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It’s not a happy tango   Leave a comment


It’s not a happy tango

In the early days of our tango lives we often heard tales from the tango urban mythology about milonga dancing in the “old days” (a fit all phrase used by those who have no concrete evidence as to the real date when something is supposed to have happened). The one that stuck in our minds was the description of how one could tell that people were dancing milonga by the cloud of dust that could be seen from afar.

When we first saw milonga dancers in 1997, observing the use of half steps, and noticing how the knees were slightly raised bringing the foot up before stepping straight down onto the ground, we began to understand how a dust cloud could be produced by such a way to dance. To the early cliche of dancing tango the way a panther moves, we embraced the idea of dancing milonga with the spirited and brisk trot of a Clydesdale.

The milonga is a lively dance, but it is not a happy tango, as it was originally called in the US half way throughout the nineteen nineties. It is strictly an urban social dance companion to the tango without the stage baggage that accompanied the tango when it began to travel internationally. As a result of that, the popularity of the milonga seems to drop in inverse proportion to its distance from the dance halls of Buenos Aires. Most men fear the milonga while most ladies seem to love dancing it, and therein lay the conundrum of a dance that is almost a natural for “leaders and followers.”

With that in mind we occasionally offer milonga workshops, and we get good reviews from those who step up to the task. We just went through a very exhausting one and here is the summary.

The use of Half Step makes the choreography of the milonga challenging and attractive because they can adapt to the complexity of the rhythm in a seamless way.

A half step begins when the free foot is next, in front, behind, or to the side of the support foot, and it always ends with both feet together and a weight change, or change of axis.
To take a half step forward, starting with both feet together, you reach forward with one foot bringing the body to the new position putting weight on that foot. Then you move the other foot forward and bring it next to the support foot without any body movement, and change weight.
To take a half step backward, starting with both feet together, you reach back with one foot bringing the body to the new position putting weight on that foot. Then you move the other foot back and bring it next to the support foot without any body movement, and change weight.
When your feet are in an open position, you bring your feet together without any body movement, and change weight.
Half step sequences always use the same foot to advance, go back or to the side similar to the way we skip rather than how we run. A half step is generally counted as QUICK.

Half Step Sawtooth variation (0:11″)
The sequence begins on the second step of the Base, when the man steps outside right with his right foot, and the lady steps back with her left foot.
We elongate after taking the half step and then drop as the feet come together facilitating the axis or weight change and rotating to the right. Next the man takes a half step to his right into the lady’s left side. She matches by taking a half diagonal step to her left. There is elongation, drop and rotation with weight change, and the figure repeats until we exit continuing with the Base.

Full turn rocking step (0:29″)
From the cruzada position (the end of a salida simple) we rock back and forth using forward and back diagonals to make a full turn in eight counts. Observe how we take advantage of the rocking motion to add embellishments.

Double time ochos variation (0:57″)

The sequence starts from the cruzada and it modifies the resolution. After the expected forward and side, the man sends the woman into a back and matches her in a mirror position. He then begin a series of half steps led with his left foot while the woman does direction changes with her outside foot. Because of the the similarity with tango back ochos, in some unofficial jargon, sometimes the woman’s foot work is called “ochitos.”
The idea for the man is to avoid being robotic and geometric, and dancing around the woman instead to make her back steps less demanding.
At the end (1:11″) the man holds a half step, does an amague with his left and exits the sequence with second step of the salida.

Full giro with soltada (1:28″)
Once again from the cruzada position, we begin a giro to the right in cross feet. The man mirrors her first forward step with his right, as he begins an eight count circular forward step around the woman. On the woman’s fifth step, a repetition of her first forward step, the man “suelta” letting go her right arm as he continues stepping forward on hos fifth step.
Taking the mark, the woman converts her right hand giro forward steps into a left hand giro open step with her back to the man.
Next, she resumes her right hand giro by taking a back diagonal facing the man again. They’re take a forward step with their right leg for the third time, but this being count seven, the man does a check step provoking a change of direction for her. She responds by stepping with her left foot to the man’s left, recreating the cruzada position and resolving the traditional way.

At the end, there is an implied lesson, it’s better to stay away from the buffet line and spend more time on the dance floor doing milonga. Also, stop while you’re ahead before muscles and joints that had been long forgotten trigger an outburst of insanely happy feet.

Posted March 13, 2012 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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