Toe leads for every step for the man?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by LordBallroom, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    I don't think that sending the foot straight back is good, but rather would aim to place one foot more-or-less directly behind the other (as though walking on one track. This slightly curved path calls for a minimal turnout of the foot, and then it seems natural to land the foot on the inside edge of the ball of foot. I'd avoid too much pressure on the big toe, for good reason, and leave that to high-level Latin dancers (who share frequent foot problems, along with ballet dancers).
  2. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Without questioning whether it is correct for tango?

    I have ballet training, but I do not use ballet feet for tango.
    Lilly_of_the_valley likes this.
  3. Gssh

    Gssh Active Member

    I am personally really unhappy that we talk about the differences between the genres as the differences between professionals and amateurs - my contention is that we are not actually doing the same thing, and that more and more the only thing TC and other professional dance has relevance for is TC and professional dance. I am not an amateur "professional tango" dancer - i am maybe amateur "social tango" dancer, and there are precious few who i think are masters of "social tango" - and most of them don't travel or teach. "Professional tango" has about as much relevance to my practice as yoga and lifting does: it helps with some of the attributes like balance and strength, not much more. It is a bit like the relationship between olympic taekwondo and mma competition - i would not bet on an olympic taekwondo gold medalist against even an amateur MMA fighter if we are talking about a MMA arena - and similarly there are many, many "amateur social tango dancers" who have better social tango technique and skills than the even the best "professional tango dancers" - just the same as the professional tango dances are much better at "professional tango" dancing.

    Re: Hips
    While i think that heel or toe or flat foot is pretty much a question of what movement one is dancing, i have pretty strong opinions on the use of the hip. After practicing and discussing a lot with a friend of mine with a lot of ballet training and trying to piece together the instructions from different teachers and what one sees on the dancefloors in BA when being lucky enough to see a "milonguera" (who are surprisingly rare - very few of the women who danced in the golden age came back to the milongas later - i think we lost incredible amounts of knowledge and skill when tango was essentially revived by the men. Widowers returned to the milonga when their wife died, widows didn't, and we are poorer for that) i suspect that a some of the things that we are seeing are filtered through a ballet lens when they shouldn't be. I think there is something like turnout in walking for both leaders and followers, but it is a different turnout than the ballet turnout. It is much higher up - i believe that in tango the "leg" starts at the lower edge of the ribcage, and if there is rotation it is not from turning out at the hip, but form using the diagonal muscles in the back to open and close the pelvis. It is vaguely similar to what i learned as proper techique in salsa, but without sinking into the hip at the end of the step, but instead keeping the hip stable.

    Gssh
    bordertangoman likes this.
  4. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    This sounds very close to the action that I have in mind.
    bordertangoman likes this.
  5. JohnEm

    JohnEm Active Member

    You raise a good point even though I'm going to disagree
    which I'll try and explain.

    Bear in mind I dance in line with my partners with as little offset
    as is naturally possible - apilado/milonguero, whatever!

    Two consecutive tango teachers taught me the single track walk,
    the lady placing one foot more or less behind the other. The first teacher
    was a male pointed toe dancer, the other a female ball of the foot dancer.
    The same point is erroneously made on Tango and Chaos but that
    is a false interpolation from what Rick McGarrey photographed.
    I'll hopefully return to that.

    I've only ever done one Detlef & Melina workshop because I came
    to the conclusion that how they dance is not how I wanted to dance.
    However in that weekend very early on Melina stated that contrary
    to their previous teaching they had come to realise that the single track
    walk they previously taught should be changed to a two track walk.

    So why a two track walk for the lady not a one track that all the
    elegant show people want to do? In a parallel embrace the man has to walk
    each side of the lady's single track walk, because a lady's foot is always
    in the way, making a three track walk for the couple. When the lady walks
    two close together tracks, one left foot & one right footed, the man can follow
    in the same tracks with opposite feet. It helps balance and a feeling of
    calm masculine stability for the woman.

    Both partners can now walk with their own legs brushing each other
    as they pass or at least pass very close - always good dancer technique
    no matter what the dance - and the man is not forced into a strange
    slightly waddle type legs apart walk but can aim straight for his partner
    knowing that his chest lead will ensure that the lady's foot has already
    vacated the spot he is aiming for.

    The Tango and Chaos pictures are of milongueros late at Sunderland
    after the milonga walking (in cross system I think but it would be the same
    in parallel) considerably outside the lady and the natural walk in this
    exaggerated offset (contra body) position is one foot in front of the other,
    so two individual single tracks for the couple. He mistakenly (in my opinion)
    interpolated that to apply to all walking and that would be painful
    and impracticable.

    Maybe the milongueros were winding him up! Who knows?

    Show dancers, competition dancers and the like always contrive
    their own solutions, they are looking for elegance and eye appeal.
    They regularly dance and practise almost only with each other
    and I never feel that they have much to teach social dancers
    with their need to find a dance that works with a wide cross section
    of people and abilities.

    To a certain extent that same criticism applies to professional teaching
    partnerships who tend to teach what works for them after much practice
    often without reference to the wider social context.
    jantango likes this.
  6. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Interesting.

    Actually, my own starting point for the more-or-less one track walk is not based, particularly, on a perception of elegance (although it can be elegant), but on stability. I find that beginners, particularly if they don't already dance in another style that has some useful crossover to tango, struggle to walk without the upper body swaying from side to side on every step. They are not holding their torso properly braced over a stable pelvis, and are constantly gently falling to the side as they walk, as they have not learned to support their full weight on just one leg. If the follower walks on one track, her torso can be steady, and the leader will hopefully reflect that in his own movement. As they begin the experiment with the mechanics of lead & follow, the upper body being as quiet as possible, helps to reduce the unwanted noise, so that they can concentrate on the movement wanted in the moment.
  7. JohnEm

    JohnEm Active Member

    I can certainly understand why you are doing that, it almost seems
    to help brace the body and it fits in with the people's general perception
    of tango. But where are the men walking as a consequence?

    It seems to me that in order to overcome an initial physical problem,
    you are introducing a longer term one. Never underestimate the time
    and effort it takes to eradicate a learned unfortunate habit. Such things
    do get in the way of a becoming a proficient yet relaxed dancer.

    I don't know if you can arrive at another method to help solve the problem.
    All I can think of is exercise and practice. I'm glad I'm not teacher!
  8. jfm

    jfm Active Member

    In sports coaching sometimes it's best to over correct if it's a long running quirk of that person (what they think is over correcting is usually just perfect when their body does it because it needs a lot of effort to do it differently), but I'm not sure introducing an exaggerated movement to pre-empt the possibility that they might develop a bad habit to someone just starting out is a good idea. It takes a long time to unlearn things like that. Worryingly I find myself agreeing with John.
  9. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    The answer (for me) is not to exaggerate the movement. I don't try to get followers actually stepping on one track, but more-or-less on one (the difference being about half a foot's width). The object, of course, is to get rid of a waddling walk, not to introduce one. I agree that where the dancers are in a typical apidalado/milonguero straight-on embrace, there is usually no need, but most beginners start out with a much more open embrace (even if it qualifies, in the broadest sense, as being close) and with a degree of offset. Many will go on to choose to adopt a slight V-shape, and my purpose is not to be prescriptive in their style choices.

    A waddling walk is very common in people not used to dance, and eradicating it is an important stage on the road to walking with stability. As soon as the follower has developed enough sensitivity to the leader's intention and has sufficient control over the placement of her foot with the engagement of all the right muscle groups, she will (should) stop thinking about placing her foot at all, but step where she is led to step. Until then, we have to cheat a bit.

    Another reason that there can be a very natural tendency to place one foot at least partly behind the other is as a direct response to the body swing of a leader walking with any material degree of contrary body movement (CBM). That swing will tend to bring the leader's moving foot partly across the line of his own standing leg, too, and the follower will tend to mimic the action. Of course, as John says, if this is taken too far, the leader will start to catch the follower's foot, rather than place his own directly to its side. If the knees and ankles are kept pretty much together as the feet pass, then walking in the narrowest possible pair of tracks is probably ideal - but if your starting point is waddlers, then I have found that some intervention is helpful, just to correct such a basic fault. I have not found that it ingrains a bad habit, but helps to build a stable walk more quickly than living with a continued waddle.

    Don't worry about it: it's bound to happen from time to time, and it needn't be habit forming. ;)
  10. jfm

    jfm Active Member

    Lol! My brain must be operated by an infinite number of monkeys with type writers!
    Zoopsia59 likes this.
  11. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I've been wanting to weigh in on this since someone posted looking for the follower's perspective, but I just don't have the energy to read much less post. Maybe next week.
  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I'm pretty sure we'll still be here.
  13. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Yeah... and I doubt you'll come to any consensus by then. ;)
  14. JohnEm

    JohnEm Active Member

    I don't know how you can teach a group of people who have adopted
    a range of different embraces. The main influence of the dance in BsAs
    is the relative superficial consistency of embraces. Different embraces
    have different extents and limitations of movement and I wonder if it is
    this diversity that is resulting in the stilted commonality of plain straight
    line walking because that can be taught and learned in all of the embraces.

    Turning techniques and possibilities are most affected by the embrace.

    How about encouraging people to work on eliminating the waddling walk
    outside and inside the dance. Working on good dance technique
    changes people. We dance what we are and in tango your partner feels
    what you are. Having to work on posture and walk while trying to dance
    results in concentrating on improving them rather than on the dance.

    I don't believe either of these points is necessarily the case.
    In writing there is the natural tendency to isolate one topic from another
    and yet physically you cannot isolate one movement from another.

    Oddly you indicate that natural body swing of the leader might lead
    to the lady placing one foot behind the other. This seems to ignore
    that walking backwards is very different from our natural forward walk.
    Contra body swing is just as likely to turn the ladies reaching leg outwards
    rather than inwards and produce a waddling walk in her. There is no visible
    contrabody swing in tango because of the two different actions of man
    and woman. Contrabody movement in most circumstances is noise
    interfering with the transmission of intent. The upper body is still
    until a change in movement is required. That in itself is a skill.

    My point would be that classes and generalisations don't suit good dance
    teaching. We are all individual and everyone has differing abilities and
    limitations which need addressing individually.

    Classes can result in prescriptive teaching and changing the walk of a group
    of waddlers might detrimentally affect the walk of those who don't.
  15. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    My starting point is always to take the people who come to my classes or lessons, and work with them from where they actually are in their individual dance journeys, and frequently that is at the very start. In classes, of course, the scope for truly personal attention is limited, and I think that students understand that.

    Different embraces are part of tango, unless you wish to dance in a particular style or narrow range of styles. If you are an experienced dancer, and are dancing in an area with a well developed tango scene that can satisfy your style preference (and that is all it is, there is no one true path to tango enlightenment), then that is a perfectly reasonable choice for you, but not necessarily for others. You will naturally gravitate to places where your chosen style predominates, or is the norm, and your partners will be self-selecting too. But your experience will only reflect a small part of the totality of tango.

    Personally, I highly value the development of a personal style that can be enjoyed without superficiality or stilted commonality.

    What makes you think I don't encourage students to eliminate basic faults? But if you mean the sort of class where everyone spends three quarters of the time being marched up and down the room, to improve their walk, then no thanks. I don't think that it actually works with a group of people, for a start, but it is also commercial suicide. No one likes doing it (unless they have just paid 3x the going local rate for some visiting maestro's wisdom, and then they will swallow anything rather than believe that they've just been duped), and my experience has been that all that walking empties a class more quickly than anything else could.

    CBM works in the same way, regardless of whether you walk forwards or backwards. If it results in a swing out, its basic principle has been misunderstood or is being misapplied, coming, as it does, from a completely natural walking action.

    As a partner dance, the action of one dancer inevitably affects the other. If the leader walks with CBM, the follower must follow (or there is something fundamentally broken about their embrace).

    There certainly is CBM in tango, but you may choose not to employ it. It needn't be so marked as to be obviously visible, and many things in tango can only be observed with difficulty, but are readily felt.

    Classes are the preferred way of learning in most dance styles for most people, and the majority will never take privates, even if it would be of benefit to them. Teaching in a group environment therefore forms a significant proportion of the contact time of many teachers. Most teachers enjoy teaching group classes and few would accept your premise. Apart from anything else, teachers cannot dictate how students choose to learn, or how much time, effort and money they are prepared to devote to their learning. It is another aspect of taking people as they actually are.

    Classes can result in prescriptive teaching, of course, but so can any other teaching strategy - that depends on the teacher. Any competent teacher should recognise that the members of any group (and a couple is a group of two) have individual needs and a range of learning styles. If I ever thought that faced with a mixed group comprising waddlers and non-waddlers, I would have to sacrifice one in favour of the other, it would be time to find something else to do for a living.
  16. JohnEm

    JohnEm Active Member

    I doubt if most new dancers have any such idea as usually
    they have little idea about anything except the attraction of tango.

    All those different embraces are what help make tango unnecessarily
    difficult. Still it keeps people coming back to classes. The totality of tango
    as you put it encompasses social, competition and performance.
    Life would be easier for many if there was some narrower selection.

    There is a stilted commonality caused by the wide variety of embraces,
    positions, views, thoughts and opinions. The preference to accommodate
    all the wide variety of embraces seems to result in a very narrow dance;
    a subset of the dance which can be done in all the embraces.

    Working with a specific embrace might result in a deeper exploration
    of all the possible movements within that embrace.

    There is a common view in Buenos Aires that tango starts with the embrace
    and having experienced the change that the embrace can make I rather tend
    to that view now. Abroad, teachers tend ignore the embrace as too difficult,
    more or less as you have expressed.

    No, I am not advocating walking classes nor am I interested in whether
    something is commercial suicide but more in what is best for a student
    to help progress towards the goal of actually dancing the music of tango.

    I'm inclined to think you don't understand.
    CBM is noise capable of interfering with the lady's perception/feel
    of the intent of the man. And if she responds in the usual tango way her
    backwards projecting leg will aim outward because she will feel a turn.

    Hmmmm . . . yes . . . . . exactly . . . . . and feel the beginning of a turn.
    Or you are teaching her to ignore the turning implication and progress
    straight back. No wonder some women won't turn unless they are
    specifically lead a giro and guys end up rock-stepping corners much
    to the boredom of some of their partners.

    The extent of CBM if any is not to transmit it in the upper body
    so reality it amounts to mild disassociation.

    No, it is an aspect of commercialised teaching. Regularly take a little money
    off a lot of students keeps them coming back for, or for as long as
    you can maintain the illusion of learning. A never never instalment plan
    on the basis that they will never learn enough to break free from the
    yoke of supposed learning.

    Teachers choose what they do and some can indeed be dictatorial.

    There's plenty of prescriptive teaching in tango, usually out of the
    necessities of attempting to teach disparate groups. I don't believe
    that you can be any better than a whole host of other teachers who
    attempt the same thing. They may have different solutions but usually
    it results in too many generalisations to be useful or is prescriptive
    of style or teaches a narrow range of movement or as a last (sometimes
    first) resort teaching moves, the classic solution to group teaching.

    Of course we approach this from different perspectives, you as a
    commercial teacher seeking to teach tango as a means of helping
    to earn a living from dance while I am a past student, no longer being
    frustrated by the spurious claims and unsatisfactory learning experiences.
  17. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Yes we do, and as there is no possibility of us agreeing on these matters, I'll leave it there.
  18. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Agreed, 100%.

    Personally, I love it when leaders I corporate CBM into their walk. It feels so much more alive, and dynamic, and makes the embrace feel like so much more. From just a little bit sometimes, to exaggerated CBM at times, it's just wonderful. And I have never felt it as the start of a lead to send my free leg to the outside, nor confused it as such. It is just an entirely different feel, and a completely separate lead. Shrug. Mmm...CBM. :)
    UKDancer likes this.
  19. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member


    likewise, several of my favourite dancers use cbm a lot, is like dancing with an eel, in a nice way...:)
  20. JohnEm

    JohnEm Active Member

    Let me start by stating clearly I'm not disagreeing with what you experience
    and that you like what you feel with a leader using CBM.

    But . . . there's always a but!

    But you are both arguing that the response to a leader's CBM is follower's
    CBM and superficially it seems difficult to disagree. However if the lead comes
    from the chest then every individual nuance from the man's chest should be
    capable of an appropriate response from the woman and in this case I argue
    it's this:

    Not this:
    It is increasingly my belief that it is these ideas that help result in the
    straight line walking dance because women are taught to actually ignore
    certain instances of the lead and keep walking (backwards!). This seems
    to me to mean that turns other than specific giros may be almost eliminated
    - the subtlety is lost.

    Let me give another example which is more common than the rather
    esoteric CBM. After having learnt something about close embrace tango
    I returned to dance with the pupils of my first teacher and discovered
    that some would cross without being seemingly lead. One told me quite
    specifically that I had lead it and it turned out that walking outside her
    was enough for her to feel the need to cross and bring herself back in line.
    There are embrace implications here too which I will ignore.

    This was contrary to the teaching I was now hearing where ladies were
    taught not to cross unless very specifically lead.

    Imagine my surprise when in BA I experienced exactly the same "unlead"
    crosses and I quickly learned that each step had to be lead and the message
    almost had to be given not to cross when walking outside the woman.
    As I have other examples, I have eventually concluded that every time
    a teacher teaches women to ignore something she feels and carry on
    regardless, the sensitivity of the woman is being dulled and the possibilities
    of the man's lead are being restricted.

    It seems to me that once you accept that the dance is an elegant walking
    (more or less in a straight line) dance then I can understand that CBM adds
    something interesting by way of variation. But maybe you have been detuned
    from the many other possibilities.

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