The Cross

I have been following Mtnhighmama’s thoughts about the cross. I’m really picky when practicing with leaders – I make sure that I don’t ever cross unless I feel the lead. I really, really don’t want to get into the habit of automatically crossing. But in a milonga, with leaders I know well … I have trouble deciding what to do.

If I know that a particular leader always tends to cross at a certain time, and I miss his lead into a cross (maybe it didn’t happen, maybe I didn’t notice it), I feel like an annoying follower. Milongas have different expectations than practicas. I want to help make things flow in a milonga. If I find myself missing a cross with a leader who I know, sometimes I end up anticipating and crossing where I think he wants one but isn’t giving me a very clear lead. But I have been in that situation where I felt a lead into a cross and the leader did not intend it, and that’s a sticky place to get out of.

Question for the followers: Do you ever try to “help” like this, at least with leaders who have tendencies that you know well? (Not crossing automatically all the time, but going into a cross when the lead feels a bit ambiguous and you know this leader tends to lead a cross at that point.) Or do you only ever follow a clear lead?

Question for the leaders:
In a milonga, would you prefer followers to “help” you like this? Or would you rather have them not cross and just deal with it from there?


2 thoughts on “The Cross

  1. Ooh, ‘helping’, interesting topic.In class, I’ve always tried to be religious about not doing anything that wasn’t led – I don’t think that does anyone any favours. At a milonga, though, I don’t know. I know a teacher in the UK who absolutely will not help at all. The problem for me with this approach is that we’re all there to have fun. We’re not there to batter some guy with his mistakes. But then, reinforcing his mistakes isn’t doing him any favours either… I really don’t know. I really, really hate it when guys lead things like ganchos badly, because I know that if I follow it it will mess up my own gancho. There’s a particular gancho that I loathe, because it’s always led so badly, and my technique for that gancho is crappy from encountering so many crappy leads. It would be better for me if I just didn’t do it. Course then you get those guys who are like ‘It’s a gancho, look’ – I want to kill those guys. There’s another side to this, though, I think. As I’ve danced more, I’ve found that the line between following a clear lead and anticipating a lead has blurred. So much of what we do as followers is about instinct – our bodies develop an instinct. You get to a point where you have a kind of sixth sense for what’s about to be led, especially with guys that you know well, or who have very similar musicality to you, and I don’t consider that to be cheating, or helping, but a natural part of what it is to be a follower, and of those magical connections that you get now and then.

  2. Hum, this is a bit of a difficult question to answer. I am personally a bit of a “purist” and prefer not to do anything if I don’t feel the lead. However, I know for a fact that dancing with people I am already too familiar leads me to “help” if a lead is not too clear. How this happens is a bit blurry to me–I don’t think I do it intentionally; I think probably, in the course of dancing frequently with a person, I’ve learned to identify for a weak lead for X or Y move–the compensation gets so internalized that I do it almost automatically. Sometimes I find it useful to test myself by not dancing for a while with my usual partners (this is easier if I need to travel for work, or to go to a Festival/different milongas, etc, so I don’t offend anyone). It’s been very interesting to go back to the same leader, because in that case the need to compensate becomes obvious and it prevents me from getting bad habits that I could translate to my dancing with others (not to say I don’t have any… God forbid… 🙂 but I do try to stay as aware as possible, within my limits). As to whether the compensation is good or not, I think it depends. I have heard of leaders who brag about some followers who are so good that “they fixed them” in their mistakes. I’m still a bit unclear as to what this means, though sometimes I suspect that this statement partly implies that they are able to recognize weak leads. More generally, I do not think helping too much is really help–quite the opposite; it prevents leaders from refining their mark. So, if I know the leader well, and he knows that I usually don’t miss leads, I allow myself to miss what I don’t understand. This allows him to know that he needs to refine; I usually find that he may try the same thing a bit later, and it tends to be much clearer. When I don’t know the person so well, I am guilty of having tried to compensate sometimes, though I think this strategy can backfire (i.e., if I have not read correctly what the person wanted to do, and I end up anticipating another move). Because of this, these days I’m trying to be very honest of how I feel about the lead.

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