vladimir Krylov

The Dialog

About the female and male roles, leading and following, interaction and the dance dialogue
A long time ago when I was young and naive and was living in St. Petersburg because of that, I came to the beginning of some festival milonga. Right away I noticed two girls I knew who come from distant lands. They were accompanied by two guys unknown to me. I carefully sat down at a table nearby and was going to do cabeceo, but then I saw that one of the guys stands up and goes to the dancefloor together with my targeted girl. Then they embraced each other, made one step, and … And here I realized I absolutely needed to invite this leader to dance.

It was the first man whom I invited by a straightforward cabeceo, whom I did not know before we danced. And I should say it was worth it.
For the first time, with him I understood what it means, the "dialogue dancing".
came to parada,
with a cheek against one's cheek.
her leg just waved

Tango like any other serious business has some important maxims. They are proverbs that don't need proofs; people just believe them without thinking. For example, "tango is a conversation".

Every time this matter comes out in discussions, it seems to me that some great ignorance reigns in people's heads. Interesting that I have never heard such a conversation initiated by ladies, and for good reason.
Because the tango which we usually dance here is not a conversation.
Let's take a look at it. Conversation in its usual sense means saying more or less successive phrases which are meaningful and structured. Of course, there are many variations of conversations. For example, two noisy women might not bother with sequences, meanings or consistency of phrases. An excessively emotional person might interrupt you in mid-sentence. A timid girl might keep saying delightfully "you are so smart" while you are telling her stories about spaceships spread out in the Crocus Hall. And two introverts caught in a closed room, might easily find corners where they could have pleasant conversations with their own thoughts. But anyhow, a normal conversation usually includes someone talking and the other one listening, in turns.

What do I see in tango? What do I feel in tango when I dance with somebody? I see and I feel that the lady is listening to the leader and the leader, overwhelmed with happiness of being heard, dumps out the whole lot of emotions which he has been living during the last half an hour.

Sometimes I hear that the lady's "response" means embellishments (inside or outside the couple) or other types of movements not specified by the leader. For example, making double steps when the leader leads just one.
But it is a completely different thing.
It is as if during a conversation, when a man tells a story, a woman starts throwing up her arms and exclaiming with admiration every other moment. Or she is dancing belly dance and serving tea at the same time, so that the man doesn't get thirsty or loose inspiration while talking.

I don't mean that it is bad and shouldn't be done, not at all. The belly dance might give a more profound meaning to the spaceships in the Crocus Hall. But just let's not call it a conversation.

A few times I heard an opinion that dialogue dancing means change of direction or change of dynamics. Frankly speaking, how often do ladies do that on purpose and not by accident, because they were losing balance? Personally, I can name three followers I know in Moscow who practice this kind of dancing. But it is still not it, although it is much closer to the dialogue. To continue the metaphor of the conversation, it is like an interview: sometimes woman asks questions and can change the course of the discussion but most of the time leader tells his story.
Once I watched an interesting video where the concept of Liquid Lead was explained by a couple of male ballroom dancers. They were saying and showing everything quite right, although in the context of ballroom it looked rather strange. An extra flavor was added by the image of two men, when one is all square with a square face, square eyes and glasses, and the other one is a very sweet boy. However, if you disregard this strange picture, they expressed some very practical thoughts.

Bad translators called this term "flexible lead" which is completely the opposite to the meaning of what the guys were saying and what I was explaining above. Flexible lead is exactly what is not problematic in tango, many leaders can do various figures adapting to the body and the movements of a follower.
I would explain is as a "mixed lead".
This word is much more appropriate to what I am saying.
So, liquid lead (mixed lead) implies a more active role of follower in the couple. From technical point of view, this situation looks simple: at some point the lady starts to lead the man. If it is more or less, long or short, hard or easy – all these features depend on mutual wishes and possibilities, but the fact is that a lady can absolutely take the lead.

Thus, in these cases man should switch to follower role. And later take the lead back from the lady. The word "liquid" in this case is about transferring the leading role from one partner to another regardless their sex.

In ideal world everything is so subtle that is gets unclear who exactly was initiating the lead at each single moment. Dance becomes one single process which is supported and developed by both partners. I have had this kind of dances several times, and it was extremely cool.
Dance becomes one single process which is supported and developed by both partners.
Certainly, on the way to this kind of dancing there are dangers and roadblocks. Some men might basically not accept the concept of a woman leading. Or they might just not know how to follow. And some of them, even if they don't mind this kind of leading and they know how to follow, they simply can't understand what is happening when a dialogue occurs. Because most of the times men are absolutely not used to this kind of feeling expressions from ladies. In the second and the third option, the skill of following can be acquired in the same way we learn to do back sacadas: with pain during practicing and with tears afterwards. But in case this approach is totally not accepted, it is obvious that the follower's dance will be under the pressure of such leaders.

Most commonly, ladies have the same problems. They might believe that leading is completely the responsibility of men, so let them suffer for that. They might not know how to lead. And they may not be careful enough towards the couple. In the first case it is the same as for men – this is not your destiny. In the second case the skill is also acquired rather simply, you only need to cover a few thousands kilometers on the dancefloor. The third case implies a tectonic shift in terms of understanding the lead, and it also can be learned with some time, if there is a will.
When we dance like this, we start to listen to each other more carefully, and this is what is so much missing sometimes.
Probably it is not totally clear to everyone what's the profit in dancing this way. I will say for myself. For me as a leader it opens new dimensions of cooperation: it is that I can not only dance with a beautiful girl, but with a beautiful girl who can tell me something. It is interesting from both technical point of view (taking over the lead may give way to quite interesting and unexpected movements) and emotional (like this I can get to know the person better and understand them deeper. I suppose that girls can be interested by the same reasons: technical diversity of the dance and one more way of expression instead of usual obedience.

Moreover, when we dance like this, we start to listen to each other more carefully, and this is what is so much missing sometimes.
Author: Vladimir Krylov. Translation: Valentina Mitrieva.
Opinions expressed in articles within this blog may not coincide with those of the editor.
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