Tango Argentino > Is there a good explanation of Naveira and Salas' tango analysis?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by plugger, Oct 10, 2011.

  1. salthepal

    salthepal New Member

    What I find lacking in these geometrical methodologies is that they rarely focus on movements in the vertical direction. I struggled a lot with the pattern-oriented, geometric-centric, mostly because the emphasis of the teachers I had at the beginning was on "OK, so let's explore what can we do after this step". They'd give us several options, and in my naive tango beginner mind, I would categorize these as different sequences, that my little bird brain could not grasp. Building a catalog of theoretical possibilities is an interesting goal, but I think a more direct and attainable goal is to focus on how to make a particular step/sequence easier for both the leader and the follower.

    My dancing only really took off when I started focusing on getting my partner to move with me in harmony with the music. This led me directly to the importance of controlling the up and down movements (i.e. getting closer to the floor or further, depending on the desired effect). Now I think of my dancing in very small building blocks with the most emphasis being on the vertical dimension. When my students ask me what to do after a particular step that we've been working on in class (using the principle of movements of your entire body in all 3 dimensions), I just tell them to walk forward out of it.
  2. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Maybe this will be more clear. A musician needs to know all the arpeggios and progressions in order to improvise, but just playing them on stage is not improvising. Something new has to be created, and if it seems new, even though it has been played before that's okay.

    My assertion is that in tango the leader only needs to know a handful steps, not arpeggios in every key, in order to improvise.
  3. shrek

    shrek New Member

    I'd like to understand this more Andabien, what type of things/movements are you thinking of? Like varying height, energy, quality, rotation, foot placement, embrace?
  4. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Yes, to all of the above. I'll try, but for me, the closer we get to discussing essential tango, the less able we are to express it verbally.

    Comparing tango to painting
    There are only three primary colors. Add to that the three secondary colors. Add to that all the intermediate qualities of hue. Add also the qualities of saturation and shade. Then include the blends from one color to another. Add also the qualities of stroke: strong to light, bold to timid, big to small, straight versus meandering, etcetera. But, painting has no temporal dimension, as dance does.

    Comparing tango to music
    There are only 12 notes in the western scale. Every note also has duration, attack, release, crescendo, decrescendo, loudness and softness, vibrato, phrasing, etcetera. No good musician would play music exactly as written, because the written music cannot describe the real music.

    For me, it's similar in tango. If one only thinks in terms of the elemental steps, of which I define six for the followers (forward, backward, sideward, ocho in front, ocho in back, cruzada), plus combinations of those steps, I think you miss out on all the other qualities that cannot be described, but can be danced: strength or softness, boldness or uncertainty, size, tempo, repetition, contrast, emotion, etcetera and etcetera.

    For me, tango goes way beyond paint by numbers. It goes way beyond merely playing the notes as written. It goes to a realm that can be expressed and experienced, but cannot be described or enumerated. If you can talk about it, it's not the real dance.

    Feeble as it is, I hope that helps.
  5. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    AndaBien, that's anything but feeble.
  6. shrek

    shrek New Member

    AndaBien, I think that's a poetic, beautiful description and one I'll save. It does help. I agree that there is a feeling in tango that is hard to describe, the connection and joining of each other, the expression of music.

    But... and there is a slight but for me... I also think that it should be possible to describe all the steps leading there. In an orchestra a conductor has to be able to 'teach' an orchestra his interpretation of a piece of music, even if the audience just benefit from the emotional experience. What he teaches or describes to them is more than the notes which they know already. Or a DJ can choose different music at different times in an evening to affect the emotions in the dancers. In the same way I believe a teacher should be able to teach or describe all the facets of how to improvise (Steps and all the nuances you describe) with exercises just like teaching anything else. It's then up to the student to practice, incorporate into their dance and experience it for themselves.
  7. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    If you get a chance, would you be willing to elaborate on this? It's not something that I emphasize, but maybe I'm missing out on something, so I'd like to understand your philosophy better (assuming it can be explained on an internet forum).
  8. borisvian13

    borisvian13 Member

    Yes, it seems to me that you're missing an important point here and you do make things unnecessary complicated. Basically what you're trying to do is to take a very simple, intrinsic (that is, describing relative position of bodies only) system (the one from Castro's book) and translate it into a bunch of statements using coordinates in actual space (that is, describing the movements from an observer's point of view).

    And here's why it's not a good idea to use coordinates. If you want to use coordinates you have two options. 1. You use a fixed coordinate system which means that you need a reference point outside of the dancing couple and I think it's self-explanatory why this is silly. 2. You use a moving coordinate system determined by the dancing couple. That might look like a better idea but it's not. It actually creates a lot of mess, mostly because you can arrive at a given fixed position in many different ways, so you'll end up describing that same one and only position using many different coordinate systems, something which, to put it mildly, is not very efficient.

    I think most people intuitively feel that all these coordinate-based approaches are messy and futile and that's why they refuse to study seriously the structure of the dance. What they don't realize though is that there is a coordinate-free approach, namely the Naveira-Salas-Castro system:)
  9. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    For me, I have a "system" that works for me (somewhat similar to your #2 moving co-ordinate system). What I then try to do is to learn other systems, and then try to "translate/transform" aspects of them into my "native" system.

    The reason I suspect why so many of these systems don't work for lots of people is because we all have out own "internal" way of viewing things, and many of these systems (while very useful and logical to some people), don't directly translate into our own internal view of things.

    It's just my opinion though.

  10. shrek

    shrek New Member

    Thanks Borisvian, I'm going to have to think a bit about this. I'm not sure what makes the Castros system coordinate-free and mine not?
  11. shrek

    shrek New Member

    I suspect there are a lot of equivalent definitions. I did think of another one that seemed to be also equivalent and more similar to Castros which was just that at each point either I can step to my left or my right, and that my follower can step to her left and her right. Which gives
    {left/left, left/right, right/left, right/right}. Which you can then expand for choice of back cross and front cross, and also for different starting positions to get to the same 36 steps that Castro uses.
  12. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    I'm left wondering just what use is this methodology? Are leaders going out for an evening's dancing with a quota of possibilities to try out? Do they keep notes? It sounds rather like train spotting.

    Genuinely puzzled ...
  13. shrek

    shrek New Member

    Personally when I dance I'm always to some degree thinking (and feeling), about what to do next, about what's coming up in the music, about the space around me in the milonga, etc. I kind of do it automatically though like when I drive my car. That means I'm less likely to improvise, or more likely to keep redoing the things I always do. With this methodology I'm hoping for clarity of thought. I now know that I only have four options at each point (plus lots of embellishments, nuances). With practice I hope that I can think in these terms when I dance and that it'll be as automatic as before.

    [Edit: Thinking a bit more about it I think I dance reactively which I haven't thought of before; I'm quite influenced by say music, the energy in the previous step, the decrease/increase in space in the milonga, what my partner is doing, what move the person in front of me is doing, etc. and I think I drive the same way!

    And this can help improvisation but also hinder it as we're often conditioned to respond in the same way to stimulus. Mauricio Castro mentions it at the start of his second book with various examples (going into a lift, passing someone on the street). But I'm reminded of a silly game on the internet which is a men's room/toilets and there's already a guy at one of the stalls in a random position and you have to say where you will go - and it's amazing that almost everyone chooses the same option]
  14. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    iN a workshop situation, with a Dutch teacher, we explored "randomising" the next step,
    by taking five steps then someone calling out the leaders or the followers next step; and variations of this; sometimes your follower would call out the next step (open/back across/front across using Castro terminology) so it can serve as a vehicle for exploring possibilities.
  15. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Sometimes I choose a step that I don't use very much and want to become more familiar with, and make it my thematic step for a whole evening. By using it more and looking for opportunities to use it, I can elevate it in my step vocabulary.
  16. shrek

    shrek New Member

    I'm currently trying out various types of 'limitation' exercises (only recently thanks to my teacher) to practice this. They're surprisingly hard.

    In the past I've also tried something similar to bordertangoman where the follower shouts 'change' when she feels you're doing a repetition and you have to change it to something else. It's really fun.

    And... does anyone else find they keep doing steps they don't like? Maybe it's just me, but some evenings I get an idea into my head and just can't stop doing it through the evening. If it's a good idea that's great, but sometimes it's something really irritating :)
  17. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    I can see the benefit of adding new movements to one's dance vocabulary, and in a lesson or workshop setting can see the value in being systematic about exploring possibilities; but I can't go so far as to want to provide a nomenclature for every possible combination of movements with any serious attempt at using them all in social dancing.

    The possibilities are so numerous, that a smallish sub-set will do me very well, thank you, but I'd concede that it should probably be a bigger sub-set than my present vocabulary.
  18. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I agree. I could be that one becomes more interested in nomenclature than in dancing.

    I only use a few basic steps, but I do them in many different ways. I could subdivide the basic categories, but that doesn't mean I'm doing a greater variety of movements.
  19. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    but occasionally knowing the her foot, x, can move forward with your foot sideways, y, can get you out of a tight corner, z,

    (having said that there is stuff outside that box; syncpoated steps, eg stepping slightly earlier or later than your partner)
  20. shrek

    shrek New Member

    Personally, I don't think I'm doing it (trying to improve my improvisation) in order to do more steps, but more to have the freedom and technique to do any step if I wish.

    But the question you pose, if I can take it to its extreme, that if we can have the best dance with someone with little more than a good walk, embrace and musicality then why do more, I'll have to think about.

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