Tango Argentino > Man's Walk: Porteños and Panthers

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by v22TTC, Sep 23, 2010.

  1. v22TTC

    v22TTC New Member

    (For clarity) Terms re: walk:-

    'Porteño': Stepping onto a straight leg from a straight leg, like an upside-down pendulum, producing an up/down oscillation and a solid step, with no foot-sliding, and most of the momentum coming from your chest-forward-tilt;

    'Panther': The 'lithe, boneless grace' beloved of Fantasy writers: knees bent working with pelvis to keep upper body gliding 'on rails', and foot sliding into position across the floor before weight is committed to it, momentum coming mostly from the other foot.

    So, I want to get the Porteño walk hardwired before going back to my (gliding walk) classes, but there's a few things I'd like to be clearer on first, and have no one to discuss this with except for your esteemed selves (teach ain't the discussing type):-

    1 Would folks (who've read it) consider the Porteño walk breakdown in TangoandChaos to be spot-on? Anything people would add or disagree with (apart from his slightly anti-entropic-sounding physics)?;

    2 Should you aim (for Porteño) to have your hip-to-hip axis exactly perpendicular to the line going from your standing foot's ball to the top of your head (so you're leaning outwards a little more to lift the foot just clear of the ground), or should your free-leg's hip be cocked upwards a little (like an inverse-Cuban-motion)?;

    3 Why is gliding panther walk so common? I guess it's the Stage performers became (practically the only) teachers thing so often discussed, but did they always glide on stage, back in the day?;

    4 What advantages does the panther glide have in Tango specifically (beyond the usual 'grace', minimising up/down 'noise' and the sliding foot reducing chances of toe-stomping)?;

    5 Given that panther glide is practically universal round here, what problems am I likely to run into as I 'step into the floor' (with a slight up/down oscillation, given the straight leg), from a follower's point of view? (The women tend to cock their free-leg hips up as they step, to minimize up/down oscillation - if they didn't cock their hips [as many don't... which is 'bad technique'...], would all be good?);

    6 If I'm walking a tightrope, parallel to hers, then I'll want to be in the cross-system as much as possible right? Or stepping outside (to her right)? (Round here, the embrace tends to be a fairly-close open*, overall).

    Given the mixed-bags of music in the milongas here, I'm happy to be able to switch between walks (the very beautiful 'Tango for Evora', say, demands smooth gliding) but D'Arienzo's 'more masculine' Tangos should be stepped to a little more convincingly, I feel... and I'd hate to be accused of mincing about when I eventually get to dance somewhere else....:p

    *[Having thought hard about it, I do not consider this to be oxymoronic at all....]
  2. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    an interesting topic. I hope to ruminate on it a bit and maybe have something to contribute later....though I've never really been much of an advocate of the straight leg to straight leg thing. I think it works well in small spaces and for small steps, but I think it's difficult for most guys to keep from bouncing, which I find annoying and takes away form the lead. if I could find a way to do it without bounce, maybe I'd feel better about it...But I am also not an advocate of sliding feet along the floor...but maybe you are meaning the foot is sliding before any weight gets on it?

    One my teachers, Luciana Valle, always talked to us about "elephant feet" and she doesn't teach a straight leg walk that I recall, but is very emphatic about steps definitely having some substance to them...grounded, I guess...

    I also wonder if some of what you are asking could be related to what another of my teachers teaches about walking with the foot arriving on top of the beat with the body (as in lunging) in the middle of the beat with the body slightly behind (perhaps conducive to the straight leg walk) or behind the beat with the foot basically landing first then the body catching up (more gliding). They all give different qualities to the way the walk turns out.

    More to think about....

    I guess I would add, on the straight leg walk, that a gentle up and down in the *right places* isn't bad, but I think most people get it in the wrong place (the down where the up should be) or at the wrong time, and then it's "bounce".
  3. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Interesting that you name that walk with bended knees after the Panther.

    But isn´t it rather the grubby walk of the compadrito?

  4. v22TTC

    v22TTC New Member

    Bastet: Aye, I need as much input as I can get because the only source I've been able to find that really goes into this is TangoandChaos... which seems all good regarding this, but I never trust a single source, whatever it is (three sources, minimum, is the magic number).

    I'd love some links to some more sites going into this, if anyone knows any.:)

    I like his idea that the foot snaps out and hits flat (not heel then ball) at exactly the point the leg is straight and on the strong beat and with your weight over it; all at the same time - it's so hard that it must be right!:p

    I also like his idea that the ankles pass (and you are at your tallest in your smooth oscillation) exactly on the weak beat, so it's very musical too.

    I suppose my main skepticism is that it all sounds too theoretically-perfect, the way he describes it: what's the catch?;)

    By the way, my biggest gripe with foot-sliding is the racket it makes! Seems very antagonistic to the music and others' entrega.... If you're gonna glide/float then glide/float!:mad:
  5. caminito

    caminito New Member

    Thank you all for the very warm welcome ....... much appreciated.

    I asked Ricardo Vidort this very question. How to walk ?
    His reply was to take one of my CD covers , throw it down on my study floor and slide it across the floor with the toe of his foot ( shoe on )
    That's how to do it he said !
  6. v22TTC

    v22TTC New Member

    Well, part alliteration, part reference to the other stock phrase of the Fantasy writers (in addition to 'The lithe, boneless grace')... women can be described as 'feline' but men need to be 'panthers' or something equally graceful and dangerous....

    It's a pretty standard martial (as opposed to stupid swaggering) way of moving, and I've seen/done it in other dances... how did compadritos walk? I would guess more swagger and posturing than the real dangerous grace that you need to watch out for?
  7. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Probably my replies will seem predictable to some on here.
    So many questions, so many points of view are likely.
    The obvious one is it's for you to make up your own mind.

    Too much analysis possibly.

    Just to confuse, once having asked teacher about the walk (he taught to walk normally
    with heel lead but danced differently) without receiving an answer, I copied him
    as the only definitive example I had. His partner who was probably technically better
    promptly stopped me - what it was is irrelevant.

    Without being prescriptive, without telling you what to do, here's what I have found
    from my experience. Mostly it's based on TangoAndChaos and observation
    of video both on that site and elsewhere plus lots of experimentation and practice.

    Keep your pelvis (or "tail") tucked under so the back is straightened as much
    as possible and don't bend forward at the waist. You have to walk as if
    you mean it but above all commit forward almost walking through the floor.
    You'd be surprised how much that can inspire confidence from the woman
    for her to commit to the whole experience.

    It's perhaps worth pointing out that straight landing and standing legs are
    not locked ones, the knees remain slightly flexed. So there is a natural
    and not contrived slight absorption of the landing by the leg muscles.
    Nor is there any bouncing but a slight up and down lilt of the body
    because of the changing angles of each weighted leg. My description seems too long,
    yet inadequate, and experience and practice counts for everything.

    I was told more than once that you have to "project" without a real explanation
    of how to do that. For me it's that commitment in the walk. It takes practice
    and probably there's no such thing as perfection, being tall and upright
    yet leaning forward with no hip swivelling. All of that, yet relaxed.

    So no raised shoulders and here there's a virtuous circle. Often we're told
    to drop the shoulders. That's not enough. Drop them and take them back
    so you don't cave in the chest. If your shoulders are kept back,
    you cannot raise them - result!
    It's tango to watch or typical of someone bringing other artistic and visual influences
    to tango. Just try it outdoors and you'll literally trip up.

    Worse though, dancing chest to chest requires you to know where the lady's legs are,
    which is weighted, has she responded in the way you predicted or done something else,
    does she need more time etc., etc. You need to feel through the chest her foot land
    and it helps if she feels yours. If it glides/slides it has no landing. Bending the legs
    gives a flat walk with no cadence and little communication. OK for choreography,
    not much good for improvised social dancing.

    And by the way, the foot floats only enough above the floor, there still should be
    little chance of foot stomping since you are leading from the chest aren't you?

    Not necessarily at all. If you're walking the tightrope outside of your partner
    both of you need to be able to disassociate well.
    Aside from the obvious that "Tango to Evora" isn't a tango(!), there's no need
    to change your walk at all. If you want to be convincing as you put it,
    first you must be convinced about what it is you are doing.
    Oh it is very oxymoronic.
  8. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    This is dance, not science. You might get thirty three different opinions,
    but the only source that eventually matters you. And by that I mean you
    are the source of the dance you give your partner.
    Just be thankful we have TangoAnd Chaos. Without it I'd be back doing ballroom.

    Read T&C, watch Ricardo Vidort and emulate in your own way.
    From my experience I can tell you it works. It's like nothing else.
    You have to throw away your preconceptions, that's the catch.
    And it's quite counter-intuitive. But then so is walking down a room to music,
    while a lady facing you, chest to chest, is walking backwards in front of you.

    Now put all that together and it seems rather less illogical.

    Here's another one then for the ladies who are taught to slide their feet.

    Tango depends on leg standing, one leg free to float as you put it.
    It cannot have that floating feeling if it has to be made to slide along the floor.
    Watch Alej on TangoAndChaos and her free foot is always above the floor.
  9. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    For starters, there are more than two choices about how to walk, and both methods you've described sound like caricatures to me.

    If you choose either of these ways to walk, I think you'll be choosing someone else's way of walking, rather than your own. I suggest that you practice walking, with or without a partner (both, actually), feel what's happening with your body, and develop consistency and skill with whatever feels best to you.

    I walk the walk I feel like walking, and it changes with the orchestra or even within the same tune. I think your walk should be expressive, so there is not only one way to do it.
  10. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I think your ankles should pass close together (knees also), but not for any styling or musical reason. Walking this way contributes to your whole body arriving fully on the weighted foot (at least momentarily), and also allows you to walk straight (if that's what you want to do). If your ankles don't pass close together then your weight is not quite arriving fully, and you are not in total control of your weight. Imagine a very bulky person walking with their feet spread apart, so their weight more or less ricochets from one foot to the other.
  11. v22TTC

    v22TTC New Member

    Caminito: Thank you for this, but I'm having a little trouble squaring this description with how he actually walks in the videos of him. Have you made more sense of this yourself?

    AndaBien: Aye, I used caricatures for clarity, though there's also some relevance in terms of form following function.

    Agreed on the reason for the ankles passing close, but I meant that the timing could be used for the purposes of musicality (as Rick McGarrey states)... it's like: 'Woo! Free stuff!':banana:

    JohnEm: A million thanks!:D I'm really just looking for data from experienced folks at the moment - as always I shall continue to empirically test and eventually go my own way, once it is right (ie not arrogantly premature) to do so.

    My head (well, mostly) decides what becomes internalised, and I'm very careful in what goes through into the heart (I need to be as sure as I can be first) - which then allows me to be artistic from the soul, with the brainbox switched off (it just gets in the way of the actual doing).

    I must admit that when I've walked this way, I have had far better dances, musically and in terms of confidence (both emotionally and practically, in terms of lead-clarity and chest-presence). Your confirmation that it works is especially valuable to me.:) Also, thanks for filling in some of the little details.

    Just a few specifics:-

    I meant minimising toe-stomping amongst brand new beginners: that whole easy/safe to learn/teach trumping technique thing, often rightly bemoaned;

    After a dreadful milonga of Tom Waites and Tango-Salsa - believe me, 'Tango to Evora' sounds like 'A La Gran Muñeca'... I know that it's not really Tango, but its heart is Tango-worthy, as with much Blues. If I were to be too much the purist about this, here, I'd only ever be dancing on my own in my kitchen...;

    (With some trepidation...) I don't consider 'open embrace' to be oxymoronic any more, since it accurately describes an intent and emotion that transcends the mechanics. It is almost exactly the same as a Salsa 'close hold', and in Salsa it feels like a hold - something purely functional to facilitate moves and speed with a fellow 'aerobics' partner. Or there're similar holds, called holds, in martial arts.

    However, I truly embrace all of my TA partners (as I may embrace ideas etc) in a way I don't my martial arts or (ex-) Salsa partners, regardless of whether our chests are touching, or my right hand goes all the way around her back... tender, warm, cherishing, accepting and protective: 'embrace'.

    So, I would argue that 'close embrace' isn't a tautology for similar reasons - without the correct emotion/intent to embrace, it is just a close hold.

    But yeah, that's just me - definitions of abstract terms... who'd have 'em?...
  12. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    ah, glasshoppa...your martial arts need refining, when you embrace your enemy with compassion, then truly you see him as yourself and he no longer is your enemy...

    Sensei; Moribund Kohblymi
  13. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I remember one time this one guy who does tango like a cowboy and is not really known as a very good dancer laid into me about walking/dancing straight legged or some such.
    Other than being a bit taken aback by his outburst (it WAS literally an outburst), he was probably unaware of all the training I had had in apilado in this "close embrace" town from one nationally known, and one highly respected regionally well known teachers of that style. (Alex at the time, I'm not sure what he is teaching now, was teaching "close embrace" without the intense, physical connection of apilado.) Names are Robert Hauk and Steven Payne.

    OK. So "straight leg"???
    Garvey's photo where he has drawn straight lines are something of an abstarct, I would argue. You can't see the knees of the men and you don't know the degree of flex that is present.
    If you look at a few of the photos where the woman is over her weighted foot, there is some "flex" in the knee.

    I believe that this "straight leg" is to a large extent the consequence of placing the center of gravity well forward, and letting it move forward before initiating movement of the stepping foot.

    With the weight well forward, all you have to do is "tip" forward to initiate a step.

    Try some walking with your weight as far forward as you can get it. Then walk with your weight, say over your heals.

    I also think that because of where you carry your weight it's not really practical to goof around with your feet. And besides, you don't want to look like a dandy stepping onto your toes, do ya?
  14. caminito

    caminito New Member

    v22TTC ... I think that always demo's can be an exaggeration .
    Leading with the toe and toe before heel is what he meant.
    Shoot the foot forward .
    Anyhow when I tried this , he said , correct. So that is what I do !
    Ricardo never seems to over emphasise anything in his dancing . Always very gentle !
  15. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    This ^
  16. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    What an elegantly simple way to describe it!
    You could have saved me all that writing.

    Of course in the end there is more to it.

    Well I know how much my leg flexes or not!
    To the casual observer it would look straight
    though the knee is unlocked because a locked
    knee results in a very wooden/mechanical feel.
    Certainly I don't launch from a bent leg, the whole
    movement works best from tipping into the start
    of the walk exactly as you say. Body first, leg after,
    almost as if you have to save yourself from falling over.

    He is quoted as saying "always lead with the toe".
    He may have done, perhaps he was emphasising
    that it isn't a heel lead, but his landing was solidly
    with all the foot as the weight is arriving over it.
    We have the benefit of being able to watch him on video,
    slowmo it, loop it, stop it, replay etc etc.
    Believe me, I have - often.

    Gentle maybe, very sure and confident definitely.
  17. v22TTC

    v22TTC New Member

    Caminito and JohnEm: Cheers for the clarification of what Ricardo Vidort meant... it wasn't the mental image that I formed from the words - now I get it: my heel hasn't hit the deck before the ball for many years now, in anything... here I need to get them to land at the same time, it seems.

    AndaBien and Dchester: Fully agree with the idea of having different walks for different forms of expression - eventually... but I am but a poor newb, so for now want a good default walk that I can do convincingly without having to think about it (after serious practice). Well, that would make two walks, since I can already panther glide on autopilot (it's similar enough to other walks, for other disciplines, that I've practiced).

    Re: Straight leg: Yup, I took some softness of the knee and flex as read (you don't want to destroy your knees), as with all (?) good stance and movement. I suppose I should have used inverted-commas but... once I start down that road, most words end up with them, so I try to be sparing with them....
  18. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    One of the secrets is not in the big toe, it's in the shoes . . . !

    In my view it's not different walks you want, after all you still have
    a partner who shouldn't be confusing and nor should you confuse yourself.
    The variations can be expressed within the walk, once you have established it
    as your default, rather than by changing it.
  19. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I would expect you already have a "default" walk, as it's what you do when you're not thinking about it. I would call it your "natural" walk, (although there are a fair number of teacher who claim the "natural" walk is whatever is happens to be that they do.

    So I'll stick with the term, default walk. Maybe you're not fully aware of what you're default is, but understanding that (for you), is a good starting point. From there, understanding why you are trying to do different things from your default (expressing the music, the looks, the feel to your partner, etc), is the next thing to understand.

    FWIW, there are other attributes to your walk besides your leg swing, such as your body motion (contrabody, vs a slight up and down, vs a slight rocking motion (rising on the side of foot you land on), etc), how you land your foot (i.e. toe first or heel first). Various teachers will often have strong (and varying) opinions on aspects of the walk (just like every other move in tango). Many times I've had a traveling teacher say to land toe first, and then the next one will say, no, land heel first.

    For me, the toe drag is very nice for long slow steps, but for short quick steps, possibly not so much. Sometimes, just moving how the music inspires you (without thinking about it), is as good as anything (less thinking is often a big plus).
  20. caminito

    caminito New Member

    dchester wrote .... Sometimes, just moving how the music inspires you (without thinking about it), is as good as anything (less thinking is often a big plus).
    I'm with you !.
    Tango should not be/ and is not rocket science .
    It's fun or should be ?
    As long as we don't mince or heavy foot around the floor . Lead with our chest not our arms. Dance to the music . Make the dance interesting but not complicated . What more could we ask for.

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