Tango Argentino > Ballroom style

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Shaka, Mar 22, 2011.

  1. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member


    I think I'd say the same about a salsa performance with poor technique, done by AT dancers.

    Shrug. We're in the AT sub-forum...
  2. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    From your post, I would gather you are not familiar with the " whys and wherefors " of social style adaptions from indigenous roots, that have gone thru the evolution of todays accepted styles and genres.

    ALL dance forms that we do socially have antecedents that, when they made thier transition to the general public, HAD to be modified for general acceptance . Even so, characteristics are still evident even if in small "doses" .

    The American style dances were "tailored " in part, to deal with an older clientele, that needed simple methods by which to become involved in a social pastime.

    I can remember quite well when I made my first venture into an Amer. studio, late 50s ( after many yrs trained ,and danced in the UK ) when there were virtually no students under the age of 50 ,and many much older . The response skills they posessed ( with some exceptions ) matched quite well to the current style being taught in that period of time .

    Each style in all genres suits a specific purpose , and all stand on their own merits.. comparisons are really not valid beyond a certain point, recognising that point ,and accepting on those terms is, what we should all do.
  3. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure what your message is so pardon me if I misinterpret.

    Taking the one paragraph most relevant to Subliminal's post
    that you responded to:

    This seems to be justifying the ballroom world's significant alteration
    and standardisation of something that already was a people's dance.

    It didn't have to be modified, it was a choice to increase its commercial
    appeal away from its roots and culture, and for the ease of teaching and
    judging in competition too. They did it for preference - not seeming to like
    what they termed its "creepy" look. AT hadn't yet evolved into Salon
    nor the milonguero's dance which I guess they wouldn't have liked either.
  4. LoveTango

    LoveTango Member

  5. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    I recognize that it happens. And there can be less of an impact on the character of the dance if the one who creates the syllabus/teaching method distills the correct base elements.

    But... I don't think that whomever designed the AT syllabi really understood the dance. Take for example, the DVIDA syllabus. Dave B did a great review of it a while back. Bronze, it starts off ok... walking, rock steps, maybe some ochos. ok. That's great. Then suddenly it takes a huge leap right into Sacadas and Boleos! If I were to make a syllabus myself, those would be intermediate, even advanced steps. Perhaps introducing the concepts in Silver, then refining in Gold.

    In the DVIDA Silver syllabus, they introduce Ocho Cortado. I guess this is all right. It is a pattern and a traditional one, but it's one often taught to beginners to illustrate a few basic concepts and give them a navigational tool. It could very well go in Bronze instead of Silver. I would bloody well teach it before boleos though. ;)

    And then throughout the syllabus there's molinete this, molinete that. ok... fine... but the turn/giro/molinete/grapevine is a core element of traditional tango, a base building block you can hang almost anything else off of. Why would you break it out in such a specific way, rather than teach the general rule right from the beginning?
  6. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I was not refering to the A/T syl. but the AMERCIAN social style as taught by the chain schools . I was attempting to demonstrate its purpose in the social strata of dance, and why it came into being ; as I stated, it served its purpose and never pretended to be anything other than what it was .
  7. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    When the syl. in Amer style was " invented ", comps as you know them did NOT exist in the chain school system . And, it never was put forth as authentic . Ease of teaching ? that was my whole point ! .
  8. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    I have one more thing to share, which will perhaps explain my somewhat jaded point of view.

    When I first became interested in Argentine Tango, I was still taking lessons in ballroom and swing dancing. My local studio advertized an Argentine Tango Boot Camp. Supposedly everything you needed to get up and running and out on the dance floor. So I signed up and gave up a substantial chunk of money.

    Week 1:

    "We've talked about how different dances have character. Foxtrot is the classy dance, rumba is the dance of love. Well, Argentine Tango... it's the sex dance. It was created in the bordellos of Buenos Aires by the cowboys, who would dance with the prostitutes while negotiating the fee for their services. So the first thing we're going to learn is the Salida..."

    Week 2:

    "Last week if you remember we talked about the origin of tango. This week we are going to go over a very sexy move. Now when the cowboys didn't like what the ladies would tell them, they would assert their dominance by pushing them off balance. The ladies would catch themselves by hooking their leg in his... and that's how the gancho was invented. So leaders, we're going to learn how to lead this today, just be careful. And followers, be ready to catch yourself."

    Week 3: Boleos, etc.


    So yeah. This wasn't a small independent studio in the middle of nowhere selling this. It was a member of one of the largest chain studios in the country, in a major metropolitan area. Not a single damned thing they taught me in that boot camp was true. It was a total waste of money. Even the historical details were complete nonsense. Oh wait... the salida they used was sort of like the 8 count basic taught elsewhere in the tango community. That's about it.

    This wasn't distilling the dance. You'd think if you distilled key elements, you would get something like the reflection of a pond. A little blurred, but still recognizable. This was the reflection from a fun house mirror, and they were teaching it as social dancing.
  9. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Oh yes, I'd forgotten... here it is :)

    I like the Ocho cortado, at least the last bit of it, I use it a lot to go round corners.
  10. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    The syllabus is more coherent than it might first appear, but it is odd, and there are some very strange decisions in sequencing the material (that is the order in which it is presented, not that the material is, itself, 'sequences').

    I have the Bronze/Silver/Gold DVDs that accompany the syllabus (by Christie Cote & George Garcia), and they are well done, on their own terms. They get a **** rating on http://www.tejastango.com/video_resources.html#Cote . It is odd that one of the Bronze 'figures' is a boleo, ending with a spiral cross, when both actions get much more detailed treatment, later on, at Silver level. One of their other DVDs (there are 20 in all) is called 'The Art of Improvisation' (and it gets *****), and it takes as its premise that there are six fundamental follower actions, from which everything else proceeds. It looks at those six, and then explores, briefly, how they lead into other more advanced actions, and how their use can be incorported into the dance in an improvisatory way.

    No DVD can ever be a substitute for proper instruction, but used with care, they are a good learning resource (most probably as a supplement to beginner's classes), and I was glad I bought them. I have far worse!

    The syllabus is, for example, better than that of IDTA (by a wide margin), which just seems to be a randon collection of bits and pieces, with no coherent progression, and missing out nearly everything that is fundamental to the dance. The DVIDA syllabus is actually quite useful (and dare I say that some of the published comment about it is based on an assessment that does not go beyond the list of figures that it includes, rather than the substantive content, which is not really fair). That said, the majority of tango dancers would not accept that there was any point in having such a syllabus to start with, or worse, that the attempt at standardisation was actively a bad thing.
  11. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    Oh yeah, I love it too. I meant to say something more like, "I guess it's all right that they stuck it in Silver but it's better in Bronze."

    I think it's a good move to teach to beginners. Or at least, early on if not right away.
  12. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    And thats what they did to ALL the Latin dances.. they became hybrids.. its what "sells ", and dance, whether you like it or not, is a business .

    And, Im not defending all their practices, Im only a messenger ( and teacher ) .
  13. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    The deal is that NO syllabus can impart what you are looking for in dancing. Regardless of what style it is describing. It is simply a teaching tool as a list of useful steps and their notations. Just as no Ballroom syllabus can teach you do a waltz so also can no AT Syllabus teach you to tango. It simply lists steps and its associated description.

    In fact I can't stand most every Smooth Syllabus I have ever seen. I think they have weird combos and steps out of order as to what I think is a logical progression. This is not immanent to Ballrooms version of AT, but the fact that NO Syllabus can ever truly impart dancing. Believe me I could pick apart a Ballrooms Smooth syllabus with far more criticism and scoff than you can imagine.
  14. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    My first thought when I saw that was that those 4 *s stood for a naughty word... :oops::D

    It's a reasonable point. And I put that caveat in my review.

    On the other hand, we can only judge on what we see. And if the "other stuff" was deemed important (embrace, musicality, posture, floorcraft, etc. etc.), why is there no mention of any of it in the syllabus?

    Surely the main point of teaching AT is to teach how to dance it socially?

    If so, the majority of tango dancers are wrong.

    There is a good reason for some structure to learning - it stops us all having to re-invent the wheel, and it means that we can dance with people from other areas, amongst other reasons.

    I'm in favour of a syllabus approach. I just think that a syllabus which focusses on steps (in any dance, but especially in AT) is fundamentally missing the point.
  15. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Because those points are not easily put on paper or listed. Step names, footwork, alignments are. I mean how do you really put "musicality" on paper? You might as well expect the syllabus then to also include how to be a gracious loser in a competition, and that is impossible.
  16. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    There are two things here: Firstly, as LMcR says, the syllabus (at one level) just documents, and in relation to the 'figures' it attemps (imperfectly) to describe the movements, largely from what the feet are doing (hmm), along with other stuff, in the form of tables (or as those used to such material call them, charts). They are a reference, really, rather than teaching material directly. In a wider sense, the syllabus sets bounds as to what might be appropriate at different levels, and while Bronze/Silver/Gold may stick in the throat a bit, we can, at least, recognise the idea of progression - a necessary thing in teaching anything.

    Secondly, the DVD series was conceived to accompany the written word, and there, you will find plenty of coverage of embrace, musicality, posture, floorcraft, etc. Thses things are better left to direct presentation, by teachers, I think (and while they are talking to camera, rather than a class, the idea is the same). Otherwise, every teacher would just issue a series of handouts at the beginning of the first class, and get right on with the 8CB (or whatever).

    As for the existence of syllabii at all, I am with you, but we have to recognise their limitations. I think they are far more useful to teachers than ever they are to their students. As you say:

    Nearly everyone would know what we meant by a back ocho (or a forward one, or an ocho cortado). If we didn't have more-or-less standardised forms of these figures, things would get rather vague, and we would have to keep reinventing the obvious. The danger, of course, is that a student might come to believe that a back ocho could only be led from the leader's left, following a side-step with a doubletime step into cross system. Why not to the right, and without the sidestep?

    'The point' that every syllabus 'misses' should be supplied by the teacher in the course of instruction. You can make exactly the same criticism of any dance syllabus. You could not learn to dance Slow Foxtrot looking at one of the standard techniques, without the guidance of an experienced and competent instructor. But the syllabus never claimed otherwise. It's an unfair expectation, and most amateur dancers will never take a peek between the covers of any such a teaching resource: why would they?
  17. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    :confused: Why not? Why not have "posture" listed as a topic? I mean, it's pretty darned basic, and very easy to judge whether it's correct or not... Embrace, also. If nothing else, it's easy to tell when an embrace is horribly wrong.

    Generally, if a topic is not listed, then we can only assume that it's simply not covered as part of the course - because it's not tested or assessed as part of the examination. Yes?

    Yes, "musicality" is more tricky, but even there, you could have simple "dancing single time, double-time and half-time" as a topic, surely? Again, that'd be easy to judge, assess and examine, especially if you define what the music will be in advance.

    "Floorcraft" might be more difficult, I admit. But even then, you could get them to dance socially and check that they stay in line of dance, use the floor, and so on. It's not easy, but I imagine it's possible.

    Heh. AT doesn't have serious competitions, so what'd be the point?
  18. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    I admit that I don't have the printed DVIDA tango syllabus, so don't know whether posture & embrace are covered, but I know that they are in the IDTA syllabus, but there are problems with standardisation. Who gets to decide what a correct embrace is? A teaching society?

    If I am on the technical committee, and I dance in open embrace exclusively to Gotan Project, and you are of another school, and dance CE to that scratchy old stuff a few people still listen to (;)), who gets to say what's what?

    Coming up with a lowest common denominator embrace would please no one, and would possibly be worse than nothing. At least the IDTA had a go, but their syllabus does not (for example) acknowledge that follower's walk backwards, or that their movement might not be the 'natural opposite' of the leader's forward walk. That sort of took my breath away.

    Some of the content is just frightening though: "Gancho: ... a movement produced by hooking the leg sharply and incontact with the partner's leg by flexing the knee and releasing." Indeed?
  19. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    There are indeed many issues with the embrace, but if nothing else, you can say when an embrace is wrong. So one approach might be to "avoid having a wrong embrace" by identifying some obvious issues and ensuring the person doesn't have those.

    Again, if both embraces have no technical issues, they should both be acceptable. A driving test doesn't test that you drive well, it tests that you don't make mistakes in driving.

    Bloody hell. :rolleyes:
  20. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    I think musicality can work in a syllabus, you just have to change the format a little. I came up with my own syllabus for practicing, and this is sort of how I did it...

    Dance on strong beats.
    Dance on all beats.
    Mixed timing within a measure. (Syncopated steps)

    Waltz timing.
    Milonga timing.
    Dance melody or instrument of a song.

    Waltz timing with syncopation on the 2 or 3.
    Milonga syncopation. (Traspie)
    Leader and follower moving to different timing.

    Basically, they way I would practice is I would pick a step, say, a grapevine, then I would go through and try to practice it with a partner using the above conditions as a modifier. If I were to actually ever decide to teach someone else, I might do it differently, but this method gave me something to work toward, and a feeling of accomplishment when I could actually manage all of them.

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