Tango Argentino > Teaching Musicality

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

  1. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Sorry to have been gone; was teaching and helping to launch a new studio. Thanks Bastet, Sub, d', and Peaches for your inputs. My last thoughts on the matter..........

    Everyone who knows me also knows that this is the farthest concept from I dance and teach.

    Unless we have met one another on the dance floors, no one here knows anything of the other, other than what is written. This is why I have begged to keep personal comments out of these discussions. If one cannot help one's self, that is what the PMs are for. I have no personal issue with you. Everyone of us have studied something, and have attempted to understand and implement that which we have learned. Of course, we all believe that what we are doing is either correct, or at least, done to the best of our abilities. This is another reason why we must refrain from thoughts and comments outside of what is pertinent to the dance.

    As for the musicality classes that you refer to, we are in complete agreement. Just because they are called musicality, doesn't mean they taught the correct thing. And, per your description, I agree; these did not.

    Bravo! This is what we all want in the end, isn't it?

    No, you do not know me, nor my dance. As stated above, everyone who does also knows that I dance and teach several of the styles of AT (whatever is appropriate for the moment). They know of my studies (education and teachers), and longevity (including the time I lived in BsAs), and know of my disdain for traditional syllabus style dancing,school figures and patterns, and dancing a bunch of preconcieved patterns w/o regard as to music, rhythms, orchestrations, and more imprtantly, techniques, kinesiology, partners, and positions on the dance floor.

    I don't know your dance, but I am certain that it is pleasing to you and to those whom you are dancing with, or you wouldn't be doing it.
    Funny that you would say this because it is EXACTLY what I teach, and what I have been admonished for by many dancers (including Argentines) who believe that AT is some extrememly difficult and long reaching accomplishment. It is NOT that complicated when one has learned some very simple (this does not mean easy nor uncomplicated), yet very necessary basics.

    Lastly, you say, "...To each their own...", but you have often been very intolerant of the own of others on this forum. You have also brought much thought and substance to some discussions. Your intolerance comes across as personal comments about another's thoughts, feelings, education, and/or dance. Many have discussed this with us (the Mods) on several occassions.

    In the effort of privacy, I have spoken to you, and others, via PM about several of these times. You might have noticed that 'ONLY' the personal assaults have been deleted from your last couple of posts. So will the personal afronts of everyone else's from now on when they are rude and unnecessary and contribute nothing to the discussion.

    If we cannot stop such comments, the threads will have to be closed. No one wants to do this as it would be counter-productive to what we are here for... a forum for the interaction of thoughts and ideas, hopefully to better us all in this dance that we love so much.

    Thanks, Guys.
  2. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

  3. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

  4. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    No I don't - but my comments were based on what you had written.
    This is rather one-sided moderation.
  5. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    DF guidelines CLEARLY state that issues/concerns regarding moderation be done via staff mailbox...NOT on the threads...if there are issues with moderation please take them there so as not to de-rail the thread...
  6. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

  7. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I do consider the ocho cortado to be a "sequence", but my usage of it certainly isn't choreography. It can be led with all "slows", instead of the more common Q Q S rhythm. I'll also sometimes (when in a more playful mood) repeat the rock step portion of the sequence before coming out of it (often with all slows on the set of "rock" steps). I'll admit that one could make the argument that it's no longer an ocho cortado, if you change anything about it.

    I would call a giro a sequence as well, even though it can start (as well as end) anywhere in the sequence. The real point is that just because a leader starts the first step or two of some sequence, doesn't mean that he's locked into it. You can continue it (or not) as you see fit.

    I would also add that when two people say they are feeling the music, there's no way to really know if they are even "feeling" the same thing.

    More than once, I've been at a milonga when most of the people are dancing to a song in a similar way, but then there's one couple who clearly experiencing something very different, and dancing the song (for example) more flamboyantly with a lot of quick steps, or something, while I and my partner are mostly focusing on the embrace with slow movements. We clearly are "feeling" something different, but both feelings are valid to each of us.

    I'll admit that I don't know how to teach someone to feel the music, (as it's a personal thing). However, you can teach someone various possibilities for how to express the music, along with possibilities for when some expressions might be triggered or applied.

    To me, one really important point in teaching musicality, is to emphasize that there's more than one correct answer. If you're doing the move because it seems like the right thing to do, in the context of the music (along with the partner and environment), it's probably going to be pretty good. I don't wish to invalidate whatever it is that the person is feeling, but rather provide possibilities for how/when to express themselves. Each person has to decide what possibilities are important/valid for themselves.

    You can explain to them many things going on in the music, along with what things it might make you want to do (a possibility could be: do something on 8, as was stated by Gssh). As long as they can identify some of the things from the music that can give them feelings (like beats, rhythms, emotions, lyrics, pauses, etc), you can teach them some musicality (i.e. possibilities on how to express some of what's happening in the music).
  8. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    I agree with you and understand what you are saying, yet these are perfect examples of why the o. cortado and giro are not sequences in the sense of predefined or predetermined moves. I'm afraid that symantics starts to rear its ugly head, i.e. sequence, choreography, amalgamation, pattern, figures, etc.

    I prefer to focus on the part of your post that speaks to the fact that the dance (meaning the possibilities) changes every 2 steps. In this, though some steps might be considered sequences simply by rote or preference, there are no sequences in AT.

    Oh, d', do I like this. :applause:
  9. When Muma taught me the ocho cortada, she simply taught me to rotate my body and do a checkstep and rotate back into a cross (kind of like a rockstep, but rotation is done first), which can be done on either left or right side or just about anywhere, even from a cross; and it was not taught as a sequence and can't be broken down. The ocho cortada sequence that is taught throughout the world is not the same ocho cortada that Milongueros in BA dance because they just do the "cut ocho" part of it anywhere, not as part of a sequence.

    I still think that you do not understand how "in the moment" dancers like John and I dance. There is absolutely no look ahead. There is no need for it because all the cues for anything coming up are all in the music at that moment. A good tango composer, will only surprise you if he wants to by giving mixed cues, like Biagi likes to do at times. There is absolutely no reason for any look ahead and for years I mainly danced with absolutely no look ahead at all because it is completely unnecessary to the dance. I completely disengage the intellect and it feels like I am channeling the music with my body. Dancing like this allows me to focus my intellect on more important things like making my partner feel fabulous by altering the quality of my movements.

    I think the whole talk about choreography just confused everyone and I personally wouldn't call fitting sequences to phrases choreography so I agree with you there. I think that it comes down to there being two main styles of improvisation, probably with many people falling between somewhere.

    I do not think that learning sequences contributes to learning "dancing in the moment," because it did not for me. When Muma taught me to dance in the moment, I became a completely different dancer in a week. Most people with minds like mine are not so lucky to find a teacher like Muma and end up quitting in frustration or worse, end up on that never-ending marry-go-round hell-ride of dancing patterns mechanically with no musicality at all.

    I do agree with you about teachers that just tell you to "just feel the music" is a horrible approach because they simply aren't teaching. Feeling the music and dancing to it is a learnable skill and some teachers excel at it, like Muma, Alicia Pona, and Robert Hauk and they prove that you can learn to dance musically without learning sequences. Instead, they focus on learning body awareness and hearing the music, quality of movement, and things like that which do not involve sequences. Teaching AT through sequences doesn't work for me or for many other people. I have seen people learn sequences for several years straight and many of them still can't dance to the music.
  10. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    This is beautifully put -and it describes what being aware of the structure of the music does perfectly - "all the cues for anything coming up are all in the music at the moment" - this requires to have an idea that there are cues in the music, and that something might be coming up, and that there is something to channel. In my opinion all that "well taught" (whatever that means) counting and sequences can teach you is all about what is in the music at the moment. I see many people have no idea that the music does mean anything besides some emotional tapestry and a metronome. When you tell them that there is something more there they just look at you blankly, and start telling you how much more fun it is to dance to electronic tango music, which in some cases is exactly just that - a metronome and some emotional tapestry.

    For me the struggle is mostly to get people to think about/try to feel in their bodies that there are these complex structures in the music, and that they are what makes a tango a tango. And that some people just deny that these structures are there, and important for the dance. And followers who completely disregard them are not pleasant to dance with, and i find it hard to tell a technically great dancer that i hate dancing with her because i just can't connect to her non-interpretation of the music. I don't think it matters if one gets an understanding of them by analysis or intuition, or both - and i think for a lot of people it is going to be a mixture - just the same way we learn technique - practice, watching, thinking, the sudden "click" when things magically fall into place.

    What i see in tango and what i feel strongly about is not that there are different approaches to learning to be in synch with the deep structure of the music, and that for some people an intuitive understanding of the deep structure comes completely naturally and just by dancing. I mean, this is how i got most of what i hope is muciality in my dance - just liking the music, listening to it, and miles on the dancefloor. Figuring out the hows and why's is not really important - it is just like the analysis of movement using the nuevo framework - sometimes it will inspire and suggest something new and exciting, sometimes it will just tell you that yes, what people dance is one of the possibilites that can be danced, and the most comfortable one. All this talk and thinking about the music, belongs into the practica, just like playing with steps belongs into the practica. I know lots of people whose dance just has gradually evolved over years of dancing at milongas, and they have never set foot into a practica, or rented a studio to fiddle with movement. Same thing is true for musiality, imho.

    What i feel strongly about is that sometimes to people from the outside it might sound like there is no deep structure. We tango people always say things like "It is completely free" "There is no counting" "We pick out own rhythm" - and i think this is on some level not true, and misleading to beginners.

    Like if this was a salsa board - a beginner would come and ask "how do i find the 1 - and people would answer things like listening to a lot of salsa music, count, that it will come naturally with practice, etc, and there would be a general feeling that yes, it is a hard thing for some people, and some people just naturally hear it, but that everybody gets it after a while, and that it is kinda important for the dance.
    I feel like the tango answer tends to sound like "there is no 1, there is no meaning in the music, everything is made up spontaneouslty on the spot by the leader" or alternatively "there is no 1, there is no meaning in the music, are just sequences that leaders do in any way they feel like, sometimes QQS, sometimes SQS, and some leaders think SSQ is the best". Us experienced tango dancers know what these things try to express, but i think that the way we talk is sometiems not helpful to beginning leaders, and it is especially not helpful for beginning followers.

    I am reminded of the old bruce lee saying "if i point to the moon, don't look at my finger", but in tango we seem to just tell beginners how important the moon is, and then don't even point to it. Sure, there is the risk that some people will be stuck looking at the finger, but there is a greater risk that some people will never find the moon if there is nothing pointing to it, and they will think that the moon is something like bigfoot, that only some strange people believe in, and they will teach/have taught a second generation that won't even hear about the moon.

  11. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member


  12. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Funny. Just before I started reading the paragraph above I was already thinking of what old Bruce Lee said, (although I didn't know who said it). It's one of my favorite teaching/learning admonitions.

    Another of my main teaching ideas is that tango is inexpressible. If someone thinks my words explain it, they're missing something. I've sometimes tried to explain things in every way I can think of and my student just doesn't get it. Months or years later they finally figure it out and then they want to know why I didn't tell them about it.

    Sometimes I think my words will only make sense to someone who already gets what I'm trying to describe, in which case they don't need my words. If they don't get what I'm trying to describe, I implore them to look where I'm pointing, and it's not in the words. Words are imperfect, but they are a decent tool if we understand their value and limitations. The job of a good student is to figure out just what a teacher is pointing at.
  13. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Yeah, Anda. I wish one of my teacher trainees could read these last few posts. I am constantly saying to him and a couple of others in particular, "Don't talk; Just dance. Don't explain it; just dance it. Let them [partners/students] learn by what they feel. Just be right in what you are doing".
  14. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Less talk. More rock.
  15. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Completely agree.
    The "Nuevo Three" seem to be responsible for the Ocho Cortado based
    on their observations of milongueros in the milongas but at least one of
    them has since admitted that it is somewhat misnamed. But milongueros
    have no names for what they do and on really crowded floors often the
    only movements possible are the rotational ones you describe.
    Familiarisation by extensive listening to the music as part of the practise
    for dancing enables you to intuitively hear those cues without analysis.
    Mea Culpa. It started as a throwaway line to emphasise the contrast of
    fitting known dance sequences to the music with true moment by moment
    improvisation. It became the cause of a regrettable diversion.
  16. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Well said, MTS :cheers:

    Only the Biagi thing, his cues are more of Hendrix´s sort when he picks the strings with his teeth: juggling and gimmickry.
  17. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    They're based on your understanding of what others are writing. Often my reading is very different from yours, but then I tend to see shades of grey rather than stark dualism. Who knows for certain who is "right"?

    It's hard to resist attributing intent for everyone (and more so for someone like you who seems to see stark contrast where I tend to see many shades of grey), but it is certainly necessary if you want to claim things as "based on" what others are writing.
  18. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    It depends on what sequences you pick. The very best teachers who misuse sequences do so teaching very simple ones but that destroy habits collected through the years. In other words, it's possible to use sequences to actually deconstruct the other sequences that people tend to get stuck in, opening more possibilities, and also to use N sequences by rearranging smaller parts in many different ways just to ensure people are made aware of the possibilities and don't get stuck into just one.

    You might argue that then you're not really teaching sequences, but that's a question of semantics. The point is that there are ways to teach 'sequences' (or 'non-sequences' depending on your viewpoint) in such a way that even serial sequence collectors° will, almost against their will, develop a better intuitive understanding of the atomic elements and how to combine them -- hopefully in a way to adapt to the music, the partner, the floor and the mood.

    I think it's another application of "don't talk, just dance", although it's harder to make it work in some cases than in others.

    And there is, of course, another way to teach sequences, as if they were written on clay tablets come down from the skies. I shan't comment too much on that, since it could get ugly ;-).

    °(they do exist, even in classes where the teacher ritually sacrifices a sequence on the altar of improvisational dancing at the start of each class)
  19. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    Just a general comment on musicality; it's come up before on this forum and has been quoted from several of the older Argentine dancers that the reason they can dance the way they do, matching movement to music, is that they have heard the same songs over and over throughout their lives. While there was a lot of golden age music, it is still a limited body of music, and tango music itself follows specific rules in the construction of a song.

    It's a lot easier to keep thought out of dancing if you know the songs backwards and forwards. Dancing to a song that you've never heard before can be a lot more challenging.
  20. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Truth. ^

    No disrespect intended to anyone, but it's really not that hard to dance with musicality to songs you've heard hundreds of times. Now, if you can do it to a song you've never heard before, then that's a lot more impressive.

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