Thursday, December 25, 2014


Can you hear the music? Can you hear the melody? Can you hear the singer’s voice? Can you hear the instruments? Is it obvious for you where ‘one’ is? Do you know what people talk about when they are using the expression ‘close the phrase’…

Argentine Tango is one of the most difficult dances because you are not dancing just agreed upon steps. Have you noticed that in Ballroom dancing choreographies, even in the open level, can be danced to any music. They always fit. Quite opposite in Tango. You can count to 8 all you want, but if you don’t fit into the phrase, your complicated sequence will not fit. Can you make it fit? Of course! But for that you need to hear the music.

There is an ongoing discussion about how to be a fantastic leader and personally I consider musicality one of The Most Crucial characteristic of Great Leader. I don’t mind a dance that consist only of walking with few pauses to respond to the music or to the dance line traffic. Millions of figures that have nothing to do with the song being played annoys me to death.

Same for followers. Use your adornments like you are using your make up. Are you putting all colors on your eyes at the same time? You do not. You stay within shades of one, two, max three colors. Use this philosophy in your dancing. Even if you mastered hundred and twelve adornos - use 2 or 3. Not all hundred and twelve. 

So now - lets try to hear. Can you hear Tango lyrics? Do you understand them? No? It’s ok. It’s nice to understand as they help to feel the mood of the song. Can you hear single words? Caffe, nada mas, calle, corason, duerme, sueno. You know what? Stop.
Unless you are practicing your Spanish stop focusing on this words. Try to hear the voice as instrument. Try to feel it softness, or harshness, sweetness, bitterness, anger, hope, love, dissapoitement. Hear it. You don’t need to know Spanish to know what the song is about. Just listen to the tone of voice, catch the accents, catch the cadence of it as it rises and falls.

Very often the voice goes against overall melody of Tango, so if you follow just words and its rhythmicity - guess what - you might be off music. 

Try to sing, whistle, hum. This is your melody. With your steps, before anything else, before any other experiments - try to illustrate melody. Make them long and grounded if the music suggests that. Make them short and light - if the music jumps with speed. Use the turning one - if the music swirls.

And within all that - hear the beat. 
Before even going into the figures and specifics of steps the major difference is interpretation of the music.

In Tango we arriving on the beat. In Milonga we are leaving from the beat. In Vals the beat is right in the middle, falls in between steps and so - we arrive after it.

Remember your first, first Tango lesson. When you were chasing the beat and the teacher kept shouting - beat, beat, beat pushing you forward.
The secret of Tango is to arrive on the beat. Meaning: when we hear the ‘one’ we shall already be there. With all our weight, or most of it, placed on the foot that takes the step. And to do that we have to start the movement before the beat, so it’s completed on it. If you use the commuter schedule example it’s quite easy to understand. If you want to be somewhere at 1pm you have to leave at least quarter to 1pm, to arrive on time. That’s Tango. 

In Milonga you are more relaxed. You hear the ‘one’ and you starting your movement at this moment. So instead of arriving on 1, you are starting on 1. Instead of dancing ‘on the beat’, you are dancing ‘off the beat’.
MIlonga is probably the closest to the the natural movement. However, because we are usually learning the Tango first and spend undefined number of hours trying to learn how to arrive on the beat, once we eventually turn to the Milonga our body refuses to go back to ‘normal’, as we just forced it to go ‘abnormal’ through hours and hours of exercises. And so you see dancer making a lot of steps, short, and jumpy but no matter what the dance still looks heavy. Only because of ‘on the beat’ Tango interpretation. 

And vice versa. If in Tango you see couples that always look like they behind the music - here we go - that’s the Milonga interpretation of the beat.

Now in Vals. Vals is a funny little animal. It counts to three. But the three is not equal. Just listen to it. 'One' is long and overstretched, and 2 and 3 in comparison are squeezed together. If you think or simply listen to the way we verbalize the count. It sounds somewhat like: oooooooone twothree, oooooooone twothree, oooooooone twothree.

Here we are stretching the 'one' and in fact arrive after the beat. Very often we ignoring the ‘twothree’ and just use ‘one’ to move. IF… If we ARE using it then the ‘one’ is much longer then ‘two and there. 
Now - catch the paradox: if you ARE ignoring 2&3 and only using 1, you can quite easily dance your regular tango figures to Vals music. Is it ok to that that?

My theory is this: the rules are here to break, but…
The whole pleasure of breaking the rules can only be achieved IF YOU KNOW THE RULES. If you don’t know the rules, you are not breaking them. You simply show your lack of sophistication and your ignorance (Or is it arrogance?). 

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