“With some followers I have to shout, but with you I only have to whisper.”
“You are so patient, I know you will wait for me.”
These are both things that have been said to me (quoted as accurately as I remember them being said) by leaders who I dance with regularly. I have been told since I first began going to milongas that I am such a patient follower. As far as I can tell, this means that I don’t do my own thing. Not that I don’t embellish, which I do, but that if a leader pauses I won’t fill up that pause with extra ochos or other steps that I feel like including.
We have all seen those followers who take this to an extreme. The ones where the leader seems to be standing completely still, holding her at arm’s length, letting her do ochos and boleos and whatever seems to catch her fancy. But I have been told that even some women who are otherwise excellent to dance with still do this to some extent. It is common enough that I have had leaders comment on my ability to be patient and listen carefully since I began dancing.
I wonder why this aspect of my dancing is so noteworthy. That is, it isn’t clear to me why other followers don’t also dance like this. It is not as though I am entirely passive; I try to continually communicate my feelings, my sense of the music, etc with my leader. I embellish as I feel like it. With certain leaders, in certain situations, I even take some amount of control by backleading (or whatever you want to call it). But by and large I focus a lot of energy on listening. Doesn’t everyone?
I am reminded of something Johanna wrote recently about leading and following. It is so, so important for both people to spend time listening, and the follower happens to have the role of listening a greater percentage of the time. If I don’t hear the leader say anything, I don’t step. I may embellish as I wait, but I don’t try to guess. Sometimes this means standing and staring at each other for a moment before I “hear” what the leader is telling me – this happened much more often when I first started. The thing is, I don’t want to guess, I don’t want to repeat patterns … I want to follow his lead. I want to interpret his signals faithfully and with a feeling and character that is my own. That is what I love about following in Argentine Tango.