A Tutorial About Argentine Tango Dancing 


Chapter 8: Dancing with freedom

Last updated, 5/13/00

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Argentine Tango dancing is about a couple moving around the dance floor led by the rhythm and melody of the music. Navigating the floor is an acquired skill and it combines timing, balance and talent to improvise.

We have been leaning on more and more towards the improvisational aspect of the Tango dance because it removes the shackles which the dreaded eight count basic places on legs and arms of beginning dancers. Dancing Tango is about freedom to express with our bodies and our hearts the very special feelings that each and every Tango induces in us.

In those moments when the rhythm of the orchestra, the moaning of the bandoneon, the solemnity of the violin or the voice of the singer enraptures our bodies and soul, we could hardly be remembering StepPatternNumber954B, or trying to apply VariationNumber173A which Joe Blow, or was it Peter Woodlimbs, showed the last time before the milonga.

This is where the power of improvisation comes in handy. To be able to do so, we must be able to have the elements and the knowledge to identify familiar body positions so we can invent on the spur of the moment a way to move to another position without missing a beat.

Where there is motion

There should also be stillness, and this month's topic is just that, stillness, pausing, or more specifically what is commonly known as parada, a stop in the progression of the dancers's motion.

If you've been following this series of notes, you are familiar with the Eight Movement Turn, or as it is also called, a Giro de Ocho. Briefly, an EMT is a series of continous turns that can be executed to the right or to the left in eight body movements.

Knowing how to initiate, enter, stop or exit from a Giro gives the dancer a powerful tool to develop creative improvisational skills.

Imagine that you are in front of eight different doors, each numbered from 1 to 8, and further, that there is a requirement that you enter the odd numbered doors with your left foot and the even numbered doors with your right foot.

We omit addressing specifically men and women because this concept is equally important for both dancers, and although 99% of the time the men are the ones who are taught how to use Giros for a variety of patterns, there is no reason why women can't enter and exit Giros as well, assuming that (a) they understand the concept, and (b) that the men they are dancing with, know how to mark the steps.

Introduction to the Parada

In this particular exercise, we will begin the Giro at the Cruzada point, that is at the end of the Salida, when the bodies are aligned in front of each other occupying one lane, feet are together but crossed. (Figure 1)

First, he needs to unlock her crossed feet by slightly opening his upper torso to his left. This will induce a rotation of her upper body over her left foot. Next, using his right arm to create the space where she will move and rotating his upper body to his right over his right foot, he marks a forward step in the new direction her body is facing. As she steps forward, there is Door Number 1 so he "enters" with his left foot. (Figure 2). As he steps forward, he displaces her left foot (he produces a Sacada) as he transfers her weight completely to her right foot.

He continues rotating his upper body to his right creating a new space with his right arm for her to pivot changing direction opening her left leg to her side. This is Door Number 2 so he now "enters" with his right foot and produces another Sacada when he transfers her weight to her left leg. (Figure 3)

Next, he opens his right shoulder to create space for her so she can step back with her right foot after pivoting on her left foot. As she moves, he moves rotating his upper body to his right and bringing his left foot at a right angle to her pivoting left foot. This is Door Number 3, but a decision is made not to "enter". So he locks his right shoulder, places his hand firmly on her back, and stops his rotation. She responds to this lack of space to move by not moving, so the dancers are now in what is called a Parada. (Figure 4)

This is one of many simple examples of how to use acquired knowledge to modify set patterns, to alter a movement, to make a decision on the spot and to continue dancing with flair, fluidity, grace, elegance and poise. Improvisation is what leads to fancy dancing on a crowded floor.

We will continue next time, but in the meantime see if you can improvise your next step trying not to forget which foot you both stepped with last and how are your bodies aligned at this point. Who said that homework was not any fun?

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