Tango Argentino > Off beat dancing

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by LadyLeader, Apr 11, 2015.

  1. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    A forum friend has been on a musicality course with Horacio Godoy and they were learning to dance off beat. I understood they learned to step off beat. They had been shown several videos of old milongueros dancing in this way and the message was that about 60 % of the time the old milongueros were dancing off beat

    (this was one of the videos shown on the course)

    I have difficulties to take the fact that people were dancing off beat purposely. Could it be so that they followed the beat but they show the beat more in the body and the feet were therefore more off the beat? Have you heard something about this?
  2. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Are you sure that this is not just a semantic problem? That they were working on dancing _on_ the offbeat, the un-accented beats, not dancing off beat?
    I.e. usually when the beat is 1234 1 and 3 are accented, and as dancers we often/usually also accent 1 and 2 by stepping on them. We can also accent 2 and 4, the offbeats. This gives the dance a different feel, as now the movement coincides with the orchestras accent and gets some extra umph (and i can see some of this in the video - they are not putting their footfalls on the beat, but instead the "swoosh" of their steps (though i tend to be suspicious about the synching of sound and video in youtube videos)).

    So they are following the beat, but their relation to the accented beat is not "i want to time my foot-fall to the accented beat" but "i want to time the swoosh of my step to the accented beat, and so i step on the offbeat"

    I have played around with this, but i have to admit that i don't use it that often - for me i tend move onto the offbeat in lush/overwrought late tangos and when i am leading off the melody lines.

    In general i think it is not possible to dance off beat - actually it is possible, we have all seen this - but i think it is objectively worse than dancing with a understandable relationship with the music - it puts the follower in the unenviable position of having to work against their personal experience of the music, and takes the extra channel of communication that a clear relationship with the music offers to the leader away from the leader. On the other hand dancing on the offbeat works nicely - it just emphasizes different things.

    If you are interested in reading loooong discussions about the how accenting movement over stepping by stepping on the off beat and moving on the accented beat is different from accenting stepping over moving by stepping on the accented beat and moving on the off-beat (and how this interacts with the music) check any salsa forum for their on 1 vs. on 2 threads ;)
    LadyLeader, sixela and Mladenac like this.
  3. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    That is a perfect example of waiting. For my 2 cents, they are in no way "off beat." You can certainly say they aren't marching to a beat, but then neither are the musicians. It's an interesting, somewhat challenging piece to dance to. And they came up with many clever things that, again, express what is going on in the music.

    And this?
    Lo de Celia in Buenos Aires is the only place I have seen a roomful of people dancing AT with no one not being with the music. Not everyone there was an "old milonguero," but there were certainly many older dancers.

    A question for YOU is, do you think they are dancing "off beat" in the video?
  4. rain_dog

    rain_dog Active Member

    I agree that there might be a semantic issue here. As a native English speaker and (former) musician, if someone told me a couple or leader were dancing "off beat" I would assume they were dancing out of synch with the music, or otherwise somehow ignoring the music and stepping randomly.

    On the contrary, the couple in the video seem quite musical and perfectly in time to the music (to my eyes and ears anyway), so I would not characterize them as dancing "off beat". They are however, liberally using the 'off-beats' (or perhaps 'up-beats') in their dancing, and are not strictly marching to the music.
    LadyLeader likes this.
  5. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Like others, I don't see off beat dancing here. I see some off beat accents being marked, but that is something else - and we all do that, don't we?
    Mladenac and LadyLeader like this.
  6. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    Gssh you are right. I have reread it and I believe now that the message should read: about 60 % of the time the old milongueros were stepping on the offbeat. As you suggested on 2 and 4

    You also answered to my question about showing more of the beat in the body. I still insist, I just can't think differently, that these old milongueros were dancing, focusing to the beat - they were thinking how to express the beat with the body and the feet may land whenever the body needed a new support point.
    Mladenac likes this.
  7. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    Steve Pastor their dancing is ok but the song makes it difficult for me to get a strong feel of connection between the couple and music.

    I have tried to see if there is a difference of expression between the upper body and feet. I covered the uper body with my hand and next time I covered the lower body and feet with my hand. I think I had easier to understand the dancing on the uper body. What do you think?

    (I did accelerate the video speed to 1.5 because it makes the movements more sharp as well as the music. Easier for me to find the details. ( in youtube check under the gear button))
  8. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    I have no idea where Horacio Godoy gets that from.
    Being on the beat (el compas) seems to have been a matter
    of pride for the milongueros. If you dance at Lo de Celia and
    run off the beat, as a foreigner you are likely to get a non-verbal
    demonstrative lesson on timing from your partner.

    The beat/pulse is what aurally connects the partners - in social
    dancing it has two important functions: to impel you to dance
    and by dancing in time together enables strangers to dance together.

    No, simply they were not on the beat, the music is not a piece for social dancing.
    And bear in mind they are regular partners and personally I tend to disregard
    dancing by regular partnerships as a guide for social dancing. They have an
    understanding way beyond that of two people temporarily forming a partnership
    for a tanda of 12 minutes.

    Horacio Godoy can dance alright, but he is not how I want to dance.
    Having briefly looked again at video of him, interestingly he dances
    very much on the beat and when he plays with the timing he still
    lands (emphatically) on a beat. Perhaps it's a question yet again
    of doing as he does and not as he says.

    For me, social dancing is dancing to what you hear in the moment.
    Horacio Godoy seems to be making it all too complicated.
    jantango likes this.
  9. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Thanks God!
    Now I'm not dancing offbeat any more, I am dancing like Pocho.
  10. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    We, the dancers of today, place our landing foot down on the beat. It is also the landing feet we check when we want to understand if someone is on the beat. I wonder now if the old milongueros constructed the beat-creation in the same way.

    When i started to think them as a push-generation most of the contradictions disappeared for me. I think that they marked the beat by a push with the standing foot and therefore the landing foot just fall down when needed for support. In similar way we today ignore the timing, when the foot behind us leaves the floor. It is totally uninteresting.

    Gssh i think this could fit your observation that the beat occurs when the free foot is doing the *swoosh*. When we focus instead on the standing foot, I think there is a push on the beat and as a consequence the free foot is moving through the air with a *swoosh*. Because they did create the compas with the standing foot and the push they did not pay attention when the other/free foot was landing.

    This is my reasoning and if it is correct there should be an impulse in the body created by the push and occuring on the beat. I do not know; what do you see?
  11. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    I have tried to recall the memories about the push and found these:

    During my first years i think all the teachers were telling, shouting, pointing out that we should push the step. We were as leaders supposed to push with our foot behind us. I always thought it to be a style thing but now i thought that it maybe also was an instruction how to connect to the music. A way how the leaders could express and communicate the compas to the followers.

    I remember also some fragments from a discussion here in the forum (cannot find it) where one member said that in a special cases, for special songs he is using the push marking of the beat. I found it quite odd and i think it was a special case for the other participants too. People know it but used it very seldom.
  12. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    This is a big topic, but i think a lot of this has to do with how we think about the music. One of the ideas that i try to keep in mind is that tango does not have percussion, but the dancers are the percussion. I think as a tango dancer we should think of ourselves as part of orchestra, in an equal role to the other instruments. And none of the instruments only uses the accented beat - else we would just have a metronome.
    And our whole body is the instrument - i suspect the main reason that we tend to talk about the footfall is because it is easily observed and debugged when practicing. Stepping on the accented beat is the most straightforward way to have an understandable relationship with the orchestra. But once the leader and the follower have established that they hear the music we can start playing around with this - instead of "hiding" on the accented beat in the rhythm section of the orchestra we can be the clave, the cowbell, we can do a free jazz percussion solo - everything works as long as we are still part of the orchestra.
    I think in the end it doesn't matter how we visualize out relationship with the accented beat, and to be honest i don't really think about any of this when dancing - the music inspires us, or the melody line we are following - just like the traspie is really hard to describe in terms of how the stumble actually works rhytmically and is really obvious if you have a song that offers opportunites to play with it - the dance is real, but there are a lot of different ways to describe it. And when we practice these things are the same - if i push on the accent then my free foot will move on the accent, and the free for will land on the off beat. Every step the rhythm is in the whole body, and we are only talking about a single part because it is easier to consciously move one thing, and have the rest follow than trying to move everythign consciously.
    What difference do you think might be in the end between the dance based on the different images used to describe the different ways we can dance with and against the main accents the orchestra offers?
    sixela likes this.
  13. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I agree. They are most definitely dancing with the music and on a beat... just not maybe the more expected beat. I also agree that there are parts to that music that are really somewhat awkward musically.
  14. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I have noticed that some dancers today use the placement of the foot as the thing that marks the beat. However, as a beginner, I was corrected by more than one teacher for doing that. They typically told me I was "behind the music". I couldn't figure out what they were talkign about because I was stepping right on the beat. Eventually someone explained the difference in "stepping" to the beat and moving to the beat.

    I don't think it is fair to say "we dancers of today" as though what you are describing is a universal change. Many dancers of today still mark the beat with the movement of their body, not the placement of their free foot. I never heard it described as pushing from the standing foot vs landing of the free foot. For me the differentiation was made in "placing" the (as yet) unweighted free foot vs a weight transfer.

    That may have been technically accomplished by a push of the standing foot, but that wasn't the point. The concept was where you were supposed to BE on the beat of the music, not how you got there.

    For some music a softer transition through weight transfers feels nicer. And for other, more "marchy" music, being quite solidly done with the weight transfer and collected feels important. Being midstride with my weight equal over both legs is often what happens when a leader is marking the beat with their footfall rather than their body, and it doesn't always seem natural with the music to me
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2015
  15. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    I suppose there are other people doing it but you are the only person who put it clearly in writing that the musical expression is created in the body/torso. I think it is fully in line with the fragments of information I know about how the milongueros were dancing.

    You described three ways to express the beat and i am not sure if I understood the second correctly. Did you mean that for a more "marchy" music the best place to be is to stand tall on the beat?
    For me the first option is the most difficult to understand. Do you mean that there is no sharp torso-position for the beat but a transition. Is it a transition through the tallest, collected position or is there some other possibilities?
  16. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    I started this discussion because i had difficulties to accept the suggestion that milongueros places their feet 40% of time on the beat and 60% of the time on the offbeat. With other words the dancer changes his focus from the on beat dancing to the offbeat dancing.

    This change of focus is maybe not needed and I wanted to explore possibilities for other options. The dancer maybe continues to dance on the beat but changes the way how he is connecting to the orchestra. He maybe sometimes marks the beat in the middle of the stride (body is low) and other times when he is collecting (tall) or he is doing totally something else to mark the beat.

    I started this discussion because I thought this could be an interesting topic for some others too and I definitely cannot solve this on my own. I have earlier written about my problem not to be able to recognize the beat. I would today describe it like as if being color blind. You are able to see the shape of a thing and you can track the movements but if someone asks you to tell apart the green and red items you will fail. It has turned out that even if I can not point out the beats I am able to recognize enough information in music to dance ok but I am not able to solve this kind of task when I need to follow the beat and track things happening simultaneously.

    Thanks for the responses which i am reading and reading again but if you know more about other possibilities, please, share! If you want you can send me a private message about your observations.
  17. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    But always they are in time with the music and mark the beat.

    I wrote a lot more and decided to abandon the response since
    it is so far from what I believe the dance (and any social dance) to be.

    Then you wrote this:

    They did not and they do not. I was at Lo de Celia last night
    watching and dancing with and amongst the Argentines, the
    rhythmic form of their dance is unmistakeable.

    Now I am just stunned! You start a topic about on and off beat
    but admit later that you cannot recognise the beat.
    If you cannot even recognise it you cannot step on it! Or off it!!!

    To dance you dance the music in time with it. More so with a partner
    but even solo it doesn't feel like dancing if you aren't with the rhythm.
    The point was made here last week by a friend here in Buenos Aires,
    a regular visitor who was attending some musicality classes. He made
    the point how different it is in BsAs compared to at home in the UK
    in that they concentrate on the rhythmical timing of the music, your adherence,
    accompaniment and response to it. It's the prerequisite and it should
    be of teachers everywhere.

    The upside is that you know and admit it. Many so-called dancers
    in tango are not dancers at all. They have no interest in the music
    and the music fails to impel them They go through the "moves",
    looking like tango dancers but not being dancers at all.

    Here is something to think about:


    There's some he writes I agree with and much that I do not.
    The round pegs in round holes analogy is overplayed but
    the deeper point is worth thinking about.
    What and when is dancing?
    And I too know much "advanced dancing" in tango
    and other genres that I don't count as dance at all.
    jantango and Steve Pastor like this.
  18. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    from the blog John pointed to...

    What I think is radical about this simple definition is that many people who don't think they can dance are truly dancing and "dancers" at the highest levels may not be dancing at all! Now, that is radical!

    To me it is not radical at all, since it's what I've believed for years.

    I just don't know what to write to be much help to LadyLeader.
    I considered repeating what Denniston wrote about what she found to be the predominant, but not only, style of Golden Age dancers. But if you can't feel "the beat" or "pulse" of the music, I don't think it adds much to the conversation.

    Arthur Murray and others were firmly convinced that anyone can learn "rhythm," with the caveat that for some it will take more time and effort. I tend to agree with that opinion.

    In the where does leadership come from thread, someone wrote about going back to basics. Perhaps that basic of basics (for some of us) is a good place to go.
  19. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Yes, I'm with you, Steve. What's surprising is that it has taken Mark Word
    such a long time to work this out. It rather negates some of his writing
    in the past which I disagreed with at the time.

    I rather think Arthur Murray was speaking with his commercial hat on.
    Dancers can naturally respond to the rhythm, and some people
    can acquire that natural response. I once had it when young (story
    not relevant here), lost it through non-use, and decades later found
    that I hadn't lost it at all but it took time. But some people can never
    find it and I have come across those too.
  20. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Definite possibility that.

    But then, don't the unschooled in dance country guy learning to dance scenes from the two Footloose movies prove that ANYONE can learn?

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