Right after I wrote the “Milonguear – dancing small” post, I longtime tango friend asked me a very good question: What is the follower’ s role in “milonguear”? Since the follower shares half of the dance, for sure she also has responsibility to “milonguear” properly. From my personal experiences (including some bad ones) and observation, I came up the following advices of “milonguear” for the ladies.
1. Heels on the Floor
This is the most important among all, just because the heels can cause serious injuries. A stiletto high heel “steps” in your shoe or on your toes is already dangerous and can be quite painful, I don’t even talk about someone “steps” her stiletto heel on the upper part of your feet and hurts those small and sensitive nerves inside your feet, this kind of injury can stop you dancing for weeks. And I believe this kind of accident is almost 100% the responsibility of the followers. Ladies, you can blame your partner making you bump into somebody. You can also blame him when someone steps on you, but you can never blame him when you step on someone’s feet – it happens only because YOU LIFT YOUR HEEL UP when you dance, otherwise it would just be another bump. And for me, if a follower cannot even feel the difference between stepping on the floor and stepping on someone’s feet, she is NOT a good dancer. When a good follower feels her heel steps on something strange – in most cases that strange thing is someone’s feet, she would hold her step by NOT putting any weight on her heel. We cannot learn it in a tango class, but we have to learn how to do so because it is the only way to avoid hurting others on the dance floor. So ladies, when you are in a crowded milonga, to be friendly to your tango fellows, please keep your heels on the floor. If all the ladies do the same, everybody can have a much pleasant dancing time and can avoid from bleeding and having bruises.
2. Dancing Small
Yes, we ladies have to dance small too. Leader can lead small movements, but if a follower determines to make everything big and expressive, there’s no way he can stop her. So even though it sounds a bit strange, to make “dancing small” possible, the intention of dancing small from the follower is extremely important. Sometimes I heard complaints from Jean-Michel about ladies who like to do big movement and do big steps. He said navigating properly on the dance floor with these ladies is difficult. Thus if the follower has the mutual consensus with the leader to dance small together, and she makes her movement small and compact, it would make leader’s navigation job much easier.
Follower loves voleo and adornment. However, she has to make it very small and low (close to the dance floor) in a crowded milonga. Of course leader has the responsibility to make sure that there’s enough space for a voleo to be safely executed. But to avoid any accident like flying her leg to a table, or having her heel stretches someone’s dress or leaving a bruise on other’s leg, she better keeps her voleo on the floor and make it as compact as possible. I don’t remember many tango teachers tell me how to do small voleo that delivers as good feeling as a big one (it’s absolutely possible to deliver a voleo feeling to the leader without flying your leg). But hey ladies, that’s something we have to learn to make it on our own. As for the adornment, there’re many options besides kicking out and lifting the leg/feet up. The more we dance in a crowded milonga and the more you observe the seasoned milonguera’s dance (in a milonga or by watching video), you will have more ideas of how to make small, delicate and beautiful embellishment.
3. No Elbow Out
Have you ever being knocked by someone with his/her elbow in a milonga? I did, two times here in Buenos Aires, both hit on my head. Luckily, they were not big hits and not so painful (imagine they could be on my eye!). But my friend Rosana was not as lucky as I did. Someone knocked her head with his elbow in a milonga and she spent 2 days in the hospital and suffered from headache for days (thank god she recovered now! ) The advice of keeping our elbow IN is for BOTH follower and leader. I’m a small lady so definitely it matters more to me than to those who are big and tall. And I really hope that everybody (especially tall and big dancers) be more considerate in this matter. A thoughtless hit on someone’s head can cause injuries but not just simply pain and bruises. Leader should make sure his left elbow is pointing down to the dance floor; same applies to follower’s right elbow. Then follower should keep her left elbow close to the man’s body as much as possible. She can either put her arm on or around the man’s shoulder; or if she prefers to leave her arm next to the man’s right arm, she should make her elbow pointing down, not sticking it out.
Last but not the least, dance with someone who takes care of you well. This is very simple. If you see a man dancing with a lady, he doesn’t pay attention to the traffic and makes her bump into everybody. Ladies, do you think this person can take care of you well on the dance floor?