Tango Argentino > Crossing over from ballroom to Tango

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by twnkltoz, Jan 3, 2011.

  1. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    As a ballroom dancer, specifically as a follower, I never think in patterns while I'm actually dancing (anymore, of course I did as a beginner). There are basically only three steps, forward, back, and to the side (or four, if you count diagonal steps). I routinely do each of them in half a beat, a whole beat, or over two, and sometimes three, beats, in different combinations. Of course, each different dance has its own characteristic combinations, and there are some contraints--it is central to ballroom that each dance bears a particular relationship to the rhythm and phrasing of the music, and that results in each different dance's characteristic combination of step/beat relationships. So I won't use all the possible step-beat combinations in any one dance (though it would be possible), but I certainly will over the course of an evening. It may be somewhat different for leaders, since they have to direct us both and think ahead, but I suspect advanced leaders don't really think in set patterns as such either.

    I'm not particularly "advanced"--silver in American smooth and straddling bronze-silver in latin. But I've danced for a while and had good teaching. It takes a while to get to the point of not thinking exclusively in patterns because that is how ballroom is introduced (for various reasons, some inherent to ballroom and some practical/financial).
  2. ant

    ant Member

    I think we are communicating but we sort of appear to agree and yet disagree maybe because some statements are general without specific information.

    I disagree on your assertion which if I am correct and put in the easiest language for me (not verbatim) is "that BR keeps repeating the movement within a track ad infinitum". I would suggest that the scope for improvisational changes in mirrored movement in BR is comparable, to AT, especially in the early stages of learning.

    However this comparison stops once you consider non mirrored movement. Such as cross systems, the ability of the leader to invite movement from the follower whilst not moving, the ability of the leader to move whilst keeping the follower stationery and the ability for both the leader and follower to do totally non mirrored movement at the same time.

    When you first come into AT this characteristic (improvised non mirrored movement) is not obvious and I think that is why many people that cross over and are taught using BR principles take so long to find out that they have not been taught correctly.

    Hence this is not an obvious problem at the beginning of a cross over but if not dealt with correctly at that stage becomes a big problem further down the line.

    Perhaps you had something else in mind under this heading?

    I agree with the more improvisational nature of the dance forms you have mentioned (ice skating, ballet and bopping) but in general these are not partner dances and where they are this level of improvisation reduces considerably.

    With regard to different rhythms within AT music compared to BR music I think we have already established our agreement to this.

    The areas we may have disagreed on but unfortunately not expanded upon regards the beat itself.

    I would say that the beat in AT is produced by the double base and in its absence possibly the piano or bandoneon. I would say that this instrumentation is unique to AT, not only compared to BR but all dance forms and I have not appreciated how much of a problem this could create, until now.

    Was this an aspect you had in mind and have you any other specific areas you think cause a problem under this heading?

    We agree.

    Again it appears this is a person problem and not a BR problem. Do you think this problem is a result of the instrumentation mentioned above or some other problem?

    Agreed but not part of this debate I think.
    Again I think we agree but I would say the particular feature you have mentioned is again person specific and not BR specific. However this problem taken as a whole may well be advantageous to BR people (although you may disagree) please refer to my post #22.
  3. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    This. It's all relative to what you're used to.
  4. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Your post makes perfect sense. What it boils down to, really, is the skills and needs of people who have no dance experience or natural ability, combined with a limited exposure to music. I know many people like this. They don't shake their thing in clubs; they feel uncomfortable doing it. These folks chose ballroom instead of club dance precisely because they want and need the structure, the rules, and the sets of repeating steps, patterns and rhythms. They're lost without it. I'm talking about beginners here, not advanced BR dancers.
  5. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I don't disagree. But I don't think there's anything wrong with beginning to mention, very early on, that different music can inspire different emotions and different feelings, and that it is something to ultimately bring to the dancing itself. Even if they are not at the level to incorporate it, it is something to think about if/when they listen to the music while not dancing. A bit of surriptitious (sp?) ear training is never a bad thing.
  6. chanchan

    chanchan Member

    I added it later, to clarify better the comparison with BR.
    The point is that you follow the melody, but the melody follows - with some variations and nuances - the beat.
  7. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member


    A friend of mine dabbles occasionally with AT, coming from a BR background. I *really* would love to get this person to just simplify things...limit the vocabulary to nothing more than a single step in each direction at a time, in place weight changes, pauses, and rock steps...and then see what sort of musicality comes through.

    As regards beginners, I would love to see this done--without a partner. As in, forget about leading for the time being. Forget about having to "know tango." Just think about nothing more than how the music makes you want to move your body. Hell, structure it a bit more and limit it to nothing more than walking in a circle...and changing how you walk based on what the music is doing. I have done these exercises in workshops, and they.are.AMAZING.
  8. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    And I think that this is all Zoo has been trying to say. The idea that the dance does.not.have.a.basic.rhythm can be...disorienting.
  9. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Or you follow the beat. Or you follow an instrument. Or you follow the pitch of the melody. Or you follow the ebb and flow of tension. Or...or...or...
  10. nucat78

    nucat78 Active Member

    Did exactly that instead of trying to memorize choreography. It was ... enlightening, and frankly a bit odd at first. Unfortunately, schedules did not allow continuing for any length of time.

    I probably would not do it, but I do understand (I think) why some ppl have chosen to ditch BR for AT.
  11. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I don't know how to be any more clear and precise than I have been.

    I have not been talking about the movements themselves at all for any of this discussion. I have been talking about the timing of movement throughout. If that's not clear yet, I give up.

    As to whether it is true that BR dancers must stick to the same timing throughout, it has been made clear (and even I allowed for it in my first post on the subject) that in a later stage of development, BR dancers might vary the rhythm pattern. I just haven't danced with any who do and some of the people I've danced with have been taking ballroom for a number of years. Maybe they just suck.

    It does not seem to be something that occurs in the very beginning of BR teaching. In AT however, there is no basic rhythm pattern to vary from in the first place. There is not a specific rhythm pattern that is a "default" that one varies or comes back to. An individual dancer may decide upon one that suits them, but there is no structure within the teaching of the dance itself that specifies it the way there is for the ballroom dances.

    Does that make sense? In Ballroom, the dances usually have a specific rhythm pattern. It can be varied by those who are capable, although sticking with the basic rhythm is common (IME) for lower level dancers.

    In AT there is no specific rhythm pattern in the first place. Dancers aren't "varying" from something specific or from the basic set rhythm. ANYTHING can be quick and anything can be slow. Quicks and slows can be put together in any combination (although some certainly work better than others) It's true from the very first lesson. This is not the experience I had in ballroom, and does not appear to be the experience that others I know had.

    Maybe our ballroom teachers here just suck.

    I don't recall that we disagreed about the beat itself.

    Didn't I make it clear that it was not specific to BR dancers, but that I've seen it BR dancers? Didn't I also make it clear that one possible reason is the instrumentation? THe entire genre of music is unfamiliar. It almost doesn't matter why they aren't hearing it.. making it more familiar often solves the problem even without any specific explanations of instrumentation.

    It is not true that all ballroom dancers come in to a lesson asking "what is the rhythm I'm supposed to dance?". It is true in my experience that everyone who asked that had some ballroom prior to AT. So yes, it is an individual problem, but it stems from expectations formed in their ballroom class. So if you are going to insist that ballroom is irrelvatnt to this particular problem, we don't agree.

    I'm not saying that ballroom is an advantage or a disadvantage. As I said, every movement form, from Ballroom to Ballet to Budokai Karate will bring some advantages and some disadvantages. Not everyone with any particular background will show all of the advantages or the disadvantages, however commonalities of habits, as generalizations, exist.

    I hope this clears things up, because I simply cannot write this same post again. I'm just repeating myself and I don't know how else to say any of it. Maybe someone else can step in and interpret if it's still not clear.
  12. chanchan

    chanchan Member

    All the musicians follow the director, so whatever instrument or voice or flow of tension you follow... you are indirectly following the director! Three are not many other options...

    Notes are not played at random: most of them are on the beat, and if not on the beat, they are on half beat, or a quarter of beat.
    The same is for the dance: you don't have to step on every beat, but when you do a step you do it on the beat, sometime also on a half beat, but you never do it at a random time.

    Following the music doesn't mean "the music is sad, i am sad, that's all"
  13. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Yes, I know this. And believe me, I can tell when a guy is stepping completely randomly without any regard for the music, and it drives me insane. But almost as annoying is when there is no regard for anything other than the beat--on it, every other one, on a half beat...regardless of what is actually going on the music. A run of eighth notes, or a triplet, or something else. Yes, I know everything has a relation to the underlying beats. But not paying attention to anything other than that fundamental rhythm produces dancing that might as well be done to a metronome for how (un)interesting it is.

    ETA: There are also more ways of following the music than just what steps and rhythms to use. You can follow pitch with rise and fall, for instance. You can match building tension in the music by building tension in your body. You can follow an accent in the music with an embellishment. Why is this such a hard concept?

    I never said that; please don't go putting words in my mouth.

    What I AM saying is, if the music makes you feel sad (or happy, or angry, or playful, etc.) being aware of that and making an effort to incorporate that feeling into your dancing is a form of musical expression. It is a manner of musicality. It doesn't have to translate to steps, or rhythm, or beats or anything else. It can be as fundamental (? simple?) as how much tension you hold in your body. You can be soft and languid, you can make yourself feel tense and aggressive. You can take a step softly, you can take it sharply. THAT is what I mean about tapping into the emotion of the music.

    Think about this: Imagine you have just found out that your dog died. Think of how you would walk. Now imagine how you would feel if you just won a million dollars, or proposed to your girl and she accepted, or found out that you are going to be a father. Can you think of how you might hold yourself differently...even just walking? Music can evoke similar reactions...why should those sorts of emotions not be translated into your dancing?
  14. chanchan

    chanchan Member

    I don't say you have to step on every beat, or follow a specific pattern.
    There are also pauses, which are probably the most beatiful thing in tango, and allow you to give expression and to follow sustained notes.
    I just say that when you do a step or an emellishment, or any other thing, it must be in the music. If your emellishment is following an accent in the music, then it is perfect.
    But, because the accent IS on the beat, if you follow the accent you follow the beat.

    You mentioned various aspects of following the music, I agree with them (except for the rise and fall), I could also add other aspects, for example nuances in the lenght of the step, but they are not options to choice: you can and you possibly should apply ALL of them.
    Because if you match building tension in the music by building tension in your body, but then you do an out of place embellishment you are not following the music...
    And what I am saying is that this a good thing but, alone, it is not sufficient.
    Expressing emotion is important, maybe it is more important than anything else, but musicality is not only that: it is something more.
    You can take a step softly, you can take it sharply, but if you take it in a moment which doesn't match with anything, you are out of the music.
  15. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Uh... I don't know. :D

    I actually wasn't speaking so much about the way things are explained to BR dancers.. I don't know how it is explained to them. I was speaking more about how it FEELS as an AT dancer to dance AT with a ballroom dancer. For instance, I don't know if the weight should be on the heels or the balls or in between in BR. I dont' know when BR dancers are supposed to do heel leads vs toe leads.

    What I DO know is that the connection point is different and therefore, BR dancers (both leaders and followers) feel like they are pulling away from me rather than pressing their intention toward me when I teach them AT or when they come to a milonga as beginner AT dancers.

    If I am trying to make contact with a person's chest and have my hips back, while they are pressing forward in their hips and keeping their chest and shoulders back, neither of us will feel we have a good connection except through the arms perhaps. But since, as a AT dancer, I'm not looking for info through the arms that much, that just frustrates me anyway.

    The ballroom frame also tends to be more firm than I am accustomed to in AT because information is transmitted through the arms, is it not? Much of AT can be done without the arms, and this is especially true in Close Embrace. The exception comes when the leader has to prevent the follower from doing something moreso than when he is trying to make her do something. Yes, you will see videos of people dancing AT with the arms rather dramatically out and held in a "frame", but that's a style thing. Actually, in crowded milongas, you can't have your arms out like that. There isn't room. And frankly, when you dance 4 songs in a row without really stopping, it gets tiring, especially if you're a lot shorter than your partner.

    So to me, ballroom dancers feel "away" rather than "toward" when they are dancing AT with me. Not necessarily because of where their weight is (although that may be a factor, even if it's an error on their part) but because of where their connection point is and where the impetus for their movement is supposedly transmitting from.

    I'll add that this does not bother me when I am dancing BR because my expectations are different.
  16. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Really? Huh.. I didn't realize that cross walking was so unusual in BR. Guess I never noticed.

    Though I have to admit that as an AT follower, I pay no attention to what foot a leader is on. It's irrelevant to what I'm doing as long as I'm on the foot he expects ME to be on. Probably when I go to a BR dance, the same thing applies... I simply don't notice what foot he's on until his foot is on top of my foot. ;)
  17. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I never really thought about that either... that BR dancers change weight together much of the time.

    If it's any comfort to you, it's hard for followers as well to learn what to "hear" in their partner's body and what to ignore. Maybe that's because leaders have trouble learning to change their weight without sending a "change weight" signal to the follower. But it is hard sometimes to know "Was I supposed to change there?"

    I don't think that is unique to BR dancers who take up AT. Moving without leading anything is hard for everyone. Following... TRULY following is also hard.

    Ballroom dancers coming to AT do have one big advantage over people who have never done anything like it... the followers have already been exposed to the concept of letting the leader handle it and not worrying about what's behind them while moving backwards!

    Theoretically BR dancers also know about the LOD. Hopefully they know to follow it!
  18. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    He should practice dancing without his arms touching his partner.
  19. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Is this a less pronounced version of what happens in WCS? I love WCS, but I can't get it because that elasticity (compressing/expanding) is a challenge after spending all these years learning to keep my intention consistently forward.

    Thank you.. That's what I was trying to describe from the AT point of view.
  20. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    I think it must be something in the training. I've danced with complete newcomers, and there the common problem is they try to change weight when the leader does, even if it's a "hidden" change... but they usually will stay on the right foot if the leader successfully hides it. On the other hand, I managed to hide a weight change from a BR girl I was dancing with, then started three-track walking for a couple measures. Halfway through I stomped her foot because she felt something was off and did a quick change back to parallel without being lead to. heh. Who knows, I am just guessing from my limited sample.

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