Don’t study it, learn it   Leave a comment

Don’t study it, learn it

People who love to dance don’t study salsa, swing, or zydeco. Only in the realm of the Argentine tango a woman might announce that she will spend the next twelve months studying embellishments, and a guy would introduce himself by stating how many years he’s been studying tango. These men and women are not natives of the country that generously shares its popular dance with the rest of the world. They don’t know that Argentine tango is not to be studied, it is to be learned.

For example, the first thing to be learned is that steps are classified into three categories: openings, inside crosses, and outside crosses. They can be executed on a clockwise and counterclockwise trajectory for a total of six fundamental movements of the legs. Simply put, in tango we will always use one of these six fundamental movements to define, describe, and execute every pattern. So, it is important that you learn to identify each step as being one of these six fundamental movements. Remember that when you dance, your partner will be either to your left or to your right. When partners are to the right of each other, a forward motion of the right leg is considered an inside cross to the right because from the vantage point of your partner, your right leg seems to be crossed in front of or inside the left leg. Similarly, a back motion of the left leg is considered an outside cross to the left because from your partner’s point of view, the left leg appears as if it is crossed behind or outside the right leg.

When partners are to the left of each other, a forward motion of the left leg is considered an inside cross to the left because from the vantage point of your partner, your left leg seems to be crossed in front or inside the right leg. Similarly, a back motion of the right leg is considered an outside cross to the right because from your partner’s point of view, the right leg appears as if it is crossed behind or outside the left leg.
The remaining two fundamental movements are openings, one with the right leg and one with the left leg. Except at the beginning of the dance when the dancers choose to start with a lateral opening (side step), all lateral openings follow crosses if moving in the same direction, or another lateral opening if changing directions.

When your partner is to your right, a forward motion of the left leg becomes an opening because the leg is outside from your partner’s point of view. When your partner is to your left, a forward motion of the right leg becomes an opening because the leg is outside from your partner’s point of view. Similarly, when your partner is to your right, a back motion of the right leg becomes an opening to the left, the degree of which is determined by whether your partner is moving in the same direction as you are. Finally, when your partner is to your left, a back motion of the left leg becomes an opening to the right, the degree of which is determined by whether your partner is moving in the same direction as you are.

When walking the tango we use a very simple strategy, we take two steps, one with each leg, and then we do something else, anything but taking a third step because that would mean repeating the first step, and although that technically can be called a walk, it is not a tango walk.

The topic of this lesson is the use of this strategy to create four different sequences that link seamlessly with each other to create an apparent long sequence.
The first sequence begins at 6:00 after the man opens long to his left to clear his right leg for the first forward step. The woman opens short to her right to allow the man to be on her her right.
The man takes two forward steps and the woman takes two back steps. Then, the man brings his right foot next to his left to close, and the women brings her left over her right to cross.

The next sequence begins at 12:00 when the man marks a forward step for the woman from the cruzada position. He stays on his left axis while extending his right leg to spot the point where the woman steps forward. Then he changes her direction so her second step is forward to where she came from, and the spot he points with a forward extension of his right leg. The man begins to bring her to his left by beginning a half a turn and thus, making her do something else, i.e. an opening instead of a third forward step.

At 19:00 the man repeats his two forward steps and holds on the third, while the woman repeats her two back steps and the cross. The three sequences are repeated for your review, and then at 32:00 the fourth sequence starts from the cruzada. The man steps back twice and then opens to his left beginning a new salida.

Observe how stringing the four sequences together allows to dance around the floor in a very credible way making use of the simple strategy you learned in this lesson.
Now, forget about studying, dance what you learned.

Posted August 21, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

Walking the diagonals   Leave a comment

Walking the diagonals

We have thought many times that the phrase “Got Axis?” deserves to be emblazoned on T-shirts for tango dancers because it carries an important message: Are you capable of holding yourself balanced with your entire body weight resting on one leg? If you have waited in line at the post office, the checkout counter at the supermarket, or anywhere where you must spend long periods standing up without moving, you already know the basic skill of resting your body on one leg or taking the load off the other leg, or being on axis. As your legs get tired, your brain makes your body rest on one leg while taking the load off the other. As time passes and the leg holding the body’s weight gets tired, the brain makes the body rest on the other leg, allowing the initial leg to get a deserved rest. All of that happens without your direct intervention.

The concept of axis in tango has the same fundamental purpose: to rest the weight of your body on one leg while taking the load off the other. The underlying difference here is that instead of sinking or sitting on the load-bearing leg, you will stand up on the load-bearing leg and elongate your body. To elongate, you will take a deep breath, feeling the sensation that you are on top of your feet or on the highest step of a staircase or on top of a pedestal. As you elongate upward on the support (load-bearing) leg, the free leg will naturally hang with your upper thighs and heels touching. To properly present the axis to your partner, place the instep of the free foot against the back of the heel of the axis-bearing foot.The place where you are standing on axis at any given time is the center of an imaginary circle, which you carry with you as you move in any direction. In any instance, wherever you land at the end of a step, as you look straight ahead (your north), the half circle that lies to your left constitutes your left, or west, side. Any leg action that will favor your weight in that space would be considered a move to your left. Similarly, the half circle that lies to your right constitutes your right, or east, side, and any leg action that will favor your weight in that space would be considered a move to your right.

The half circle in front of your chest is your forward, or north, space, and the half circle behind your back is your backward, or south, space. As you learn about motion and trajectories in tango, it is important that you understand and identify the space you move to as one of four quadrants with respect to where you start from: forward right, forward left, backward right, and backward left.This demarcation of space with regard to the initial starting spot of every step is extremely critical. It helps you understand the circular nature of the dance and become acquainted with an important concept of the tango: The man makes the woman dance around him as he dances around the floor. Therefore, your partner will either be in your right or your left quadrant, never in front, and of course never behind.The dance of tango consists of walking forward or backward, and turning. Please don’t be confused by the simplicity of these concepts, but the tango is a simple dance based on a clear and logical structure.

For example, there is straight walking, and walking straight on a trajectory. When the man walks into his “north” thinking that he is dancing tango with a walk, he is actually doing the Walmart shopping cart shuffle forcing the woman to walk back with her legs open. The illusion of the crossing of the legs so characteristic of the tango is created when the man dances into his forward right, as in a salidafor example, forcing the woman to cross her left leg outside and inside her right leg. This is a consequence of the way we embrace, with the left side of the woman closer to the right side of the man. So, while the man starts facing “north” the woman is facing the man’s “southwest.” When he walks into his “northwest” so does she because her body moves in his embrace.You don’t need to know who Ionian Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras of Samos was, but it would impress your partner if you can describe the straight trajectory on which we dance the salida as a diagonal, the line that joins two nonconsecutive vertices of a polygon or polyhedron. Informally, any sloping line is called diagonal, so any trajectory with a slant or oblique direction is a diagonal.

In tango dancing, trajectory is the imaginary line that connects the starting and ending point of the couple after two steps.The following video clip for the second session of our August 2011 classes shows forward and backward walking on different diagonals. Keep in mind that the first forward step is with the right foot, and the first back step is with the left foot. From the Home or starting position, the man must open to his left in order to have a clear path for his first forward step with his right foot. That also prepares the woman to take her first back step with her left foot. A simple strategy for walking is taking two steps, one with each leg, and doing something else other than repeating the first step. In the salida, after the woman takes her two back steps, she crosses her left leg in front of her right leg with a weight change. The man has the option to do the same after his first two forward steps, or simple bring his feet together with a weight change.

At 16:00 in the video, there is another option for the third step of the man as he walks backwards: he opens to his “southwest” beginning a new salida on a different diagonal. In this case the woman neither crosses behind or bring her feet together, but opens to the man’s left shoulder. They dance repeating the sequence several times always moving on a different diagonal every time.

At 36:00, they use the first third step option with the man crossing left over right, and the woman right behind left. They proceed to alternate the third step option as they move around the dance floor always using different diagonals.

Enjoy the lesson, raise your eyes off the floor to understand trajectories, and keep on dancing more tango.

Posted August 16, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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One step at a time   Leave a comment

One step at a time

Over the years we have learned that so called fundamentals are often and wrongly associated with the things people have to do during the first couple of tango lessons. For Argentine tango dancers, fundamentals mean posture, balance, and coordination. They include, foot placement, leg elongation, and upper and lower body dissociation. The goal is to being always on axis, and dance by changing axis with precise and clear weight changes. These skills can only be acquired by not using the feet for dancing but to provide the proper support to the moving body. Only then, tango improvisation is possible. Make sure you understand that, otherwise we won’t be able to help you.

We don’t learn fundamentals today and discard them tomorrow. It bears repeating, accomplished musicians do scales. Accomplished athletes do drills. Accomplished ballet dancers do daily classes at the barre. Accomplished artists draw every day. Accomplished writers write every day. This is how we use our fundamentals. They are the tools that we use every day as tango dancers. The more experienced we become, the more our fundamentals will look so spectacular that they will not be recognized as such by the untrained eye.

After a year and a half hiatus, we have resumed teaching weekly classes in New Orleans. We will be loosely following the teachings we have left for posterity in our best selling book and DVD Gotta Tango. The concept is relatively simple, and the proposal fair. First you must get tango fit, then master technique, then approach a partner.

Here is a snapshot of the Warm Up, Fitness and Technique segment of our class led by Valorie Hart. Valorie has had the extraordinary fortune of having being drilled on fitness and technique by the likes of Graciela Gonzalez and Esther Pugliese in the early years of our partnership.

Valorie Hart leads the Warm Up, Fitness and Technique session

We had a variety of dancing experiences ranging from none to a few years. That is always a challenge, but our experience has taught us that those who apply themselves to take instruction, to understand a concept, and to challenge their bodies to execute, blur the typical lines that segregates people into arbitrary levels. We have a lot of experience handling situations like that. So for purposes of give people a way to progress at their own pace, we present a particular topic in a progressive manner.

ROOKIE

We begin with a simple three step walk with a rocking step to change direction, followed by two steps and another change of direction that ends on a cruzada (the position where the woman brings her left foot next to her right foot but on the outside of it). From the Home position (man on his right axis and the woman on her left axis),

1M. The man advances with his left leg on a slight diagonal to his left.
1W. The woman steps back diagonally with her left.

2M. The man continues with his right leg on a slight diagonal to his right as he begins to turn his upper body to his right.
2W. The woman steps back diagonally with her right allowing to begin turning to her right.

3M. The man steps forward with his left leg finishing the turning to his right, stopping with his weight on his left foot.
3W. The woman steps back with her right leg and allows to be stop with her weight on her right foot.

4M. The man rocks back into his right leg.
4W. The woman rocks forward into her left leg.

5M. The man takes a back step with his left leg bringing the woman to his right.
5W. The woman steps forward with her right leg into the right side of the man.

6M. The man steps back diagonally with his right leg turning his upper body to his right and stopping with weight on his right foot.
6W. The woman step forward with her left leg allowing her body to turn to her right and stopping with weight on her left foot.

7M. The man rocks back into his left leg and brings the right foot next to his left foot changing weight to the right foot.
7W. The woman rocks back into her right leg and turns her hip to her left sliding her left foot in front of her right foot changing weight to her right foot.

This is similar to the initial Home position except that the woman’s left foot is on the outside of her right foot. Otherwise it is similar to the Home position.

INTERMEDIATE

The previous sequence follows a salida simple replacing the typical tango close or resolution. So begin a salida simple and proceed to execute the walk with double change of direction back to cruzada, repeat the walk a couple odf times before ending with a resolution.

EXPERIENCED

We challenge the most experienced dancers by adding an elegant ending to the previous sequences. To review, the man starts a salida simple with his body facing the outer edge of the dance floor so his left arm, extended points to the imaginary line of dance. At the end of the salida (cruzada position) the man initiates a walk with double change of direction. After he takes first back step with his left leg, he begins to turn to his right with a short back step with his right while guiding the woman to take her second step to his right. As the man continues to turn to his right, he sends the woman into a back step with her outside right leg. He steps forward with left leg into the right side of the woman following her right foot. This position is equivalent to the first step of a simple salida. Finish the salida to a cruzada, and resolve with a tango close.

It is important for both men and women to “see” the trajectory that their bodies follow much in the same way you know how to get the store using one of your favorite routes. We want you to get there, not to get lost trying to remember the sequence required to turn or to step on the gas. If you avoid looking at the floor and don’t insist on memorizing the “steps,” not only you will soon be enjoying your new skills, but you’ll be the kind of dancer who can really benefit from our book and DVD Gotta Tango.
Enjoy your practice and dance more tango.

Next window, please   Leave a comment

Next window, please

If you or people you know are looking to experience the DRAMA. The PASSION. The LOVE. The HATE!

If you are hot to learn the best INTENSE FACIAL EXPRESSIONS to wear while you FLING and SPIN!

If you want the dance floor to CLEAR for YOU, yes YOU, so you will be the ONLY ONE THERE, the STAR of the show!

If you want onlookers to narrow their eyes, sneer and scoff because they are JEALOUS of your cool tricks and flicks!

Sorry, next window please…

To say that we are excited with the way the Thursday Argentine tango sessions are shaping up, would be a major understatement. Really. Can’t tell if the moon is in the seventh house and Mercury aligns with Mars, but it really feels like 2001 again…

Fundamentals are not something we learn today and then discard tomorrow. Accomplished  musicians do scales. Accomplished athletes do drills. Accomplished ballet  dancers do daily classes at the barre. Accomplished artists draw every day.  Accomplished writers write every day. This is how we use our fundamentals.  They are the tools that we use every day as tango dancers. The more experienced we become, the more our fundamentals will look so spectacular that they will not be recognized as such by the untrained eye.

Our classes will be 2 hours long. Every week we will begin with a Warm up, Fitness and Technique period led by Valorie with me assisting. Then, we’ll introduce a particular aspect of technique which will be pertinent to the topic chosen for the evening’s lesson.

Tango is the ultimate touch dance between a man and a woman. It is a safe form for experiencing human connection three minutes at a time. It is an exercise in mutual respect and consideration for both partners as they both embark on a journey that requires full participation and cooperation from both ends of the partnership. No partner needed. Multiple lesson pass don’t expire unless we do first.

ARGENTINE TANGO
with Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart
Lelia Haller Dance Arts
4916 Canal St., New Orleans, LA

STARTS THIS THURSDAY, AUGUST 4, 2011

8 pm – 10 pm

$15 per person, $25 per pair.
5 lesson pass $50 per person, $90 per pair

For more information, 504.535.3614, or email, planet.tango@gmail.com

Keep going around until we stop   Leave a comment

Keep going around until we stop

Regardless of how many styles develop and how much people may try to modify the tango dance, the structure of the dance based on the concept of giros (turns) will always be a fundamental point of reference for understanding changes and what’s being changed.
A giro begins as soon as the man stops moving along with the woman. Therefore the woman must dance continuously with the intention of going around the man. In other words, the woman dances around the man, and the man dances around the floor. As soon as a giro begins two new body positions are used by the dancers, Right breast in, and Left breast in. 

Right Breast in
This position, as its name indicates, refers to the position of one partner’s right breast in reference to the center of the chest of the other partner. It is found during the process of turning around each other. For the most part, the woman’s right breast is aligned with the center of the man’s chest. The right-breast-in position occurs on a clockwise turn when the woman steps forward with an inside cross of her right leg. The right-breast-in position occurs on a counterclockwise turn when the woman steps back with an outside cross of her left leg.

Left Breast in
This position, as its name indicates, refers to the position of one partner’s left breast in reference to the center of the chest of the other partner. It is found during the process of turning around each other. For the most part, the woman’s left breast is aligned with the center of the man’s chest. The left-breast-in position occurs on a counterclockwise turn when the woman steps forward with an inside cross of her left leg. The left-breast-in position occurs on a clockwise turn when the woman steps back with an outside cross of her right leg.

Anatomy of the Giro
A giro is a turning motion executed by the couple. In a giro, each dancer performs different functions. The woman uses the change of front, to dance around the man. There are two major categories of giros. One happens when the man remains at the center of the woman’s circular trajectory around him. The other one happens when the man steps into the woman’s trajectory, trading places with her by moving into her space and displacing her into the space where he was.

In this workshop the topic is one of many ways to exit the giro to the right on the fourth count of the eight count giro. The figure begins as always from a salida to cruzada, and the giro to the right begins in the parallel system for three counts the woman going through the code (forward-side-back). On the fourth count, the man advances with his right foot but quickly brings his left foot together and changes weight. Then he backs with his right foot, while marking the woman a change of direction to his left.

The summary of the entire 2-1/2 workshop follows…

Second Workshop of 2011 by Alberto and Valorie

A complete primer on the anatomy of giros as well as the structure of the Argentine tango dance can be read in the Gotta Tango book and DVD available HERE.

Posted February 25, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

The art of improvisation   Leave a comment

Dancing on a crowded floor

Over the years, it has become natural to find dancing opportunities all over the world. For those who travel, it is an extra benefit to be able to connect with a local tango community at almost any destination, whether it is in the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and even Buenos Aires.

The experience varies whether the travelers are a couple, or single men and women. Couples have a slight advantage in terms of dancing, because if anything else fails, they have each other, so they can dance to their hearts content. Single men have to deal with an unknown group of women, and their experiences will vary according to their social skills, and to a certain extent, their ability to dance with any stranger. Single women fair the hardest task, since they have to deal with the idiosyncrasies and protocols of the local community, having to balance their desire to dance with the uncertainties of how to meet their objectives.

Our experience has taught us that being schooled in the improvisational aspect of the Argentine tango is a major plus to be able to dance as a “single” or as a couple at any place and with anybody on the spur of the moment, under any floor conditions, and to any selections being played by the local music person.

The benefits of improvisation

Improvising a meal is a feat that most people relish when on a short notice a bunch of friends or associates drop by to visit. Imagine how difficult it would be to improvise a meal if upon opening the kitchen cabinets you were to find them empty or containing only a box of instant mashed potatoes.

By definition, to improvise is to invent on the spur of the moment.

Similar to being able to improvise a great meal by making good use of a very well stocked cupboard, the tango dancer can improvise a great dance by putting to good use a comprehensive set of navigational patterns.

“What has navigation to do with tango dancing?” some people might think. “Just give me the gancho. Show me how to swing the leg. If you can lead it, I can follow.”

Indeed, there is a lot of confusion after more than 15 years and thousands of hours of classes at every possible level and location. The concept of tango improvisation and how it relates to circulation on the dance floor is overlooked because of the insatiable appetite of those who continue to accumulate figures and steps out of context, for the sake of keeping their interest in dancing alive. Step collecting is the hobby of the “lead and follow” set.

In its simplest form, the Argentine tango has kept generation after generation of tango dancers interested by the mere fact of spending hour after hour, three minutes at a time, holding each other close while navigating the dance floor to the sound of the music.

In its most complex form, the Argentine tango continues to keep generation after generation of tango dancers interested by the simple reason of holding each other close while circulating on the dance floor at the sound of the music.

Given the choice of knowing lots of steps and patterns and recognizing lots of tangos and orchestras, the tango dancer always chooses the latter, because the nature of the music dictates the kind of tango that will be danced. The symphonic renditions of Osvaldo Pugliese may call for deliberate pauses to smell the roses, to blend the inhaling and exhaling of life from our lungs with the invisible sway of bodies in place. The precise beat of Carlos Di Sarli may invite for window shopping, brief side trips through softly lit back alleys before returning to the main road for a happy stroll under the stars.

To improvise on the dance floor men and women must be aware of what is required from each of them individually, and what are the elements that each must contribute to make the improvisation a shared experience, and a great one at that. The universality of these requirements and elements would make it possible for men and women to dance at ease with anybody on any crowded dance floor anywhere in the world.

The mans’ role

The primary responsibility for the man is to carry the woman in his embrace in a comfortable and safe way around the floor. He must be aware of the motion of other dancers, the conditions of the dance floor, and the particular music being played. To circulate around the floor he must have complete control of the woman’s movements. He must be ready to react to sudden interruptions in the flow of the line of dance in front and behind him. He must be ready to handle unexpected changes of direction dictated by the presence of obstacles, or by the actions of other dancers. If this sound much like what a driver has to be aware of to go from point A to point B, it is because navigating the dance floor is similar to moving in heavy traffic. However, while you may drive an automobile and take good care of arriving at your destination without any scratches or bumps to the shiny metal, tango dancing for the man is about taking care of a precious human being that has trusted her safety and movements to him.

As the couple in the embrace, imagine the two of you carrying a tray loaded with a priceless crystal set. The four extremities that support the precious cargo become critical to insure a smooth journey and an enjoyable ride. Dancing with our bodies becomes natural as we concentrate on the embrace and let our legs follow our bodies providing at all times the proper support and the shock absorbing effect that makes our bodies move in a smooth, elegant, sensual, and playful way.

It is the man’s responsibility to know how to move his partner with clear weight changes to insure that at least three feet are on the ground at all times, except on those situations when one of dancers stands on one leg (support) in order to embellish with the other (free) leg. For the man this includes flicks, back displacements, kicks and hooks. Before engaging in the execution of any of these figures, he must insure that his partner is solidly grounded with her legs open and both feet on the ground.

To be able to move his partner, the man must be solidly grounded, that is, his weight must be allowed to rest on the support leg. Moving your partner does not mean pushing and shoving with your arms or chest like you would a shopping cart. It is the motion of the upper body around the support hip that creates the necessary torque to bring the woman off balance from one leg to the other one, provoking her displacement from her initial balanced position to a new balanced state at the end of the displacement. Standing firmly on his axis, the man should be able to provoke a movement of his partner forward, backwards or laterally in a circular manner making her dance around him. When the dance floor really gets crowded, this skill is priceless because it allows for great dancing in short circular trajectories while still being able to improvise all kinds of patterns in heavy traffic, without banging your partner against objects or other dancers around you.

The woman’s role

The concept of the role of the woman in the tango is perhaps the most difficult to define and the hardest to grasp because it is haunted by contradictions. On the average, every woman has had a “bad man” in their lives, or know somebody who has. The way society is structured, women are at a disadvantage in that they need to try twice as hard to obtain half of the benefits that men get in just about every aspect of life. To make things worse, just about every other form of partner dancing requires that a woman follow, that she be on her proverbial toes to follow, that she allows to be dehumanized and called a follow, that she be stripped of a full participation in the dance, and that she considers herself proud to be a follower, and a good one at it.

Not so in the Argentine tango where equality and mutual respect are fundamental. In tango we trust. The first thing a woman must trust is herself. She must acquire posture and balance in order to allow her partner to have total control of her movements, while she uses her technique to respond to motion with clear weight changes finishing each displacement comfortably balanced on her axis.

Her upper body must be quiet and relaxed to be able to receive the changes of direction marked by her partner. Her waist must be loose so her legs don’t fly in response to alignments of the upper body. Her legs must be firmly on the ground at all times except when her partner puts her on one leg in anticipation of a leg flick, a hook, a sweep, etc. She needs to understand that her free leg moves in response to the man’s actions, so therefore she must complete all weigh changes in such a way that her upper body can rotate on the grounded hip. The free leg moves in a relaxed way in response to the rotation of the hip, much as a protractor that has a pointed needle that pierces the paper which allows for a rotation on the axis of the needle to provoke a smooth drawing by the pencil attached at the other end.

These concepts grouped under the heading of essential techniques for men and women are the subject of our Tango Barre and Tango Bar sessions for women and men respectively, and embedded in every workshop we teach around the country.They are thoroughly discussed and explained in our best selling book and DVD GOTTA TANGO. It is embedded in every class, lesson and workshop we have been teaching since 1996.

As masters of tango improvisation, our goal is to empower women and men to dance with freedom, on the spur of the moment, anywhere, at any time, with any partner. For that, you have to be there when we do it.

Posted February 13, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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Tangled Up? Just Tango On   Leave a comment

No mistakes in the tango, not like life. Simple, that’s what makes tango so great. You make a mistake… get all tangled up… just tango on.
—Al Pacino as “Lt. Colonel Frank Slade,” Scent of a Woman
 

Tangled Up? Just Tango On
By Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart.
Published with permission courtesy of GOTTA TANGO. Have you bought your copy from us yet?

There is a point in everybody’s dancing experience where one truly begins to understand how Argentine tango dancing is about two people embraced and moving in unison around the dance floor, led by the rhythm and the melody of the music. Circulating around the floor is an acquired skill; it combines timing, balance, and improvisational skill. The man who works the conditions of the dance floor to his advantage is the one whom some female dancers generally (and mistakenly) refer to as a good “lead.” That is not a compliment in Argentine tango. To the contrary, a man who “leads” may be lacking the confidence and knowledge of the dance to take on the full responsibility of managing the craft demanded by the conditions of any dance floor. He may rely on another person, generally referred to by the dehumanizing term follow, to guide him around the floor. A good tango dancer is a bailarin de tango who works the conditions of the dance floor to his advantage.

The Argentine tango dance is the intimate meeting of two people, each one fully acquainted with his or her role and fully equipped with solid technique and a deep understanding of the structure of the dance. It is not a reflection of a struggle for gender supremacy or fierce competition of oneupmanship.
It is not a place for selfishness, conflicts, and mind games. It is an unspoken covenant to respect each other, work together, and contribute equally to the requirements that the dance expects from each role. One of the most important components of the man’s role is to use his body and his choice of trajectories to protect his partner from injury by reckless dancing—his own and the others’. Here are some important tips for the women: The male tango dancer is not there as a pleasure and trance supplier. Having fun does not include demanding specific steps, forcing particular styles, or using him as a post to engage in self-indulgent leg flicking.

We keep emphasizing the improvisational aspects of the tango dance because it removes the shackles that learning memorized patterns places on the legs and the arms of beginning dancers. Dancing tango is about freedom to express with our bodies and our emotions the very special feelings that every tango induces in us. It takes two—as in the two of us, you and me, you and him, you and her, together as partners, with the confidence to enjoy the dance on each other’s own merits, according to our level of proficiency.

In tango we trust. We trust that the man will protect his partner and dance with full understanding of the structure of the dance and the options available to him in terms of improvising for navigation. We trust that the woman will let herself be taken around the floor in an embrace that provides her motion and allows her legs to perform the important roles of supporting her balance on axis and decorating and embellishing with tasteful footwork.

Posted January 4, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango