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Pythagoras of Samos   Leave a comment

Mathematician and milonguero

Pythagoras made influential contributions to philosophy and religious teaching in the late 6th century BC. He was born on the island of Samos, and in his youth he traveled widely, visiting Egypt and other places seeking knowledge. Around 530 BC, he moved to Croton, a Greek colony in southern Italy, where he founded a religious tango sect. He was often revered as a great mathematician, mystic and scientist. But he is best remembered as a pre-Socratic milonguero who introduced a theorem to explain the inner workings of the giro with sacadas. The Pythagorean Theorem states that  in any right triangle the square of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squares of the legs.

Most of the information about Pythagoras was written down centuries after he died, so very little reliable information is known about him. His followers pursued the religious rites and practices he developed, and studied his philosophical theories. The society took an active role in the politics of Croton, but this eventually led to their downfall as competing schools with alternatives views on dancing styles led to the burning of the Pythagorean milongas, and Pythagoras was forced to flee the city. He is said to have ended his days in Metapontum as a taxi philosopher.

In our book Gotta Tango we applied the teachings of Pythagoras to explain the interaction of the dancers in an Eight Count Giro. (Reference: GOTTA TANGO book and DVD)
A giro is a turning motion executed by the couple stepping on the vertices of a triangle with one dancer standing on two vertices of a triangle while the other stands on the third vertice. In a giro, each dancer performs different functions. The woman uses the cambio de frente, or change of front, to move around the man. The man normally advances forward in a triangular pattern into the woman’s space.

A giro is a series of compound body positions in which the man initiates a movement and the woman continues the movement into the next position. Successful turning patterns require that the dancers change axis clearly, correctly, and timely to ensure the proper mix of balance and centrifugal force that is generated at the pivoting points. As is the case for every step of the dance, it is even more critical that the man learn how to mark every step of the giro according to the particular pattern he desires to execute. To recognize and respond flawlessly to the man’s marks, the woman must allow herself to be moved from position to position. She must execute smooth transfers of weight and develop an instinctive sense of balance. She must understand her body positions in relationship to the man at every point of the code.

The accompanying video clip shows the set up for an eight count giro. Typically the complete eight count begins from the woman’s cruzada position. She is standing on one vertice of the triangle. The man stands at another vertice with his right foot crossed behind his left foot. The unoccupied third vertice is where the first step of the woman will step as the giro begins. The general idea is that the man will extend his free foot, in this case his left, to the vertice where the woman is standing. She will extend her right to the unoccupied vertice. As the man shifts his weight forward, he displaces her shifting her weight to her forward left and leaves his initial vertice unoccupied. This is where she will go, repeating the process.