Good following

15th October 2010

"This is not something that people talk about much, perhaps because they fear being misunderstood. It can be very difficult to get any specific or convincing idea of what it even means for a woman to dance well, as opposed to adequately. We get the impression that it's simply unacceptable to think about the quality of our own dance at all, and that if we want to do something worth any thought, our only option is to learn to lead. (Not that I would discourage anyone from doing that if she wants to). But if you want to take following further and find the next thing to improve you tend to find yourself alone and without much input. At this stage I think many women just give up and coast, on the basis that there's no payoff and no point." ~ MsHedgehog


OK, let's assume you want to go beyond this stage, but you have no idea how to. What are your options?

First of all consider what you as a follower bring to the dance:

  • Your posture
  • Your axis
  • Your embrace
  • Your walk
  • Your pivots
  • Your musicality
  • You

Don't underestimate the last item on that list.


"He's happy" - an insightful friend talking to someone else about me and explaining why I was dancing for several tandas with a woman who was obviously a beginner.

I value a beginner who can make me smile, far more than someone who can do perfect ochos but is grumpy.

Granted, different leaders have varied value systems, some of which are apparently more based around your cup size, but don't assume everyone works that way.

Another friend asked me how I can dance week in week out with the same people and not get bored. To me the answer is that the women I dance with inspire me.

The pay-off

"At this stage I think many women just give up and coast, on the basis that there's no payoff and no point."

I mentioned quite a few things that you as a follower bring to the dance. Tango is like the yin-yang symbol

It may look like there's only blue there, but without the white, there wouldn't be a circle. Likewise no matter how good a leader is, he can't lead a woman who's asleep.

It's a partnership. For a leader to use his full array of possibilities, he needs a follower who understands what he's leading and can deliver. Much in the same way a concert violinist can still play beautiful music on a violin from Argos, it will place limitations on him; whereas he'll be able to play far better music on a Stradivarius. And it also takes skill and understanding of tango on the follower's part to fully appreciate the increasing subtleties of the dance. To someone who's unfamiliar with classical music, it may actually sound like there's no difference between the piece played on the Argos violin and with the Stradivarius.

How does it feel?

So what does a good follower actually feel like?

While this is hard to put into words.

This video is a good starting point - the guy on the right knows he's good. He also knows what he's doing is just not working. The teacher on the left is effortless. He responds with the right movements without needing to think about it. There's no hesitation or uncertainty, no wasted effort or movement.

It's like watching cats. They might twist themselves in odd positions especially where being petted or washing themselves are concerned, but they never go beyond a certain point. They simply refuse to sacrifice their poise and balance.

Likewise the teacher in the video and good followers won't put themselves into positions where they would then have sacrifice their posture, axis and so forth.

You can see a good example of this in the above video at 1.45 to 2 mins - imagine a line connecting their hearts. That's what they're supposed to be controlling. The teacher is doing this. He stands still and barely moves his torso. The student on the right keeps sidestepping from side to side which makes matters worse and worse culminating in a beautiful moment at 2.01 :o)

You can see this happening throughout the video. Incidentally this isn't a secret - the student knows he's supposed to be controlling the centre-line; it just isn't a natural part of him yet.


A good follower feels like she's effortless. She can respond correctly without needing to think and understands the possibilities and limitations of any situation she finds herself in. That then allows her to express herself in an appropriate way that inspires her leader and those around her without disrupting anything. She also lets a good leader feel effortless, like they could dance all night.

~ Christopher O' Shea, 15th October 2010

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