primary steps as well as the inner workings of Traveling Ochos, the Follower’s Molinete, the Argentine Cross, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Class/Seminar work is great for in person, time spent, corrective work. Video work is great for seeing the same work that was done in a classroom setting and giving you a chance to see it again, and again, and again so that you can get every last piece of information you can from what was said and shown.

In this video series, which is ongoing by the by, there are (at the time of this writing) 13 sections that cover mostly what one does with one’s legs, and how we want our legs to appear, as well as how to move them, what to practice, how to land your foot, how NOT to land your foot (Lazy Follower’s Foot), how handle the most troubling aspect in all of Argentine Tango: The Follower’s Molinete, and to make it functional instead of an exercise in pain! However, understand that this video series is also spread out over a wide range of videos that integrate Follower’s Technique into the Movements/Topics on this site.

Heelwork. Working in Flats is all fine and good but at some point, someone or something is going to drive you to want to put on a pair of heels. And that’s where the Follower’s whole world is going to go topsy-turvy all over again. Balance will need to be redone. Stability will be an issue, again. And the embrace will change (slightly) due to the fact that the Follower is now in a pair of 3 in heels!

Heelwork is not easy, it’s elegant, yes….but it is not easy work. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, patience, and a lot of trial and error, lots and lots and lots of errors, to get this stuff just right so that it doesn’t look ungainly, so that all that Follower Technique doesn’t go out the window, while at the same time it isn’t too much a stretch of your physiological capabilities. Truthfully, Heelwork is refining the Follower’s skillset, while at the same time taking it to a whole other level and then adding ‘gracefulness’ to it.

Understand something – Heelwork plays hell with one’s anatomy and in specific the Plantar Nerve! So it stands to reason that we want to ease into heelwork by building up the muscles around the Plantar Nerve in flats and then start working on refining our skills, not being thrown into the deep end of the pool right from the start (learning in heels immediately). And then going one step further (no pun intended), adding style and detail to that heelwork! This is one reason why the Follower works in flats to start off with building up slowly to working towards the ultimate goal of being in a pair of heels.

Who to work with ? The question comes up, can you learn proper technique in person ? Yes. Can you learn less than desirable technique in person ? YUP! And the same is true of video work. What matters is the source of the information and goes right back to picking a good teacher or a knowledgeable source of the skill set. Which brings up another question, does that source have to be a woman ? Answer…No, it does not. It can be anyone that has spent a good amount of time studying the form of either role, gender doesn’t matter. What matters most is how deeply involved that person has immersed themselves in the form. Quite frankly, most men that invest in being a ‘good’ Follower want to be better than the women around them because they’ve recognized that they don’t want to be that ‘girl’ that sits. Further still they want to get it ‘right’, so they’ll invest hours…weeks…months in learning the intricate in’s-and-out’s of Following. Their goal is not to perform, nor is it necessarily to teach, it’s to understand the form as a whole. Truth be told there are more than a few really amazing male Followers in the world and to be quite honest with you, they blow the doors off your run-of-the-mill Followers and more than a few ‘performing’ teacher Followers IMHO.

From a Leading Perspective most Leads (the person) don’t have the skill set, or the language for that matter, to describe, be aware of, or to witness whether or not a Follower is executing proper technique. This is mostly because they don’t dance the role of the Follower themselves. Isn’t it odd that a good portion of them dole out advice to Followers in an attempt to ‘help‘ as to what the Follower should be doing though ? The only thing that they’re truly aware of is whether or not the Follower is in the right place, at the right time, when they asked (or in a lot of cases told, and shoved) them to be. They can sort of tell when it feels good, and they can tell when it’s not. Which mostly boils down to when the Follower isn’t ‘following’ what they believe they were leading. This comprises the Lead’s understanding of ‘good‘ Follower Technique. Honestly, the lot of them could give a damn if the Follower does X, Y, or Z just as long as they do what was led. If they add anything, just make damned certain that it doesn’t get in the way of what the Lead is leading, and for good christ’s sake don’t screw it up! And whatever is done, don’t miss anything!!! Oh and make it feel good while you’re at it. Oh and make it look amazing. Oh and …. if this sounds like a wish list of the Lead, that’s because it is. The reality is that a good portion of them don’t Follow and have no desire to learn to Follow for some reason that could best be described as Male Ego. So as far as Follower Technique is concerned, the only thing they care about is following what was led. Sigh. Sadly, very few have the forethought to appreciate just how much work goes into all of the seemingly magical experience of dancing with the Amazing, Effortless Follower. If that sounds myopic, it’s partially because there’s some (operative word) truth to that, and some hyperbole. 😉 Some Leads do actually care but not about technique, just about the overall execution.

So here’s some sage advice to the Lead that wants to understand Follower Technique:

If you don’t dance the role, then stop giving advice as to what the Follower should be doing, and instead use the following phrase to help them to understand what you’re sensing and/or feeling when they execute what you’ve led: “I feel …” or “I felt this…” and then tell them exactly what you felt by using “I” statements, not “YOU” statements. See the Post on Giving (and Receiving) Feedback.

If they ask you for feedback on the dance floor, at a Milonga. Smile, and say the following words: “I don’t give feedback on the dance floor at a Milonga”.

If they ask you for feedback at a Practica. Employ the Giving (and Receiving) Feedback model stated above, and THEN go find a teacher! 😉

If they don’t ask for feedback, then don’t give them unsolicited feedback even if they’re a beginner and you know how to fix X, Y, and/or Z.

If they’re hanging, pulling, pushing, compressing, squeezing, or anything else that’s bugging the living crap out of you, you have 2 options: 1.) Suck it up! 2.) Keep quiet until the end of the tanda and then say two words, “THANK YOU“. The reason ? Remember something – YOU ASKED FOR THE DANCE! So, therefore, you get to live with the benefits of your choices. Not to stand there in the middle of the line of dance and correct them about what’s bugging you about what you’re not actually leading and they’re having to read your mind.

So what can you do if you want to help the Follower with their Technique ?  Invite them to a private lesson or practica where you know a teacher can help them with their understanding of Follower Technique.

Are you getting where this is going yet ? In other words, keep your opinions to yourself, and actually, go study Follower Technique. It will do wonders for your own dancing skills, and probably create a greater appreciation for dancing the role of the Follower. Any Lead that has made this transition knows this axiom to be true: If you want to be a great Lead, start learning how to Follow! 🙂

About The Video. This video is 2hr:37m:14s in length in 25 sections. Follower technique is the bulk of this video.

Collection – (00:01:19) {Also See “Social Collection”}
Forward Steps – Footwork (00:03:03)

Forward Steps – Extension (00:02:21)
Side Steps – Footwork (00:01:21)
Side Steps – Linear (00:04:02)
Side Steps – Circular (00:03:30)
Back Steps – Extension (00:06:23)
Back Steps – Circular (00:04:26)
Back Steps – Footwork (00:05:48)
“Opening” The Hip (00:04:00)
Posture – Send/Counter-Send (00:05:53)
Molinete – Level 1 (00:13:33)
Backstep Pre-Launch Technique (00:05:50)
Molinete Pre-Launch Example (00:00:39)
Lazy Follower Foot (00:05:46)
Leg Shape (00:08:23)
Weight Change (00:01:23)
Weight Transfer (00:01:34)
Weight Transfer – Weight Change (00:01:34)
Landing The Foot (00:09:09)
Traveling Ocho Technique/Exercise (00:15:32)
Milonguero Ocho Exercise (00:09:38)
The Follower’s Molinete – All the Details (00:21:58)
The Milonguero Turn – Body Details (00:04:43)
The Milonguero Turn – Footwork (00:10:20)
Errors #1 (00:05:06)

Related Videos Mentioned In This Article: 

The Six Ways of Walking – Download

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Why should you subscribe instead ?  Several reasons.  1.) Probably the biggest reason is to save a boatload of money. Buying these things outright isn’t cheap. Besides when you buy you only have access to the one video. Subscribing, on the other hand, gives you access to everything else so you can see the foundational material that goes with this stuff. 2.) Even if you’re a Free User, you’ll get access to free tips that aren’t available to anyone just reading the post like this one. 3.) Sometimes there are slightly different versions of the videos, that add a bit more content for the free user vs. an unregistered user. 4.) Because the Dancing Perspectives (Lead, Follow, and Dancing) are hidden to the open user. And that’s where all the information is at, unless you actually subscribe. Until you do, those very important textual descriptions of what’s going on for both Lead and Follow you want to read. 5.) And the real reason you should subscribe ? If you’re used to YouTube videos where you’ll see a performance, those Youtube videos don’t explain or walk you through how these ideas work! That is why! What you’re seeing is a presentation, a performance. Not how things work! And what you really need to see is how things work, and more importantly why they work! This website shows you that and more! 

Remember that what you’re seeing is a couple that is performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they’re not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about ‘Social Dancing’  or how to make things function on a social dance floor. Social Dance floor ? Your local milonga! They’re showing flashy moves as a presentation! But not stopping and talking about how this works, why you’d want to put that piece of vocabulary there, or how to make things fit. This website is all about those things and more!

You could watch those videos and thereby spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that particular situation. Bend your body this way or that, twist and force this position or that. Place your foot here or there and figure it out. This is known as Tango Twister.  Which can be a lot of fun, but more than likely it won’t help you, because you’re missing something: The explanation from an experienced teacher showing you how to properly excute this stuff from a Leading Perspective as well as from a Following Perspective!

The goal of YouTube videos is to get you to study with those teachers in person. The goal of Tango Topics videos allows you to work at your own pace, in the comfort of your own space, so that you can play them over and over again to improve your understanding of the vocabulary or technique being described to therefore better your dancing experience. The goal of classes and workshops is to get you to come back over and over and over again, thereby spending more money with that teacher. This website and the videos under it are here to act as a resource for you to help you to improve your dance. Pay once and you’re done.

Eventually, one way or another you’re going to pay for this lesson, either here and now, or with them. TANSTAAFL! The difference between that lesson and this ? Is that you get to play this lesson over and over and over again. Further still, there are supporting materials (other videos) that help to explain the language and the underlying technique of how and why things work, so you can easily reference those things in the corresponding articles that go with the material, and or any language in the Tango Topics Dictionary. 


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