Tango Argentino > Ballroom following versus AT following

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Peaches, Jul 7, 2008.

  1. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    I would agree with idea of telling people not to overthink it. And I like how my teacher breaks things down, explaining there are really only a few basic movements which combine in numerous different ways.

    Yet somehow this is actually difficult to get your mind around when, as an adult, you rarely are taught anything anymore at such an elemental level. My teacher was showing how, for example, a molinete was not a pattern as such, but was composed of a side step, pivot, etc. and I could see the leaders looking overwhelmed. I would think you have to work your brain more to think of the invidividual elements and put them together yourself, rather than memorizing a pattern.
  2. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member


    and this....is the key to good AT.
  3. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    Well- I didn't say a good milonga isn't perhaps harder than a tango ;-) but, in terms of it's upbeat feeling, it seems to relax people when they go back to their next tango class...like blowing off steam...Sure, if they want to get really good at it, they'll have to work, but it still seems to loosen people up a bit (whether they are doing it right or wrong, or good technique isn't the part I'm talking about), just that it tends to loosen people up a little. (Again- I've seen this more when students have benn taught by people who are REALLY enjoying their milonga....)
  4. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Of course you're correct, Angel. But learning by elements is a lot easier when you're five than when you're an adult. For adults, patterns are easier and quicker in the short term. I presume that's why foreign language phrasebooks are useful for travelers. Of course a phrasebook won't teach you how to create your own conversation, but it gets you through a short term situation more quickly than thumbing through a dictionary, picking out words, and attempting to string them together using that language's correct grammar.

    I would suspect that if many Argentineans, as you say, find tango easy, perhaps it is because they were exposed to the elements and concepts of it since childhood? I am wondering if you took an Argentinean who had never been exposed to tango (or any dance at all), what is it like for that person to try to learn the dance as an adult?
  5. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Slightly relevant historic notes.

    While playing mostly one-steps, polkas, schottishes and waltzes for colored patrons at Dixie Park in Memphis, W.C. Handy (Father of the Blues) noted a reaction to the habanera rhythm included in Will H. Tyler's "Maori". (The habanera was used in early tango, and is now found in milonga.) "I observed that there was a sudden, proud and graceful reaction to the rhythm...White dancers, as I had observed them, took the number in stride. I began to suspect that there was something Negroid in that beat." After noting a similar reaction to the same beat in "La Paloma", Handy included this rhythm in his St. Louis Blues, the instrumental copy of Memphis Blues, the chorus of Beale Street Blues, and other compostions."

    Handy's observation may have been accurate in 1917 or so, but that rhythm certainly strikes a chord with just about everyone now a days.

    There's one woman who comes to our practica with a partner, and they dutifully plod around the floor doing their tango. One day I asked her to do milonga, and told her to think of it as one step, step on each beat, and try to keep her weight towards me because there would be changes of direction. When we were done with a tanda she had a huge smile on her face and declared, "That was so much FUN!"
  6. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    It took me well over a year before i really got in to it myself. Actually, I was very excited about it in the first few months because I made rapid progress as a beginner due to a variety of dance type backgrounds. (ballet, skating, a little ballroom, modern, jazz...)

    But then I hit a plateau and couldn't progress. I thought about throwing in the towel on it and sticking to ballroom. I lost heart for over a year. I thought it was all me because I couldn't follow most of the people at the milongas around here. So I took some lessons with the teacher of most of those guys (the ones that would even dance with me at all!) and said "I want to be a better follower". He danced with me and said "I have to tell you, you actually follow pretty well... If you can't follow the guys you dance with, it isn't you.."

    I wanted to say "Well then its YOU, because they're all YOUR students!" but I didn't. However, just being told by him that I was a good follower made me relax and feel good about my dancing and that made me a much better follower.

    Since then I've invested more money in privates, given up on group classes, done some teaching, and its all falling into place now. But it was a slow progression and not a particularly smooth one.
  7. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I think Milonga is easier to start with, but harder to master at a higher level. When you start off learning milonga, you can just step on the ones, and not do any syncopation. As long as both people step to every beat and the lead is clear and the follower understands anything about following, its hard to go wrong. Just step to every beat changing feet on each step. How much easier can dancing get? I've led ballroom dancers who have never had a tango lesson in their life in milonga, and to meringue music.

    However, as soon as you add traspie and syncopation, milonga jumps to the stratosphere of difficulty to lead and to follow. Especially if you get to the level where each person may not syncopate together. You also have to move PDQ and alot of middle aged+ "non-dancers" seem a little overwhelmed at having to move that fast, especially in a crowd.

    So in order of difficulty I would say its:

    Beginner Milonga
    Beginner Tango
    Advanced Tango
    Advanced Milonga
  8. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    You know its the name of a show, right?
  9. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    But, as my partner likes to point out, there are plenty of bad dancers in BA too.
  10. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Interesting, Zoopsia, as your dance background is similar to mine. I think my experience with AT is proving quite similar also. I have no problem following my teacher (a woman) or her partner; both are top-notch leaders and seem pleased with how I follow. And yes, that does make me feel better. But I see very few leaders of that kind in social dancing situations, and I can't expect just to dance with my teachers most of the time. I think it is a skill in its own to follow a less experienced leader. I want to be patient about this because I realize how hard the leaders have it. I think group classes can be useful in terms of a. socially getting to know different leaders so they will ask you to dance at milongas and b. learning how to adapt one's following to different leaders' skill levels.
  11. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Yep. I think this is why everyone teaches step patterns

    Unfortunately, then people get to a milonga and can't dance because they almost never have the space to complete the whole pattern they got taught and if they can't get to the end of it, they don't know what to do in the middle.

    I think with beginners you have to use the patterns as a jumping off point to get them moving so you can work on the real aspects of technique. But once they understand a few simple patterns (and I'm talking WEEKS of class, not years) you need to teach elements so people can put together combinations themselves when on a crowded floor. It also helps once they have a simple pattern (like a molinte) to show variations... how to go both ways, how to stop after only part of it, different entrances and exits for moves.

    Even though its harder to put the elements together yourself, teachers should get students thinking for themselves as soon as possible because they're going to have to do it as soon as they go to a dance. I've seen leaders take quite a lot of lessons and then give up because they go out dancing and can't navigate and figure they'll never get it or it will just take too long to get any good.

    The question "How else could you get into/ out of this reverse cross?" (for example) never gets asked. Rarely do I see teachers deliberately trying to prompt the students in a class to think about alternatives and variations to the move they just taught, even though they almost need to do so immediately because often the class itself is too crowded to execute the move.

    I even attended a class where we were all having to abort the pattern 1/2 way through, or work on it in pieces and vary it due to space constraints and when the teacher saw this, he expressed DISPLEASURE and insisted that we should please do the sequence exactly as he set and not do other things. Except it simply wasn't possible for everyone to do the whole thing at the same time in the space available (and the dance floor was raised, which meant anyone who wasn't really careful would risk an injury by stepping off the 5" platform or catching it 1/2 way and twisting an ankle)

    I can see value in having everyone performing the pattern as you set it, IF you are using those steps to teach a specific principle. But if its obvious no one has room to do the whole thing, then maybe (just a thought) you need to adjust it to be shorter? Or else use it as a way to teach navigating and ADDRESS that issue since its obviously coming up anyway?
  12. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Though I understand your point, this is not blanketly true. Golfers learn the elements of a good swing...not just hit the ball. Swimmers learn the elements of proper technique...not just flap to the other side if the pool. Dance should be done in the same manner. It simply hasn't been. But, again, I understand your point. Re your ex., I teach french, and insist that students learn it as they learned english...simply by hearing and saying rather than by grammatical element.

    Exactly my point. Please know that I am nto advocating that AT is not difficult at all...simply, not as much as it appears. I believe it is probably because most approach it as JID and I are discussung above.

  13. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Didn't know that.. I thought Mariella made it up.
  14. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Thankfully, my teacher does this. We had one class where each leader received several randomly chosen index cards, each with the name of an element - pivot, side step, back step, etc. Then the leaders had to figure out different ways to combine the elements. It was a pretty cool exercise.
  15. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    What a great idea! I might try this one
  16. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    Yeah- this can be a lot of fun!
  17. Tricia

    Tricia New Member

    or stop the music and then have the followers make a suggestion of what could happen next is fun too.

    you can combine this with having followers guess what the leaders woudl have done and *then* suggestion an alternative... Sigh.
  18. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Three days ago we talked a bit about Sailor Shuffles in West Coast Swing. Go figure!
    Anyhow, I led a few the other night with a parnter who I had neve danced with before.
    For me, it works the same way as beginning to lead an ocho. If I want her to put her right foot beihind herself, I move her right shoulder back. Yes, by "pushing" on it. Meanwhile, I am "easing up" on her left side.
    In apilado close embrace I accomplish this by rotating my torso, left side forward, right side back. Same thing happens in an open position embrace, but she feels this though her arms/shoulders.
    When I did this in WCS, I held our hands down just about as far as they would go. I think she was totally on it the second time through.
    Who know what she was thinking, but she followed pretty well, I thought, for a situation where we had never danced together, she had on heelless shoes (which I had noticed, but really, she had more or less asked me to dance, she mentioned it by way of, I guess, explanation as to why she wasn't 100% with me (who cared?)), and the floor was a bit funky.
    Anyhow, not something I plan to do very often. But it's always a bit confirming when you can dance with a total stranger and realize that you have a common vocabulary.
    Oh, yes.
    At one point she stopped in the middle of something (a dramatic pause as it were), and then said, "Sometimes I try to lead." Didn't phase me in the least 'cause she did it in a nice way, and it was only once (or twice?).

    Do we have an old Swango thread where we could go into it (Swango) more deeply, if anyone wants to go there?
  19. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    And following up on the "Sometimes I try to lead" comment and Tricia's suggestion...
    Why stop at cards and stopping the music?
    It would be a better tango world, in my opinion, if more teachers knew how to teach their students how to influence what the next movement was going to be using "body language". I know it's a more advanced topic, but personally, I like the idea of giving people the idea that there is somewhere to go other than learning more patterns.
    Course, you have to know how to do it yourself before you can teach it.
  20. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Hmmm... coincidence? Or not....

    Cast your votes here....

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