"The Walk," in AT

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Ampster, Jun 16, 2008.

  1. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    Everyone who has really become proficient at AT has ruminated about "The Walk." It is the beginning, basis, and foundation of how good dancers look on the milonga floor.


    All this time I've been dancing AT, this weekend, I decided to just watch the dancers. I was astonished at my own observations of who looked good, and didn't. Regardless of style, it boiled down to two types. Those who could, and those who could not walk.


    Those who could walk:
    • It looked like they were on rollers... smooth
    • The were always sure footed. No awkwardness, any imbalance was instantly and smoothly compensated for
    • The looked to be in perfect synch with their partners
    • The didn't talk
    • They had their "Tango Faces" on
    • They were into each other
    • They were moving "as one"
    • They did not look like they were thinking of their steps. It just happened
    • They were elegant and fun to watch
    • You could see the connection happening
    Those who could NOT walk:
    • Tried too hard to look good
    • Moved with an excess of motion
    • Tried too hard to make the steps work
    • Awkward and out of balance, axis, center...
    • Talked too much on the floor. Some were even trying to lecture
    • Bad posture
    • Choppy motion
    • Out of synch with the music
    • Painful to watch. Especially those who felt the need to do overly embellished things
    • Movements were out of synch with each other
    • The connection was clearly not there. Everything they did looked mechanical
    These are just my general observations. It looked like the majority of "non-walkers" decided to go straight to the advanced, flashy, showy stuff, without first learning how to "Walk." Thinking (perhaps) that flashy steps and patters made you a tango dancer...:-?
     
  2. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    of course being hugged at the end of a milonga ruins the "Tango-face-Clint-Eastwood-riding-into-the-sunset-effect"
     
  3. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Or, perhaps, it's that they don't yet have the ability to get the full appreciation out of the walk. It takes time to develop the sensitivity to be able to enjoy a subtle connection. (Not that I'm saying I'm there yet, but I know I can appreciate more now than I used to, and I've heard very good dancers say that they better they became the more they were able to feel in just the embrace.) In that case, they may as well have fun and enjoy themselves a bit in the meantime. So long as they're not hurting anyone (and, yes, I know that often times they are a danger on the floor) it's not a big deal.

    DH talks about how, in the world of piano, there's the "Mozart Effect." (I think that's what he's called it. Something like that.) It's this bizarre appreciation for Mozart, with all of it's deceptive simplicity and beauty, when a pianist gets older (60's or 70's, i think he said). It's not that pianists can't/don't appreciate Mozart before then, but apparently all of a sudden it just becomes the pinnacle. *shrug* It would seem that there is a similar thing with AT.

    One other thing to throw out there, regarding the walk/elegance connection... One of my all-time-favorite leaders does not have an elegant walk, or tango posture, by any stretch of anyone's imagination. In fact, his posture is pretty horrible--in life as in dancing. And he knows this, actually. His walk is not pretty. But despite that (something which I've heard other leaders bash him about), he's a fantastic leader. Most of the time he's incredibly into his partner (he's got off nights same as everyone else), his embrace is wonderful, he's very cautious and protective of his partner, his leads are clear, he's got his balance, he's playful, he's got good control of his center, he understands body mechanics and movement, he's musical...in short, he's a dream to dance with. (Did I mention the connection? He's got great connection.) And, yet, he most certainly doesn't have "The Walk." Proof positive, IMO, that it's not the be all, end all of tango. But it's nice. :cool:
     
  4. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Oh...and I'm very guilty of not having my tango face on. I caught myself this past weekend grinning, with my tongue stuck out a bit. Not a pretty tango face.

    And I've been known to...gasp!...burst out laughing in the middle of things. (Sometimes, when a lead is obviously playing, I can't help it!)
     
  5. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I assume you are talking about leaders? Because the followers don't really get a choice of whether the leader goes straight to leading the "flashy steps and patterns that make you a tango dancer"

    Also, it seems to me that all you can really tell is who can walk and who can't with the partner that they are dancing with at that time.

    Its very hard to walk smoothly with a bad partner. If you observe someone over the course of a whole evening, I suppose you could determine the person couldn't walk with ANYONE. But even that is tricky, because as we have discussed, certain people get relegated by the social structure to dancing only with bad partners. Then they look bad which reduces their chances of ever dancing with anyone better.

    So what you can easily observe is which COUPLES walk well TOGETHER. Not which individuals do or don't walk well.
     
  6. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Moral to the story... In social tango at a milonga, how it feels is more important than how it looks. Its not a stage performance.

    Unfortunately, most people take quite awhile to get past the point of "performing" when they dance tango even socially. I know I haven't yet. My inner actress just won't go away, and I really WANT to do stage tango and perform. Without that opportunity, I find myself thinking too much about my "performance" when dancing at a milonga, when I should be thinking more about the connection (and forget about everyone on the sides watching)
     
  7. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    It seems to me that you do have your tango face on... Spontenaity, sincerity and enjoyment.. Isn't that what a tango face should be? You can't "put one on" like a pait of CIFs. It just happens.

    Frankly, I think too many people have way too SERIOUS!!! a tango look. My partner found his teacher in BA because she was the only person who smiled during the show. She just GLOWED, and he couldn't wait to find out who she was and learn from her.
     
  8. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    An excellent point, Peaches. When you are first starting out, walking can get rather boring. Learning/doing other steps is a way to keep things interesting, while still working on your walk, connection, etc. Still there is something to be said for someone who can make the simplest of movements look great (maybe someday, I'll get there).
     
  9. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member


    Yeah, I have a friend who does that too. I lead something nice and unexpected and the dance comes to an abrupt halt cos she's just laughing so much.

    I think she's getting better ( or used to me)

    I was teaching the milonguero cross and at the end was demonstrating some exits with her and I put in a leg wrap. Perfectly executed and she didn't laugh and it was so good we had trouble convincing the students that it was a led move and not signalled or choreographed.
     
  10. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member


    Much of that which is listed I notice describe everything but the walk. Embellishing is not walking. Neither is "not talking" nor indeed "talking". And Tango Faces (that whole sucking lemon face) is not walking but a facial expression. Bad posture: again, tends to emanate from the chin, neck, shoulders, chest, abdominals and not indicative of a good or bad walk. Trying to look good is "trying to look good" with or without the Walk etc. etc.

    On Sunday I danced (again) with one particular chap who resembles a dressage-horse when he walks and would be considered "a bad walker" (?) Yet, when does do his thingymajig walking thing that he does, he does right on the beat of the music and with a superior sense of musicality. Another chap after he you would describe as "exact walker" – demonstrating the perfection of what is required in a "Walk" – and yet – to Norma Jones's I Can't Help Myself that was being played, he was totally out of sync (I guess he couldn't help himself). And so I reiterate, just having the man rock me in his arms at the start, immediately propelling into out into the Cosmos is to experience that whole coming together as One. The Walk therefore comes in at 2nd or 3rd or even last place.
     
  11. newbie

    newbie Active Member

    What I don't like here is the implicit cause/effect suggestion. Their dance had all the green lights because they know how to walk. Wouldn't you get the same two lists if the criterion was, say, being sync with the music? Or having no heels?
     
  12. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    Yes I forgot to turn my portable Transporter off once, and my partner disappparated- fortunatly the co-ordinates were set for my ship, otherwise she might have been a bit breathless!
     
  13. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    Or perhaps she deemed the Cosmos a better alternative :kitty:
     
  14. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    Mmmm...dunno. Last week I was invited to teach a beginnerish class of 12(unsually larger than my usual 1-2-1/-1-2-2). First I watched each of them "individually" walk down an imaginary catwalk without the music and then to the music. And theh thought "yep" the class was going to be all about walking. Just walking. Would they be bored? Possibly. Were they bored? No. I took something out of my past drama-school days and had them each "get into character". Teaching them how to get into a particular character (note: the best character is one's higher ego) and then putting that character to the walk. Heaps of fun. Loads of laughter. Everybody applauding each other and a huge "thank you" message left on my mobile the next day. So no, it doesn't have to be boring.
     
  15. Me

    Me New Member

    You know, I think that was quirky but effective because the acting dynamic gave the students an 'out' for appearing silly that was not related to their dancing. I have always suspected the boredom complaint is an excuse made by students who are trying to draw the critical eye away from themselves. Walking is something that can and should be practiced at home, daily, even if for just a few minutes. There is absolutely no excuse for an 'advanced' dancer to be falling all over him/her self during a basic walking exercise in class. They of course know this and seek an excuse, whether they are aware of it or not. (Honestly, I think some students have mastered the art of self deception.) Some will quite simply stop attending classes and, when asked, will say, "Oh, the class was too slow and too basic. I'm taking more advanced classes from a different teacher now."

    Notice how the 'advanced' students just eat it up when a visiting Argentine (cue angelic chorus) makes the entire class spend the entire hour on basic walking. They leave class saying, "Oh wow. Those Argentines really know their stuff. I'm going to have to train my basics all over again!" (translation: It really is not my fault that I can't walk without falling over - I didn't have a 'real' teacher to begin with.)
     
  16. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    Is this the Cluedo version of tango? Colonel Mustard with the Housemaid in the Billiard Room?
     
  17. Light Sleeper

    Light Sleeper New Member

    :uplaugh:

    Love your post, Me! You and Heather have it down right: practice your walk a few minutes a day and Heather's championing of visualisation is the best advice I can think of to give aspiring tango dancers.

    I also think the reason that some folk are 'professional class go-ers' is part of the 'consumer' ethic - you pay for something and you get exactly what you want. Also, some people do it for a social thing with no real desire to do tango technique. Also, some folk apply learning patterns from other dances which aren't appropriate to tango. Anyhoo.

    You put me in mind of a great line from American Beauty, "Never underestimate the power of denial" ;)
     
  18. kieronneedscake

    kieronneedscake New Member

    So what does a good tango walk give you? Some of the observations posted above suggest quite rightly that a good walk is the product of a lot of practice, which may inherently develop many other skills.

    For my part, a better walk has given me stability and power. It has liberated me in terms of fast and slow movement and makes my partners feel much more secure in what I do.

    A practice partner said something interesting to me last night. She described my motion as "like water", "so smooth". Is this a good thing, or is a bit of rough with the smooth more conducive to the perfect dance?
     
  19. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member



    I don't know that it's the same thing, though. Sure, when you can "get into character" for the span of a class, it can be made interesting. But I don't see how that exercise, with it's heaps of fun and loads of laughter, is really translate-able to a milonga. Which isn't to bash the method--I think it's great--or say that putting a character or attitude into walking/dancing in a milonga is a bad thing. I'm just saying that if people are only shown some basic walking without some sort of "fun" and "interesting" figure to play with--even if they can't really do it right--then...well...it can become boring. Not for everyone, necessarily. But it's a chance.

    Perhaps I'm just taking things personally, but... I'll come right out and say that I'm very easily bored. It's not just "trying to draw the critical eye away from [my]self." It's genuinely getting bored. I've got a limited attention span, after which time continuing to hammer away at something like...well, walking...is counterproductive. It's just me. I need a bit of variety and excitement. Carrot + stick; chocolate + vegetables. If I'm staring down an hour of nothing but working on walking, walking and more walking...I'll tell you this, I won't be staring it down...I'll be finding another teacher. End of story. (Well, for regular private lessons, at least. For a workshop or a visiting teacher, I use different standards.)

    As for the workshops and working on basics all over again...your assessment seems awfully harsh. It's like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" kind of situation you've pigeon-holed these people into. They're finally taking a "basics" class and enjoying it and getting something out of it and being motivated to go back and work on "basics" (which you seem to make clear that they should have done before), and you bash them for not having seen the light sooner. I don't get it. Perhaps I've missed something. But it just seems to me that their excitement over basic walking would be a good thing, not something to make fun of them for. (Not saying you do it to their face, but still.)

    And, like I said, perhaps I'm just taking this waaaaay too personally.
     
  20. Joy In Motion

    Joy In Motion Member

    "Spontenaity, sincerity and enjoyment" - amen to that! I think the "tango face" should be a natural expression of how you feel inside. When a partner is very playful with the music, sometimes I break into a smile and even giggle. There is one partner in particular who really keys in to the music and makes me laugh every time, and he told me he likes to hear me laugh because it shows him that I recognize the way he is playing with the music and that I have a pleasant response to it. I think it is a great gift to give your partner to naturally show how their connection and their musicality makes you feel. I think holding back that expression for me would take away from my enjoyment. And I personally like to watch people that have a personality on the dance floor instead of looking like they are trying to perform or be too serious. So amen to spontaneous smiles and giggles on the dance floor!
     

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