Men who are new to tango have no way of knowing the depth and breadth of adventure they are about to experience. And if they did know, they might not step even one foot in the door and willingly subject themselves to the mystic depths of tango culture, traditions, codes, social idiosyncrasies and miscellaneous forms of ego torture that will accompany their journey.
Learning to dance tango requires passion, determination and survival skills. (You won’t find that statement on promotional flyers, but just ask anyone who’s been at it for a considerable length of time.) Safe Navigation is an essential part of the underlying system that makes tango the unique phenomenon that it is.
The following information includes clues that will help prevent (or at least reduce) sudden rises in blood pressure, gnashing of teeth and the urge for someone to take you outside and inform you of the importance of dancing safely and maybe suggesting that you find an activity that doesn’t require an IQ that is higher than you can count.
Experienced leaders have likely heard these more than once, however, hearing them and following them are two different things. There are lots of men who know the system for creating safe navigation but who keep their knowledge well concealed. These are men who other men avoid dancing behind (or near) on the dance floor. They cut across lanes, back up suddenly, whirlygig in place for an eternity, lead dangerous moves in tight places, and/or charge in front of couples when entering the floor.
Leaders are responsible for maintaining a safe environment, including following line of dance. On a crowded floor there should be two distinct lanes of traffic (three if needed) and an open space in the middle. The outside lane is for continued forward travel, with momentary pauses for musicality or traffic adjustment. For an occasional larger move, it’s ok to move from the outside lane to a corner or open spot and return to line of dance, without disrupting others.
The inside lane is for slightly slower traffic and more intricate or complex moves, depending on the amount of space available. Moving or turning directly to your right, Leaders, without checking first, is a sure sign of a beginner or being irresponsible. That is your blind spot, and, just like in your car, you are putting your partner and neighbors in harm’s way. Cutting from one lane to another without regard to oncoming traffic is just as annoying as it is when someone darts between lanes on the highway.
The center of the floor is typically occupied by the clueless, those who teach on the floor, (a more serious form of cluelessness), those who know about line of dance but choose to ignore it, and those doing larger moves who may or may not be paying attention to the safety of floormates around them. It can be a jungle of flying, flailing, body parts. Proceed with caution and realize that it will likely be your partner who gets crashed, crunched, jostled, because she’s moving backwards, cannot see where she’s going and is not making the decisions of when and where to step.
Skilled Leaders do not look down while dancing because this puts their partner at risk for being bumped into by another Leader who might not be looking where he’s going. Considerate Leaders who are waiting to enter the floor, make eye contact with oncoming Leaders & receive visual permission before stepping into line of dance. They carefully guide their partner in to a safe space and begin moving smoothly with the flow of traffic. Leaders depend on each other for maintaining safety for their partners and floor mates and should enter the floor with the same care and caution as when entering a freeway. If/when there is a collision, the men involved should make eye contact and accept responsibility, no matter whose fault.
Desirable Leaders often dance momentarily in place with interesting rhythmic weight changes and small turns. They create space to move in to that does not invade the space of fellow dancers. They dance with musicality while maintaining a comfortable embrace. Men who “get it” have found that dancing in a tight space is as pleasurable as traveling, and that simple steps done with finesse are more pleasurable to their partner than fancy steps that are uncomfortable.
Safety-minded Leaders do not lead high boleos or ganchos on a crowded floor. They do not lead figures that will disrupt travel of the couples behind them; they do not take large back steps that endanger the follower behind them, and they never move into their blind spot before checking traffic on all sides.
Taking these precautions will help the woman in your arms feel safe and when she feels safe will she be able to relax and connect with you on that magical level. (Like life.)
Followers remember how it feels to be in your arms far longer than we remember what steps you do. We remember first of all whether it felt safe, second if it was comfortable and third if it was pleasurable. Skilled, considerate, Leaders dance every dance with every partner with those in mind.