22 October 2010
Why bother with turns?
There is a great emphasis on the tango walk. This is true. It all starts with the walk.
When I first started tango, I was heavily reliant on just walking—Front, back and sideways. However, when I find myself (finally) going to milongas, I realized quite quickly that walking in line of dance does have it's limitations.
The limitations of walking happens when the line of dance momentarily slows down or stops. I couldn't move via walking and found that I couldn't just stand there. Rock-steps would suffice, but not for the whole tanda.
My conundrum was how to keep my tango interesting, while I slow down in walking, without stopping in movement, maintaining graceful dance motion, while still moving very slowly forward (or in place) in the line of dance. I had to learn to turn in place, turn around, turn left, turn right, turn in rotation, turning, turning, turning...
Turns... from different teachers
Learning anything in tango for me is a difficult process. Each teacher I went to, almost always taught me several ways to turn. I only retained one turn per teacher—most of the time. With some teachers, I learned nothing at all. With enough perseverance, I retained enough turns to build a foundation.
Combining and improvising
I previously said "Foundation." That is because I never have retained the turns as they were taught to me. I remember "Why" a turn is done they way it is and "How" it's supposed to look. That's about it. I don't remember the blow by blow "How-to."
What I've done is to remember the concepts of a particular turn, adopt it to my personal tango, and attempt to make it flow as one by combining them and improvising as I go.
I've found that being able to turn my partner was not a function of steps and feet. Rather, I've found that if I lead resolutely with my chest, know where my partner's weight is and figure out where our mutual pivot points are, then I simply lead her chest around that pivot point. Her feet simply follow.
Realities of a milonga
The realities of the milonga necessitate putting all of the aforementioned together. The milonga is sometimes packed. Some leads are great, some back up in traffic, some cut in front, most are respectful of the line of dance. Sometimes the floor is fast, sometimes the floor is excruciatingly slow.
Regardless where I find myself, my walks, combined with turns interact together to create my own unique tango floor craft. That way, I keep my partner safe, constantly moving, and in synch with the music.