Contact and Fluid dancers (Huggers and Kickers, Part II)

28th March 2009

(More Next Steps articles.)

"There's no 'wax on wax off' of drifting. You learn by doin it. The first drifters invented drifting out here in the mountains by feelin it. So feel it." ~ Tokyo Drift


Following on from David's thoughts, here's a couple of hybrid follower types.

(I whole-heartedly agree with his thoughts on the pointlessness of putting women into boxes. They just climb out again when you're not looking, not to mention the whole Schrodinger debacle.)

Contact dancers

While kickers will dance around you like you're a maypole, Contact dancers will treat you like a pole in a more up close and personal way.

As a leader it's easy to think close embrace = walking. The fact that a lot of Huggers do in fact want to just walk with musicality and not be treated like a porn star tends to reinforce this. Likewise it seems to be unusual for teachers to specifically teach how to do giros, ganchos etc in close embrace.

I'm grateful to Javier Cura for showing me a way of applying the various tango concepts in close embrace, rather than teaching specific sequences. It does seem that many other leaders tend to find them by "experimenting".

Another benefit of Contact dancers is that by having a much higher degree of contact with their legs, you know exactly where their legs are, rather than "down there somewhere". A very useful thing in tango.

It's very easy to develop an intense connection with these followers for one very simple reason. You need to be darn certain where their heels are! They might be very aware of the leg they're currently caressing, ganchoing etc, but not your other leg which they're about to impale!

Contact-dancers are great when you've got complicated music, as they can do all sorts of subtle intricate movements to interpret it, instead of you having to worry about how to lead a double-time giro right now on a crowded dance floor.

Unlike kickers, their movements are much more streamlined so you don't need to worry about hurting other people. The big thing for you to control is balance. Oh and don't expect them to do everything, you are still leading. They're also great for interpreting inspiring music. You also need very little floorspace.

Contact-dancers are Nissan Fairladys, but instead of staying glued to the streets regardless of the speed, they're glued to you.

Contact dancers definitely feel great too; you're getting much more physical connection with them which helps with the emotional connection - but apparently you look like you're practicing for a soft porn film.

Personality-wise, my own subjective opinion is that Contact dancers really enjoy tango. They like being able to express themselves, but aren't interested in the onlookers. They focus all their awareness intently onto the two of you to make the rest of the world disappear, They literally climb into the music with you, often closing their eyes. Which means their floorcraft is often non-existent.

This is what a contact dancer looks like:

Fluid dancers

Fluid dancers want the best of both worlds and then some. Kickers and Huggers think in black and white, but these followers want all the shades of grey in between, ideally coloured in.

The tango embrace tends to be taught as being either open or closed. But in reality it's very hard to dance with subtlety like that. A fluid embrace is much more comfortable and gives deeper degrees of connection by maintaining the connection rather than breaking it when you shift between open and closed. It also gives the leader more ways of expressing the music.

Fluid dancers know what they're doing. Which means you'd better! Forget about volcadas, make sure you're not mucking up her axis and giving her contradictory leads. They tend to get bored with dancers who dance continuously in either close or open embrace, especially if they dance the same patterns over and over again. On the other hand they can be incredibly playful and interpretive.

Fluid dancers are Dodge Vipers. You need a lot of skill to be able to drive them without wrecking them. But if you can...

As long as you know what you're doing, Fluid dancers are wonderful. If you don't you'll have a grumpy woman in your arms pretty quickly and you can forget about a second dance. Visually fluid dancers look clean, though mistakes on the leader's part also show up much more clearly. How much the person watching appreciates all that's going on will largely determine how good it looks.

Personality-wise, my own subjective opinion is that fluid dancers are interested in how tango really works. They appreciate the value of core skills such as axis and balance, but are also interested in exploring what can be done with them. They seem to be attracted towards fusions.

This is what a fluid dancer looks like:


So which is best? And which do I prefer?

It's worth reiterating - there is no "best", so that's a silly question. Is a Porsche better than a Ferrari? Depends what you want to do with it. Depends on what type of driver you want to be.

But which do I prefer? These two are equally at home in a crowded milonga or a deserted Nuevo floor. Right now for me, Contact dancers win out at the moment, though to be honest it's because I lack enough skill to lead Huggers and Fluid dancers for any length of time to the level that I want to. Contact dancers win out over Kickers for me because they're more comfortable with slow motions which I prefer at the moment.

But all four are "dream" cars.

Ultimately tango is about expression. What's interesting is how you pimp your ride.

But that's another article...

 - Christopher O' Shea, 28th March 2009

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