An Adult Guide to Argentine Tango   Leave a comment

AN ADULT GUIDE TO ARGENTINE TANGO MILONGAS
By Valorie Hart and Alberto Paz

Excerpts from Gotta Tango. Copyright (c) 2007-2013. All Rights Reserved

Did you know that in Buenos Aires there is an official definition of what constitutes a “milonga?” You’d need to meet specific criteria to obtain a permit to operate a milonga. By definition, a milonga is a place where the dance of tango and its codes of conduct are taught and practiced.

In a milonga, the dance floor is clearly demarcated from and surrounded by the area occupied by tables and chairs where the public remain seated, except when they step onto the dance floor to dance.

The structure of this type of dance requires sufficient space for its execution as well as the additional space for the circulation around, which is also preordained by this dance. That determines its capacity. The number of tables and chairs needed to accommodate everyone in attendance and the need for circulation corridors for the waiters to take care of servicing the tables result in an especially low density of participants in relation to other popular dance venues, where agglomeration is the norm.

The public is mainly adult, with a certain level of education. They are local habitues and foreigners who come to practice or to perfect the knowledge of the dance.

The atmosphere is familiar, similar to a social club, where the majority of people know each other. There are particularly demanding codes of conduct and courtesy, which are as important as the knowledge of the dance itself.

The lighting, unlike in typical dance halls, must be relatively high to allow all the participants to get a good look at all the premises.

The music must have a low decibel level in order to avoid affecting the auditory capacity of the public engaged in normal conversations at the tables. (Normal is considered approximately 75 decibels; 130 decibels is the level at a disco, which is barely bearable for less than 15 minutes without causing a reduction in the level of hearing.)

The dance is done exclusively in pairs.

The presence of live music does not modify any of these parameters. The patrons remain seated at the tables or dance on the floor with conduct identical to that acceptable for recorded music. In other instances, when a singer performs or professional dancers give a dance exhibition, the duration does not exceed the length of a tanda and the patrons remain seated, without crowding any areas or exceeding capacity of a space.

All these conditions (lighting, sound level, characteristics of the music, quality of the dance, codes of courtesy, and age of the patrons) contribute to an atmosphere of intimacy at the milonga that is conducive to calm and friendly behavior, diametrically opposed to what is characteristic of other places of dance.

Most important, they contribute to create something unique to any other social dance. It is called the dynamics of the “milonga.”

Now, we don’t live in Buenos Aires, we live in New Orleans, and let me digress by saying thanks God. So our promise to you is that we’ll work hard to recreate the dynamics of a “milonga” every Thursday night at the Planet Tango milonga.

The Concept of the Tanda and the Dynamics of a Milonga

The TANDA (TAN-duh), or La tanda is a tango Spanish word that defines a set or group of songs of similar rhythm, generally by the same orchestra, and preferable from the same time period.

The tanda originated in the early days of radio programming when music was played from 33⅓ rpm microgroove vinyl phonograph records introduced in 1948. It made sense to play a few songs in a row from the same album without interruption. That became known as a tanda musical (musical tanda). The concept was also applied to commercials played in a row without interruption. They became known as tandas comerciales (commercial tandas).

The musicalizadores (music men spinning the music) at dance halls and clubs soon found it very practical to play a block of music or tanda from each LP. After a tanda, they would play a sort of musical curtain (cortina musical) or separator that allowed them to change the LP for the next tanda. This necessary routine served an unintended purpose as well. The cortina reminded dancers to clear the floor for a short interval to allow the ladies to be accompanied back to their seats, to allow the waiters to take orders and serve food and beverages to the tables, and to allow for a rest room visit.

The structure or dynamics of the milonga allowed men and women in between songs of a tanda, the opportunity to know each other, share a conversation, and perhaps arrange for furtive dates at a later day, because the social mores of the time didn’t allow women to freely socialize or consort with men at public places. It had something to do with virtue and good name. A shared ‘tanda’ afforded a dancing couple fifteen minutes of total intimacy in front of everyone.

People attending social dances dedicated to the tango (including milonga and valses, of course) were aware and abode by the codes and protocols of the milonga.

- Invitations to dance were made and accepted during the cortina, the first or second song of the tanda.

- Invitations on the third song of the ‘tanda’ were mostly for showing a newcomer’s skills for others to see, for example or for fulfilling a social family obligation such as “dance with your cousin, please.”

- Invitations on the fourth and last song were very rare. Dancing the last song of a ‘tanda’ was equivalent to dancing only one song.

- Dancing just one song of a tanda was understood by everybody that either one of the dancers, man or woman, couldn’t wait to get away from each other for whatever reasons. This sent a clear message to the rest of the room that something was ‘wrong’ with either one or both of them. The one who was
perceived to be the worst dancer would in all likelihood not set foot on the floor for the rest of the evening.

For a milonga to have dynamics is not necessary to know Spanish, or to behave like an Argentino. However, respecting others and the dance floor by not staying on the floor during cortinas and being aware of which order in the tanda is the song being played is.

Personal Behavior Affects the Dynamics of the Dance Floor

Every generation of tango dancers in Buenos Aires since the late 1930′s has passed to the next generation a wealth of knowledge that includes codes, protocols, and role models. We lack such connection to a strong root filled with tradition and behavior. You may call it the grandfathering of the eternal tango.

About five years after the first generation of dancers in the United States received their inspiration and passion from a wave of milongueros who taught for the first time at the 1995 Stanford Tango Weeks, the influence of American ballroom dancing rules and protocols began to infiltrate the places where the devoted, militant, and purist tango dancers held their daily celebrations of the joy of dancing tango.

Being unable to impose the strict ranking structure of ballroom dancing on an foreign urban dance characterized by improvisation and creativity, people quickly regressed to high school or junior high mindset and began to write about tango etiquette for new dancers, such as “bathe, protect you breath, remove odors,” or “indicate your desire not to dance by taking off your shoes,” and occasionally “don’t be a dick.”

Today, there is tango activity all over the world, in big cities, small cities, at big milongas and in exclusive house parties. The genie is out of the bottle and it’s only with the hope that more adults won’t get discouraged and leave, that we share our two decades of experience with tango in North America.

In Argentine Tango dancing personal behavior affects the dynamics of the dance floor. The enjoyment, safety and satisfaction of the participants as a whole far outweighs one individual’s desire to use the common ground to impose on others his or her personal efforts for self-definition. Before being imported from Argentina, tango was an adult activity where nobody was entitled to a dance, and everybody was expected to know how to dance.

Selfish and insensitive people generally justify their disruptive behavior with arguments such as, “I would tend to go with whatever you feel you’re doing. I’m totally for each person defining themselves.”
These tend to be code words for “I’m ignorant,” “I’m socially challenged,” “I can’t stand not being the center of attention.”

Most places around the world tend to adopt some form of orderly presentation of the music to the dancers. We can claim with pride our commitment to respect the flow of the dance by always selecting and playing tango, milonga and vals music suitable for dancing arranged in logical sets of three or four.

Those who trust their formal tango education to us are exposed from their first day to the best available music for dancing, delivered in coordinated sets that make it easier to identify orchestras and recognize songs. We do that in a non-judgmental way, suggesting not dictating, paying judicious attention at how everyone reacts to the various musical offerings.

In order to be the best you can be as part of the dynamics of the dance floor, consider these suggestions,

- If you can recognize that the orchestra or the rhythm has changed, think of respecting the order of a ‘tanda.’ Recognize a cortina because it shouldn’t sound like a tango or use the same instruments used in the tango. Leave the floor and return to your seats. Don’t hover or crowd around the tables or seats where women are seated.

- Be prepared and willing to dance a minimum of two, preferably three and optimally four songs with the same partner. One to get acquainted, two to get friendly and three to let it rip. The fourth one is reserved for the proverbial ceiling staring, cigaret smoking state of mind.

- If at all possible ladies should point out to their partners that the dance floor is not the appropriate place for a quickie lesson. A man who is not capable to make the best out of a lady’s current expertise is asking for a one dance stand. Women should give it to him.

- If at all possible, ladies should mind their body language to avoid sending conflicting messages. If you avoid eye contact and refuse to be friendly to people you see every night or every week, do not say to anybody at the end of the evening, “missed dancing with you, you owe me a dance, or save me a dance next time.”

- If at all possible, face the room, focus your attention on the people around you, across the room, on the dance floor. Make eye contact for a friendly lip synched ‘hello’ or walk up to a person and exchange a couple of polite pleasantries. Don’t be shy to indicate your desire to dance.

- If at all possible get to know people with experience, native milongueros from Buenos Aires, and others who travel often. Leave your hang ups outside and do not forcing them to break long embedded codes and coming to your ask you to dance verbally.

- If you can walk, you can’t necessarily dance, but if you can look the chances improved dramatically.

- If at all possible ladies should send a clear message when they don’t want to be bothered with an invitation to dance by,

a) having their backs turned away from the dance floor,
b) reading a book,
c) knitting a sweater,
d) using their cell phones,
e) listening to their iPods
f) frowning and crossing their arms tightly in front of their chest,
g) showing to be having a lot of fun talking their heads off with somebody else who they want not to be bothered with a dancing invitation either.

- Regardless of how many songs are danced, men should walk the ladies back to the general area where they found them at the beginning of the ‘tanda.’

- If at all possible, interrupting an obvious conversation between two people should be avoided, but if must be done, the polite thing to do is to acknowledge the person who is going to be left behind by using your favorite form of etiquette, “Do you mind?” “Please excuse me while I ask…”

- If at all possible, when it is obvious that a couple have a personal relationship and are seating together, before asking one of the members of the couple for a dance, acknowledge the presence of the other member of the couple using eye contact and lip synching something like, “May
I..?” indicating your intention to ask the other half for a dance.

- By the way, extending a hand like a beggar is not very cool. Even when standing in front of the person being asked, smile and use a gentle motion of the head to point to the dance floor, or lip synch something that includes the word dance.

- If at all possible, don’t apologize for any reason nor voice any disclaimers about your skills,experience or expectations before, during or after the ‘tanda.’

- If at all possible, do apologize to anybody, including your partner,
whom you cause harm, inconvenience or outright pain.

- Don’t go to a tango dance party to support. Go expecting fulfillment, enjoyment, and quality. The only way organizers get the message that they need to improve or change their offerings is by not falling for the tribe, herd, or family mentality that makes others stay home.

These are some common sense practices understood and liberally practiced at many tango places around the world. They’re aimed to mind the ‘tandas’ and to encourage responsible behavior for preserving the dynamics of the dance floor.

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Posted November 15, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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The Concept of the Tanda and the Dynamics of a Milonga   Leave a comment

The Concept of the Tanda and the Dynamics of a Milonga
By Valorie Hart and Alberto Paz

Excerpts from Gotta Tango. Copyright (c) 2007-2013. All Rights Reserved

The TANDA (TAN-duh), or La tanda is a tango Spanish word that defines a set or group of songs of similar rhythm, generally by the same orchestra, and preferable from the same time period.

The tanda originated in the early days of radio programming when music was played from 33⅓ rpm microgroove vinyl phonograph records introduced in 1948. It made sense to play a few songs in a row from the same album without interruption. That became known as a tanda musical (musical tanda). The concept was also applied to commercials played in a row without interruption. They became known as tandas comerciales (commercial tandas).

The musicalizadores (music men spinning the music) at dance halls and clubs soon found it very practical to play a block of music or tanda from each LP. After a tanda, they would play a sort of musical curtain (cortina musical) or separator that allowed them to change the LP for the next tanda. This necessary routine served an unintended purpose as well. The cortina reminded dancers to clear the floor for a short interval to allow the ladies to be accompanied back to their seats, to allow the waiters to take orders and serve food and beverages to the tables, and to allow for a rest room visit.

The structure or dynamics of the milonga allowed men and women in between songs of a tanda, the opportunity to know each other, share a conversation, and perhaps arrange for furtive dates at a later day, because the social mores of the time didn’t allow women to freely socialize or consort with men at public places. It had something to do with virtue and good name. A shared ‘tanda’ afforded a dancing couple fifteen minutes of total intimacy in front of everyone.

People attending social dances dedicated to the tango (including milonga and valses, of course) were aware and abode by the codes and protocols of the milonga.

- Invitations to dance were made and accepted during the cortina, the first or second song of the tanda.

- Invitations on the third song of the ‘tanda’ were mostly for showing a newcomer’s skills for others to see, for example or for fulfilling a social family obligation such as “dance with your cousin, please.”

- Invitations on the fourth and last song were very rare. Dancing the last song of a ‘tanda’ was equivalent to dancing only one song.

- Dancing just one song of a tanda was understood by everybody that either one of the dancers, man or woman, couldn’t wait to get away from each other for whatever reasons. This sent a clear message to the rest of the room that something was ‘wrong’ with either one or both of them. The one who was
perceived to be the worst dancer would in all likelihood not set foot on the floor for the rest of the evening.

For a milonga to have dynamics is not necessary to know Spanish, or to behave like an Argentino. However, respecting others and the dance floor by not staying on the floor during cortinas and being aware of which order in the tanda is the song being played is.

Next, how individual behavior affects the dynamics of the dance floor…

Buy Gotta Tango HERE

Posted November 7, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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The quintessential definition of a milonga   Leave a comment

The quintessential definition of a milonga
By Valorie Hart and Alberto Paz

Excerpts from Gotta Tango. Copyright (c) 2007-2013. All Rights Reserved

Did you know that in Buenos Aires there is an official definition of what constitutes a “milonga?” You’d need to meet specific criteria to obtain a permit to operate a milonga. By definition, a milonga is a place where the dance of tango and its codes of conduct are taught and practiced.

In a milonga, the dance floor is clearly demarcated from and surrounded by the area occupied by tables and chairs where the public remain seated, except when they step onto the dance floor to dance.

The structure of this type of dance requires sufficient space for its execution as well as the additional space for the circulation around, which is also preordained by this dance. That determines its capacity. The number of tables and chairs needed to accommodate everyone in attendance and the need for circulation corridors for the waiters to take care of servicing the tables result in an especially low density of participants in relation to other popular dance venues, where agglomeration is the norm.

The public is mainly adult, with a certain level of education. They are local habitues and foreigners who come to practice or to perfect the knowledge of the dance.

The atmosphere is familiar, similar to a social club, where the majority of people know each other. There are particularly demanding codes of conduct and courtesy, which are as important as the knowledge of the dance itself.

The lighting, unlike in typical dance halls, must be relatively high to allow all the participants to get a good look at all the premises.

The music must have a low decibel level in order to avoid affecting the auditory capacity of the public engaged in normal conversations at the tables. (Normal is considered approximately 75 decibels; 130 decibels is the level at a disco, which is barely bearable for less than 15 minutes without causing a reduction in the level of hearing.)

The dance is done exclusively in pairs.

The presence of live music does not modify any of these parameters. The patrons remain seated at the tables or dance on the floor with conduct identical to that acceptable for recorded music. In other instances, when a singer performs or professional dancers give a dance exhibition, the duration does not exceed the length of a tanda and the patrons remain seated, without crowding any areas or exceeding capacity of a space.

All these conditions (lighting, sound level, characteristics of the music, quality of the dance, codes of courtesy, and age of the patrons) contribute to an atmosphere of intimacy at the milonga that is conducive to calm and friendly behavior, diametrically opposed to what is characteristic of other places of dance.

Most important, they contribute to create something unique to any other social dance. It is called the dynamics of the “milonga.”

Now, we don’t live in Buenos Aires, we live in New Orleans, and let me digress by saying thanks God. So our promise to you is that we’ll work hard to recreate the dynamics of a “milonga” every Thursday night at the Planet Tango milonga.

Buy Gotta Tango HERE

Back to School Immersion workshop video notes   Leave a comment

Back to School Immersion
By Valorie Hart and Alberto Paz

Excerpts from Gotta Tango. Copyright (c) 2007-2013. All Rights Reserved
Nobody is born knowing, but studying we learn, as long as what we learn makes sense and can be explained in clear and logical terms.
Introduction to the parada
The term parada is the past participle of the Spanish verb parar, which literally means to stop. The name is shorthand for la mujer ha sido parada por el hombre, or “the woman has been stopped by the man.” The definition in tango terms is the action of stopping the woman when she still has both feet on the floor (in other words, when she is transitioning between axes on an inside or outside cross but never laterally). A man should never stop the woman while she is in the process of executing a lateral opening because it is not flattering for the woman to be seen with her legs open.
Parada With Sandwich
This popular sequence is done in the cross-feet system and occurs when the woman is executing an outside cross to the man’s right. The recognizable feature of the parada is the illusion that the man stops the woman by placing his right foot next to her left foot when she has crossed her right foot outside. This parada is the result of interrupting the outside cross of the woman with the man’s right shoulder when she has both feet on the ground. As her transition to her right axis is interrupted (that is, stopped), the woman flexes her front leg and elongates her right calf, pressing against the floor with her right metatarsal and keeping the heel off the ground.
The use of the parada must be handled with the rest of the dancers in mind. Gentlemen, stopping for no other reason than to do a parada just because you learned how to do it may create circulation problems for the other couples coming from behind you. It is accepted dance floor etiquette to drop toward the center of the dance floor before engaging in any figure that may otherwise block the flow of traffic on the edges of the dance floor. After you play and have fun, rejoin the line of dance anywhere that doesn’t interfere with the flow.
Introduction to the gancho
Another way to interrupt the motion of the woman for the purpose of changing her direction is the leg hook, commonly known as gancho. The position where the gancho takes place is the same sixth position of the eight-count giro (clockwise giro 6 and counterclockwise giro 6); in other words, it is when the woman steps back with her outside leg using a cross behind her support leg. In this case, the man interrupts and stops the woman’s motion by extending his outside leg to block the thigh of her inside leg. Next, he changes her axis to the outside leg with a gentle forward lunge into her, flexing his support knee. Then he marks a backward motion of her inside leg. Since the man is blocking that leg at the thigh, the woman can move only her inside leg until her thigh presses firmly against the man’s thigh. She continues moving her leg from the knee down, wrapping the upper part of her leg on the man’s thigh, thus hooking her leg into the man’s open stance.

Are you curious about what you’re missing by not having the dancer’s manual to Argentine tango? Here is our special offer to you for taking the time to visit the blog, to read it and to wonder…

Buy Gotta Tango HERE

Posted September 16, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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Foreword to Gotta Tango   Leave a comment

Foreword to Gotta Tango
By Acho Manzi (1933-2013)

During the establishment of the tango at the onset of the 20th century, things happened that formed the historical circumstances. The population of immigrants and their descendants had grown in such substantial numbers to take away the country from the conservatives, who had been ruling it at will. The immigrants won the first secret-ballot elections in Argentina, establishing the first populist administration. The people of that generation projected themselves toward the future with the wisdom of their neighborhoods as their most valuable tool. They read from the best texts and studied from the best professors from Europe.
Meanwhile, on the street corners, the music and lyrics that had become tango were accompanied by studied steps that sent immigrants and new citizens alike looking for partners at the milongas, the fabled gathering halls of early tango dancers.
In 1930, a military takeover snatched the homeland away from the majority and overthrew the government that had protected them. Martial law and a state of siege were the tools used for persecution and repression. That is when native cunning and cleverness resulted in the founding of the social clubs, havens where people could meet during that stifling political reality. To better disguise their activities, the Creole society hired musicians who, at the same time that the social clubs grew, contributed to the growth of musicians, composers, lyricists, and dancers. There, the milonga was protected while the participants spoke freely of politics and businesses.

Then Carlos Gardel arrived and forged into one all the nationalities. And when much later it seemed that everything succumbed to governmental order, tango was the popular thing that came to save the people. My father, the immortal poet Homero Manzi,1 showed me a view of the world of the tango at the apex of its golden age. At no other time did musicians, composers, poets in the form of the lyricist, and dancers converge in one wonderful rush of originality and influence. That is the way my father described the events, as we look at them turning toward the present, with many couples joining their efforts toward education.

Many have reinvented the Argentine tango, and it has even reinvented itself. Just when it had been written off as passé, pronounced dead in newspaper headlines, and ignored by a couple of generations, it came back full force and full circle. There has been a revival, a reinvention of sorts, of the tango in all forms. The golden age is surpassed in sheer numbers of dancers, because the tango has had a global explosion. Credit for this is often given to the most glamorous catalysts in the form of tango shows and tango movies. But a more grassroots influence exists in the form of a handful of protagonists who preserve and foster the tango for the love and respect of it.

Two such persons come in the names of Alberto Paz, an Argentine, and Valorie Hart, a tanguera from the United States. Having made the Argentine tango the leitmotiv of their lives, both personally and professionally, these two have promoted the tango to the thousands of students they have touched in the scores of cities and countries in which they have taught their classes. Add to that the thousands of words they have written on the history, the poetry, the music, and the dance in their magazine El Firulete and on their Planet Tango Web site, and you come to realize the profound influence these two have proffered to the benefit of the Argentine tango. Through their exploration, Alberto and Valorie have made the dance form something teachable by expanding on old ideas and codes that permeated the world of the tango when they and others found it languishing for lack of interest and understanding.

They have influenced the very language used in teaching the dance. Taking the ideas offered to them personally by proponents of the golden age, they have worked tirelessly to present a clear and accessible construction of the dance. They do this to empower one and all to embrace the enjoyment and benefit of it and to understand the culture and history that formed its music, poetry, and, of course, the dance.
Gotta Tango offers a concise, complete, and clear compendium of the dance of tango, a gift to you, the social dancer, and a must for anyone inclined to become a teacher of it. Nothing like it exists, and it is destined to become a classic, much like the tango itself. This is the fruit of Alberto and Valorie’s labor of love and a delightful result of their intelligence and expertise as master teachers.

-o-o-o-


1 Homero Manzi (1907-1951) was a critically acclaimed poet, filmmaker, author, and lyricist of such classic tangos as “Malena,” “Sur,” and “Barrio de Tango.” In his 44 years he also reached into journalism, teaching, labor, and political militancy with mixed success. The tango lyric was, nevertheless, his true claim to fame and is what keeps his memory alive.

Homero Luis (“Acho Manzi”) Manzione was born March 6, 1933, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is an elected member of SADAIC (Society of Authors and Composers in Buenos Aires) in a supervisory capacity on the auditor’s commission. He is well known as a composer of both music and lyrics of tango and folk songs. Acho is the author of tangos such as “El Ultimo Organito” (in cooperation with his late father, Homero Nicolas “Manzi” Manzione) and the lyrics for Cuarteto Cedron’s CD, Para que Vos y Yo, produced in Paris. He is also a compiler of poems dedicated to the tango and its influence in the broadcasting and film industries in Argentina. Acho has compiled the prose and short stories of his father, presented and displayed at the XXIV International Book Fair in Buenos Aires in 1998. He has worked in television production and participated in the movie Los Guardianes del Angel (2004).

He passed away July 27, 2013 R.I.P.

Posted August 5, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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Embellishments   Leave a comment

Embellishments
By Valorie Hart and Alberto Paz
Excerpt from Gotta Tango. Copyright (c) 2007-2013. All Rights Reserved

Sooner than later you will be visually attracted to the way some seasoned dancers seem to add another layer of expressiveness to their dancing. They use the whole body to interpret each piece of music, no matter which arrangement of a melody is played. What is it that they do that seems to enhance their dance?

In this book we have deliberately left out instructions on performing embellishments. However, you should know a few facts about them.

What is meant by the word embellishment? In the vernacular of the Argentine tango it is the action of adding a little something extra to the core movement of the body that produces the locomotion of the legs and feet.

Both women and men do embellishments. The addition to the core movement, the embellishing of a movement or step, is meant to be seamless. In terms of musical counts, it is movement within the main beat; it happens simultaneously within a step. As seen from the outside by someone with an uneducated eye, embellishments tend to look like the sole expression of a dancer’s legs and feet. This is an oversimplification.

Embellishments should not be “learned,” memorized, or copied. The mere replication of movements copied from an admired dancer, without a real understanding of what they mean, what they are used for, where they come from, and how they are crafted and created, will only produce insignificant and unpleasant results. Embellishments are not a just a woman’s thing to be done without context.

When the man knows how to guide and the woman knows how to be guided, and they both have a good ear for the music, each one of them may add embellishments with musical accuracy. There will be no disturbance to one another or any type of pull or vibration. Embellishments do not interfere with la marca (marking) of movements, steps, or sequences.

Unless the couple is dancing a prearranged choreography, the woman does not need to wait for the man to “give” her time if she wishes to embellish. While improvising, the woman relies on her intelligence, her ability, and her experience to know and decide if her movement corresponds to creating an embellishment. Dancers who have limited experience should be discouraged from attempting to embellish at a milonga; classes and practices are more appropriate places for acquiring technique and confidence.

Often, embellishments need and can be worked out technically and methodically. However, when it comes time to put them into action, they must be done spontaneously and appropriately. Both the individual and the couple will reflect their love and passion for the music of the Argentine tango when embellishments are created and used within the spirit of the dance.

Posted July 4, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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Tango Improvisation – Part 1   1 comment

Tango Improvisation – Part 1
The two main requirements for tango improvisation are the embrace and a clear, solid axis.

  • The man embraces the woman surrounding her upper body.
  • He forms a wedge with his right arm making contact with the elbow crease (the inner arm) on the woman’s left side
  • His forearm, the lower part of the upper limb rests firmly on her back.
  • His right hand, with fingers closed rests on the right side of her back.
  • The woman must always be on one axis, that is standing with her weight clearly on one foot.
  • Her body moves within the embrace in any direction the man upper body moves.
  • Her free leg extends and follows her body in the direction is moving in the embrace
  • Her free leg receives her body when the body stops moving, with a weight change to establish a new axis.
  • The woman step is an extension of the free leg to prevent the body from falling off axis when it is moved inside the embrace.

Creating Motion

  • The man marks a backward motion for the woman by advancing and pushing with his right elbow crease (the inner arm) on the woman’s left side.
  • The man marks a side step right to left of him by turning his upper body to his left and pushing with his right elbow crease (the inner arm) on the woman’s left side.
  • The man marks a forward step right to left of him by turning his upper body to his left and pushing with the heel of his right hand on the left side of the woman’s back.
  • The man marks a forward step left ot right of him by turning his upper body to his right and pulling with the tips of his fingers on the left side of the right side of the woman’s back.

Home position

  • This is the initial body alignment assumed at the start of the dance.
  • It is also the ending position of many patterns.
  • In many cases it acts as a period at the end of a sentence.
  • Dancers stand facing each other and embrace.
  • The man establishes his axis on his right leg and invites the woman to change her weight and set her axis on her left leg by pulling her gently with his right arm against the right side of his body.
  • The woman should feel a gentle pull on her back, inviting her to set her axis on her left leg. She brings the left side of her body into the right side of his body.
  • Her left arm should rest on the man’s right arm to establish a clear point of contact
  • Don’t leave any space between man and woman’s arms.
  • The woman needs to be aware that Home is on the right side of the man’s body.
  • The woman should expect to leave Home going into the direction of the man’s left shoulder.
  • She should also be aware that to move to the other shoulder from Home, she would use her free leg (her right).
  • The step will be an opening as her right leg separates from the left leg, reaching in the direction of the man’s left shoulder.
  • The woman will move when she is gently but firmly brought down from her left axis.
  • The man indicates his partner’s movement with a slight left rotation of his upper body.
  • His right arm applies pressure with his right elbow crease (the inner arm) on the woman’s left side to bring her to another axis.

Salida position

  • This position normally follows the Home position.
  • This position is assumed when the dancers move laterally toward the left side of the man from the Home position.
  • The man opens laterally with a slight turn of his upper body to his left, gently pushing with his right elbow crease (the inner arm) on the woman’s left side to bring her down from her axis.
  • The woman extends her right leg toward the man’s left shoulder to receive the weight of her body as it falls off the Home position axis.
  • The woman flexes her right leg and drops her right heel to establish the new axis.
  • The man transfers his weight to his left leg and elongates his upper body.
  • The woman elongates with the man’s embrace presenting her right axis to the man, and wrapping her left foot behind her right foot.

Outside right position

  • This position occurs when either dancer advances with the right leg on the right side of the other.
  • For example, from the Salida position the man walks forward with his right leg on the right side of the woman.
  • The woman extends her left leg with the weight evenly distributed between both legs.
  • The man turns his upper body to his right to face his partner, executing what we is called an inside cross, since his right leg seems to be crossed inside the couple from the woman’s perspective.
  • From the Home position, the man steps back with his left leg and brings the woman to his right side.
  • The woman steps forward with her right leg, executing an inside cross of her right leg, and keeping her body turned in to him

Here is a visual aid to help you review and practice, in preparation for your second lesson.

Please, commit concepts to mind, do not memorize feet movements, and be ready to demonstrate that you have acquired the understanding of the topics covered in this lesson.

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