Sunday, June 10, 2012

Everything Irene knows about following Irene should have learned by watching The Matrix (1999!) eons ago

Whenever I achieve any breakthrough in following, Man Yung claims that I should have listened to him way back when, because he has been giving me gems of following advice all along:

"You could have improved much faster if you had just listened to my advice!  Now you are following with your heart!"  Or,  "Finally you are listening to the leader listening to the music!" (huh?) or,  "Didn't I tell you so - at last you are following me like you are following the Great Chairman Mao!"

A...ha.

...Unfortunately, Man Yung doesn't realize that at the time he was giving me the said "advice", it made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.  E.g., W.T.F., "Following with your heart?  I thought I was following your fancy steps with the bony things attached to my ankles a.k.a. my feet."  And: "Chairman Mao? I'd rather DIE than follow some decrepit corrupt egomaniac old fart who never brushed his teeth!"

In fact, Man Yung, if you are going to discuss about "wise tips for tango following improvement" - Irene would have improved a lot faster if she heeded the life lessons learned by watching The Matrix (1999).

Man Yung doesn't recall most of the movie because he fell asleep half way through. 

Just look at this - the thrilling scene at the beginning of the movie where Trinity escapes from being captured by the Agents:



What could we, as tango followers, learn from the scene?

When running away from the Agents, it helps to have great balance, speed and power so that you can execute a "flying eagle kick" in slow motion while suspended in the air, or land after making running leaps between rooftops on your back with both guns drawn and ready to shoot at your very determined pursuers. 

In addition, it also helps to have the training or ability to execute perfect giros - so you can run circles up the sides of walls to evade enemy gunfire and roll down the stairs without getting hurt.

Balance, speed, power and giros - the foundation skills of good, Matrix style enemy-fleeing and also good following.  "Ah!  I don't even have to watch the entire movie to get that," you say.  "All I need to do is work on my skills and I can kick ass out of Tango too!"

BUT - you've got to have more than skill to get to great, milonguera-esque following. 

In order to be a great follower, You Have To Be "The One".

Let me explain.

Most followers don't reach any level of greatness because they are hindered by their skill or their attempts at skill.  They try too hard to be faster, stronger than the lead - or even "outsmart" the lead using all sorts of strategems.

You have the followers who doggedly do "what they have learned in class" - and respond to all leads with automatic ochos, automatic crossing, automatic ganchos, automatic leg wraps, or automatic choreography etc. Or they stop at one turn in the giro even if the lead keeps on going - because that's how they were taught (by reknowned tango professionals, no less, so they have to be right) to do it.

You have the followers who eagerly exhibit every single adornment they have learned in women's technique festivals or off Youtube irregardless of the lead and/or the music because they can't wait to put to good use what they paid their good money for, and after all, the more you flip flap and tip tap with your feet, the better you are as a tango dancer, right?

You have the followers who do their own musical interpretation by pausing all the time or putting on the brakes when they think the leader is going too fast for the music - or, at the other extreme, galloping through entire tandas of milonga (or even vals, or even tango!) using "milonga traspie" steps, just in case the leader is dancing milonga traspie - even when the leader is not remotely leading double or triple step (Man Yung's pet peeve).

You have the followers who have learned some "surefire" following techniques that some genius instructor has "guaranteed" would make them into the "best followers, ever."  Among the silly things I've heard are "staring fixedly at the leader's left/right shoulder/staring at the leader's shirt button so you can predict the leader's every move", "digging into the man's armpit/spine with your left palm/strangling the leader with a boa constrictor embrace so he can't do anything but walk forward and do ocho cortados".

You have the followers who do all of the above and more much faster than the lead so that it would look like they have followed and they could now rest easy and wash their hands of all that (following) and they could stop take a deep breath and wait for the next tanda.  These followers are often seen finishing the tango before the leader by making their own final poses or putting their feet together before the music or the leader has actually finished.

"Pooh!" you say.  "All those are little beginner following mistakes!  I have worked on my skills so much, I am way beyond that!  I have appeared in a Tango Show!  I have placed in a fancy schmancy tango competition!  In fact, I have evolved to being no less than an über-follower!"

But are you "The One"?

Let's say that you have fixed all your following mistakes and you are a perfect, lean, mean fighting (following?) machine. You are, in fact, like Neo in the penultimate subway fight near the end of the movie:



You no longer have to run away (or make excuses) when Agent Smith invites you to dance.  Agent Smith can throw a punch - but you can hit harder.  Your kung-fu is faster, and you can survive being pummeled repeatedly into a wall.  You can even outwit Agent Smith - by crushing him into the ceiling and leaping out of the way while he gets run over by a subway train.

But have you truly beat Agent Smith with all your skill?  Of course not - the subway car stops, and Agent Smith steps out - completely intact and with a fresh new pair of sunglasses.

All the skill in the world cannot defeat Agent Smith - luckily Neo realizes this and fulfills his destiny of being "The One", otherwise you might as well put all the Matrix sequels in the trashcan:



A little True Love doesn't hurt....but to be The One, you mostly have to Believe.

Believe that you have the right to say "No" - yes, that power has the power to stop bullets, and pesky unwanted dances.

Believe that you don't have to fight, or even conquer a lead - you can follow it.

Believe that you don't have to be more powerful, more skillful, or faster, or more cunning than the lead.  Believe that you can react when you follow instead of anticipate, afraid you'll miss something. There is plenty of space and time to follow a lead, if you can allow yourself to let the following happen.

Believe...and you will find yourself, and Tango.  And also: blow Agent Smith into "smithereens" and send his henchmen running for the exits.

***************************************************************************

"Isn't it cool, Man Yung!  Look at what we could learn to improve our tango by watching The Matrix!"

I hear crickets chirping...and snoring.

Whoops, Man Yung isn't even listening.  He's fallen asleep again - and it's not even the whole movie, it's the clips of the best parts of the movie!










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Alberto Dassieu

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