2. Argentine Tango Techniques & Body Mechanics (since Jan 8, 2010)
The following comments and ideas are solely based on our own interpretations and understanding along the way while learning from various Argentine Tango friends, teachers, milongueros, and milongueras; also, we have the benefit of many years of previous training in ballroom dancing and martial art to allow us to visualize and to break down movements into their fundamental components.
ESSENCE OF TANGO:
Tango is a canvas of music and songs on which the emotions of the hearts paint a short-lived experience of their inner feelings. The essence of tango will always be its music and songs. We must surrender and simply let our emotions to express the movements as it should.
The ability to react seamlessly to an action intuitively and creatively forms the foundation of improvisation.
We all learn by observing and assimilating information into our memory. We solve problems by recalling methods, techniques, and previous solutions of similar problems from memory. We solve a problem creatively and intuitively means that the problem at the moment is new, never seen before and solving it by gut-feeling. Taking solution methods and techniques from seemingly un-related problems to solve a never seen before problem is solving problem creatively and intuitively, to come up with an improvised solution. The improvisation of Argentine Tango is a lot like the creative problem solving skills in real life.
When a step is being lead or being countered, there may be just one solution to the step, if a dancer is reciting a standard packaged step sequence or if the dancer is going to resolve with a response step from a wealth of possible solution steps from other unrelated packaged step sequences. There are many classical packaged step sequences in Argentine Tango. These classical sequences are essential to develop personal sense of Argentine Tango gut-feeling.
The key to improvisation is not afraid to apply them in new situation.
The following is an attempt to systematically organize the essential information to develop this gut-feeling about Argentine Tango.
A good mental picture of the positioning and the range of motion of the various parts of the body is fundamental to achieve a good posture for dancing.
For both leaders and followers:
Imagine that we want to see the portion of the ceiling, which is directly above our heads, we would have to lift our chins, rotate our head backward upon our necks and our necks upon our shoulders . If we now hold our necks in position relative to our shoulders and at the same time bring down our chins by rotating our head forward upon our necks until our eyes are looking straight forward, we would achieve the neutral positioning for our heads, having our necks in the perfectly vertical alignment position.
For both leaders and followers:
Imagine that we need to reach down to the bottom of the pockets of our pants at the same time, our shoulders would have arrived to their neutral positions
Chest & Elbows
For both leaders and followers:
Imagine that if we are holding a very large oval plate along its circumference with our chest, arms, palms and finger tips in a horizontal position at the level of our sternum, our chests and elbows would have arrived to their respective neutral positions.
First, rotate the left palm up while rotating the left elbow down (counterclockwise rotation from 3 o'clock to 11 o'clock) and keeping the left elbow close to the side of the body. The left wrist is to finish at the height of the sternum. Second, rotate the right palm up while rotating the right elbow down (clockwise rotation from 9 o'clock to 10 o'clock).
First, rotate both palms to face outward as if the imaginary oval plate along its circumference with our chest, arms, back of our hands and finger tips. Second, rotate the right hand up while rotating the right elbow down (clockwise rotation from 9 o'clock to 1 o'clock). The right wrist is to finish at the height of the sternum.
Third, rotate the left hand up while rotating the left elbow down (counterclockwise rotation from 3 o'clock to 12 o'clock).
Spine & Ankles
For both leaders and followers: Imagine that if we are standing on top of the balls of our feet, having our heels off the floor. Our back will straighten out automatically to achieve balance. Once we have achieved balance, we lower our heel slowly without wobbling back and forth. Now holding our entire body in position and lean forward as much as we can by rotating forward upon our ankles without falling forward. The maximum forward position of this body leaning forward without falling is the neutral position. Our weights are on top of the balls of our feet, not on our heels.
To be in balance is to be in control of the effect of gravity, so that we do not end up in the direction or path that we do not expect while standing, posting and dancing. Our body structure resists the effect of gravity by keeping the center mass of the body in vertical alignment on top of our standing foot or between the standing feet.
Balance On One Foot
If a dancer is in balance on only one foot, there is no ambiguity regarding to the location of the center mass of the body from the perspective of the partner. This is important for dancers to ingrain this idea into muscle memory and form part of the dancing habit.
Ankle touching (JUNTA) prior to taking a step is a great way to ensure that balance is always returned to one standing foot before the beginning of the next step. There are three possible ways to perform (JUNTA) for each standing foot. Imagine balance on left foot: (1) left ankle of the right foot touching the right ankle of standing foot; (2a) right ankle of the right foot touching the left ankle of the standing foot by crossing in front of the standing foot and (2b) crossing behind of the standing foot.
While performing (JUNTA), it important to remember to use the proper edges of the right foot. The inside edge is along the big toe and the outside edge is along the baby toe. (1) above requires the inside edge having the bottom of the right foot facing away in a slight angle to the floor; (2a & 2b) require the outside edge having the bottom of the right foot facing away in a slight angle to floor.
A great way to visualize and to remember which edge of the foot to use is to imagine that a dancer is standing at the center of an analog clock and facing 12 o'clock. The dancer needs to use the inside edge of the right foot whenever the right big toe is landing between 12 o'clock and 9 o'clock [going clockwise] and to use the outside edge of the right foot whenever the right big is pointing at 12 o'clock behind the left heel. The dancer needs to use the inside edge of the left foot whenever the left big toe is landing between 12 o'clock and 3 o'clock [going counter-clockwise] and to use the outside edge of the left foot whenever the left big is pointing at 12 o'clock behind the right heel.
If a leader has ingrained (JUNTA) into muscle memory, the follower would have very little difficult to feel the correct balancing foot of the leader to achieve synchronized movement.
If a follower has ingrained (JUNTA) into muscle memory, the follower is completely free to rotate or to pivot in any direction as directed by the leader with minimal effort. Since the correct edge of the non-load bearing foot is already close to the floor, weight transferring for the follower would be very efficient. This is the fastest transition between a linear dance path and a rotational dance path, vice versa.
Note: In ballroom dancing, this is called "collect your steps".
It is important to understand that we all have to adapt the way we dance to our body structure. A particular length of the legs determines the particular length of a stride. To dance efficiently, one must determine and recognize one's own maximum stride without losing balance.
To determine one's maximum stride, one needs to balance on one foot with the torso in neutral position above the ball of the standing foot with the moving foot in (JUNTA) position, then points the big toe of the free hanging leg forward as far away as possible while touching the floor without losing balance. This is the initial position before actually taking a stride. Now imagine that one is falling forward like a tree while using the big toe of the free hanging leg to shave the floor like a cutting blade forward continuously. At the same time, one rotates forward at the ankle and pushes off by rolling on top of the ball of the standing foot until only the big toe touching the floor. One holds the left big toe in position touching the floor, while standing on the right foot (with flex straight knee). This is the completed forward stride. Maintaining balance with flex knee on top of the standing right foot, drag the big toe of the left foot forward shaving the floor.
To determine the maximum backward stride length, one really just run the same sequence above backward!
One needs to balance on one foot with the torso above the ball of the standing foot with the moving foot in (JUNTA) position, then points the big toe of the free hanging leg backward as far away as possible while touching the floor without losing balance. [This is exactly the end position of the forward stride length determination.]
By flexing the knee of the standing foot and allowing the torso to fall forward while sliding the big toe of the extending leg little more backward, one transfers weight from standing foot to moving foot backward swiftly and performs (JUNTA) at the end of weight transfer. One holds the big toe of the free hanging in position touching the floor, while standing on the weight bearing foot (flex straight knees) with torso above the ball of the standing foot. This is the completed backward stride.
Side to Side Stride
Standing on the weight bearing foot, one hangs the free moving leg by the hip joint while having the the big toe touching floor in (JUNTA) position. One extends the moving leg sideway by rotation at the hip joint with straight knee and big toe shaving the floor. One needs to keep the knee straight and pushes the big toe of the moving foot side way touching the floor as far away as possible without losing balance or shifting weight. Flexing the knee of the standing foot while sliding the big toe the moving foot a little more sideway, one transfers weight from the standing foot to the moving foot sideway swiftly and finish in (JUNTA) position. This is the completed sideway stride.
Note: When a leader uses the non-load-bearing foot as a secondary balance contact point to the floor, the position of the leader's body weight would be very clear to the follower, vise-versa.
Translational movements are linear in nature - straight forward/backward and side open to right/left in relation to the hip.
Cross to the left (with the right foot toward the right side of the follower) and cross to the right (with the left foot toward the left side of the follower) forward & backward, side-to-side left & right. We must first rotate our hip to face the translation direction before execute a cross step.
One has four track options to walk, two inside and two outside tracks and two method to walk, mirror-opposite and mirror-cross to partner. Therefore, if one leaves out side-side movement, by virtue of combinations, there are eight possible track-method movements.
From the perspective of a leader:
1. Mirror-opposite left foot inside track (Leader L to Follower R)
2. Mirror-cross left foot inside track (Leader L to Follower L)
3. Mirror-opposite right foot inside track (Leader R to Follower L)
4. Mirror-cross right foot inside track (Leader R to Follower R)
5. Mirror-opposite left foot right outside track (Leader L to Follower R)
6. Mirror-cross left foot right outside track (Leader L to Follower L)
7. Mirror-opposite right foot left outside track (Leader R to Follower L)
8. Mirror-cross right foot left outside track (Leader R to Follower R)
Theoretically, if one considers the inclusion of backward and forward directionality, one could have 16 possible combinations of track-method movements.
Translational dynamic balance means to maintain balance in linear movements.
During mirror-opposite movement, one can follows the techniques, which were describes in the Stationary Balance section [above], swing the hanging leg at the hip joint, straight knee, projecting the big toe forward, sliding the big toe while bending the knee of the standing foot, rotating forward at the ankle and push off by rolling on top of the ball of the standing.
However, during mirror-cross and diagonally outside track movements, one needs to add Contra-Body Movement Positioning (torquing the torso in the opposite direction as the hip which is facing the direction of the movement toward the right or toward the left) to counter-balance the diagonal rotation effect of the steps .
If a leader is taking a left step diagonally across to the right inside track, the leader's left foot will be directly in front of the right foot at weight transfer, Just before weight transfer, the right standing foot becomes the center of rotation; the stepping path between the feet is an arc and a clockwise momentum is created. In order to counteract this clockwise momentum, one needs to apply a counter-clockwise C.B.M.P. at weight transfer to maintain a forward path momentum.
One needs to practice contra-body movement positioning until it becomes a second nature:
Left foot stepping toward right [C.B.M.P. toward left - torso rotates counter-clockwise toward left ]
Right foot stepping toward left [C.B.M.P. toward right - torso rotates clockwise toward right].
When people walk naturally, the arms swing as counter-weight to counter-act the torquing moment within the upper body every time a step is taken: Left arm forward to match a right foot forward and right arm forward to match a left foot forward. Since dancing tango having the arms in an embrace and unable to swing, C.B.M.P. is really just a technique to provide what the swinging arms do in natural walk.
Torsional dynamic balance means to maintain balance while stretching body's tendons and ligaments in a spiral movement to the left or to the right to build up elastic potential energy within the tendons and ligaments then release them to allow them snap back to neutral position. The release of the stored elastic potential energy will then drive the body into either rotation movements [as in enrosques] or pendulum movements within the body structure [as in C.B.M.P. for translational movements]
Dissociation of torsional movement between torso and hip is required to generate clean dynamic rotations along one's own standing axis. This kind of rotation is not based on initial built-up of angular momentum but rather relies on torsional energy passing back and forth between the torso and the hip.
Imagine that there are four elastic bands connecting the left side of the rib cage to the right hip and right side of the rib cage to the left hip as a "X" on front and back. Imagine that while standing on one foot and holding the hip in place without any movement, rotating the torso 90 degree to the left will elongate the elastic bands connecting between the left side of the rib cage and the right hip on the front and the right side of the rib cage and left hip on the back. The elongation of the two elastic bands stores up elastic energy as tension and is pulling the hip to the same angular direction as the torso. Next, let the hip to snap back to neutral position and further rotate the hip for an additional 90 degree, while holding the torso in position. Now the torso and the hip is 180 degree separated or dissociated. In another word, each full 360 degree rotation is generated by the hip and by the torso, 180 degree each. One can rotate easily without losing balance.
Torso Energy: hold the hip in a fixed position, rotate torso to its maxmum angular position first, then hold the torso in the fixed position, allow the hip to rotate to release the built-up torsional energy by the torso.
Hip Energy: hold the torso in a fixed position, rotate hip to its maxmum angular position first, then hold the hip in the fixed position, allow the torso to rotate to release the built-up torsional energy by the hip.
Rotational dynamic balance means to maintain balance in rotational movement. Rotational movements are more complicate than translational movements as center of rotation and the system of rotation changes between single person and partnership.
From the perspective of a single person, the rotational axis passes through the top of the head, the neck, the torso, the hip joint and the leg of the standing foot and the floor contact point of rotation as in enrrosques.
From the perspective of a partnership rotating, the rotational axis passes through air, somewhere between the two bodies as in colgadas!
From the perspective of a system of movements as when the leader is doing an errosque and the follower is doing a molinette.
Projectional dynamic balance means to project our center of gravity toward the intended direction to its maximum reaching position before any step. This could be either translational, rotational and spiral in nature. Simply put, project the sternum toward to the point just before falling forward in the line of the intended movement. This is how the leader transmit the intention of the next step before the step. The reason is that tango dancers connect at the vicinity of the the sternum and sides of the rib cage, which effectively move the combined center of gravity of the dancer above the belly button, where center of gravity resides individually. Since the sternum location needs to pass beyond the vertical plane which intersect the center of gravity to make the connection with the partner, the only way and surely to indicate the movement intention to the follower is to push the sternum to its maximum outermost reaching point before the actual step. If the sternum has not moved and passed beyond the big toe of the standing foot of the leader, the follower will not able to receive good unambiguous directional information and the intention of the upcoming step. Leader should never try to compensate one's ambiguous leading by pushing and pulling with the arms as this will only reinforce the bad habit of leading by the arms not by the chest.
Sincerely, the importance of the frame of the dance embrace diminishes as one focuses the importance of the connection between sternums and alongside the rib cages. The more one thinking about and fussing about the dance embrace, the more likely one would try to dance and to lead with arms and hands.
In general, leader's left elbow should be by the side of the rib cage, not up in the horizontal position. The left hand should be held at somewhere between chin heights of the leader and follower or to the same height as the leader's sternum . The right elbow pit should wrap around the left shoulder blade of the follower. The right hand should be placed just on the top half of the right shoulder blade of the follower. The leader's shoulders should be relaxed and dropped while dancing. The leader's back should be in convex position and the front of the chest in concave position . Always lead by the chest not by arms. Always turn and rotate with the entire upper body rather than pulling and pushing with arms and hands.
It is recommended that one should learn how to lead with chest before learning nuevo style types of leading through the arms by tension and compression forces.
Normally, we think of pendulum as a mass attached to an anchoring point with a piece of string and the mass swings about the anchoring point due to the effect of gravity. Within our body structure, we can visualize an upside down "V", having the vertex at the sternum and each leg of the "V" represents all the connecting parts from sternum to the feet. The standing leg provides the vertical support for the sternum, the anchoring point. As one projects the sternum forward beyond the big toe of the standing foot, the hanging leg should fall forward due to gravity. This concept can be applied to any direction, moving the hanging leg by moving the sternum out of alignment of the standing leg.
Normally, we swing our hanging leg forward, rotating at the hip joint, to maintain our center of gravity in the middle of each stride. Effectively, just before the hanging leg landing on the heel, our center of gravity is falling forward and rotating in an arc having a moment arm between the heel of the standing foot and the center of gravity. From heel to heel, this is our individual natural stride distance. The pendulum picture of the natural walk can be visualized by having the vertex of the upside down "V" at the hip joint.
Heel and Toe Leads
Our natural walk have much longer period to complete each stride cycle than typical tango/ milonga/ vals rhythm. During natural walk, the impacts of our heels making to the floor is much lighter than dancing as we have more time to change weight between our feet. If we are dancing toe lead, the whole foot acts like a shock absorber to slow down the downward force to allow a soft landing for the heel, which is better for the knee and hip in the longer run. However, sometimes it is necessary to dance heel-lead and toe-lead steps as in a grape-vine sequence in milonga.
Personally, I prefer toe-lead over heel-lead, because toe-lead is more elegant.
Mechanic of a Salida and the First Step
When a leader and a follower first meet up, the first action is to look at each other's eyes while standing about 12" apart. The second action is to form the embrace with the appropriate amount of leaning forward energy while balancing on all feet. The third action is to do a salida such that each partner will only balance on one foot. Prior to the execution of a salida, both partners must shift the combined center mass over the left or the right standing feet to release the other feet for translational movement. In order to allow the moving feet to extend out laterally and elegantly with pointing toes, the partners must synchronize the movement with the rotation of the torso toward the standing feet. Weight transfer over to the new weight bearing feet by synchronize the movement with the rotation of the torso toward the standing feet and finish with a pointing toes of the previous standing feet. Retracting the pointing toe in preparation of the first step by synchronize the movement with the rotation of the torso toward the retracting pointing toes. After the ankles of the feet of the retracting pointing toes touch the weight bearing standing feet, the pointing toes extend out toward the intended direction.
Mechanic of the Following Steps
Each subsequent stride after the salida and the first step must be initiated by synchronized rotation of the torso toward the moving feet.
PARALLEL VS. CROSS SYSTEM:
When the leader and follower are stepping in mirror image: leader's right foot to follower's left foot and leader's left foot to follower's right foot.
When the leader and follower are stepping in mirror cross image: leader's right foot to follower's right foot and leader's left foot to follower's left foot.
CAMBIO DE FRENTE:
It is a simple turning walking step sequences that rotate counter-clockwise or clockwise.
1. Facing the line of dance, leader in parallel system initiates the movement by rotating the torso toward left then takes a right diagonal outside step with the left foot.
2. Leader rotates 90 degree and pivots on the left foot in counter-clockwise direction then takes a side step parallel to the line of dance with the right foot.
3. Leader rotates 90 degree and pivots on the right foot in counter-clockwise direction then takes a straight back step into the line of dance with the left foot.
4. Leader rotates torso 90 degree in counter-clockwise direction looking into the line of dance and takes a second back step into the line of dance with the right foot.
5. Leader rotates 90 degree and pivots on the right foot facing the line of dance and take a left forward step
6. Leader right foot forward step
7. Leader left foot side open
8. Leader right side close [resolution].
1. Facing the line of dance, leader in parallel system initiates the movement by rotating the torso toward right then takes a left diagonal outside step with the right foot.
2. Leader rotates 90 degree and pivots on the right foot in clockwise direction then takes a side step parallel to the line of dance with the left foot.
3. Leader rotates 90 degree and pivots on the left foot in clockwise direction then takes a straight back step into the line of dance with the right foot.
4. Leader rotates torso 90 degree in clockwise direction looking into the line of dance and takes a second back step into the line of dance with the left foot.
5. Leader rotates 90 degree and pivots on the left foot facing the line of dance and take a right forward step
6. Leader left foot forward step
7. Leader right foot side open
8. Leader left side close [resolution].
Cross System – Outside Track Vals Counter-clockwise & Clockwise Turning Steps
Counter-clockwise Turn Transition step (Q, Q, S = 1, 2)
L: Weight on the right, left foot syncopate side step to the left & change weight to the right – quick, quick (half & half of beat #1)
F: Right foot side step to the right – slow (full beat #1)
L: Left foot step toward follower’s left foot – slow (full beat #2)
F: Left foot step back – slow (full beat #2)
Counter-clockwise Turn (Q, Q, S = 3, 4)
L: Right foot step forward right outside track – quick (half of beat #3)
F: Right foot step back – quick (half of beat #3)
L: Left foot back step counter-clockwise rotation – quick (half of beat #3)
F: Left foot cross in front of right standing foot – quick (half of beat #3)
L: Torso rotation without stepping & weight on left foot – slow (full beat #4)
F: Left foot forward-ocho around leader counter-clockwise, pivot on left foot & land on right foot – quick, quick (half & half of beat #4)
Clockwise Turn Transition (Q, Q, S = 5, 6)
L: Weight on the left, right foot syncopate side step to the right, left foot side step to the right & change weight to the left – quick, quick (half & half of beat #5)
F: Left foot side step to the left – slow (full beat #5)
L: Right foot step toward follower’s right foot – slow (full beat #6)
F: Right foot step back – slow (full beat #6)
Clockwise Turn (Q, Q, S = 7, 8)
L: Left foot step forward left outside track – quick (half of beat #7)
F: Left foot step back – quick (half of beat #7)
L: Right foot back step clockwise rotation – quick (half of beat #7)
F: Right foot cross in front of left standing foot – quick (half of beat #7)
L: Torso rotation without stepping & weight on right foot – slow (full beat #8)
F: Right foot forward-ocho around leader clockwise & pivot on right foot – quick, quick (half & half of beat #8)
Parallel System – Inside Track Vals Clockwise Turning Steps
Transition step (S, Q, Q = beats 1, 2)
L: Weight on the right, left foot forward step - (Slow beat #1)
F: Right foot back step – slow (full beat #1)
L: Right foot side step right & Left foot side step close – quick and quick (half & half beat #2)
F: Right foot side step right & Left foot side step close – quick and quick (half & half beat #2)
Clockwise Turn step (S, Q, Q = beats 3, 4)
L: Weight on the left, right foot forward step - (Slow, full beat #3)
F: Weight on the right, left foot back step – (Slow, full beat #3)
L: Torso rotates clockwise 90 degree, left foot side open step, rotates on left standing foot clockwise 90 degree right foot close & cross in front of the left foot - (Quick, Quick half & half of beat #4)
F: Torso rotates clockwise 90 degree, right foot side open step, rotates on right standing foot clockwise 90 degree left foot close & cross in front of the right foot - (Quick, Quick half & half of beat #4)
Clockwise Turn step (S, Q, Q = beats 5, 6)
L: Weight on the right, left foot back step – (Slow, full beat #5)
F: Weight on the left, right foot forward step - (Slow, full beat #5)
L: Torso rotates clockwise 90 degree, right foot side open step, rotates on right standing foot clockwise 90 degree left foot close & cross in front of the right foot - (Quick, Quick half & half of beat #6)
F: Torso rotates clockwise 90 degree, left foot side open step, rotates on left standing foot clockwise 90 degree right foot close & cross in front of the left foot - (Quick, Quick half & half of beat #6)
Transition step (S, Q, Q = beats 7, 8)
L: Weight on the right, left foot forward step - (Slow beat #7)
F: Right foot back step – slow (full beat #7)
L: Right foot side step right & Left foot side step close/ change weight – quick and quick (half & half beat #8)
F: Right foot side step right & Left foot side step close – quick and quick (half & half beat #8)
Vals - Alternating Counter-clockwise & Clockwise Rotation
Leader counter-clockwise rotation sequence Step #1 to Step #5 and transition to clockwise rotation sequence #1 to #5 and transition back to counter-clockwise rotation sequence Step #1 to Step #5 so forth.
Right Turn or Left Turn Only
1. Long step [slow]
2. Short step [quick]
3. Short step [quick]
4. Long step [slow]
5. Short step [quick]
6. Short step [quick] close back to 1
FUNDAMENTAL MOVEMENT EXERCISE:
Draw circles with the big toes, right big toe clock-wise and left big toe counter-clock-wise without crossing center line. Big circles to train maximum reach for balance and small tiny circles next to the heel for building up habit to return foot to center line before taking the next step for proper tango walk. Tiny circles are especially important for followers, always balance on one foot and draw circles while waiting the leader to finish changing direction.
Stationary cross exercises at the front and at the back are important to train ankle and lower leg muscles.
Right big toe clock-wise big circle crosses center line at the back and parks on the left side of the left foot and transfer weight.
Left big toe counter-clock-wise big circle crosses center line at the back and parks on the right side of the right foot and transfer weight.
Right big toe counter- clock-wise big circle crosses center line at the front and parks on the left side of the left foot and transfer weight.
Left big toe clock-wise big circle crosses center line at the front and parks on the right side of the right foot and transfer weight.
Pivots are done on the metatarsal area of a foot. Rotational momentum is generated sequentially by isolations and dissociated rotational movement between the hip and the torso. Each dissociated rotational movement should ideally cover 90 degrees from neutral position. One is at the neutral position when the hip and the torso are in parallel position to each other. Therefore, conceiveably one can rotate the torso from -90 degree to 90 degree off the neutral position by isolating the hip from any movement and vise versa for the hip by the holding the torso in position. Effectively, one can generate rotational momentum by splitting each 360-degree rotation into two halves between the torso and the hip.
One may try the following pivot exercises.
Balance on the left foot and park the right foot off the floor to the left foot without crossing the knees but touching at the heels. Raise both hands to sternum level, with palms facing away as if touching one of the walls standing inside an imaginary square box. The walls are about one foot away from the torso. Both elbows should be pointing to the floor and are close to the sides of the rib cage. With the left knee slightly bent for better balance, one needs to distribute the entire body weight evenly across the left foot. From this stationary position, one rotates the torso in counter-clockwise direction without rotating the hip and place both palms on the new wall of the imaginary box. Assuming that "-" standing for counter-clock-wise direction and "+" standing for clock-wise direction, the torso is now at -90 degrees from the hip and has generated its portion torque along the central axis. Imagine that one can now anchor both palms onto the new imaginary wall and transfer the weight from the left heel to the ball of the left foot, while letting the hip to rotate naturally in the counter-clockwise direction to unwind the tension previously generated by the isolation of the hip and the torquing of the torso. When the hip becomes parallel with the torso, the hip would have traveled 90 degrees around the central axis
As the hip arrives to the parallel position to the torso, one isolates the torso and actively rotates
the hip further to an extra -90 degree from the neutral position. The left heel needs to come down to the floor when the hip arrives at the end of the extra -90 degree rotation. The hip would have generated its portion of torque along the central axis. Allowing the torso to rotate naturally in the counter-clockwise direction to unwind the torque tension along the central axis while holding the hip in position, the torso would have traveled -90 degree when the torso arrives at the neutral position and the central axis would have completed one 360 degree rotation.
Lapiz movement is a combination of drawing large circles with the big toe from 12 o'clock to 8 o'clock for the right foot in clockwise direction and from 12 o'clock to 4 o'clock for the left foot in counter-clockwise direction while holding the torso in position. The winding up of the standing axis up the torso is due to the dynamic rotation of the hip only. The toe drawing the circle is only the consequence of the hip rotation action. As one unwinds the standing axis by rotating the torso by 90 degrees to the same direction as the previous hip rotation, one begins to retract the lapiz big toe to the inside edge of the big toe of the standing foot. As one rotates the torso by an additional 90 degrees, the standing axis is winding up once again. One holds the big toe of the lapiz in position, pointing to the floor at 90 degree with the heel up while one pushes off the heel and transfers the body weight to the ball of the standing foot to facilitate the hip rotation, 90 degree into neutral position. One repeats the same process by drawing a 3/4 circle on the floor the lapiz big toe.
Efficient ocho movements depend one's ability to generate pivot momentum by oneself for forward and backward directions. Effective pivot movement depends on winding up the torso prior to letting the hip to perform a dissociated rotation while balance on the ball of the standing foot. The follower must receive leader's change in direction signal before allowing the hip to rotate to release torso generated internal torque along the standing axis. Therefore, the moment of the actual rotation is a snappy one. Simply put, ochos are standing pivots plus either a diagonal forward step or a backward step.
From the perspective of a gancho involving the leader's left knee pit and follower's right knee pit:
Follower would be doing a C.B.M. in clockwise rotation with the big toe of the right foot pointing down pressing the floor and the right leg bending like a bending fencing foil. As the leader leads the gancho by a swiftly executing a counter-clockwise following by a clockwise rotation of the torso, follower will release the stored torsional energy of the C.B.M. on the upper body and flexural energy in the leg.
At the moment of the counter-clockwise rotation, follower must shave or flick the floor with the big toe of the right foot just before executing the up-take of the right heel. Follower is using leader counter-clockwise rotation momentum a trigger to release the stored torsional energy in the upper body and the flexural energy in the leg to send the right leg swing backward by the hip joint. The hook or the up-take of the right heel is merely the result of the reaction force as leader's left knee pit blocking follower's right knee pit, not due to follower's voluntarily contracting the hamstring of the right leg. The whipping down of the big toe of the right foot back onto the floor in C.B.M. position is however a combination of using leader's re-coil rotation momentum due to the sudden clockwise torso rotation and flexing the quadriceps of the right upper thigh.
The emphasis of a gancho is how fast the big toe can come back down onto the floor.
Leader would be balancing on the ball of the left foot. At the moment of the end of the counter-clockwise torso rotation, the left heel goes up. Leader's left heel must come back down onto the floor first before the beginning of the clockwise torso rotation.
Imagine that one needs to walk around a square column, 1.5 ft by 1.5 ft. Let's denotes the corners of the columns as UL(upper left), UR(upper right), LL(lower left) and LR(lower right) and one is standing on the south side of the column. Assuming that one starts at the LR corner with feet together and weight equally distributed:
1. LR corner - with both palms touching the south wall of the column, one shifts body weight to the right foot; pushes the big toe of the left foot to the LL corner; completes weight transfer by dragging the big toe of the right foot and parks the right foot beside the left foot with heel touching.
2. LL corner - one rotates the torso in clock-wise direction until both palms can touch the west wall of the column while holding the hip in position and letting the right heel to lift off the floor; one extends the right leg by pushing the the big toe of the right foot toward the UL corner of the column; as the big toe of the right foot arrives at the UL corner, one transfers weight to the right foot evenly distributed and allowing the left heel lift off the floor while balancing on the ball of the left foot.
3. UL corner - one rotates the torso in clock-wise direction until both palms can touch the north wall of the column while holding the hip in position; as one can touch the north wall, one drags the left big toe toward the right heel to allow the hip to begin to unwind and to release the torque along the central axis; one allows the left big toe to touch the right heel prior to proceed a side step toward the UR corner; one completes weight transfer onto the left foot by allowing the right heel to lift off the floor and balance on the big toe of the right foot.
4. UR corner - one rotates the torso in clock-wise direction until both palms can touch the east wall of the column while holding the hip in position; as one can touch the east wall, one drags the right big toe toward the left heel to allow the hip to begin to unwind and to release the torque along the central axis; one allows the right big toe to touch the left heel prior to proceed a back step toward the LR corner; one completes weight transfer onto the right foot by allowing the left heel to lift off the floor and balance on the big toe of the left foot.
5. LR corner - one rotates the torso in clock-wise direction until both palms can touch the south wall of the column while holding the hip in position; as one can touch the south wall, one drags the left big toe toward the right heel to allow the hip to begin to unwind and to release the torque along the central axis; one allows the left big toe to touch the right heel [Back To Step 1] prior to proceed a side step toward the LL corner; one completes weight transfer onto the left foot by allowing the right heel to lift off the floor and balance on the big toe of the right foot.
Always lead and follow with the torso to generate internal torque along the standing axis to drive the hip and the hip to drive the leg and the leg to drive the big toe to push or to drag along and to remain contact with the floor as long as possible in a control manner.
CLASSICAL MOLINETTE-ENROSQUE SEQUENCE:
1. Leader takes a left side step to lead follower side step. 2. Leader syncopated weight change right foot to bear the weight next to left foot to rotate follower to pivot on the right metatarsal with left toe pointing down close to right foot. 3. Leader executes a left rule while leading the follower to take a left step across in front 4. Leader prepares a left foot sacada at the end of the rulo to the right back foot of the follower while rotating the upper torso to the left into contra body position. 5. Leader transfers weight to the left foot to complete the sacada while leading the follower into a right foot side open step position. 6. Leader executes a left metatarsal enrosque while leading the follower to execute a left back step. 7. Leader executes a left lapiz with left foot crossing the right foot and park the left foot on the right side of the right foot while leading the follower to execute a right side open step position. 8. Leader points the right big toe forward as far as possible without losing balance on the left foot while leading the follower to execute a left forward step. 9. Leader anchors the right big toe at the same spot on the floor while rotating the upper torso then the hip then the left metatarsal to lead the follower to execute a right side open step. 10. Leader rotates the upper torso further to left until there is no more slack in the body without letting go of the right big toe to prepare the follower to execute a left back step. 11. Leader releases the right big toe and slides the right big toe to the left side of the left foot to execute a left foot enrosque while leading the follower to execute a left back step. 12. Leader transfers weight to the right foot at the end of the enrosque and executes a left rule while leading the follower to do right side open step then a left forward step. 13. Leader positions the left big toe right behind the follower's left ankle while rotating the follower into a parada position with follower's right toe pointing down and then taping leader's left foot to acknowledge the parada to complete the sequence.
F denotes front (forward/ diagonal) steps,
S denotes side (open) steps,
B denotes back (straight/ around) steps,
L denotes left leg,
R denotes right leg,
C denotes clockwise and
CC denotes counterclockwise rotational directions,
I for inside and
O for outside.
1. FLC, FLCC, FRC, FRCC
2. SLC, SLCC, SRC, SRCC
3. BLC, BLCC, BRC, BRCC
Leader's Entering Positions
1. FLCI, FLCO, FLCCI, FLCCO, FRCI, FRCO, FRCCI, FRCCO
2. SLCI, SLCO, SLCCI, SLCCO, SRCI, SRCO, SRCCI, SRCCO
3. BLCI, BLCO, BLCCI, BLCCO, BRCI, BRCO, BRCCI, BRCCO
Therefore the maximum theoretical leader-executable sacada possibilities are 12 x 24 = 288 and follower-executable sacada possibilities are also 24 x 12 = 288, a total of 576.
However, some of the combinations would be deemed to be physically impossible.
Always remember the leg that is being displaced has to be 100% non-weight bearing, ie, at the moment of completed weight-transfer. The point of contact can only be the inside and outside thigh and calve muscles. All back sacadas require the aid of contra-body positioning.
Stumble steps or rock-steps in syncopation with half-weight transfer in F, S or B steps.
TANGO BASIC 6, 8, 16 & 32 TRAINING EXERCISE STEPS:
If tango is a conversation, Salida [Leader: R.F. back , L.F side, R.F. diagonal toward left forward] and Resolución [Leader: L.F. straight forward, R.F. side and L.F. close] are the quotation marks of each verse.
If Salida and Resolución are the quotation marks of this verse, the message in this verse is a cross and a change in direction to un-cross.
If you know the basic eight for the leader, do the basic eight for the follower. It is import for both leader and follower to be
proficient with the complete sixteen steps with weight as the connection between the basic eight (leader's basic and follower's basic), as leaders need to tango walk backward and followers need to tango walk forward in many occasion.
If you know the sixteen steps starting with the leader on the right foot, try the sixteen steps starting with the leader on the left foot.
MILONGA BASIC BOX TRAINING STEPS:
Cuadrado Six Steps
[Leader: L.F. side open, R.F. diagonal forward, L.F. forward, R.F. side open, L.F. diagonal backward, R.F. backward]
[Follower: R.F. side open, L.F. diagonal backward, R.F. backward, L.F. side open, R.F. diagonal forward, L.F. forward ]
Same step sequence but add rotation angle to each steps
Cuadrado Cambio de Frente
[Leader: L.F. side open, R.F. diagonal forward, L.F. forward, R.F. 180 degree counterclockwise side open, L.F. 180 degree
backward, R.F. backward]
Follwer: mirrored sequence
If one full beat is represented by the equal sign "=" and carries the word slow and a half beat is represented by "-" and carries the word quick or "and 1, and 2, and 3, and 4... where each "and" & "number" is half beat.
One bar of music has four full beats.
The Tango 4x4 rhythm can be represented by the followings:
i. [ - - = - - = ]
ii. [quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, slow ] 2 sets of three steps in four beats
iii. [ and, 1, and, 2, and, 3, and, 4]
iv. [ 1/2 1/2 1 1/2 1/2 1 ] 2 sets of three steps in four beats
v. [ 1 1 1 1 ] 4 steps in four beats
vi. [ 1 1 1 pause ] 1 set of three steps in four beats
A. Simple tango walk is "and #" for each step - "and for transition" & "# for complete weight transfer".
B. Traspie is "quick, quick" for two steps.
C. Vals turn is "quick, quick, slow" for three steps.
E. Milonga box steps are "slow, quick, quick, slow, quick, quick" for six steps.
MUSICALITY & STILL IMAGE VISUALIZATION
(A) Nine elements to describe the structure of music and visual equivalent counterparts: beat [light], rhythm [contrast], pitches [colors], melody [multiple colors], harmony [colors working together], texture [surface variation], dynamic [color intensity & saturation], timbre [shapes] and form [composition].
i. A single beat is a propagation of an expanding wave front of air particles due to an instance of energy variation at a given point in space. A single photon, light, is a propagation of an expanding wave front of electromagnetic field due to the release of a packet of energy when an electron is jumping between electron clouds of different energy levels.
ii. Rhythm is a collection of beats in a sequence of a prescribed time interval. Flashes of light in a sequence of prescribed time interval. In a dark room, we see nothing. With electrical lighting, we see continuous image at minimum 60 frames per second. If an electric light flashes 60 times per second, we would perceive constant brightness. On a still image, it is the distribution of light and dark, contrast, or shades of colour.
iii. Sound pitches are the various frequencies or oscillations per second of the expanding wave front of different sounds. Colors are the number of oscillations of the expanding wave front per second, Hz or frequencies, which will determine the colour position on the colour spectrum, time signature.
iv. Melody is sequence of pitches in sequence of a prescribed time interval. On a a still image, it is the distribution of colours.
v. Harmony is groups of melody working together; groups of colours
vi. Texture is syncopated notes; texture is surface variation
vii. Dynamic is variation of amplitude; colour intensity & saturation variation
viii. Timbre is either kiki [staccato, abrupt, short, rapid] or bauba [smooth, sustain, long, slow]; kiki [straight lines, square, triangle, corner] or bauba [wriggly, circle, oval, round, curve]
ix. Form [pattern of repeated elements]; Composition of images
(C) Musicality & Movements
i. D’Arienzo: short, rapid, staccato call for short repeated movement - more is more
ii. Di Sarli: long, slow, smooth call for long slow smooth movement - less is more; contrast of slow and rapid movements
iii. Calo and Troilo: balance of rhythm and melody - mix of both smooth and staccato movements
v. Pugliese: changing dynamic to match the structure of the song - single instrument or vocal only call for long smooth slow movement and multiple instruments and/or together with vocal call for driving traveling movement (Yumba walk, compression waves).
vi. Balance of both kiki and buaba movements to the music - kiki movements include cross, walk, scads, picas, gauchos, Yumba walk, & bole, and buaba movements include giros, lapis, enrosques, colcada, volcada, & leg wrap.
vii. Dancing quality to match the breath of the singer: Raúl Berón in Jamas Retornaras with Calo - he stressed his breath to high-light certain words, accelerate and smooth off or stress at the front of the beat. The simplest form of movement is all gradual from beat to beat. Yumba walk to Pugliese's music requires the complete opposite [stress at the end to each beat] to the breath of Raúl Berón in Jamas Retornaras with Calo
MILONGA Vs. PRACTICA
What is the difference between a practica and a milonga?
A practica is place for practice - a small studio, a big hall or even a gymnasium will do with any music. One does not even need shoes; socks will do. One does not even need partner!
A milonga is not a practica! A milonga is place to socialize, to forget about the struggles in life and to have a good time. The worst thing that can happen in a milonga is that one makes a fool of oneself with the dance partner. One does not try out unfamiliar techniques on the dance floor of a milonga to impress the partner. Instead, one ought to dance sincerely with the music on the dance floor of a milonga. It is a place to show others that one has perfected certain techniques or rhythmic movements to match the music. It is a place to watch, to give compliments and to applaud other great fellow dancers. It is a place to be your very best, cleanliness, attires, health and positive attitude in order to attract dances for both leaders and followers.
In a real milonga, one dances because of one desires to do so. One does not dance out of obligation nor charity in a milonga. Desire equals passion. Real Argentine Tango requires real passion for that moment of connection to be real. Therefore, refusals to dance invitations are fact of life in the milongas. Without passion, there will be no real Argentine Tango. If one cannot dance one's very best, one should sit out that tanda!
In traditional milongas in Buenos Aires, only the most seasoned dancers can manage to dance along the outside track of the dance floor. There are several reasons for seasoned dancers to fight to dance along this track.
Firstly, the dancing followers can be seen clearly and want to be seen by all the other leaders who are still sitting at their tables. Strategically, the seasoned followers will accept dance invitations from the leaders who have proven themselves that they can guard themselves and able to dance along the outside track continuously. For seasoned dancing followers, it is a form of advertising to ensure themselves that they will have many more dance invitations through out the rest of the milonga. For the leaders, they all naturally want to dance with the most seasoned followers to increase their profile to be the best dancers on the floor to ensure that their dance invitations will not be rejected by any followers. It is a kind of survival of the fittest and natural evolution of the dance floor.
The inside tracks are for the left over dancers, the less capable and the less desirable dancers!
Secondly, it is more safe to dance on the outside track as there is only one other track of dance traffic that one needs to be mindful of.
Thirdly, the outside track is the place where one can really hone the dancing skills as this is is the most crowded track.
Fourthly, it is a matter of prestige that one can conquer the outside track as this is where the milongueros and milongueras want to be.
These are the real reasons as they were explained to us by some old tangueros in their 70s' in El Arrangue during our second trip to Bs As.
MILONGA DANCING GENERAL RULES OF THUMB:
Leaders - Eyes look forward; relax both shoulders; drop the elbows and keep them close to the body; maintain left hand to follower’s should level or the height of the sternum; right hand to follower’s right shoulder blade; keep the chest in not out; lead the follower through the sternum not by the hands; look before moving; big toes caress and maintain contact to the floor as long as possible then heels; wait for the follower to complete weight transfer before taking a new step; pause and traspied only if the music calls for them; turn the head then the spine then the hip then the standing foot then bend the knee and the ball of the foot of the hanging leg then releasing the big toe of the hanging leg to allow the turn body to turn and at the same allowing the hanging leg to return to the neutral position; do not practice step sequences; let the vocal or musical instruments guide you through the dance floor; pause as long as you want; feel the music; the movement should match the music; dance with no pre-conception; let it happens; response to follower's movement.
Followers - Maintain balance on only one standing foot (JUNTA); maintain the chin over the big toe but not beyond; caress the floor with the big toe before weight transfer; passive boleos and ganchos are nicer than active forced ones; back steps of the molinette requires contra body positioning having the stepping foot on to the circumference not radially outward; wait for the signals from the torso of the leader and delay the steps; do not anticipate any movement but react faithfully to the moment!
Abrazo - embrace
Abrir: to open
Adelante - forward
Adornos - feet/leg adornments
Agujas - needles
Al lado/ Al costado - to the side
A la izquierda - to the left side
A la derecha - to the right side
Amague - fake an aggressive move such a sudden side sway and return as playing soccer
Arrabal - outskirt of tough suburb
Arrastre - a smooth drag
Arrepentida: a change in direction to check the surrounding
Atrás - backward
Bailar - to dance
Bailarin - very good dancer
Bailemos - let's dance
Balanceo - deep check and replace
Baldosa - box figure
Barrida - [see also Llevada] transport with a foot, sweep
Barrio - neighborhood
Boleo - throw
Brazos - arms
Cabeceo - dance invitation/acceptance by the eyes
Cabeza - head
Cadena - any chained-sequence
Cadencia - weight change on the spot
Check step - rebounce
Calesita - Carousel
Cambio - change
Caminar - to walk with the ball of the foot touching the floor before the heel, and the torso and leg must move as a unit so that the body is in balance
Caminada - a walking step
Caminado Valseado - vals turning walking step
Canción [f] - song
Cangrejo - leader advances in perpendicular position to the follower
Cantante [f & m] - singer
Caricia - caress
Cintura - waist
Colgada - hanging
Compadre - a proud and brave person living in an arrabal
Compadrito - a bully in an arrabal
Compás - a beat, metre; time signature
Contrapaso - alternating forward step and lock step left-right-left then right-left-right
Corrida - little-run sequence
Corrida Garabito - step sequence along the mirrored plane
Corte - cutting by syncopating or stopping
Cruzada - the cross
Cuadrado - box step [see basic six above]
Cuartas - strike a pose at the end of a song
Cuerpo - body
Dedos - digits
De frente - front
Derecha - right side
Derecho - correct
Despacio - slow
Desplazamiento - displacement
Dibujo/ Firulete - drawing movement on the floor with the big toe
Doble tiempo - double time
En el eje - on axis
Enganche - wrap or coupling-hook, and catching a leg with a leg
Enrosque [enroscar] - coil/twist turn with the legs in cross position
Entrada - stepping forward into partner without displacement
Esa - for milonga
Escuchar - to listen
Eso - for tango and vals
Espejo - mirror
Fanfarron - toe or heel taps
Fuera del eje - off axis
Gancho - sharp hook
Giro/Pivot - turn
Guapo: slang for a brave handsome man
Guiar - to guide/ to lead
Inclinada - incline
Instrusion - sharp pica between follower's feet during an open or cross step
Izquierda - left
Junta [Juntar] - to join, each step begins and ends with ankles and knees close to preserve balance and elegance
Lapiz - draw a circle ending with a cross behind the standing leg
Latigazo - whipping leg
Latigo - a whip
Lento - slowly
Llevar - to lead/ to carry
Llevada - [see also Barrida] transport with the upper thigh
Linda [o]- pretty
Liso - smooth
Marcar - to lead/ planning a route
Marca - lead
Media vuelta - half turn
Medida del tiempo - a measure of time
Mirar - to look
Molinete - grape-vine sequence in closed loop
Mordida/ Sanguchito - same as sandwich
Ocho - eight
Ocho Cortado - cut eight
Ocho Defrente - front/ forward eight
Ocho para Atrás - back/ backward eight
Ocho en Espejo - mirrored ocho, both leader and follower are doing forward ocho at the same time
Otra vez - repeat
Parada - stop
Parar - to stop
Pararse - to stand up
Parejas - couple
Paso - step
Pasada - passing over after parada
Patada - a kick
Pausa - pause
el Pecho - chest
el Peso - weight
Piba - gal
Picados - flicking the heel while turning or stepping forward
el Pie - foot
los Pies - feet
la Pierna - leg
la Piernas - legs
Pisar - to step
Piso - floor
Pista - dance floor
Planeo - pivot on the standing foot with a trailing foot drawing a circle
Postura - posture
Puente - bridge
Punteo - toe taps
Quebrada - follower's hanging foot resting behind the standing foot
Rabona - same as contrapaso
Rebote - rebound or check step forward, diagonal, side or back in directions
Resolución - side close
el Ritmo - the rhythm
Rodillas - knees
Ronda - line of dance
Rulo - draw a circle without crossing behind the standing leg
Sacada - displacing
Salida - to exit onto the dance floor to start a sequence
Saltito - litte jump
Sequir - to follow
Sentada - sitting on upper thigh
Sentimental [f & m] - sentimental
Suave - smooth [liso]
Tiempo - time [4/4 Tango; 3/4 Vals; 2/4 Milonga]
Tijera - scissor, drawing the front foot backward into a cross without weight\
Titubeo - pausa
Torso - torso
Trabada - fastened/ lock-step
Traspié - stumble or trip [step with the same foot more than once]
Uno mas - one more
Una vez maz - one more time
Ultima vez - last time
Vals - Waltz, three-count timing
Viborita - viper, left and right forward inside sacada
Volcada - capsize or spill over
Voleo - boleo, to throw
Magic of the moment will happen...