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Advices for Beginners & 'just walking'

... and some discussion about leading, following and the cross in Tango

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Date:    Wed, 9 Sep 1998 08:46:26 -0700
From:    David Gunter
Subject: Beginner's Luck


I'm enjoying the repartee re: the "Looking to Dance" posting ... lots of
insight for a beginner.
On that same note, I sometimes get the impression that everyone who
dances AT was born an intermediate and quickly progressed to advanced
level (practicing 8-10 hours a day, of course, and dancing at least
eight nights a week).
Seriously, for a dedicated novice who lives in the hinterlands, how
about some ground-level counsel? A few survival tips for that first trip
or two around the dance floor? Some very-basic basics to keep in mind
when trying out things we've worked on in our living rooms in "real
life?"
Even a few humorous stories from veterans to help ease our terror would
be nice!
Thanks,
Dave

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Date:    Wed, 9 Sep 1998 12:24:44 -0400
From:    Chris Humphrey
Subject: Re: Beginner's Luck


>Seriously, for a dedicated novice who lives in the hinterlands, how
>about some ground-level counsel? A few survival tips for that first trip
>or two around the dance floor? Some very-basic basics to keep in mind
>when trying out things we've worked on in our living rooms in "real
>life?"


>From my perspective, i.e., that of a follower who has been dancing
for only two years, the "very-basic basics" for social dancing (as
opposed to practicing at home) would be:

1.  Navigation skills are more important than flashy steps.  By
navigation, I mean the ability to move around the dance floor
without running into anyone *and* protecting your partner
from folks who are not so considerate.

2.  In the words of an old song from way back when  --
"Do what you do, do well."  If all you can do competently
is walk and maybe lead an ocho or two, then walk like
you were born to walk, and lead those ochos with finesse
and confidence.  It's far better to keep it simple and
musical than it is to strain your memory for every little
variation you may have learned in class -- chances are
you'll remember them at the most inappropriate moments
when they either don't fit the music or don't fit the space.
You can always practice them in your living room later and
then dance them socially when you feel comfortable with them.

I recently danced with a man I'd never danced with before. He
was a relative beginner and knew only one or two variations.
I must admit, I always feel a little twinge of apprehension when
I dance with a new partner, especially one who's new to tango,
and this was no different.  Imagine my delighted surprise to
find myself not only well cared for on the dance floor, but
confidently and musically led.  What a treat!  It was one of
the nicest tangos of the evening.  So we did it again!

Have fun,

chris

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Date:    Wed, 9 Sep 1998 19:17:10 ITA
From:    Susanna Meurer
Subject: Re: Beginners' Luck

>
> 2.  In the words of an old song from way back when  --
> "Do what you do, do well."  If all you can do competently
> is walk and maybe lead an ocho or two, then walk like
> you were born to walk, and lead those ochos with finesse
> and confidence.  It's far better to keep it simple and
> musical than it is to strain your memory for every little
> variation you may have learned in class -- chances are
> you'll remember them at the most inappropriate moments
> when they either don't fit the music or don't fit the space.

>
> I recently danced with a man I'd never danced with before. He
> was a relative beginner and knew only one or two variations.
> I must admit, I always feel a little twinge of apprehension when
> I dance with a new partner, especially one who's new to tango,
> and this was no different.  Imagine my delighted surprise to
> find myself not only well cared for on the dance floor, but
> confidently and musically led.  What a treat!  It was one of
> the nicest tangos of the evening.  So we did it again!
>
> Have fun,
>
> chris
>
>

I absolutely agree with Chris: just keep it musical and simple. Both of you

will enjoy the dance more if you feel relaxed and comfortable on the
dance-floor, and not continouuslyanxious about steps, comands etc.
I had a similar experience with a beginner: he started dancing just in
february, and he is not so  worried about performing acrobatic steps, but
dancing with him is always a beautiful experience - he makes you feel the
music...

And I take the occasion for a tip for experienced leaders: please, don't
try to make your partner perform all the acrobatics you know, if you feel
she's not comfortable with it. Don't try to show off if the lady is not
really able to do the same... tango should be for two!
(I often have been swirled around the dance floor feeling quite stupid
because I couldn't quite keep up - but with those of the experienced
partners who "wind down" I had great tangos - and in the end managed to do
a fancy step or two, once I felt relaxed and cared for...)

saludos, Susanna.

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Date:    Wed, 9 Sep 1998 11:01:58 -0700
From:    David Gunter
Subject: Lucky Beginners


Thanks to all for the sage advice. Now that I've identified myself as a
beginner, I feel confident enough to ask another rudimentary question:
Several list members advised concentrating on "just walking" and letting
the music drive the dance. As a musician, I certainly understand the
latter part. But, when you say "just walking" do you mean that
literally? (Moving, of course, like a lithe jungle cat, etc., etc.,
etc.) Or do you mean simple variations incorporating the paseo, salida,
etc.
And hey ... I truly appreciate your patience on all of this!
Dave
PS - OK, you beginners who have been lurking on this list - let's hear
your rudimentary questions ....

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Date:    Thu, 10 Sep 1998 01:09:52 -0600
From:    Tom Stermitz
Subject: Re: Lucky Beginners


>Thanks to all for the sage advice. Now that I've identified myself as a
>beginner, I feel confident enough to ask another rudimentary question:
>Several list members advised concentrating on "just walking" and letting
>the music drive the dance. As a musician, I certainly understand the
>latter part. But, when you say "just walking" do you mean that
>literally? (Moving, of course, like a lithe jungle cat, etc., etc.,
>etc.) Or do you mean simple variations incorporating the paseo, salida,
>etc.
>And hey ... I truly appreciate your patience on all of this!
>Dave
>PS - OK, you beginners who have been lurking on this list - let's hear
>your rudimentary questions ....

The basic in tango is the WALK. Some (many) teachers string together a
practice pattern and call it a basic, but really, it is just a pattern.
Another one would serve just as well. A real dance does not consist of
simply repeating that practice pattern. I know that other dances are taught
that way also, but tango is not like salsa or swing.

As others point out, it is HOW you walk that matters, not what the steps
are. But, I admit, asking you to walk with musicality and quality doesn't
really tell you what it means to be musical nor what might be quality.

In San Francisco pay attention to the better dancers on the floor-who will
not necessarily be the flashiest. Choose them by the dreamy look in their
partners' eyes! Try to pick up intuitively the energy, musicality, rhythm,
body carriage, partner-caring, connection, sensuality, etc. It would be
helpful early on in your learning to pay attention to the quick-steps and
slow dramatic steps.

True, the tango has a certain vocabulary, but I agree with those who claim
that simple vocabulary done with quality is better than leading complex
figures poorly.

Tom Stermitz

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Date:    Thu, 10 Sep 1998 15:10:51 +0300
From:    "Jari Aalto+list.tango"
Subject: Re: Beginner's Luck


|Wed 1998-09-09 Chris Humphrey <humphrey@MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU> list.tango
| "Do what you do, do well."  If all you can do competently
| is walk and maybe lead an ocho or two, then walk like
| you were born to walk, and lead those ochos with finesse
| and confidence.  It's far better to keep it simple and
| musical than it is to strain your memory for every little
| variation you may have learned in class

You said it all!

Too bad some partners see only the moves, not inside to the heart of tango
and instead think "Crappy dancer, the woman/man didn't make any interesing
moves".

If you do Tango like Tai-Chi, concentrating all your emotins to the
moving and to partner, you've mastered the essense of Tango. The tough
part is to be able to control your body smoothly and so that it responds
to hints back and forth sent from man to woman.

jari

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Date:    Thu, 10 Sep 1998 10:30:43 -0400
From:    Jacques Gauthier
Subject: Re: Lucky Beginners


> The basic in tango is the WALK. Some (many) teachers string together a
> practice pattern and call it a basic, but really, it is just a pattern.
> Another one would serve just as well. A real dance does not consist of
> simply repeating that practice pattern. I know that other dances are
taught
> that way also, but tango is not like salsa or swing.

An elderly lady once told me of a sign she had in her dance
school.  It said:  "If you can walk, you can learn to dance.".

In smaller letters the sign also said: " If we have to teach you
to walk, it will take longer".


Jacques G.

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Date:    Thu, 10 Sep 1998 14:33:03 -0700
From:    "Crowley, Ted (NLC-EX)"
Subject: About "just walking"


Dave wrote:
> Several list members advised concentrating on "just walking" and letting
> the music drive the dance. As a musician, I certainly understand the
> latter part. But, when you say "just walking" do you mean that
      literally?  --

Dave, let me respond as a "semi-beginner" by going into too much (?)
detail, as experts may tend to give too little...

"Just walking" is as much a pattern as anything else you've learned.
"Just walking" means walking straight forward, along the line of dance,
with the woman's feet directly in front of yours (she walking backwards),
rather than walking to the left of her. Walking to her left as you do in a
"basic" salida tells her to step back to crossed feet (cruzada). Walking
straight ahead so your feet replace hers with each step tells her to
walk back without stopping -- so you continue it as long as you wish.

If you start and end your "basic" with both partners having their
feet together, that is the easiest place to enter "just walking"
forward from: start with your left foot forward. Or you can go into it on
step 2/3 of basic (your first forward step),
as long as you adjust so your right-foot-forward doesn't go to her left.
End "walking" after any leftForward by either bringing your right together
with your left, or stepping right-to-the-right like the end of your 'basic".


Oh, and you should ignore the word "just" -- this walking is really dancing
as much as a salida or any other sequence one chooses, and when you
are a beginner dancer it isn't "just", it isn't automatic or easy. I've seen
good teachers have students work on this one thing for 20+ minutes. I
know teachers who make their advanced students practice it. Walking
straight ahead by yourself is easy. Leading (or following) walking is not.

Walking forward can go on just a few steps or continue around the room.
I tend to feel funny doing it for long, like I should be doing something
more
complex. But I am working to change that feeling: at a recent private lesson

the teacher urged me to do more of this in my dancing, and continue it longer,
not just a few steps. And it was emphasized and practiced in workshops
I've taken in the past with visiting instructors. The pros don't seem to look
on it as "what you do when you can't think of a pattern" at all, but rather
as one of the basic patterns (or components) of Tango.

There are variations: the man can move to her left side, back to center,
to her right side etc. while walking. He can switch his feet (take a quick
double step without leading her to do so) so that he is on non-matching
feet from his partner (he steps on left when she steps on left), while of
course adjusting his right/left position so he isn't kicking her feet. Even
variations where you pass her and are walking backwards, then have
her pass you, doing an ongoing 360 down the floor. But these variations
can be tricky, harder than some other patterns you know, so they
probably aren't worthwhile if the purpose of folks advice to "concentrate
on just walking" is to simplify so you have brain cells left to give
attention to traffic-jams, the music and your partner.

  ------------------

One more thing....before anyone here jumps on my use of the word
"pattern", let me explain that I personally don't think of Tango as a
dance consisting of a set of patterns -- which is part of why it is
wonderful. Many classes teach patterns, and that is probably a
good way to teach part of the time. But soon you realize that at
step 3 of this pattern you can lead something different and move into
a pattern you learned Tuesday. Then you learn that in Tango you can
"lead something different" at ANY point in ANY pattern, so in reality
the building blocks are something smaller than patterns -- knowing at
which points you can/cannot change your partners motion, and what
options there are, and how to lead each. Tango is more pure lead/follow,
and less patterns, than any other dance I know. How many steps are in
a Molinete (grapevine)? 3? 5? 6? Every time I see it taught as a pattern
the answer changes, but the real answer is it is open-ended -- there are
certain points at which you can exit from it by transitioning into an ocho,
other points where you can transition to something else, etc..

But a partner may get sick of super-long Molinete, ochos or back-ochos
sooner than she would get sick of just walking backwards. And walking
is easier to do and to lead, so it makes it easier to experiment with tempo
variations, hesitations, reversals and so on as you feel them in the music.
So I guess I see why the "just walking" step could be a good one for us
beginners to use for practicing the "open-ended, non-fixed-pattern,
music-interpreting, partner-connected" stuff of Tango.

-- Ted

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Date:    Thu, 10 Sep 1998 19:03:43 EDT
From:    "Laurie Moseley (at home)"
Subject: About "just walking"


I agree that it is worthwhile practising walking in line with parallel feet to
try to get some style into your movement (feet brushing, smoothness,
musicality, etc.). However, I would dispute the idea that for beginners (or
anyone else for that matter) "just walking" has always to be in line. My own
view is that you can walk outside on the lady's left or on her right and still
be a beginner who is "just walking". Indeed, this has two advantages:

1. It gives you practice in keeping good body alignment even when you are not
automatically facing your partner.  Many beginners when going outside for the
first time end up walking alongside their partner with little or no possiblity
of giving her subtle hints about what is coming next, and no sense of contact
or drive. The sooner that problem is faced, the better, as it gets through the
'try to keep facing your partner' message early and often.

2. It gives you practice in going out of line and back into line again. For
example, it gives you a chance to find out whether it is easier to come back
into line again on the right or the left foot step. As beginners often get
lost moving from element to element (however 'basic' those elements may be),
once again this drifting (Trenner's word) from inside to outside and back
again serves as a learning experience, and builds confidence that one is never
lost in space.

I would also challenge the idea that whenever you step outside you are
indicating that the lady should cross. At a recent workshop I saw Miguel Angel
Zotto doing six consecutive steps outside before coming back into line - and
there was not a hint of a cross in sight. You may also want to use the outside
step as a sort of start for one of the basic sequences such as the D8CB, in
which that outside step is the start of a salida, with the cross coming three
beats later.

The crucial feature of leading the Cross (rather than letting the lady do it
because 'it is part of our routine' - ugh) is to make space for the lady to
cross into. Some teachers also recommend a slight  movement of the man's right
shoulder to tempt the lady to cross. You can step outside to your left (lady's
right) side with or without making this space. You do need to get a feel for
what sort of movement will be interpreted by the lady as space-making or not.
In our club, one of the exercises is to walk with drifts to the left, but for
the man consciously to make some of the drifts a lead for the cross and some
of them merely continuing walks. Later we extend this to make some of them
leads for Giros con Sacadas in parallel, and some in crossed feet.

Please excuse the pedagogical tone of the above. All recommendations should be
preceded by "in my opinion", and followed by "Do you agree ?" My excuse is
that it's late at night and I'm tired. I hope that the general sense of my
argument is clear.

Safe Ganchos

Laurie (Laurence)

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Date:    Thu, 10 Sep 1998 20:48:05 -0500
From:    dmcree
Subject: Re: About "just walking"


Hi list members,

I am  enjoying this discussion about "just walking" and the fact that
more "beginners" are participating in the discussion list. In
particular, Laurie's post about walking and crossing caught my
attention. I have quoted part of his post at the end of mine. Laurie, I
hope that I have not taken anything you wrote out of context.

When I first started learning tango (almost 2 years ago, the first thing
I was taught was the 8 count basic. The followers learned to cross in
response to the leader taking 2 steps outside partner right with the
follower walking backwards. NO LEAD to cross. Or as Daniel Trenner puts
it in his video " the follower crosses in response to the leader's
choice of position" (or something to that effect). This always worked
very well for me. Some followers had a little trouble at first
remembering when to cross. To encourage them to cross it was suggested
that a little "lead" or "nudge" to cross was appropriate. Later I joined
this list and read that some dancer's feel that EVERY step should be
led, even the cross.

Personally, I have never routinely led a cross because almost all ladies
cross in response to me taking two steps outside partner right
(obviously because that's what they were taught). The ones who don't are
total beginners and need a little reinforcement to cross at first.
Leading the cross when the follower is going to cross anyway has always
seemed unnecessary and I think it interrupts the feel of the dance.

Recently I took a workshop in Clearwater,Florida with Daniela and
Armando. In a class for men only, Armando took some time with us to talk
about the cross. The lady, he said, knows when to cross. It is not led.

Laurie observed that he " saw Miguel Angel Zotto doing six consecutive
steps outside before coming back into line - and there was not a hint of
a cross in sight." Armando said that if you want to walk outside partner
right and have the follower NOT cross, then you have to block her from
crossing. This is done with the body, not the feet.  In other words the
cross is not led, but the NOT CROSS is led. I believe this ties in
EXACTLY with Laurie's observation that for the lady to cross she must
feel the space is open for her to do so. As Laurie articulates "You can
step outside to your left (lady's right) side with or without making
this space. You do need to get a feel for what sort of movement will be
interpreted by the lady as space-making or not."

To me, the movement of stepping outside partner right, taking another
step and then bring the feet together naturally opens a space for the
follower to cross. This seems to be inherent in the movement. The space
seems to be created by the contra-body positioning in the first two
steps outside right. But, by blocking the space with the upper body (ie,
no contra-body positioning) the follower does not feel the space to
cross. (Perhaps the creation of the space by positioning the body could
be considered a lead, but in my experience what one follower considers a
"space" to move into, would not even be noticed by another follower. To
me a lead is a more positive movement or expression.)

Armando demonstrated this numerous times and we all practiced it. (with
other men). I have to admit that walking outside partner right without
allowing the follower to cross isn't something I do often. But now I'm
all fired up to try it tomorrow night at the milonga!

David McRee, Bradenton,Florida


Laurie Moseley (at home) wrote:
>
>
>
> I would also challenge the idea that whenever you step outside you are
> indicating that the lady should cross. At a recent workshop I saw Miguel Angel
> Zotto doing six consecutive steps outside before coming back into line - and
> there was not a hint of a cross in sight. You may also want to use the outside
> step as a sort of start for one of the basic sequences such as the D8CB, in
> which that outside step is the start of a salida, with the cross coming three
> beats later.
>
> The crucial feature of leading the Cross (rather than letting the lady do it
> because 'it is part of our routine' - ugh) is to make space for the lady to
> cross into. Some teachers also recommend a slight  movement of the man's right
> shoulder to tempt the lady to cross. You can step outside to your left (lady's
> right) side with or without making this space. You do need to get a feel for
> what sort of movement will be interpreted by the lady as space-making or not.
> In our club, one of the exercises is to walk with drifts to the left, but for
> the man consciously to make some of the drifts a lead for the cross and some
> of them merely continuing walks. Later we extend this to make some of them
> leads for Giros con Sacadas in parallel, and some in crossed feet.
>

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Date:    Fri, 11 Sep 1998 00:19:22 -0600
From:    Frank Williams
Subject: Re: Lucky Beginners


David Gunter wrote:


> Several list members advised concentrating on "just walking" and letting
> the music drive the dance. As a musician, I certainly understand the
> latter part. But, when you say "just walking" do you mean that
> literally? (Moving, of course, like a lithe jungle cat, etc., etc.,
> etc.)

My opinion on this question is a bit different from those I've seen thus
far.  Although what I've written below will be obvious to those with
experience, I'm writing this with beginners in mind.  I love beginners'
enthusiasm!

I also heard the "jungle cat" metaphor when I began tango, and now I
think that it is very misleading and counter-productive.  A beautiful
tango walk is so unique that I can't find a metaphor that does it
justice.  To me, the "jungle cat" walk implies a continuous low,
flowing, almost stalking glide.  It may be true that the ability to do
this as an exercise can improve one's balance and general control, but
none of the dancers I admire walk anything like a cat!  Stalking is
sinister, tango is not.

Good walkers make each and every step clear and articulate, regadless of
the direction they are progressing and even when moving fairly fast.
"Just walking" is apt, because extraneous movements are absent.  Styles
differ, but for me the initial impluse of each walking step begins with
(sometimes subtle) displacement of the chest and hip.  This is amplified
by the knee and finally the foot, which easily and lightly falls to it's
place on the floor - ball of the foot touching first.  The step is
fairly relaxed and I try to let the foot "swing" into position before it
contacts the floor.  In contrast, the completion (or "collection") of
the step is NOT relaxed because the leader waits and follows the
follower to complete the step in unison.  *IF* the leader and follower
are adequately relaxed, then dancing in unison is easy because the very
same impulse that regulates the size and direction of the follower's
step (ie. chest/hip displacement) is also regulating the size of the
leader's step.  If you lead doing "the kitty stalk", then none of that
good stuff happens.  This principle is perhaps best learned using
parallel forward/backward steps because it's so obvious when it fails -
somebody gets kicked or their toes get stepped-on.  ...and when it
finally works, your reward is the ability to dance much closer than
before!

When it is said that "the walk" is the foundation for learning to do
figures easily, it does not mean that frontward/backward parallel
stepping is necessarily built into the figures.  Rather, cognisance of
this principle of lead/follow - in which BOTH dancers react the same to
the leader's displacement of their centers of gravity - makes one much
more aware of important controls that are built into well-conceived
figures.  Of course, relaxing is beneficial on practically every level.
...and BTW, when I take classes in which new figures taught, it's
usually easier to master them if I first identify the "walking
elements".

For me, then, the definition of a "tango walk" is ANY step in which the
leader and follower react in unison (usually by parallel steps) to the
leader's displacement.  This includes some simple patterns that also
have other names.

Anyone wish to give their favorite metaphor for a tango walk?

Frank in Minneapolis

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Date:    Wed, 9 Sep 1998 14:39:03 -0700
From:    Tanya Chou
Subject: Re: Beginner's Luck


>"that everyone who dances AT was born an intermediate and quickly
progressed to advanced level (practicing 8-10 hours a day, of course,
and dancing at least eight nights a week)."

this might sound obsessives to some but that seems to be the only way
to learn this dance...judging by how some people seems to stay in the
beginner/intermeiate level for years by dancing just an hour a
week...it is like riding a bike? one you make the break through you
never forget?! :)

Anyway has any one read the book "PAPER TANGOS" By Julie Taylor? It
seems be getting a very good review

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1998/09/06/RV80657.DTL

I'd love to hear what all of you think about it...any thoughts? thanks
:)

Tanya
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Date:    Fri, 11 Sep 1998 02:34:51 -0700
From:    J Lane
Subject: non-unison dancing


Frank Williams <frank@INDY.BSBE.UMN.EDU>:
>*IF* the leader and follower
>are adequately relaxed, then dancing in unison is easy because the very
>same impulse that regulates the size and direction of the follower's
>step (ie. chest/hip displacement) is also regulating the size of the
>leader's step.
...
>This principle is perhaps best learned using
>parallel forward/backward steps because it's so obvious when it fails -
>somebody gets kicked or their toes get stepped-on.

This leads into an interesting discussion that came up at a local
practica a few weeks ago, about decoupling the lead's and follow's
steps.

Assuming a salida (not a giro, or anything else fancy) it
obviously works for the lead and follow to take the same number of
steps at more-or-less the same time.  It's a bit more difficult,
but still not too hard, for the lead to take a larger number of
smaller steps than the follow, and still lead the follow to take
fewer but longer steps.

But...can the lead ask the follow to take more, but shorter, steps
while the lead takes fewer-but-longer steps?

This clearly works if the follow is doing a double-time cruzada
(whether it's lead or assumed) and the lead takes a longer, single-
time step at the same point.  The challenge was to lead it without
causing the follow to cross or otherwise step sideways, i.e. can
this be communicated in a simple, straight salida.

Nobody at the practice that night managed it reliably, but I suspect
that it's possible.

The reason for trying it was to add an option for interpretation of
the music.  For the follow to dance to a slower line of the music
(with longer steps) while the lead dances to a faster line (with
smaller steps) isn't too hard.  It's easiest with simple 2-lead-
steps-to-1-follow-step ratios, but other ratios (4-to-1, or 3-to-1
in a vals) are reasonable.  But the reverse is difficult even with
1-to-2, and even harder with other ratios.

Jim
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Date:    Fri, 11 Sep 1998 02:34:46 -0700
From:    J Lane
Subject: About "just walking"


"Crowley, Ted (NLC-EX)"
>"Just walking" means walking straight forward, along the line of dance,
>with the woman's feet directly in front of yours (she walking backwards),
>rather than walking to the left of her. Walking to her left as you do in a
>"basic" salida tells her to step back to crossed feet (cruzada).

This is another of those issues that seems to come up in tango-l every
year or so.  Just to provide a different point of view, I prefer to think
of the cruzada as a move which is lead, rather than an automatic response
to some pattern.

This is clearly a minority opinion, though.  One of the nice things about
a social dance is the freedom to interpret the dance in personal ways.

>If you start and end your "basic" with both partners having their feet
>together, that is the easiest place to enter "just walking" forward
>from: start with your left foot forward. Or you can go into it on step
>2/3 of basic (your first forward step)

There are several different salida cruzada patterns that are generally
taught to beginners as "the basic".  It's somewhat important to note
that AT doesn't actually have a "basic" in the sense that other dances
do;  the various salida cruzada patterns are simply convenient teaching
tools.

>...you are a beginner dancer it isn't "just", it isn't automatic or easy.
>I've seen good teachers have students work on this one thing for 20+
minutes.
>I know teachers who make their advanced students practice it. Walking
>straight ahead by yourself is easy. Leading (or following) walking is not.

One of the litmus tests for a more advanced student is a willingness, even
an eagerness, to spend many hours on basic things like simple walks.  This
isn't appropriate for a beginner, since it takes a while to understand what
to practice in the fundamentals.

Jim

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Date:    Fri, 11 Sep 1998 09:00:45 -0400
From:    "Walter M. Kane"
Subject: Re: Beginner's Luck & "just" walking


Hi List,

I'm at the stage of learning (post beginner?) where I have to resist the
temptation to get "fancy."

So far, I've never had a partner tell me, "Golly, that was a great giro
with rulo and arrastre!!"

But one of the most appreciated remarks I've gotten was when a partner
remarked after a dance, "I loved that walk you did."

As for "leading" the cross, what works for me (what I was taught) is that
it's all in body position. I have walked long salidas with no crosses
(blocking the cross after going outside right by coming back in with my
left foot on every step), and then taken my parter to the cross by closing
with my right or crossing behind with my right, even marking as second or
third consecutive cross (kind of like a terrace step) by repeating the
cross behind. It feels like a natural extension of a "simple" walk.



 Tanya Chou  wrote on Wednesday, September 09, 1998
>
> Anyway has any one read the book "PAPER TANGOS" By Julie Taylor? It
> seems be getting a very good review
>  I'd love to hear what all of you think about it...any thoughts? thanks

I read it. I started out expecting a book about tango written from the
point of view of Julie Taylor, a transplanted gringa who really got inside
Argentine culture and life. I figured out by the middle of the book that
it's a book by and about Julie Taylor (same description applies)
interspersed with deep insights into tango and how it meshes with Argentine
culture and life.

For my money (and time) it's worthwhile reading. (Don't wait for the
movie.)

Tangringo

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Date:    Fri, 11 Sep 1998 10:38:18 -0600
From:    Frank Williams
Subject: Re: non-unison dancing


Greetings friends

Jim wrote:


> But...can the lead ask the follow to take more, but shorter, steps
> while the lead takes fewer-but-longer steps?
>
> This clearly works if the follow is doing a double-time cruzada
> (whether it's lead or assumed) and the lead takes a longer, single-
> time step at the same point.  The challenge was to lead it without
> causing the follow to cross or otherwise step sideways, i.e. can
> this be communicated in a simple, straight salida.
>
> Nobody at the practice that night managed it reliably, but I suspect
> that it's possible.

It shouldn't be possible dancing frontward/backward parallel (while
maintaining frame) because the follower's small steps leave no room (in
line) for the leader's slower and necessarily larger steps.  Transitions
into and out of counter-step walks, of course, involve a sideways shift
to align right-to-right or left-to-left legs.  But instead of the leader
stepping twice for the follower's one, the leader could simply step once
(still out-of-parallel) for the follower's two.  However, leading an
INcrease in the follower's tempo rather than a DEcrease in the leader's
tempo - I too have found that to be much harder!  I've been taught
figures that incorporate this but I dislike them because the leads seem
much too pushy.  And also, how often do we find ourselves (gently)
correcting beginners for "changing feet" when we didn't mean to lead a
small step and we felt that their "and-step" looked bad?

Instead of doing these multiples in-line, I would think it's easier to
do them in various giros.  In the recent Evening at Pops broadcast w/
Forever Tango dancers, Gavito and Duran did something like this.  To
Gavito's SLOW 360 degree enrosque Duran performed molinettes with (I
think it was) twice as many steps as a common forward-side-back-side
circle.  It was interesting, delicate, and obviously not
improvisationally led.

> The reason for trying it was to add an option for interpretation of
> the music.  
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Date:    Fri, 11 Sep 1998 10:04:46 -0700
From:    JC Dill;
Subject: About leading to the cross


On 08:48 PM 9/10/98 -0500, dmcree wrote:

>When I first started learning tango (almost 2 years ago, the first thing
>I was taught was the 8 count basic. The followers learned to cross in
>response to the leader taking 2 steps outside partner right with the
>follower walking backwards. NO LEAD to cross. Or as Daniel Trenner puts
>it in his video " the follower crosses in response to the leader's
>choice of position" (or something to that effect).

Then you aren't clear about what constitutes a "lead".

Making the space for the follower to cross, such that she moves into that
space to re-establish the basic connection and frame, is a lead.  It isn't
a "marked" lead in the way that many tango steps are "marked" with the
leader's (usually right) hand, but it's a lead none the less.

I danced with a beginner last week that did NOT make space for me to cross.
 And this beginner had obviously not been taught anything about leading the
cross.  And I was *unable* to cross for over 90% of the time, and simply
closed instead.  Had I crossed, I would have been VERY out of position and
tilted, leaning on him to avoid falling, because his frame had not changed
from the outside walk frame.  There was no possibility for me to move back
in front of him unless I backlead his frame to allow me to cross, something
I am not going to do with a beginner who really wants to learn!

The leader has to *do something* to allow/lead the follower to cross.
After the leader has put the follower on the right side, such that he can
step to the left of her, if he does not leave room for her to return in
front of him to cross, she can't force it to happen.  And that something,
be it a marked lead from the right hand or simply a shaping of the frame to
create the space for the follower to fill, that "something" is in fact a lead.

>This always worked
>very well for me. Some followers had a little trouble at first
>remembering when to cross. To encourage them to cross it was suggested
>that a little "lead" or "nudge" to cross was appropriate.

The nudge is a beginner's attempt to lead.  If the frame leads the follower
into the cross, no nudge is necessary, because the cross MUST happen or the
follower will end up all tilted and out of position.  When you are a
beginner and learning, your followers fail to cross *solely* because your
frame didn't create the space and the indication to fill the space (usually
because you were taught nothing about how to use your frame to make this
happen).  Using the nudge is good, in that it reminds you (the leader) to
do "something" to create the cross, but it really isn't the lead that
causes the crossing.

More likely, what is happening is that in beginner style frame, there is a
lot of slop.  There is *always* (on any step) room for the follower to slip
into the cross, even when the leader's frame doesn't intentionally change,
by the follower changing her frame to move into the space that is ALWAYS
there between them, to do the cross.  However, if the leader forces his
frame (meaning shoulders AND arms) to NOT move, she will have to keep her
body off to his right, and will be unable to cross without losing her
balance!  She will be placing her right foot with the intention of moving
her body over it, and your frame won't move enough to allow her to move
over her foot.  If she crosses, she will be out of balance and leaning on
you!

If she feels this unmovable frame and doesn't cross, she will just close
instead.  If you let her move your frame, you are letting her backlead a
cross.  Is this a good thing?  I think not, it leads to difficulties later
on when you don't want her to cross and she has learned to backlead herself
(and your frame) into the cross after 2 steps of offset walking (when the
leader takes two steps off her right side), and when you want to continue
walking you will run into this problem that the backleading creates.  Or,
instead, is it better to learn to "lead" the cross?

>The lady, he said, knows when to cross. It is not led.
>
>Laurie observed that he " saw Miguel Angel Zotto doing six consecutive
>steps outside before coming back into line - and there was not a hint of
>a cross in sight." Armando said that if you want to walk outside partner
>right and have the follower NOT cross, then you have to block her from
>crossing. This is done with the body, not the feet.  In other words the
>cross is not led, but the NOT CROSS is led. I believe this ties in
>EXACTLY with Laurie's observation that for the lady to cross she must
>feel the space is open for her to do so. As Laurie articulates "You can
>step outside to your left (lady's right) side with or without making
>this space. You do need to get a feel for what sort of movement will be
>interpreted by the lady as space-making or not."

The opening and not opening of the space ARE leads.  More specifically,
opening the space IS a lead (to cross), and not opening is the "doing
nothing" that leads to just walking!

How could it be otherwise?  We don't have any set patterns in AT, right?

>To me, the movement of stepping outside partner right, taking another
>step and then bring the feet together naturally opens a space for the
>follower to cross.

You pay WAY too much attention to the feet.  Pay attention to your frame,
to the positions of your shoulders and hands.

The lead to cross comes BEFORE the midpoint in your step to close (the
point when this short closing step becomes different from a regular walking
step).  Otherwise the follower's beginning of this next step is going to be
another walking step instead of a crossing step, and to cross she has to
interrupt herself mid stride (ugly and ungraceful).  The beginning of the
lead to cross thus comes before you start your "short step" that creates
some physical distance between each other's feet.  It's a *very* subtle
thing, so it's way beyond beginner learning.  But it's there.

>This seems to be inherent in the movement. The space
>seems to be created by the contra-body positioning in the first two
>steps outside right. But, by blocking the space with the upper body (ie,
>no contra-body positioning) the follower does not feel the space to
>cross. (Perhaps the creation of the space by positioning the body could
>be considered a lead, but in my experience what one follower considers a
>"space" to move into, would not even be noticed by another follower. To
>me a lead is a more positive movement or expression.)

The difference in what a follower considers "a space" is caused by
followers learning to dance by rote (after he takes two steps to your right
side, then you cross on the next step) rather than by learning to feel the
lead/not lead and to cross or not cross based on the lead.  That is why you
*can* also mark the move to the cross, in addition to leading it from your
frame's shape, to then make the "not lead" more clearly different from the
lead to cross.

If you practice your walk to cross STEP BY STEP you will discover that you
must do "something" at the *beginning* of the step to cross to create a
smooth cross in the follower.  You must lead her to where you want her to
go before you start your own movement, and in the step to the cross this is
creating the space for her to move into, and the indication that she is to
move into it (the lead).

If you think of your dancing as "I lead her to go here, I lead her to go
there", your frame will lead and your body (and hers) will both go there.
If you only think about your steps, your lead becomes weak and the follower
must resort to guessing, based on what you usually do at this point.  This
works OK if you do a lot of set moves, and quickly breaks down when you
learn a new move that interrupts one of your set patterns.  Good leaders
discover that it is better to do it the other way around, and lead her first.

jc

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Date:    Fri, 11 Sep 1998 10:04:48 -0700
From:    JC Dill
Subject: Beginner's steps


On topic of "just walking" and beginner's steps:

There are 3 basic "patterns" that most beginners learn early on that they
should concentrate on knowing as the "basics for AT":  The D8CB, just
walking, and the hobble step (I don't know the AT name of this one, but
it's where you step forward with one foot, close then back with the foot
that closed (no weight change in the close).  This step is usually taught
with rotation, so that you go forward/back in a stationary circle, and is
also taught/used to reorient a beginner towards a clear patch of floor when
the path ahead is blocked.

The typical beginner does 90% the D8CB and fits the other moves in when he
thinks of them, and *this* is where he gets stuck in "doing moves" (and
thinking of the D8CB as the "basic move of AT") instead of thinking of the
walk as integral to AT, and the walking moves that he should do most.  He
needs to think of the D8CB as just put in there to get him started, not
something he should do it repeatedly as the "basic move".  This is a
failure of the way AT is typically taught using the D8CB.

Using the D8DB as a starting point, the beginner should learn how to do the
hobble step starting with the backwards 1 step of the D8CB, and then
continuing after some other backwards hobble step with the rest of the D8CB
(inserting a hobble step into the D8BC after step 1).  Then learn how to do
either walking steps or hobble steps after step 2 of the D8CB, and how to
do both (a few hobbles then walk, or a few walks then hobbles) and then
continue with the D8CB.  Then learn how to do forward walks and sideways
positioned walks, and to swap among them, and to lead to the cross (by
shaping the frame) or not at any point in the walks.  And to do a few
hobble steps at any time as well.  Then to do walks out from the cross, or
hobble steps.

Whew!  The only "moves" this beginner knows are the D8CB, the walk and the
hobble step but see how many different ways they can be put together?  This
is a *major* failing on the part of most AT teachers, they don't really
TEACH their students how to recombine these 3 simple basics into all these
different combinations and start their students off RIGHT with learning AT
as just clusters of steps that can be recombined in 1001 different ways.
They teach the "moves" of D8CB, walks and "the hobble step", and perhaps
they demonstrate a few ways that they can be recombined, but students don't
really "get it" and quickly fall into the trap of just doing the "3 moves
they know" instead of recombining them into many possibilities.  Then at
the next lesson, the moves are reviewed in isolation, and recombining them
isn't strongly emphasized.  Unfortunately, this just cements into the
leader's mind that these are "separate moves" rather than the building
blocks of AT.  It takes most leaders at least a year to overcome this
mindset and start to recombine some of the "moves" he has learned, usually
as the result of being taught a new move that recombines some of these
basics and he recognizes that he was "told about this" but never really got
it, when he was first learning.

When the leader then learns to lead forward and backwards ochos, giros and
molinetes, and finds ALL the different places within his other combinations
where he can lead into these moves, you have enough material for a
lifetime.  Yet you only "know seven patterns"!  Who cares?!?!?!?  Followers
certainly don't!  We LOVE being led well into imaginative combinations of
these basic moves!

All the fancy moves are fun to do, but THEY ARE NOT THE SOUL OF TANGO.
Walking, the cross, the ocho, the giro, THOSE are the moves that make this
dance "Tango".  I would NEVER get bored by a leader who led these simple
basic steps, if there was quality to the dance, if there was heart and
connection!  Focus on the basics, and on understanding the walk and the
"nature" of tango, not on learning "more moves".  Those who learn too many
moves too fast are stuck at beginner/intermediate level (and are less fun
to dance with) FAR LONGER than those who learn the basics real well, and
learn to understand Tango first, before going on a hunt to learn new moves.

jc

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Date:    Tue, 15 Sep 1998 04:23:35 EDT
From:    Larry E Carroll
Subject: Re: About "just walking"

THE HOBBLE STEP.  This is called the Rock Step. You can do it forward-
back or side-to-side (sometimes called "slow dancing"). In tango the
forward-back rock is also called La Cunita (The Cradle). Or, if you do
several, Las Cunitas. You can also pivot to the left (or right) on any
step to rotate in place, whether you do a side-to-side or forward-back
rock.

MAKING SPACE.  This phrase has always confused me, & from this
discussion it appears it confuses others as well. I prefer to say that
when the leader goes outside he twists his upper body to keep his upper
body parallel to his partner's upper body. He adjusts his arms slightly
to keep a firm but not rigid frame. Assuming his partner does the same,
he can walk for any amount of time like this & it's clear she's not
supposed to cross.

LEADING THE CROSS.  When he wants her to cross, he steps forward left
(at the same time untwisting his upper body) & closes his right foot to
his left. If both partner's frames are perfect & his timing & her
attention are perfect, this is all she needs to do a cross. If she
forgets or doesn't know how to do the cross she will usually step
slightly diagonally to her right with her right foot & close her left
foot to her right. Whether she crosses or steps diagonally, the result
is the same - she moves back into the inside position.

PURPOSE OF THE CROSS.  Only two of the dozens of teachers I've had ever
pointed out the purpose of the cross: to go from the right-foot-OUTSIDE
to the right-foot-INSIDE position. There are several other ways to do
this. To find out more go to Chapter Three of my online book "Argentine
Tango Dancing" (see the URL at the end of this message).

HELPING THE CROSS.  Ideally the body lead for the cross will be enough.
But no one's technique or attention is ALWAYS excellent, so the leader
shouldn't dogmatically stick to the ideal except in practice. He should
add something to help his partner. For instance, he can add a gentle
leftward push with his right forearm & hand on her back. Or he can lift
up slightly with his right arm. Or do both; this has the advantage that
push & lift can be so gentle that the follower doesn't consciously feel
it. She just has a feeling that the cross is inevitable & effortless.

INSIDE & OUTSIDE WALKING.  Though we sometimes speak as if partners walk
toe-to-toe when dancing, we actually walk with our right foot between
our partner's feet - especially when we're dancing very close. In tango
we also often dance in a right-foot-outside position. Intermedite &
advanced tango dancers may also dance in the left-foot-inside & left-
foot-outside positions.

PARALLEL & CROSSED WALKING.  Some people call the usual way of walking
(in unison) parallel, because from the side the man's left & the woman's
right leg remain parallel. If he takes one more or less steps than she
does, the view from the side has their matching legs crossing. It's
awkward to walk in an inside position with crossed legs, but some
dancers do it to show their virtuosity. (It's also a way to do sacadas,
but let's not get into that!)

CAT WALKING.  A number of teachers & dancers use this metaphor for the
Argentine tango style. (Nora Dinzelbacher & others sometimes likens it
to the way a knife-fighter moves. Talk about a sinister interpretation!)
Others don't like these metaphors or don't find them useful, or use
another metaphor. Whatever the metaphor, the basic idea is to convey an
image of someone graceful, confident, powerful, beautiful. And of a
smooth flowing movement. Like any other tool, you can carry it too far.
If the band plays a tango with a bouncy rhythm, you will probably want
to add some bounce to your walking & not worry about slavishly following
a metaphor.

PRACTICE.  In all of this talk of technique it's too easy to forget that
it's a means to an end. We should spend a lot of time practicing the
technique until it becomes essentially automatic - but only at home or
in a studio. Then when we go to a milonga we should forget technique &
perfection & be cautious enough only to avoid dangerous mistakes. We
should try to forget any fancy stuff we've learned recently, focus on
the music & our partners, & let our bodies & creative selves take over.

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

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Date:    Tue, 15 Sep 1998 17:09:44 -0600
From:    Tom Stermitz
Subject: Re: About "just walking"


>THE HOBBLE STEP.  This is called the Rock Step. You can do it forward-
>back or side-to-side (sometimes called "slow dancing"). In tango the
>forward-back rock is also called La Cunita (The Cradle). Or, if you do
>several, Las Cunitas. You can also pivot to the left (or right) on any
>step to rotate in place, whether you do a side-to-side or forward-back
>rock.

I have never heard of the term "hobble step". That is a new one. Do any
teachers use that term? Is it a translation from the Spanish?

The cunita or cradle is a specific kind of rock step which JC described as
having the trailing leg leave the ground, come together with the other and
then return backward. It is a fairly slow movement, which you wouldn't do
very often in a more rapid, rhythmic tango. "Milonguero Style" tango rarely
uses the cunita in the way JC described, and the ocho cortado simply
wouldn't work if you brought your feet together at the rock step (either
forward or back).

>PURPOSE OF THE CROSS.  Only two of the dozens of teachers I've had ever
>pointed out the purpose of the cross: to go from the right-foot-OUTSIDE
>to the right-foot-INSIDE position. There are several other ways to do
>this. To find out more go to Chapter Three of my online book "Argentine
>Tango Dancing" (see the URL at the end of this message).

I don't buy this explanation at all. At the moment of the cross the woman
comes back in front of the man both in body and hips. I'm baffled by your
description of a change from "right foot outside to right foot inside,"
which I don't think I have ever seen. I have heard the cross "explained" as
a stretched out grapevine turn (side-back-"side"-front). Interesting, but
doesn't explain why it doesn't happen to the other side. Another
explanation for the odd assymmetry of the cross is the assymmetry of the
embrace and the fact of a counter-clockwise movement around the room.

Now someone explain why the man's left arm and woman's right arm is up,
while embracing with the others...so that the engagement ring (or lack
thereof is on the man's back? Why not a normal hug with arms wrapped around
each other to create a completely symmetrical embrace?

>INSIDE && OUTSIDE WALKING.  Though we sometimes speak as if partners walk
>toe-to-toe when dancing, we actually walk with our right foot between
>our partner's feet - especially when we're dancing very close. In tango
>we also often dance in a right-foot-outside position. Intermedite &
>advanced tango dancers may also dance in the left-foot-inside & left-
>foot-outside positions.

I never walk with my feet in between my partner's feet. I believe this is
sometimes taught in ballroom; I have never heard a tango teacher ask me to
dance that way (which isn't definitive since I haven't studied with all
teachers). I am always either directly in front or outside, and when I'm in
cross-footed system the "in-line" feet are directly in front of each other.
Do people in LA really dance with their feet in between their partner's
feet?

>PARALLEL & CROSSED WALKING.  Some people call the usual way of walking
>(in unison) parallel, because from the side the man's left & the woman's
>right leg remain parallel. If he takes one more or less steps than she
>does, the view from the side has their matching legs crossing. It's
>awkward to walk in an inside position with crossed legs, but some
>dancers do it to show their virtuosity. (It's also a way to do sacadas,
>but let's not get into that!)

I had heard that the terms "crossed and parallel systems" came from Gustavo
Naveira, but perhaps he got it elsewhere?

For me cross-footed walking is much, much easier than parallel when you go
outside of your partner to either side, especially in close embrace tango.
It keeps your bodies much more "in-front" of each other than if you stay
walking in parallel whether outside or inside. This isn't true if you have
a very assymmetric embrace, something that stage dancers frequently use,
and something I have seen a lot in LA and somewhat in San Francisco. I find
the assymmetrical "V-Frame" very uncomfortable and besides making it
difficult to walk on your partner's right side (leader's point of view), it
makes it much harder to do left turns.

My tango is built in a more symmetrical way than some. My teachers have
almost all come out of the Gustavo/Fabian/Chicho and the Pugliese
tradition. The close-embrace tango of Tete or Susana Miller is also very
symmetrical.

>
>                Larry de Los Angeles

Tom Stermitz

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Garrit Fleischmann Sep.98
Email: kontakt(at)cyber-tango.com