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Mechanical Dancing

The discussion evolves a little and also includes teaching, respect and other aspects of Argentinian Tango, but the subject started as mechanical dancing...
Enjoy, Garrit (Nov. 97)

Larry E Carroll
Frank Sasson
Alberto Paz
Alexis Cousein
Manuel Patino
Alexis Cousein
Dave Sherohman
John Drendel
Manuel Patino
Jacques Gauthier
Tom Stermitz
Enrico Massetti
La Vampiresa
Larry E Carroll
Manuel Patino
Abreviations:
D8CB Dreaded 8-Count Basic
8CBw/DBS 8-Count Basic with Dreaded Back Step
see also Dave's posting on this subject;
For a general overview, you could read the thread about the basic dancing pattern


Date:    Sat, 8 Nov 1997 21:12:18 EST
From:    Larry E Carroll
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

Lots of good  comments on this one. Not sure what I
can add; some of what I have to say echos
what others said. But I've been studying creativity
off & on for almost 40 years, from both the standpoint
of scientific research & from a subjective viewpoint
as an artist in several areas, & can't resist talking about
this topic.

Many people talk about superlatives when they talk
about some topic. You can almost hear the capitals:
Art, Creativity, Milonguero, Hero. And
certainly looking at the highest examples of a type
of thing or activity helps us understand it.

But this approach misses an essential aspect of  (for
instance) creativity. It implies that only the superlative
exists, that Real Artists are somehow different from
the rest of us.

The opposite seems to be true. Every human being
(except for a rare few who have been brain-damaged
in some way) perceives beauty and makes it. The
ghetto kid listening to rap music & trying to imitate
it may not strike you as an artiste, but s/he is. The
child's crayon scrawls may not impress you, but if
you look closely, with the eye of the scientist or
the attentive parent, you can see in embryo the
Sistine Chapel & the Mona Lisa.

Every writer (& painter, scupltor, composer -
& dancer) starts by reading - lots of reading
(& looking, listening, watching). Over
years of this s/he commits to long-term memory
thousands of rules, gaining mastery of them without
knowing s/he's doing it. And eventually when s/he
tries to write all of these automatic skills guide hi/r
without hi/r ever having to give them conscious
thought.

This doesn't mean that study (formal or informal)
of writing (or dancing or whatever) is useless. It
simply puts in perspective what use studying has.
It can't help you compose a sentence or a sestina;
it can help you decide what's wrong with it &
give you hints as how to fix it. Study & its various
elements (such as rules of grammar & systems
of dance-steps) can also speed up getting essential
skills or perfecting those already gained.

When one first starts writing (or dancing or
whatever) we usually try to imitate some
good examples, & this can be very helpful. If our
creative abilities are small, we may never get far
from our Heroes. But even the least of us - by
accident & our inability to perfectly copy - will
develop some miniscule uniqueness to our dance
style.

Tango more than any other ballroom dance
allows us to be creative - followers as well as
leaders. The lack of an official ONE & ONLY
RIGHT WAY has helped it to continue to evolve
over more than a century. It has also nurtured
many different ways of dancing the tango,
providing beginners with a smorgasbord of
dance elements to work with when learning &
dancing the tango. The freedom to choose
different layers of the music to focus on when
interpreting it also helps, as do several other
aspects of the music & dance.

Tango teachers can help nurture creativity in
several ways. One is by nurturing their own
creativity, to be less concerned about perfection
& more concerned about experiment when
choreographing & performing. Another is by
refusing to identify one & only one of school
of tango as the One Right Way. Another is
by refusing to teach long complicated routines
when teaching, by trying to break figures down
into their simplest part & showing how the
same basic elements can be varied & combined
to create dance figures. And so on, including
focusing on the music & dance style &
leading/following skills as well as steps. And
by encouraging students from the very
beginning to get on the dance floor &
forget their lessons & have fun.

     Larry de Los Angeles
     http://world.std.com/~larrydla/

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Date:    Sun, 9 Nov 1997 04:21:58 -0500
From:    Frank Sasson
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

This is one reply to Larrydla in his "Mechanical Dancing" of
97-11-08 22:32:42 EST

My opinion varies slightly from yours, being a dancer who studies FORM,
trying very hard to perfect the technical balance between the partners.

In your last paragraph you mention "And by encouraging students from the very
beginning to get on the dance floor and forget their lessons & have fun"

I agree that beginning students should start having fun right away, but
they're not going to have fun unless they, at least, can dance the 7 or 8
step basic, from which they can and should be encouraged to develop new
skills and techniques of their own.

The arrival of those students to be able to dance that basic (7 or 8 steps),
is in my opinion the secret of their future involvement in Tango, and their
future development of their skills, and you cannot just "encourage them to
get on the dance floor and have fun", when there are other couples,
beginners, intermediates and advanced, who are dancing and having fun because
thay can experiment and develop new skills (to them at least) because some
teacher took the time to show them patiently how to dance the basic step, but
even before that, taught them how to "walk gently like stepping on eggs" and
how to position their legs and feet to have the look of elegance required in
dancing Argentine Tango.

The fact that tango teachers should be less concerned about perfection & more
concerned about experiment also bothers me because you didn't specify at what
level that concern should be !  Most certainly, at an advanced level, the
creativity
for each person's or couple's perfection should be left to them, after just
showing them a particular routine, and the way it should look and develop.
However, with beginners and low level intermediates, more strength should be
placed on the particular steps and manner in which they are done.

I'm writing this as my own personal opinion, and maybe as a devil's advocate.
Definitely not to challenge in any way your experience or knowledge. I'd like
to learn from you, and maybe, since you are so clear in your written
explanations, you could take a particular, personal routine of yours and, in
written form, teach me or us that routine. I think it would be fun trying.

Frank

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Date:    Sun, 9 Nov 1997 11:32:28 -0800
From:    Alberto Paz
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

From:    Larry E Carroll
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

>Tango teachers can help nurture creativity in several ways.
>One is by nurturing their own creativity, to be less concerned about perfection
>& more concerned about experiment when choreographing & performing.
********************************************************************

This is what the stage performer does and this is what the foreign clientele
gets sold as authentic Argentine Tango dancing, which is not.
Ironically just every one name on stage today will tell you that the
nurturing takes place at the "milonga", the place where perfection and
creativity go hand in hand, or shall I say foot in foot.

>Another is by refusing to identify one & only one of school of tango as the
One >Right Way.

There is only one right school of Tango, it is called Buenos Aires, and it
has several branches, Villa Devoto, Villa Crespo, Villa Urquiza, Mataderos,
to name just a few. Anybody pretending to be the purveyor of the "new
tango", is only aiming his/her promotional efforts to an identified segment
of the market that can maximize his/her profits.

>Another is by refusing to teach long complicated routines when teaching, by
>trying to break figures down into their simplest part & showing how the
>same basic elements can be varied & combined to create dance figures.

A qualified teacher knows that as part of his/her training to teach. By the
same token that we don't welcome regulations of the Tango as a dance, we
don't regulate who can teach or not. Somebody said that on the field you can
see the ponies. In general, there are no bad dancers, there are plenty that
dance bad as a result of the teaching they choose to receive.

>And so on, including focusing on the music & dance style &
leading/following skills as well as steps. And by encouraging students from
the very beginning to get on the dance floor & forget their lessons & have fun.

A very positive thought and an encouraging intention.
There is one lesson Argentine Tango dancers may want to remember, it is the
one about respect. Respect for their partners, respect for their fellow
dancers, respect for the dance floor (we call it "el piso", which is where
we dance, not stomp on), respect for the cultural and social aspects of
Argentina (read Buenos Aires) that contribute and have contributed to the
evolution of the dance and the music we so dearly love with such a passion.

Suspect from anybody dismissing these aspects of the Argentine Tango lore as
"old wives tales" or "old fart whims", because those who live without
traditions and role models are people without a soul. The kind that become
members of a satanic cult known as the DATS: the Dreadful Anti Tango Society.
Watching them can also be a lot of fun.  :-)

TangoMan

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Date:    Mon, 10 Nov 1997 11:02:58 +0000
From:    Alexis Cousein
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

>I agree that beginning students should start having fun right away, but
>they're not going to have fun unless they, at least, can dance the 7 or 8
>step basic,


Rubbish. I've recently come to the conclusion that the 8-step basic is *lousy*
to learn anyone who asks just for a few dances to get her to enjoy a tango to
get him/her to continue. Getting her to dance a few inside steps while she
follows and you play with the rythm is much better.

But let's not discuss this too much; if you want, we can both look up the
archives for the discussion about the `dreaded' 8-count basic (though I don't
`dread' it; after I've done some walking, I tend to use it to illustrate how
you can `complicate' the walking by stepping sideways, by stepping on the
outside, etc.).

>There is only one right school of Tango, it is called Buenos Aires,

I beg to differ. While BsAs *may* be the *best* school of Tango, it's not the
`only' one, and not even the only `right' one.

I learned my command of the English language in a Belgian school, not an
English one (though I did spend time in England afterwards), and I am not under
the impression that I can't communicate with you fellas because I started
learning it *that* way. It's the same with tango.

You can't actually expect everyone to go to BsAs to learn to enjoy this dance
(how many non-Argentines would be left on this list?), just like you couldn't
have wished every US citizen to travel to London for two centuries just to
ensure American English and English did not evolve slightly separately.


--
Alexis Cousein
Sales Support Engineer
Silicon Graphics NV/SA  (Belgium)


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Date:    Mon, 10 Nov 1997 08:42:42 -0500
From:    Manuel Patino
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

At 11:02 AM 11/10/97 +0000, Alexis Cousein wrote:
>>I agree that beginning students should start having fun right away, but
>>they're not going to have fun unless they, at least, can dance the 7 or 8
>>step basic,
>
>
>Rubbish. I've recently come to the conclusion that the 8-step basic is
*lousy*
>to learn anyone who asks just for a few dances to get her to enjoy a tango to
>get him/her to continue. Getting her to dance a few inside steps while she
>follows and you play with the rythm is much better.


I'm not sure I understand this too well. Perhaps it's easier to just sway
and move to the music a little bit and maybe this is a fine way to enjoy
oneself, but I dont think a 7 or 8 step basic is a *lousy* thing to learn.

>But let's not discuss this too much; if you want, we can both look up the
>archives for the discussion about the `dreaded' 8-count basic (though I don't
>`dread' it; after I've done some walking, I tend to use it to illustrate how
>you can `complicate' the walking by stepping sideways, by stepping on the
>outside, etc.).

Putting aside all the polemic regarding the D8CB ( one can always do the
7CB), I think that stepping sideways and to the outside, etc, etc, is what
makes tango what it is. If all we had to do was walk around and *play* with
the music why are we all learning and practising all these different and
difficult sreps and figures?
Tango is made of steps that move to the side and to the outside of the
follower. Also, the followers cross at the 5th step of the D8CB is what
makes tango different. Imagine tango without sacadas, ochos, boleos etc, I
dont think it would be tango any more. Perhaps it would be easier for
someone to not do any of these steps and have fun while ocupying space in a
dance floor during a periood when tango music is played, but is this what
we want?

Saludos a todos,
Manuel

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Date:    Mon, 10 Nov 1997 16:17:41 +0000
From:    Alexis Cousein
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

>but I dont think a 7 or 8 step basic is a *lousy* thing to learn.

As a *first* thing, well, i'm not sure I agree with you. At least, it's lousy
if you don't point out this is *a* possible first thing to learn, rather than
THE basic. And even then I'd like to see it dismembered first, i.e. all the
constituents pointed out, and then assembled into a figure, rather than an
atomic entity that leads a life of its own. Face it, the 8CB is nothing more
than the sum of its parts.

Of course, I'm not debating that a skilled dancer will execute all the
different symbols the D8CB is made of. It's just that I was thaught the 8CB
first and it took me years to actually realize what it was made of and why it
was fun (because it *is* a basic that has many ingredients, and that allows one
to spin off in all those other directions easily). And it's difficult to master
at that, so I don't think it's that well suited to *absolute* beginners, who
tend to wrestle with the steps rather than what's behind them.

>If all we had to do was walk around and *play* with
>the music why are we all learning and practising all these different and
>difficult steps and figures?

I don't see `learning and practising all these difficult figures' as a goal. I
add them to my vocabulary so I have a richer language to use when I play with
the music and my partner, but none of these steps are an end 'per se'. Why are
we learning these `steps and figures'? To surprise our partner and challenge
her, because some of them match the music beautifully, because they feel good
once you learned them. In other words, to play.

Yes, all I do when dancing is walking around and playing. It's even that
playfullness that forces me to do all these funny things that would normally
not be seen as `walking' when I feel like them (I'm not exactly a `playing
safe' dancer, an oxymoron if there ever was one. I don't think one person
who'se seen me dance will ever contradict that ;) ).

In fact, there are not many things I loathe more than people showing of these
difficult sequences with no regard for the music, the partner, whether the
constituents are mastered, and always in the exact same sequence, i.e. without
improvisation. With some people, this behaviour makes me uncharacteristically
aggressive, and for others I know, it makes me extremley sad.

>Tango is made of steps that move to the side and to the outside of the
>follower.

Sure. And that's why indeed, the 8CB is useful, as the second part of my post
you quoted pointed out. For that, and for pointing out the possibility of a
cross when it's being led at 5 in the 8CB (What follower would guess that she
can cross in response to the lead there, if it's not learned? You wouldn't
believe the contraptions some beginning followers that don't know the cross
will invent to `not do' the cross while following a lead to a cross ;) ).


--
Alexis Cousein

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Date:    Mon, 10 Nov 1997 10:02:12 -0600
From:    Dave Sherohman
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

(I've been careful to avoid letting this reply turn into an 8CB rant.
Hopefully I was successful...)

At 08:42 AM 11/10/97 -0500, Manuel Patino wrote:
>At 11:02 AM 11/10/97 +0000, Alexis Cousein wrote:
>>Rubbish. I've recently come to the conclusion that the 8-step basic is
>*lousy*
>>to learn anyone who asks just for a few dances to get her to enjoy a tango to
>>get him/her to continue. Getting her to dance a few inside steps while she
>>follows and you play with the rythm is much better.
>
>I'm not sure I understand this too well. Perhaps it's easier to just sway
>and move to the music a little bit and maybe this is a fine way to enjoy
>oneself, but I dont think a 7 or 8 step basic is a *lousy* thing to learn.

Umm...  I don't see anything in Alexis's post about "just sway[ing] and
mov[ing] to the music a little bit".  I see a suggestion for starting people
out with dancing what they're likely to already be able to do instead of
teaching them routines.  Start with walking, if they can handle it, maybe
add a few outside steps or steps to the side, etc. without making them worry
about, "OK, I've stepped backwards... which way am I supposed to go next?"

Note also that this was in regards to "anyone who asks just for a few dances
to get her to enjoy a tango to get him/her to continue", not necessarily for
regular students.  If you're out somewhere, you dance a tango, and a woman
you've never met before comes up and says, "That looked fun!  Can you show
me how to do it?" do you think she'll enjoy it more it you just dance with
her or if you first stop and spend half an hour teaching her the D8CB?
Perhaps the D8CB may have a place in an organized class, but not when
dealing with someone who just saw you dancing and wants to try it out at a
dance without the benefit of formal lessons.

>Putting aside all the polemic regarding the D8CB ( one can always do the
>7CB), I think that stepping sideways and to the outside, etc, etc, is what
>makes tango what it is.

Yes and no.  These things add much to the flavor of the dance, but (IMO)
tango is, at its core, walking.  If tango is supposed to be an
improvisational walking dance, why do so many try to teach it as a series of
pre-choreographed routines with as little walking involved as possible?

> If all we had to do was walk around and *play* with
>the music why are we all learning and practising all these different and
>difficult sreps and figures?

1)  Because most new learners want to be able to show off and do flashy
moves, so that's what the instructors (think they) have to teach if they
want to continue to have students.  The common perception is that you can't
take a group of beginners and just have them walk because they'll all get
bored and never come back - and walking, the heart of the dance, becomes
"advanced technique", only to be taught to students who have already
mastered 327 routines of ever-increasing complexity.

2)  Because most students, especially beginners, but also many who have been
dancing a while, are unsure of their creativity.  They're not willing to try
something unless it's actually been taught to them, as it doesn't have an
outside 'seal of approval', so it may be a "wrong" thing to do.  They're
afraid to play.

> Imagine tango without sacadas, ochos, boleos etc, I
>dont think it would be tango any more.

Then we disagree.  I would much rather see a tango with no ochos than one
with no walking.



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Date:    Mon, 10 Nov 1997 11:40:19 -0500
From:    John Drendel
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

Tango is art and art is never easy, If you want to have fun while
expressing yourself, it's simpler to take up something else.

Or, to quote a poet who said bad things about a bad time, because the art
of a poet is to tell the truth:

"la liberta e alla portata di tutti, come la chitarra.  Ognuno suona come
vuole e tutti suonano come vuole la liberta"

Giorgio Gabor, Liberta obbligatoria.

John Drendel

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Date:    Mon, 10 Nov 1997 11:47:59 -0500
From:    Manuel Patino
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

Thank you John,

You've expressed what I wanted to say more succintly and clearly than I did
in my previous post. My point is not to attack or critizise walking and
moving to the music per se. I believe that one can dance a very nice tango
with very few combinations of steps. I do it all the time.

My point is that I see very little good in critizing the more elaborate
ways of expression. Also, who is the authority who has determined what is
the *true* essence of tango anyway? I saw a number of the instructors
during the Miami tango congress dance during a milonga on the floor at the
same time. It was awesome to see the display of skill and grace by all of
them. They performed intricate figures and graceful movements at many rates
of quickness and totally smoothly. That is the way they dance! at least
when they dance with a partner that is equal to their skill. They were not
joking or doing some sort of performance. they were dancing tango, and it
was much more than just walking around to the beat of the music.

Obviously, if one or one's partner does not know to dance tango one must do
what one can. We were at a Puertorican party the other night and I got the
dj to play a tango. A couple of young people began to do a parody of tango
and some others were dancing what they could. When the people noticed that
there were some tangueros on the floor they lined up and watched, cheering
wildly while the 6 of us danced the tango we know. People know and accept
the tango the way it is. All latin people recognize the music and dance. I
suppose we could have done just a plain, small, walking tango. Instead we
danced as we were inspired and used the music (Gallo ciego, by Pugliese)and
the floor to express ourselves with some of the moves and steps we've
learned over the years. We had a lot of fun and a lot of other people
enjoyed it too.


Manuel Patino

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Date:    Mon, 10 Nov 1997 14:47:44 -0500
From:    Jacques Gauthier
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

Frank:
>Most certainly, at an advanced level, the creativity
> for each person's or couple's perfection should be left to them, after
just
> showing them a particular routine, and the way it should look and
develop.
> However, with beginners and low level intermediates, more strength should
be
> placed on the particular steps and manner in which they are done.

Wouldn't it be better to encourage beginners to try things instead ?
The advanced couple who mastered 327 different steps is unlikely
to use the same one twice in one song.  As such,
1- There's less incentive to invent.
2- It's hard to come up with something that looks as nice.

 A beginner who has been doing D8CB for an hour or more
is more likely to try to invent something else out of sheer boredom.

Alberto:
>There is only one right school of Tango, it is called Buenos Aires, and it
>has several branches, Villa Devoto, Villa Crespo, Villa Urquiza,
Mataderos,
>to name just a few. Anybody pretending to be the purveyor of the "new
>tango", is only aiming his/her promotional efforts to an identified
segment
>of the market that can maximize his/her profits.

What about the Rio de la Platense  area that is often mentionned by Fdm
and recently mentionned by Ekhart ?  Is it a branch  or another tree ?

John Drendel:
>Or to quote a poet who said bad things about a bad time, because the art
>of a poet is to tell the truth:
>"la liberta e alla portata di tutti, come la chitarra.  Ognuno suona come
>vuole e tutti suonano come vuole la liberta"

Welcome back to the list. I wanted to thank you for giving me the info
on Tango in Montreal way back in 1995.  I like the impact it has has
on all my dances.  I see from your email address that you're back in the
University of Quebec in Montreal.

Jacques G.
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Date:    Mon, 10 Nov 1997 15:14:19 -0600
From:    Tom Stermitz
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

>At 11:02 AM 11/10/97 +0000, Alexis Cousein wrote:
>>>I agree that beginning students should start having fun right away, but
>>>they're not going to have fun unless they, at least, can dance the 7 or 8
>>>step basic,
>>
>>
>>Rubbish. I've recently come to the conclusion that the 8-step basic is
>*lousy*
>>to learn anyone who asks just for a few dances to get her to enjoy a tango to
>>get him/her to continue. Getting her to dance a few inside steps while she
>>follows and you play with the rythm is much better.
>
>
>I'm not sure I understand this too well. Perhaps it's easier to just sway
>and move to the music a little bit and maybe this is a fine way to enjoy
>oneself, but I dont think a 7 or 8 step basic is a *lousy* thing to learn.
>
>Putting aside all the polemic regarding the D8CB ( one can always do the
>7CB), I think that stepping sideways and to the outside, etc, etc, is what
>makes tango what it is. If all we had to do was walk around and *play* with
>the music why are we all learning and practising all these different and
>difficult sreps and figures?
>Tango is made of steps that move to the side and to the outside of the
>follower. Also, the followers cross at the 5th step of the D8CB is what
>makes tango different. Imagine tango without sacadas, ochos, boleos etc, I
>dont think it would be tango any more. Perhaps it would be easier for
>someone to not do any of these steps and have fun while ocupying space in a
>dance floor during a periood when tango music is played, but is this what
>we want?
>
>Saludos a todos,
>Manuel

I agree with Alexis that the 8CB is not the best introduction to the dance.

I don't organize my tango at all in the way Manuel describes. Sacadas,
ochos and boleos do not require the 8CB; they can happen out of various
steps of the turn or even out of walking steps.

The more I dance the less I use the 8CBw/DBS, and the more my tango becomes
"just" walking around the room (with interesting pauses, swirls and eddies
along the way). Like Alexis I was another duckling patterned at an early
age to a basic tango pattern, in my case Daniel Trenner's 10 count without
backstep. I have spent a long time unlearning it.

--The side step has a specific, dramatic effect. Used frequently in
repeated patterns of 8CBw/DBS is to devalue its drama. Used sparingly at
the start of the dance and at the start of important musical phrases it
remains more special.

--The cross is not strictly defined by the Front-Side-Back-Back-Cross
pattern. The cross occurs out of MANY possible patterns; most simply it is
part of ANY outside-left walking that goes a certain number of steps (at
least until you become good enough to lead not-crosses at that point). The
cross is a wonderful resolution of a front ocho or the parada; it can be
led out of simple walk backwards (or sidewards or frontwards).

--The corte (the "cut") of the dance introduced by the cross makes it not
just a strange assymetry of the follower's walk. It is the keystone step of
the tango  where pauses, phrase endings and surprises are provoked.

--But the worst part is that if a leader gets patterned (like I was) to a
regular, patterned structure such as the 8CB basic, then the learning
process is slowed considerably.

So I agree that the basic is the walk....a walk with the addition of the
leader's double step to crossed-system, walks with twists (ochos), walks
with a front-side-back-side shape, and walks that end in a cross. Beginner
tango material is achieved when a follower can execute these basic steps
nicely, and the leader can lead them well with rhythm and creativity.

Tom Stermitz

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Date:    Mon, 10 Nov 1997 06:50:00 UT
From:    Enrico Massetti
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

Alberto:
>There is only one right school of Tango, it is called Buenos Aires, and it
>has several branches, Villa Devoto, Villa Crespo, Villa Urquiza,
Mataderos,
>to name just a few. Anybody pretending to be the purveyor of the "new
>tango", is only aiming his/her promotional efforts to an identified
segment
>of the market that can maximize his/her profits.

Jacques:

>What about the Rio de la Platense  area that is often mentionned by Fdm
>and recently mentionned by Ekhart ?  Is it a branch  or another tree ?

A few numbers to clear what tango is in Rio de la Plata / Argentina and what
it is in the rest of the world:

Buenos Aires has 10 million habitants, I am not aware of any market research
that studied how many of them dance tango, but tango is part of their
elementary school education.....

Montevideo - Uruguay is just across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires, I
have no figures on population of Montevideo or Uruguay (I guess 5-10 milion),
but they have been and are a good part of the development of tango over the
years.  I believe Rio de la Plata is something like 50 Kilometers wide at
Buenos Aires, as in the evening you can see the lights of Uruguay in a clear
day.

There are some 23 million of other Argentineans in addition to the
portenos/portenas who are in some form involved in tango.

Just to stick to BA (these are the hard numbers I have), there are 6.5 million
in BA who receive cable television, and can watch "Solo Tango", the 24 hors
tango only channel.  The average ratings are 1-2% for this channel during any
day, which means that several tens of thousands of portenos/portenas choose to
watch tango over the other 79 available cable channels at any time of the day.

Our tango community in Tampa, Florida, is about 50-80, Victor, our teacher,
dreams of when it will reach the number of 200....

Publish your numbers if you can!

Enrico


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Date:    Mon, 10 Nov 1997 18:43:46 MST
From:    La Vampiresa
Subject: Tango, real schools, respect, etc.

Alberto writes in response to Larry:
>Ironically just every one name on stage today will tell you that the
>nurturing takes place at the "milonga", the place where perfection and
>creativity go hand in hand, or shall I say foot in foot.

The people we dance with are the "real" teachers.  They are the ones
responsible to giving us the feel of the dance.

>>Another is by refusing to identify one & only one of school of tango as the
>One >Right Way.
>There is only one right school of Tango, it is called Buenos Aires, and it
>has several branches, Villa Devoto, Villa Crespo, Villa Urquiza, Mataderos,
>to name just a few. Anybody pretending to be the purveyor of the "new
>tango", is only aiming his/her promotional efforts to an identified segment
>of the market that can maximize his/her profits.

And what about claiming that there is only one school of tango?!  That is
also targeted to one segment of carefully and precisely identified market -
the beginners, who don't know what else is out there!

>>Another is by refusing to teach long complicated routines when teaching, by
>>trying to break figures down into their simplest part & showing how the
>>same basic elements can be varied & combined to create dance figures.

>A qualified teacher knows that as part of his/her training to teach. By the
>same token that we don't welcome regulations of the Tango as a dance, we
>don't regulate who can teach or not. Somebody said that on the field you can
>see the ponies. In general, there are no bad dancers, there are plenty that
>dance bad as a result of the teaching they choose to receive.

And what is "bad"?  Generalizations miss more than they capture.  Specifics
please, and not just in general terms!  Who is dancing bad, where, and when?
I have had good dances and bad dances with the same people!  Some of them
(said in a whisper) were Argentines.  To simply proclaim that there are
people who dance bad is telling a lie.  All people dance bad some time in
their life, and all beginners dance bad for a long, long time.

>There is one lesson Argentine Tango dancers may want to remember, it is the
>one about respect. Respect for their partners, respect for their fellow
>dancers, respect for the dance floor (we call it "el piso", which is where
>we dance, not stomp on), respect for the cultural and social aspects of
>Argentina (read Buenos Aires) that contribute and have contributed to the
>evolution of the dance and the music we so dearly love with such a passion.

How about respect for other cultures that have embraced the tango?!  How
about respect for social and cultural values of the people of other
countries whose fascination with the tango, Argentina, and the history of
both, made them work hard to link their own heritage with that of the tango?

To come out into the world and advertise one's Argentine superiority when it
comes to tango and respect is rather hollow.  Everybody knows that it is the
interest of the  people all over the  world that gives Argentina an
opportunity to share the tango, allowing the teachers to travel, dance and
teach all over the world.

When the teacher loves  what he/she does, they deserve the recognition
regardless whethere or not they are Argentine.  I believe that there is no
amount of money that can compensate to what a teacher does.  I speak from my
experience.  We teach because we love the dance, not because we want the
mantle of teachers.  We teach because we love being the students.  We give
our students inspiration, we share our love for the music, we encourage them
to learn from all possible sources, to learn from picking up mistakes, and
then correcting them, from defying traditions only after they have mastered
the traditional, from dancing with the good dancers and the not so good
ones.  In other words, we try to give them an opportunity to find their own
way with it, and encourage to learn the traditional ways as a guide, if
nothing else, a glimpse into the world of the past, some of which even today
lives deep in some peoples hearts.

Tango is bigger than any one person, or any one tango community.  The only
way an individual can avoid being crushed, sudffocated, or stifled by their
own frustrations in learning to dance it, or to live it, is by sharing it
with other people.  I mean this in several ways.  One is to dance it
socially, at a milonga, regularly.  the other way, is to help others by
teaching or coaching in class or practice.  This tango thing grows big in
the lives of fanatics, so big that it would crush ones spirit if it has no
outlet.

So, Alberto, when you proclaim that there is one real school of tango, and
one way of dancing it, I remember a line from "Black Adder" where Edmond
tells Boldrick that, to Boldrick, Renaissance must be something that
happened to "other people".  Certainly you are not asserting that anyone on
this list lacks respect for the tango and its Argentine heritage?!  It would
be rather silly, wouldn't you say, since no one in their right mind would
spend this enormous amount of time and energy talking about something they
do not respect, as the participants on this list do?!

>Suspect from anybody dismissing these aspects of the Argentine Tango lore as
>"old wives tales" or "old fart whims", because those who live without
>traditions and role models are people without a soul.

Prove it!!!

>The kind that become
>members of a satanic cult known as the DATS: the Dreadful Anti Tango Society.
>Watching them can also be a lot of fun.  :-)

Hmm... Have you done much of that? :-)

Best Regards,

Nina
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Date:    Tue, 11 Nov 1997 03:22:11 EST
From:    Larry E Carroll
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

In response to Frank:

Old-timers in this forum have several times hashed over
the advisability of teaching the so-called 8-count basic &
are sick of the topic. All I'll say is that I
consider it "gringo tango" (to steal a phrase from Houston's
Lester Buck, talking about something else entirely). In
Argentina & Uruguay the molinete seems to be the basic
dance step. Some of the old-time tango teachers start with
something even more basic: walking.

I favor that approach. I also favor teaching enough in
the very first class to allow students by the end of the
first hour to actually dance. This includes some very
basic info about music, leading/following, & dance
style, some exercises using that info, & providing the
music, circumstance, & atmosphere that lets students
end the class with a few minutes dancing.

That may sound like an extravagant claim, but I know
exactly how to go about it. About which, more at
some future date. All I've time to say now is that
this approach is based on what is sometimes called
"successive approximations" in cognitive psych
literature. For instance, in Class One you teach
the single most important element of tango style
& spend ~5 minutes practicing it. The next class
you do the same with the second most important
element. And so on. Students are also told that
they must practice by themselves to perfect the
technique. This goes for music, leading/following,
& other elements of tango dancing.

And at the end of each class students are told to
forget everything they've learned about tango &
simply let the music move them without worrying
about theory or about perfecting their
technique. Because as important as those two
aspects of learning are, it's just as important to
exercise one's esthetic, emotional, & social
sides. And that can only be done by dancing.

  Larry de Los Angeles

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Date:    Wed, 12 Nov 1997 11:57:47 -0500
From:    Manuel Patino
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing

At 09:51 AM 11/12/97 -0600, STEVEN LEE wrote:
>With regards to learning English, I've noticed that, in general,
>foreigners learning  "by the book" are more grammatically correct than
>many "native" speaker/writers.  Does that apply to tango as well?
>

I've known people who learned spanish "by the Book" and are quite
grammatically correct. I've even heard some speak with no discernible
accent and even with a very pronounced colloquial accent. The latter ones
did not learn by the book but rather by immersion into the culture and
language.

Perhaps this could apply to tango as well. At least as a good analogy of
the differences between those who learn tango *by the book* (I dont know
whose book;-)) and those who grew up with the music and the dance of tango.
One can be grammatically quite correct but still not have the mastery of
the language shown by that one who can express him or herself with humor,
wit, verve and panache regardless of super precise grammatical
construction. Also, while one can be totally correct in one's grammatical
use of language or dance it does not mean that one can communicate well at
all. One could utter a string of grammatically perfect non-sequiturs and
not say anything coherent.

Of course, it really is not what you say but how you say it. I suppose it
is the same with tango. One man's walk might be much more eloquent than
another's series of fanciful stepa. In the other hand, dancing the same old
step time after time may be akin to listening a speech by someone who
cannot conjugate their verbs or use correct pronouns.

English is my second language, I've always spoken it with a Spanish accent.
Swing is a *second* dance, I dance it with a Latin accent. Tango (also
salsa, merengue, etc) are things that are very much a part of me from the
beginning. I dance them with my own *accent*. How well I
communicate?......... Well, my partner would have to make that judgement at
that particular dance. Of course, it would depend on her comprehension of
the language as well.

Regards to all,
Manuel

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Date:    Mon, 17 Nov 1997 15:18:37 -0600
From:    Dave Sherohman
Subject: Re: Mechanical Dancing viewed through new eyes

At 09:51 AM 11/17/97 -0500, Walter M. Kane wrote:
>By the way, I'm still getting used to the shorthand. Can someone please
>tell me what the D in D8CB stands for? I assume it's part of  D.......
>8-Count Basic.

D8CB = Dreaded 8-Count Basic.

Larry Carrol made a reference at one point to the "dreaded 8-count basic
beginning with a back step" or somesuch, which I shortened first to Dreaded
8-Count Basic, then D8CB.  (Larry has since stated that he attaches the
dread to the back step, not the basic itself, and has taken to the
abbreviation 8CBw/DBS, "8-Count Basic with Dreaded Back Step", to avoid
further confusion on that point.)


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Garrit Fleischmann Nov.97
Email: kontakt(at)cyber-tango.com