Let us now take a closer look at tango’s second position. Far from being subordinate, the follower has equal status to the leader and in fact, is instrumental in being the initial impetus for the dance to commence. Being a follower in tango teaches us how to be a true follower beyond the ballroom floor and into the world of relationships. In this world that’s dominated by social media, the concept of followership has been muddled and reduced to a mere click of the like button. The art of tango teaches us how to be more discerning as to where we place our trust on and hand over our power to. Follow Linda Sutton’s lead and reconnect with the true essence of followership in the dance of life.
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The Anatomy of A Tango: The Conscious Receiver – What It Means To Be A Follower
Following Without Understanding: The Pied Piper Retold
I’m excited to be sharing with you. We are continuing in this series of the anatomy of a Tango. We’re going to be talking about the second element of the positions and roles of Tango, and that is the follower. Not every time I think about and teach about being what it means to be a follower. There are several key elements that come to mind when I think about following and that song is one of them. I believe it’s an old house song that comes to mind called House music. It makes me think of that. It also makes me think of where they talk about Jesus. They talk about the followers or people that are Christian, where Jesus said, “Follow me.” People had to make a decision. His disciples had to make a decision to drop them. That comes to mind. Even more pronounced now is the idea of following in social media. Social media has completely recontextualized what it means to follow someone or to be a follower. I want to make sure that I talk about that upfront.
As we talk about what it means to be a follower in the realm of Tango, we can see what kind of disconnects are possibly occurring between leaders and followers and men and women. Merely from the standpoint of now, we’ve got this new term called to be a follower in social media that recontextualizes that leader-follower relationship. It was fascinating to me because I was involved with Tango as social media was emerging, evolving, and taking on different forms through different platforms. Of course, the most pronounced one and the one in the forefront now is Facebook in terms of being a follower or following someone.
I must admit, I had a great deal of resistance to that much like I did in Tango to this idea of becoming a follower in the social media arena, simply because I had such an intimate understanding of what it meant to be a follower as it relates to Tango. In Tango to be a follower is a very serious, critical position to take and assume. It’s not one that you assume lightly. The idea of just clicking a button and choosing to follow all of these hundreds and hundreds of people without giving some thought to who I’m following and why, and whether or not I want to be a follower under their leadership.
I was thinking all those things when other people were like, “Just click a button. It’s not that big of a deal.” I caution you because one of the reasons that I’m leaning with the ideas and the ways that we use the term, follower, loosely is because it is governing and influencing the way that people see following in general, following in the dance and the dance of relationships. Whenever I think of a follower or following without understanding, I think of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Some people may or may not be familiar with the childhood story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
If you haven’t, you definitely want to revisit that because if you read the story now with fresh eyes, a new lens, and an adult understanding, you’ll have a completely different understanding of the message and moral behind that fairy tale in that childhood story. There are several different countries and cultures that have a slightly different take on the story. In a nutshell, there was a relationship between the Pied Piper and/or the mayor and/or the city to remove rats. There was some rodent or some infestation that the mayor or the city wanted to get rid of, or something that was plaguing the city that they wanted to remove or get rid of.
The Pied Piper had a skillset that he could use, mainly his instrumentation, to play such beautiful music in a way that would lure or influence the rodent or the infestation or whatever the problem was depending on the culture and lure it away. He made the agreement, he did that. He lured, in some stories, the rodents away from the city, and got them out of the city. When it was time for him to collect his payment or what was agreed upon, they decided not to keep up their end of the bargain. In a condensed version of this story, the Pied Piper decided to lead the children away.
He used the same skill to play music, to entice the children, to follow him, and lead the children away from the city because they followed him. They followed the music, they were lured by how melodic it was, soothing, and was able to cast a spell over them through the music and led them out of the city. Some people said, “He led them out into the wilderness, never to be found again.” Some said he led them through their demise but whatever it is, the Pied Piper of Hamelin is known for leading the children away from the city to a negative outcome. That always sticks with me whenever I think of following.The tango technically begins with the follower. The yin energy is responsible for inspiration. It inspires the desire to dance. Click To Tweet
The Second Position: What It Means To Follow
When we follow without an understanding of who we’re following and what their intentions are, even though the allure and the lure appear harmless and favorable into entertaining, it could be leading us to our demise. I’m always very sensitive when it comes to following because that’s what comes to mind. Let’s talk about following as it relates to Tango. I know people are like, “I’ve got to completely rethink this thing.” I definitely think of that when it comes to social media because those are the same questions that you’ll find not only in addressing things like social media but also in terms of following leadership of any kind and especially leadership in the dance.
I want my followers and my leaders to keep that story in the back of your mind and the types of questions it provokes as we go through this primer on what it means to be a follower in Tango. A follower in Tango is necessarily ordered the second position. In Argentine Tango, it is the position that is taken by the woman. It is the yin energy of the dance or the feminine energy of the dance. Its position is to face away from the flow of traffic. The follower is facing the man or the leader. As a result, not only is the follower able to see directly, obviously the man or the leader but also can have a position where they can see what’s going on behind them as a couple.
The place that they’ve left, what’s going on behind them, because they’re facing that way. That’s the perspective that they’re holding, where the couple has been, and also some things that are coming up on the couple. It is approaching the couple from behind the follower in a position to see that. It’s very important because literally the follower is in the position of watching the back of the leader. Please remember that in relationships. The follower, because they are facing away from the traffic, the leader is facing and can see where things are going, where the couple is going and leading the couple in that direction but because the follower is facing away from the traffic and looking at what’s going on behind.
The follower is in the position to have the leader’s back or watch the leader’s back if the follower’s dancing with their eyes open. Once again, the leader and follower roles are equal in value. Though opposite, they are complementary and they are interdependent. As I’ve said previously, multiple times that there is no leader without a follower. The dance technically begins with the follower. The follower is the starting point for the Tango. In the Tango, the yin energy is responsible for inspiration. They inspire the desire to dance. I liken it to say, and whenever I’m coaching gentlemen or teaching classes, we laugh because I say very playfully, I was like, “The reason that gentlemen are doing all of this and going through all of these dramas and jumping through all these hoops to learn this dance is because they see a beautiful woman or a woman that they want to engage with in that way.”
The way to engage with them in this manner that is close and intimate, but still respectful and still has boundaries is through the Tango. Even culturally, like in some cultures, partner dance, young men and young women in other cultures, if they’re not married, they’re not able to be in such close physical proximity with one another, unless it’s in the context of something like a dance. In dance, that’s an acceptable way for young unmarried people to be social with one another in a respectful, safe way with rules and boundaries that they would not otherwise be allowed to engage in outside of the dance environment.
You see that in dances all around the world. Courtship dances are where a lot of these dances arise out of. This is a safe place. It’s usually inspired by the fact that the young man has a young woman that he would like to be in closer proximity to. He would like to be given permission to be in closer proximity to her. She inspires his effort to gain the skills so that he can gain that permission. She inspires him to gain the skills that he needs to be a dancer, in this case. As a good dancer, he can gain permission to be allowed to be in close proximity and she’ll trust him in that close proximity to her. The yin provides inspiration. The yin receives or accepts the invitation that yang gives, and also receives and accepts the energy that yang gives.
Remember if you read the previous episode, and if you haven’t, you want to go back to that in terms of the anatomy of Tango on what it means to be a leader, how to be a leader. We talked about how yang provides the invitation to dance as well as provides the impulsive energy that moves the couple. The yin is the part that receives and accepts the invitation but also accepts the energy that the leader is providing. The yin also provides feedback. Remember, I said that the leader is responsible for resending energy and then receiving feedback on what they did. They laid something and then they watch and see if what comes out is what they intended. They’re receiving feedback too from their partner or the situation on what they’ve done so that they can correct or make adjustments.
Yin’s responsibility is as they’re receiving the energy, what results provide feedback. Their role in executing and being an example of the execution is that they’re responsible for giving feedback to the yang or to the leader about what is the result of their lead. They led something, they are the physical representation of what was led. If it worked out, the leader can see, feel or sense in the woman’s body, if it did work out, they can feel and sense that. If it didn’t work out, they can see, feel or sense that and then make the adjustments. This is important because you see this definitely both on and off the dance floor in terms of providing feedback. The yin’s and feminine role, the role of the follower or the role of the woman is to provide the leader feedback on his lead. That’s her role to let him know if his lead is going according to plan.
Another thing that yin does is a concept that’s called collecting. I will do a whole episode on the concept of collecting because collecting is not only a core principle of the dance, but it’s actually one of the ancient secrets that I teach and coach whenever I do advanced training. Collecting is a powerful thing. Basically, so that you have a basic understanding of collecting, it is whenever you lead a step, the step has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You send the energy, the energy gets executed, and then you have to bring all of that energy or the idea to a close by collecting the energy so that you can use that energy for the next step. It’s like writing an essay.
Every time you write an essay, you write a sentence, it’s an idea. A paragraph is a series of sentences of a similar idea and then once you finish that, you go to the next paragraph. The important part of writing an essay is making sure you have punctuation marks. A punctuation lets you know the beginning and end of a sentence and an idea. The paragraph breaks let you know the beginning and end of several sets of ideas. Equally in the dance, when the man leads something, he leads it, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The end lets you know the end of the one idea before he leads the next idea.
They do flow from one idea to the next, much like an essay or a novel flows from one idea to the next, one scene to the next, one scenario to the next, one conversation to the next like in a book, an essay or a thesis. Similarly in the dance, you see that as well. The place that closes one idea and sets the stage for the next idea to emerge in Tango is called the collect. It’s where the couple or the individual, definitely the leader, the follower first brings their feet together underneath them so that their body is in alignment and in the strongest position to go into the next idea.
The gentlemen can override that on purpose, but her strongest position is to have all her feet, energy, spine, and alignment gathered underneath her at the end of an idea to indicate to him that she’s in the most stable and aligned position to receive the next instruction. That is her responsibility as well. Her responsibility is to at least attempt to execute the entire idea from the beginning, middle, and end. The gentlemen can set this lead or at least attempting to execute the step that he has led. If he tries to rush her or get ahead of himself, that’s usually where you see errors.
That’s where you see people getting hurt and injured and the likes. It’s important to understand those elements of yin, the feminine aspect, the follower position in the dance that is very different, the opposite of the leader, but also complementary. They work in concert with one another. It’s a flow of energy back and forth between the two in a very fluid dance. In talking about what it meant to be a leader or how to be a leader, I went back to the actual definition of to lead and I’m going to do the same thing similarly here. What is the definition? What does the word to follow mean?
Once again, inherent in the word is some of the principles just by definition. As I said in one of the very first episodes that these positions are not a function of culture, they are a function of design. They’re a function of purpose. They’re defined by design, not defined by cultural and societal roles like a hammer is designed to hit a nail. You can use it for other things, but that is not what it was designed to do. You can use it outside of purpose, but its purpose is designed if the original intention for a hammer was to use it to pound nails or the other end, remove those nails.Followership is an equal position of power with leadership. It is also a reassignment of that power for an agreed-upon amount of time. Click To Tweet
To follow means to go after, move, or travel after as a sequence. Once something is done, to follow means that you travel, move or go after a thing in sequence. It makes sense because in Tango, what the follower does is a function of something that happens after the leader does something. To follow means to go along a path or a route. A leader provides direction and guidance along a path or route. To follow means to go along that path or route, to be a logical consequence of something. That is what a follower is. We talked about how in the previous episode, when a leader does something, the reason that they’re responsible or it’s their fault, as we talked about the difference between fault and responsibility, is because their action creates a reaction or a consequence therefore, they’re responsible to that consequence.
To be a follower, to follow is that a follower is a logical consequence of something. To follow means also to act according to a lead. Another interesting thing is, to follow is to pay close attention to. To follow means to make sure that you’re going along and paying attention to the details of a thing. That’s an important thing to understand about followers because followers are into the details in a way that sometimes a leader may not be aware of. In order to follow, the follower has to be aware of the entire instruction and all of the details that come with it in order to execute.
The Biggest Misconception: Followership Isn’t Powerlessness
Even if their instructions, that you’re not aware that you were doing and transmitting, the follower is still responsible and will receive all of that energy and information. They’re receiving all of the details that you’re sending. Even if you are not aware that you’re sending all of those details, the follower is receiving and paying attention to all of those details. One of the biggest challenges and I was going to address this in this episode is how the idea of the following can be very triggering for women because of how in this culture and cultures around the world, gender roles are laid out.
I’m actually going to have a special guest that’s going to help me tackle some of that stuff head-on through a different lens. Here in the show, there are opportunities to know what we do in multiple countries and multiple cultures. I’m very well aware that different cultures handle gender roles in different ways. Now, I’m going to speak about how the Western world, specifically in the United States or the North Americans, handle gender roles and some of the tug of war there because it’s definitely different. In African, European, Asian, even South American countries, it’s a totally different dynamic and understanding of gender roles that are around religion.
In the Western world, one of the primary places that influences the way that we have seen gender roles in the past is Christianity. The story of Adam and Eve becomes an undercurrent of how we perceive and understand the relationship between man and woman and gender roles. Depending on the different cultures and different beliefs, they may not perceive it that way. That has a big influence on how the Western world, specifically in the United States, perceives or receives the idea of man and woman, masculine and feminine, husband and wife, lead and follow, yin and yang, the way they receive that.
The reason that I bring that up is because out of that, oftentimes there is a perception of the hierarchical nature of gender roles. Gender roles are perceived in a hierarchical way, meaning one over another, one greater than the other, one higher than the other. It can be very triggering for women because being a follower is perceived or understood to be a position of weakness, a position that is not of power. As we move through different movements, feminine movement and feminine empowerment movements, women are saying, “I don’t want to be in a position that’s weak. I don’t want to be in a position where I’m giving up in my power or I’m being powerless.”
Sometimes in the beginning of this dance, it can be very triggering for women because if you were like me, when I first started, I’m like, “There’s no man who’s going to tell me what to do. We’re not in this like that no more.” Even when I first started, I struggled with that idea. I am going to have a special guest that’s going to walk us through. She’s a Hebrew scholar, who’s brilliant. Her work is brilliant. We have to look out for because we literally are going to go through that Western understanding of the story of Adam and Eve that informs a lot of the way that we perceive gender roles right now.
She’s going to give us some real interesting insights through the understanding of the original Hebrew text of that story and what that story is telling us about the role of man and woman and the role of man and wife to one another. It’s going to be fascinating. Stay tuned to that because we’re going to go into that idea that is the subtexts of undercurrent of our understanding of gender roles. Why do I bring that up? It’s because I want everyone, both leader and follower, man and woman, masculine and feminine energy, in this audience to understand that in this dance there is no hierarchy.
Both roles are different in function but equal in value and interdependent. Remember there is no leader without a follower. It is not about allowing yourself to be subjugated. It’s not about being oppressed. Followership is an equal position of power and it is also a reassignment of that power for an agreed-upon amount of time. It is voluntary and it can be annulled at any point in time. Annul is a big word to be using when you’re having a relationship. I’m going to use that word carefully, but I use it very clearly, stated in another way. Remember we’ve talked about that in the leader, there is an assignment of power and/or assigns like in a real estate contract.
The follower is willing to loan their power to the leader in order to achieve a shared vision, result, or outcome. They want to create a beautiful dance. She wants to have a beautiful, extraordinary dance, as much as he wants to have a beautiful, extraordinary dance. She wants to be close to him the way that he wants to be close to them. They want to both be a vision of love and harmony on the floor, passion and beauty. They want to have that and they want to be that. She agrees to loan her power and her cooperation to the creation of that end.
However, if at any point in time, he’s not about the business of creating that vision and she can withdraw her power from that situation. Just like she voluntarily gave it, she can voluntarily withdraw it because the agreement is that, “I will loan my power to this situation but if the situation is no longer present, then I’m going to remove my resources from that situation.” Being in a position of following is not a position of powerlessness. It is not a position of giving up one’s power. It is lending power. It is aggregating power and agreed upon purpose. That’s what that is. Another way to say that is when they say about energy, energy is neither created nor destroyed, it only changes form. That’s what’s happening between you and your partner. You’re exchanging and transferring energy back and forth to one another. It’s changing form from yin to yang, yang to yin. It’s a transference of that energetic power. It’s going from yang to yin, yin back to yang.
However, if she withdraws or comes out of the embrace, then his energy and power are separate from hers now. You then don’t have that cooperation and that co-creation. That’s what it is when those two powers come together, there’s an energy of co-creating the dance, co-operation and creating the dance. That is what following is. A leader is a steward of power. They are not a person who controls power. They are a steward of the power that has been assigned to them by the follower or followers that they have. I was talking this up to people when it comes to leadership because sometimes people get afraid of their leaders. I love when that happens only because it gives me an opportunity to remind them that the leader only is the leader as long as you agree to whatever it is that they’re doing.
At any point in time that you cease to be in agreement with that, then they’re not the leader in it. Leaders are only empowered to the point into the level that other people are willing to be in agreement with what they’re doing. At any point in time, whether it’s an organization to the military even, as long as people are in agreement with the decisions and efforts and whatever, there’s power there. If at any point in time, people say, “I’m not going along with that. I’m not following that anymore. I’m good.” They leave the scene, then there is no power because once again it’s an aggregation of what’s being allowed, giving and loaned.
The biggest mistake that a follower makes or the biggest misunderstanding that followers have about followership is that they believe that following is a permanent loss of power and that they are disempowered by following. As opposed to believing and understanding that following is a voluntary act because there’s something that they believe in that they want to lend their power and strength to. Another place where that happens in terms of disempowering, feeling powerless, and a loss of power often happens also when the follower misunderstands the agreements that they have, or that they’re supposed to have with their leaders and one of them is responsibility and accountability.Leaders are only empowered up to the point that other people are willing to be in agreement with what they're doing. Click To Tweet
One of the core agreements between a leader and follower is that the leader understands that they are accountable and responsible for all of their actions. As a follower who is on the receiving end of those actions, it is your role, position and place to hold the leader responsible and accountable for their actions. You already do some of that through your body. When you understand that, that is your role, which is to be in that position of accountability because you are literally the consequence of their action, then you won’t step into this place of feeling like following is a place of disempowerment or a permanent loss of power.
Choosing The Steward: What Happens Before The Dance
Most of what the follower has to do and is responsible for is what happens before the dance ever starts. It does happen that both the man and the woman are like the 80/20 Rule in full effect here. There’s definitely an 80/20 Rule in the dance. Eighty percent of what makes the dance successful happens before the dance ever happens, before the first step is taken, then the 20% is the rest of the dance to success, what you see moving on the floor. From arriving in the venue up until the time you step into that place and prepare to take that first step, that 80% is where the bulk of the dance is happening.
The setting up the relationship between the two, the embrace, the structure of the principles so that the dance can operate. One of the ones that the follower is most responsible for is being discerning about whose lead they accept, whose lead they agree to lend their power to. That goes back to the top of the story when I was talking about the Pied Piper and the social media, and now we’re following 100, 200, 1,000 or 700 different people. We have 700 different ideas, feeds, messages, and images, all coming to us all at the same time.
Our attention and power are going in 700 different ways because attention is a part of our power. Our lack of focus is going in 700 different ways. If the follower wants to be in the position of understanding the power of their power, is to be very discerning and discriminating about whose lead they agree to follow. That requires some discretion and discernment to determine who you are going to and who you are willing to follow, and are they going to be a good steward of you and your power? That’s what you want to be clear on. You want to be clear, purposeful and thoughtful about the leader or leaders in the political environment you choose to follow.
Like now, when you see in the political arena, the way that you choose a leader is that you have followers and they aggregate their power in the form of votes to lean their power so that the leader can make decisions on their behalf, hopefully, good decisions and decisions that represent their interests. You see that in the political arena. Similarly in a relationship, you have the power of the family choosing, what we would consider the head of the household or the leader of the household, to make decisions and choices that are in the best interest and represent the interests of those who are in the household or those who are following the leader of that household. The key thing is in before the invitation is accepted.
The follower needs to do their homework, be clear and make that decision before the invitation is accepted. How does that happen? In Buenos Aires, the culture of the dance is so beautiful. I love it. There’s so much unspoken, nonverbal communication going on in the culture of Tango that helps inform so much. It’s funny because I’ve been dancing the Tango for so long and I’m accustomed to the nuances of the nonverbal communication that happens in the culture and environment of Tango that is very shocking to me when I’m outside of that.
The communication is so gross and big, and sometimes vulgar. I’m used to the subtlety that happens, that when it’s not subtle, sometimes it’s very jarring even for me. In the environment of a milonga, which is a Tango dance or a Tango ball, the men and the women are usually sitting across from each other if they’re single. If you can imagine a box in front of you and where your chest is facing, that would be where the DJ is. In an old school, traditional milonga, the DJ would be facing the section of the room where the couples were sitting and then on the sides, flanking the DJ or the orchestra, would be women on one side and men on the other side.
This is so the men and the women can make eye contact with each other across the floor because the married couples don’t need to be making eye contact with anyone across the floor, because their beloved is sitting right beside them. They are usually facing the DJ or orchestra. Those are the rules of etiquette in terms of people respecting the space of a couple. Usually in a traditional Tango environment, if a man and woman come as a couple, nobody else asks them to dance because you’re respecting that they’re a couple and their partnership is a boundary that you don’t disrupt, interrupt and interject yourself into that.
They don’t need to be asking anybody else to dance because they’re dancing with each other, they face and enjoy the DJ. However, the single men and women are sitting across from each other, so the men can invite the women to dance using their gaze. It’s a slight of the head called the cabeceo. We’ll talk about that in great detail in the future. The slight of the head is called the cabeceo where the man uses a gesture and a look, the way that he moves his head and his hand to ask a woman to dance before he approaches her. Based on how she responds to that gesture will give him permission to get up from his seat and walk across the room to take her hand and then go onto the floor.
The women are tasked with observing the gentlemen discreetly to determine whether or not they will accept his gesture once he offers it. There’s a lot going on there. Most of her bulk is in observing the gentlemen and how he moves in space and time, how he comes when it comes into space, how he interacts with others. If he dances with other women, observing how he treats them, what kind of regard he has for other women and men in the space, how he handles himself with other couples on the floor. Even in Buenos Aires, the women pay attention to how many women he dances with.
In Buenos Aires, at least in old school and traditional environments, a woman doesn’t want to dance with the man who was dancing with every woman in the room because then that means that he does not appreciate or hold in high regard the value of her presence because his energy is everywhere. He hasn’t landed and seeing that there was one particular woman, which is her, that he’s in pursuit of for the evening primarily. If he’s all over the place then for traditional Argentine women, she’s not about the man that’s all over dancing with every woman in the room.
For women, even other cultures are observing the way that the man handles himself socially and then determining not only if she’s going to give him permission, but how much permission is she going to give him as it relates to the dance. These are the things that the follower gets to decide. Her choice, in terms of who she’s going to follow, is very conscious, deliberate, intentional and informed. She’s not haphazardly, in a traditional sense, just dancing with every man in the room. She hasn’t watched him. She doesn’t know anything about him. She hasn’t observed any of his character and his character traits or that you can see how he interacts with others, how he handles himself.
Once again, because this is a social environment, she could be observing him across multiple events. I know in some circles, a woman will not accept a man’s gesture for a number of events so she can get to see if he’s consistent. It might be 3 or 4 events before she actually accepts his invitation of 3 or 4 balls that they both attended to before she even will entertain his invitation. He’s aware that he’s being watched and because she hasn’t accepted his gesture sooner, she wants to observe him more before she accepts. That’s important.In dance and in life, always ask yourself, 'Who are you choosing to lend your power to? How much of your power are you lending to them?' Click To Tweet
That is the bulk of her responsibility, to take great care in choosing the leader to follow, to vet and observe him in a variety of settings before she even agrees to his leadership. Be very careful that not only are you giving over power or loaning your power, but you’re loaning trust and entrusting him. You’re entrusting the leader or the man with your safety and wellbeing, even if just a few minutes on the floor. You want to be mindful, careful, and thoughtful in terms of, “Do you trust him based on what you’ve observed to trust him with your wellbeing for that 9 to 12 minutes?” I’ll share a story of a particular time and it can be uncomfortable if the interaction is unsuccessful.
I’ve had students where the gentleman has stepped on her foot and broken a toenail or knocked an entire toenail off of the toe in the very short span of the dance, the ten minutes. Those injuries are significant if you’re a woman. You want to be very thoughtful about who you’re trusting and entrusting with your wellbeing, even if you think it’s for a short period of time. That short period of time can be no result. I’ve seen all types of injuries in a twisting of an ankle, broken ankles, toes, toenails, scratches. Even myself, I have an injury to my rib side. You want to be thoughtful about that to make sure that your responsibility as a follower is to determine the boundaries.
The woman or the follower decides the distance and the leader respects that distance. Once she accepts the invitation to dance, the distance that she stands from him lets him know the type of embrace that she’s comfortable with at that time. It’s up to the woman to decide and establish her level of comfort and those boundaries upfront. For example, in the dance, if the woman stands and when she accepts the dance, if she decides to dance and step in front of him 8 to 12 inches away, that means that she’s saying, “I’m only comfortable with open embrace right now.” If she walks up to him and when he offers the embrace to her, she puts her bosoms on his chest. That means that she’s saying, “I’m comfortable with being this close to you, and I’m comfortable with this type of embrace with you.”
She establishes those boundaries. You need to be clear as a follower about your responsibility in setting and maintaining boundaries that are comfortable for you, then it’s actually going to create tension in the dance and could result in energy. You are to receive the energy, absorb it, let it come out through your body, and then as it comes out, it will provide feedback. The energy will start to rebound back to him and give him feedback.
You want to allow that. You don’t want to resist the energy of the lead. You want to receive it once you’ve established that trust. You’re translating the idea into physical form, that is your role. You are also providing feedback through precision. What does that look like? Meaning, the way that you provide accurate feedback to the gentleman and this dance is by following his lead accurately. Even if what you understand he is trying to do is different from what he does. This is a bit of a challenge sometimes with ladies who are following and definitely in a relationship.
Especially if he’s a beginner, you might have an idea of what he’s trying to lead but he may not be doing or executing the lead to get that result. What you try to do is help him out by giving him the result that he’s attempting to achieve, not giving him the result that he’s actually led. The reason that you do not want to give him what he’s trying to achieve by giving him back what he’s led is because then he doesn’t know the true result of what he’s done and can’t make the proper adjustments and corrections that he needs to strengthen his lead, communication and proficiency.
If he does something somewhere else where he tries to do the same thing, he doesn’t realize that the reason that it’s not working out the way that he wants to is because that’s not what he’s leading. He hadn’t figured it out yet. For example, if the man is trying to lead a boleo but a boleo is not what’s coming out, then don’t try to do the boleo for him, do and execute what he’s led so that he gets the accurate and proper feedback. That is a beautiful thing. The key thing is you don’t want to be outside of the flow of energy.
If you’re doing something that he didn’t lead, not only are you not helping him out because you’ve done something that wasn’t what he led, but he sent his energy in a certain direction and you should be in the direction of his energy sent. If you’re not there, then that means you’re no longer aligned with him. That also means that you’re not in a position for what is coming next, which could put you in a place of not being safe. That is important because safety first and the only way that a man can recover you in a safe position is if you are where he sent you. Even if he doesn’t understand if you are where he sent you, then he can recover by backing off or rebounding in the direction that he was.
I’ll give you an example of that. It’s very rare in all of my years of dancing of getting injured, dropped, falling or anything like that because I’m proficient and following a man extremely accurately. I remember there was one time where I was dancing with a gentleman. He was a pretty proficient dancer in general, but there was something that he was leading that was high speed, very dynamic figure that he was leading and he miscalculated how much force he gave me. He sent way more energy and force than he realized he had for my weight and the fact that I was in heels. He sent way too much power and sent me way further and faster than he realized.
As a result of that, because he has sent so much power in the dynamic, it put me in a position that was further from him than he had thought. What it did is it also put me in alignment where I wind up falling away from him. He sent me too far, farther than he expected. He sent too much energy. He wound up sending me almost outside of his embrace. Therefore, it put me in a position where I was outside of his embrace. I was starting to fall backward, a very precarious place to be because that means I was outside of his embrace enough to be in that direction and only because he sent me there.
As I am going backwards towards the floor, I’m like, “Snap, this is not a good look.” I didn’t resist. I kept in the energy of where he was going when he realized that I was going away from him in the embrace though, I was still in the embrace. What he did is he took his energy back in the opposite direction with just as much force. What happened, I got pulled back in. He sent me away. As I was going away, because I was in the embrace, the way that he was able to recover was literally to step back with as much force as he was stepping forward.
When he stepped back, I went with him because I was in the embrace so he was able to recover. The reason that he was able to recover and I didn’t get hurt is I didn’t provide any resistance. That required a great deal of trust on my part. I wanted to say that to my followers because they understand that your role is to follow. The only way that he can keep you safe is if he can see exactly what’s going on and make adjustments based on that. That was a prime example. I think I’ve only hit the floor once in my entire career and this was the second time where I almost did, but didn’t. The only other time that happened was we were working on choreography.
Maintaining The Connection: Where The Magic Happens
It wasn’t pure lead and follow in that situation. That’s one of your roles and responsibilities. It’s really important. One of the final key responsibilities, that is the responsibility of the follower, is that once the gentleman and you set up the embrace, your role as a follower is to maintain and sustain the connection and embrace that is established. The gentlemen as a more advanced leader may want to manipulate that but on a very basic level, once you all establish the connection, your role as the follower is to maintain the connection.
This is important for both followers and leaders to understand so that gentlemen can understand the role of the woman in the dance, but also in the relationship. Her responsibility is to maintain the connection. Even if you try to break the connection, she’s going to be attempting to maintain the connection because that’s what was agreed upon in this dynamic, or what I like to say to follow when they’re training. Once you connect with your man, you’re on your man like white arm rise, that’s your role.
The only way that you can allow the energy to complete the energetic loop between you and the leader, the only way that the principles can continue to work is once the embrace is established, when you maintain that, the dynamic will work. It’s like in literal power and electricity, once you plug into the source, the power will run continuously until you either turn it off or you unplug it. The current will continue to run once it’s established, plugged in, connected, once that energy current is established, the energy will flow through the circuits or between the two until it’s broken.
The goal is to establish it and keep it there, even if it seems it’s not working because the beautiful thing is when you plug in the appliance. Even if the appliance is turned off, there’s still energy present, meaning the minute you turn on the appliance, the appliance will work. When you unplug it, it breaks it. If it’s unplugged and you turn it on, there’s no power there. The role and goal of the follower are to stay plugged in, and the way they stay plugged in is they stay and establish the connection to the leader. That is where the magic happens. I wanted to share with you that primer on what it means to be a follower in Tango.
Now that you’ve learned the fundamental structure of what it means to be a follower, what is the follower, the definition of a follower and what are the key roles and responsibilities of a follower and the key agreements between the leader and the follower, you can have a sense of the yin and the yang. The masculine and feminine of the dance of relationships. There’ll be additional details. You can go back through it and pull out these bullet points and explore them in greater detail in your quiet time. Especially my followers, I want you to start to think about what criteria are you using to discern and be discriminating in the leaders that you choose to follow? Not only the leaders that you choose to follow online or even offline, but the leaders that you choose to follow in your life.
Who are you choosing to follow? Who are you choosing to lend your power to? How much of your power are you lending to them? Have they demonstrated that they have the capacity and the capability to be a steward of your power? Can you trust them with your wellbeing? These are the thoughts that you want to have as a follower. Any leaders that are reading this, I want you to start to be thoughtful because as you are posed with this vetting process, you want to understand why are you being challenged and questioned in this way, both verbally and non-verbally by your potential followers.
You can find out about this and even more information on our website, www.The22TangoShow.com, or of course on social media, @The22TangoShow on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. We love sharing with you. You can find all the information there, and if you have any questions or comments, reach out on social media and share with me, so we can continue this dialogue and the dance of relationships. As we always say on the show, it not only takes two to Tango but absolutely, it takes you to Tango. Ciao.