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Tango is not a lead and follow dance   Leave a comment

Tango is not a lead and follow dance

A devoted tango friend is a very talented chef. We met him when we started teaching again two years after Katrina. At the time he was cooking at one of the legendary New Orleans kitchens where many of today’s internationally known chefs got started. He went on to successful experiences in Florida and North Carolina, before returning recently to New Orleans. We get together Tuesday nights at a local club on tango night, and in between tandas we exchange recipes. He tells me about healthy ways to prepare salmon and explain the differences between Argentine tango and all the lead and follow dances.He’s very good at explaining that without the roux a gumbo is just another soup. I try to explain the meaning of la marca, the quintessential ingredient of Argentine tango improvisation. La marca is a form of body communication that occurs within the embrace. The man embraces, first to protect the woman with his body, and second to carry her body in his embrace so she can move with the man NOW. A follower would move later, requiring time to figure out the “lead,” process the proper “follow,” and ordering her brain to move her body. By then the music is several beats ahead. Show me leads and follows in tango, and I’ll show you couples who are not dancing to the music, I say, giving a sweeping glance to the dance floor. Men must learn how to use la marca in order to make tango dancers out of followers.

I was thinking how my cooking skills have improved immensely because of the availability of visual aids such as videos that complement my friend’s knowledge and advice, when suddenly I remembered an early video from the mid nineties, which at the time served as an amusing parlor trick and a comic relief from the “serious trance inducing” tango dancing… I saw Carlos Gavito do the same trick at somebody’s home in the Bay Area in 1996, and at the time it didn’t strike me as being the epitome of what tango improvisation means. Even today the message is so profound that needs to be explained very slowly.
We improvise when we dance Argentine tango. All the time, except once in a blue moon when we prefer to work a rehearsed routine. The way we teach is focusing on teaching people how to think, which is one way to successful improvisation.

Not to bore you with details, here is the most clear example of how a man makes full use of la marca. The next time somebody tries to teach “leaders” and “followers” the “secrets” of the dance, ask them very politely how do the broomsticks follow.

Posted February 6, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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