Tango Argentino > Milonga Syncopation

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

  1. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Good question. 20 years ago I don't remember seeing traspie as a integral part of milonga. Then, sometime after that, I began to see teachers showing it in workshops. Maybe Jan can shed some light on whether it's a relatively recent addition to the dance.
  2. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    UKDancer! 3-3-2 What a beauty!
  3. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Please reference TangoMonkey's Thread on El Choclo for the full deal.
    TangoMonkey REALLY knew his stuff. I hope he renews his interest in tango one day.

    This jpg is from the wiki article on habanera, and is the notation seen in the sheet music TM links to.

    habanera 1, all of it. Think of it in time values, not pitches or notes. Habanera 1 is the entire dotted 1/8-1/16-1/8-1/8 combination, taking two beats. The dotted 1/8-1/16 is syncopation; there is an emphasis on the offbeat (the 1/16) leading to beat two.

    I'm going to suggest the following "count," with weight changes on the bolded values: 1 &3 4

    1 & 2 & 3 & 4

    Without going back and looking (again), this may agree with what gssh wrote?

    Robert Farris Thhompson uses
    da, ka ka kan, da, ka ka kan
    with the comment that "every other neat is strong."

    That particular movement, which I believe is called traspie (literally "stumble-step"), came to tango, by one account (see Thompson's book which I am looking at in preview mode on google books right now, and can't see the entire text) in the 1940s from Arturo Intile. Given that the rhythm is so obvious and was part of tango almost from the beginning, that seems kind of incredible.
  4. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    That is indeed the way it would be written in musical notation in 2/4 time. It is also the correct way to count it, which any musician would instantly understand. I think there are many dancers who would not understand that way of counting it, and would object to using any words at all, finding them confusing.

    My original question was to try to differentiate between really dancing the traspie (or habanera) rhythm, in which the "2" beat is shifted back to the "2&", giving a real syncopation, versus only adding an "&" count anywhere between two of the regular main beats. That would give:
    1&2 3 4, or
    1 2&3 4, or
    1 2 3&4, or
    1 2 3 4&.

    There are four places one could include an additional "&" count, and that's what I think most people are doing when they do a traspie step. In my observations at milongas no one is moving a regular step (1,2,3, or 4) from it's regular rhythmic location to the following "&" count. Instead, they are adding an "&" step between invariable 1-2-3-4 dance rhythm for milonga.

    A different way to think about it (creating even more confusion), is does one traspie step still take 2 counts -shifting the beat, or 3 counts - adding a beat. (I know, trying to discuss dance rhythms with non-musicians is like herding cats).

    Here's the real problem with dancing it, as I see it. To shift the step to the syncopated location requires the leader to lead the follower to NOT step where it seems automatic (on every beat), but to instead delay that step to the following "&" count. That seems pretty challenging, IMO.
  5. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Looked up my notes from a milonga class I took from Alex Krebs last year.

    Rock step / traspie is an basic element in what Alex taught. These “rock steps” are more with the entire body, however.

    This taspie rock step can be turned to the left for in place turning move(s).
    Left Forward
    Replace weight onto Right foot
    Left together
    Right foot Back! Or Forward!
    Left together
    Right foot together
    Best to do this IN PLACE while turning to get the proper feel

    “Circular” traspie This should be done “on the spot” while turning to the Left
    Left rock Forward, replace weight onto Right, step together
    Right rock Forward, replace weight onto left, step together

    This one is done to Habanera rhythm
    Right Forward, rock step to Left, step Together "Da, ka ka kan”
    Right Backward, rock step to Left, step Together "Da, ka ka kan”

    I hasten to add, though, that Alex never mentioned habanera. I added that part myself. I actually had a tough time with this initially, partly because that rhythm was not in the music he used.

    I keep spending my Sundays here doing research instead of going to the practica. (Well, I try to get yard work, etc in there, too.) Maybe this will give me a reason to go check out the dancers. Given that most of them don't even dance in time to the music...

    Might look at what else Thompson wrote about this.
    Another complication is that the time signature for this is 2/4. TM wrote that the entire "pattern" is 2 "beats." Counting to 4 to get a more accurate count works, but...
    I tried to see this in Skippy Blair's Universal Unit system, but it only works if you equate "2 beats" to "4 beats." And we have to think about the &a count. Too much for me!
  6. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I think it is extremely challenging. And i think it is the reason why this usually done in between the steps that we have established as automatic in the dance before. When we dance and listen to the music i can usually trust that the follower will continue staying on the beat, so if we walk 1 2 she will step where it is proper, i.e. on the 1 and 2. When we "force" a & between the 1 and 2 this is much more free - if we rush it so that the & is not actually 1.5 but maybe 1.2 we can get that, and as a bonus the follower (and the leader) will, automatically, without having to think about it, step on the 2 anyway. By rushing an inbetween step (or choosing a step that uses less time, like a rockstep, or a pique) we not only rush that step, but we also draw out the next one, because we will end up on the 2 almost automatically.

    Re: where this thread is going: i have no idea - the difference between the milonga lisa (which can have blindingly fast doubletime runs, and still be "smooth"), and the milonga traspie (with its lilting, skipping feel) - and in that the difference between double time and traspie / QQ and a syncopated step - is one of the things i like talking about - i love dancing milonga, and i see too many people dancing it as a extra fast tango, and in RL i am too nice to rant lengthyly about it :)

  7. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    is this what you mean?
  8. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Perhaps in response to the ambiguity of the beat --- milonga dancers started inserting a third step over the first two beats of milonga. This created a cross-rhytm, the milonga del traspie (literally "stumble step milonga"), taking three steps over two beats.

    Then comes a syncope: as the woman continues back, the man off beats two steps to the side---Pam-pam goes the offbeat, doubling the time.

    Robert Farris Thompson - Tango Art History of Love

    In syncopating a rhythm unit we STEP on the AND COUNT (or counts) and do SOMETHING ELSE (a KICK a LIFT or some sort of visible move on the ACTUAL BEAT of the music.

    There are a few cases where syncopation steps on the "a" count in between the "AND." When this takes place, there must always be a STEP on the ACTUAL COUNT as well as the "a." Otherwise, the dancer will appear off time. (My note - an "advanced count" is &a1&a2 etc)

    Skippy Blair Contemporary Social Dance - Disco to Tango and Back - 1978
    When Blair wrote this book she had been dancing, teaching, and choreographing, since the 1930s. Now in her mid 80s, she is, and has been! one of, if not THE, most respected dance teachers in the US.

    And while I'm on a roll, I recently found this note on swing, in case anyone wonders if swing is syncopated.

    “The classic swing rhythm is a syncopated beat with a heavy pulse” a “long-short, long-short rhythm”

    Mel Bay Western Swing Guitar Styles by Joe Carr
  9. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I learned milonga first as 1, ah 2, & 3, ah 4. Which is to say, the habanera rhythm, even though I didn't know that's what it was called. That, to me, is traspie.

    Unfortunately, mostly I encounter men who never go with traspie, sometimes maybe go with double time, but only exceptionally rarely vary their tech Kaye. Result: bloody fast tango. Takes all the fun out of things.
    Gssh likes this.
  10. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    The counting system that uses &a as 1/2 & 1/4 beat divisions (typical of International Samba & Jive) doesn't work very well with tango/milonga rhythms based on the habanera. If the basic recurring pattern is over two slow beats: 12|12 etc, then it can be subdivided into equal parts (no syncopation) as 1&2&|1&2& etc. There is another convention, not wholly standardised, that says that if you are further subdividing, you use not one additional sound (a), but two (e & a) to represent the first and second, respectively, so: 1e&a2e&a|1e&a2e&a etc. but there's still no syncopation here, just a much faster series of sounds.

    If you counted this pattern aloud, you would use the five sounds (1, 2, &, e, and a) eight times over each pattern of two slow beats, but you would attribute the same time value to all eight usages. A metronome would just tick (quickly), but when you said the sounds, you would introduce a stress pattern, without which there would be no rhythm.

    The basic habanera rhythm, counted in this system would come out as 1a2& (ie 3/4 1/4 1/2 1/2, taken as fractions of the two slow beats, not as note values), but it is difficult to express the alternative habanera rhythm in this system because it introduces a fifth sound on the 2nd 1/4 beat. The best I can come up with is to write: 1e a2& - and the silence after the e is important, because the missing & would have taken a secondary accent had it been present - and this is the essence of the syncopation. Can anyone improve on the description, using this system, of the beat values 1/8 1/4 1/8 1/2 1/2?

    In the Blair quote, above, I take the rhythm &a1&a2 etc to be (again in beat values), 1/8 1/8 | 1/4 1/8 1/8 1/4 || - the &a is time taken from the preceding beat, creating an anacrucis in the rhythm, so the pattern starts with an upbeat, followed by a downbeat. Is that what you understand Blair to mean, in the context of the quote?

    The usual understanding of a swung rhythm is that you take the basic pulse, and divide it into two unequal parts (long, short), which if notated at all (and it is usually not notated, but understood) is a beat divided into triplets, with the first two sounds tied or blended: 12 3 12 3. International Jive (which you could charitably describe as being loosely related to swing), has a different beat division for the triple-step chasse, as it uses a 3/4 1/4 1 beat division. Including the break, a Jive basic is conventionally counted 123a45a6 - and this is implies that the presence of the a modifies the preceding beat's duration (it steals a 1/4, leaving 3/4), without changing the sounds denoting the 3rd & 5th beats. Cha Cha Cha has its basic conventionally counted as 234&1, where the 4&1 chasse is 1/2 1/2 1 - ie an even division of beat 4 into two equal parts. Dancers freely call that a syncopated rhythm, but then they use the term, usually, to describe any beat division - which isn't very helpful...
    Gssh likes this.
  11. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Are you describing the basic pattern twice, but missing the last "&" (which I would count 1a2& 1a2&), or does your "1, ah 2, & 3, ah 4." denote something different?
  12. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    I hear people refer to triplets in milonga: but do they really mean this?
  13. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    I very much doubt it, unless they mean the 3:3:2 rhythm (which is so much fun to dance). I mentioned earlier in this discussion that it is the basic habanera (1a2&), but blending the a2 into one sound (& describing that in the notation vocabulary of 1&a defeats me: anyone?) so that you get 3/4 3/4 1/2 beat divisions. The 3s are not subdivided, but there's a triplet feel?
  14. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    hmm some sloppy use of language. perhaps they meant 3 fast steps
  15. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    No. That's what musicians mean by triplets. Whenever I've heard dancers taking about triplets, what it turned out they meant was QQS (which does get 3 steps into 2 (slow) beats. However with musicians, triplets are evenly spaced (unlike QQS).

    Triplets is a good way of feeling Vals, however. Another way of expressing triplets is with 6/8 time (or 12/8 time, which is actually how I feel Vals).
  16. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    A favourite way to syncopate in vals is to step on beats 1, 2 and 4 (assuming 6/8 time), which is a sort-of QQS rhythm, but dancers will frequently be very imprecise when they talk about rhythms - another reason to advocate some standardisation of vocabulary.
  17. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    A good vocabulary would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath.

    Dancers often confuse the beat of the music, which is regular in western music, the rhythm of the music, which is often not regular (habanera), and the steps of the dance.
  18. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    The "&a" is an uneven division of the time between the two "actual beats."
    She only addresses 1/4 "beats."
    In this case, and with West Coast Swing, this lines up nicely with "eight notes played with a triplet feel," and "shuffle rhythm" that is the swing variant that seems to have been most prevalent in popular (rock n roll) music when "Western Swing" became "observable."

    The count "&a1," when starting to dance, or move, makes it clear that, in order to "step" ON the beat at "1," you begin the movement BEFORE the beat.
    As Blair writes:
    "The dancer follows a "rolling count" that demands movement just before the beat."
    "Every move they make begins with the "&" before the beat."
    Teaching Note: This count is vital to West Coast Swing and Samba, even at a BASIC level, but is useful in ALL forms of Dance for a more precise and polished performance."

    She acknowledges the musician's count of "1-e-&-a-2-e-&-a" but adds that the "&a" comes after the beat, drummers have a different notation, and suggests &a1&a2 as a dancer's count.
    Blair has written "extensively," and her method has the benefit of consistency, which I think is huge. (I am currently beginning to challenge myself with some the the MANY "syncopations" she lists for WCS.)

    I THINK I can play 1/8 notes with a triplet feel (common in rockabilly and other 1950s rock n roll), and the habanera rhythm on the keyboard. What we actually play on an instrument, or "dance with our bodies," may or may not be exactly what we designate with any system of notation.

    And, I have to say again, that I found it really frustrating to not find the rhythm I was supposed to be dancing in the music I was hearing in those milonga lessons.
  19. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Class notes sent out by Steven Payne from his Dancing Milonga from a Quiet Center. Gosh, I miss the people who learned from this guy.

    The Rhythms of Milonga and the “2”
    On our own we walked the rhythms of milonga, starting with a step every two beats (the “2”), adding in steps right on the beat, playing with two or more steps per beat. Basically we are breaking down the rhythmic elements of milonga, and listening for their place in the orchestra and in our feet. The “2” is the governing, quiet center of milonga. We walked the “2” alone for a while to see how comfortable it is and to recognize that it creates a place where something as simple as two steps on the beat or a triplet becomes something thoughtful and exciting rather than exasperating.

    The Embrace
    Communicating these rhythms and feelings to another person is the task of tango. Building toward the embrace we looked at an integrated posture with wt. in the balls of the feet, relaxed knees, dropped pelvis, elongated spine, head back and shoulders outwardly rotated to open our chest. We approach our partner and simply relax our knees into them allowing our integrated posture to connect with them from the pelvis to the chest. It is VERY IMPORTANT TO BE GIVING OUR PARTNER SOME WEIGHT SO THAT WE CAN FEEL HOW THEY MOVE IN THE GROUND.
  20. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Thanks Steve...

    How a musician counts and subdivides the beat:

    Count “4”, ie subdivide the first beat into four “counts”: 1-e-&-a (say “e” as the letter e, the "&" as and, and the “a” as ahh). Since the second beat in these examples is subdivided into two equal counts, normally it would be counted as 2-&. But it might be easier at first to count it 2-e-&-a. So the entire 2/4 measure may be counted as 1-e-&-a 2-e-&-a.

    Say out loud or in your head, the 1-e-&-a, but only tap on the bold counts. I'd like to place the counts under the notes but the forum software just messes up the alignment. Tried spaces, tabs...no luck. The bold counts should be under the notes.

    Habanera (1) (Heard very frequently in milonga, less so in tango)
    1 e & a 2 &
    1 e & a 2 e & a

    Habanera (2) (Heard frequently in tango)
    Example is in 2/4 as well.
    1 e & a 2 and
    1 e & a 2 e and a

    1 e & a 2 &
    1 e & a 2 e & a

    The first note, a dotted 1/8, would not be held. There should be rests – meaning silence. Just tap the bold counts and it will all work out…

    There are other variations too. As habanera 2 and the 3-3-2, they all are derived from Habanera 1, by changing which counts gets played.

    1 & becomes 1 & a
    The swing feeling comes from triplets – three evenly spaced counts per beat. Similar to stepping on 1 and 3 in Vals, but the time signature in swing and jazz is mostly in 4, not 3 (Vals). It is usually written as dotted 1/8-1/16 – the same as the first beat in the habanera – or just two 1/8 notes, as beat two in the habanera and the example above. But it is interpreted with three, not four or two subdivided counts. Instead of 1-e-and-a (or 1-and) it becomes 1-and-a. The three counts are evenly spaced within the beat. This page explains it nicely: http://www.guitarnoise.com/guide/swing-eighths/

    Gssh likes this.

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