Tango Argentino > Milonga Syncopation

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by AndaBien, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    In another post I got the idea that some leaders do a "real" syncopation in milonga, and I am curious about that.

    If this is a regular milonga step pattern:
    x.x.x.x. or,
    some teachers say that adding a step (a syncopation) gives traspie, like this:
    x.x&x.x. or 1.2&3.4.

    That is to say that traspie is a 3-count movement: 2&3, or maybe 4&1.
    (I hate these types of representations).

    That may be a syncopation to a dancer, but not to a musician. To a musician a syncopation is not adding a step, but shifting the emphatic beat to an unexpected place. It's not just adding a subdivided beat. The musicians syncopation leads to the habanera rhythm: x..xx.x. or 1..&3.4., by shifting the second beat from "2" off to the next "&". That does not add a step. It just shifts a step from one place in the rhythm to a different place.

    So, my question is, do any leaders do a traspie by shifting the step, but not by adding a step?

    I've watched at milongas and on Youtube, but all traspies seem to be done by adding a subdivided step, rather than by shifting the step from the regular beat to a different place.

    What say you?
    Gssh likes this.
  2. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    It's an interesting idea, but I would think it would be very hard to lead. It's hard enough to lead Traspie' easily (or maybe I just suck at milonga)
  3. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    There are two completely different things that various teachers call a traspie.
    One is the (so called) syncopation (actually just Quick-Quick-Slow rhythm steps, like rock steps).
    The second thing is something that does not involve any type of Q-Q-S rhythm at all. It is basically a touch (a foot movement in any direction that end with touching the floor, but without a weight change) done on a slow beat, followed by an actual step (with the same foot that did the "touch") on the next slow beat.
  4. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I do not think of the first example as traspie'. If it were, then people would be talking about traspie in tango as well as milonga every time someone dances a QQS.

    To me, traspie is rather specifically the 2nd example (which is why I mentioned it being hard to lead... leading a change in rhythm to take quick and slow steps isn't as hard, and is done all the time in tango as well as milonga.

  5. rain_dog

    rain_dog Active Member

    I could be wrong, but I suspect what actually happens is that with a typical milonga the leaders step on 1 and 3 as the default (lisa) and add quick steps on the 2 and 4. What you are suggesting would require further subdivision of the beat to dance to the habanera rhythm, which while possible, is pretty challenging.

    It's probably doable with the slower milongas, but with something like Flor de Montserrat would require a really sensitive follower (or pre-arranged choreography...).
  6. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    To go off at a bit of a tangent, I find this approach to dealing with the rhythms of any of the tango family very odd. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard teachers (and by extension, their students) unable to talk coherently about rhythms because they steadfastly refuse to adopt a sensible vocabulary to talk about rhythm: which always deals with accenting certain discernible beats, and leaving others unaccented.

    Counting (even if only to identify the beats you mean) is out. Using expressions like Quick & Slow is out. It's as though we are meant to believe that somehow tango is above all such mechanical contrivances - that we feel the dance in such sophisticated ways, that to actually be able to clearly say what it is we do, and when we do it is, well, vulgar.

    We are left with useless expression like "double time" which suggests exactly the opposite of the meaning usually attributed to it (which is to double the rate of your steps in the same time, ie half time). I have noticed, in my own teaching, that in a mixed class of people from other dance backgrounds, and people who are 'just' tango dancers, one group have a far better grasp of the concept of syncopation than the other. If, yesterday, you were at one of my BR & Latin classes, and you were dancing (and counting) Cha Cha 234&1, Rumba 2 3 4/1 and Jive 123a4 and, say, a Brush Tap in the satanic BR tango QQ&S, you would find that dancing traspies and getting to grips with the habanera rhythm and its variants a piece of cake!
  7. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    It is easier, because you leave step(s) out instead of struggling with additional steps.

    I did also complain about the squishy jargon concerning syncopation. Here dancer speak there musician´s speak. Furthermore also ballet, BR, clubs and studios use different words even concepts, not to mention the used languages (english, spanish, french).

    -I would (also ?) argue to limit syncopation to describe music,
    -to use traspie (shifting) and doubling (adding) for dance,
    -and totally to forget about quicks and slows.
  8. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    It's just as likely that you take the same number of steps, but at different times.
  9. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    duplicate post... sorry
  10. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I once stage managed a production of West Side Story that was a co-production of a ballet company and an opera company. In rehearsing group musical numbers, I found out firsthand just how differently dancers and musicians 'count music'.

    I personally like using Q&S for myself. However, my partner and I have had ballroom students who say the words 'quick' and 'slow' but then actually dance them exactly the same instead of DOING quicks and slows. It baffles me when I see it, because to me it seems so obvious in the music, but it happens more often than I would have ever believed possible before I experienced it. It becomes a challenge to get them to change their tempo.

    If they don't physically respond automatically to speaking the those descriptive words, then they aren't going to do it on number counts either... except when they do. And that baffles me even more!
  11. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I think it's harder because you lead a movement that doesn't result in a weight change step, but could easily feel like a step. Or conversely, a movement that isn't felt and doesn't result in anything.

    My partner and I used to argue endlessly because he said if I just kept my rhythm and danced the main beat, it wouldn't matter if I didn't do the traspie' with him. I said that it left me on the opposite foot than he expected.

    What I finally realized is that we were both right and both wrong... if you do an odd number of traspie' 'sequences', you end up on the opposite foot that you would have if you had done no traspie. If you do an even number of them, you end up on the same foot that you would have without them.

    So it's important that the follower know when to do traspie with the leader and when not to, and important for the leader to be able to tell whether she did them and whether she ended on the foot he expected.

    (remember, my definition of traspie is the only the 2nd of Dchester's 2 definitions above)

    Personally, I think it's far easier to lead and follow varied rhythms that involve complete weight changes for both people simultaneously. Theoretically leading basic walking with varied rhythm of quicks and slows is something that is addressed in beginner classes. Traspie is not a beginner move.
  12. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    If I understand what is described, it sounds like 'pointing' a foot, without weight, before then stepping on it, normally. To do that over two normally accented beats doesn't sound like a traspie action, as I understand the term. I would go more with the definition
  13. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    If that was what Dchester meant, then I misunderstood him... but I doubt it. That would meant that neither of his definitions matches what I was taught as traspie'

    To me it's definitely NOT pointing and then stepping on that same fot (that sounds like just an embellishment of some sort) but rather putting slight weight on the foot just to push off it and return to where your were and then change weight. Watch Omar Vega below

  14. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Yes, agreed. Using terminology from Latin dancing, I'd call that first step as being taken with 'part weight'. The other keys seem to be:
    • that the normal process of full transfer and collection (particularly collection) is interrupted by the 'push back' to the other foot, before the third step, and
    • that at least one of the beats being danced has been divided into two parts - most typically not equal (QQS) but often 3/4, 1/4 & 1 or 1/4, 3/4 & 1.
    As for them being 'difficult' or 'advanced', I don't think I would agree. At least not if the rhythm being danced comes directly from the music (ie that the beat divisions are not arbitrary). Given the energy that can be put into the step and its 'rebound', I think they can be easy to lead & follow, once you have some familiarity with the idea at all. Not for complete beginners, but a natural development from simpler rock steps.
  15. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    That's how traspie, which adds a step, is different from dancing the habanera rhythm, which only shifts a step to a syncopated place in the music. If you just danced the habanera rhythm, which I don't think anyone really does, you would never change feet.

    Leading the habanera rhythm would be really difficult, I think. Learning to lead the traspie might be difficult, but once it was understood, a leader could get a decent follower who had never seen it before, to do it, IME.
  16. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    This is one of my pet peeves, so i have plenty to say :)

    A "dancer syncopation" is the same thing as a "musician syncopation", the only reason there seems to be a difference is because it is taught badly. A traspie ("stumble") is a rhytmic pattern that creates a syncopation by swinging a note/off-beat syncopation. It is fundametally different pattern than double time
    If this is the regular milonga step pattern:
    x.....x.....x.....x or 1.....2.....3.....4
    then just adding a step/doubletiming gives us this:
    x..&..x.....x.....x or 1..&..2.....3.....4
    which is NOT a traspie. a traspie is this:
    x.&...x.....x.....x or 1.&...2.....3.....4
    x&....x.....x.....x or 1&....2.....3.....4
    it tends to be taught as a doubletime because it is easier to explain, and (i think) because people who are sensitive to the rhythm in the music will end up with a traspie anyway - the biggest problem with talking about milonga is that people instinctivly use the music to dance something different than they think they are dancing. I am not really sure if this is visible on youtube, especially as the music tends to be a bit offset on these videos so that subtle rhythmic variations are not really visible. (because of that i tend to watch tango on youtube with the sound off- the fact that music and picture are sometimes off-sync drives me crazy).
    Other variations of a milonga rhythm that you see much more rarely because they have to be explicitly taught that way would be:
    x....x'......x.....x or even

    This is the key to dancing slow milonga that feels like a slow milonga and not like a tango. Milonga is more obviously polyrhythmic than tango (though i think even tango should be danced less straight than it usually is.

    Again, i think this is based on teachers not understanding what they are really trying to teach/why what they do in their dance works with the milonga rhythm:
    One should be fastQuick-slowQick-Slow to get the syncopation, and the second thing is a way to cheat yourself to the difference between a fastSlow and a slowSlow by doing one without a weightchange, and one with a weightchange.

    I think the problem is that what makes tango a tango is that it is impliedly polyrhythmic. One of my tango teachers once expressed it like that: "Tango is a latin dance, just like salsa. But that is hidden, because a tango orchestra has no percussion - the dancers are the percussion, and are responsible for supporting all the underlying implied polyrhythm in the music. " And i think some of the dancers have forgotten this secret that they are supposed to guard and sneak under the straigh and stuffy surface of tango :). Or if you think about tango as an african dance - the orchestra is just the singing - the dancers are responsible for the clapping, and the stomping, and all percussion. There are usually at least 3 rhythms under each tango, and i guess one could ask different people in a class to count different ones so that people feel the way that they move apart and together again, and how that creates tension and dynamics - or do it like in african dance where you clap and step different rhythms, but i think it would be difficult in the average class.
    A few teachers try to do 2 rhythms by asking people to listen to the straight beat, and then clap to something else, or they try to show the dynamics of the rhythms moving against each other by singing how it is supposed to feel, something like "Tat tat tat tat" for single beat , "tatatatatatatat" for double, and "tarratata tarratata" for traspie. (there actually seems to be (have been?) a convention for how to sing these - a few of the older teachers seemed to use the same words for this, but i can't remeber them, i just remember that they were quite specific and unlike anything else i have heard people use to sing a rhythm).

    I agree with him - a leader does not "expect" what foot the followe is on - he marks something, and then follows whatever the follower actually did - that is what the embrace is for - the leader feeling where the follower is. The leader dances with the followers feet - he knows when the weight is shifted, and then he can do one thing, or if the weight is not shifted, and then does something else. The follower has the responsibility to maintain the leaders axis, the leader has the responsibility to follow the follower. So if the leader does a fake step, and the follower doesn't then we now are in the cross system, and there are lots of cool things we can do - including a few dozen ways to get back into the parallel system. The leader can not expect anything of the follower, but has to be ready to follow whatever she does.
    It is of course easier if she does something conventional, but especially in milonga part of the fun is in the different things that both people hear, and how their footwork and rhythms shift against each other. And just like in tango the follower decisively stepping on the music gives the leader something to riff off, no matter what he was thinking would happen.

  17. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Well, to be fair.. it wasn't hard to follow when Omar led it... :)

    I haven't had as much luck following less skilled leaders, nor have I learned myself how to lead it.
  18. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    The key to leading this is for me to be conscious that the "deep meaning" of this is not "no weightchange and then weightchange" but "really, really fast step-so fast that i don't have time (and don't give time to the follower) for a weightchange, and then drawing out the time till i land the second step like taffy so i am getting back on the base timing - the feeling is something like daTaaaa". I don't lead a "step without weightchange" but lead a step, and then interrupt it before she (and i) arrice at the new base - kinda like a boleo.

  19. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    I was just going to make the comparison with leading a boleo - but you beat me to it!

    We do very much the same thing, in vals, when we dance on 1 |1 |12 |1 ||. The 12 gives the syncopation: another form of the TaDah.
  20. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Actually, you don't agree with him. (because you focused on one word instead of what I was really saying about which foot you end up on when you do odd or even numbers of traspie sequences compared to not doing any traspie)

    Perhaps "expect" isn't the best word, since he did say that if I ended up not where he intended, he could simply get out of it as you say, based on cross system.

    In reality though, it is all very fast, and he usually didn't realize I was on the "wrong" foot and ended up kicking me before he realized where I was (and wasn't). Also, since he was trying to teach me something, getting out of it smoothly regardless of what I did wasn't his top priority.. teaching me what he thought I was doing wrong was his priority.

    So he'd say it was my mistake because I didn't keep my rhythm. That's what always started the argument. I tried to tell him I had done exactly as he instructed and danced only on the main beat (no traspie) and that's how I ended up on the foot I was on. I didn't end up on that foot by not keeping the rhythm; I ended up on it because he did one or three traspie bits and I didn't do them at all. Of course, it wasn't a problem when he did an even number of them or when I did them too. That made the problem inconsistent.

    So we went round and round with it over time with him saying I'd end up on the same foot regardless of whether I did traspie or not, and me saying I'd end up on the opposite foot. Since it was an intermittent problem (and sometimes I did the traspie with him, making it even harder to troubleshoot) it took awhile before I sussed out the answer.

    Which, as usual, was that neither of us was totally right or totally wrong.

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