Tango Argentino > Off beat dancing

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

  1. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    Could you please describe how they mark the beat? What are they doing?
    When you are checking are you looking at their landing feet or do you observe something else?

    I understood that you are in Buenos Aires now. Could you please ask them to describe different ways they use to mark the rythm?
  2. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    If Horacio Godoy used this teaching technique for the purpose of learning how to dance ON the beat, then it's ok. If not, he's doing a disservice to tango and coming up with anything that people will buy.

    Many of the revered milongueros from the barrios danced to their own drummer, so to speak. I always wondered what others see in their dancing when they had no connection to the music. I have dance and musical training, so dancing OFF beat is painful for me to watch.

    Gerardo Portalea is one example of dancing off beat. He did his sequences and never heard the music or stepped on the beat.

    I know the men who can't hear the beat. I will not dance with them. I don't know how other women can, but they do.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
  3. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    Could you please give me the relevant side numbers in Dennistons book. It seems that I missed the chapter.

    I do hear the music but I am not *hearing* the beat in it, meaning that I can not count the beats or step on a certain pattern asked by the teacher.

    Instead I feel the beat in some way. I start to move my body until I feel that I am with the music and then I let my body go! A friend with music education checked my dance and reported that I mark the beat with my heel, I do not step exactly on the beat but later and I keep the timing steady through the tanda. There are also several followers with music education who have given positive feedback for my musicality. I am not worried about my own dancing.

    The problem is that with this background I am worthless on analyzing the dance I see. I cannot say: he steps with the left foot on the beat 1, or that he is stepping on 2. I am not able to identify the spot a dancer is placing his beat marking - as my friend did for me. I cannot check what Horacio is talking about. I have a great respect for him and I would like to follow his path a bit to see if there is something to find.

    I am keen on this subject also because some of the old dancers have some special quality in their dance giving me a strong and special feeling which has never occured with the younger dancers. When I have been thinking about reason for this I endid up to think of timing - relation of body/music. I am also thinking that it could be where they placed the marking for the beat.

    If these dancers did have different timing compared with other dancers or if they place the beat markings differently I am not able to analyze it. Bad luck LadyLeader! :(
  4. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I've been trying to arrive of a concise version of her detailed descriptions of taking steps. That would be in the chaprter on "The Essence of Tango Technique."

    I thought I had it boiled down to the essence on what we've been calling dancing on the beat. Well, no I haven't.
    For now, I'd say see what you can get out of that chapter.

    To be fair to her, she is trying to put into words what she also says is something the leaders learned by dancing the role of the follower in the practicas, a feeling that they could take to the milongas.

    My own opinion is that if you "mark the beat" consistently, either with a foot fall, or the placement of the foot under the body on the beat, you will at least show that you are aware of the beat.
    Since, for Denniston, the leader's foot arrives "at the last possible moment" on the floor under the heart. I'm assuming that she means "on the beat." But, she also writes "The follower places the foot on the music," and placing the foot when following means, to me, the end of the extension.
    It doesn't add up for me.

    I think "on the beat" means, essentially, having the foot fall under the "heart" on "the beat." And that is consistent with what writers on other dances prescribe.

    Maybe look at this clip from Lo de Celia.

    And finally, just about everyone.
    This is a song that has a much more pronounced, beat for dancing, than the one we started with. (milonga...? tango...? still think it's a good example for "beat')
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
  5. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    What you are describing is how I learned it, however, in my opinion, your explanation puts too much emphasis on the feet.

    In order to have your foot fall under the heart as you step, your heart has to move.

    Therefore, what you are really trying to achieve is (as I tried to verbalize upthread) that you are moving to the beat, not "stepping" to the beat.

    Also, in the original video, you can see the leader move in ways that create steps for his follower without taking steps himself. He is using the rhythm even in these movements, although his feet have not stepped. You can see this in videos of Tete' also... he frequently leads the follower through several steps without taking any steps of his own, by moving his body (his heart if you like) and that is what his partner follows.

    So stepping requires moving the heart, but moving the heart does not require stepping.

    For that reason, I dislike descriptions that talk only about footfall and stepping. Stepping isn't even required for leading. Since leading from the body is at the heart of basic tango technique, I don't think it's productive to talk about where the feet are on the beat as opposed to where the body is, as though suddenly the basic premise changes as soon as music enters the conversation.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Good points, and I totally agree with everything you wrote. I tried to tuck that into what I wrote... even thought about parsing "the beat..."
    Where would I be without "younz?" (see Pet Peeve {hrases)
  7. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Short answer - Definitely NOT!

    Ask 10 milongueros how they do it and you will get 10 different answers.
    My inspiration has always been Ricardo Vidort and I've posted a video before
    which enables you to see it. Let's see if my following comments answer you.

    Why are you learning patterns or trying to count.
    You're filling your mind with unimportance.
    This is step forward. Remember there is no exact beat in traditional tango music,
    it's more of a pulse and you can slightly move the timing within it.
    And there's a step or two backwards!
    Now you're talking!
    Not just how they placed the "marking" but how they made the mark.
    Heel leading is much seen here but the real solid marking is by landing
    the weighted ball of the foot on the pulse. It requires a real engagement of the
    leg, ankle and foot and the leg, thus the free leg is delayed around the upbeat
    and the landing of the foot is timed for the weight of the dancer (or the heart
    if you prefer the euphemism) is over the foot. You have to practise it to feel it.

    Yes to your foot under heart on the beat summary but no to your video.
    So I'll trade you with the one I referred to earlier:

    I think you are splitting a hair that has no practical relevance.
    By definition your heart is moving, sometimes a step at a time,
    sometimes continuously but the compas is marked best and most emphatically
    by a weighted footfall.
    Yes, all social tango dancers in BA do what you describe including me.
    But when they step, it's on the beat. The lady steps more and she too
    is on the beat, many of them also landing a weighted ball of the foot.

    I disagree completely. Footfall when stepping is one of the fundamentals
    of close embrace dancing to the music. Where you place your feet is
    determined by to where your body has moved but how you use your feet
    determines how stable you are for your partner, enables you to "use the floor"
    for expression and to shift the timing. There is a fundamental difference
    between a heel lead and a ball of the foot lead in timing between the steps.
    pulse, the sensation of being centered and connection.

    Unlike the heel lead dance you wrote of earlier, a ball of the foot dancer
    should never leave you stranded on two feet as you described.
  8. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    So we agree.

    Except that we agree (which is nothing to sneeze at!) ;)

    I believe that is the most visible mark (to those watching) but I'm not sure I agree that it is the "best" or even the most emphatic mark from a follower's perspective. For instance, I do not have a conscious awareness of my partner's footfall. But I sure know where his body is in relation to the music. I will have to give that more thought the next time I dance. However, saying it is the "best" compass seems to be a subjective opinion rather than an objective fact of technique, IMO. In some cases it might be the "best" choice (such as the video you posted) and in other cases, something else might be better.

    Yay! More agreement! ;)

    None of which would happen if the body hadn't moved on the beat. If I am on the beat landing on a weighted ball of foot, it is because of body movement. You can place your ball of foot or even your toe without weight. Weighting the foot is a different issue from which part of your foot touches the floor first, although I will agree that usually a toe lead will require some, but not necessarily complete, weight transfer.

    (And I know 2 teachers, both from Argentina, who teach leaders to trace the toe on the floor as it passes around the supporting leg, and at the last second before weighting it, allow the toe slightly up for a heel lead and a smoother, more natural gait.)

    I disagree that I'm splitting hairs since a significant part of my point was that by talking so much about the feet, it encourages people to think even MORE about their feet instead of tying it into their body.

    My experience of tango is that getting people to think about their body instead of their feet is already such an effort, that talking about it is never splitting hairs. It's fundamental to instilling an understanding of the body mechanics of the movement.

    If you tell 10 newbies that their footfall marks the beat, at least 9 of them will automatically place their unweighted foot to the beat in a heel lead and be split on both legs on the beat.

    If you tell those 9 "No, no.. do toe leads", at least 7 of them will look at you like you said "now sprout wings" and the other 2 will try to do it, but have no idea how that works.

    However, if you tell them "Forget about your feet... feel your weight transfer... feel where your body is over your leg for the beat", they'll likely have to move their feet correctly to get there.

    Of course, I just made these numbers up, but you get the point. To most of the social dancers who come for beginner lessons (IME) the concept of heel leads and toe leads is meaningless and "step on the beat" will invariably produce split weight on the beat.

    So... hardly splitting hairs if it means the difference between understanding and not!

    So.. we agree, even though you say we don't (I guess we'll have to disagree on that) ;)
    But for some reason you want me to talk about it in a different way, leaving out mention of the body.

    If you re-read the part of my post you quoted, you'll notice I spoke of talking about the feet instead of the body. I never suggested not talking about the feet at all.

    However, if where you place your feet is determined by where your body moved (your words above, which I agree with) that implies that the placement of the feet is a RESULT of the body movement, not the other way around.

    So NOT talking about the body, or being dismissive of talk of the body, seems an odd choice.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
  9. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    Steve thanks for the video from Lo de Celia. I had though difficulties to follow the dancers because it was milonga going far too fast for me but it took me back to an experience I had in last September.

    I filmed this video on an Encuentro so many of the dancers are experienced, the music has a clear structure so I can follow it. The dancers are doing different things but the upper body impulses are coming simultaneously, at some moments amazing synchronized.

    After reading your postings and combining it with the video above I feel like this:

    The musicians create accents in the flow of sounds and the dancers create impulses in the flow of movements. The accents and impulses need to relate to each other in a certain way to be experienced as dancing.

    Then we could discuss different techniques to create those impulses and here how the old milongueros did it.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2015
  10. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    If my goal as a leader is to create a shared experience of the beat IMO the most logical place to monitor the process is the torso. If the goal is to act as a four legged body IMO in those cases the impulse is created in a way where we can not tell apart the initiator, there is just one acting subject. But I am not there.

    Sometimes when a sportsman is running into a plateau without progress s/he gets the instruction in form of mental image, which helps him/her to change the performance to the better. I think that the opposite is also possible.

    Today i am definitely a foot focused dancer. I create the impulses with my foot work - that is the mental image I have about my part in the dance process. This discussion has made me fully aware of that this image is keeping me back by maintaining the two acting subjects in the dance process, me as a leader and the follower. I think Zoopsia has a strong point when she is focusing on the movement in the torso. If I managed to move the focus from feet to the torso I maybe will have easier to reach the point when the following and leading are melted together to one dancing body.

    (I use the word impulse in the meaning - a body response to the beat.
  11. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Indeed not! And I welcome it.

    In fact we are separated by the words we use and emphasis perhaps.
    Of course the body has to move, and before the feet, but the timing
    of the movement is for the foot (woman and maybe man) to mark the beat.

    We talk about things in isolation but in practice nothing is in isolation.
    All the body has to work co-operatively; and then there is the second body!
    I do have a conscious awareness of my partner's leg movement and
    knowledge of footfall. At times I "see" her free leg moving in a spiral
    around her standing leg while I wait for it.

    But this depends on the kind of embrace and thus the physical connection
    of the two bodies.

    The body moves before the actual beat, not on the beat, a verbal concept
    that non-dancers new to dance have difficulty understanding and executing.
    It's yet another reason why there are people who can dance and those
    who don't even if they think they do.

    Oh save us from teachers from Argentina most of whom are are from the show
    and performance tendency of look and elegance. I believe that it is not about
    a natural human gait but that the dance follows from the natural requirement
    of two people moving as one in an embrace in order to dance the music.

    And for that improvisation it requires a free leg, actually from both men and women,
    ready to go wherever the movement takes it. Tracing and/or brushing the floor
    negates the feeling of freedom since the leg is always under conscious control.

    OK, I understand your point. But some of these things are best learned by dancing
    not telling. Letting them find out by making mistakes.

    I too have told people to not think about their feet, especially those who have
    had all those stereotypical tango moves ingrained into them. But that has a tendency
    later to result in "dead feet" even in myself. Here we are addressing a seasoned
    tango dancer but who more and more is revealing herself to have the problems
    of what I have seen called, rather rudely perhaps, "a permanent beginner".
    OK, I think we've done it to death now. Thanks Zoopsia for the clarifications.
  12. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Amazingly synchronised because it's amazing they are synchronised at all.
    I'm no fan of Encuentro dancing, I prefer my tango flavour to be that
    of Argentina on the social milonga floors.
    We all can see things we want to see but I don't agree.
    It's little to do with seeing and much to do with feeling.
    You could research, examine, explore and experiment and decide.
    It's what I did, it takes time and dedication but it's you that dances.
    You're a leader, so lead!
    Too many "IFS" and not enough decision.
    Concentrate on the follower's body moving with yours according
    to how you impel it with your body and on where you want her free leg to go,
    meanwhile for the moment forgetting about the placement your own altogether.
    As I've written before, this should be a body lead dance.

    Develop an embrace which genuinely creates an upper chest physical connection,
    (not as your photo) your weight should be forwards and your heels only lightly weighted.
    Everything changes.
  13. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    You're right. I was speaking as a follower, but the leader does need to have more awareness of the follower's legs and feet. The only times I'm consciously aware of my leader's legs/feet is when the lead is unclear and I have to worry about where they are.

    A good point, and maybe what I should have said was that the body ARRIVES on the beat. The leader's body starts to move before the beat, but the completed weight transfer (the completed "move of the body") marks the beat. That's the idea I was trying to get across.

    Yeah, but this discussion forum format is only good for telling. If we aren't "telling", there's no reason to be here in the 1st place. Posters ask questions because they haven't figured it out on their own. I don't get saying they should just go dance and find out by making mistakes. Why would you (or they) even bother posting to a forum then?

    I feel that refining and polishing then come into play. It doesn't have to wait that long. But I think it still comes after instruction on the basic tenets of movement.

    I always assume that the number of lurkers outnumber the posters (supposedly this is true of all message boards). So my responses take into account more than just the OP's experience level.
  14. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Fair enough - but here we are talking about L E A D I N G !
    Of course you have a point. But dancers nevertheless should be encouraged
    to experiment and explore by dancing.
    Interesting point. What do you teach first and how much should be taught.
    I know from personal experience that consciousness of failings or perception
    of needs to improve in a certain way changes as other areas become intuitively
    actioned without conscious thought. The brain and the body can only deal with
    so much new and/or different at a time. It's also partly why dancers "see" other
    performance dancing in a different and deeper way than non-dancers
    and why musicians have a different perception and understanding of music
    than others who only hear the music via dance.
    Well I certainly have reason to know of the lurkers but my posts are aimed
    at the topic rather than a general audience. It's less confusing for all that way.
  15. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Yeah, but where's the fun in THAT? ;)

    (PS - I don't think my posts added to the confusion and they do seem to have helped the OP with her question, so....)
  16. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    This is basically how i see it - and what makes dancing dancing is exploring that "certain way".

    The orchestra creates accents in the flow of the music, but every single instrument has a different relationship to the accents and the flow of the music - they all do different things, but the orchestra overall has a unified sound.

    There are an infinite number of ways that a dancers accents/impulse can fit into that flow. If a couple were opinionated enough they could choose to pick the cymbal as their role model of what their relation with the flow of the music could be, and move only 3 times during a song. Or like modern dancers try to find completely new ways of relating to the flow of the music.

    But tango is a social dance, so there are additional limitations: we need to stay reasonably close to the way the other couples relate to the flow of the music to maintain the flow of the dancefloor (this is one of the things that i find sometimes to most difficult to reconcile - for example a lot of dj's play really fast valses in their vals tandas, and often the dancefloor dances them quite slowed down), and as leaders we need to have a relationship between our impulses and the flow of the music that is comprehensible to the follower, and as followers we need to have a relationship between our impulses and the flow of the music that is comprehensible to the leader - so trying to emulate the cymbal is probably not possible ;).

    It doesn't really matter how and when I as a leader move - that is my personal expression of how we see ourselves as part of the flow of the music - as long as it is comprehensible to the follower where i see myself as part of the music. It will be most straightforward if the accent of the orchestra and some feature of my dance always coincide, and "stepping on the beat" is a very easy to communicate and debuggable way of doing this, but not the only one.

    As a leader there is a grey zone where the dance really happens - when dancing with beginning followers who don't have a personal relationship with the flow of the music yet you have to be "on beat" because they get lost when the relationship of the couple with the music is freer, and even though advanced followers will be able to be part of a couple that careens wildly around what the orchestra does they will not be dancing - they will just be listening to the leader and work on keeping up with them. But there is a spot inbetween where the couple is no longer robotically stepping on the beat, but we both understand how our partner relates to the music, and how we ourselves relate to the music where dancing happens. That is different with every partner, and every song, but when it happens it is magic.

    I think in the end this is independent of what particular framework one uses, but it is at least for me easier when dancing ba downtown style. The immediacy of the connection and the reduction of the vocabulary to things that are lead in the moment instead of requiring a set up helps. I have gotten there in other styles, too, but it is (at least for me) harder.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2015
    LadyLeader and Zoopsia59 like this.
  17. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I was recently at a practica where the music was so soft (for once.. it's usually too loud) I couldn't hear it. My leader commented that I didn't need to hear the music.. I was only supposed to be listening to HIM.

    I didn't even bother to try to debate that point. Easier to just get the tanda over with.
  18. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Very interesting discussion here. Much I agree with and some not so much.

    In my dance, when I step or lead my follower to step, my goal is to fully transfer our weight, and land exactly on the beat. In terms of stepping, often I will place my foot slightly (very slightly) in anticipation of the beat, but my weight transfer, and hers, needs to be exactly on the beat. Our torsos should hit the beat in unison. Anything else else is "off-beat" and feels unmusical to me.

    Um, no. You'd have to explain what you mean by "beat" and "pulse", and how and when they are not the same thing.

    Sure, the beat seems to disappear at times in tango music, but it is there - always. Beat is the regularly spaced pulse of the music, whether made apparent or not. In all music, all the time, there is a beat. A very exact beat. Otherwise musicians would get lost and have no frame of reference. Musicians incorporate the beat into their very being every time they pick up their instrument and play. Playing in tune and in time is the very minimal requirement. In ensemble playing, musicians who cannot maintain the beat and don't hit their notes in time are not asked back.

    As listeners and dancers, after the first bar (less, actually) the beat should be clear. In tango the beat never changes. Whether one can hear it or not, or whether the orchestra is simplistically marking it or not, it is there, always at the same regularly spaced interval.
    Alphonse deSade likes this.
  19. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure that I recognise tango as strict tempo dance music - you overstate the regularity of the pulse at times, surely?
  20. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    This thread started by a question about the old milongueros dancing. I am still occupied by a question if these dancers placed their impulses exatly on the beat. One of my friends has a musician background and therefore he is cabable to controll the timing. In practica he places his steps earlier as we others. I asked a follower how she experiences the dance with him. There were no issues with milonga but especially during slower tangos she felt to be rushed.

    Zoopsia mentioned that she was requested to change the timing of her step placed exactly on the beat.

    Have you others heard about these timing issues, have you noticed if the older dancers do have a more flexible timing. If so are they moving earlier or later than the beat?

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