So Mikhail very kindly made a comment (And thank you for reading our old posts, by the way!) and asked me whether I could share Alberto's advice.
Sure! What Alberto told me was (Drum roll please):
1. Do not go faster than the leader
2. Do not stick out your hips/butt when you are doing a giro
3. Do not do any adornments unless the leader gives you opportunity to
I will also throw in the advice that the legendary Osvaldo Cartery gave me:
1. Pick up your feet! (Meaning don't drag your feet on the floor making feet draggy sounds when you are walking. Yeah, I know that's four words and I had said "three words" - and it was three, in Spanish, and I forget exactly what they were but that's what they meant.)
A lot of you out there may be going "Pffffft! I ALREADY KNEW THAT!" and "But that's what everybody says!" but hey, those little things were EXACTLY what was wrong with the way I was dancing. They are still my golden rules and I follow them to this day.
People seek and receive a lot of advice about Tango. I know some dancers who take every single group class and private class available from local and visiting instructors regardless of the style or ability of the said instructor (That's right, I look at some of these instructors and think "WTF? Should they really be teaching?") and continue to pester the instructors for more tips at milongas outside of the classes.
With so much time, energy and money thrown into Tango you would think these people would be really really fantastic dancers and teaching their own classes by now!
Reality is they don't improve. They keep on dancing the same ol' way OR WORSE, they get so confused by the landslide of good, bad, conflicting and/or irrelevant advice they completely ruin their dancing.
I think what it boils down to is judgment - or luck. You either have to "know" when someone is telling you something that won't work (or is a total crock of bull****) - or you have to be really lucky and meet the right teacher at the right time who tells you just the right thing and nothing more or less.
We were lucky and we had really great teachers who didn't bull**** us and knew what they were talking about. Some other Tango Professionals/Long-time veteran dancers gave us advice too, and I'd say we exercised some really good judgment about most of it.
So off the top of my head, here's a random sample of some advice that we had received over the years which we followed or did not follow:
1. "It doesn't matter what shoes you wear to Tango!"
That was stupid and dangerous advice. Man Yung followed this advice being a newbie (and because he likes a challenge) and wore street shoes with non-slip ridged soles.
This story ends with him wrecking his feet and bleeding all over our carpet.
2. "You have to do MORE adornments and show off to people your beautiful footwork!"
Maybe this is good if you are an instructor selling "Happy Spectacular Tango Fancy Feet Whizzing Flicking Tapping Drill" workshops.
Otherwise, this level of adornistatic enthusiasm truly ruins your following. See above Alberto's advice to me.
3. "To look more grounded and "Milonguera", your feet have to stick to the floor with every step."
Tried it, filmed it during studio practice, and it didn't work. Trying to make your feet stick to the floor doesn't make your feet look like they stick to the floor.
However, relaxing your feet and ankles and NOT dragging them on the floor (as per Osvaldo's advice above) makes your feet look more grounded and "Milonguera". Go figure.
4. "A leader has to keep his left arm back while dancing - you have to be able to put an umbrella in that space between left hand/shoulder. All good Tango leaders practiced with the umbrella!"
This is great advice. I have observed that most women leaders actually get this (WITHOUT practicing with an umbrella!) and have their left arm in the correct position. Do you know why women leaders get this? Because they have all been on the receiving end of a man leader who DOESN'T do this. If the leader has his left arm pushing forward the follower ends up with a really really (and sometimes permanently!) sore right shoulder.
I have been told I am one of the most comfortable leaders to dance with. That's because I have had the most permanently aching sore wrecked right shoulder from leader left arm pushing and I don't want to inflict that on anyone I dance with (yes Man Yung hint hint).
5. "Remember to Pause while dancing."
Absolutely mandatory advice.
You think Tango happens when you are doing a triple gancho boleo volcada enganche piña colada with a banana split and a cherry on top?
It's all happening the Pause, baby! Yes it is!
6. "Dance no more than ten (10) steps during the whole milonga."
Our Maestro and friend El Gallego Manolo told us this and he knows a gazillion steps.
There really isn't any need to do all gazillion at once. If you are doing a gazillion it means that for at least a trillion billion of them, you aren't that familiar with them and you are practicing steps at a milonga which is a no-no.
In any case, from a follower's perspective a walk and a giro feels exactly the same whether the leader is doing them regular with two legs one after the other, with a hop, skip and a jump, or with a costume change in a telephone booth in between.
7. "Be natural."
Osvaldo told us this. You shouldn't be dancing Tango like "I AM DANCING TANGO NOW!"
Tango walking is just like any other walking (Osvaldo would mime taking Coca by the hand and walking down the street to the market).
Man Yung explains: "If you eat an apple, you just eat an apple. You are not trying to impress people with your apple eating skills, you are not showing to people how elegantly you are eating an apple. You are just eating an apple."
8. "I have no more advice for you. You are fine as you are!"
Alberto said this to me. And he was right - at some point you don't need any more.
However, Alberto, Osvaldo and Manolo always had more advice for Man Yung. Lucky Man Yung!
And some of it was even repetitive advice :-(