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The Basic dancing pattern

For me, the discussion in November 95 about the "basic pattern" in Tango was very interesting and I found all the ideas helpfull in understanding more about the feeling of Tango Argentino - and perhaps about my own problems and joyfull moments when dancing :-).
That is why I wanted to give everyone the posibility to share these ideas.

  • Larry Carrol, Subject: "Basic" Pattern is Not
  • Michael Cysouw, Subject: Re: "Basic" Pattern is Not
  • Nil Disco, Subject: Basico and Beginners
  • Robinne Gray, Subject: Re:"Basic" Pattern is Not
  • Daniel Trenner, Subject: Daniel T. on the basics
  • Eckart Haerter, Subject: Re: Daniel T. on the basics
  • Nil Disco, Subject: Trenner's Basics
  • Michael Cysouw, Subject: Re: Trenner's Basics
  • Barbara, Subject: tango basics
  • Clay Nelson, Subject: Back to the "Basic"
  • Matej Oresic, Subject: Re: Back to the "Basic"
  • Diana & Diego Fraidenraich, Subject: basic steps
  • Arthur Greenberg, Subject: 8 Count Basic Starting Bk RF/Tango Argentino,etc. etc.

    Date:    Mon, 6 Nov 1995 11:42:47 -0800
    From:    Larry Carroll
    Subject: "Basic" Pattern is Not
    One particular "basic" pattern is taught by most of the 30 or so
    teachers I've had for the Argentine tango, and the four videotapes
    I've seen. But I think it's a mistake to teach it to beginners. I'd
    like to know what other, easier patterns TANGO-L members know.
    I've seen many teachers spend more than an hour teaching this one pattern.
    The students ended up frustrated, still not able to do it, and most of
    them decided tango was too hard for them. In every other dance I know,
    teachers usually start off with a basic pattern that is simple enough to
    encourage students to stick with the dance.
    To make sure we're talking about the same thing, here's the pattern
    I'm talking about, from the follower's perspective. (The leader's is the
    negative image of it.)
         BEGIN with weight on both feet, ready to step out with
         either foot in any direction. The couple is in
         right-foot-inside position.
      Left foot Forward, Right forward and to the Side, L side then Backward,
      R B, L B and Cross in Front beside the R.
      Usually followed by a Tango Close (Resolucion Natural):
      R B, L B then to the Side, R Close.
         END with weight on both feet, ready to step out with
         either foot in any direction.
      On 2nd step, Leader holds Follower back a few inches and steps further
      a few inches so that they are now in right-foot-outside position.
      The Follower's cross step brings them back to right-foot-inside pos'n.
                                    Larry Carroll
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    Date:    Tue, 7 Nov 1995 04:26:22 -0500
    From:    Michael Cysouw
    Subject: Re: "Basic" Pattern is Not
    Larry wrote:
    >I've seen many teachers spend more than an hour teaching this one pattern.
    >The students ended up frustrated, still not able to do it, and most of
    >them decided tango was too hard for them. In every other dance I know,
    >teachers usually start off with a basic pattern that is simple enough to
    >encourage students to stick with the dance.
    [following description of eight-step basic]
    Some thought about this:
    - This eight-step basic is difficult, but almost all people I've seen
    learning it for the first time are *not* discouraged by it.
    - As you implicitely note: it is just *a* basic, not *the* basic. Tell this
    to people if they keep on struggling.
    - If you want an easier version, remove the fourth and fifth step. In that
    case you only have one problemtic movement (the third step) instead of two
    (the fifth one is the other problem). Don't get me wrong: these steps are
    by itself not more difficult then the others, but problems will always show
    up at these two points, as they are the most vulnerable to imperfections.
    - I myself don't think the basic pattern is that bad (although it is if you
    give it as the only truth!). In one way or another you want to teach some
    technical stuff, and this basic pattern compromises a lot of difficult
    movements. The only way to learn these is by practising, and by giving
    pupils this basic they can prctice them. I see this basic as a difficult,
    but rewarding technical practice.
    - In my view the 'real' basic of tango is simply 'moving together'
    (resulting in walking if the impuls of the bodies is increased). Work on
    this too, making them sensitive for each other (I hate all that talk about
    the man being always in the lead: switch it regularly) by changing
    directions. Work on bodily communication. etc. etc. I go on talking...:-)
    Michael Cysouw
    Nijmegen, Holland
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    Date:    Tue, 7 Nov 1995 11:40:47 MET
    Subject: Basico and Beginners
    Larry Carroll writes:
            >I've seen many teachers spend more than an hour teaching this one
            >pattern (i.e. the eight-step basico or salida, CD).  The students
            >ended up frustrated, still not able to do it, and most of them
            >decided tango was too hard for them. In every other dance I know,
            >teachers usually start off with a basic pattern that is simple
            >enough to encourage students to stick with the dance.
    Although my credentials in Tango cyberspace (which like most cyberspace tends
    to emulate an American talk-show) don't entitle me to expect anyone to listen
    to my opinions, let me air them anyway.  (There is a substantial if
    unsubstantiated basis in experience talking here.)
    Let me first agree with Michael Cysouw who responds to Larry (in part):
            >- In my view the 'real' basic of tango is simply 'moving together'
            >(resulting in walking if the impuls of the bodies is increased).
            >Work on this too, making them sensitive for each other (I hate all
            >that talk about the man being always in the lead: switch it
            >regularly) by changing directions. Work on bodily communication.
            >etc. etc. I go on talking...:-)
    I couldn't agree more, but this doesn't solve Larry's problem, which is how
    to start teaching all this to beginners in such a way that they don't end up
    quitting in disgust at their own incompetence (as a reaction to the perceived
    difficulty of the 'basico' and by implication the entire dance).
    The eight-step basico Larry describes is a bugger, no doubt about it.  After
    almost 9 years of Argentinian tango I'm still working away at it.  Of course
    the question being begged in Larry's statement is what counts as being able
    to do it "right."  What level of expectation do teachers and students have?
    If people can't even replicate the pattern of the feet after 'more than an
    hour' of instruction then either something is terribly wrong with the
    instruction or Argentinian Tango is not their thing.  On the other hand, to
    expect people to be able to do the footwork, maintain a tranquil and intimate
    frame, choose direction, keep in time, etc. within an hour is simply absurd.
    This is equally true for accomplished classical dancers, ballroom dancers, or
    absolute beginners.  So, don't expect too much because what's really
    necessary to do the basico 'right' is all the stuff Michael refers to and
    that only comes with time, and, if I may quote Daniel Trenner in a context he
    may or may not agree with, "walking your miles" (or kilometers).  It may help
    to tell this to beginners so that they don't expect too much from their first
    hour of lessons.  Tango ain't a can of instant soup you can warm up in the
    The eight-step basico is an obstacle but it's also a rich learning
    opportunity.  While I started tango this way myself, in beginners lessons I
    now try to delay its introduction and frame it as a "salida," i.e. a way to
    _start_ a dance in a predictable and comfortable way, but not necessarily a
    pattern you come back to compulsively. I start beginners off by letting them
    do what Michael describes: walking back and forth concentrating on leading
    and following.  Walking in simple inside position (with only the follower's
    hands on the leaders chest and slight pressure toward each other) is
    sufficient to build up exercises (e.g. stopping, steering, changing
    direction) that embody more of what tango is about - at least for absolute
    beginners - than learning the salida right off.  My experience is that
    beginning learners like what they experience and want to learn more. It's
    also easy as pie to change roles, because there's basically no pattern to be
    learned. With a bit of imagination, these exercises can be elaborated to
    include walking inside and outside, turning, and so building up a complete
    'walking' repertoire into which a salida can be integrated as a way to start.
    When I get around to the 'salida,' It helps to start with a short L-shaped
    fragment which can be repeated.  Skip the forward step for follower and start
    right in with follower's side step: R - r.  (Thanks to Trenner for first
    suggesting this).  Proceed to the close & cross and from there repeat the
    pattern (follower shifts weight to left foot in usual cross and so the right
    foot is free again).  Almost anyone can learn this quickly enough to be able
    to dance all night the same night. The main problem is of course keeping
    frame and contact in the second step. I suggest that this step is not the
    start of a way for the leader to get around the follower, but the
    establishment of a position from which to start the actual walking which is
    the heart of the matter. When this is clear then later other pieces or ways
    past the cross can be added.  This may be a safe dosage.
    Anyhow, the main message to beginners is: let's get physical, not technical.
    It's what everybody really wants and can in fact do surprisingly well with
    the right encouragement.
    Nil Disco
    Twente University
    Tango School Amsterdam (almost venerable corazon del tango)
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    Date:    Tue, 7 Nov 1995 11:38:46 -0500
    From:    Robinne Gray
    Subject: Re: "Basic" Pattern is Not
    >I've seen many teachers spend more than an hour teaching this one pattern.
    >The students ended up frustrated, still not able to do it, and most of
    >them decided tango was too hard for them.
      This pattern (S, S, Q Q cross, Q Q close) was my introduction to tango,
    too.  The class I was in was fairly small (5 or 6 couples) and we went on
    to learn a few more patterns in the next six weeks.  Most of the students
    became enthusiastic about tango and continued into the intermediate class.
      My second encounter with tango was a workshop taught by Daniel and
    Rebecca.  There must have been 100 students there.  I enjoyed their
    approach of teaching *elements* of the dance (walking parallel and crossed,
    grapevines etc.) rather than patterns of steps.  After the class, however,
    several attendees said they were frustrated by that approach, because they
    didn't feel they knew enough steps to go dancing!  In fact they knew
    plenty, but some were uncomfortable having to combine the elements on their
    own!  That might be because many people in the workshop were already
    familiar with ballroom or swing dance, and were used to learning patterns.
      For myself, I feel fortunate to have been exposed to both approaches
    early on, and I think they are compatible.  Perhaps the patterns worked in
    our class because there weren't too many students.
      Also, not everyone wants the same thing from dance lessons.  I think
    D&R's approach encourages the partnering, improvisation and play that are
    closest to the spirit of the dance, but it also asks more of the students.
    And I think most dance students aren't really interested in pushing the
    envelope or reaching the soul of the dance; they just want to reach a basic
    level of competency and jump-start their social lives--which is fine.   One
    of the things I like best about this forum is that I feel I have found some
    kindred spirits who also have more than a passing social interest in the
      One final thought: anyone who teaches dance (or teaches anything) has a
    responsibility to try and reach as many students as possible by gearing
    their lesson toward a variety of learning styles.  But in the end, there is
    only so much that a teacher can do.  Some students will find it hard no
    matter what.  Just as computer programming (for example) will never come
    easy for me, social dancing will never be easy for some people.  We all
    have different gifts.
    Robinne Gray
    Ithaca, NY
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    Daniel Trenner wrote a very intersting article in the list, but he wanted to send me an edited version, so just be a little patient till it gets to me :-)
    Meanwhile his original article from the list Garrit
    Date:    Wed, 8 Nov 1995 05:46:56 -0500
    From:    L Daniel Trenner
    Subject: Daniel T. on the basics
    In Argentina a person learns to tango in a threefold way.
    1. Deluged with images, stories, poems, lyrics, relatives, famous characters,
    even an argentine who hates tango knows an awful lot about it.
    2. Through osmosis the fledgling iniate sits for hours at a dancefloor table,
    watching the older and younger folks at play and passion.
    3. Goes to a teacher for that teachers particular vocabulary of steps which
    the student has chosen for stylistic preference, because the student has a
    plethory(sp?) of teachers to choose from.
    Therefore teachers, generations of them, need teach no more than the step, so
    much of the character of the tango being previously instilled.
    Basic steps didn't exist for the milongueros. It would be inaccurate to
    translate Salida as Basic step.
    While salida means exit in spanish, it really translates as the way out, and
    salida seems to have been used by the milongueros more to signify the way out
    onto the dance floor.
    In nine years of observation and conversation with older dancers in BA I can
    make two very strong statements about the Salida among milongueros.
    1- No two dancers have ever described their Salida in exactly the same way.
    The amount of variation on such a "basic" theme is remarkable. Asking
    milongueros to count their salidas has been one of the most amusing surveys I
    have ever undertaken. I still do it every chance I get.
    2- I have never seen a milonguero start a dance by stepping into the space
    behind himself, where he cannot see, except in rare instances when all other
    paths are blocked and it was the only option(and this I have literally only
    seen a handful of times. Without fail the first step an older argentine
    social dancer takes is to the side with his left and her right.
    (I say social dancer, because there are some older dancers who are not social
    dancers but who do teach.)
    The eight step tango basic in parallel feet, as danced almost universally in
    the world outside of BA was never taught as a salida among milongueros and is
    recently derided by them as "el basico acedemico" (the acedemic basic).  This
    basic step seems to have been created by the "tango for export" community of
    stage dancers because it was easy to teach to the gringos. Additionally, it
    began to be counted, also
    for the sake of ease of teaching to foriegners, who, by the way, kept asking
    them to count.
    So why the step backwards to get the salida going in all these basic steps
    for export, you ask?
    The closest answer I can come up with is the Antonio Todaro/ Raul Bravo
    school of stage dancing, which has had by far the biggest influence on modern
    stage dancing.  Todaro and Bravo had a tango school in Flores for sixteen
    years in the 60's and 70's.
    Todaro later went on to have great success as the teacher of many, if not
    most of the young stage stars of today. Who knows what influences passed out
    of that laboratory of theirs. Bravo was the lead dancer for Mariano Mores,
    Todaro the practice partner for Virulazo who later starred in Tango
    Anyway these guys used to teach private lessons in houses that had small
    rooms, all the steps being turned in on themselves for the small space, later
    to be stretched out on the stage.  They used the same first five parallel
    steps that we now call the "basic" (the leader opposite the front side back
    back cross of the follower) to get themselves from the side of the room,
    where I guess one always starts becauce it is afterall the side of the dance
    floor, to the center where they would begin the turning figure that was the
    focus of the lesson.
    This prep step, kind of signature breath step to get you going into the
    figure, seems to have been adopted as a basic step by the stage dance
    community, who turned out to be the first ones to teach outside of Argentina.
     So it had become almost universal by the time this innocent arrived back in
    the first world from his recuperation in BA.
    So having set the stage I would now like to get to the basic steps of the
    argentine social dance.
    To learn tango outside of Argentine one must be aware that the conditions set
    out for aspiring tango dancers in Argentina are drasticly changed.
    1. Not only do the students have no cultural context for knowing the dance,
    but there conciousness is filled with hollywood and advertising images which
    are the bastard children of the original tango madness of the parisian crazes
    of the teens and twenties.
    2. Dance floors where they observe tango tend to be filled with beginners
    offering poor and misleading examples of what tango is suppose to be.
    3. Therefore the student becomes dependent on the teacher in a way
    unfathomable to the Argentines who invented this dance among the hoards of
    competing milongueros, playing constant one-ups-manship wwith their
    everevolving creations.
    So let us observe something fundamental about Argentine social dance
    The dance is built by leader and follower in three intertwined and overlapped
    1. The skeleton of the dance is a walk of the follower that is designed by
    the leader.
    2. The leader builds the next layer by building a step of his (traditionally
    his that is) or hers (I like that) in the spaces betwen the followers
    confidently laid out pattern.
    3. The follower, and the leader, now decorate these two interwoven steps with
    a layer of adornments.
    Therefore, by this reading of the dance, the basics are as follows.
    The follower:
    1. Must learn argentine frame, ie. concepts of keeping space open for
    footwork, and of honoring the embrace
    2. Must learn how to keep a steady walk going while learning the limited
    vocabulary that is always used by the leader for the follower, that is:
          Walks, forward and back
           Ochos, forward and back
           Giros, right and left
           When to cross in response to the leader's choice of position
    3. Must be able to walk all of these steps while interpeting the beat of the
    The leader:
    1. Must be able to lead the followers steps so as to create the comfortable
    smooth walk which he or she will then use as the skeleton of his step.
    2. Must have the basics of navigation down, meaning do these without stopping
    her walk, ie.
             how to move forward and stay in place
             how to turn right and left
             how to look where he or she is going while leading the
    3. Must understand how to change the orientation of his or her feet from
    parallel to crossed and back again, with out disturbing the followers walk,
    in various ways, with confidence
    4. Must learn to shift position from side to side  without disturbing her
    walk, etc.
    5. Must be able to give the follower a sense of the beat desired while also
    keeping his or her own steps in the music.
    6. Must be striving for a minimum of force in the lead and an elegant
    attention to the follower's pleasure throughout.
    7. Oh yes, one must know how to walk to the cross.
    So much for the basics. I hope you have enjoyed the read.
    I love the internet but it's losing me sleep already.
    Looking forward to feedback
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    Date:    Wed, 8 Nov 1995 12:20:43 GMT-0100
    From:    Eckart Haerter
    Subject: Re: Daniel T. on the basics
    Hi Daniel,
     there is certainly more than one possibility to do the first step
     (and we are actually teaching different ones). But the 8 steps
     basico  (beginning right backwards for the leader) has a special
     advantage for the absolute beginner. It can  more easily and under-
     standably be adapted to the basic beat: - - . . | . . |
     Of course the music has to be chosen accordingly.
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    Date:    Wed, 8 Nov 1995 16:19:48 MET
    Subject: Trenner's Basics
    Bravo Daniel!  Your sleepless nights are well spent.
    For those of you who haven't yet had the chance to experience Trenner's
    classes, this deep analysis of tango culture and dance basics gives only the
    merest inkling of what you're missing.
    Although I am as always amazed at (and instructed by) Trenner's indeed
    fundamental observations on dancing tango, this is a list of virtues that
    still begs the question how you get people to pursue them and want to pursue
    them (given the fact that their heads are filled with perverse tango images,
    as Daniel suggests, or they may only be there for a good time (or cheap
    thrills) as I take Eckhart Haerter to be suggesting.  Are there better or
    worse ways to 'seduce' non-Argentinians into ultimately wanting to be
    competent leaders or followers despite their cultural images and aptitudes or
    is this really only a question of how inspiring, charming, or seductive the
    teacher is?  If anyone has suggestions, I'd be interested in hearing them.
    Nil Disco
    Tango School Amsterdam
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    Date:    Wed, 8 Nov 1995 11:03:58 -0500
    From:    Michael Cysouw
    Subject: Re: Trenner's Basics
    Nil Disco wrote:
    >Are there better or
    >worse ways to 'seduce' non-Argentinians into ultimately wanting to be
    >competent leaders or followers despite their cultural images and aptitudes or
    >is this really only a question of how inspiring, charming, or seductive the
    >teacher is?
    I wrote some time ago about two different attitudes towards
    tango-performance: either you do what *you* like, or you do what *the
    audience* likes (and mixes are quite problematic, although possible if not
    too long IMHO).
    The same problem occurs when teaching tango: either you tell people what
    *you* (as already seduced) think is to tango, or you tell them what looks
    like the thing *they* think tango is. But I think these two are better
    'mixable' then with performances.
    My experiences with european people learning tango (including my own
    history) tell that you have to (mostly) start at the point where people are
    if they first come to a lesson, that is: at the point what *they* think
    tango is (that means mostly steps, figures, complicated movements, all the
    things you see in shows normally). And then slowly take them to the more
    'real' tango idea's (in my view tango consists basically of three things:
    moving-together-to music).
    So my way to seduce people would be to start (first lesson) with the
    greater part of the time steps and a little bit of working on the 'real
    tango', but increasing the last part in following lessons.
    I would like to start immediately with much more of the things that I like
    in tango, but I am not sure how this will be taken by first-lesson pupils.
    Did anyone try this really, I mean, start with just moving together,
    listening to music, doing exercises to train the feeling for the other etc.
    and later adding steps, footwork etc?
    Michael Cysouw
    Nijmegen, Holland
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    Date:    Thu, 9 Nov 1995 00:13:40 -0800
    From:    ALBERT GARVEY
    Subject: tango basics
    God, what fun! (or can't one blaspheme on the WWW? If not, apologies)!
    Much to think about (and act on).
         Daniel is right on about the first backward step in what is called
    the basic step or salida. It's a big mystery to me why Northamerican
    milongueros always begin by stepping back. By the way, can someone tell
    me what is the difference between a salida and an entrada, in tango
    terms, not the Spanish translation? I don't relish being thought a
    "gil" (actually I've never heard of a female gil--is that a male thing
    like b____ is a female thing?)--but don't mind if someone knowledgeable
    will make this distinction for me (Ray?? yes, by the the way, I do know
    the difference between the Northamerican and Argentine definitions of
    gringo/a but in the U.S. I use it in our sense). And Robinne is
    absolutely right in  acknowledging that different brains learn by
    different methods. Love John Drendel's description of Pepito's method.
        To get to the point . . .the origin of tango and contemporary
    practice share, in my opinion, one overwhelming aspect. Tango is not
    "steps" and certainly not patterns, but a STYLE, a way of dancing. So I
    think this is the most important thing to convey to beginners (and more
    advanced dancers, many of whom don't understand it). Thus one can be
    quite adept and not be doing tango.  Certain stylistic characteristics
    are essential regardless whether one is of the traditional or modern
    (whatever those terms mean!) persuasion or regardless of the sex of the
    leader. For example, tango is danced in an embrace, not necessarily
    plastered up against one another, but definitely close and intimate--it
    is necessary, as Daniel mentions, to keep "space open for footwork".
    Tango is danced on the floor, grounded, with feet caressing the floor;
    with the upper bodies and arms still; all the action happening from the
    hips down. Also the dancers' heads must not bounce up and down but are
    absolutely steady on one plane. These seem to be major factors in
    judging the quality of dancing among the leading milongueros of
    Argentina.  The couple is intensely concentrated on each other and on
    the music; not on spectators, if any, or within him/herself. This is
    what distinguishes tango from other dances--the intense intimacy that
    separates the dancing couple from the rest of the world. The best stage
    performers illustrate this--the electric connection between the man and
    woman is so powerful that it radiates outward to the audience.
        Technically speaking, the "milonguera hips", mentioned in admiring
    accounts of famous female dancers over the last century, and perfect
    balance seem to be the most difficult aspects for many. Tango is not an
    easy dance, especially for those of us with no formal dance training,
    but its unique psychological mysteries keep us going.
        Any comments??       Barbara
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    Date:    Thu, 9 Nov 1995 09:34:23 -0800
    From:    Clay Nelson
    Subject: Back to the "Basic"
    Actually I was enjoying the discussion more when we were talking about the
    so-called "basic" step (i.e., salida) and in particular how and what to
    teach beginners.  I agreed with most of what was said and so I don't want to
    rehash all of that.
    However, there seemed to be no discussion about timing of the step.  All of
    my teachers strongly recommended staying with ALL slows until one becomes
    proficient enough to lead different timing(s).  I have found this to be VERY
    difficult for some beginning students--especially when they already know
    american tango.
    It appears to me in the discussion that many or some of you are teaching a
    beginning salida with slows and quicks--i.e., s s q q s q q s (which is
    quite similar to american timing). Is that correct?  Perhaps I
    missunderstood, but if not I'm wondering what are the pros and cons of
    starting beginners with all slow vs slows & quicks.  Any comments or
    Clay's Dance Studio ----------------- WWW:
    6959 SW Multnomah Blvd ------------------------ Email:
    Portland, OR 97223 ----------------------------------- Phone: (503) 292-0371
    ------------ (Ballroom dancing--the ultimate contact sport!) -------------
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    Date:    Thu, 9 Nov 1995 15:01:51 -0600
    From:    Matej Oresic
    Subject: Re: Back to the "Basic"
    Hello!  ... this is my first posting on tango-l
    It seems logical to me to start with "all slow" steps to
    basic. For example, if you would walk alone to a steady
    beat Argentine tango like D'Arienzo's, "all slow" would
    be most natural. It's a good exercise for beginners to
    start with solo-walking to music as warm up before actually
    teaching basic (like Eduardo did in Stanford).
    There are at least two problems with teaching  "quick-slow":
    1) there is no a priory musical reason for doing so;
    2) students used to this basic tend to take Q's too seriously and
       actually "run" to the cross (or closing) position - with strong
       acceleration and then deceleration before stop and  with body
       raised at stop, of course. This step definitely doesn't lead to
       better walking and musicality in tango.
    Best wishes,
    Matej Oresic
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    Date:    Fri, 10 Nov 1995 10:39:16 -0400
    From:    Diana L Moreno
    Subject: basic steps
    Diana and Diego have sent me an edited version of their original
    posting, and here it is:
    Basic step takes time...(by Diego and Diana)
    Hi out there, there is a very nice topic on the tango-L list about basic steps
    right now. The salida is the first step that every tango dancer learn. It seems
    to be very easy at first, but as we may know, it is always the most difficult
    one, because there are plenty of basic concepts involved. The students have to
    deal at the same time not only with the mechanics of the step, but also with
    important notions like good posture, elegancy, the maintenance of the proper
    structure of the arm and the chest, the level of the head and the body at one
    plane without bouncing, etc.
    Our teachers in Buenos Aires spent at least a couple of months until
    we were able to move on to the next step. Graciela and Pupi freezed us doing
    basic and walks for a long time, before they agreed to give us the first and
    simplest figures. Graciela in particular has the tendency (and we love her
    tendency) of giving a lot of walking exercises, footwork, pivot, etc. Rodolfo
    and Maria from the very beginning want you to start walking and doing the basic
    step in order to acquire the idea of dancing along with the music at the proper
    beat. When you are ready for the next exercise (or step) Rodo taps your back and
    shouts: "Eso, eso, ahi va!!!" as a way of encourage you. These two different
    styles of teaching the basic steps have something very important in common: they
    don't give you permission to move on until you know how to walk and step
    properly. These are the schools that we like. We must confess that initialy we
    were sort of bored about executing all the time the same thing, but nowadays we
    are very grateful of them, because the tango that they teach goes straight to
    the quality instead of going to the quantity. Here in New York we find that some
    tango lovers prefer to accumulate hundreds of intrincated patterns instead of
    knowing simple but fundamental concepts like that in the milonga the dancers
    have to circulate counterclockwise while dancing. But we are optimistic and we
    are convinced that they will change their preference, it is just a matter of
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    Date:    Sat, 11 Nov 1995 00:14:19 -0500
    From:    Arthur Greenberg
    Subject: 8 Count Basic Starting Bk RF/Tango Argentino,etc. etc.
    Hi Tango enthusiasts:
    I would just like to take this opportunity to articulate  a few ideas and
    make some  brief personal  observations, not at all to be taken as
    comprehensive, authoritative  or superbly accurate but  as comments to those
    who might have similar thoughts but are notstating  them, and that might be
    hellpful to place at conscious level in this forum.
    There are many ways to teach Tango Argentino.  The first thing you must
    eliminate is confusing and ambiguous terminology. (I had a dream.  I am not
    at all sure that this is achievable in the real world of Tango teaching!)
    Although there are some significant common denominators amongst the various
    teachers who presented Argentine Tango to me; there were also  some
    significant differences between what they SAID they wanted me to  do and
     what they actually wanted me to do while I  actually danced the Tango.
    An interesting technique to teach the basic is to actually label the 8 count
    step pattern with numbers from 1 to 8. (starts RF back. all slows) If you
    omit the first step backward and you start outside your partner with the left
    foot it is counted step #2.    The "5th" step is the place the lady draws the
    left foot to cross infront of her right foot.  It is quite effective in the
    teaching process in a class.
    What I found to be  a particularly difficult task for both the leader and the
    follower was that frequently we  were dancing on the same foot rather than on
    the opposite foot which is a rule of "convention" in other types of
     "ballroom dancing not strictly adhered to in Argentine TAngo!
    I was quite perplexed to learn that some things the girl (follower) did was
    at her own perogative.  Rather than a lead that the man would provide ,  it
    was more of what could be described as  a "let".  One allowed one's partner
    to do what she wanted  to do and I (the leader) was to suspend my activity
    while she accomplished this perogative. (and sometimes the reciprocal took
    place.)  Althouogh they were in fact quite coordinated they did not happen
    Ochos, forward and back, are quite fascinating, particularly when the
    performer of such movement embellishes the movements with certain swift and
    intricate "firuletes". Contra Ochos are intriguing.
    Sacadas and Ganchos I originally thought were ideas that came from outer
    space.  Today I am just beginning to realize how to perform these various
    movements and to use them where they most naturally fit..  Communication in
    the Tango can be gentle and the responses similarly gentle.  There are times
    however when there are  movements are performed with vigor and with
    "lightning- like speed and precision.  They are still gentle but forcefully
    performed.  The leads are tender but quite compelling!
     I recommend that something a teacher  should  strive for is to give your
    brand new beginner a better perspective of how long it will take to learn
    certain patterns and ideas/concepts without making the mission seem virtually
    impossible.  It is not necessary to advise someone just beginning to  learn
    that it will take two to three years of learning mixed with thousands of
    hours of practice on the dance floor to really fulfill the requirements of
    "looking like you mean it" while dancing Tango with your partner.  That
    realization will come to them as they begin to progress and they  become
    cognizant that what they do (step patterns) is less important than how they
    do it (styling).  The characteristic attitude and the styling make the
    Argentine Tango what it is.  The step patterns alone have little to to do
    with it. Capturing the flavor usually does not happen until you capture the
    pupils' imagination and present the concepts of certain attitudes that must
    be adopted in order to achieve the flavor of the Argentine Tango.
    When my first teacher first said to me that I should forget everything that I
    have previously learned in ballroom dancing and I would have fewer bad habits
    to work against as I began to learn this new form of dance it was difficult
    for me to accept. I didn't know what they meant.  (I could not know what they
    meant!)  I did however listen carefully to what was being taught and what the
    result of the teaching was in terms of my getting out on the dance floor with
    my partner to actually do the Argentine Tango. Dancing cheek to cheek and
    looking in the same direction was quite another idea that went contrary to
    all the learning of other smooth ballroom dances I had learned to do (well)
    During the first hour of instruction in my Tango learning I was informed just
    what the hold in the Tango should look and feel like.  Although it didn't go
    completely over my head I could not perform the newly presented pattern(s)
    properly and at the same time incorporate the Styling as presented.
    When I was told that my female partner was supposed to take a hold resembling
    a "hug" with her left  arm "up and around my neck" (with her hand sometimes
    touching my skin and hair on the back of my neck) I must confess that the
    hold was, to say the least, distracting to  my efforts to concentrate on the
    dance. Next,  I was directed  to place the right side of my chest between my
    partners breasts and commence to dance.  I must report to you all that what
    ensued was  a reciprocal  emotional disturbance that you can well imagine
    even from the  more mature adult pupils in our class.  It became somewhat of
    a break-through when the teacher commanded us to change partners and  resume
    applying the same principles of hold and body  contact with a new partner and
    to start to perform the same process all over again. The members of the class
    did become very friendly.  We got to know each other very well.
    When I took my  young and beautiful female  Tango teacher in my arms her
    chief complaint was that I was not holding her close enough. So I held her
    closer.  The complaint was repeated.  So I held her closer.  When the
    complaint was repeated, what came to mind immediately was the line in the old
    Groucho Marx picture ,  "Girly! If I were holding you any closer I'd be
    behind you!"
    Dancing the basic to a single meter (all slows) was not clearly explained to
    me but I later found out that it is truly  better to learn control and
    dancing to the single slow beats of the Tango music than to start at the
    beginning to learn "quicks" mixed into the patterns.  First comes control!
    Later comes speed and alacrity.  But I am sure that "control" might be a more
    important factor in moving (at first) than the aspect of "speed".
    It seemed only like a  meaningless drill to learn to do the Tango walk(s).
     When I went home one evening and my partner who danced particularly well
    that evening finally said that she was bruising her inside ankle bones when
    dancing the Tango, did I understand what all those word pictures of ankles
    and knees being "magnets" that attract each other while one leg is passing
     by the other in the proper performance of Argentine Tango. It enhances
    balance, control and it looks better.
    One great point that was hammered home to me (and my partner) was  that we
    were dancing for each other.....not the on lookers.  The audience was allowed
    to enjoy what we did. That is what people watching dancers are supposed to
    do.  The two participants of the Tango dance, however,  were supposed to
    concentrate their focus on one another with no other outside distractions.
    The last point that I have farely well  confirmed  (I wrote an article on
    this about 18 months ago on this complicated topic.) is that you cannot think
    of countless details of what you are dancing.  When you are performing them
    well there is a minimum of conscious thought processes occurring.  Having
    practiced the patterns and fragments of patterns and having connected them in
    a myriad of combinations  thousands and thousands of times the dancing
    becomes just thoroughly reflex  and the joy of dancing prevails.
    You can now enjoy the scent of your partner; the closeness of your partner,
    the breathing of your partner.....the body and  soul of your partner.
      ......Boy! It's getting hot in here.  Turn on the air conditioning.  Get me
    a cold drink.  Phew!
    Thanks for reading this.......I enjoyed writing it!
    West Palm Beach, Florida, USA
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    Garrit Fleischmann 17.Jan.96
    Email: kontakt(at)