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The dancing frame

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Date:    Wed, 8 May 1996 10:46:36 +0100
From:    Tom Stermitz
Subject: Re: Bad Example

>Dear Larry, Michael, Alexis, et al,
>    How about a woman's point of view.  First of all, I admit to being
>    In any case, there is a good technical reason for the leader's and
>follower's arms to be held out to the side, with somewhat bent elbows
>and equal resistance, varying according to the figure.  This position
>provides a strong frame for a body lead by maintaining  the torsos and
>shoulders parallel.
>                    Abrazos to all,    Barbara


Do you in fact dance with shoulders exactly parallel to the leader?

I have found that a "V" is more effective. The super-close frame pulls the
partner's shoulders together (i.e. parallel), but that is practiced
primarily by the younger crowd. The older gentlemen all use the left arm
down and forward, (hand at mouth level) matched by the lady resting on his
hand, but also hand forward. The other side is very close, the crook of the
man's elbow in the woman's armpit and the lower arm wrapped around her
back. (Yes I might shift to a slightly wider pose for certain figures, say
at the parada so that the partners can separate.)

In other words, close frame means either both the follower's breasts
touching the man's chest ("Milonguero Style") or else just the left one
(the style of the real milongueros). Let's keep a piece of paper between us
for propriety's sake.

The additional assymmetry opens a space for the feet and encourages turns.
It also seems to help with the quick turns of direction, although I would
say that stationary frame is far more important than the "V".

Maybe I'm just stuck in a certain style that works for me, but I have
partners here with whom I cannot dance very well at all because they don't
maintain a "V".

I have a feeling that honorable teachers will differ on this point.

Tom Stermitz
Chautauqua Publishing
Ragtime Interiors
1604 Bluebell Ave.
Boulder, CO 80302

"The On-Line Arts and Crafts Movement Resource Directory."
(303) 444 - 9667

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Date:    Wed, 8 May 1996 13:32:44 -0400
From:    Nancy Ingle
Subject: Re: Bad Example

>>Speaking of the turned wrist hand hold, Tom Stermitz writes:

>It is NOT used in the Milongas of Buenos Aires, nor by the older gentleman.
   Tom - I would like to differ with you a little here, having danced with
more Argentine men on a crowded milonga floor than you ( I presume!).  In
the typically crowded situations, the men sort of enfold their partners,
with both arms (Think hug) to protect them from being buffetted about.  In
doing so, his left hand tends to turn inward over her hand as he  snuggles
her right hand into his chest.  Also, except for a class or group practice
where there is plenty of room, I noticed that all of my Argentine partners
held me closer with each consecutive dance in a set.  As I relaxed and felt
more comfortable with them, our bodies came closer, my left arm
re-positioning around their upper shoulder, etc, until we ended with the
"hoja de papel" abrazo at the end of the last dance.  This is the beauty of
dancing several dances with the same guy and really getting into the music
with him.  Of course, should they choose to do an ocho, a boleo, or
"GASP!!" a parada, then the bodies, of necessity, pull apart and we start
over again with re-creating the intimacy - altho seldom do we go all the
way back to Step One.  The man's left hand and arm move, depending on the
press of the crowd and the movements he wishes to execute, but the frame is
never lost. I think it goes back to what we were told repeatedly - that the
woman's lead comes more from his body than his hand or arm.

Nancy Ingle
La Gringa
Rockledge, Florida

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Date:    Thu, 9 May 1996 11:04:54 +0200
From:    Michael Cysouw
Subject: parallel frame/differing teachers

Tom said:
> Barbara, do you in fact dance with shoulders exactly parallel to the
> leader? I have found that a "V" is more effective.
> The additional assymmetry opens a space for the feet and encourages turns.
> It also seems to help with the quick turns of direction

You're right when you say 'it helps', but it has some technical
disadvantages: if you can maintain a steady frame (Yes, an ugly word indeed
but it gets to the point) then with a parallel position you are much more
flexible to do things as well to the left as to the right. Very practical
on crowded floors, not to speak of all that new vocabulary you get to have
ever more beautiful conversations.

Tom said also:
> I have a feeling that honorable teachers will differ on this point.
Alexis agreed:
> Yup. I was told several times to un-learn what had just been hammered
> in the hour before ;) by another teacher.

Prepare for worse ;-) ! One of the central features of Argentine Tango is
that there is no 'standart', no 'real truth'. Everyone has his own truth,
and they are all right. As Daniel Trenner once wrote:
> 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.

I read a statement from the late Petroleo some weeks ago in some german
tango-newsletter (sorry, no exact reference), saying something like: 'a
tanguero is a complete dancer when he has taken all that exists in tango
and made it to fit himself, made his own tango.'

So every teacher tells his story. Accept that and take those elements to
make your own story. And mind you own warning, Alexis:

>`Correctness' at comfort's cost is IMHO almost always the
>result of trying to copy a style you don't actually understand.

michael cysouw
nijmegen, holland

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Date:    Thu, 9 May 1996 15:59:11 -0400
From:    Robinne Gray
Subject: Tango frame and grip

Tom Stermitz asked:
>Do you in fact dance with shoulders exactly parallel to the leader?

  Although I was taught by a very well-known teacher to stay parallel *and*
squared up (not offset), I confess I generally do not.  I did try it
several times, but it felt awkward and interfered with the connection to my
partners.  It is possible that I was not doing it correctly, but I believe
I followed the instruction.

  I was also taught that it is the *follower's* responsibility to stay
square, which does not seem right to me.  If I force this position, it
feels undeniably like backleading.

  Based on everything I've ever learned about partner dancing, I think the
leader should adjust the frame to keep me where he wants me.  In tango he
does this with his right arm.  In my experience most leaders offer a frame
that automatically puts me in that slight V-shape that Tom describes.  If a
leader wants me squared up, then he should curve his right shoulder/arm
around more to indicate that, and I, being a receptive follower, will

Tom said:
>This frame business really intrigues me. To me it is the path to the soul
>of the tango, not the flashy footsteps or the gancho or even the dramatic

  I think you're right.

  My sense of frame is fairly good, since I've done other kinds of partner
dance.  Although there are many partnering skills that apply to all forms,
I'm discovering some differences specific to tango.  More than any other
dance, tango relies on the full-body lead, the beautiful and appropriate
metaphor of leading "with the heart."  Another distinct difference is that
while other dances require followers to settle back into the leaders hand
(also described as filling the frame, or pressing toward the outside of the
"hula hoop"), tango asks that her weight be against her partner.  This is a
change for me and I am still adapting, getting it into my muscle-memory.

>The worst is when [followers] collapse either their arm or the frame.

  Leaders too.  This past weekend I had an opportunity to dance with
several South American leaders in NYC.  Wonderful!.  Each of them felt
different from the others but they were all enjoyable because their frames
were solid.  Their dancing was not tentative or hesitant, and they felt
truly supportive of me.  (I do not mean they literally supported my weight,
but that they were "there for me".)  They knew how to communicate, and
this, to me, is what all dancing is about.

As for the recent conversation about the wrist grip--I just don't think
this forum can do justice to the debate.  It is too hard without visuals.
I have seen leaders curve their left hand around the follower's, to that
the leader's palm is facing toward himself.  But then the grip is modified
slightly so that the follower's arm is not twisted.  I think it looks nice.
At any rate, that hand is not so very important--a couple can dance with
no connection on that side--so I have not yet put much thought into it.

Robinne Gray
Ithaca, NY

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Garrit Fleischmann 16.May.96
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