When I wrote that teachers, with exceptions, seem to pay overwhelming attention to the leader role, I had in mind some visiting teachers and classes at festivals I’ve attended. And last Wednesday I was reminded of a local teacher who is strikingly different.
As a woman who respects the traditional female role as follower, but who trained to become an expert leader, Daniela Arcuri gives both roles equal attention. The irony is that Daniela is one of those who teaches that the leader leads everything to the nth degree. But it makes sense because she pays attention to the nth detail for both followers and leaders.
For Daniela it is not enough that the couple should be able to use patterns and extemporaneous movement musically, but that they should also look superb while doing it, and that each role contributes to the success of movements, from head to toe. The heads: to maintain a good connection regardless of height differences, and an elegant, functional line. The embrace: how the follower supports the leader just as well as vice-versa. The hips: their uses not only in rotation but also tilt and sway. The feet: oh my goodness, the feet. Daniela has some of the most exquisite footwork I’ve observed, and she works to impart that knowledge, appreciation, and practice in all her students, los dos leaders and followers.
In Bug’s Question of the Day I think it was, a teacher asked for ideas to overcome the unfair situation that a single man teacher, i.e., not a couple, is better able to get solo gigs, and better paying gigs, than a solo woman teacher. I’m sure Daniela has experienced that same disparity. No one thinks less of a man recruiting a follower from the local group to demonstrate, even though they are missing out on a strong follower perspective. In Austin we think nothing of Daniela calling on leaders or followers to partner with her for demonstrations, because we know we’re getting top flight training for both roles.
At last night’s milonga, between dances I observed to my partner, “I wasn’t even aware of many of your adornos but caught them in the mirror. Really lovely.” She replied, “I had the best teacher — Daniela.” Yeah, I feel the same way.