Archive for the ‘Tango lessons’ Tag

Turning is something else   Leave a comment

Turning is something else

In 1889 Mark Twain wrote in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: “she was wise, subtle, and knew more than one way to skin a cat”, that is, more than one way to get what she wanted. This proverb, which suggests there are always several ways to do something, applies to the ways we teach people how to dance tango. Argentine tango is not just another social dance. It cannot be learned in one evening or a series of one evenings. It cannot be faked on the dance floor. You either know how to dance it or you don’t. Its historical and cultural context makes an intriguing and rich counterpoint in the learning process. Its music and poetry, in the form of lyrics, are unique and powerful. No other music sounds like this, and no other dance looks like the Argentine tango. Anything else is a version of choreographed ballroom lead and follow dancing. Some call it empty geometry, organized chaos, or a zipless tango.

Our success in developing good social tango dancers relies in the belief when you listen, hear, and process what we say in class and what we wrote in our book Gotta Tango, you learn the same way you have learned many other things that require coordination and knowing what you are doing. You probably forgot how you learned to use the gas and brake pedals in your car, but you go around in your car every day without having to call somebody every time you get in your car to asking him or her to show you “one more time how and when to move the feet in order to stop and go.”

During the new session started on the first week of August, we have been working with one of the rules that are embedded in the structure of the dance. The idea of taking two steps and doing something else. The two steps in question are either both forward or back, one with each leg. Something else so far has been crossing the feet, closing the feet, or opening the feet.

In this lesson we show that after taking two forward steps, one with each leg, something else is taking two back steps, one with each leg. This leads to another rule that is embedded in the structure of the dance. The woman dances around the man, while the man dances around the floor. As soon as the man stops, the woman goes around the man. She goes around by virtue of taking two forward steps one, with each leg, two back steps, one with each leg. If nothing changes, she would continue walking endlessly around the man like a windmill. Every time she takes a back step after the two forward steps, she is doing a change of front or cambio de frente. That is she turns herself around as she continues to advance in the same direction. As she does that on a curved trajectory around the man, the figure sometimes is called a media luna.

Observe at the 9″ mark that after starting with a simple salida, the woman takes two forward steps, one with the leg inside or closer to the man, and another with the outside leg or farther from the man. To mark and match her movement, the man takes two back steps, one with the outside leg, farther from her, and another on a diagonal, turning to her, with the inside leg or closer to her.

At the 14″ mark, the man brings his feet together (something else) while the woman takes a back step with the outside leg (something else) to the left side of the man. The man changes weight in place while she takes her second back step inside. As a result of the man staying in the same place, the woman’s second step is a wide back diagonal that places her body back on the right side of the man, at the same exact body alignment as the beginning of the sequence.

At 15″ initial two step sequence repeats, and at 19″ the man does something else, he interrupts the turn, he rocks back to his left foot, marking a similar rocking step for the woman to her right foot. The man closes right to left while the woman crosses left over right. This is a back alley Sally to get back to the cruzada position. The sequence resolves to the resolution.

The rest of the clip shows us dancing from various angles the linked sequences, salida simple to cruzada, media luna, turn with interruption, cruzada, resolution.

There is a very comprehensive Glossary at the end of our book, and you can have a look HERE.

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.