The great equalizer
A compulsive fixation on “the steps,” holds the development of many a Tango dancer as much as bumping into trees numbs the senses for the awareness of the beauty and purpose of a forest. Inasmuch as lip service is paid to the benefits of concepts and techniques, a desire to show off and an opportunity to strut a newly discovered personality, brings the strangest of bedfellows to an
environment that promises instant gratification, tolerance for impolite behavior, and political correctness that seeks redeeming values in the manners of the offenders at the expense of the further humillation of the victims.
In places where the opportunities to learn and dance Tango are as diverse as the culinary kaleidoscope offered by cities like New Orleans, for example, the quality and personality of dancers are evident in their blend of styles, personal appreciation of the music, and above all for their contribution to good taste and sociable behavior. In the words of a wise engineer turned Tango dancer, the milonga is the great equalizer. Aspiring good dancers follow good teachers, good music and good partners.
Becoming a “good dancer” is as subjective as trying to define a good meal, or describe a good partner. One of the few things which have not been imported from the Buenos Aires tales of Tango lore, is a time honored system of grading dancers, applied not just to the average Joe Salami, but to the veteran anonymous milongueros, and the most famous and not so famous stars of the stage and the silver screen. It is based on calling bread, bread and wine, wine. It is definitely against the political correctness that protect the rights of people to make fools of themselves and cajole others to follow suit, providing an umbrella of resounding denial under which it is cool to insult and offend the intelligence of those who cherish the traditions and cultural values, intrinsic in the Argentine Tango, under a circus tent in which, the unseemly and disingenuous use of words like “unity” are an excuse to hide desperate attempts to keep others isolated inside closed doors and with the lights out.
So, it is hoped that wherever you are, there is an abundance of choices to dine out on any night of the week, and there are as many places to go out Tango dancing as well. Odds are that no matter how you choose to get where you are going, finding your way to your destination, will be guided by safety, common sense, and a respect for accepted codes of public conduct. Safety, common
sense, knowledge and respect for the codes of the milonga, are some of the requisites that describe the tangible qualities of a good dancer, and they can’t be acquired on the Internet. They are the result of good teaching, good learning, good manners, and good time spent on the dance floor.
A Tango dancer tends to approache every dance with a variety of objectives. Partner safety, the safety of others around the dance floor, making it around the dance floor at least once, and being able to sort out and take advantage of the unexpected creation and
disappearance of spaces, to create logical routes for his partner to dance gracefully in relation to his own path.
The ability to create on the spot as we dance, is the signature of improvisation for a Tango dancer. Balance, clear changes of axis, and solid points of created by the support leg, and that the free leg follows the direction of the body as it rotates on the axis provided
by the supporting hip. We don’t dance with our legs, and we don’t dance with our bodies. We dance with our partners.
Legs offer support and allow the movement of the body from one stable position of balance to the next one. As the weight transfers from axis to axis, the direction of movement will be a function of where the weight transfers to. Legs move one at the time, when the
body is stationary and firmly standing on an axis. Weight transfer happens when the body moves while the legs are firmly placed on the floor.
Time spent learning and constantly practicing how to stay balanced on either axis, and how to move the body from axis to axis, being able to change directions at will, and keeping time with the music, is the most valuable time an aspiring tango dancer can dedicate.
When one approaches the dance from a tridimensional point of view, it is possible to visualize any pattern as a combinations of relative movements between the partners that result in an infinite number of combinations being available to the creative dancer.
Changes of direction of one partner relative to the other one, or changes of direction for the couple, use the concept of rotation over an axis, whether either dancer walks around the other one’s axis, or they both walk around a common, shared axis.
Let’s review one of many combinations we like to teach to demonstrate the ability to dance with total freedom in the space occupied by the couple, using changes of direction.
|Frame 1||Frame 2||Frame 3||Frame 4|
The sequence begins as a salida simple with the dancers in a closed feet position, weight on the man’s right, woman’s left. (Frame 1). In the next frame (2), the man marks a displacement of the woman to his left with an opening in that direction. Next, he prepares for a change of direction to his right, by holding her on her right axis, and changing his axis to his right. This move can be done at single or double time, preferably according to the music (Frame 3). In the following frame (4), notice the change in his body attitude as he begins to align his body in preparation for passing onto the woman’s left side, using the crossed feet system.
|Frame 5||Frame 6||Frame 7||Frame 8|
In the next frame (5) the man advances onto the left side of the woman marking an opening of her left step to her left, rather than a crossing behind to her right (like in the regular salida simple when the man is on her right). The invitation to throw a right hand turn (giro) is hard to resist. So, he enters the right hand turn with a sacada, marking a crossing of her right leg behind (5th movement of the Eight Count Giro), holding her on her left axis and turning on his left axis to mirror the back step of the giro himself (Frame 6).
On the impulse they both quick step with an opening in the direction of the turn and they find themselves aligned to continue turning. (Frame 7). In Frame 8 we see them both moving into the other’s right side with a forward crossing of their right legs in front (4th movement of the Eight Count Giro).
|Frame 9||Frame 10||Frame 11||Frame 12|
Next, he decides to make another change of direction, so he stops turning by holding his right axis momentarily and using a double time to shift his weight back to his left axis. (Frame 9). This marks the ending of her motion into the right side of the man, and creates an axis for her right hand pivot to change direction to return to the man’s left with a forward crossing of her left leg (Forward Ocho). Notice in Frame 10 how he backs his right leg into his right to make space for her to finish her return to his left side using counter body motion. After receiving her forward ocho into his left side, he makes her open one more time into his left using her right leg (Frame 11). Since he had held his axis on his right, he can now advance forward with his left returning to the parallel system, and changing direction one last time as he moves onto her left side. (Frame 12).
|Next, he changes her direction into his right by marking an opening of her left leg onto her left as he opens his right leg forward to her left side. (Frame 13).
Finally, they are back where they first started. He ends the sequence with a closing of his left leg (resolution), (Frame 14) which in turn marks for her the Tango equivalent of a period, signaling that the sequence has ended. She responds by closing with her right, and readies for another thrilling spin around the tile.
|Frame 13||Frame 14|