Tango Argentino > What tango do we dance?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Gssh, Mar 4, 2015.

  1. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Yes, to both observations. But . . . . .

    The tango revival came about from tango shows, not surprising then
    that it attracts those extroverts who like to perform. But that image
    discourages those who actually can or have the potential to dance.

    Even more surprising, and unsatisfactory, is that most pre-milonga
    classes in BA are taught by professional dancers. Guess what they teach -
    moves. I never understand what the milonga organisers are thinking of.
    Oh yes, money!

    And from personal experience, yes to this too.

    Hugging strangers is not in our nature, often it doesn't even
    happen within families.
    I too have experienced this first hand. Even teachers who made
    special claims about their standards failed to comprehend this.
    Social Tango is not a commercial dance, it's a dance of the willing few.
    Especially now that dancing in general is very much a minority pastime.
    jantango likes this.
  2. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I totally agree.

    Also, from what I've seen, beginners trying to learn from each other results in a lot of bad suggestions, corrections, and advice being given out.... usually by the more dominant personality, who is often, ironically, also the one making more mistakes.

    So "learning from each other" still needs to be done in a way that new dancers are acknowledging the experience of the ones who are more skilled and learning from them. A mutual 2-way learning experience comes about when the partners are closer to the same level, are not beginners, and are BOTH willing to learn from their partners.

    IME, even when dancing with experienced partners, many people still are not open to learning from them, especially once they reach the point of thinking of themselves as no longer beginners.
  3. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Anti-clockwise precession around
    the floor and rotating dances in the salons and halls of Europe preceded
    the move of tango from the streets to the confiterias and the ballrooms
    of Buenos Aires.

    Yes, but those dances: waltz, polka, galop, etc? featured lots of rotating rather than straight walking, and a rather open position, and / or the man and woman both walking forward as in a promenade position. The "somewhat awkward" early tango positions, I'm going to guess, reflect that.

    So, sort of getting back to how i started ruminating on this, none of this seems to be particularly "natural."

    And, I too stopped taking lessons after 2 1/2 years because all that was happening was that I was getting different ways to do things from different teachers; and they were often contradictory. So, yeah, I have my own dance, in a manner of speaking.
  4. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    To some extent, I get why some teachers will teach via a pattern (or choreography) for part of the class. However, if they don't also teach how to take the pattern apart, and incorporate it into your own dance, it's a major disservice, IMO.
  5. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I found that in teaching a group of more than 2-3 couples, you almost have to teach some sort of "pattern" or step just to have a common reference point to talk about whatever it is you're trying to explain. Of course, I strongly believe that the pattern should be in service to a broader concept, rather than being for it's own sake. And it should be the simplest pattern possible to demonstrate whatever concept or bit of technique you are focusing on.

    And then the follow-up that might have to wait until the next class would be variations on that same step/pattern rather than moving on to another one.

    Someone here a long time ago posted an idea that I always wanted to try... put little cards in a box with simple steps on them and have people draw a certain number of cards from the box and create a pattern using those steps in several different sequences.

    So they might draw:

    Side step right. Back ocho on right. LaCrusada. clockwise molinete. any sacada. walk 2 steps.

    And they have to put them together using only those components

    I think that would be a fun exercise.
    sixela likes this.
  6. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    That's a technique I have used in my teaching, and it seemed to work quite well. I prefer to think of the dance being made up from a series of elements - most fairly simple, in themselves - but encapsulating some aspect of tango technique or means of expressing musicality. There is no dance until you can begin, however simply, to combine them freely, in response to the music and with a partner.
  7. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I also think that this may also to some extent be an artifact of the way tango was/is taught: The travelling tango teacher who is a leader and a (comparatively) inexperienced / trained in other dances local teacher/student who follows. A more active follower needs to be to some extent the more powerful party of the couple - not something that is possible under these circumstances. I feel like the tango outside of BA is in some ways more a leaders dance than in BA - the traditional followers have a distinct - and often very "loud" - voice that one experiences only very rarely outside. I feel we have lost a lot of the followers voice and freedom.
    sixela likes this.
  8. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    If you're ever in Brussels or Antwerp, I can recommend some followers ;-). I've been accused of "ruining" followers for encouraging followers to have their own voice in the dance, because not every leader wants to cope with it.

    That is, of course, also a result of gender imbalance in tango diaspora communities, a misuse of the power that gives them and a complete misunderstanding of what latinos see as worthy masculine behaviour useed to justify it.

    Yes we have, but it doesn't take a lot to let them find it again.

    On the other hand, some statements of people like jantango and many others embedded in the trad BsAs scenes can very easily be misunderstood to mean the followers have no voice (or "only speak when they're spoken to"), unless you have enough context to know exactly what they mean, so it's not that surprising.
  9. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Could you expand on this with some description of what they do and how they express their "voice"?
  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    There's a pause in the music. The leader seems to be continuing to move. No, not so fast.
    ... is one small example.
    I'm sure Gssh will be back...
  11. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    That is an excellent example - to some extent it ties into the whole idea of the follower moving herself, the leader opening place to move to, the follower moving there, the leader following. A lot of people pay lip service to this idea, but it is actually a rare experience to feel this actually happening. Basically a follower of this school is moving as she feels, reacting both to the music and the leader. If you start walking in the middle of a phrase you better have already established your musicality and gotten her trust that you know what you are doing, or you are going to shatter against her like a wave against a cliff. In a giro she will tell you how she hears the phrase - you can open the way into the giro, and out of it, but her footwork and timing in it is her own. Moves like the ocho cortado where you take her out of her step take on a completely new meaning and energy when she actually has a step, and is not just moving as an extension of the leader. Most of the time it is very subtle, and invisible, but to some extent the leaders ideas are subordinate to the orchestras ideas, and as a leader you will know how she expresses the phrasing. But you are listening to the same music, and so your ideas can meld.

    My personal image is that an active follower of that type is the one that actually moves the couple (into the direction the leader has marked), at her own pace and in her own style, while the leader follows her.

    And i have difficulty describing this, because the real trick is that both the leader and the follower follow the music, and based on that are already in synch, and we are not really negotiating the dance between us, we negotiate the dance between the music and us with the support of our partner. So there is very little "the leader decides" or "the follower decides" or "who has the power?" going on - the music decides, the music has the power, and we just negotiate between us how we want to follow it, so our differences of opinion are subtle, and negotiable, and in the moment, not "i want to lead this figure, and she does not follow" or "i am just standing here and she suddenly breaks out a 50 step gancho routine".

    (this is also what makes a lot of tango teaching useless - practicing a figure not as either a) following something in the music or b) intentionally going off plan as a spice makes the vocabulary somewhat sterile. It is like practicing cooking on a cold stove - sure, you can put the meat on the grill, and flip it after 1 minute, and flip it again after another minute, and then put the whole thing into the oven, but without the urgency that the fire imparts - if we flip to early it sticks. If we flip to late it burns. If we leave it in the oven to long it gets overdone - it has nothing to do with actually making a steak.)
    j_alexandra and sixela like this.
  12. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    Or even when there's no pause: "Can you hear the countermelody in those violins? I want to dance to _those_, so slow down and smell the flowers". Or even "you'd better pick a slow instrument to step on, because those piano triplets are MINE, ALL MINE!" -- yes, she can make you slow down even though _she_ will actually step faster to express something in the music. She can even slow the couple down to let the music shine while you are both _not_ stepping.

    Almost endless possibilities. I must've danced countless times to Biagi's Sin Palabras with my regular practice partner (we're both Biagi fans, but it's peculiarly mellow for a Biagi) and we've never danced the same dance twice.
  13. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    The followers who are good at this, use the embrace to communicate what they want the leader to do, like wait. The follower has to rationalize that she essentially is (for lack of a better term) back leading.

    The ones who are bad at it (at least IMO) simply ignore the lead (whenever they feel like it) and do their own thing.
  14. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    So it is similar then to the way we use gentle pressure to prevent the leader from stepping into another couple in his blind spot? OR even more subtle than that?
  15. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Yes, that's the idea. Of course the trick is figuring out how much pressure is "just enough" (without being too much).

    Unfortunately, that answer is different for different people.
  16. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    So next time I see you (which I hope will be soon!) maybe I'll try some things and you can let me know if I'm on the right track. I think I already do this to some extent in alternative tracks where everything is slower, sweepier, and more elongated, but in traditional (especially the faster) close embrace pieces, I just go with the flow as it were.

    I would like to know how to "backlead" someone into leading those full circle single axis turns. You know.. the ones that always make me say "Wheeeeee!" I love those. ;)
    dchester likes this.
  17. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    And of course, some leaders don't want you to do it at all.
  18. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    So I'm thinking that the motto would be "Hint; Don't Prevent" ?

    (Give a suggestion but in a way that allows the leader to not take the suggestion?)

    Although I've heard that the older followers in BA can be quite forceful about it and simply refuse to be moved. But keeping the leader from moving and getting him to move a certain way are very different things. (and the former is certainly easier than the latter)
  19. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Exactly. Like any art, a lot of it is about possibilities and preferences, rather than rules.

    Different people do like different things.
  20. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    From a technical perspective i would say it is both more and less subtle - it is less subtle in that it can (doesn't have to be) quite explicit in how it is different from what the leader "expects", but it is more subtle because happens in synch with the leader - when it is done well (just like when a leader leads a figure well) it fits in the leaders step, and is an relatable reaction to the music that the couple shares - it is something that the leader in some way also "expected".
    It works best (only?) when the reaction is not "why is the follower stopping me?" or "why is the follower not following?" but "ah, yes, this is a gorgeous piano twinkle", or "yes, i did this at the end of a phrase 3 times in a row - this is a cool riff on that".

    My tango philosophy has changed over time - i used to think it was all about freedom of expression, and i spent some time heavily nuevo influenced where the music was very free, and the leader was very free, and there was explicit "times of freedom" for the follower where they would take charge of the dance, and lead - a pattern of "freedom" that i now think boils in the end down to taking turns at "having power" and "being unfree".

    There are two major influences that have taken me away from this:
    1) Chacarera/Samba(which i am horridly bad at)/escondidio(which is sweeter than chacarera and easier than samba - i really like it, but i only got to dance it in classess) - heavily structured rural folkdances that on the surface are the opposite of the unstructured urban folkdance tango. But under the surface these dances are all about anarchy - getting away with as much chaos and individuality and flirting as possible while superficially keeping all the rules, always being where one is supposed to be, interacting with your partner only in the prescribed, formalized way. Even in BA it is rare to get a samba in the folklore tanda (and i sit out when this happens) - but when it happens there is always one couple that you can't look away from. It is never the young, brilliant dancers who stand out - they are better folk dancers, and what they are doing is professional show level - but some older couple (married? good friends? strangers who just dance the dance the way it is supposed to be danced?) that flirts, skirts with breaking the rules, always draws back before the rules are broken.

    In the same way i think the freedom of tango lies (for the leader) in complete respect of the strict form of the music - the rhythm, the phrasing, the abaca structure. And for the follower in complete respect of the mark of the leader. And within this respect of the structure, and the limitations this structure puts on us there is complete anarchy - the leader does not control how the follower dances between the marks.

    2) Tango as a musical form. Tangos have a extremely predictable structure. But every orchestra, every song is unique, because they break rules, they play with them. A good, danceable, interesting tango is 80% predictable, 20% surprises (made up number ;) ). If it is more predictable it is boring, if there are more surprises it gets difficult to dance to it. As a leader i need to be able to be able to at least somewhat have an idea what is going to happen in the future to lead a creative dance.

    A good, interesting leader is the same - 80% predictable, 20% surprises. If the leader is more predictable it is boring, if there are more surprises the leader takes the dance away from the follower. I think for a follower to be "free" it is essential that they have a way to predict what the leader is going to do - if the leaders dance has no relationship to the structure of the music the follower is always playing catchup with what the leader is leading right now, and they have to activly suppress what they experience from the music. If the leaders relationship with the music is predictable the shared musical space creates another channel of communication that is (in my opinion) the key for sublime connection. If you have somebody who likes you and is willing to forgive you: It is an interesting exercise as a leader to try to experience just how much the shared musical space is a component of the dance by breaking this - lead doubletimes starting 1/3rd into a slow phrase. Dance through the end of a phrase and a change of the lead instrument without acknowledging it - and by using that aspect of the connection - lead the same flourish a few times at the same spot in the phrase, and watch what the follower is able to do with this once they trust that this will happen again, once they feel they have a handle on how you hear the music. Stop when the music stops. Stop 3 times when the music stops, walk through it the 4th time and feel her smile about that joke that is invisible to anybody else.

    A good, interesting follower is the same - 80% predicatable, 20% surprises. If the follower is more predictable it is (at least for me) a somewhat narcissistic and empty experience - i could as well dance with two sticks (which is a great exercise, sure, but not partner dancing). If she is less predictable then i wonder what i am doing there - i am marking stuff, listening to the music, and i just don't understand what she is expereincing/reacting to - we are not sharing anything - so why are we doing this?

    (and this also holds somewhat true of dancefloors - i want them to be orderly, but at the same time i want to be inspired from time to time by some traffic event, a sudden stop or run of the couple in front of me)
    sixela and Zoopsia59 like this.

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