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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In Favor of The 8 Count Basic (especially the "dreaded" backstep) as a Learning/Teaching Tool

After a great deal of thought and consideration I have come to the conclusion that the 8 count basic is an extremely valuable tool in the teaching/learning of tango, ... Why?

  • The basic gets the students used to many of the basic elements used in tango;  forward step, backstep, sidestep, weight change in place, and the cruzada in one easily remembered secquence. (4 four steps, plus the cross if you are counting).
  • It also teaches countrabody positioning needed when the leader walks outside the follower.
  • Followers are not learning the proper technique for taking a linear forward step because most teachers leave the "dreaded backstep" out, while using the rest of the learning figure. (position/step 1)(examples of common faults could be failure to take a full sized step or stepping with weight on the ball of the foot first rather than using the heel to center weight over the entire foot)(of course in reality most front steps taken by followers will be circular around the axis of the turn, nevertheless, good technique is required and you must walk before you run).
  • Leaders need to respect the personel space of the couple in front of them in the rhonda by giving them enough room to take one medium sized step an any direction (especially a back step,  following too closely is the single worst floorcraft error that any leader can make, in my opinion).
  • Followers need to learn to trust the leader, even if they do something "wrong" (like going against the line of dance), and to go where he takes them, after all the leader has the responsibility of navigating and managing the movement of the couple, and this is very difficult without the trust of the follower.(and it makes things much easier if moves such as follower sacadas are asked for by the leader).
  • The 8 count is very useful for musical phrasing (most phrases fit into this format easily).
  • Followers must learn the feeling of the lead for a weight change in place (step/position 8 without any side motion) (note that many teachers will use the 8 count basic eliminating the first/back step and that by doing this they eliminate the need for step 8 the change weight in place step and effectively teaching a 6 count basic, or possibly a 7 count basic if they substitute a weight change for the back step)( I suppose that a weight change at step  8 and at step 1 would make the the count back to an 8 count).
  • Followers and leaders need to realize that the sidestep can take only 1/2 of a full count, and that during the step the feet must brush the weight bearing foot. (position/step 1-2 and 2-3).
  • Followers should be taught that when the leader is outside of the follower to the right (as he is in position 2) that a cross will occur after the next step unless the leader walks through (blocks)  the cross (yes I do believe that the cross should be led, however for the brand new follower this lead can be very subtle and is a somewhat unnatural thing to do as it is almost never done outside of the tango.  The basic "gets the follower used to" crossing and teaches how to follow this very subtle lead, it also teaches the leader the necessary skills to lead a linear cross)(as opposed to a circular cross as used in the ocho cortada). 
  • Leaders need to learn to recognize the many possibilities that exist from each of the positions in order to learn to effectively improvise and navigate. (for example from position 5 after the weight change they might lead the follower to take a circular front step around them clockwise to create a turn or front ocho to the closed side, or from position 7 they might lead a circular front step counter clockwise around them to create a turn or ocho to the open side).
  • Leaders need to learn how to translate from linear movement to circular motion.  (for example by modifying step 1 from straight back to a crossing step behind the standing leg they can create a circular lead with very little disassociation of the upper body). 
  • When leaders start learning to improvise away from the basic it very strongly teaches the followers not to anticipate the next movement (even though they know what is coming next, they will learn to wait until the lead is given before rushing through, this is in reality the nature of following and part of the very character of tango...lead comes before, and waits for, follow).
  • For the followers of the "matrix" line of thought it can be done on either side proving the therory that what can be done on one side of the embrace can also be done on the other side (with added difficulty due to the dynamics of the assymetrical embrace, this is a lesson in itself)

Leaders should also be taught to switch between crossed and parallel systems while doing the basic by taking extra steps without leading them and by leaving steps out while leading them.  It is equally important that all students are taught the walking as well as the turning phases of the dance as well, in both crossed and parallel systems.

It is very important that when showing the students how to do some movement that they are shown from which position of the basic that the movement starts (in this way the student learns that this is a point at which they may start to improvise, with the desired effect that they eventually realize that this basic contains most of the possible positions, and think of the positions as the main goal of using the basic as a tool) They should also  be given two or more options from every position even if only one is to be used to produce the figure that they are learning at the moment.

It is also helpful to teach the student to curve and vary the steps of the basic at some point so that they realize that they are not locked into some sort of invisible grid and that they are in control of where the steps they lead take them (this will serve to begin to teach navigation, the single most important role of the leader.)

Students should be drilled over and over again that the basic is a teaching/learning tool only and that it should Never    be used in the rhonda.  (this gets the leader started improvising right away.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Same Place... Different Milonga (Practica)....Tango as it is Danced in Baires

How is Tango danced in Buenos Aires...well, it depends on which night you go,

and in the same fact in the same room...

videos above were found here along with many videos of various milongas in BsAs as well as a great number of sights worth visiting there(click on uploads... there are 409 videos at the time of this post)

by these people (seems to be a very good resource if you are travelling to Baires)

And from a different source (this is what I found when I visited this location in 2009 The most traditional milonga I have ever seen...also the sweatiest)

(Notice that the music remains traditional from video to video)

El Tango Es Uno!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

One Degree of Flexibility

The human knee joint has one degree of flexibility, that is to say that it only bends in one direction (straight back from the way that the foot is pointed).  It does not rotate without injury (ask my "ski knee").

This is the reason that I advocate keeping your feet parallel with each other and with the direction of travel (in a line or curve) during the tango walk as if you were walking with skis strapped to your feet) it is also important that the steps be straight back or forward, as if you were stepping on the tracks made by two such skis...or on two small railroad tracks running beside each other (this idea works better than the ski track analogy when you think of the tracks during a turn)(pivot completely to achieve this) (in other words one should never cross their own center when walking even in a turn) , as opposed to stepping back or forward onto one such track as if stepping on  a balance beam.  Consider this... if your foot is turned out and you place weight on the ball of your foot (as followers should do initially while transferring weight to the extended leg during a back step) the axis of your body is now at the outside of the leg rather than the inside because of the turnout.

There is a lot of talk about use of  "Natural Foot Turnout". This technique sends a conflicting signal to the brain because the foot is pointed in a different direction than the line of travel (this applies to followers as well as leaders).  It also sends  improper feedback to the leader as to the direction that your knee will bend and the direction that your body wants to go naturally (without using extra muscles to achieve the walk).  Ones foot should always be pointed in the expected, or the led direction of travel (don't worry followers navigation is the responsibility of the leader and he will correct it with a pivot if needed but that's one more thing for him to think about
...if you catch my drift) (read as... I have enough to think about without having to steer a shopping cart with a wobbly wheel) .

Try this exercise:
Take a back step using "Foot Turnout" (if the feet were side by side they would form a "\/") transfer your weight to the extended foot completely (do not hold a twist in your core or hip) and then bring the feet side by side and completely relax your body...chances are (if you followed the directions for the exercise) you will end up facing in a new direction (the same direction that the weighted foot is pointed).
Now try the same back step keeping the feet parallel and pointed with the direction of travel (||) (you will remain with the direction of travel when the feet are together).

Another exercise:
Stand with the feet completely parallel to each other... place weight completely on one leg and bend the unweighted leg at the knee...It will point straight behind you.
Now stand with feet together heels touching and let the feet form a "\/" (foot turnout),  When you bend the unweighted leg at the knee it will not point straight back, but will point across your center line (a little extra weight  to counteract against in you struggle to maintain your axis) Can you feel the bend in you spine that this creates?

One more:
Stand with heels together and exaggerate turnout (make the angle maybe 120 degrees or more), now put all of your weight on the ball of one foot (keeping the heels together), transfer all of your weight to the ball of the free leg and notice how far that your center must move to accomplish the transfer.  Now try the same thing with no turnout,  this will require far less movement of your center to achieve the same weight transfer (believe me, this is a good thing).

 Leaders may (and should) use this principle to navigate, by positioning their feet in the intended direction of their next move or perpendicular to the intended direction of the follower (in the case of a side step...they should also preposition their feet if necessary to present the back of the knee in a certain orientation (think ganchos, liner boleos, back boleos, leg wraps, etc...).   I personally use prepositioning to the maximum extent possible and only pivot on my own axis when necessary, or for effect.(planeos, needles, enrrosques,changes of directions...etc...).   As a side note I will use a lead for pivot to the follower, she must continue to pivot as long as the lead to pivot is still being given by the leader (thus making over rotation possible), and complete the pivot before the moving leg passes the weighted leg (because when the moving leg passes the weighted leg the pivot stops...) Try it.

Feel free to express your own point of view with a comment.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Guaranteed Way to Get More Dances at a Milonga (The Paparazzi Method)

It's very simple really...Smile. Smile when you are dancing, smile when aren't, laugh at yourself, laugh at life.

Do this experiment for yourself...look up photos of people dancing online, facebook, whatever...look for people you don't know.... that you would like to dance with, most of the time they will be smiling...look for photos of people that are not dancing, often they will not be smiling. Smiling often just makes people more approachable!

We have all seen photographs of ourselves and if we aren't smiling, many times we will cringe at our own image and wonder why the photographer took such an unflattering image of us, guess what, it's our own fault for not putting our best forward as often as possible. Pretend that someone is just waiting to take secret photos of you while you are at the milonga (Tango Paparazzi), sell yourself to the public.  The paparazzi method I've described will also help you with other very important concepts in Tango as well, things like posture, step technique, etc...

Smiling can actually change your mood. So put a smile on, even if you don't feel like it, and pretty soon you'll be smiling for real.  (Fake It 'Til you Make It!)

When looking for a partner to cabeceo, this is very high on my list.  I'm sure I'm not the only one.  I want my partner to smile, it reflects well on my dancing ability.  And I've seen photos of people dancing and making almost painful facial expressions, no one wants to dance with a sourpuss.

I know, Tango is serious business, and some of the lyrics are well...depressing, but believe me it works.

You don't have to grin like the Cheshire cat, but you can!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Most Important Skills You Need to Learn About Tango.

"To be a social dancer, one in fact has more to learn about people than what one has to learn about tango."~PAUL YANG

Pauls blog

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bad Technique

Bad technique is still bad, no matter where you do it or what you call it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Traffic Jams

While leading I will try and stay halfway between the couple in front of me and the couple behind me in the line of dance with varying degrees of success, here's why...

Traffic Jam Illustration

Remaining halfway between two couples works when the line of dance is moving fast, slow, or even if it is stop and go.

The main causes for traffic jams in the line of dance are; leaders who follow too close behind the couple in front of them (tailgating), leaders who lag too far behind the couple in front of them (people doing patterns instead of truly improvising).

If the leader behind me is too close I will sometimes switch lanes (if there is room to do so) and let him follow the couple in front of me too close, then switch back to fall in behind the tailgater (there is almost always a lot of room behind this dork).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Foot Technique for Followers

I recently visited a practica in a small community where at least half of the followers present were dancing with weight on the balls of their feet exclusively (never using their heels at all). I'm not sure if this was due to someone teaching this poor technique or if they had just picked up the habit and the instructor/s there hadn't noticed. Many of these followers were dancing in flats (I assume this was because they were thinking that the heels were causing them foot pain and wanted some relief during the practica). The shoes are bad enough (I don't see how followers wear them at all) but they have heels for a reason: the heels are meant to be used to help support your weight while walking backwards by helping you maintain your balance and axis (thus taking maybe forty percent of the pressure off of the delicate metatarsals of the supporting foot).

Here is an exercise that everyone should try in order to demonstrate why this is such a bad practice: Stand naturally with your feet together and shift your weight forward so that your weight is totally on the balls of the feet, transfer weight to one side so that your weight is totally on the ball of one extend the free leg back as if you are going to take a back step without transferring any weight to the free leg without using the heel, now try a forward extension without transfering any weight (I think that almost everyone will have real difficulty doing this). Now bring the feet together and shift your weight back so that your weight is evenly distributed along the entire length of one foot from heel to toes, now...once again extend the free leg backwards in preparation for a back step, now try the front extension...Isn't this much easier to accomplish with proper technique?!

Leaders need to be aware of this and bring the followers weight onto the ball of her feet before leading pivots (very easily done, and this will happen without much conscious thought after the technique is practiced properly for awhile).

One of the followers at this practica has been dancing longer than I have, and I have to say that she danced quite well (although I could tell right away that something was wrong when I danced with her). When I explained my position she told me that her reason for doing this was that she had been caught with her weight back on her heels many times, and she was trying to avoid this by keeping her weight forward. (see the note to leaders above).

I hope this helps someone, does anyone have any thoughts or reactions after trying the demonstration above? I would love to hear from you.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Exercise for Good Tango Posture

This is a great exercise for posture improvement, concentrating on the shoulders (95% of non professional dancers need improvement in this area).

Give it a shot, it's really almost painless. (One of the things Tango dancers notice most about people is their posture, this holds true when deciding who to dance with...just saying).

The goal is too eliminate hyperkyphosis (excessive outward curvature of the spine in the thorax region) this is why I encourage people to open their rib cage upward.

It is also important to keep your head centered "on top of" your axis rather than "in front of",or "behind" your axis.

I do not agree with her idea that the hips should be tucked in! ( for examples of proper posture please search Youtube for videos of the most accomplished tango followers or leaders...i.e. Marina Montes, Geraldine Rojas,...etc...     I believe that the hips should be held back slightly to create a space between partners hips and feet and allow for a bent standing leg rather than locked knees and no room at the hips and below (please notice that the hips should be held back slightly, this does not imply any bending at the waist, rather it allows for and accentuates the natural curve of the spine.

For more on posture see
Tango Posture Imagery

and Movement Invites Movement (blog)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

If You Really Want to Know Tango...

If you want to know must go to the Tango.

Give your partner everything (Don't hold back or dance half heartedly...Emotions are a good thing in Tango.)

Listen to Tango Music.  (The better you know it, the better your dancing will become.)

Learn about the Lyrics.  (This will change the way you dance.)

Understand the Culture.  (It is different from yours...more often than not.)

Follow the Codicos.  (They were developed over a long period of time and are there for good reason.)

Dance to Tango Music.  (Something is lost when Tango is danced to non-tango music.  It is fun from time to time to dance to alternative music but not if it is done too often.)

Step Outside of your Comfort Zone.

'Respect the roots... so they don't die'

Friday, July 23, 2010

Not for Unsteady Souls

“You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not for unsteady souls.” -Merce Cunningham

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


What is Chamuyo? (pronounced; Shamooshow)

Roughly translated it is...well... Bullshit.

It is a bit of tradition in Tango that during cortinas (interludes between the songs of a tanda) or after every tanda, that you say something to you partner that enhances their experience. For example a compliment on their dancing or the way they look. I really like the idea that it is expected of everyone to make sure that you say something positive to the person that you are sharing this sensual experience with.

I really noticed this during my trip to BA...The women there went out of their way to try and compliment me...even though more often than not we did not speak the same language...Kind of cool!

Is this lying...or a bad thing, No... you can always find something nice to say to anyone if you look for the positive...It's just a way of being nice, and making it your responsibility to make sure that everyone has a pleasant experience.

Last weekend, after a tanda I received a fantastic compliment...The woman I was dancing with asked me where I had learned to dance, and I told her that I had mostly learned in Colorado from the local teachers and from the festival instructors that came through town... Her response was that I didn't dance like most of the Denver leaders...That I danced more like they do in Buenos Aires...Well this really made me feel fantastic, and for me was the highlight of the evening even though I had had many incredible tandas that night.

Was she Bullshitting me?? Who cares!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

San Pugliese (Saint Pugliese)

"In the hard-core of Tango, Osvaldo inhabits the axis.  He's the hard stuff.  A 12 year old single malt as opposed to a cooler...If he is an acquired taste, that alone indicates how deep into Tango people are..."

Keith Elshaw

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Tango Tales

I recently came across a very interesting website, on which can be heard a Tango oriented Internet radio/podcast site.

I have so far only listened to a couple of the archived broadcasts available at that site, here is one that I really enjoyed.

How People Dance

This is broadcast in three tracks including both commentary on the subject as well as some great musical interludes totaling about 50 minutes and can be listened to, or downloaded.

The rest of the archives can be found here

Tango Tales

Follow the links for even more great stuff on this site.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Random Thoughts from Tango Festivals

Square corners on dance floors really help the dancers maintain their lanes, Oval, round, or odd shaped floors make it difficult to establish and maintain inner lanes.

Why do women dance with that old hack dancer that doesn't know what he is doing after all these years? Are they that desperate?

People need time to get from one venue to another.

A person should be able to sign up for a whole tract or for all of the lessons with one particular teacher/teachers and not be limited to a small number of classes with that instructor (first come first served).

The rubber band (Lance Armstrong style) wrist bands are comfortable, can be removed over the weekend and give participants a sovounier to keep. The plastic wristbands are the next best thing, tags and badges are the worst. Although it is nice to be able to see someones name that you are unfamiliar with as often happens at festivals.

Gorrilla style events require adaquete transportation arranged in advance, it's not cool to find out that you can not attend something because the bus is full.

Outside events need backups in case of weather or sheltered dancing very nearby, transportation is a must.

It is cool to give participants a package with maps, directions, convenient restaruants and things to do near your events, as well as attractions in the area.

Keep on top of small things at venues heating/air conditioning, water, adequate seating, use hallways for snacks etc... rather than create problems with the dance floor.

Seating should be arranged so that everyone isn't getting on the floor in the same area, this creates huge traffic problems and can really distroy floor craft, (Denver could use some help with this concept)

Women leaders (not all, but most, generaly speaking) need to pay more attension to floor craft, watch out for these (even the really good ones don't seem to get the lane idea)

I personally feel that it is ok for women to ask men to dance at festivals, it's also ok to say no for any, or no reason.

When you are sitting next to someone, just ask them to dance, no need for silly games

The dance floor should be ready to dance on before the milonga starts no slick spots or sticky areas.

Floor Wax and Tango do not mix (same goes for talc on the floor) you can't dance on "ice".

Non Tango people that you stay with may not understand your Vampire like Tango ways, so be prepared to explain in advance late hours and the need for sleep. Make sure they are cool with it before hand.

Most dance floors can support more than just an outside lane and every one should try to use inside lanes as well as the outside lane to alleviate congestion (I've been to to many milongas where everyone is dancing on the outside lane and it's to crowded to move) contrary to popular belief the best dancers don't only dance in the outside lane.

Using the center of the floor for "spot type" dancing only works if the floor is relatively square, if the room is long and narrow the center of the floor should be avoided (to much risk of collision with dancers that are moving.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Stay Off the Paint, Fool!

While dancing at the recent Denver festival there was one leader at almost every Milonga I attended that really got my attention. This guy was a menace and I don't know who he is, or where he is from but he, single handedly, disturbed the entire dance floor every time he danced.

Obviously he was fairly new and I hold nothing against beginners (after all everyone is one for a time) but this guy didn't have a clue about floor craft. It's pretty clear that he was never told that if you are in a lane you will (for the most part) be (more or less) behind another couple on the dance floor. He was between lanes every single time that I saw him, and It took about five minutes to figure out that he was a hazard to shipping.

This leader was looking for a clear path and to him I think that meant look for empty space in front of you, WRONG.

The clear path indicates that you are between lanes. Someone on a motorcycle can move through street traffic pretty quick if they drive on the paint, but sooner or later they will be maimed or killed for their arrogance (if only the penalties were the same in Tango).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Denver Memorial Day Weekend Tango Festival 2010

Last weekend I attended the Tenth Annual Denver Memorial Day Weekend Tango Festival.

I had a fantastic four days and for the most part the dancing was extremely good and I totaly enjoyed almost every milonga that I attended.

Here are a couple of videos that others took of the festival.

First the Tango Colorado picnic at Cheesman Park, the most beautiful day I can remember there.

And for a change of pace some Tango rap From Momo Smitt at the alternative milonga Sat. afternoon. (the video is sideways at first but staightens out after a few seconds)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Learning Involves Change (Don't Settle for Mediocrity)

During the last six months I have been trying out a new way of walking and I have made a few adjustments to my posture, embrace, and body alignment (more estilo salon, less estilo nuevo, less estilo milonguero), when I started this study of tango I was convinced that the "milonguero" style was the only way that I wanted to dance, later I found freedom of expression and more chance for creativity in the "nuevo" style. I still have those tools in my toy box and will (and do) take them out if the mood strikes me. This is nothing new, I've changed these things constantly over the past seven years all in the name of educating my self and building depth into my Tango, and I've watched as people who were far more experienced than I was have stagnated in their dance to the point where it seems to me that they have not improved at all (these were people I once held in high regard as excellent dancers). I've also witnessed people who started about the same time as I did stop progressing when they settled for one thing or another. How boring it must be to not grow over that many years!

It's impossible to learn anything new if you have already decided that what you are doing is the best, and/or only way. (I've heard it said that you can't add water to a glass that is already full, I like to think of it as getting a bigger bucket to hold several glasses of water). I also feel that adding something new allows a person to focus on the new things and allow the things you have learned in the past to happen automatically without thinking about them. Nature rewards adaptation.

The results of these adjustments are beginning to become second nature and have drastically improved how grounded I feel to myself and the women I dance with often, as well as an improvement in the clarity of my lead to my followers. I also feel that this new style has allowed for more possibility of musical expression for the follower (less about my Tango and more about our Tango). The new style does require the follower to use proper technique (no lazy following) and therefore makes leading easier after the technique becomes second nature to the leader.

One thing that I have noticed over the past maybe three years is that I have not hit any plateaus, just a slow but steady improvement...Where's the Like Button!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tom Waits

The original video I had posted here was taken down, too had some great tango related footage...still the song is genius...and fun to dance to.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Poison Pens

I recently read someones post somewhere in which the person writing was highly critical of one of the best dancers in the world, in this case it was Gereldine Rojas (her embrace didn't meet this persons standards)...are you kidding me?

It is not an isolated incident, you will read all over the internet people hating on people that deserve nothing but respect for their skill and accomplishments names like Frumboli, Naviera, Rodriguez, Arce, etc... people that have forgotten more about Tango than most people will ever know.

I try to remain positive on this blog, and in life (sometimes difficult and often I fail).

I can not for the life of me figure out why people are so hateful and negative...the only reason I can think of is jealousy.

The funny thing is that almost always if you take the time to find the author of one of these haters on video they almost always suck.

I could post a few but that would be wrong (or would it be karma, justice or whatever you want to call it)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Give Her a Chance to Shine

How is this done, you ask, Welll...

Slow Down... when the music calls for it, and sometimes when it doesn't.

What do I mean....

Instead of stepping on every beat or every other beat, take a full bar, maybe two, to make a step (a whole step would be from the time a foot has zero weight on it yet is still fully it approaches the other it brushes the weight bearing foot in it reaches the fully extended position with the ankle relaxed so that the the sole of the the foot is nearly parallel with the the heel touches the the weight slowly begins to transfer to the new the weight begins to roll forward to the new foot and roll off of the old the weight finally is completely over the new foot and the old foot is still fully extended yet bears no weight).

This will give her a chance to express herself musically, with adornments, foot taps, lapiizes, traspies, or give her the opportunity to make the same type of slow motion step that you are making if that's what she wants...

The point is give her a voice in the dance (more often than not she is a much better dancer than you are)

I consider it a compliment when a follower that hasn't been dancing much starts getting lots of tandas after we dance.

What's missing in Many Peoples Tango

This may be one of the things that make Tango so rewarding to me personaly, and I've noticed that many people treat tango as something like work.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another Blog to Check Out

When I read this guys blog I couldn't help notice that a lot of what he says aligns perfectly with my feelings about Tango, and I thought, wow this guy must be an incredible dancer I can't wait to see him dance.

Then I saw the video ... Hmm, Not so much.

Oh well, no one is perfect.

I still like many of his ideas about Tango.

Floyd de Buffalo

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Line of Dance!

From one of my favoite Milongas, Cachirulo, @444 Miapu, BAires.

(I would have added, please keep the line of dance moving)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Something that Sounds Simple May Require A Lot of Practice

I have found that getting a new follower to change weight from one foot to the other without taking a step is one of the most difficult things to accomplish.

I think that this because it is often neglected by teachers at the very beginning. Many instructors are so eager to get their students dancing that this extremely important item is overlooked and often forgotten, just because it is "boring".

The key, I think, is to spend a great deal of time practicing this over and over until it becomes second nature (this is true of many of the simple things that make Tango work.) 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Grounding Exercise

A few years ago I had a private lesson with Luiza Paes, and she wanted my partner at the time and I to be more grounded here is what she told us to do...

Get four pieces of paper towel about 4X4 inches put them on the floor under the toes of your feet, now dance a without loosing the pieces of paper...this is harder than it seems but really smoothes the dance out (plus the game was a lot of fun and I've won more than a few friendly wagers with it to boot)

I've had other maestros use different methods to try and teach the same ideas, never loosing contact with the ground.

I read somewhere that a good milonguero never shows the soles of his feet, I've found this to be less than 100% true but I have noticed that the really great dancers (especially of the Villa Urquiza style) always seem to keep contact with the ground most of the time. In that style they will lift thier heels but normally they will maintain contact with the toe as they walk.

Makes for a very smooth and elegant looking and feeling dance!

A very good example of a well grounded couple.

Monday, February 22, 2010

DJ (notes)

Three or four songs per tanda (be consistent so people know what's happening if they're paying attention)I've been at milongas where the DJ played Four or five songs per tanda and in my opinion it was too many (It's too long for someone that may be sitting out and it may be too long to dance with someone whom is not the ideal partner

Cortinas should be something "undanceable" and maybe something to guide the spirit of the people for example if people are acting down, a cortina that makes people laugh might be good... repetition is a good thing when it comes to cortinas

One idea for cortinas is to have a certain cortina to play before Vals, a different cortina to play before milongas, another for tangos, etc...

tango, tango, vals, tango, tango, milonga, tango, tango, alternative, tango, tango, vals, tango, tango, milonga, tango, tango, tropical (salsa), tango, tango,... is a good format

cortinas should not be anything that is going to be danced to during the evening, for example salsa or alternative

Try not to mix different artists during the same tanda

save one of your best tandas for about an hour before the scheduled end time to draw people into staying a little longer and keep the vibe going (moods are contagious)

remember as the DJ you are the heart, soul, and life of the party and if you aren't putting off good energy the quality of the milonga will suffer

try to stay within the same time period with regard to the feeling within a tanda (don't mix early canaro with later canaro)

it's good to start a tanda of a particular artist with a song that is typical of that artist so that it is easy for someone to identify the artist

the best song of the tanda should be either second or last in the order so that the end of the tanda is not a let down

a cortina should be played before an announcement of a performance to give people time to be seated

if people aren't dancing to a tanda make note of it so that changes can be made before the next milonga

play lists are nice to give to people if they ask for them but not always necessary

be prepared to answer questions regarding the music that you are playing, as a DJ you are a source of information

be prepared to deal with requests if possible

if a tanda is going particularly well it is OK to throw in an extra song if it fits the vibe of the tanda and will enhance the pleasure for everyone

after a performance a tanda of music similar to what was used during the performance might be a good way to keep the energy going

as for breaking the rules, I've heard tandas that were different versions of the same song that were vastly different from each other played as one tanda it was kind of cool

Stick with familiar tunes, there are about 200 songs that are played in the milongas in BsAs try to use these, don't play a lot of obscure stuff or people may not dance and will leave

I always thought it would be cool to have one of those LED signs and put the name of the artist and song that were playing so people could educate themselves if they were so inclined

as for adjustments to volume and types of music being played try and please most of the people (you cannot please them all)

remember that the spirit of the evening may change and that the music should guide what is happening (if the crowd starts dancing more open and bigger the music should go with the crowd) and encourage people to dance/stay longer

milongas are good to wake people up a little if they start to sag especially during very long or all night milongas

mix the music you play up a little, I've been to milongas where everyone knew what the next two tanda would be because the DJ was so predictable. never use the exact playlist for two milongas in a row

ask for feedback from people (if your are prepared to respond) solicit through emails facebook etc...

DJ "contests" are not a good idea and sort of ruin the feel of a milonga I've seen it at least three times

If people are looking at you funny like, WTF are you doing?, you may want to change what you are doing

It's cool to throw one or two tandas of swing or something like that in during the night but only two songs for these sets (it is still a milonga and that is what people came for)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Different Approach to Learning

A few years ago a friend of mine (Just someone I used to dance with, not an instructor) commented that by learning open embrace I could fix a problem I was working on at the time with my posture and balance, guess what, it worked.
Everything I know about dancing close embrace I learned from dancing open embrace.
Everything I know about dancing open embrace I learned from dancing close embrace.
Everything I know about improvising I learned through patterns and emulating others.
Everything I know about dancing fast I learn by dancing slowly (very slowly).

On a different note,I watched a video produced by a very famous pair of brothers (the Maers) many years ago about learning to downhill ski, they had an interesting teaching technique. Basically because sking (and Tango) is an engramic activity (your brain learns to do it eventually without much conscience thought) it is very difficult to explain how it should feel, they thought it was a good idea to purposely do something "the wrong way" so that your body could learn by comparison what doing it the right way feels like (very easy vs. very hard, natural vs. unnatural, smooth vs. jerky, balanced vs.wobbly)

I have found this to be a very effective learning/teaching method.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sculpting Your Tango

"I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need."
- Rodin (1840-1917), when asked how he managed to make his remarkable statues