Tango Argentino > Teaching Musicality to tango dancers

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

  1. borisvian13

    borisvian13 Member

    Going back to the main topic of this thread, may I make a concrete suggestion to the people here who are are teaching AT in one way or another ( which seems to be the vast majority by the way, I feel like one of the few exceptions:)...)

    In the middle of your class, make a "musical break": Play one or two tango songs and ask your students to dance solo, each on his own, totally free style, using whatever crazy, non necessarily related to tango, movements they would like, with only one restriction, that they must move WITH the music, the way they feel it in the moment.

    And then go back to teaching tango.

    I'm sure there willl be a some resistance and inhibitions initially but I hope that if you insist on doing this in each class people eventually will get it.
    If someone is interested in this kind of experiment, I'm willing to elaborate...
  2. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    And I'd like to know how many of the teachers on here start their classes with a warm-up and, if so, what sort of warm up.

    Seems to me that many people starting AT have no idea how to really move and when they reach Milongas we end up with trains of slow moving or nearly stationary couples. Essentially what I'd like to see taught first is movement around the floor to the rhythm, first individually and then in a hug.

    Am I in a minority of one though?
  3. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    When I was teaching regular classes I always began with technical drills. The most common was forward-ochos moving in a zigzag across the floor toward the mirrors, then back-ochos in a zigzag moving away from the mirrors. Both men and women participated, each dancing on their own. We'd do it for a full tune. It was an exercise in hitting the beat, collecting, balance, twisting hips independently of shoulders.
  4. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member


    (Caveat: I'm not a Real Teacher, as I don't have a foreign accent / name or even a ponytail.)

    My lovely assistant Nat does a series of stretching and wiggling things to a chilled-out neo tango track. Me, I start and stop the music :)

    (Actually, I may video her next time, might be useful...)

    I also usually get people to have a dance at the start of the session to warmup, possibly two.

    Most people in the UK have no idea how to move.

    Nope. But I start them off in embrace. You don't dance individually.
  5. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I am absolutely not a teacher, but what i have found to be actually a good exercise for musicality when practicing is the


    dreaded, abominable 8CB

    Just doing 8CB's is an excellent exercise to get phrasing into ones ear and body - the 8CB has accents on both the 4 and the 8 -the standard places in the standard phrases. I can do the 8CB in my sleep, so i don't have to think about it, and i don't have to count it, so i am free to actually listen to the music, and experience in my body what it means to dance to the phrasing / off the phrasing. This has been much more useful to me than just listening and counting music, or to just move inspired by the music and getting a feel for the way the orchestras lead into and out of phrases. Sure, just expecting phrases of 8 means you get caught when the orchestra decides to play with the phrasing, but it also meant for me to learn appreciating how they play with it.

    And another advantage is that it doesn't travel much - so it works well for practicas and at home.

    (my opinion of the 8CB has been slowly improving over time - i still think it is pretty useless for beginners, but it is a great didactic tool for intermediate dancers: It is a great catalogue of the movement logic of tango and it teaches phrasing)

  6. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    When I learned the 8ct-basic it was explained that the first two counts were the salida, or "going out/beginning", and the last three counts were the resolution. Of course, it was then followed by another salida. I thought this was an interesting way to introduce the idea of phrasing, or a dance statement (agglomeration - what an ugly word). You begin the section, do the section, then end it.
  7. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    I've had classes both as a beginner and not so beginner that did exactly this.

    What i mostly saw was ladies having less of a problem moving themselves to the music (tuning in to it) and the guys being completely and utterly embarrassed and participating as little as possible at having to "tune in" to themselves and their emotions.

    Many people appear to find being asked to improv movement somewhat embarrassing. Heck, I took modern dance classes in college and we did improv movement and I sometimes felt awkward too.

    One of the problems IMO with solo improv movement is that (after the embarrassment factor) when you boil it down, it doesn't really seem to help people move together, which is the point in a partner dance. You have to communicate what you are feeling and hearing to your partner.

    I don't think it's a bad idea to do on occasion, with more advanced dancers, but doing this with beginners and only giving them the direction of "move to the music" when they don't understand anything about the music just seems to make for aimless wandering and wishing the excersize was over.

    The last time I did this type of excersize in a class (it was an advanced class), it finally got some male involvement but the partners were involved too on a visual level...and I don't think it hurt that most people had some other musical understanding also.

    I think there are other ways to get people listening and involved with the music without doing exercises that embarrass many of them, and takes it back to the partnership and communication between just the two dancers and the music.
  8. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    As someone who was taught it almost as my introduction to AT, my opinion is exactly the reverse. I've got increasingly to despise it as the opposite of what an improvised dance should be.

    It gets people into a pattern, leaders and followers. Followers get into the habit of performing a cross to 5 as result of the man stepping outside on three. No I didn't lead that, oh yes you did goes the conversation. And it becomes a habit that can be difficult to break.

    It's travel makes a mess for a milonga too. People stuck in the 8CB rut don't fit in a crowded milonga. Please, please don't encourage it.

    And you don't want to use once you do start interpreting both the rhythm and the melody, it's actually restrictive. There must be other ways of learning how to fit the dance to an 8 beat pattern, not that I think AT needs to. It's improvised and you can pause, stutter, change movement almost anywhere and on any beat. So 8CB is surely redundant?
  9. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I'd have quit going to a class if I had to do solo improv movements to music. End of story. I'm not that outgoing, and if I'd wanted to dance freestyle, I'd just go to a club.

    I have seen warm-ups done as: walking forward/back to the beat, forward/back ochos to the beat, side stepping to the beat, walking in different ways (like you just found out your dog died, like you're late to an exam/interview, like you just won the lottery). Useful, I guess.

    Having taken a class that used the 8CB and nothing but the 8CB as an exercise in musicality, and having been taught it as a conglomeration of important and oft-used movements in AT, I've got no real problem with it. Sounds like a good warmup.
  10. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I think it is restrictive for _dancing_, and i don't think that it is something that works on the dancefloor for all the reasons that you list. And of course you can anything anywhere and on any beat. But the music we dance to has in many cases an 8 beat pattern. And one of the things that i feel that help me to improvise competently is to perceive and acknowledge this 8 beat pattern.
    Sure, after a while i will know the music that is being played most in my community, and i will know where the breaks are, and where the piano flourish is that i can play with, but to me that feels almost exactly like the opposite of improvising - i have learned learned a pattern - instead of understanding the mechanics of it and be free to use of those mechanics which parts i want to use.

    I managed to get by by just being sensitive to the music for a long time, but in the end it lead me into what i felt was a little bit of a dead end - i just reacted to the music. Some of the old pieces are actually a lot of fun to dance to if you look for this, because the orchestras activly mess with the dancers, leaving out breaks where they "should" be, setting up expectations and breaking them and so on. It sometimes feels like they laugh with you when they fool you, and equally when you get it.

    So being able to feel that 8 beat pattern helps to improvise. Especially when you dance with somebody who also feels it - you can mess with them by not using it, you can give them the freedom to exploit it by giving them opening that fit the music.

  11. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    I like that...walking like your dog just died, or late for work...it'd be nice if I could translate walking like I won the lottery in to the real thing. :D
  12. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Sub sole nihil novi est



  13. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Yeah... BIG time!

    You have to dim the lights because everyone gets pretty self-conscious unless they are actually already the people who don't really need this exercise so much.

    I suggest to people to do this as "homework" in the privacy of their kitchen or whatever
  14. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Depends on who I'm teaching. I have done very little teaching of a full class (I think the most people I ever tried to teach by myself at one time was 8 or 9 people, and that was an anomaly) I prefer to give privates, and I do so rather infrequently... Its not like I'm a full time teacher or making a living at it. But regardless, my warm up exercises are tailored to what I think will be the most beneficial for the needs of the students present, not a generic "one size fits all tango warm-up"
  15. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    T'was useful. (The damn lottery would be even more useful, but as they say around here, "You gotta play to win" and, well, I don't play.)

    The 8CB musicality exercise was fascinating, though. Probably one of the best things I've seen. Take the 8CB. Think of an 8-word sentence--this is done from the leaders POV. ("I want to dance tango with you tonight.") Match each step of the 8CB to one word in that sentence, so that "I" is the backstep, "want" is the leader's step to the left, "you" is the leader's step to the right, "tonight" is the stationary weight change, etc. Think of all the different ways you could say that sentence--shout some words, whisper some others, rush through some, drag some out, repeat a word, stutter--and then dance the sentence the way you've thought of the sentence.

    Start out with the leader thinking of the sentence in his head, leading it to match, and then see what the follower thought his sentence sounded like.

    Then have the follower think of a way to say things, tell the leader, and see how close he gets to what she had in her mind.

    Switch roles. See how creative each can get.

    Fascinating exercise. In this case, the restrictiveness of the 8CB takes a lot of the pressure off (in terms of coming up with interesting moves), it forces simplicity, and really makes you think about how creative you can get with just a set of 9 simple steps.

    Credit where credit is due: oh...crap...I can't remember their names. DC/NYC teachers. He's from Turkey originally, she's Hawaiian, they got married a few years ago.
  16. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    The problem with giving the exercise to non-beginners, is they don't FREELY interpret the music, they try to remember tango steps they've learned and limit themselves to fitting those in... that is a good exercise itself, but it isn't what we're talking about here.

    Beginners who don't know any steps have to resort to whatever body movement comes to mind regardless of whether it is tango, which I think its the point being discussed as an exercise.

    Obviously having leaders improvise the music within the confines of tango steps is what leaders are sorta doing whenever you turn them loose, so that's hardly an unusual exercise.

    On the other hand, having FOLLOWERS improvise to music using only tango vocabulary can be an interesting exercise, and even more so if you require that they think about what the leader would be doing to get them to execute the steps they know. Of course, it runs the risk of encouraging followers to go off on their own tangents even when they should be following, so I'm not convinced its all that useful.

    Improvising WITHOUT drawing on tango vocabulary is a better exercise for advanced dancers.
  17. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    That does sound interesting... I might try that!
  18. spectator

    spectator Member

    I still say get 'em playing pipes!
  19. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I've had a couple different exercises that involved just using the 8CB. One was a musicality exercise, one another was a floor craft exercise. As it turns out, the rules for both exercises were pretty similar. You were only allowed to continually do the steps for the 8CB in order, but you could vary the rhythm(s) as you saw fit (do some as quick steps, and take pauses).

    In the floor craft exercise, it was a packed class, and the teacher made a point of saying you need to make sure it's safe before doing the back step. His theory was, people routinely do back steps, so instead of saying don't do one, learn how to do them.
  20. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Murat & Michelle?


    My 8CB exercise would be: put on an a song (as a start something with really obvious phrasing, e.g. tanturi/castillo "asi se baila el tango"). Do only the 8CB, dance it flat, 1 step per beat do not get creative, do not do anything "musical" - aim for the most straight and boring dancing you can do. Put all your energy into listening to the music. Enjoy the music. Repeat, see what happens if the phrasing in the 8cb with its accents in the cross and the weightshift has a different relationship to the phrasing in the music.

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