Tango Argentino > From Latin/Swing to Argentine Tango - Help!

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by LindyKeya, Jul 11, 2009.

  1. LindyKeya

    LindyKeya Member

    Very helpful, thank you. A follow-up question -
    Is it correct to say that somewhere around the beginning of #3 above, there will be more forward pressure between lead and follow, as the follow (if I'm reading you right) has not yet shifted her torso back - only her leg? So the forward pressure would briefly intensify, and then go back to the starting pressure, as the follower actually begins stepping backward? (And yes, I realize this all happens rather quickly in real time.) You're saying the lead initiates the step with his core, then moves his leg, while the follow begins her's with her leg, and follows with the core?

    Also, how does the follower know how far back to step? My assumption (based on prior experience, but also what people have written here) was that she knows how far to step back because the lead leads her to set her weight down, thus halting her backward progression (for that step). Is this incorrect?
  2. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    The pressure does not relent. It's the job of both the lead and follow to maintain constant pressure all through out the tanda (set of three/four songs in a set).

    The follower knows how far to step back based on how far the lead goes. As the follower, you will feel him move, and you match movements. You'll feel him land his weight. When you do, you'll feel him start to land you, which is the extent of your current movement.

    To illustrate, watch Jennifer Bratt respond to Ney Mello's leading. This is an improvised number:

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  3. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    there will be an increase in pressure as walking commences. (hopefully you noted Zoopsia's response that if 1 and 2 don't happen- step number 3 is not correct on it's own).

    The pressure does not go away as this would constitute stepping away from your leader before a step is comeplete. This just brings you back to the complaint from the leader that you would be "falling away" from him.

    The pressure concludes when the couple stops walking and returns to neutral amount of energy exerted, for lack of a better word. It begins again when they walk again. Recall that the follow is responsible for maintaining the distance, as someone pointed out, and in close embrace, the distance is zero. She would be responsible for helping maintain that forward feeling as long as he was stepping.

    The follow goes as far as his torso goes (unless he is faking the follow out intentionally to take a different size step than he is).
  4. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Two good questions..

    I'd say the answer to #1 is that there is a VERY SLIGHT and very BRIEF increase in the pressure when he starts forward movement to which, in my opinion, you can and should respond to in kind, but no more, in your torso. You aren't a wall he is pressing against when he makes this first very slight movement initiative. You are, in essence, a part of him.

    Of course, if he never takes the step, then its not all so brief and you may find yourself accidentally moving your torso too much, but that doesn't happen often (it might happen if, for instance, he suddenly can't go where he intended because the couple in front of you has moved against line of dance into the space he was going to move you to.) While you are in the early stages, and still dancing with beginners, expect some jerky leads rather than the smooth transitions we are talking about. Leading tango is really hard.

    How far back to step... that is the eternal question and you will most likely get more than one answer over the course of your dancing. I think its one of the things that makes tango a little harder than ballroom, because you have to start to extend for your backstep before having much clue how big of a step you might end up taking. (for some reason side steps don't cause people quite as much trouble)

    MY answer is that the leader can see back there and you can't. Therefore, all you can do is assume you will eventually have the ability to fully extend your free leg and be prepared to do so, and he should assume you are going to do that. Anything else is a partial extension and exactly how partial is too hard to guess. After all, you can't exactly feel your way back, cautiously and slowly exploring with your foot for obstacles, nor can you have ESP about how far back to reach based on a step not yet fully led. Nor can you keep your free leg dangling somewhat behind you in an arbitrary fashion obviously holding it out of the way, but not doing anything with it.

    Of course, depending on the music and his style (and his experience), you may have plenty of time to make a slow reach and find it very intuitive with his movement. With a beginner leader, his transitions will be more abrupt and you have to reach a little earlier to avoid getting stomped.

    But since you haven't put any weight on it yet, you may end up shortening up your step when he actually moves you to it. (one of the many important reasons not to put weight on your free leg before you're supposed to.)

    Your next question might be... "what does he do if there's not room for you to fully extend?". Well, if you think about the geometry, the lower you are in your standing knee, the further you can reach. So if he is doing any sort of holding you up or lifting, it might be a sign that you can't step very far. (conversely, downward pressure to get you deeper into your knee might mean he's going to be expecting to take a big step.)

    Now maybe that just seems a little too "secret handshake". But keep in mind one important thing about stepping back that I STILL have to remind myself of (damn ballet training!)

    You aren't reaching with a pointed toe with lots of stretch through the top of your foot.

    If you do that, you will have to pull away from your partner to put your heel down as the step completes. I've had teachers who said you shouldn't be putting your heel down until your body is OVER the foot to pass to the next step because the leader feels the "clunk down". And I've also had teachers who said your heel shouldn't really ever be UP in the first place.. the sole of your foot should be towards the floor, not the wall behind you. (Isn't there some culture where showing the soles of your feet is very rude? Hindu, maybe?)

    Sigh... one of many things on the list of things teachers don't agree on and can't explain consistently.

    MY view is that your reach should allow you to get your heel down to, or reasonably close to the floor when you first do your reach without having to pull away from your partner at all. This is NOT intuitive to me, because i find myself wanting to reach back with a pointed toe and turned out leg. (lets not get into how turn-out will mess with your walking right now!) If you reach with a pointed foot and the leader doesn't take a big enough step for you to get all the way back with your heel down, you will either pull away from him to do so or end up leaning more on him because you didn't get back over your axis. Either way... not good.

    So the length of your reach will depend on some variables like how flexible your achilles is and how high your shoe heels are. Its one of the reasons the really high heels are in some ways EASIER to dance in than a flat... you can get your heel down in backwards walking because of the angle. On the other hand, the higher heel will also decrease your reach because of the way it affects your FRONT foot. :rolleyes: In my experience of watching and talking to leaders, more followers err on the side of taking steps too SMALL than reaching too far. Unless you are deep in plie' or have gumby achilles, then with proper technique as regarding being able to keep the heels downward, your reach probably isn't going to be too big.

    And if the leader wants to take a step bigger than your reach, you have to be prepared to let your foot skim backwards a little as you move to it. More reasons not to have weight on it too soon!

    Which brings up another point.. you're really just reaching because he's PROBABLY going to take you backwards if he's giving you increased forward pressure. In reality, he might not take you backwards...anything can happen. Anticipation is the follower's worst enemy! So when I say "reach" and "extend", you are doing it with a relaxed (but energized) free leg that in truth is prepared to go ANYWHERE even AFTER you started reaching back.

    All this takes time to learn and get the feel of the movement and timing. You may find your other training helps with all these fine points and you may find as I did, that certain things (like reaching with a dramtically pointed foot) create problems. When everyone dancing tango danced in close embrace and in crowded Buenos Aires milongas, the finer points of reaching may not have come up. There was nowhere to go. Nobody took big steps. The dancing was all small and compact and you couldn't see anyone's feet anyway, so doing fancy things with them was irrelevant. All that mattered was connection and musicality.

    Your mileage may vary....
  5. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    As I understand it (and I could be wrong), the pressure shouldn't really vary a lot, because variation disrupts connection.

    Sort of. I think the sequence is something like:
    1. Lead initiates the (follower's) leg to move with his core
    2. Follower moves leg but does not transfer weight
    3. Lead starts to move (leg and / or body)
    4. Leader and follower transfers weight at the same time (ideally!)

    Depends on the lead - the strength of the lead determines the length of the step.

    Um. Not sure. I don't think that's right, but I could be misunderstanding it.
  6. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Yes, I think it's OTT to say that.

    However, there's some truth in the sentiments, in that knowledge of other dance forms is a double-edged sword. And it can be hard work deciding what you can "port" and what you should forget.
  7. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    Fair enough- but if you don't mind my saying, I think it would be next to impossible to know after 1 lesson or maybe having seem some tango danced how to arrive at what you thought you were seeing.

    There are many things especially in tango that can visually look like something and you think you understand how it is arrived at, but then you find out it was something different. (Like a barrida- it looks like follows foot is being dragged on the floor- but it is an illusion.)

    I think that is to some degreee what is going on here regarding posture and what you think you have seen people do versus what they may actually be doing and may not even be able to articulate to you.

    As a direct example...when I first was attempting to learn close embrace, my teacher at the time tried to teach it to me based on a visual reference. Unfortunately, the visual reference she was trying to have me copy caused me to engage muscles that ended up hurting my back and so I though to myself "screw that!". Later on, I worked on close embrace again and found out which muscles ACTUALLY needed to be engaged after more lessons with other teachers, but again it was not because they told me which muslces to use, just what they were feeling. The posture they all kept moving me to when I looked in the mirror gave me a similar look to the posture the original teacher tried to explain with a visual reference, but actually was arrived at through a different set of muscles entirely.

    I would not have figured it out based solely on looking at someone else's posture, I needed to feel it from the inside of the embrace and it took quite a bit of work and definitely more than one lesson to understand what I was actually being asked to do.
  8. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Yes, you are correct on this (at least according to me).


    This may be a bit more difficult to explain with words. When the follower feels the intention (or lead), she responds by moving her foot back. Initially she extends back as much as is comfortable. Now when the leader starts moving his torso (and thus so does the follower), the follower will be capable of extending her foot back even more, if it is needed. The trick is that it depends on how much it seems to her that the leader wants her to step (based on how far he goes). They both step down (or change weight) on the beat. The timing of when he moves into the space (that you created with your free foot), is what lets you know what beat to change weight on.

    A good exercise is for the leader to give you intention to move your free foot, and then pull back, which then should cause your foot to return. It's a good drill to see how by varying the amount (and direction (back and/or side movements)) of the intention, that it can influence what your foot does (move back and forth, or even draw circles), without ever doing a weight change. The trick is that everyone is a little different, so you sort of have to re-calibrate with every partner.
  9. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

  11. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member


    The woman, Not good. The guy, Not good either, and his arms and hands are in the wrong spot. It looks like their in a middle of a lunge in the middle of a canyengue?

    It's a bad stylized drawing. :roll:
  12. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    In general- I don't bother too much with what I see in drawings expecially of dance people. They are most often caricatures, like this drawing.
  13. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    There are some nice walking passes in these routines. Notice how this woman's leg looks nicely extended even if she doesn't take a large step. Its not about how big the step is, but how purposeful and elongated you make it by the way you use the whole leg and hip. Notice also that despite having incredibly high arches, she does get her heel down and only appears to be up on her toes because she dances in very high heels. (I can't dance in shoes like that) This couple dances primarily BA social tango. These routines are "jazzed up" (despite not being flashy) for performance. He would never do some of these moves this way in a milonga, but notice how much they do circular patterns, which are very important dancing in crowded BA milongas.


  14. ant

    ant Member

    Originally Posted by LindyKeya [​IMG]
    First off, the "just forget everything you know about ballroom" comments aren't terribly helpful.

    Hi DB
    Sorry, I don't agree with you at least at the macro level (and cetainly when beginning at AT) although at the micro level, as you progress, some individual techniques learned in ballroom may help.

    This is my thinking.

    I assume we are agreed that the Latin side has very little in common with AT, except maybe the upper body isolation exercises that some people practise in Salsa.

    Looking at ballroom I feel that the main techiques are as follows:

    1 Rise and fall
    2 Surges in momentum/driving from the foot of the leading leg
    3 Sweeping head movements from the follower
    4 Connection from the lower body
    5 Leaders giving an intention from the whole body and by lifting the frame of the follower
    6 Learning patterns to add to the basic step pattern
    7 Heel leads

    Whereas in AT we aim for the reverse in 1, 2 and 3, a body connection through the chest in 4 and intention through the chest and minimal body lift and only in specific circumstances in 5 and hopefully unrehearsed lead and follow with no use of patterns other that the basic in 6 and heel leads are rare in 7.

    Having said that on the micro level some techniques learned in BR may help with AT.

    - A loose leg from the hip
    - Movement of the leg from the hip
    - understanding pressure from the lead coming through the body
    - balance
    - generally moving with a partner in close proximity
    - allowing pressure from the lead to reflect in the leg rather than frame collapse

    are some things that come to mind.
  15. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    One question I thought of asking LindyKeya was, was that posture that was foisted on you canyenge like. But, given that she is just getting into this I tryied to find something to demonstrate what canyenge like is, I came across this.

    Note the caption in French. I think this is one form of early tango in France.
    Here is a link to the rest of this small collection.
    It's supposed to be the kind that had been "cleaned up" to make it more acceptable to the upper and middle classes. Still, there is that canyenge look. BTW leaning back, or leaning forward for a corte was quite common then.
    Not a good example of what we teach people now a days as "Argentine Tango".
  16. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    I think it depends on how much BR you've done, and to what level, and to what ends. If you've just learnt a series of dance-specific conventions, patterns, and movements designed primarily for visual impact, then yes.

    But I don't know enough BR to have an informed opinion...
  17. mshedgehog

    mshedgehog New Member

    I think Melina and Detlef explain the posture very well in this video, although I'm not sure if it will answer your specific question. It's in French, but I've posted a full translation here. Although given previous dance experience, you might still find it helpful without necessarily reading my translation (which Detlef was kind enough to review and correct).

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  18. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    I love them! I'll have to look at your translation, though I was able to make out a good portion of what they said. I have that little diddy bookmarked in youtube for myself.
  19. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Was going to address this earlier, seems more appropriate now.

    Ms HedgeHog, nice work.

    We learn to walk and stand, as I have read, by trial and error.
    Look at how many people walk and stand "naturally" with really bad posture.
    I'd been told many, many times in my life to stand up straight and suck in my stomach. Know what? Nobody, nobody, explained it in a way that allowed me to "get it".

    "When we are new to the dance, we are tempted to straighten our knees and pull our pelvis back. This causes us to disconnect and/or hyperextend our lower back. A good embrace is one where the knees relax and the pelvis is dropped and connected to our partner."

    This is all I could find in the class notes from instructor Steven Payne.
    He must have had use do exercises where we rotated our pelvis back and forth, up and down. Don't remember if we watched this in the mirrors, or if I did that at home, but once the connection was made between the pelvis, my lower back, and my constantly protruding stomach and butt, I got it. (course my butt stills "protrudes", but it is what it is and it ain't going nowhere)

    Understanding the anatomy of the pelvis, and how it works is very helpful in teaching "good posture", me thinks.
  20. bafonso

    bafonso New Member

    To the OP:

    Find a teacher that can answer to all of your questions, whether he/she knows or not about other dances. he/she should be able to convey the principles in a way. But you need to drop the attitude. Maybe you should attend some milongas while sitting and see who you like to see dancing and ask them about who they learn with, etc. AT is about the journey, not about getting good and getting medals. nobody really has unforgettable dances with people with that attitude...

    People mention a lot the forward lean but that is more true if you're dancing close. In open, you're not really leaning much most of time, watch some videos from the best in open and close and compare.

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