3 Couples Exercises
Exercise. The very word makes most people go “Uuuuugh!”, which is right up there with ‘homework’, ‘practice’, ‘taxes’, ‘rent’, and ‘dental visit’, and about as much fun. Sadly. 🙁 And this applies even more so with regards to Argentine Tango. It’s no wonder that when you say the words ‘Tango Exercise’ that most people want to hide under the nearest rock. And there’s a few reasons for this association. The first is that most people’s experience of Tango Exercises is continuous repetition of the same movement. The same movement at faster and faster speeds to seemingly impossible levels of detail. Eeeek! The second is that for the greater number of people, the very idea of Tango Exercise conjures an ideal of perfectionism that you can seemingly never achieve. The third is a load of self-judgement and the judgement of others that prevents us from doing better. All of this stuff, and a lot more that is not said here, is what keeps us from Exercise with regards to Tango.
The fact is that you absolutely need to exercise your Tango skills. Constantly. This isn’t about going out social dancing and just hoping that all will work itself out. That line of reasoning is one reason why we have the row of women that sit, and the row men that stand at milongas. And before we go any further to dispense with the blame game that happens repeatedly when reading this sort of post, let’s be clear about the fact that these same people haven’t done the necessary underlying work that would smooth out the physiological errors that they’re constantly (and completely unaware of) generating within the construct of the embrace, within the structure of a song, and a tanda, with multiple partners. Then of course, to be fair, there may be a fair amount of Tango Baggage going on for those people as well.
Throughout all of that though, most of Tango’s Exercises focus on Solo Exercises for the Individual. Like for instance the foot crossing exercise, or the ballet rise exercise, or the applied disassociation/ocho exercise, the twisty exercise, or the twirly exercise, or the linear ocho exercise itself, or the stability exercise, just to name a few. However there are a small number of exercises for a couple to work on. Typically when we exercise, or ‘practice’ tango, it’s dancing a song or a tanda to music. While dancing with multiple partners is always helpful, as it gives us really good insight into how and what we think we’re doing vs. reality, it doesn’t hurt to exercise the underlaying common elements of tango. That said, let’s talk about Tango Exercises for Couples.
The Embrace Work. Before we begin talking about exercises, we have to talk a little bit about what areas we’re going to exercise or practice. One area that gets overlooked quite frequently is the embrace itself. This is one of the more common areas where most errors are generated, that and our walk. So we do actually want to practice using several forms of the embrace. While there are multiple forms of a Tango Embrace, there are 3 forms that we want to start to use when Exercising for Couples:
1.) The Symmetrical Embrace. We use a Symmetrical Embrace for many reasons, one of which is that it alleviates most of the embrace peculiarities that crop up for people. The thinking is that if you can employ vocabulary with a Symmetrical Embrace, then everything else will be a piece of cake, and there is some validity to this statement. The ‘Practice’ or ‘Symmetrical’ Embrace is all about the equal and bilateral relationship between the partnership - whatever you can do on one side, you should, technically, be able to do on the other. 🙂
2.) The Close Embrace. While we don’t necessarily need to talk about a ‘Close Embrace’, we do however have to remind you a ‘Close Embrace’ is not compressive, that we ideally want skin to fabric contact without tension, compression, pressure, or force in our arms in any way, shape, or form…ever. There is a reason for this, most notable is that we want our partner to be able to move freely within the embrace construct, regardless of role. Secondarily we do not want to use our arms or hands for stabilization in any way, shape, or form within the embrace. We want to be fully engaged and independent of needing to hold on to someone to execute what we want to do or are being asked to do.
3.) The No Embrace. And lastly the No Embrace is a really just a Close Embrace without the arms! It’s a torso-to-torso contact, the trick is to stay in front of your partner at all times while at the same time engaging vocabulary! Easier said than done!
Next we have to decide on what we’re going to Exercise. In this case for the Couple there are 3 main areas we want to focus on. 1.) Walking! 2.) Turns & Crosses. and last but not least 3.) The Molinete. To be clear, item 2 is all about the Milonguero Turn and not a Molinete which rightfully gets its own area of focus in item 3. That said…
Exercise 1: Partner Walking. This is actually 3 exercises combined into one. The first part is walking in Symmetrical Embrace. The second part is walking in Close Embrace, and the 3rd is walking with the No Embrace in torso to torso contact. If all of that sounds easy to do, it is, except for the last one. And now we add a metronome to the equation starting at 60 Beats Per Minute (BPM) for a full minute, then 40 BPM for 2 minutes, and finally 20 for 3 minutes! 60 BPM is a normal walking pace, 40 is a comfortable slow walk but still challenging as you’ll see, and 20 BPM will throw you right off the deep end. It really does require a certain amount of skill to do this especially the slower that you go, and then we remove the embrace entirely! The desire as you’ll see is to use your arms more and more and more, and in reality, you want to use them less and less and less! Hence the No Embrace work!
Exercise 2: Milonguero Turns & Crossing. You’re going to spend most of your time doing 3 things in tango. 1.) Walking. 2.) Turning. and 3.) Crossing. This exercise for the couple reinforces this idea, again using the above 1.) Symmetrical Embrace. 2.) Close Embrace. 3.) No Embrace at 60, 40, and 20 BPM. However, where things go over the edge for the couple is practicing the Milonguero turn with a No Embrace and the trick is to stay in front of each other while leading and following it. :-))))) And then we add one more, exercising the Argentine Cross again, with all 3 embrace formats, and all 3 speeds!
Exercise 3: The Partner Turn. This is probably the hardest of the 3 Exercises and it’s the one that will confound you the most! It is in its simplest form a Follower’s Molinete for both roles done in a Symmetrical, Close, and lastly a ‘Wrapped’ Embrace (subscribe to see example). However, now we add one more, and that’s the Partner Turn in both directions (lead left to right, and lead right to left) and a Milonguero Turn with a ‘Wrapped’ Embrace.
From a Dancing Perspective. How is this stuff relevant to your dance ? Well, quite factually, EVERYWHERE! Honestly, you’re going to use this stuff so much that will almost seem like you should have taken a class on this stuff. And that’s precisely what this video is all about. It’s a class on how to make this stuff better. Truthfully, you are going to use every single one of these things on a social dance floor in a myriad of different forms. The Partner Turn Stuff alone will benefit not just Followers but the Lead as well. Here’s a good example of just how this stuff can benefit a Lead.
A Good Question. The primary goal of this kind of couples work is to clean up your issues within the construct of the embrace doing the 3 things that you’re going to spend most of your time doing. It is all 3 of these areas where most if not all of our issues come up anyway, so why not work on them specifically, with the focus being on releasing the embrace entirely! As a result you’re going to end up discovering (more than likely) that you have major stability issues which you’ll discover when you hit walking at 20 PBM! You might ask, why not add in ochos to the equation ? Good question. Here’s a ‘good’ answer. It’s included in the Partner Turn Section! The Partner Turn Section focuses on the Follower’s Molinete contains 2 Ochos - Forward and Back! So the Partner Turn Section serves four (4) purposes. 1.) Working Traveling Ochos (Forward or Back). 2.) Working on Circular Ochos (Forward or Back). 3.) The Molinete for BOTH roles! And one more, 4.) With regards to modern tango, everything, nearly everything is done ‘around’ your partner. And we constantly need to work on this fact and it’s application. So the 4th thing you’re working on is working on the circularness of being in relationship to your partner.
Why You Need A Video ? Pitfalls really. It’s all about seeing how this is done, and learning to avoid the pitfalls of what not to study, and finally to give you ideas of where to go next. That’s why!
TANSTAAFL! Eventually, one way or another you’re going to pay for this stuff one way or another, either here and now, or with an instructor in front of you. Think of this video as a reminder of what you need to be working on, constantly, so that when you go to ‘practica’, you actually have something to ‘practice’ instead of dancing around the room with someone!