Tango Argentino > Milonga Syncopation

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by AndaBien, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    To be honest, i don't know - i have grown so accustomed to watching tango on youtube without sound that i do it by default now.

    It is also related to a suggestion one of my teachers was making one time: He said that one of the ways to assess musicality was to ask oneself the question if one would be able to guess what tango a couple was dancing to if one were to watch a video of the performance without sound. In many cases it would be difficult to even guess if the original music was a tango or a vals.

  2. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Just watched the video on the previous page, and I'd say it's definately worth looking at - all the way through where he gets to swing.
  3. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    We already did a few weeks ago(
    ) :).
    And i agree- that is the most important part for us as dancers - swing/traspie is the primary way we syncopate. I think it is interesting how this idea that "a "dancers syncopation" is just a double time, and not a real syncopation" keeps cropping up over and over again, when the music we dance "syncopations" to is all about crossrhythms and swing.
    I really think this is a consequence of us listening to the music, finding the "milonga-ness", dancing it, and then when trying to communicate it resorting to approximations that are decent models for practicing, but not rich enough to actually describe what happens when we dance to the music.


    (i just searched for the earliest post i could find of myself talking about this, and it was a looooong time ago...
    It was actually quite interesting to see how little things change - that thread even had most of the same people talking about it today having the same opinions - reminds a bit of how one of the answers to opendoors question about why people are getting quieter is that we have talked about almost everything already, and it is sometimes hard to feel enthusisasm for going over the same ideas again for a new audience - i even already did a "how to do social dancing" thread a few years ago
    , and it is at the same time encouraging that nothing i said back then looks completely outdated now, but it is also somewhat sad that i have had no brilliant new insights ;) )
  4. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I'm not calling anyone out, but not everyone has the same understanding. So, whenever I find something that adds to the pile of evidence about what syncopation is, whether directly related to milonga, or more broadly, and I think it is useful, both to me, and to anyone who comes along.
    When people don't comment AT ALL on a post, you have to wonder if anyone took the time to read it, or sit through a video. At least I do.

    I've been looking at my collection of older texts to see how early dance instructors began talking about syncopating steps. (course they are all in English)
  5. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I apologize - i was not trying to call anybody out either - i tried to say basically the same thing - i just did not read danceforums over the weekend, and so i was catching up on the thread, and when i watched the video i realized that i had seen it before, and going back i realized the same thing you mention above: it had created some discussion back then, but not very much, and it was interesting to see that different people noticed it at either the first time, or the second time. Thats when i started thinking about what value the repeated posts with almost the same content have - obviously i had been doing the same by basically reposting word for word something i had written before - so i clearly think (hope?) it is useful to put things into the spotlight again that i consider to be interesting.

    You (Steve Pastor) are pretty much an exception here by offering original research from primary sources, and there is actually new information in posts - which is in general not true for me - as i have notced above my contributions here are identical to the ones 4 years ago. I should have made my thoughts more clear - there was no criticism of anybody implied, just some random thoughts about the nature of the forums, and me being amused at myself for how little things i say have changed over the years.

  6. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    La Trampera; in the first part the accent is shifted (of course it might help to know that in some African dance the emphatic beat is matched be a leg movement upward not downward and once can dance the traspie using that if one wishes)
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    gsssh, this wasn't about you, so no apologies needed!

    I've always loved libraries and books, and now, some of the internet tools that give us access to information and books that have been sitting, largely unused, in libraries across the US. And dance is such a big part of my life, and music is an essential part of dance, so I'm being pulled in that direction, too. And this is a great place to share things about dance and music.
    OK, better stop now before I ask everyone for a group hug (embrace?).
  8. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    When you are analysing the syncopation in milonga you need to be aware of how the habanera is placed over the basic beats. In my earlier posting there was only one milonga measure of 2/4 type. Here we have 2*2/4 or 4/4
    I also insist that in milonga we step double number of steps compared to tango.

    Music teori Basic Milonga Tango base.JPG

    It looks like this in Milonga Sentimental

    Music teori Basic Milonga Sentimental.JPG
    In milonga you step on GOL - pe NUN-ca DI-sxx- TE por

    (If this had been a tango your steps would have been on GOL - pe nun-ca DI-sxx-te por)

    The link below is a version of Milonga Sentimental with Chicho. I put the start a few seconds before the text starts:
    so listen to the text and look at his feet.
    GOL - pe NUN-ca DI-sxx- TE por


    (He does some double steps too but i think you can find the basic beats)
  9. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    Hmm. Sorry I've been away gang. Lots of interesting thoughts in this thread. I think you have to stay focused on the ideal when talking about milonga traspie. Many teachers will call different steps and patterns "traspies" in an effort to get their students to change up their rhythm at all, rather than stepping only on the beat. (Lisa) But the ideal milonga traspie is to mark anything in the music with a pattern that fits the dominant musical element. My first teacher used to drill me on this. She would pick a song where the habanero would fade in and out. When the habanero was strong, we would dance it. When it faded, we would dance Lisa, or pick some other element. Maybe a QQS on an accent. Or a quick run to match the melody. Anything goes in milonga traspie, as long as it's too the music. And the leader isn't running down the follower. ;)

    I think throwing in different definitions of syncopation is just confusing, and doesn't really help. Syncopation in music is a trick of the /composer/. Accenting things unexpectedly. The key is unexpected. A dancer should have some feel for the music, and is feeling what comes next in the music. To the leader, no step should be unexpected. :p So the dance definition of syncopation is unrelated to the music definition. It's just another way to say a quick step instead of continual slow steps.
  10. pwpulto

    pwpulto Member

    I like to dance with syncopation (in the true sense). Often dancing whole parts on the off beats.
    On the problem off leading: there isn't any. If you are clear in your movement and your partner is a good follower she/he will simply follow...
  11. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!

    My god. If we both weren't married I'd propose on the spot.
    Gssh likes this.
  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Surely, you don't mean that you can dance to a syncopated rhythm and not have your steps be syncopated (assuming that you ARE dancing to the rhythm in the music)?

    "Every night, without resting, they go from the arms of a Creole dancer who twists them in a milonga, to the arms of a Briton who shakes then dryly in a jumped vals, to the arms of an Italian who dislocates their bones with a syncopated rhythm."
    "Gotta Tango" Alberto Paz p 8

    Well, music, and dance, are sometimes complicated.

    Personally, I'd rather struggle to understand something complicated rather than settle for an abbreviated definition that results in an incomplete, erroneous understanding of something.

    When people say or write that dance teachers use the term syncopated incorrectly, I wonder exactly what they are talking about.

    Here's another example. Betty White, who wrote a number of dance books in the 50s and 60s writes that mambo has a syncopated rhythm. The steps correspond to the beat, stepping on beat 4, 1 and 2 - slow quick quick. How can the steps not be syncopated when you step to the beat and the music is syncopated? In her acknowledgements she mentions Dr. Manuel Sanchez, well-known Dominican composer, for his interest in analyzing and checking the musical rhythms.
  13. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    But as dancers we are composers - well, we are actually jamming along with what the band is playing, and our instrument is not (unless we are very stompy) audible, but that does not change the the basic argument - doing a quick step instead of continual slow steps is something quite different than playing with the structure that the rest of the band is using. It is a bit like playing along to a song on a record with just the headphones plugged in - well, it is a bit more than that as out partner listens and plays along, too - maybe more like having a bass (the leader) and a clarinet (the follower) jam together to a recorded big band piece.

    Like the instrument that plays the habanera rhythm is syncopated because it plays with the basic structure the rest sets up, we can be syncopated by playing with the basic structure that the rest sets up. I am pretty sure i can dance a milonga lisa and do double times (never tried it - but i have seen people dance milonga blindingly fast without any hint of traspie, so it has to be doable), and that i can dance a slow milonga con traspie without any double times (this is actually one of my favourite things - slowing down a milonga (a lot of the older milongas have a really slow melody line you can follow), and trying keeping the traspie feel by drawing the "darapadatat" out over 2 bars 1....6....1......, - it doesn't always work because you need a follower willing to "off-beat" with you, (in my experience doing counterbalanced close embrace really, really helps) but when it works the "push" on the 1...6 and the "hanging" on the 6......1 feels really nice.- and that is to me the key of the traspie feeling - it is more the delay in the second part than the quickness in the first part).

  14. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I somewhat agree that most tango problems can (and maybe should) be solved by "Talk less, dance more" - but i think we are here constrained by the medium :)

  15. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    I think some of the confusion comes from the QQS pattern being taught to beginner/intermediate dancers as a "syncopated step". I think that's what people mean when they say dancers have a different definition. It's certainly a form of musical syncopation, but ONLY if the pattern matches to the music.
  16. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    That's pushing it a little. ;) It's a really an advanced dancer's way of looking at things. 99% of dancers are going to believe that dancing is matching movement to the music being played. Certainly a musical lead/follow partner can add their own voice to the song... but just because you can, does that make it part of the definition?

    I'm not sure what you mean by dancing lisa double time... by definition, isn't lisa just on the beat?

    And I haven't really heard of traspie having a particular feel, just it being the style of dance where you can change the rhythm to match the music; however you accomplish that is up to the dancer.
  17. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member


    I better not let LW read that. ;)

    (You still owe me a dance btw!)
  18. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    After replying, I started thinking again. I guess I'm not sure where the discussion is going. Is it to give more ideas on how to dance milonga? Is it to come up with a standard definition of terms? Or just discuss esoteric features of the music?
  19. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    We don't every really know where these discussions are going. Well, we know that we don't know.

    Originally, I got the idea from another thread that some leaders dance a real syncopation in milonga, and by "real" I mean the musical definition. I think dancers normally use the word "syncopation" to mean adding a quick step, and that's not what musicians mean by it.

    From the discussion above, I've concluded dancers are not really syncopating, by a musicians definition.

    I think our definitions are important because if we call a non-syncopated movement "syncopation", then what will we call it when we're talking about a step that really is syncopated?
  20. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Are syncopations esoteric, or (at least in relation to Milonga), the essence of the dance? We need better vocabulary: describing a beat division as 'quicks' tells you nothing about whether the division was into equal parts (not a normal feature of syncopation) or unequal parts. The basic habanera rhythm usually calls for 3/4 + 1/4 + 1/2 +1/2 & sometimes 1/4 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/2 + 1/2. If you blend the 2nd & 3rd 'ticks' of the basic rhythm into 3/4 + 3/4 + 1/2, you get the classic 3:3:2 rhythm, but you rarely see it danced, despite the music. What are dancers hearing?
    Gssh and LadyLeader like this.

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