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Tango is Hard?

Enjoy
Garrit

  • "Brown, Stephen P", Subject: Tango is Hard?
  • Larry Carroll, Subject: Re: Tango is Hard?
  • Michael Cysouw, Subject: Re: Tango is Hard?
  • Robinne Gray, Subject: Re: Tango is Hard?
  • Larry Carroll, Subject: Re(2): Tango is Hard?
  • Vale, Subject: Re: Tango is Hard?
  • Larry Carroll, Subject: Walking is HARD

    
    Date:    Fri, 23 Feb 1996 16:01:00 -0800
    From:    "Brown, Stephen P"
    Subject: Tango is Hard?
    
    
    Hi all!
    
    Several weeks ago, Larry de LA expressed the view that
    Tango is easy.  I agree with his ideas to some extent
    that expressing the view that Tango is easy will help
    attract new dancers, and that simple walking steps can
    be interesting and a useful way to begin.
    
    I wonder what we should say when students venturing past
    the simple walking combinations find the new steps to
    be extremely difficult to master.  To offer encouragement,
    I have told them, "This is hard, and you are improving."
    
    I have also had to explain to many beginning followers
    (usually women) that their beginning partner (usually men)
    starts out behind them, because he has to understand her step,
    perform his step, and lead all at once.  Experience shows that
    doing all three of these things simultaneously while dancing
    gracefully is fairly difficult.
    
    --Steve
    
    
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    Date:    Mon, 26 Feb 1996 18:13:41 -0800
    From:    Larry Carroll
    Subject: Re: Tango is Hard?
    
    Steve says:
    
    > I wonder what we should say when students venturing past
    > the simple walking combinations find the new steps to
    > be extremely difficult to master.
    
    I think it has more to do with the failure of teachers to make the
    more advanced patterns easy. (Teachers have a vested interest in
    making them seem hard--though I believe few of them consciously do
    it. After all, the sooner students learn something the more likely
    they are to quit paying for lessons.)
    
    There are a number of ways to make new patterns easier to learn. One
    is to show the connections with previously learned patterns. For
    example, here's some ideas that Daniel Trenner & Rebecca Shulman
    taught at Stanford Tango Week. (My apologies if I've screwed this up,
    or added too many of my own perceptions.)
    
    The Grapevine or Chain pattern is a walking pattern used in a number
    of dances; I first learned it in modern dance class.  There are
    several variations, and more than one way to describe any particular
    one. For instance: Stand facing toward the edge of the dance
    floor. With your left foot step to the left side (along the Line of
    Dance). With right foot step behind the left (still along the LoD).
    Left step to the side again. Right step in front of the left.  Repeat
    these four steps as often as desired, always moving in the LoD.
    
    When dancing with a partner the leader usually has the follower do
    complementary actions: stepping side behind when the leader steps side
    front, for instance. Together they will travel along the dance floor,
    curving the pattern at the corners to stay on the floor. But you can
    also curve the pattern more sharply, eventually to the point that one
    of the partners stays in the center of a circle while the other
    partner walks the edge of the circle. This is the Molinete or Wheel
    (also called Giros or Turns).
    
    Another way of looking at the Grapevine is that it is a succession of
    straightened-out ochos, first forward then backward ochos. (The
    complementary pattern is backward then forward ochos.) Thus it is
    easy to end a Grapevine by going into an ocho, or get into it from an
    ocho.
    
    All this may be hard to understand from just this written text. With a
    demonstration it is much clearer. And it shows three sets of patterns
    (Grapevine, Molinetes, & Ochos) as variations on each other. This is
    conceptually simpler than presenting them as distinctly different
    patterns. It also means that the physical skills developed in one
    kind of pattern can be used to make teaching its cousin easier.
    
                                            Larry de California Sur
    
    
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    Date:    Tue, 27 Feb 1996 10:29:54 +0200
    From:    Michael Cysouw
    Subject: Re: Tango is Hard?
    
    Steve wrote:
    
    >I wonder what we should say when students venturing past
    >the simple walking combinations find the new steps to
    >be extremely difficult to master.
    
    Larry reacted:
    
    >There are a number of ways to make new patterns easier to learn. One
    >is to show the connections with previously learned patterns.
    [following discussion that]
    >shows three sets of patterns (Grapevine, Molinetes, & Ochos) as
    >variations on each other. This is conceptually simpler than presenting
    >them as distinctly different patterns.
    
    Yes, and go on and relate ochos to walking. In fact ochos are a walk and a
    turn in the same count. Then we are back from the difficult patterns to
    simple walking. As simple as that.
    But the problem ain't really those 'feet-patterns', but how to combine the
    two partners, to form a pair, to dance together and not do just their own
    'steps'. The traditional solution in tango is to give the responsibility to
    the man to combine the two (see daniel's writing on some historical reasons
    for this).
    
    There are two problems with this 'assymmetry':
    
    -- the man has to learn a lot. As Steve wrote (and I recognize this)
    
    >I have also had to explain to many beginning followers
    >(usually women) that their beginning partner (usually men)
    >starts out behind them, because he has to understand her step,
    >perform his step, and lead all at once.
    
    -- the woman has hardly any influence on the basic music-interpretation. Of
    course she can fill in certain parts, but the overall movement-picture is
    determined by the man. I often hear women complaining about the crude
    music-interpretation of the man, unable to alter something, to do something
    more appropriate in their feeling.
    
    My 'solution', simply stated, is to lessen the 'feet-patterns' and
    strengthen the 'partner-interaction'. Working on feeling the other at all
    time, keeping together, not doing anything that forces the other do make
    crude movements. Working on music structure and how to translate the
    elemants of music into movements. Everything flowing from simple movements.
    Only on the second place should the build-up of difficult figures stand.
    Mind this: difficult patterns belongs to tango, but it isn't the central
    part.
    
    Steve wrote:
    
    >Experience shows that doing all three [do steps, know the other's steps,
    >leading, MC] of these things simultaneously while dancing
    >gracefully is fairly difficult.
    
    Well, in fact I'm making it still more difficult. I ask from both partners
    that they: do steps, know the other's steps, lead, follow, and know how to
    interact. Very, very difficult, but at the same time as easy as
    'slow-dancing' as long as you don't speed up the step-intricacy.
    
    bye
    michael cysouw
    nijmegen, holland
    
    
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    Date:    Tue, 27 Feb 1996 09:19:18 -0500
    From:    Robinne Gray
    Subject: Re: Tango is Hard?
    
    >I wonder what we should say when students venturing past
    >the simple walking combinations find the new steps to
    >be extremely difficult to master.  To offer encouragement,
    >I have told them, "This is hard, and you are improving."
    
      When I teach (swing, not tango) I try to avoid coloring my students'
    perceptions by using terms like "easy" and "hard."  They are loaded words
    that do nothing to elucidate the material, and in fact they could do
    harm--if my teacher says something is "easy" and I have trouble with it,
    then I might feel like the class dunce and get discouraged.  Or, if I am
    led to expect something to be "hard," that may create a barrier to
    assimilating the material.  What is easy for one is hard for another.
    
      I certainly understand the temptation to make such value judgments,
    because they make the teacher seem empathetic to the student.  If I feel
    the need to say something of this nature, I try to temper the sentiment:
    "Some of you may find this pattern challenging."  Or I show empathy in a
    direct and genuine way:  "I had a lot of trouble with this move when I
    first learned it, but here is what helped me to understand it better."
    
    >I have also had to explain to many beginning followers
    >(usually women) that their beginning partner (usually men)
    >starts out behind them, because he has to understand her step,
    >perform his step, and lead all at once.  Experience shows that
    >doing all three of these things simultaneously while dancing
    >gracefully is fairly difficult.
    
       I have heard several different versions of this statement in various
    classrooms, and they make me uncomfortable.  The condescending subtext
    seems to be, "Ladies, give the guys a break, because they're working very
    hard whereas all you have to do is follow."    [Does this have a familiar
    ring?  Ladies, don't ask too much of your husband, because he works hard to
    earn a living, while all you have to do is mind the children and the
    house].
    
      Because leading and following are very different yet complementary
    disciplines, I try to avoid anything that hints at placing a higher value
    on leading (or following, though that is a less likely scenario).   A
    conscientious teacher can encourage students in both roles to cut each
    other some slack without implying a higher value on either set of skills.
    ("The leaders may need to try this several times, and the followers can
    help by trying not to anticipate the lead.")  This is important, because
    the prejudices we unwittingly impart as teachers will  trickle down into
    our dance communities.
    
    
    Robinne Gray
    Ithaca, NY
    
    
    
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    Date:    Thu, 29 Feb 1996 20:11:22 -0800
    From:    Larry Carroll
    Subject: Re: Tango is Hard?
    
    Steve wrote:
    
    >Experience shows that doing all three [do steps, know the other's steps,
    >leading] of these things simultaneously while dancing
    >gracefully is fairly difficult.
    
    I think this is another example of a task being made too hard, partly
    by teachers & students setting the goal too high, too soon. Beginners
    shouldn't expect to do lots of fancy stuff.
    
    All the beginning leader (and follower) needs to know is the following.
            _____________________________________________________
    
    LISTEN TO THE MUSIC, let it get inside you & guide you.  Unless you
    fall down or hurt someone, whatever you do is right.
    
    PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR PARTNER. All of us have skills at reading other
    people's body language that we don't even know we have. Focusing
    attention on your partner will alone activate a lot of these skills.
    
    WATCH OUT FOR PEOPLE & THINGS AROUND YOU. You've had decades of
    practice navigating in a complex environment; it shouldn't be hard to
    do on the dance floor. Keep your head up, not looking at your
    partner's feet (or bosom). It's all right to turn your head from side
    to side occasionally.
    
    KEEP A GOOD FRAME. Without one you can't lead or follow. Practice
    alone with your arms & hands in the correct position. This will build
    strength & several of the habits underlying a good frame. Soon you won't
    have to work hard at keeping a good frame.
            _____________________________________________________
    
    Other important things to know.
    
    IMAGINE YOU'RE A GREAT JUNGLE CAT. As you learn & work on the details
    of good tango style, attach them to this self-image. This will speed
    the day when your movement skills are automatic. Think of yourself as
    powerful, graceful, beautiful. (But don't overdo it! This feeling is
    why tango is the sexiest dance of all; you may find yourself being
    turned on at the wrong time!)
    
    DON'T FEAR MISTAKES. Focus on the next thing you're trying to do;
    otherwise your anxiety will cause you to make more mistakes, and keep
    you from enjoying all the things you did right. Learning to recover
    from mistakes builds the skills of good recovery & confidence. Also,
    mistakes can be good; in recovering from them you may discover or
    invent patterns even your teachers may not know. Lastly, remember: if
    you're NOT making mistakes, you're not being daring enough.
    
    HAVE FUN. If your soul can't dance, it doesn't matter how good your
    body dances; you will always be second-rate. But if you're filled with
    joy (or sadness), your partners will be more likely to feel it, too, &
    want to dance with you more. And astute watchers will know that, even
    if you're not very good yet, you've achieved the most important goal
    you can have in dancing.
                                                    Larry de Universe
    
    
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    Date:    Fri, 1 Mar 1996 15:53:36 -0800
    From:    tanguero@milongas.Eng.Sun.COM
    Subject: Re: Tango is Hard?
    
    >>Date:         Thu, 29 Feb 1996 20:11:22 -0800
    >>From: Larry Carroll
    
    >>All the beginning leader (and follower) needs to know is the following.
    ...
    
    Nice posting Larry. I would like to add one more to the
    suggestions made by you:
    
    DON'T FORGET THE BEGINNERS ONCE YOU BECOME PROFICIENT. Give back to tango
    some of what you have learned. Dancing with beginners is like tutoring
    in college: it cements what you already know and lets you discover subtle
    nuances that you didn't know existed, plus it makes you a hero :^)
    
    Vale.
    -----
    C.F.
    
    
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    Date:    Fri, 1 Mar 1996 19:35:11 -0800
    From:    Larry Carroll
    Subject: Walking is HARD
    
    As my last post before I signoff from TANGO-L, I'm going to reverse
    myself. I've been saying that tango is easy. Now I'm going to say
    that tango is hard!
    
    More accurately, I contend that tango should be taught so that
    beginners can begin dancing right away. They might not be very good,
    but they should be able to enjoy themselves. To share in the core
    experience of dancing tango, so that they will want to continue.  So
    that they are not scared off by the belief they have to invest
    enourmous effort to be even barely adequate.
    
    On the other hand, it does take a lot of work to MASTER every skill.
    Even very simple skills take time & practice. (Despite three decades
    dancing the waltz, I'm still working on its heel-toe-toe-heel
    up-and-down motion.)
    
    Let's take the tango walk as an example. To do it right you have to
    practice the following.
    
    *  Stepping forward onto the ball of the foot, not the heel.
    *  Keeping your knees & ankles together as you walk.
    *  Beginning each step with knees slightly flexed & straightening them
       as you step to keep your body at the same level throughout the step.
    *  Reaching backward further than in a normal walk when stepping back.
    *  Tilting the upper body toward the direction of movement before one
       takes a step.
    *  Stepping precisely on the beat.
    *  Learning how to do cross (or hook) steps, where one crosses one foot
       in front or behind the other before completing the weight change.
    *  Keeping shoulders parallel with your partners as much as possible,
       even after doing a salida to dance outside your partner (right foot
       outside their right or the less-frequent left foot outside their
       left).
    *  Learning to do more or less contra-body movement when taking steps.
    *  Varying & combining in many interesting ways the three simple patterns
       I described a few posts ago. Take the tango close, as an example.
       Instead of forward-side-together (for the man), you can do
       Fwd-Fwd-Tgthr, Fwd-Tgthr-Tgthr, or even Tgthr-Tgthr-Tgthr. You
       can also do the tango close in reverse.
    
    In addition, as you get more advanced you want to do more than walk in
    a steady, march-like rhythm. You'll want to practice double-time,
    triple-time, or even faster-tempo steps, including the very short,
    very fast "stutter" steps that Juan Bruno & Miguel Angel Zotto (among
    others) do to spice up their dancing.
    
    You'll also want to work on walking with different amounts of lifting
    the feet off the floor, from gliding which barely carresses the floor
    with your feet, to high steps.
    
    And you'll want to work on tiny details of foot-placement. For
    instance, when drawing the foot from the side to a position close to
    your supporting foot, try bending the knee inward so that the inner
    edge of your foot touches the floor but the outer edge is off the
    floor.
    
    Lastly, their are a number of adornos that can ornament each step,
    taps small & large, striking the floor with ball of the foot, the
    toes, pointed toes, to the side or in front or behind ...
    
    So, what's the significance of all this? Am I confused or deceptive
    when I say tango is "easy?" No, I say tango "has depth," and that at
    every point along the path of mastery one should be at ease.
    
                                            Larry of the Shadows
    
    
    
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    Garrit Fleischmann 4.Mar.96
    Email: kontakt(at)cyber-tango.com