30 June 2009

Things I like to lead in tango and why

During a recent post-milonga late night dinner with some friends, the lively topics went from comparisons of our world travels, adventures, and the best places to eat in Asia at 2 AM when you're drunk.

Inevitably, the conversation went to tango. The ladies discussed what they enjoyed as followers and why. That conversation inspired this post.

I like walking. Tango is after all, based on the walk. I have spent many an hour, in and out of milongas trying to get this right. My folly when I first began was to go with the mistaken notion that the road to good tango was paved with fancy steps. I was wrong.

My tango has gone through some major overhauls with slight modifications of the walk.

Phrasing my dance to the "Haaawoomp!"
One of my biggest challenges when I started dancing tango was interpreting tango music. As fortune would have it, Luciana Valle's was doing workshops in Seattle. Mrs. Ampster and I attended.

One of the biggest things I learned from her was the "Haaawoomp!" What she said was, listen to the tango music. Regardless of who was playing, if it was danceable music, the band will phrase it so that every 8 counts (or so), they would give a bang—a Haaawoomp! 1--2--3--4--5--6--7--8--Haaawoomp! In between the counts, one could embellish, double, triple step, all depending on the mood. For as long as your able to hit the Haaawoomp, you'll be OK.

It wasn't a perfect rule. It was more like a guideline. It did however, help me a lot in understanding how to interpret tango music. Which in turn, allowed me to learn enough for me to dance "In tune."

Thinking into the follower's feet
I feel that I have transcended from thinking about "What I'm doing," to thinking "What I want to happen." I see in my minds eye what needs to happen with the music. I lead it, then for some mystical machination of tango voodoo, her feet do what needed to happen... Magic!

Ochos for her and for me
Everyone does back ochos. I like doing forward ones. It gives her an opportunity to go forward for a change, and I can do my serpentine walks. (see below)

Leading backwards
I use giros and forward ochos to set up something I really like doing—Leading backwards. That is, I walk backwards and she walks forwards in syncopated rhythm. I think its cool.

Before I do this, I normally spot the space ahead of me several times to see if its clear. If there is anyone dancing erratically, or, if there are some non-line of dance cognizant people waiting to just cut into the line, I'll pass for a better opportunity later.

Giros and Ocho cortados
I like these because their a nice way of occupying time elegantly if space to move forward is curtailed.

Variations in timing and delivery
I try to keep my repertoire as simple as possible, and as small as possible. I don't rely on big flashy steps, patterns or figures. I vary the way I deliver my repertoire, based on the music. I lead an ocho fast, slow, in stages, in hesitations, in chops, to the dictates of the music... Its just an ocho, but it develops its own character based on the variation of delivery


Anonymous said...

I like your final paragraph. It is a pearl of wisdom.

Over time, as we get better, we'll do less figures/steps.
But you'll do them in more varied musical ways.

More "how", less "what". I like it.

AmpsterTango said...

@ Anonymous: Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

Elizabeth said...

More and more I gravitate towards the partners who get this concept. Walking can be so many things, so many ways to express.
But..when we gonna do that forward ocho thingy??