The Cross – Getting In Front

The Cross - Getting In Front

For most Followers, that haven't been properly trained, they are rushed into an Argentine Cross right from the start of their Tango dancing lives. Aside from Ochos, it's the one thing that they're pressed to do without any training aside from the Lead/er (Controlling Lead hence the '/er' part) that quite literally tells them what to do as they're doing it. From that moment, right up until this one (assuming you've shared this video with them) they more than likely have no idea a.) why they're crossing their feet. and b.) more importantly what the point of the Cross is, and c.) what it all means. 

The Problem: This isn't so much a Lead problem as it is a Follower issue. Contrary to what you might have been told, the Argentine Cross does actually serve a function. And believe it or not, it's not to do a Cross every 15 seconds for no good goddamned reason. No. The function of the well, you can watch the video for that part. The problem is that not only is the Follower not aware of what the function of the Cross is, they've been so indoctrinated into a passive way of dancing that they'll a.) Willy-nilly cross their feet due Two of the Five Errors of The Cross - specifically the Automagical Cross and the Wimpy Cross (see below), where in the case of the latter, the Follower has to infer what on god's green earth the Lead is attempting to do. (In the other 3 cases they don't have to infer, they're quite literally forced into crossing their feet whether they wanted to or not). and b.) That a good portion of the time, the Follower will end up in the Lead's Arm Pit. It is for this reason that we talk about - Getting In Front of Your Lead!

From a Leading Perspective, before we launch into Follower's side of this. Let's give credit for this problem, where credit is due. The Lead! Dude, a good 90% of this problem is your fault. Let's be clear about responsibility here. You created this problem and the Follower is only doing their best trying to fix it. How did this become your problem ? 1.) You lined up with the Follower in your Arm Pit! You placed them in there right from the gitgo ('start' for the non-native english speakers), and what's worse is that you kept them there, holding them in that spot, because it was convenient for you to pull off some crazy vocabulary, which you think you need to lead every 20 seconds, instead of (gasp!) actually walking with your Follower to the music. Eeeek! Which for some reason is 'boring' to you but heaven to them...gosh I wonder why !?!?!?  2.) Your embrace that you think is comfortable is like laying on a bed of nails because it's too compressive! Think 'squeeze' and you'll get the right idea. And even if someone tells you that to lighten up and let them loose, you'll go right back to squeezing the daylights out of your partners because to you think, a.) this is comfortable. and b.) it's all you know. 3.) Because your right arm is like a vice grip and you have this rather nasty tendency to paddle your Follower's with your right hand to 'direct' them, you somehow believe that this is desirable. Ummmmm not! And lastly you created this problem by 4.) being too damned restrictive and not being responsible by continually placing the Follower in front of you by repositioning your vocabulary to do just that. Instead, doing all 3 previous things to show off to keep the Follower from realizing that you were completely ignorant about 3 steps in and don't have a plan for the rest of the song let alone for the tanda! Yup, your fault.

From a Following Perspective, 10% of this problem is your issue. And it has to do with you understanding that the Cross is actually, in modern Tango, your piece of vocabulary. Not the Lead's, it's yours! There are many people that will disagree with this statement that the Cross is the Follower's vocabulary. The fact is that without you cooperating, the Argentine Cross, is not going to happen. You could say this about almost everything else in Tango, that without you cooperating nothing happens. And you'd be right. However in this instance, this is one of the few places where the Follower has an enormous amount of control of when something is done, how something is done, and most importantly where we go next! All of that from you crossing your feet. In this instance, this one little piece of vocabulary is YOUR place for you to shine, to sparkle, to show off your skillz as a Follower. Instead, what happens ? the video.

To be fair, you have to contend with the Five Errors of the Cross (see above), and then there's the squeezing, the pushing, the pulling from your Leads. And then there are your issues, while in heels, to contend with. That aside, you do have an issue which is solely yours, which is the whole point of this topic - to get back in front of your lead!

The simple fact is that your lead (the action, not the person - lowercase 'l') either stepped outside partner or stepped into cross system and in either case you're essentially out of step with them. The whole point of the cross is to get back in front of your Lead (the person).  However, part of your issue is that you've been indoctrinated to a way of moving that quite factually doesn't work for you. The way that you're moving is to send your leg straight back, and really to cross your body meridian away from the couple. This creates a problem for you, especially when you come to collect your feet in the cross. Your feet look like two mismatched and broken sticks pointing in opposite directions from each other with a watermelon in between them, instead of what they can look like. We do want pretty feet, but we don't want pretty knees, when we come to collection and even crossed collection! However, there's a tiny little problem in that your body is in the wrong place, and your hips are all twisted and you're basically out of alignment with your Lead, and on top of all of that, you're stuck in the Lead's arm pit! And there you will stay...sadly. 🙁 do something about it. 🙂

The Dancing Reality is that this stuff happens with such frequency that no one, not even the teachers that you're studying with pay it any mind. It's so common place that one wonders if anyone is actually teaching technique to specifically create this issue! "Leads! You place the follower in your arm pit, and then rush around the room, all the while pulling and pushing! Followers, your whole job here is to stay in the Lead's armpit and then to come to a crossed collection so that your hips are all twisted up and you're off to the side of your lead! Ready ? Go!". Not! 

Fixing it ? Well, there's a really simple solution, it's something that both lead and follower must do.  

Hmmmm, however you actually haven't registered as a user of this site, so you're not able to see the full solution, and even then you'd have to upgrade to either a Silver, Gold, or Diamond level user! Once you do that you'll be able to see this solution to this problem as well as over 100+ videos on tango technique, codigos, and more. Just click that little button below that says "SUBSCRIBE".

Thanks for reading and have a lovely day.


The Four Parts of Social Milonga

Social Milonga

Milonga, and really 'Social' Milonga, is a difficult dance to Lead, but an easy one to Follow. Easy, if and only if, the Lead (person, not the action - 'lead') has a frakkin' clue about what they're doing. If they don't, you, as the Follower are screwed and not in a good way either! Good Milonga is a step above modern Tango in that it requires both parties to be at their best technique wise. It requires both parties to understand an embrace that is non-compressive, non-restrictive, and have mastered a stable, clean, clear walking platform that does not 'thud'. There is no need to 'hang', 'pull', or 'push' in any way, shape, or form. 

Let's get a few terms and definitions out of the way before we go any further for the initiated and the uninitiated. The word 'Milonga' has 3 definitions. 1.) It refers to the 'dance' party, and social experience that we aspire towards dancing at via classes and workshops and learning the codigos of the dance itself. The whole point of tango is to emulate the Milonga experience as a whole that we would find in Buenos Aires. 2.) It refers to a musical style of music that is typically written as 2/4 time, or at about 80 - 100 beats per minute. There are several versions of Milonga music, not the least of which is Tango-Milonga, Milonga Porteña, Milonga Criolla, and a few others. Candombe is not Milonga, but is frequently confused with Milonga. A poorly trained DJ will add one into a milonga tanda thinking that it's Milonga music when in fact it's not. Further still, a common error is to add a Foxtrot or a Tango Foxtrot, thinking that it's milonga when it's not. 3.) Refers to the dance itself, which is a frequently, and mistakenly thought of as a subset of Tango movement, and this is an error. Milonga (not Milonga Porteña or Modern Milonga) begat Tango, and from that Tango as we think of it today grew.


Let's get a few terms and definitions out of the way before we go any further for the initiated and the uninitiated. The word 'Milonga' has 3 definitions. 1.) It refers to the 'dance' party, and social experience that we aspire towards dancing at via classes and workshops and learning the codigos of the dance itself. The whole point of tango is to emulate the Milonga experience as a whole that we would find in Buenos Aires. 2.) It refers to a musical style of music that is typically written as 2/4 time, or at about 80 - 100 beats per minute. There are several versions of Milonga music, not the least of which is Tango-Milonga, Milonga Porteña, Milonga Criolla, and a few others. Candombe is not Milonga, but is frequently confused with Milonga. A poorly trained DJ will add one into a milonga tanda thinking that it's Milonga music when in fact it's not. Further still, a common error is to add a Foxtrot or a Tango Foxtrot, thinking that it's milonga when it's not. 3.) Refers to the dance itself, which is a frequently, and mistakenly thought of as a subset of Tango movement, and this is an error. Milonga (not Milonga Porteña or Modern Milonga) begat Tango, and from that Tango as we think of it today grew.

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So what is 'Social' Milonga ? Social Milonga is a Milonga of ease, of least resistance, of effortlessness. It's what we would dance at the Milonga when Milonga music is played but for a social environment not a performance! Which translates to smaller (very small) movements, and steps. This isn't about turns, ganchos, volcadas, sacadas, colgadas, death drops, .... no, none of that. Simple, clean, small movement. Rather it's about linear movements with one's partner in either close or open embrace (yes Milonga can be done in open embrace), small linear movements that move down the line of dance. Social Milonga should not back up against the line of dance, but rather angle against the line of dance, think of 45º angles so that no one backs up directly into another couple. Social Milonga is small, compact, and doesn't need to take up a whole lot of space...ever.  Horacio Godoy, who is a god of Milonga, is a good example of performance milonga, but it's still a performance! What he's doing is nothing short of magical, should be noted that again, it's a performance and not social dancing. He's taking up oodles of space, and in the line of dance, you don't have oodles of space! This is Social Milonga.  

Just as a side note: Social Milonga rightfully should never be attempted with a new partner that you've never danced with before.


From a Leading Perspective, it means that you must have mastered all of the things listed above in addition to understanding and employing 'intention' because Milonga is all about the small, the tiny movements. It's not about big, galloping can be, but isn't. It's about the tiny movements between the partners to the accents in the music. However the real key to milonga is the weight change. Being able to generate it in it's myriad of forms without pushing, pulling, or using force or compression. If you can lead a weight change through opposition or a with-weight change instead of pushing or pulling, you're onto a better class of leading as a whole.

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From a Following Perspective, you're in for a rough ride, because a good portion of your leads don't have a frakkin' clue as to what they're doing when it comes to Milonga. They will either race you around the floor and take a breather in odd places that have no relationship to anything that's happening in the music, all the while squeezing the living daylights out of you, hoping you won't notice that they're not anywhere close to a beat that has any relation to anything that's happening in the music. Or they're so timid as to not wanting to step on your toes because they've recognized that this is insanely difficult that they back off completely. That's the bulk of your experience. It's rare, ever so rare that you have a lead that dances Milonga Lisa with you, and then expands that to Milonga con Traspie, and actually builds a milonga experience on the whole. These leads are rare, but oh such a wonder when you find one. It's like christmas morning, easter day, and a box of chocolates all rolled into one! Fab! At the same time, let's not kid as the Follower, have to be up for the challenge. Which is to say that your skills in Forward steps, Side Steps, and Back Steps must be absolutely spot on! Repeat after me: "I MOVE ME". You must be responsible for your own movement. You must listen to what is being led (not waiting but listening) and then engage that movement immediately without fail. If you feel it, you go there, if you don't feel it, you don't go there. A good portion of the time, most followers fail these most basic things. And we end up with a less than desirable experience. 

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From a Dancing Perspective, 'Social' Milonga is insanely difficult to master. It requires all of the above to 'work', to 'function' with ease. Not an easy task at all. When done properly it's simply divine. When done poorly...well we've all had that happen, and it's just an absolute disaster. There's no nice way to put that. More often than not we have all had far too many Milonga tandas that is nothing short of "GAWD PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!". And a good portion of the time it's because the embrace needs to be reset and is too restrictive, and/or the Lead (person), needs to actually listen to the beat and then walk (see ? walking, not running) the Follower on that beat...but doesn't.

The Musical Prerequisite

There is an absolute prerequisite to this milonga business – two things about Tango Music as whole that you, as a Lead, or a Follower must know: 

a.) The Musical Pause in Tango Music as a whole! Without understanding this, you’re kinda screwed when it comes to dancing and really milonga as a whole. Oh and if you're thinking that you can just ‘count’ beats and that will get you to your Fully 40% of Tango music does not contain an 8 count beat. Sometimes its a derivative of 4 yes...but sometimes it's 4,8,12,16, or 24 beats before you hit an actual rest. So counting is about as useful as a small kitchen appliance unplugged. Why ? Because a good portion of the time, your count will be off for a variety of reasons. 1.) The transfer from shellac to digital (assuming it's that direct and it almost never is) is probably flawed, scratchy, crackly, and slows down and speeds up. and 2.) Two words for you -- TANGO MILONGA, which is to say that that the 2/4 time signature that you're used to hearing in Milonga Porteña (or Modern Milonga), not so much with that! And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Long story short, you want to actually learn to hear the 5 Major Types of Pauses in Tango Music.

b.) The Rhythm of Milonga which should not be confused with beat, melody, nor tempo, which is what a lot of you do.

To understand the Rhythm of Milonga, rather than show you charts and images which are about as helpful as a screen door on a submarine...let's skip to a class summary by Oliver Koklier and Silvina Valz shot at the 2009 Portland Tango Festival. This is probably one of the best didactic Milonga videos you will need to see...ever. What Oliver & Silvina talk about in under 9 minutes will blow your mind. It's a simple, clean, and clear didactic explanation of what Milonga Rhythm is and is not. Quite honestly contained within this video is the basis of almost everything you need to know about a Milonga Rhythm. Once you understand the Rhythm of Milonga (and it is a rhythm, not a beat!) it is only then that we start to talk about what you actually do with it. 

4 Parts of Social Milonga

Part 1.) The Baldosa Box & It’s Multiple variations.
Part 2.) Milonga Traspie and the many many variations
Part 3.) Scissor & Pendulum steps and variations.
Part 4.) Milonga Patter (Circular & Linear)!

While this is not the whole of Milonga vocabulary, it is the bulk of what you will spend your time doing from a movement perspective. The trick is to put it to a Milonga Rhythm and a good way to do this is to employ Milonga Lisa as a starting point!

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Intention Based Dancing

Intention Based Dancing

"Resistance, give me resistance! I can't feel you!". Followers hear this so often that it begs the question if Leads learn this as part of their technique classes on "How to be annoying in 10 seconds or less!" or "10 things to say to your Follower that will piss them off!". Piss them off ? Yup. Why ? From a Leading perspective you're screaming to your Followers that you need to control them, and that's all you know and or can hear. From a Following perspective, it screams..."I am unstable" and "I need to hang on you!". This dance is all about nuance. Meaning that your arm and/or hand employing force, tension, pressure, not desirable.

From a Following perspective: Truth be told, you have been told so often, in nearly every class or workshop, by Female teachers (who rightfully should know better) and Male teachers that you must ... 'wait for your lead'. As a result, that waiting turns into lag, or hesitation, in you. You get so used to 'waiting' and hesitation that you become reliant on that hesitation to do everything! That lag results in the Lead needing to push or force you to do X, Y, and Z which as a result turns into...resistance. In this instance, you want to move with the intent of what is being asked of you, quickly and decisively. As you feel the intent to move, GO! Don't sit there and wait to be pushed to do something...GO! This is better known in the Tango Topics world as MYA (Move Your Ass). These statements can easily lead one to believe that we're talking about an out of control Follower, or a willful Follower that is willy-nilly going wherever they feel the need to. That's not the case. The intent in this case is very small, your goal is to read that 'small' part and then to interpret it as either forward, side, back, or incremental, and either linear or circular and then to go with it while at the same time following a basic principle: Staying 'with' your Lead. 

From a Leading perspective: You believe erroneously that you must apply force, pressure, tension, and ask for resistance to get what you want out of your Followers. When the complete opposite is true. Yes, you can apply force to them to get them to do what you want. This methodology, however, says that you must control them. It also says to them that you don't trust them and can't rely on them to listen to what you're leading, and then to execute it. Furthermore what it also says is that they will never, ever be able to hear the level of precision that you desire the most. Put simply if you don't take the 'guiding' (ahem... and this is being kind when using that's more 'steering' and rough steering at that) platform of your arms and hands away from them, then they'll never be able to control that stuff themselves because you're too busy being heavy-handed. As a result they'll never learn how to manage their own stability, and their own bodily control. Further still, you'll never learn to lead someone with nuance instead of Force! And beyond that, you'll never be able to tell when you have a Follower in your arms that responds to effortless dancing because you're too busy over-functioning, over-managing, over-controlling them! Further still is that there is no way to separate what's your's and what's theirs if you're constantly forcing your dance partner to do X, Y, and Z. There's only one game here, and that's you telling, or dictating to the Follower what they should do. The whole point is to suggest, invite, engage...not tell! No one, absolutely no one likes to be told what to do. So if you don't like it, what on god's green earth makes you believe the Follower is going to enjoy it ? 

From a Dancing perspective: Most of this topic has dealt with resistance and it's deleterious effects on the dancing couple. However, what would happen if you removed all that 'stuff' above ? What would happen if you were to engage stability as a Follower, where you didn't need to be so heavy handed as a Lead ? What would happen if you were be responsible for your own walk, your own embrace, your own individual component of the dance ? What would happen ? Freedom is what happens! Options and opportunities happen! At first there is a lack of precision that occurs, and then later on the more that you practice this way of dancing the more precise control you have over the tiniest of things. For one thing there's less sweat! This was of dancing is almost unreal! The dancing couple that is engaging in Intention Based Dancing is lighter, appears and acts effortless, there's less stress on the couple as a whole, and more over far more precision in technique as well as musically. Over time what ends up happening to those people that dance from intention, both parties enjoy the experience and can then access the whole reason that they're there for in the first place: Tango Nirvana. Now comes the kicker – a good portion of the better dancers use this 'way' of dancing. They don't require the things described here because they know that something else is possible! Not all of them but a good portion of them employ this way of dancing.

Think of This: Applying resistance, tension, force, compression: Each time that you apply any of these things in any level of measure, it's like a jarring transition from sleep! Do you like it when your alarm clock goes off first thing in the morning ? Probably not. Guess what ? You're doing the same thing here with all that stuff to your dancing partners!

How do you change ? First do you want to change ? Put another way, do you want to wake your partners as if you were an alarm clock ? Probably not. Guess what ? You're doing just that in a myriad of ways from your walk to your embrace to the choice of vocabulary. From a 'THUD' to 'Compression' and everything in between. So if the answer to that question is a "I'd like to do that but it sounds like too much work and too much effort..." then thank you very much for reading, and have a lovely day!  Otherwise if the answer to that question is an emphatic "Yes Miles!!!" then read on....

dancing in a small space ? watch these videos!


Actual Change ? Sadly. This is not something that you can learn from a video. More specifically you can not learn the kinesthetics from a video. However, you can learn the vocabulary and how to move from a video. The kinesthetics is something that must be felt and then replicated over time with someone who can adjust how you feel in every aspect of your embrace and your walk at the same time. 

If we're being honest, you're going to think this is just about the embrace. That is a mistake that a good portion of dancers make. If you change just the embrace, that everything will be fine. No. It won't. You must address both the walk and the embrace at the same time for issues of stability and clarity and cleanliness from every possible perspective. This change is also about the precise control that you have over that walk, without hanging, pulling or pushing on your partner! Failure to address both aspects and you're just putting money into someone else's pocket and wasting your time.

From a Follower's perspective this change deals mostly with corrective back step issues that arise from how the leg extends and how the foot lands on the floor. This change must be drilled, and trained into the Follower over and over again. It is repetitive in one respect and corrective in another. This isn't about mindless repetition but rather 'mindful' or conscious process. Now we add the embrace component and really dealing with 2 very important phrases that means very little now but will mean an enormous amount later. 1.) Staying in front of your Lead. and 2.) Staying with your lead. It's important to note the distinction here of 'Lead' and 'lead'. The 1st is the person (Lead) and the 2nd is the action (lead)!

From a Leading perspective this deals with creating a series of physical limitations across the walk, and the embrace too numerous to mention here (that's why there are videos on this topic) that can not be used and then working from within that construct. This sounds a lot easier than it actually is. Truthfully it's quite difficult to get the proper balance of embrace and walk without pulling or pushing and at the same time, maintaining one's posture. However once this is mastered, then the fun begins, adding music!  ©Tango Topics. 

Your Trip to BsAs

Your Trip to Buenos Aires

The fact is that for a lot of you, 2 weeks in Buenos Aires is all you can really manage. You'll go, spend scads of money on airfare, apartment, shoes, clothes, privates with X and Y, and then spend every waking moment taking class after class after class in those 2 weeks. You'll be filled with Tango morning, noon, and night. Milongas, classes, food, more milongas, more classes. Your every waking moment will be tango, tango, tango...which is the whole reason you're there in the first place. You didn't fly 10000+ miles to sit on your ass you know!

From a Leading perspective, yes you're going to get your head handed to you from the moment you land, yes you're going to be intimidated, and yes you're going to have more than a few dances with people from all over the world that will challenge you, change you, and bless you...all at the same milonga in the same night. That's day one. The rest is an uphill climb for a variety of reasons.

From a Following perspective, same as above. You'll see footwork that will confound you and then you'll want to take privates to be able to do just that. Go ahead, knock yourself out.

The Dancing Reality is:

a.) You're not going to be able to retain 90% of what you've seen, heard, or practiced. Even if you video the end result. The "how" you got there will elude you. And it's the 'how' part that's insanely important!

b.) Most of what you have seen, heard, or tried to practice, you're going to screw up and misremember. You'll think you're doing one thing, when in fact you're doing another! The kicker is that you won't notice it.

c.) Most of what you will see, hear, and learn will screw with your head because a good portion of the information is specific to just BsAs. Meaning that it only applies to BsAs.

d.) Most of what you will experience from shows and classes is showy noise that does not and can not work in the line of dance. The trick is to focus on the social stuff that you can actually use in the line of dance. The real trick is being able to see the difference between Tango for Export and Social Tango!

d.) The trick to getting the most out of your trip to BsAs is working on your foundation (your walk, your stability, your underlying technique). This can create change in you. Steps, patterns, figures, or dancing like X, Y, or Z will not help you. Change comes from how the foundation is put together. 🙂 

e.) The Argentines are a lovely people. They are. They've been through hell and back again. There is one immutable fact, no matter how 'nice' they are, they're STILL not going to dance with you until you prove that you have a handle on this Tango thing...that means:

From a Leading perspective: Following the line of dance, not killing your partners with crazy, bullshit vocabulary (all 502 Sacadas known to man, or the 410 types of volcadas, etc all thrown into one song), and not bumping into anyone causing blood or limb loss. While at the same time looking elegant.  All the while, making it musical, fun, and engaging for your Follower partners and showing them off! This may prove to be challenging for you because the embrace will be filled with levels of compression, and the walk will be a near constant 'impact' that you'll feel of the follower's foot on the floor - not to mention the hanging, the pulling, and the pushing. If you're looking for 'stellar', you're lookin' in the wrong place! Good luck!

From a Following perspective: Dancing with the locals is a bit easier. They're actually wanting to dance with you, and not because you're stellar either. It's because you're Norte Americano. The fact that you're female and susceptible to their charms is...icing on the cake! Truth be told you've never had a man woo you like an Argentine man will. And the attention is unlike anything you've ever experienced (unless you're Italian, or from NYC, and in which case you got this).  

f.) The floors, at certain times of the years, are packed. Read that as Jan - Mar. That's the 'high' season. When every teacher in the known universe is in Buenos Fuckin' Aires. The floors are packed with teacher/dancers...of a sufficient quality that will quite literally blow your mind. The rest of the year, if you're looking for that experience...good luck with that. It's like a ghost town by comparison. Keep that in mind when you're booking your trip, and looking for the dancing reality that is Buenos Aires. 

g.) Two fucking weeks is not fucking long enough. Quite honestly, you're wasting your time and your money by spending two weeks there. It's a waste of money to rush down there for 2 weeks. You ideally want to be there at least a month, and really 3 and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Quite honestly those first 2 weeks is just getting the lay of the land. The rest of the time is figuring out how you're going to extend your stay by another 2 to 3 months! Realistically, you'll be afraid and isolated the first few days. You'll wonder how on earth you got yourself into this mess. Going to the Milongas and classes and wonder 'WTF!'. In the end you'll be so sad when you leave that you'll have forgotten the depths of the horrors your were thinking just a few days earlier. 

h.) Learn to pace yourself. All the running around you're going to do is going to tire you out no matter how old or young you are. You can not do it all. Realistically it's about finding good experiences, not about the quantity of those experiences. Quality is the order of the day. And learning how to pace yourself in the face of those quality experiences in the mass that is BsAs is quite essential. 

i.) You're going to find people that you groove with, and not groove with. You will dance really well with some people and not others. There's a reason for this: You're all at very different places in your tango development. The more experienced you are as a dancer will allow you to dance with nearly everyone and create a 'nice' experience, and know how to manage those dances to make them palatable for both parties. The less experienced dancer (the one's that hang, pull, push,can not navigate the floor musically. And then a few days'll 'magically' be able to dance with X, Y, and Z for some reason. Again, simple reason, you're getting in tune with the pace of Tango, and the idea of Tango that is BsAs. That getting in tune will leave you when you go back home. 

j.) Tango is very different at home than what you'll experience in Buenos Aires. Very different. And is the same thing. Which is to say that while it looks the same, the music is the same, the people are the same...the experience itself is vastly different for a reason:  Dancing in Buenos Aires is about a way of life. At home, you're trying to imitate that way of life in a 4 or 5 hour time period through a Milonga. The Milonga is a way of life in Buenos Aires, better known as "Tango Es Vida". Once you understand this thing, Tango then takes on a whole different way of being as does your 'two weeks' in BsAs. ©Tango Topics.

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Tango Articulation – Tango Topics

Tango Articulation

(Article Updated: 09/17) The moment you hear the word "Articulation" you’re going to say to yourself, “What the frak does that have to do with Argentine Tango ?”. And you’d be right to ask that question. That’s because this word isn’t necessarily related to Tango all that much, if ever. It’s a Tango Topics term. When we hear the word we’re more than likely to think of its literal iteration, “the formation of clear and distinct sounds in speech. The act of putting into words an idea or feeling of a specified type. The act or manner of uttering a speech sound, especially a consonant”. However, if you’re a music geek, the word has another meaning, “The clarity in the production of successive notes”. In either case, neither of those two definitions have anything to do with Articulation from a Tango Perspective.

What is Tango Articulation ? Articulation and Tango Articulation are the same things, just one is from a Tango perspective: Tango Articulation is a state where by the movement of one’s body parts, specifically the extremities of feet, legs, arms, and hands, create sharp and detailed lines that accentuate the form of the body in relationship to the pleasing and iconic shape of the couple in the embrace. The idea of ‘Articulation’ could mean, but is not limited to, pointing the toes, pointing the foot, generating a horizontal line with the arm around and across the back of your partner, raising of the head and pulling the head backwards towards the spinal column, the elbows, elongating the spinal column….all of these can be ‘Articulation’. Articulation is an accentuation of the form to detail the lines or shape of the dancers at all points along a movement, and in long form, the dance. To be aware of that movement and to create clean, clear, sharp lines of those shapes. So in essence the original English dictionary definition of this word isn’t that far off. Further one might start to think of this particular topic as 'Posture'. Posture is only one place where Articulation can occur. It's everywhere, toes, feet, legs, arms, hands, head but not necessarily the 'trunk' of the body. In the video above, Articulation is only viewed from the perspective of the feet and toes at first and then later legs. While it's good focus on feet in this instance, that's not the only place where Articulation can and should occur! 

For a lot of dancers Tango Articulation is a very foreign idea to a certain extent. And that’s because the moment the some people see it, and truly understand it for what it is, it’s very possible that those people will see it as ‘perfectionism’ and/or 'performance' Tango. Yes, it is ‘detailed’ work and for some people, it’s just too much work for them, and this topic is unimportant minutiae. The dance is about 'fun' for them, and this is not 'fun', it's work. From their perspective, Articulation is too difficult, an effort to remember (true to a point), hard to practice (lie), not important (another lie), and hard to do (another lie). Yet, at the same time, Articulation is what sets the better dancer apart from the dancer that views this stuff as 'work'. 

Difficulty Rating: 0.5 Stars0.5 / 5

From a Following perspective Articulation of one's feet is what factually defines the elegance that is looked at in ochos, molinetes, crosses, adornments/embellishments. The more that a Follower Articulates, the more the Follower 'sells the shoes’ as it were, and the move, and in a larger sense...the couple! And by 'sell', meaning that the visual presentation is seen as very desirable. Whether or not it’s ‘pleasurable’ is a different story all together.

To be clear, Articulation is not something you’re going to come to on your own. It requires that you have some awareness of what you’re doing and why and that means being exposed to a teacher who can and should point these things out to you...religiously! Just watching this video is NOT enough! You must be kept after, constantly. Why ? Because you’ll slip back to doing what’s comfortable for you.

This is NOT easy work. It’s not like you’ll spend 45 minutes in a class or workshop and then you’ve “got” it. NOT going to happen. This is blistering amounts of detailed work, every day for weeks, if not (depending on your age, and personal work ethic) months on end. You are going to suck at this stuff at first. And then later on, ‘poco a poco’. A little bit at a time...

Going a little deeper, once you start paying attention to this stuff, you’re going to start seeing this stuff EVERYWHERE! Everywhere in others at first, and then later on in you. And so that we're clear about this, generally not in a good way either. You'll notice that a good portion of the people that dance around you are generating a 'sloppiness' in their Articulations. While this may seem like pointing at other people's flaws, it's a good exercise for you so that you can see all the places where this stuff occurs, and it occurs a lot!

The humbling point: Once you think you’ve got a handle on Articulation in yourself, you’ll see that you don’t. How’s that ? This is about learned behavior, and about you unlearning what you have learned and replacing that with a more visually desirable end result. In many ways this is like editing your own words that you’ve written, words that you’ve fallen in love with...and you can’t bear to part with. However you have to in order to make the overall point of your words much better, cleaner, sharper, and on point!

From a Leading perspective it’s easy to dismiss this topic as solely a Follower issue, especially given the video above. That would be unwise. Articulation matters to you as well.

Articulation defines the presentation of the Follower's movements.


Why ? While the Lead is leading, they're quite literally, if not actually, pointing at something the Follower is doing the entire time. For you, as the Lead, your whole thing is about presenting the Follower. The more that you present the Follower, the more people see the couple! The current line of thinking for most Leads is that 'Presenting the Follower' means adding oodles of vocabulary (sacadas, colgadas, volcadas, ganchos, boleos, etc) ... and while these things have their place, usually these things are poorly executed (sloppy), and ill timed, and so we do not want to use them. Instead we want to add these things as accent, or ‘spice’ to the meal! And the meal is ? Less vocabulary and focusing on the 5 Basics of Social Tango. In short this means: 1.) Walking. 2.) Milonguero Ochos or Traveling Ochos. 3.) Milonguero Turns or Follower’s Molinete. 4.) Crosses & Cortados. and most importantly 5.) Dancing to the Pauses, and Accentuating the Musical Phrase!

The Lead has an incredible responsibility here, and that’s to Articulate wherever possible to accentuate the Follower’s execution, everywhere. However this is typically NOT what happens.

Putting this as simply as is possible: Articulation is not a role issue. It’s a dancer issue. So regardless of whether you dance one role predominantly or not, you still must articulate everywhere.

Watch It On Youtube ? Why should you subscribe to this website when stuff like this is available on Youtube ? Because what you'll find on Youtube doesn't explain and walk you through this stuff. So this is one reason why you want access to these video, and more importantly to have this stuff broken down for you from a leading and following perspective. 

So, please, go right ahead, go watch all the presentation videos on youtube all you want. Because that's what they are 'Presentation' videos. The couple's that you're used to seeing are performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they're not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about 'Social Dancing'. So please, go spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that situation. Bend your body this way or that, twist and force this position or that. Place your foot here or there and figure it out.  Which can be a lot of fun, but more than likely it won't help you, because you're missing something: The explanation from an experienced teacher! (ahem) ME!  The goal of youtube videos is to entice you to go study with those teachers in person. The goal of these videos is allow you to work at your own pace, in the comfort of your own space, so that you can play them over and over again to improve your understanding of the vocabulary or technique being described to therefore better your dancing experience. The goal of classes and workshops is to get you to come back over and over and over again, thereby spending more money with that teacher. This website and the videos under it are here to act as a resource for you to help you to improve your dance. Pay once and be done with it. 😉

Eventually, one way or another you’re going to pay for this lesson, either here and now, or with them. TANSTAAFL! The difference between that lesson and this ? Is that you get to play this lesson over and over and over again. Further still, there are supporting materials (other videos) that help to explain the language and the underlying technique. 

In an hour long class, with the blind leading the blind through rotation of partners (uuuggggh!), you may glean a piece of the information you need and not get the whole thing, and you’ll miss important pieces that you’ll end up having to take a private lesson for to get the finer points. This way, you can watch over and over again, and get all the supplementary materials, and if you want you can still go take the class, only you’ll be better prepared to do so!

The Last Word. Tango Topics is little reminders and snippets of information that your teachers would have told you about but didn’t have time to or didn’t care to remind you for the umpteenth millionth time. Do you need videos like these ? Yes. Why ? Simple…you need as many reminders as possible in as many forms as you can get. In today’s Tango world it does take a village to raise a dancer. And that means having as many voices, reminders, ideas, concepts, perspectives as possible. This video and the rest of the ones that are sitting behind the Tango Topics paywall are that. While what you’re seeing above is only the smallest hint of what’s contained in the actual video. It should be enough for you to make a reasoned and intelligent choice that perhaps there’s something of value in this site and the videos that are here. Considering becoming a Gold, Gold Plus, or Diamond level subscriber today.

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It doesn't matter if you're a Lead, or a Follower, we all at some point have to learn how to walk properly and for a good portion of us learning that proper walk is either an absolute joy, or such a pain in the ass that you wonder why you're still dancing tango in the first place!

One aspect of learning to walk properly is learning what not to do. Unfortunately for a greater number of teachers, and dancers, the idea of feedback is relegated to "That's nice" and "Try this instead". Instead of detailed questions and inquiry that will ultimately lead to you not sucking anymore...well for another 4 steps until you go back to what you were doing because you're not aware of your issues going forward.

Still another aspect of learning to walk properly is the dreaded "THUD". What's that ? It's the sound your foot makes when it impacts the floor in either a forward, side, or back step.

From a Following perspective, usually the lead will feel the impact of your foot hitting the floor, more than you will his unless the lead is clearly unaware of his own presence (that happens). As Followers we usually feel this impact of the Lead's step forward walking step. We feel it as a drive into us, and it's usually a drive into the floor and as a result we get driven into the floor. It's not desirable, and after a few L/leads like this, your feet start to hurt. It's not pretty. At the same time, we as follower's tend to create 'thud' when we don't realize that we're bending our knee as we extend backwards, and we tend to allow our foot to come off the floor. This is not desirable. We want to 'lick' the floor with our foot as we extend backwards

From a Leading perspective, we feel the impact of the Follower's foot on the floor, as a heavy step usually on their side and back steps. While at the same time we as L/leads must realize that we can generate a heavy impacted step as well. In short, there's merit to the statement 'walk softly'. 

To be clear: "THUD" is an uncontrolled, unsightly, and ungainly foot placement which results in a heavy step and we generally feel the impact of that step which reverberates up through the ankle, then the knees, the legs to the hips, up along the spinal column, and then out through the arms in the embrace which is then transmitted to your partner! Combine this with hanging, pulling, pushing, and the general contortion that goes on for a lot of people and you've got issues on top of issues on top of issues.