Tango Argentino > Teaching Musicality to tango dancers

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by bordertangoman, Mar 2, 2010.

  1. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Most dancers don't have musical training, nor do most musicians know how to dance socially. When the two work together, they learn something about each other. Musical arrangers have to know what makes a tune danceable; dancers need to hear the beat of the music. Dancers learn to move naturally when they know the music. The problem is that most tango classes focus on steps rather than the music. Teachers are set in their ways on this and are happy to teach choreography rather than how to improvise movement with a partner by listening to what the music indicates.

    A music education will help dancers listen to the music. The instruments stand out to them while dancing. Tango is very complex music that is different from all other. It takes lots of listening to understand it.

    Tango teachers have invented so many terms to try to explain what they don't know. How many even talk about the instruments of tango orchestras and what to listen for?

    One error is referring to the music as tango songs. A song is any composition designed to be sung, either accompanied or unaccompanied. Most tangos are instrumental with piano, contrabass, bandoneon and violin and without singer. These tangos aren't songs.

    Musiciality is what you feel in the music and then express in movement. Either you have it or you don't.
  2. borisvian13

    borisvian13 Member

  3. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I disagree. True, there are some people who will never learn musicality. However, I don't think I was born with it: I think I learned it. And, I think lots of other people can also learn it. I don't know how long it will take, or how much of an investment those students will need to make. I do think musicality can be learned, but teachers should provide the opportunity. I've taught classes on the structure of music - phrases and repeats - some people had their eyes opened. Some did not.
  4. borisvian13

    borisvian13 Member

    Excellent point! That perhaps explains the bizarre oxymoron "non-musical dancer" ( sounds like an "illiterate novelist" to me) in the AT circles.

    And I still fail to understand how one can be musical without liking and enjoying the music but that could be just my narrow-mindedness of course:)...
  5. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    If I may rephrase a bit... By musical definition, 3/4 time means that each measure comprises three beats, and a quarter note is defined as taking one beat. (As opposed a half- or an eighth-note taking one beat.) Just a bit more clear, IMO, than saying the length of each bar is 3/4...I understand it, but others may not. *shrug*
  6. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I think the way you worded it at first was awkward. Not difficult to grasp that it doesn't have to be three actual quarter notes--that it could be some combination of eighths, sixteenths, halves, etc. (dotted rhythms and suchlike)--just somewhat difficult to grasp that that's what you meant. If you're coming from the standpoint of 3/4 by definition having three beats per measure with a quarter not being one beat...then at first glance it's a bit of a brain-tweak to read that it doesn't have three quarter notes.

    ...and then the brain clicks in and you realize that you meant three quarter notes worth of time, and it all makes perfect sense.
  7. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    I do appreciate the musical discussion (I used to be a music major after all ;) ) but returning to the topic, I'm not sure teaching time signatures is necessary. Teaching a non-music person a few of the nuts 'n' bolts can help though.

    For example, you could tell them all music is composed of two basic rhythms. 1-2, in the form STRONG-weak. And 1-2-3, in the form STRONG-weak-weak.

    And like Peaches said, teaching phrasing is pretty easy if you give them the right context/examples. Play a song, make them listen for the "sentences" or subject changes. etc.

    Beyond phrasing and basic rhythm though, the rest might be too confusing for someone starting out. Especially if they're working on coordination at the same time, and have no dancing background. Despite what people say, not everyone can "feel" the music in such a way that translates to movement. That's another skill, that can be taught.
  8. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Well, I think there are many aspects (besides the opportunity to feel up people of the opposite sex) which could attract people, which leads to ways they could be musical without liking the music.

    They could be drawn to the freedom of the dance itself--freedom to dance to any rhythm, freedom from a syllabus, the unbelievable flexibility afforded by the non-structured way it's structures, so to speak. And, perhaps they take that aspect, and apply it with other music. (Granted, that gets us right back to the question of if they're dancing tango, AND PLEASE LETS NOT GO THERE.) But having the technique and understanding of tango makes for a very enjoyable way of dancing to a wide variety of music...some of which does appeal to them. It could be modern versions of traditional pieces (think Quartango or Quintango), it could be electronic versions (Gotan, Bajofondo), it could be completely non-AT related. I've felt for a long time that I'd love the opportunity to dance AT to the first movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight" sonata. It's a piece of music which I find incredibly moving, I find it inspiring, and it's so beautiful that it just makes me want to express it how I can--which is through AT.

    The same is true of plenty of other kinds of music for me. They make me happy, they make me want to get up and move, they are so beautiful they make me long to give three-dimensional form to it and literally feel it with my whole body and participate in it with my whole body. I'm sure other people feel that way about music. And...well...the way AT is danced makes it very very good for that sort of thing...regardless of if anyone considers it AT or something else.
  9. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Agree 100%.
  10. borisvian13

    borisvian13 Member

    Peaches, I'm afraid you are putting words in my mouth here. I'm certainly not saying that people who don't like traditional AT music are not musical (in general), that would have been a rather insane statement indeed:)

    I'm simply saying that if in a given time and place certain music plays and a person performs movements clearly ignoring the music, this person can not be called a dancer ( let alone a musical dancer, which is a tautology anyway) in this given time and place, not in general.
  11. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Ah, my mistake. I took it along the lines of if someone isn't moved by the (AT) music they hear (in milongas, etc.) then how can they be musical. I agree with your assessment of such a situation...but it seems to crop up in discussions of AT. :rolleyes: I didn't realize that you were speaking in generalities.

    Regarding your second paragraph...agree. :)
  12. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Glad I read the thread. I was going to comment, but Alberto Paz's reference, Zoops and Peaches have answered admirably and correctly.
  13. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Mmmm... I'm not sure. I mean, most beginners simply won't understand that description; which means you'd then have to go into detail about what this means, demonstrating and talking about it. So you've probably got at least 20 minutes of pure instruction there.

    It makes sense in the context of a musicality (or musicality-flavoured) class, but I still think it's too much to throw at beginners.

    Interesting point... I agree that some of the teachers are just rubbish (although we might disagree on who!), but if no teachers have mentioned this, maybe it's for a good reason?

    I'm not convinced - you say 1-2 sentences, but there's a difference between listing them and teaching them. Again, you're probably talking about spending 20 minutes to even introduce this.

    And at beginner level, frankly, musicality isn't that important.

    Hell, I've only been focussing on musicality myself for the past year; that doesn't mean I ignored it, it just means that for me, connection, posture and floorcraft were far more important (It was number 5 on my "To-Do" list)

    Not at beginner level. It's too much information.
  14. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Me too. Who said that?
  15. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    i DID something similar as an experiment in class ( with out the bloeos ganchos etc.) with my partner; it was actually very hard to ignore the music so I had to invent a count in my head, My partner followed me even though I could feel her struggling ( against her better instincts) then I asked people what they saw. A few got it.....
  16. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    On the Beat!

    You could have loosened up and let her do her own thing. While
    you were off the beat hopefully she would keep landing her foot to the nearest beat.

    That's really weird to watch!
  17. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    I agree with you on this wholeheartedly. It is possible to learn (or at least appreciate) the music, even if one doesn't ever really "get it" in terms of beign able to carry it out bodily. But I do get tired of the "tango mysticism" that implies if you aren't naturally musical you'll never be, and just telling people to "feel" the music and letting that be the extent of "musicality".

    As I'm sure you've taught, it doesn't take anything more "complex" than walking and weight changes to get people to hear or appreciate the phrasing of lots of the earlier rhythmic tango songs. Even if their bodies still can't carry it out after one lesson, they can at least start listen for beginnings and end of phrases by listening to more music and then letting themselves try express it in their own way. And at least trying to interpret the songs is better than not ever having learned about it at all, IMO.
  18. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    Totally agree.

    I'm not a musciain, and I certainly don't NEED to know about time signatures to dance, or to hear phrasing.

    I think people should get taught at least phrasing past learning the basic rhythm. Phrasing is not mystical. It's a fact and it is fairly easy to describe to people with most of the rhythmic tango songs (take Poema or anything else by Canaro). Learning about phrasing is also not the same thing as telling them HOW to interpret the music (which is what some people complain about). It is merely pointing out a particualr cpncept of the music and helping them take note of it. You can give them plenty of ideas how to physically interpret (or ignore) it, and then leave them to explore the idea for themselves (or not).

    And you are definitely right that there are plenty of people that may even hear things, naturally, but not be able to translate it to movement. That can also be taught.
  19. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Spookily, I did something similar for a semi-private last Thursday.

    One dance in close, to Bahia Blanca, just using forwards / back, side, transfers of weight and rocksteps. Then one frenetic dance with loads of "moves", done to Otros Aires.

    I'm also not sure that I made my point clearly :(
  20. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    wish I'd been there to see it :lol:

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