Posts Tagged ‘tango’

Straight legs? Bent legs?

October 22, 2009

A friend had different teachers tell her different things about the leg – should it be straight? Should it be bent? She, like many others before her was confused.

I’ve done a lot of my own research and listened to many teachers and their opinions and came to the conclusion that one should not be thinking about the legs. Just be natural. Most people learnt to walk since when they were about 1 year old. So they already know how to walk. How come after 1 lesson of tango, a teacher somehow convinces them that they no longer know how to walk?

I think the teachers have it wrong when they say straighten your legs or bend your knees more. The students start to think about the legs, those who get told to straighten it start to lock it and those who get told to bend it really bend it and lose structure.

Look at how you walk normally on the streets, as your stepping foot lands, your leg is quite straight, but not perfectly straight and definitely not locked. Your knees are quite soft, and may be a little bent. If you happened to trip over something, most of the time, your legs react quickly and reposition themselves to stop you from falling over. They can only do this if they’re relaxed. It doesn’t matter whether you tripped while your legs were straight or bent. If your legs were tense and hard, then there’s no chance they’ll save your fall. Your legs need to be alive and ready to react, with spring and structure.

The idea is soft but not weak and strong but not tense. This is the natural way.


From Ceroc to Argentine Tango

May 26, 2009

I started dancing several years ago with Ceroc/Modern Jive. While I never did win any competitions or reach a really really high level, I can handle myself on the social dancefloor. A popular measure for skill in Modern Jive was how cool or how many moves you know. After a couple of years, I had memorised enough moves to last a dance or maybe two without too much repetition.

But then I didn’t know where to go – I could learn more flashy moves but there’s a chance that your partner may need to know that move too. Some people move to other styles, usually west coast swing or tango. I’ve not known a lot of people who move from modern jive to salsa or ballroom but there are some that do.

When I first started learning tango, my modern jive mindset was still around. I wanted to learn more moves – fast. I looked different classes of different levels and tried to find out what move they were teaching. Some schools advertise a timetable and let us know that on this date they’ll be teaching a sacada or gancho if I hit the jackpot, a volcada or colgada.

Often I wrote down a description of the ‘move’ I learnt and if I could do the move on the other side I’ve learnt another move. And maybe if I could do it in both parallel and cross system I’m getting my money’s worth of moves. I also watched youtube for new moves.

Memorising tango moves were easy compared to modern jive where every night you would also do four intermediate moves so I thought it was only a matter of time before I learnt enough moves to dance with anyone and enjoy tango.

But then the music was annoying me. Modern jive nights played popular music. Stuff I grew up listening to, stuff I could listen to on the radio and stuff my friends listened to. What were these tango venues playing? All this horrible scratchy stuff. Then I found neuvo tango music like Gotan project and it got better. At least it was modern cool and easy listening music.
Its not stuff I would normally listen to but at least if I played it at home when my friends came over I won’t feel embarrassed. There was little chance I was playing the really old stuff to my friends. How could anyone dance to that stuff? Even the teachers at the school I was going to didn’t like the golden age stuff. They were into neuvo.

After about 6 months, I wasn’t learning any new moves so I changed schools. Immediately I was corrected on my posture, musicality, leading and other basic elements of the dance. Stage, the old school didn’t really spend a lot of time teaching these things. I wasn’t taught moves anymore but I felt that this time round everything was much harder. I was doing more things in close embrace and the teachers liked the music. Eventually I developed a similar liking for the traditional tango music. I didn’t learn any new moves though. In fact, I stopped using a lot of ones I learnt in my old school and even some I picked up off youtube. They just didn’t fit into the music or they made me look silly doing them.

A year after starting tango, I had enjoyed it a lot more than modern jive and now I might visit a Ceroc event once every couple of months. But it hasn’t been an easy journey and its far from over. I still get a lot of refusals when I ask a lady to dance. This never happens in Ceroc unless the lady is geniuely tired.

The music is much more important to be now – I used to dance to any song – Ceroc or Tango, but now, I only dance if the music is decent. I wish there were better Tango DJs here.

Head of a horse

May 4, 2009

There are thousands of tangos and there are countless good songs. Where and how does one start when discussing music?

Lets start with a well know favourite:

So what do you think of the dancing? Its not bad, its got sexual tension, flirtation and seductiveness that makes tango such a sexy dance.

This is a popular song with Hollywood, you’ll see it in The Scent of a Woman and probably some other films as well. The song is called Por una Cabeza and was originally composed in 1935 by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera.

Por una cabeza is one of my favourites. I don’t know any Spanish but when I heard the song on my Mp3 player the other day, something reached out and I wanted to know more about the song.

Here are some lyrics:

and also on wikisource.

In a nutshell, the protagonist is comparing love to gambling at the horses and although looking like a sure win all the way to the end, heĀ  just loses out – by a head. Like gambling, he insists that he won’t do it again, but the temptation is too strong and in the end, he is still torn whether to gamble once again.

If you haven’t read the lyrics, then I strongly encourage you to do so. They are beautifully translated by Alberto on Planet Tango.

So, now after having read the lyrics, what do you think of the dancing in the video clip?

Is this song a sexy song? Can you visualise the sexual tension and seduction through the lyrics?

I can’t. But everyone feels tango differently. What do you feel when you hear that song?

To me, there is a sense of sorrow and loss. Everyone gambles on something. We all know the feeling when our gamble didn’t pay off. That if only feeling.

So what about the sexual tension and seduction etc? How does that end up in your dance? Its not in mine but then I’m no milonguero. If someone can find a video of a milonguero dancing and portraying the same sexual tension found in Hollywood movies I’d like to see it.

The shoe shine

April 12, 2009

Beginners love their adornments. For some reason at one stage or another a lot of ladies learn how to rub the foot over a mans leg while stepping over his leg during a stop. I don’t know whether this adornment has a proper name, but one of my teachers once called it a shoe shine.

In case you haven’t been taught it before, I’m sure there are many videos on youtube teaching it (problem is I don’t know its name) but here’s a video of Osvaldo commenting on a student doing it to him it in the first 15 seconds of the clip (this video is part 3, you may want to view part 2 first to get some context on what happened previously).

Unfortunately some women with poor basics (especially beginners and improvers) compromise their balance and posture when walking over the man’s leg and trying to do adornments. Some get tense, some have poor balance and feel a bit wonky and start to lean into the man.

People don’t notice you rubbing your foot, what they see is you shaking like a tree on a windy day.

If you must do that adornment, the focus should be on you lifting your leg/knee, nice and clean and stepping over elegantly — and obviously to the music. There should be some contact with your foot and my leg – otherwise you’re just waving your foot around in front of me and looks even worse when you’ve got a wonky structure, and gazing down at your feet since you don’t know where my leg is, you don’t know where to step over.

One of my roles in tango is to make the women look and feel good. Why do you insist on doing the opposite?

Stop bashing the London teachers

March 31, 2009

There seems to be a lot of bashing of teachers in London. If you dance in London, you can see that its not brilliant and you could direct fault at the teachers. But I don’t think people should. I go to several teachers and they are all lovely people, both on and off the floor.

They all have good posture, musicality, leading, floorcraft, knowledge of tangos and milongas and so on. Unfortunately their students may not.

But then whose fault is that?

If someone drives over the speed limit and crashes, who do we blame? Do we blame the instructor? No.

Our teachers, like driving instructors, over a period of time pass on everything they know to their students. The students, being adults take what they’ve learnt and apply what they’ve learnt in the real world without the instructor.

I’ve been asked to return to the line of dance in class when I’ve strayed a little. Whenever a sequence is taught, we’re always told to start and end with the line of dance, listen to the music and look after my woman.

When a kick/gancho is taught, we’re always taught to look out for the space around us.

We’ve all had another couple crashing into us. We’ve all been kicked. (I’ve even been kicked up the bum on a crowded floor!)

I’m sure the perpetrators know exactly that they’ve been doing.

When we drive we know what the road rules are. We may get fined when we break them. How come some don’t on the dance floor? What can we do to get people to remember what their teachers say in class and not just the sequence that was taught? If we come across a crap driving instructor, we find a new one. If you tango teacher is crap, then why are you sticking with him/her/them? There are plenty of good ones in London. The questions then might become how do we know a teacher is crap and why are you still with them?