Chapter 26   Leave a comment

All aboard!

Recently we stepped back in time to an era when first class travel meant plenty of room to move around, with panoramic views of the landscape, delicious meals, and sleeping quarters. We rode the train on a teaching tour of the Midwest.

Inasmuch as hugs and good wishes, mixed with smiles and tears bring people together at a train station terminal, there is a moment in time when the imminent departure of the train is announced for everyone to hear. Within minutes, a separation of sorts occur. People who get on board begin a new journey. Left behind there is a shrinking image of people waving as the train leaves the station.

In life as in the Tango, people face from time to time, the decision to move on or to stay where they are, content with their hands waving. For twenty-five installments, we’ve been preparing for a great journey, and so with this chapter, we begin to move on to explore the possibilities that an educated grasp of the fundamental concepts of Tango improvisation, brings to those on board, for the ride of a lifetime.

We will analyze combinations that use elements of Giros (turns) to the right and to the left to create figures that are both visually appealing, and practical in their execution within the considerations of respect for the line of dance.

The figure illustrated below, begins at the point where a Salida Simple would, that is, man’s axis is on his right, woman’s axis is on her left; bodies aligned in the Body Position One. As a matter of taste and dance protocol, no self-respecting dancer would attempt to execute this figure at the beginning of the dance. Preferably, the initial position is arrived to, at the end of La Base, when the man has backed up twice and is ready to open to his left. This is the position indicated in Video Frame One.

Holding his axis on his right, the man rotates to his left sending both, his left foot behind and the woman to his left side forcing her to change axis with an opening of her right leg. This position is captured in Video Frame Two.

The initial motion to the left of the man (which if initiated in the proper position would be in the direction of the line of dance), is now changed to the man’s right. He accomplishes this by rotating back to his right on his right axis, and stepping deeply into the woman’s left side, changing her axis back to her left (which is where the man is now) with a back opening of her left leg. Video Frame Three shows the moment he advances into the woman’s left side.

The motion into the woman’s right is both a forward step and the beginning of a spin to the left, thus another change of direction of the Giro begins to take place. We occasionally call the resulting action as a Vaiven, a descriptive word that indicates “going (Va) and (y) coming (Ven)” as the man “goes” up onto his left leg, spins while vertical on axis, and then “comes” down with a back step of his right leg (or viceversa, of course).

This Vaiven to the man’s left, is what characterizes the figure we are analyzing because as he goes up on his left leg and begins to spin on his axis, he makes the woman rebound from her left back step, changing the direction of her Giro from right to left, as she now changes weight to her right leg and begins to advance forward in a Giro to the left. Video Frame Four captures the moment the man is suspended on his left leg spinning to his left.

The duration of the spin is such that the woman will step one more time as she continues her Giro to the left with a forward motion of her left leg.

In Video Frame Five, the man finally “comes” down from the Vaiven with his right leg, and receives the woman’s forward step on his left. To facilitate, he keeps his left elbow close to his body while opening the left shoulder to make room for the woman.

Holding axis on his right leg, the man continues to rotate his upper body to his left to keep the Giro in progress. As he opens to his left with his left leg, the woman opens her right leg and changes axis to continue going around the man into his left side. Observe Video Frame Six, and notice the alignment of the bodies. They are not dead in front of each other, but slightly to each other’s left. That is, the woman needs to understand that she has moved, and continues to advance into the man’s left side and not to force her body (and thus the resulting steps) to stay in front of or to the right of the man.

The advanced Tango dancer can “see” these “video frames” as they are being created on the spot, mainly because he is the one creating them with a sense of timing and space, but also because he and she know how to dance Tango.

So, a closer examination of Video Frame Six brings to mind a familiar position which is none other than the beginning of a Salida Simple (or to the Lead-and-Follow-by-the-Numbers practitioners, Step 2 of the Eight Count Basic).

The ability to “see” where we are going, is an integral part of an oral pedagogy we inherited directly from masters with a lifelong dancing experience. It is also a by-product of our own dedication to put into practice those concepts, and to quantify them into a teaching methodology which has opened the mystical doors of the Argentine Tango to regular folks everywhere our line of dancing take us.

The end of the figure is as important as its beginning, so recognizing the opportunity to resume progressing into the line of dance, the man turns once more to his left holding axis on his left leg, and then he “sees” that his motion has brought the woman back into his right side as she pivots on her right axis. When he advances to his left with a forward crossing of his right leg, she crosses her left leg behind to keep going into the man’s left. This is Body Position Two, as captured on Video Frame Seven. It is also the second movement of a Salida Simple, or the first movement of La Base, but that is irrelevant, since the options available to the creative dancer with a knack for improvisation are countless.

The Giro to the left is smoothed out as the man advances with a forward opening of his left leg, rather than pivoting on his right to continue a circular motion of the woman around him. She opens with her right in a backwards motion, changing axis into her right side (where the man is now) as they begin to walk into wherever the moment may lead to. Video Frame Eight looks very familiar to the position prior to the end of a Salida Simple (the man closes his right leg with a change of axis, allowing the woman to catch up as she is coming from his right side into his left with a crossing of her left leg over her right axis), which in terms of the structure of the music is one of several natural positions where to put a “period” to end an eloquent “paragraph,” such as the figure we just completed.

Video Frame One Video Frame Two Video Frame Three Video Frame Four
Video Frame Five Video Frame Six Video Frame Seven Video Frame Eight

Video footage shot at the Rock ‘N’ Bowl Cafe in New Orleans, LA on June 2001

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Posted January 8, 2009 by Alberto & Valorie in Tutorial

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