Crossing over from ballroom to Tango

twnkltoz

Well-Known Member
#1
So, the first night I went to an AT lesson and practica, I mentioned to someone I was a ballroom dancer (I think he asked how long I'd been dancing). He made a surprised face and said I didn't have the problems most ballroom dancers had. I mentioned it to a friend, who agreed with his assessment. Though I assume it's a nice compliment, I'm not really sure what he meant by that. I imagine there are probably still some ballroom habits that need to be beaten out of me (although I know I've had to unlearn quite a bit), so I thought it might make an interesting discussion.

What problems have you seen in ballroom dancers who cross over?
 

Peaches

Well-Known Member
#2
Posture, frame, where their weight is over their feet, how they hear the music, how they to move to the music, how they connect/follow/lead. There was something else I had in mind, but I got distracted by something and can't remember what it was...

A lot of it is the fact that people seem to come into it from ballroom and don't consider themselves as complete and utter beginners. They think they know what they're doing but just need a bit of a different style and some new vocabulary...when nothing could be further from the truth.
 
#3
What problems have you seen in ballroom dancers who cross over?
Problems arise only if you assume that all common features among ballroom dances are to be considered "universals" valid for all dances: the posture, the concept of "elegance", the learning method, the use of fixed sequencies, and, over of all, standardization. In argentine tango there is not a single rule where all teachers agree.

If you consider that argentine tango is not another ballroom dance, but a very different dance that you have to learn from the beginnig and where maybe there is something that could be "wrong" in ballroom, you will have no problem.
 

opendoor

Well-Known Member
#4
..What problems have you seen in ballroom dancers who cross over?
Not yet problems. BR is a good foundation. But when dancing with an unknown follower I can find some indications that someone has done BR for a long time, as there is the tendency to lean back with the upper body when a new move or a quick spin comes, and then the impolite habit to turn the face away.

... all common features among ballroom dances are to be considered "universals" valid for all dances..
I´m no expert with BR but as far as I know there are definitely differences between standard BR and latin. And I think there are also differences in hold, posture and moves between international BR and american style. And country, folk and swing dances have their own styles, too.

Good luck and much fun with AT
od
 
#5
I've seen ballroom Xovers in a class, who :
- tried to look elegant when they dance, but didn't look elegant at all.
- poise firm up, but look like moving statues.

We haven't that couple in any of the local milongas.
Hopefully they don't start teaching AT to ballroom dance ppl.
 
#6
I´m no expert with BR but as far as I know there are definitely differences between standard BR and latin. And I think there are also differences in hold, posture and moves between international BR and american style. And country, folk and swing dances have their own styles, too.
I wrote "Problems arise only if you assume that all common features etc...."
obviously this is a wrong assumption ;)
 

nucat78

Active Member
#7
Hopefully they don't start teaching AT to ballroom dance ppl.
Too late. :p I learned what little AT I knew at a ballroom studio. Needless to say, DP and I were surprised as all get out when we went to a "real" milonga and 90% of the people were "just walking". Following that, we started taking lessons from a strictly AT guy.

Several ppl from our former studio have crossed over and are now focused entirely on AT. One guy goes to BA a couple times a year to dance. I can't say how much difficulty they've had, but one couple who is close to us said they went to a milonga in NYC and had no clue how to dance. And they had been taking a lot of AT lessons from their ballroom teacher - even did a showcase.

I suspect that many (most?) BR teachers approach teaching AT as they do ballroom and therein lies many problems in crossing over. Our former BR guy seems to focus on patterns with very little emphasis on technique.
 

UKDancer

Well-Known Member
#8
I would say that the biggest single issue is that the conventional way in which Ballroom is usually taught creates an expectation that tango can work in the same way, or can be learned in the same way - but it can't.

That reality sets up tensions: dancers who, quite rightly, don't think they are beginners (they are not beginning dancers, they just don't dance tango yet) struggle to work out what is going on, and what is different. They have no reference point from which to judge what, from their existing experience, is of value, and can be taken along on the journey (which is much more than tango dancers would lead you to believe), and what could most usefully be 'put aside'.

Unfortunately, tango teachers, and their communities are very ill-equipped to help them in the crossover. Lots are, frankly, failed ballroom dancers themselves (judging by the bizzare things they say and write about something they have obviously not mastered), but even where that is not so, they don't have the overview that a wider perspective could bring, to help a newcomer make the transition. They say stunningly unhelpful things like 'Forget everything you know: this is completely different', but when questioned about what they actually mean by that ludicrous statement cannot give you a coherent answer.

The biggest single difference between the dance genres could be said to be the settled technique and standardisation of one, and the almost total absence of agreement about anything in the other. This freedom is one of the wonderful things about tango, but it is also a real problem to many, particularly those with false preconceptions about tango, or those looking for clarity and certainty and finding none.

It isn't just that the teachers can't agree among themselves (and they certainly can't), but because of the nature of the dance, which is personal to each and owned by none, everyone is an expert. And, boy, they are happy to share! If you can keep to yourself that you come from the ballroom world for your first few classes, so much the better. It gets a bit tedious when everyone in the class (including the novices who only came for the first time last week) queue up to tell you what's what. I can't imagine why anyone would find that helpful.

There are other directions in which to cross over - and frequently a steeper learning curve. Tango is simple (as someone else said on another thread here earlier today), but not necessarily easy. The same is true of Ballroom. I always have my new beginners dancing basic (but authentic) simple movements in not one, but three, contrasting styles, and to music, in their very first class. Then we spend a lot of time getting better at it.

Tango is like that (although I don't think anyone would take on tango, vals and milonga in one go, in week one), and you can be dancing tango, simply, but for real, in about an hour. Then you spend a lot of time getting better at it.
 

UKDancer

Well-Known Member
#9
... and then the impolite habit to turn the face away.
That's not really fair. It is the norm in some other styles, and politeness doesn't enter into it, other than in your perception. It's the job of their teacher to gently put them right.

I´m no expert with BR but as far as I know there are definitely differences between standard BR and latin. And I think there are also differences in hold, posture and moves between international BR and american style. And country, folk and swing dances have their own styles, too.
There are, arguably, far greater differences between the very varied dance styles that most tango dancers put together as 'Ballroom', than there are between, say Ballroom Tango and AT. The crossover from one to another between that group can be far harder than to either switch to AT as a preferred style, or to add it to the family.

You only have to look at the competitive world of dance sport to see that only a small proportion tackle both Ballroom & Latin - it's usually one or the other, if they want to attain a really high standard at all. The ones that genuinely do both with equal skill and musicality are rare, and they are dancers on a different plane from most of us.
 
#12
Posture, frame, where their weight is over their feet, .....how they connect/follow/lead
Generally agree but I think the posture for leaders is not as marked as for followers and maybe not so different and many of the princilpes for leading and following are similar, although there are some important differences.

how they hear the music, how they to move to the music,
I am not so sure about this aspect other than to think of the obvious that the music is different.

...people seem to come into it from ballroom and don't consider themselves as complete and utter beginners. They think they know what they're doing but just need a bit of a different style and some new vocabulary
In many respects I think this is the biggest hurdle to overcome and inpart rreinforced by the overlap of some similarities as mentioned above.
 
#13
I suspect that many (most?) BR teachers approach teaching AT as they do ballroom and therein lies many problems in crossing over. Our former BR guy seems to focus on patterns with very little emphasis on technique.
If you are taught using BR principles of patterns rather than the foundations required in AT for improvisation you are going to hit lots of problems.
 
#14
If you consider that argentine tango is not another ballroom dance, but a very different dance that you have to learn from the beginnig...
I think the above is very good advice.

I would lock away my BR knowledge and as my understading of AT increases then begin to fuse the bits of BR knowledge I have into this foundation I am building up. What is the timeframe for this? I suspect anything from 1 - 3 years.
 

Peaches

Well-Known Member
#15
I am not so sure about this aspect other than to think of the obvious that the music is different.
YMMV, but IME it is blatantly obvious that BR dancers seem to think of/hear the music differently. Aside from the music itself being differently.
 

Zoopsia59

Well-Known Member
#17
My ballroom experience is much more limited than my AT experience, but I have had ballroom students in our tango classes. Typically the ballroom dancers I have worked with or talked to about AT are NOT at the most advanced levels. They are casual social dancers in ballroom, not people who compete or do testing level.

I haven't noticed any advanced ballroom dancers here spending more than just a little bit of time at AT. Their schedules don't allow for it. The one or two that I've ever seen try to take up AT get frustrated at being newbies again after investing so much time in becoming advanced dancers. I won't speculate on whether they think they know more or whether they just find it difficult to struggle so much at this point in their dance life. Typically they quit tango before getting very far.

So that means that the people I see have some ideas that they have to put aside about posture and such, but it's not so ingrained that they can't do it. The ones who are very good ballroom dancers do have more trouble with the "falling backward" issue.

Music:

If they had ballroom tango, the difference in the rhythm might throw some people off, because they'll want to think of the ballroom tango music being analogous, and actually Fox Trot music would work better.

However, I think the difference that I've noticed (in myself for sure) is that since they are at a lower level of ballroom, they are still in the "counting the rhythm" stage. Even if they don't have to count it anymore for their various ballroom dances, they still are in the habit of dancing strict rhythm patterns. (Advanced ballroom dancers don't seem to adhere to them in the same way? Just what I've observed... maybe I'm wrong.)

Anyway, that means that they want "the rhythm" that they're supposed to dance to AT and the idea that they can play with it is sorta a shock. It almost gives them too little parameter. The idea that they can pick their quicks and slows leaves them too many options in some ways as beginners and they end up often not dancing with the music at all.

I don't know if that's what Peaches meant by hearing the music differently, but it's what I've noticed. The way ballroom and AT dancers use music is VERY different... I wouldn't go so far as to say one uses rhythm more and the other uses melody more, but there is certainly less importance of maintaining a specific rhythm pattern in AT, and that affects the way people listen to and dance to the music. IME. YMMV.
 

Peaches

Well-Known Member
#18
It's hard to describe...

Speaking purely as a follower, BR guys seem to think in terms of/dance to just the beats in the music. It's like they don't think of the smaller elements in terms of things to dance to. Steps seem to come in blocks, which correspond to blocks of beats and not necessarily musical phrases. Things tend to come out as glide-glide-glide-glide-STOP and do a giro or some other stationary figure. It's like there is a lack of understanding that a step can be, in and of itself, an expression of the music.

I'm sorry, I don't know how better to describe it.
 

twnkltoz

Well-Known Member
#19
A lot of the ballroom dancers I know aren't comfortable with music that changes. They want a strong beat with a strict tempo that never varies, and they don't generally get the concept of playing with the music. One of the things I LOVE about AT is that we get so much fun, interesting music...and the leads dance to it! And, like, when the music changes, we change how we dance! What a concept. :D

The posture did take me a couple of nights to fix, and although I'm doing better with it, I'm sure it can improve. One problem I have, I think, is that I keep my legs too tight--toned. When the man leads something...I don't know any of the names, but there's one where he takes a couple of quick steps to build momentum and that stops and sort of sends his energy through you so your leg kicks up behind you. I always miss it, because I think I need to relax more. I always recognize it just a little too late, about the time my leg should have already responded. If that makes sense.

There is one guy here who teaches AT like a ballroom dance. Luckily, my DH and I have friends in the AT world, so we knew before we started that it's different from anything we've done before (he's strictly WCS--another dance that is very different from the similar dance done in ballroom). We'd been told not to take lessons from this guy, and the other night we got a good visual as to why. We saw what we presumed was a couple who took from him, although we can't be sure, they definitely danced the way he teaches: everything they did was based on the academic 8, with no real connection or musicality. They stuck out like a sore thumb, and that is NOT the AT we want to do.
 

Peaches

Well-Known Member
#20
Uh...what you're describing is (I think, based on the description) a linear back boleo. IMO, if you're being taught that already...find another teacher.
 

Dance Ads