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Lazy Follower Foot

Lazy Follower Foot

Lazy Follower Foot. Most people don’t think about this stuff except for when they’re in a class or a Follower Technique Seminar, or in a private lesson. Mostly they hear it and completely forget about it about 10 seconds after it’s been said. That is unless some diligent teacher continually reminds you of this stuff, constantly. To be fair, while this particular topic happens a lot for Followers, this happens everywhere across the entire spectrum of the dance and into real life. If someone says something to you that needs to be corrected, it will take you a few tries to remember to do it, and even then that’s a stretch. The fact is that you’re dealing with muscle memory or in this case ‘muscle comfort’. It’s comfortable for you to do this stuff. So why change it. The reality is that the change comes hard to some people, and comfort is easy. If you’re comfortable why bother changing ? Right ? What you may not realize is that that comfort may or may not be desirable to look at, as in this case of Lazy Follower Foot.

What is ‘Lazy Follower Foot’ ? It is a state where the Follower’s back foot as it comes into collection from a Forward step, is either dragged without care or unconsciously. The foot itself, seemingly hangs off the ankle, and is summarily dragged into collection from the Forward step. This doesn’t happen from the Back or Side step, that’s the ‘Dangling’ Foot error. Whole different ball of wax, but the solution is exactly the same as shown in today’s video! 

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From a Following Perspective, if you think for a moment that you’re not doing this stuff, then either you’re blind, or consciously sticking your head in the sand, or you’re a teacher who has mastered their technique and have moved onto the solution to this problem and how to make the solution better than is shown above.

Let’s get something out of the way. The fact is that even we teachers have to constantly work on our own technique. Constantly. Just because we teach does not mean that we do not strive to make clean, make better, to improve our understanding of what we do and why. Nothing is accepted, everything is questioned, overturned, turned inside out, upside down, and right side up. Everything is examined. It must be examined. And if we’re doing that for ourselves, the question is, why aren’t you ? This isn’t about teaching really, it’s about striving to clean up these detail areas that for one reason or another, while you may not be able to fully identify it, something (or in most cases a lot of somethings) look ‘off’. And the attention to detail is absolutely necessary to addressing these issues.

To be fair some people have a hard time talking about this stuff, or even viewing it. They don’t want to, or in most cases, can’t engage in the idea of this discussion at all. They only view this stuff through the lens of performance or perfectionism, or “that’s for a teacher, that’s not real life”. Ahem. Not. It is real life, and you DO want to pay attention to the details here. This isn’t about perfection. Get that thought right out of your head. This stuff has very real world consequences, and the sooner that you realize this fact, the easier your Tango life will be. Because, as has been said in many other parts of your life, the details matter! Why wouldn’t they matter in Tango as well!

The reality is that when you’re talking about this stuff, and then you start to pull stuff apart that ‘seemingly’ worked (operative word in the sentence), you quickly realize just how many things do not actually function as you thought they did. And it’s right about that point where you are instantly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what’s not working, and why, and most people throw up their hands and say “to hell with it all, why bother !?!?!?”.

Why Bother With This Stuff ? Here’s why.

There will come a night, a milonga, where the usual crowd of your usual dancers is increased by a +1. A Lead that is completely unknown to you. Said Lead has popped into your town, just passing through from somewhere on their way to somewhere else. They know no one. They find a seat, put on their shoes, and they scan the room for a few moments, and begin their process of Cabeceo.  You see them dance, and to you, they look amazing. Fabulous. They’re not like every other Lead in the room, and you find yourself wanting. Waiting for their Cabeceo when they step off the floor. They’re scanning and scanning and they pick their next partner, and the next, and the next….an hour or so goes by, and you find yourself brimming with anticipation. They scan in your direction, and they lock eyes with you. Your chance has arrived. They walk around the room to engage their Salida. And off you go. From the moment their embrace starts, you know you are in the presence of ‘better’. The embrace is light but engaged. The posture is spot on but not stiff. The stance….. and then you move. Slowly at first. And then from muscle memory. Their embrace remains … light. No matter what. They’re not rushing you. However, something is … ummm … not … quite … the glee is waring off. The newness of this dancer is replaced by questioning. They looked so perfect dancing with everyone else…but you seem to be missing things. Little things at first, and then here and there, things you can’t quite get your … “what the frak was THAT ?”….and you find your feet, and recover nicely….or so you think, and … then it happens again, and again, and again….somewhere in the back of your mind you’re wondering if anyone is watching this mess ? It’s fun to be certain but you’re certain that it’s a mess. In between the songs, this Lead is pleasant and nice, good small talk, and discussing where they’re going next. The next song starts, and the odd part is that this Lead’s embrace isn’t constrictive, or restrictive, or ‘pushy’ in any way, there’s no resistance at all. In fact, it’s what you imagine that Tango Topics talks about all the time and here it is embodied. And yet, you find that dancing with this Lead isn’t…ummm ‘nice’. It’s downright challenging. You’re missing things. Your feet are getting all tangled up, and you feel like you’re dragging your feet. They’re not saying anything, but you feel a sense of ‘Jesus H. Christ! I missed that…and that…and that….and f*ck!…”.  The tanda ends, and they walk you back to your table. They smile. You smile. And away they go. On the one hand, the dance was ‘fun’. It was certainly musical. No one that you’ve ever danced with has been that musical, and playful, and just fun to dance with. There were actual tango jokes, giggles really. But on the other hand it was way beyond you. So many things missed. So many things.

The Error In Your Thinking. The reason why this dance was challenging for you, and this is the error, is that’s just their ‘style’ of dance, and it’s not your style. Yes there is an estillo to some people’s dance, but sometimes with the more advanced dancers this isn’t about style…it’s about technique and the execution of that technique! So, put simply you’re missing the other side of the equation: You’re not ready for them! And the reason is, because your understanding of your own technique, your underlying foundation, how you move, how you land your feet, how you extend your legs, how you embrace your partners, where you place your body in relationship to your L/lead, where and how you engage X piece of vocabulary…all of that stuff is not trained in you. It’s just not. Further, because you’re dancing with a certain class of L/lead mostly you only get to experience a very small sliver of what a fully trained and operational Lead can actually do. Further still the Neurology of Following (as opposed to the Neurology of Leading) is lacking in you. So as a result you ‘miss’ things. So a Lead like that above, is mostly lost on you. Yes it’s insanely fun, and challenging, but you ‘missed’ so much and what’s worse is you know it. It wasn’t embarrassing, thank god, but you know in your heart you missed so much of what was ‘said’. You missed the nuances. The subtlety.

Diving Deep.

There is a reason this stuff happens, actually four possibilities: 1.) Poor execution of technique. 2.) Poorly understood technique.  3.) No Practice. or 4.) All of the above!

While it’s not rocket science what those things mean, they do require a bit of detail.

1.) Poor Execution. This means that your attention to detail of your technique is sloppy. Meaning that you allow your foot to unconsciously move as it sees fit to move in relation to your ankle and leg. Even though you have been shown X, it’s not showing up in your dance. Either consciously or unconsciously.

2.) Poorly Understood. This happens quite frequently. We hear ‘X’ when a teacher says something to us, and in reality they meant ‘Y’.  But because we hear it through the filter of our understanding we end up misunderstanding more often than not. Poorly understood means that you hear or see something and presume that ‘A’ is ‘A’ instead of diving deeply to dig down to the roots of what ‘A’ actually is. To see it’s inner workings. Not just to accept it, but figure out for yourself how and why something functions.

3.) No Practice. This should be a no-brainer. But you’d be surprised just how many people will go to a teacher or a class and magically expect them to fix everything, and that now that they’ve visited with teacher ‘C’ that things are all better and they can go back to what they were doing in the first place. Because teacher ‘C’ said they’re “you’re doing fine but…” and “that’s fabulous, and…”, or … did you see it ? Probably not. You missed the ‘but’/‘and’ at the ends of those sentences. You only heard the praise and not the rest! Which was… “You should go home and practice the frak out of this stuff that I just spent the better portion of the last hour showing you! Not to mention you just handed me a boatload of cash to tell you this stuff, so you had damned well better go home and practice this stuff!!”.

4.) All of the Above! This needs no explanation. It’s not one or the other, but actually All of them together.

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From a Leading Perspective. You didn’t think you were going to be immune to this did you ? Wrong thinking. Got news for you. All of that stuff above where the Follower’s experience is questioning what just happened, can and will happen to you as well. So if you think this is solely a Follower issue, THINK AGAIN!

The Wrap Up. The fact is that this is just one little, tiny, aspect of examining what’s going on in your dance. It happens quite frequently, and you do need to pay attention to it to fix it, to change it, to make it better!

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 the how a Circular Ocho Cortado can function, but not all the toys that are described above. So this is one reason why you want this video series, 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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Gooey Ganchos

Gooey Ganchos

The are multiple varieties of Ganchos. We have explored the 4 most common ones, today we’re exploring a variant of the idea known as the ‘Gooey’ Gancho. Specifically what makes it ‘Gooey’ and how does it get it’s name. The reason this variety of Gancho is called ‘Gooey’ has everything to do with the speed of the Gancho itself, but it also has to do with the choice of the Gancho in certain respects, as you’ll see. That said, let’s talk about ‘GooeyGanchos.

What is a ‘GooeyGancho ? In specific it means that while this particular variety is usually executed from the Follower’s position, the Lead can and should under certain conditions engage in the same variation but not for the same reasons that the Follower will. So what is it ? In specific it is a slow motion Gancho, and in particular the ‘Launching’ leg of the dancer who is being “Gancho’d”. Everything prior to the Gancho happening is not the ‘Gooey’ part. The ‘Gooey’ part comes when the leg that is being lifted moves to engage the hooking action of the Gancho in a very slow, but very deliberate way. Very slow. 🙂

Tango Warning: Before we go any further, it is strongly recommended that you watch the 4 Common Ganchos first and have practiced them religiously before attempting these. This is not something a beginner should attempt in any way, shape, or form. This is clearly very advanced material. The material in this video should only be attempted by someone who has mastered their walk (sans wobbling or wavering, or needing to hold on to anyone in any way, shape, or form, and that includes forward steps, back steps, and side steps for both roles). And so that we’re absolutely crystal clear here because every beginner lead asks this question “how long should I have been dancing before I try these ?”. There is no rational answer to this question because time is not the factor that makes a damned bit of difference. Time on the floor is what makes a difference! So 6 months ? A year ? Two years ? No. Not that kind of time. However a good telltale sign that you may be ready for leading these movements is you have stopped watching the Follower’s feet, you have stopped using your arms to lead things, you understand and can employ a ‘no’ (or null) lead, you can employ disassociation without thinking about it.

From A Following Perspective while you’re not going to get led to these things all that often, there are a few things that we want to be aware of when engaging any Gancho. But before we go any further with what those things are. We have to talk a little bit about Gancho safety.

First and foremost, if you do not feel safe being led to a Gancho, don’t go there. While said Lead may ‘ask’ for a Gancho that doesn’t mean that you should do one! The Gancho is always, always, always your choice. And when we’re talking about the Gooey variety this is even more true than the 4 Common Ganchos! Secondly it should be noted that while the Gancho is your choice, you do have to make a decision about the Gancho. And that decision is based on what is sometimes referred as the ‘impatient’ lead. This is a kind of Lead/er that insists upon using vocabulary (like a ‘Gooey’ Gancho) without really understanding it, or having practiced it until the cows come home. They lead this stuff without a care in the world for what it looks like or how they’re doing it. The problem is that they’re going to lead this thing over and over and over again until you give in. Sometimes, more often than naught, this type of Lead/er will use their arms to insist that you Gancho. And until you do, you’ll get no peace. So this is the decision you’ll have to make, either you ‘give’ the Lead/er the Gancho or you risk paying the price for excessive use of force, repetition, and shall we say less than desirable Tango behavior. A good rule of thumb with this stuff (and really any advanced vocabulary) is always do you feel safe with this person ? If the answer is ‘no’, then don’t go there. And as it relates to any Gancho (and in specific the ‘Gooey’ variety), don’t Gancho. It’s that simple. This is your body, and quite honestly without you there is no dance. Be smart, listen to the lead (the action, not the person) and if you’re not being taken care of physically in the action or activity of the dance or the lead for X/Y/or Z, and being respected physiologically, then a Gancho (any variety) is quite literally out of the realm of possibility. Take care of you!

Moving On…

In every Gancho we have the Launching Leg or the ‘Free’ leg. Instead of just ‘throwing’ your leg up and behind, this is more like striking a matchstick more than anything else. Now enter the ‘Gooey’ Gancho part! With a normal Gancho we want that matchstick Free Leg to be quick, fast, and sharp. We want the back of our knee to come into clear, direct contact with our Lead’s thigh. We want the engagement of the leg to be full on contact, not dainty. With a ‘Gooey’ Gancho we still want the matchstick strike to happen, but the rest of the motion is slow, deliberate, and most importantly controlled!

The question that comes up for most Follower’s when being led to a ‘Gooey’ Gancho is how do you know that it’s a ‘Gooey’ Gancho ? There are 2 telltale signs that you’re expected to engage the ‘Gooey’ hook of your leg.

1.) The Music. La musica will tell you what you need to know. Specifically the ‘long’, stringy notes of Fresedo, Laurenz, D’Agostino, late DiSarli (50’s), late Calo, or very late Pugliese, or even (grrrrr) Piazzolla (uuuugh!). Tanturi, Canaro, Rodriguez, Malerba, Donato, Firpo, OTV, Demare, D’Arienzo, Troilo, Lomuto, and any early De Caro just isn’t going to cut it here. The compositions, musically speaking, are too ‘choppy’. So a ‘Gooey’ Gancho really isn’t possible musically speaking.

2.) The Speed. It’s all about the speed at which this variety of Gancho is led. If you’re feeling a slow motion to begin with, chances are, that the Lead (the person, not the action) is expecting a slowed motion, or a ‘Gooey’ Gancho.

From a Leading Perspective in every Gancho you’re leading, there is, to coin a phrase, a “need for speed”. In this instance, just the opposite is true. We want to move very, very, slowly. Deliberately. Controlled. Your motion here, or the lack therein is what creates the speed. The slower you move, the more that you’ll ensure a ‘Gooey’ Gancho!

That said, before we go any further, we have to talk a little bit about Gancho Safety and Gancho Sanity. Let’s start with the Sanity part first. Repeat this line before attempting this or any Gancho depicted on this site. Ready ? “I will lead this once with an experienced Follower, and then I will let it go”. Now the safety bit: Do not push, do not pull, do not use your arms in any way, shape, or form. You’re going to hurt someone, specifically your Follower! Do not force the Follower into a Gancho, ever. It’s not a pleasant experience. Further still do not try this with a novice, someone that’s just starting out either. They have no idea about this stuff, and it’s not your job to show them or introduce this stuff to them, that’s what a teacher is for. You are not one, you’re a social dancer, so….dance. Which is to say that teaching a beginner Follower on a social dance floor while at a Milonga makes you look bad. You’re not helping anyone out, you’re not doing that Follower a favor at all, ever. This is not what you want to hear but facts is facts, and as cool as a Gooey Gancho is, performing this because it’s fun for you, is no reason to do this with a beginner Follower who doesn’t know right from wrong, up from down, etc. It’s just not cool. Got it ?

Moving on…

This series of Ganchos, rightfully can be done from any of the 4 Common Ganchos, but they work really well from the Follower’s side step, or their Forward step! The trick to this Gancho series is the speed at which you lead it. Lead it slow, and you get your Gooey Gancho. Lead it quickly and it defeats the entire purpose of the Gooey part. There’s one caveat, among many, that we do want to focus on, there is a desire to compress, or pull the Follower into you, or to hold onto the Follower in the Gancho, and you can not do this. This creates an unstable Gancho. Truthfully the connection point of the Gancho, where your legs are touching is the support point, the arms don’t really matter all that much. They act as a visual frame not an actual one.

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About The Video. This video is 22:09 in length in 10 Sections.

Section 1 - Introduction - 00:00:35
Section 2 - Gooey Gancho Setup - 00:02:33
Section 3 - Possible Follower Exits - 00:02:45
Section 4 - Rotational Gooey Gancho - 00:03:25
Section 5 - Review - 00:01:31
Section 6 - The Missing Gooey Gancho - 00:03:51
Section 7 - Employing The ‘Launch’ Aspect - 00:02:00
Section 8 - The ‘Right’ Way - 00:01:12
Section 9 - The Real ‘Gooey’ Part - 00:02:20
Section 10 - Closing - 00:01:25

It can be purchased for $15.99 or downloaded as part of your subscription with a discount.

From a Dancing Perspective truthfully this particular variety of Gancho can be a little creepy or can appear that way. There’s a reason for that justifiable creepiness. And it has everything to do with where the Lead is placing their body. Too close and it’s creepy, too far away and the Gancho fails. So there is a sweet spot of bodily position. Think of it as a comfort zone. Factually speaking the whole Gancho thing to begin with stretches the idea of the comfort zone, and this Gooey Gancho really stretches it to its breaking point. Having said all that, when this series of Ganchos is done they can appear quite elegant, and honestly speaking…they’re really cool. They do tend to show off the Follower, and this series of Ganchos are the quintessential ‘flashy’ move. Realistically you’re not going to see this variety all that much, but when you do take a moment to examine the precision of the dancers technique, that will give you an indicator of just how much time and effort they’ve spent on this stuff. 😉

The Missing Information.  There's a free tip (for registered free users) that's not here because you're not logged in. If you were logged in, you'd see a free tip, but because you're not, you're not seeing it. So ? If you want the free tip, then go register as a free user and login. 🙂 However, if you want the toys, and to see the 49:29 HD quality video on how to properly lead and follow a Close Embrace Sacada and all the toys that go with it. Then you have 2 options. 1.) You can buy it. or 2.) You can subscribe!

 Watch It On Youtube ? Why should you pay for this video, or 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 the how a Gooey Gancho works! That’s why! 

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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Four Common Ganchos

Four Common Ganchos

Gancho. The word in Spanish translates to the English word, roughly, as ‘Hook’. From an Argentine Tango perspective it has a very specific meaning. You’ve seen these things hundreds of times, and while the vocabulary itself has a connotation as being somewhat ‘cheesy’, and only done by beginner leads who don’t know any better, the reality is a that it is a venerable piece of Tango vocabulary that do have a valid place off the main trunk of the Tango history tree. The story goes that while the Gancho existed long before NorbertoEl Pulpo Esbrez came along, his contribution to its storied history is where creativity meets innovation, specifically with regards to ‘elasticity’ and the Enganche. He is/was credited with pioneering and exploration the ‘invasion’ of the standing leg, the response of the free leg, as well as the space in between the opening of a step, and quite factually (if not literally), the intersection of these ideas.

What is a Gancho ? In it’s simplest form, in the modern vernacular of Tango, it is a hooking of the free leg around your partners leg or thigh. It is an interruption of the extension phase of the step, which can (not always) result in the lifting of the respondent’s leg either as a result of, or by deliberate intention.

Today’s Tango Topic deals with just Four of the most Common Ganchos and a few of their issues that happen for both roles. While there are many, many, many types of Ganchos to explore and play with these 4 explored below only scratch the dancing surface of them. They are the foundation for nearly every other Gancho that comes after them. The Rotating Gancho, the Gooey Gancho series, the Follower’s Gancho series, the Ganchito, the Lead’s Gancho series, the Volcada Gancho, just to name a few, owe their foundation to the Four Common Ganchos in Parallel and Cross System.

From A Following Perspective before we go too deep into this, there are some issues that you need to be aware of. 1.) While you have almost ZERO control over the initiation of a Gancho, the response to the lead for the Gancho is all yours! Factually speaking you have complete control over whether or not a Gancho is performed at all. Ganchos are entirely optional for you. Contrary to what you may have been told, you are under no obligation to perform one. Ever. None. And don’t let some Lead/er tell you differently either. 2.) The Four Common Ganchos are all about simple technique for you. It’s really an interrupted back step. Nothing more than that. The hard part about them for you is controlling the leg extension up (the hooking part) while balancing on one foot, and then…the leg extension out of them. Why ? What typically happens, unless properly trained and strengthened is that you, as the Follower, will drop your leg away from the Gancho almost immediately. 🙁 3.) Contrary to what you might believe, you are not going to hurt your lead (as much as some of them deserve it sometimes). You don’t want to hit anyone, or step on anyone, and you certainly don’t want to lift your leg! That’s just crazy! You can’t see what’s going to happen, and you quite literally freak out.

Your part in this is - Your Back Step. And in specific, your extension without a weight transfer. The key component for this series of Ganchos, because once you have the technique for one, it applies to the other three, is that you do want to raise your leg. However, there are some things about that leg raising that you want to be aware of. a.) It’s not done because you want to. No. It’s done as a result of the interruption of the lead’s leg (their thigh) in your way. That interruption is what causes your leg to ‘wrap’ or ‘hook’ around your lead’s leg. b.) Frequently Follower’s just ‘give’ the Gancho to their leads for any number of reasons, when in fact while the Gancho has been led, it is done so improperly. Thereby creating a bit of confusion in you as the Follower, “Was that a Gancho ? Screw it, just Gancho!”. c.) They’ve been over-led so many times to these things that you’ll just do it without really understanding what’s really supposed to happen. The reality is that the Gancho is a learned piece of vocabulary and unless you learn to feel the proper conditions, and or see what those conditions are for one to exist, you’re going to continue to ‘give’ the lead the Gancho and thereby look like you don’t know what on earth you are doing. 🙁

The Sweet Spot and Two Mistakes. Mistake #1: Stepping Away. Mistake #2: Stepping Too Close. In this variety of Common Ganchos these two mistakes are so common one would think that there’s a class on this stuff. However the reason these two mistakes occur at all is due to the Follower having not mastered finding The ’Sweet’ Spot. What is the ‘Sweet’ Spot ? It’s a very specific distance around your lead. Truthfully the ‘spot’, really it’s an appropriate distance, happens around every lead. And while each lead is physiologically different from one to the other, there are some similarities. One of them is the distance that you can be from them, while ‘walking’ around them that will not impair your motion, or theirs, or the combined motion of the couple. Or in this case, one of the Four Common Ganchos. Finding that spot is a bit tricky, but there is a rule of them to doing it. Something so obvious that you’ll wonder why no one ever mentioned it before. Truthfully they did, and it’s usually buried in talking to the lead as an after thought. Sadly.

Lastly this series of Ganchos are all based on mastering your Circular Ochos. Not Traveling, not Linear, not Milonguero, not Over-Rotated, and certainly not Milonga Ochos. No. These Four Common Ganchos are married to Circular Ocho which requires you to go ‘around’ your lead with your back step. Typically what happens for most Followers when they extend around their lead like this, they tend to step away from them. They tend to believe that they’ve stepped around their lead, when in fact, no they have not. That stepping away can and does cause the Gancho to fail. 🙁 Which quite truthfully at some Leads invoke these things, isn’t such a bad idea!

From a Leading Perspective the Gancho is accent or ‘spice’ vocabulary and should only be used sparingly. However, and this is where we go right off the rails, that’s typically not what happens. Some of you go a little Gancho Crazy (read that is ‘Gancho! Gancho! Gancho!) and tend to over do and over lead and repeat the same Gancho 4 or 5 times, and/or more than a few times in a song. Talk about annoying! Is it ever. No one likes to repeat the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over … you see the point here ? No one likes it, any more than you did reading that series of ‘over and over and over’ statements. So if you don’t like it, what on god’s green earth would make you believe that doing the same Gancho 4 or 5 times within the length of 10 seconds, and then to repeat it 10 steps later, wouldn’t drive someone absolutely batty ? The fact is that repetition of ANY piece of tango vocabulary is annoying. And this is where the Gancho has gotten a bad reputation - Repetition. So here’s a free tip for you - Lead it once, and then let it go for the love of Gardel! Lead it once, and then let it go! That said…

There are 5 Common Errors for the Gancho that you need to be aware of.

1.) Using Your Arms. The fact is the at good number of Leads use their arms to push, or pull their Followers around the floor, and while there are some good reasons why it may seem like it’s necessary to do this, it’s never ‘ok’, period. Under no circumstances should one pull or push anyone around the floor….ever! The use of arms as a way to communicate your intention to lead any of the Four Common Ganchos is absolutely verboten! Never. Nunca. Not.

2.) Watching The Follower’s Feet. Watching the Follower’s feet is a failure of Proprioception. It’s that simple. Why is this important in any of the Four Common Ganchos ? Because doing so, you break the illusion of mastery of the vocabulary. Not only that but it breaks the visual lines of the couple.

3.) Failed Articulation! A good number of Leads will fail to Articulate their legs into the proper position to be able to receive the Gancho and instead extend a straight leg into the walking path of the Follower. Thereby effectively giving the Follower nothing to Gancho! 🙁

4.) Resistance! This issue happens for a lot of people that dance Resistance Based Dancing. It’s work. It’s painful. And quite honestly, you have to overpower your Follower for them to hear the ‘lead’. Oy. In short, you don’t need it. Ever.

5.) The Arm/Hand Issue. This move is all about allowing the Follow to disassociate through their Circular Ochos but typically what happens is that you stop that motion by either squeezing the living daylights out of them, OR by placing your hand right hand along their side and applying pressure thereby stopping any rotation motion. 🙁

Ok, now to the actual Common Ganchos. There are 4, as indicated, 2 Parallel and 2 Cross system ones. To be fair all are easy and doable for both roles, there’s nothing confusing or strange about either one. Typically what happens when learning this stuff is that one side gets used a lot more than the other and then it becomes ingrained behavior. It’s an illusion really. Both sides (open and closed) are accessible and easy to get to. Why ? Because these Common Ganchos are typically done in an Open Embrace variation. That’s why. The one that we want to start out with however, is the Closed Side Parallel System one. It will allow you to learn and then use the structure of these 4 Common Ganchos all that much easier.

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From a Dancing Perspective truthfully, when executed a.) in time to the music. b.) as an accent piece of vocabulary, to an accent note. and c.) when none of the issues noted above are present to mar the Gancho…they can be quite lovely to watch. However that’s rarely what happens. What tends to happen are all the things mentioned above, and a few more that have not been mentioned. Part of the reason why Ganchos have the reputation of being ‘cheesy’ or less than desirable is that a.) they open the embrace. b.) they have a historical connotation with ‘Nuevo Tango’ (which is a misnomer of terms, ‘Nuevo Tango’ actually refers to the style of music that Astor Piazzolla founded in 1960 - 62 when he was living in Paris) and lots of legs flying everywhere because of that. c.) they tend to take up a lot of space. and d.) They’re typically poorly executed, very sloppy, making them appear (and actually are) like they’re an exercise in acrobatics. Oy. However, most of that can be tastefully, and judiciously removed by having good, clear instruction that clearly illustrates what and how to initiate and receive a Gancho, hence this video series.

About The Video. This video comes in Six (6) Parts, for easy digestion of the topic (and download - Total Run Time 49:29).  What you're seeing above is only the introduction to the topic before we dive into the topics below. The one you probably want to see is #6 as it contains all 4 of the Ganchos. However, the rest of the videos make that last video possible. They're all about set up, proper technique, and really the underlying method of how a Gancho works and where things can go terribly wrong, and how to correct for it. 

Part 1 - Introduction (08:12).
Part 2 - Lead Technique - 04:02.
Part 3 - Follower Technique - 05:39.
Part 4 - Gancho Exercise - 05:36.
Part 5 - Gancho Set Up - 06:43.
Part 6 - Four Common Ganchos - 19:27.

The Missing Information.  There's a free tip (for registered free users) that's not here because you're not logged in. If you were logged in, you'd see a free tip, but because you're not, you're not seeing it. So ? If you want the free tip, then go register as a free user and login. 🙂 However, if you want the toys, and to see the 49:29 HD quality video on how to properly lead and follow the Ganchos and all the toys that go with it. Then you have 2 options. 1.) You can buy it. or 2.) You can subscribe!

You're Not Logged In: If you were free user of this site you could login to your account, you'd see a different video from the one above! You'll see the part 4 on the Setup for a Gancho. Furthermore this is only the first 4 Ganchos of a much larger Gancho series of 21 other possible Ganchos - Rotating Ganchos, Volcada Ganchos, Lead Only Ganchos, Follower Only Ganchos, and Gooey Ganchos. 

Watch It On Youtube ? Why should you pay for this video or 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 the how a Gancho works! That’s why!

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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Argentine Back Sacadas

Back Sacadas

Sacada. Meaning – 'a-really-cool-move-that-you-think-is-really-complicated-but-is-an-illusion of techniques'.  For most people when they see a sacada for the first time, their reaction is one of surprise that a.) it looks really complicated (it's not). and b.) that they can never see themselves doing one (you will). And these are usually forward sacadas for the Lead into the Follower's side step. Usually. There are about 1024 sacadas, which drops to 512 when you rule out certain impossibilities. In reality there are about 10 different 'flavors' of them that when you combine the different flavors of walking systems, that number jumps to insane number.  Things go right off the rails (as the saying goes) when we see a sacada that does not fit into this paradigm. Enter the "Back Sacada".

From a Following Perspective. This is the quite possibly the scariest of all moves in Tango for the Follower. Why ? Most people have an innate desire NOT to hit or hurt anyone, and the Follower's Back Sacada opens up that fear in very real ways. The Follower's Back Sacada to the Lead's side step or Forward Step is quite possibly one of those moves where the Follower has to do some serious acrobatics to make it work. Or so you would think. Not entirely true. Almost from the day that a Follower learns to dance. They're expected to do 5 things right from the start: 1.) Walk backwards. 2.) Embrace nicely. 3.) Cross their feet. 4.) Turn. and 5.) Ocho. It's the 5th one that we're on about because your 'Ocho' as you understand it, with a tiny modification, and a little bit of technique work can become your default for all Ocho movements and thereby take the 'scare' factor out of any and all Back Sacadas for you. The fact is because the Follower is stepping backwards into their Lead they're trusting (eeeek) that they're not going to hurt the Lead! Talk about scare the shit out of you! "Please god, don't let me screw this up!". Usually that screw up comes in one of three ways. 1.) Missing it entirely (which is rightfully not the Follower's fault, the move is poorly led most of the time). 2.) Stepping on their Lead's foot (he led it, so why are you apologizing for it?). and 3.) Not placing their heel close to the floor. You see, the Follower is in 3in heels, and those things are lethal weapons, leaving the heel up, can cause...shall we say, 'Issues'. 🙂 However, the solution to making a led Back Sacada work for you ? Is two fold ... 1.) Learn to collect your feet. No. Seriously. Frequently you throw your leg out behind you like so...

And the 2nd solution ? Extend your leg only AFTER you have completed your applied disassociation!

From a Leading Perspective. The Back Sacada qualifies as the quint-essential 'cool' move that quite honestly is on the radar screen (at the beginning) and is seemingly just out of reach for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the applied disassociation that's in the equation. Applied Disassociation ? In order for MOST back sacadas to work, that means that you're going to have to do some foundational work that you would think only belongs in the purview of the Follower: Study Your Ochos. And the foundation of the Ocho is ? Applied Disassociation. Most Leads, think kind of work is beneath them. They see women doing this work and think 'Follower' Technique. "I don't have to study that stuff." And they'd be wrong. Flat out wrong. If you want the cool toy, then that means you have to lose the attitude and go learn how to Follow and in specific learn how to Ocho without being pushed, or pulled in order to do it. That's where the study of Applied Disassociation comes in. Correction: Intention Based Applied Disassociation! This isn't pushing and pulling folks, this is work. And quite honestly, most people don't want to do it. They'd rathe push and pull to do the job. It's not necessary. How does this relate to the 'Back Sacada' ? Because the engine of the Lead Back Sacada is in fact their ability to FREELY APPLY DISASSOCIATION without the use of resistance from the Follower, tension in the arms, or needing to push off of, or compress the Follower in any way, shape, or form, not even in the slightest. And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg because this definition above assumes that we're talking about a LEAD back sacada to the Follower's side or forward steps! What about the reverse ? 

From a Dancing Perspective. The Back Sacada takes up an inordinate amount of space on a social dance floor, while it is the cool flashy move, it also like spice in a meal. Spice ? Use it too often or too much and you ruin the meal! Use it sparingly (very sparingly) and then it’s a nice surprise now and again (like once in an evening and then let it go). However, most of you, specifically the Leads, are not going to hear this and think that you're being ‘cool’ because now you can set up and receive a Back Sacada or you can do them yourself. The fact is that there really is no space on a social dance floor for them, except in the middle of the room. And most certainly not on a crowded floor in the outer track. Not now. Not ever. But again, you're not going to hear that because you've gone Sacada crazy, and you want to try out the cool new toy. Let me introduce you to the only place where you should use them - A ‘Practica’. Specifically the ‘North American’ version of one. Where it’s not a class, it really is about ‘practicing’. That’s about the only place where you really want to pull this thing out and play with it. So if it doesn’t belong on a social dance floor, then why teach it ? Answer, it’s not about the Sacada but rather the underlaying technique of how you generate one – the Applied Disassociation!

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About The Video. This is a combined video format, lead and follow technique is mixed together.

Sacada Foundation Review - 00:03:50
Lead Foot/Leg Technique Review - 00:00:52
Disassociation/Applied Disassociation Review - 00:03:20
Lead Disassociation - Engaging the Follower's Side Step - 00:04:51
Engaging a Circular Side Step - 00:01:40
Follower's Back Sacada - Using Linear Ochos - 00:01:25
Follower's Back Sacada - Lead Details - 00:04:54
Follower's Back Sacada - Follower Technique - 00:02:06
Back Sacada Review - 00:00:53
A Variation - Rotating Back Sacada - 00:02:31
A Variation - The Closed Side Back Sacada - 00:01:13
Multiples - "Chained" Back Sacadas - 00:02:49

The Missing Information.  There's a free tip (for registered free users) that's not here because you're not logged in. If you were logged in, you'd see a free tip, but because you're not, you're not seeing it. So ? If you want the free tip, then go register as a free user and login. 🙂 However, if you want the toys, and to see the 31:38 HD quality video on how to properly lead and follow the Back Sacada and all the toys that go with it. Then you have 2 options. 1.) You can buy it. or 2.) You can subscribe!

You're Not Logged In: If you were paid user of this site you could login to your account, you'd see a different video from the one above! You'd see the full Back Sacada video.

Watch It On Youtube ? Why should you pay for this video or 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 the how a Back Sacada works! That’s why!

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' and Social Dance Vocabulary and it's execution. 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.

Engaging The Embrace

Engaging The Embrace

A Lead’s Job. The fact is that in modern Argentine Tango, while the Follower most certainly has a role and a job (several), setting the tone and style of the embrace is the squarely the job of the Lead. The Follower, as sexist as this sounds, fills that space with their complimentary embrace. And so that we don’t slight the Follower’s role in this regard, we will discuss the Follower’s side of this equation in a later article and requisite video. Right now we’re talking about a Lead thing. Further still, a Follower should not stop reading at this point. Think of this article, from your perspective, as pulling back the curtain of the seemingly black art of leading. Or think of it as ideally what your lead wants to do but more than likely is not doing.

Leads you have a role and a job, several, and one of them is creating an embrace structure that is comfortable for the Follower while at the same time creates the iconic visual that is a Tango embrace, that allows for maximum effect with minimal input. Put another way, you have 3 primary goals: 1.) Navigation. 2.) Architecture. and 3.) Music. Under the category of Architecture we have 2 sub-categories. 2a.) Form. and 2b.) Vocabulary. Think of 2a as what we look like (the visual), and think of 2b as what you do with 2a in time to 3, while employing 1. And all of that starts with - Engaging The Embrace.

Typically what happens: You step onto the floor without engaging proper floorcraft (which we will discuss in a later video series), then you grab your follower’s right hand, lift it, then step in with your right, leaning in with your right shoulder, and then place them in your armpit (the Follower willy-nilly goes there as well), and then wrap your right arm around them, and then almost immediately there after you begin throwing vocabulary at your Followers in the hopes that they won’t see that you have no idea what you’re doing to a tango, milonga, or vals!

The Problem ? For a good portion of Followers they want a gentle, guiding, clear, clean, non-compressive, non-restrictive, non-pushing, non-pulling, non-resistive experience that does not include being told what to do as their doing it. But what they get is something akin to what typically happens. And that’s not covering what happens inside the dance itself. Typically the Lead is forceful and doesn’t listen for the Follower’s response, which is kind of important. Instead they rush from vocabulary choice to vocabulary choice (ochos, turns, more ochos, lots of turns…etc). The issue is that throughout all of that the Lead’s embrace is restrictive, resistive, and compressive (resistance based dancing), trying to control the Follower instead of inviting them to do X, Y, and Z. Guiding them, suggesting, inviting, proposing. What they get is control, contain, push, pull, and a host of manhandling with the lead’s arms. This is not something that anyone wants to have happen to them, and yet this is precisely what passes for ‘dancing’ a good portion of the time and it’s not desirable on multiple levels.

The Right Conditions. The whole issue above stems from the Lead’s inability to create a platform to work from - an embrace that is calming at at the same time clear without the use of force. That starts with creating the right conditions. The Right Conditions ? We ideally want to calm the Follower’s mind. Quite honestly, they’re freaking out. Why ? Because they have no idea what craziness (especially if it’s a Milonga tanda) that the Lead is going to come up with. They have to be ready for anything. Understand that it is a jarring experience for most Followers. The Right Conditions here are first creating calmness in your body, in your posture, in your arms, everywhere. Just calm, quiet. That quietness is incredibly important. We want kinesthetic silence. What we generate is what they hear. And if they’re hearing kinesthetic ‘noise’ then we’ll get that in response! So ideally, we want a calmness in our attitude and kinesthetic quietness in our bodies. We don’t want anything that will create a ripple in them. Think of the right conditions as though it were a placid lake at dawn or sunset. We want that mirror reflection of motionless to reflect the sky. The Follower, in this analogy, is the sky.

Where To Begin. Most of this ‘calming’ starts with your own body posture. Learning how to engage good posture that is at once not ramrod straight but rather upright using the body’s natural inclinations (corrected of course because a good portion of you have terrible ‘natural’ posture). A posture that does not rely on force, or tension in any way, shape, or form. No more than is necessary to hold the body upright. And even that’s sometimes too much, and the language used to describe this stuff is sometimes very vague and not very helpful. However, there is a language that describes this stuff perfectly - Alexander Technique! Put simply Alexander Technique was developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander, and is an kinesthetic process that retrains your ability to realign your body’s natural posture and secondarily to avoid unnecessary muscular tension. Alexander had the belief that your self-awareness could be inaccurate which is created as a result of bodily stresses and situations that we learn over time that we must unlearn, which as a result in created unnecessary muscular tension when standing or sitting with body weight unevenly distributed, holding the head incorrectly, walking or running inefficiently, etc. In other words, Alexander Technique is the language that you have been looking for to describe how to correct what you’re doing with your posture and so much more.

To be a bit clearer, there is a perception in Tango that your posture must be ramrod straight, this is a holdover from two very distinct areas. 1.) Ballroom (yes Ballroom has infected tango). 2.) Performance Based Tango. Both of these things have contributed to the less than helpful idea that we must hold ourselves in these almost impossible positions for hours on end to ‘look nice’ to dance with. Followers will know this the moment it’s written here, but you see they’ve danced with those ramrod straight dancers, the ones that look nice to dance with but the moment they get into the embrace they realize they’ve made a mistake. Good posture does not need to be ramrod straight in order to be good. It does however, need to be comfortable, and at the same time upright without contortions in any way, shape, or form.

That Thing We Do. The fact is that a good portion of you reading this have a body problem. You want and then again you don’t want. In one respect you want to be touched and in another respect you don’t. You want to be hugged and embraced, and then again you don’t. You want to be next to someone, close, very close, touching close, but at the same time….not. Society says one thing, Tango says another. It’s a diametric opposite that you just can’t get away from. There are perfectly good reasons why you want, because it feels good. It’s pretty simple. And there are a few double dozen reasons why you don’t want….someone hasn’t showered recently, is really sweaty, has bad breath, someone is soaked through with sweaty clothing, and then there’s the ‘sexual energy’ thing that most men are completely unaware of, but women are very aware of. And while we’re talking about sex. From a Male Leading position, there’s the whole female breast/body thing. Society says you can look (not directly) while publicly you can not touch directly. Which flies in the face of Tango, which says ‘touch’ and quite literally place your body wrapped around your partners, while at the same time don’t touch too much. It can be a little confusing, but you generally follow the rules of good, respectful conduct, which states - don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want your mother to know about! At the same time, as a Lead, you want to create a platform from the plane of your body that is almost like a comfortable couch or bed to sleep on. Why ? Because the Follower is going to spend the next 9 to 12 minutes there! That’s why. From a Female Following position, you have a body with a brain, chest, hips, and curves everywhere. I know, right ? Mansplaining….oy. Society sexualizes your body constantly, in every detail, it’s not like you can forget it because it’s everywhere you look. Your body, is as happenstance of Argentine Tango, going to be touched, in sometimes inappropriate places and ways by men you wouldn’t normally have anything to do with except as it happens to be required in Tango. That requirement ? The plane of your body must meet the plane of your lead’s body in every way possible. It’s like form meeting function. Or peanut butter meeting jelly. Or … you get the point. Why ? Because you want to be able to hear (kinesthetically speaking) your Lead in exacting details, and that requires the plane of your body to be in complete contact with your Lead. Backing away from that, makes your job, your role, much….much more difficult than it needs to be. From a dancing perspective, what we're really talking about is close embrace dancing. Ideally we want to be sternum to sternum, sometimes referred to as a ‘core’ embrace format, or ‘square’ embrace format. Sometimes referred to as Body-On-Body contact. That’s not to say that a ‘v’ or ‘closed-v’ or ‘open-v’, or ‘open’, ‘slightly off-gigline’ body-on-body isn’t valid. It just means that these versions of close embrace create situations or kinesthetic dynamics that are more or less preferable for the Lead and not necessarily the Follower. Like for instance Turns (see the Armpit Dancer). Ideally you want your partner to be right in front of you, gigline to gigline for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is ease of dancing on multiple levels. So the whole body-on-body is very important as it relates to what has to happen in the dance, it’s the thing we do. Without that physiological, deep (psychological), physical, kinesthetic contact in the dance, let’s just say it makes things a bit more challenging.

Your Arms. Frequently a good portion of you use your arms and hands to direct the Follower. This is called ‘Paddling the Follower’. We do not want to do this. Instead we want to allow the Follower to ‘float’ or move within your embrace structure. However, that’s not what happens. We apply tension, force, compression, to either control or to indicate which way we’d like the Follower to go. In specific we use our right hand, right forearm, and left arm as a whole. This is not desirable. By the way, this is that bullshit paragraph that appears in every single one of these articles that is just specific enough but not entirely specific to actually help you. If you were to register and then upgrade that to a paid subscription, you would see an entirely different paragraph here that tells you specifically what you want to do. And you'd see the missing 4 minutes of the video above in the proper order. Oh yeah, the video above is slightly out of order than how I shot it. You want to see it in it's proper context.

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The Last Word - Difference. There can be a difference in you, but isn’t going to happen by itself. It requires a few things. First, a willingness to want to make a difference. And frequently that doesn't happen because you think or believe you've already arrived. Secondly, a good, reliable source for this kind of information – hint ... this website! And thirdly repeatable, clear, clean information that you can play with, over and over again. That's where this website comes in and the videos that are sitting behind the paywall. Register for free. But if you really want to take things to the next level, upgrade that registration to a GOLD level user, and start redeveloping your Tango technique today.

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Leading Technique

Leading Technique

Leading. Often the first thing we see when looking at Argentine Tango is the Tango Lead. It’s that sharp, clear, clean visual that strikes us almost immediately. We see the the visual of someone leading, and it’s this confusion, appreciation, amusement, bewilderment and just down right awe (in some cases) of a ‘wow’. Next the thing that we pay attention to is what they’re doing, not how they’re doing it, but what specifically they’re doing. You’re waiting, with anticipation, for that next cool, flashy move that screams - ‘Good Lead’. And the last thing that you start to become aware of is the musical expression, meaning how they’re placing the what they’re doing in time to the music, not necessarily how specifically it relates (that’s called interpreting the music by the way) to the music but really the execution in time to the music.

Truthfully depending on where we are in/at in the spectrum of leading (the activity), then this explanation of the dynamic of leading can be an eye opening experience on multiple levels for a variety of reasons (again, depending on where you are on the spectrum). At the same time, that experience is what usually shapes us, defines us, and ultimately it will inspire us to want to study toward being like that which we see…to emulate it. 🙂 Or it may turn us off entirely for a variety of reasons, perhaps because it looks too complex, too difficult, or it's too much, or not 'us' at all. Again, this all depends on where you are on the spectrum of leading. If you're just starting out then literally everything you see everyone else is doing is nothing short of magical. The further you go towards the 'advanced' dancer and closer towards the teacher class dancer (those who could teach but don’t) realm the less magical things are and the more technical things become, and the more you want to figure out why X, Y, and Z happens. That's exactly where this topic comes into play. 

This topic assumes that you've gotten beyond the "Wow!!! That's Amazing!!" phase and have just started to get down to the actual business of leading. And to be clear, this topic also assumes that you've gotten beyond the rudimentary foundation of walking, embrace, turning, crossing, and leading ochos, and are looking for a change towards something that looks a bit more elegant than the random, haphazard thing you have witnessed at your local milongas that's loosely called 'dancing'.

Perhaps you've started to pay attention to how someone is doing X, Y, and Z, and found it to be lacking or amazing and wondered….’how do they do that ?’. Or more than likely you have caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror as you turn a corner and are either impressed with what you see and want more, or generally you try to avert your eyes as you pass by a mirror or someone's facebook picture of you. You generally try to avoid it because you know it's just going to be awful to look at. The mere thought of you leading, or watching yourself lead, is an exercise in excruciating visual pain. You know where all the problems are at, you know what you have forgotten in the multiple private lessons that you've taken, you know that you should be practicing this stuff on a daily if not weekly basis but you don't. You know all of this stuff...you've just forgotten it, and there it is in the mirror, staring back at you, unapologetic, and very truthful that you could do better than you are right now.  

If all of that is true, then this topic of Leading Technique is all for you. 

Check Please! The video above is small snippet of a full HD video (9 videos in all). You can purchase Lead Technique for just 79.95 not including your level discount.

 

The Reason Why. There is a very simple reason why we study the topic of Leading Technique. It's because we want to look better in the role of the lead. It doesn't get any more simple than that. The fact is that anyone, regardless of gender, can lead. However, to look elegant, and to do it effortlessly and with ease ? That's technique!

The open secret is that leading technique is somewhat of an open book black art. Meaning ? That it does not take a Rocket Scientist to figure this stuff out and say, "I think I know what that is". Quite honestly there's no special magic to it, there's no secret sauce, no hidden agenda, nothing like that. In it's simplest form good leading technique is best defined in the execution of 3 simple things – forward, side, and back. In much the same way that Follower technique comprises these same things, lead technique does as well at it's core. At the same time it also comprises the embrace components, posture, walking continuously – not just a single step, turning, crossing, ochos, and so on. Viewed from this perspective, leading technique takes on a whole different layer of madness that will drive you over the edge of sanity into the realm of minutiae and maddening subtlety. And that's where having access to a good, clean, clear materials and resources is absolutely crucial towards you looking elegant and feeling elegant. The reality is that any idiot can 'look' elegant, however feeling elegant to dance with ? That is a whole other layer of OMG! And that's essentially what you're after when you think of why you would want and need to study Leading Technique.

So the reason of ‘why’ boils down to – you are looking for a way to generate not just the visual representation of being a good lead that you associate with the "OMG" Leads (the person not the activity) in the room with but more important, the elegance of their lead, and the effortless by which they do those things that uniquely qualify them as a ‘Good Lead’.

First things First. When building a good Lead, you have to deconstruct a few basic things in that lead in order to change them from ‘yawn’ to ‘omg’. So what’s the first thing towards the transformation ? You would think that the thing to start with is the Lead’s walk. And you’d be wrong. No. The very first thing is their foundation of how they’re standing, their posture! Change their posture, and you change 70% of how they’ll move. Mind you, they’ll instantly revert back towards less than desirable ways of moving because they don’t know any better or different but that’s a horse of a different color. No, the very first thing you must deconstruct and then reconstruct in a Lead, is their posture and their relationship to the floor. How they hold themselves, and how they place their feet on the floor is absolutely crucial to changing them.

What’s next ? Again, you would think that this is about their walk. No. Again, it’s about the component elements of that walk, not the walk itself. And those component elements break down into two areas: The Extension and then Foot Placement! Meaning ? How they extend their legs, walking forwards (usually) and how they place their foot on the floor after that extension. Is this walking yet ? No. It’s redefining how to move while dancing. Re-writing the base code of movement and replacing it with something that, at the beginning, is going to seem insanely difficult, and later on will (with time and practice) become second nature. The walking part ? That comes later. Right now this is changing their posture, and their extensions.

Next is the foot placement and weight transfers. Probably the single most important thing you can do for a Lead is change how they place their foot on the floor and then resulting weight transfers that go with it. Truthfully this stuff is not sexy at all but boy does it ever define sexy when executed nicely. By itself, there’s not much to this, and you’d think that there’s really no point in how you place your foot on the floor but that foot placement is pretty much everything. Execute it right and the elegance that you seek is accessible. Execute it poorly and your ass is going to end up staring at a the ceiling and wondering WTF happened! Foot placement is everything! It’s not sexy but boy is it ever the core of the whole ball of wax!

What’s Next ? It’s at this point where we have to talk about Intention and Intention Based Dancing. The fact is that at this juncture a lead can easily go right off the rails, as it were, by thinking one thing and then doing another (read that as becoming a Resistance Based Dancer). All too easily. And it’s important to reinforce the ideals of Intention. Which are to suggest, invite, propose, engage, cajole, tease, intimate, and yes, intend to do something and then create space for the Follower execute what was intended. Failure to reinforce this stuff early on, and you’ll easily devolve into resistance, force, compression, rigidity and all sorts of undesirable ways of dancing. Which is basically what you’re doing right now, and no one is telling you that for fear of hurting your feelings, including your teachers!

The reality is that the effortlessness that one seeks can only be achieved through two means that are seemingly counter intuitive with each other. The first is through controlled, conscious, and contained kinesthetic and physiological movements. Precision based movement. And the second ? Honesty with oneself. All the technique in the world, no matter how much you execute it will not change you. You have to recognize that you need to improve and want to improve. And that starts with a frank, honest conversation with yourself. It’s the realization, and you’ll pardon the vulgarity of this statement – that you suck today, you’re going to suck tomorrow, and you will continue to to suck for a very long time going forward. And that as time goes forward, assuming the first is moving along at a nice pace, you’ll suck a little less than you did the day before, but not by much. At the same time you’ll need constant reminders to do X, Y, and Z. Because like it or not you are going to drift from what you saw once in a workshop, you’re going to veer from the path towards what is comfortable for you and what you can do versus what you need to do. You’ll misremember something, you’ll invent whole new ways or methodologies to excuse yourself from doing the work that needs to be done. And on top of that, you’ll abdicate your responsibility of doing X, Y, and Z, placing that in the Follower instead of yourself.

So effortlessness ? This is only one piece of the work on the road towards good, clean Leading Technique. Still another is being honest with oneself!

Achieving effortlessness ? Foundational exercises. Ballet rises (yes, even for a Lead) are a good place to start. Next are back cross twists, forward cross twists, enrosque twists, opposition and disassociation exercises, and finally arm/torso/head controlled movement exercises. Rewire that, replace it with contained, controlled movements and you’re onto something!

The Embrace. Once you have all of that checked off your list. You have to put things in their rightful context.  And that means working with the embrace. Because all of the above is absolutely pointless if your embrace is compressive and restrictive. So it’s at this juncture that we now employ the execution of intention based dancing within the confines of a skin-to-skin or fabric-to-skin or fabric-to-fabric haptic dancing. Better known as Tango Haptics, Meaning tactile compression information as it relates to Argentine Tango. Duh! 🙂

The reality is that a good portion of you reading this stuff have embrace issues that are quite literally standing in your way of being a desirable lead. Compression, Restriction, Force, Tension, Rigidity, Pressure, good lord, it’s a wonder that half of the Followers that you dance with don’t stop after the first 2 seconds and a.) slap you for squeezing the living daylights out of them. and/or b.) walk off the floor because you’re pushing and pulling and paddling them with your right hand and forearm. Seriously dude, if you had this happen to you, you’d probably drop the embrace with whatever idiot lead you’re dancing with and look him squarely in the eye and say “SERIOUSLY WITH THE SQUEEZING ?”. Not so much with that! That’s the reality. So if you wouldn’t want it done to you, why on earth are you doing it to your Followers ?

Now comes the hard part, a good portion of the Followers that you’re dancing with are not going to tell you any of this stuff because they have a.) A hard time speaking truth to power. b.) Don’t want to hurt your feelings because you’ll never dance with them again. and c.) They don’t have the language to describe to you X, Y, and Z and they don’t lead (a good portion of them don’t, but more and more are thankfully!).

Truthfully your embrace is absolutely key to containing all the work that you did above with your posture, extensions, foot placement, and intention. And an embrace that doesn’t need to restrict the movement of the Follower is an absolutely crucial step towards being a desirable Lead to dance with.

Talking About The Walk! Finally, we talk about walking, or more importantly how one executes all of the above within the construct of a walk and within the construct of the embrace and within the confines of simple movements like leading a traveling or milonguero ocho, or leading a molinete, or leading an argentine cross. Because each one of these movements require you to walk well, to walk cleanly, to walk with stability and equilibrium!

If we’ve done our job above, then the walk should become an extension of those ideals. It quite literally happens all by its lonesome. The walk is built above good posture, clean extensions, precise foot placement, and entry points to walking and everything else. Make those contiguous and constant and you’re on to something. The elegance that you seek is not in the walk itself but rather the stuff contained within that walk. The things already mentioned. 🙂

The Bridge To Better Dancing ? As leads, a good portion of what we’re going to be leading are Ochos (Traveling & Milonguero), Turns (Open Embrace, Close Embrace, or Milonguero), and Crosses (Argentine & Back), and the foundations of those leads are going to come from the things listed above - e.g. how the Lead moves in relation to what is intended or led. If that base  movement is clean, clear, controlled, and consistent, then the resulting leads for Ochos, Turns, and Crosses will be so crystal clear, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t done this work to begin with. And there’s a good reason why this work isn’t done at the start, because it’s minutiae, it’s much harder than the steps, patterns, and figures. This is precision kinesthetic control of your body to reflect a very specific visual representation of how you want to be seen doing something. Now we add the next component – how it feels! Each component by themselves is maddening, together if you don’t have the foundation for this stuff, if you don’t have a clear idea of what the end result is going to be will drive you right off the deep end!

The Leap of Faith. A good portion of the time when it comes to this stuff, you really do have to take a leap of faith that the person you’re getting this stuff from knows what they’re talking about (assuming that there’s any talking going on about leading technique to begin with), and can describe it in a way that works for you, while at the same time you can see the end results and are pleased with them. The caveat here is that a good portion of the time ‘technique’ is often masked inside the vocabulary and infrequently is it separated from the vocabulary. They go hand in hand, or so you would think. That’s not entirely true. You can take someone’s technique of how X, Y, and Z is done and marry it to the execution of different vocabulary with surprising results. But that’s a horse of a different color for another time. It’s only mentioned here as a factor in the separation of technique from vocabulary that it is possible to do.

About The Video. This video is 9 separate videos.

Video 1 - Overview & Exercise - 00:23:21
Video 2 - Opposition - 00:17:37
Video 3 - Lead Extensions - 00:04:08
Video 4 - Lead Foot Placement - 00:05:50
Video 5 - Lead Entry Paths - Part A - 00:03:00
Video 6 - Lead Entry Paths - Part B - 00:02:02
Video 7 - Lead Embraces Foundation - 00:14:54
Video 8 - Lead Embraces - Repositioning - 00:17:43
Video 9 - Enrosque Foundation - 00:12:20

It can be purchased for $79.95 or downloaded as part of your subscription with a discount.

The Ultimate Arbiter. The last word on this subject is not your teacher, it’s not this website, nor is it you. There’s really only one arbiter of good taste in this case, and it’s the Follower. If the class of follower that you’re used to dancing with approves of what you’re doing, you’re on to something. Truthfully they are the final word on whether or not you’re doing good things or less than desirable things. That assumes that a.) You have the fortitude to ask (at a practica) about how you look and feel to them. b.) That their response is honest. (Frequently they’re not for the reasons already stated above) and c.) There’s some kind of meaningful feedback that you can pull from the most basic of frequent replies “That was nice”. Which is the extent of what you’ll get most of the time, unless you ask a series of leading questions of what in specific was ‘nice’ about it.

You know you’re on to something when other people that you don’t dance with acknowledge the change in you and start to compliment you on the difference in you.

The Last Word - Change. Change isn’t going to happen by itself. It requires a few thing. First, a willingness to make these kinds of changes. Secondly, a good, reliable source for this kind of information. And thirdly demonstratable, repeatable information that you can play with, over and over again.

Fortunately you have one, and that’s this website and resulting videos contained with in. This site exists for this sole purpose. And in specific this topic of Leading Technique has a video series that you can either download (purchase), or subscribe to see it and the 150+ videos on the topics of Foundation, Walking, Ochos, Turns, Crosses, Sacadas, Colgadas, Volcadas, Barridas, Paradas, and a host of other things. All here for you to watch, over and over again. And that all starts with hitting that little green button that says “SUBSCRIBE”.

 

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 cross...is 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 ? Well...watch 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. 🙁 Unless...you 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, however...it 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 steps...it 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 ourselves...you 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 pauses...no. 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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The ‘Ballet’ Rise

The 'Ballet' Rise Exercise

Let's dispense with a few misnomers right out of the gate. 1.) Balance is not the same thing as Stability. 2.) Balance is a component of Stability. 3.) Your stability is generated via 3 very different mechanisms that are all connect via your nervous system. And so that we're clear on this one, one of them is not your 'core', and anyone that tells you different is either lying through their eye-teeth, or doesn't understand anatomy and physiology of the human body. Truth be told, your 'core' muscles have absolutely nothing to do with stability. Nada. Zip. Zero. 

A Ballet Rise is an exercise that every Tango dancer should be familiar with before they put on a pair of heels as either a lead or a follow, it does not matter. The exercise is designed specifically to strengthen your very, very, very weak muscles and more importantly the tendons around the first 5 metatarsals of your foot. For some people that walk in heels all day long, those tendons will be a bit stronger than some, but not always. The tendons that surround the 5 Metatarsals are the weakest for a variety of reasons, and for some people they never bother to strengthen them mostly because no one tells them that they need to do so, and as a direct result of the lack of work (read that as exercise) that they're not doing, they'll end up with weak tendons, and thereby unable to hold a walking or articulated foot position, or they'll land improperly and not be able to recover from it, and or the more common of the affectations is clear and present lack of stability. This singular exercise is quite possibly the single most important exercise that they will ever need to do. And yes, believe or not, they do not know how to do this. But you're a smart person, right ? You know how to do this, right ? Right ? Hmmmm, well just as a refresher you should watch the teaser video above to refresh your memory.

Truthfully when this topic comes up for students, they make a few very important and key errors. Not the least of which is going too fast. This exercise isn't about speed. Speed teaches and strengthens nothing. This is about going slow. Very slow. The slower, the better! 

Linking Notation: All the links on this site are internal definition links, nothing is external (excluding tangotopics youtube channel, and facebook like & share links), meaning the links are there to create a deeper and richer clarity.

Purchase! The video above is small snippet of a full HD video (total runtime: 8m:31s). You can purchase The Ballet Rise for just 12.99 not including your level discount.

From a Following perspective, you have your work cut out for you. Your stability is directly related to 2 things. 1.) How you place your foot on the floor, and your proprioceptive abilities. Meaning how and what you sense around you without looking. What makes things challenging for you is your Lead. 9 times out of 10, they're compressing the embrace (squeezing the living daylights out of you because no one has told them to stop doing it), and/or squeezing your right hand and then using your right arm as if it were a joystick, thereby compromising you and your stability. And when that's not happening, they're usually rushing from vocabulary choice to vocabulary choice not really completing one idea nor the next. 🙁 And then blaming you for not keeping up. Compounding the problem are you in your pretty 3 in. heels that you were forced into almost immediately when you weren't really ready for them at all. And that seemingly were devised by a madman (actually they go back as far as the 8th or 9th centuries to the Persian horse riders as a way to stay in stirrups, and then there's the rumor/history of a danish king that used them to stand above his court and subjects but that's another topic that's already been covered in Tango Truism 809Volume 2). Still another compound problem is that the surface area of the heel is 40% of a normal shoe and you're supposed to instantly master your stability in these things while at the same time, turning, disassociating, applying that disassociation (erroneously thought of as a 'pivot'), and at the same time appearing elegant, and on/in time to what is being 'led', all while in the embrace of a Lead that can barely walk that's blaming you for all of their screw ups. Yup. Tall task. Good luck with that! 

From a Leading perspective, your ability to control your next steps and ultimately your next vocabulary choice is quite literally based on just how stable you are. The more stable you are, the easier it is to pull off whatever it is you want. That stability can be impacted by any number of things, foot placement, foot position, lateral foot orientation, the floor itself, knee position, an embrace that is compressive (yours and your follower's), and a follower that is hanging on you, just to name a few. In the end you must learn how to compensate for all of these things (and one of those compensations is a slight bit of knee compression - a micro bend). Your forward steps while appearing 'elegant' must also be very stable, you must learn to balance these things against each other. What makes this stuff even more challenging is that you have another human being in front of you that has their own issues going on that you must learn to 'hear'/'feel', and then learn to negate those issues (one by one) while at the same time maintaining forward momentum, good posture, while in time to the music, and all without pushing, pulling, or using resistance in any way, shape, or form so that the Follower can 'float' within the construct of the embrace. 🙂 Tall order ? Yup. You didn't think this was going to be easy did you ? And in case you're wondering, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what makes a 'good' dancer good!

dancing in a small space ? watch these videos!

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The Dancing Fact is that most of these things are related to one thing and one thing only...how the dancer places their foot in contact with the floor. Note the nomenclature: 'dancer'. Not 'Lead' (the person), Not, 'Follower'. No. 'Dancer'. Got it ? This is a gender, and really role agnostic reality that a good portion of you lot need to get your heads around. There are certain motions that are very common to both roles, and this is one of them, stability is a problem for both roles. So consequently what works for one role in terms of exercises, works for the other as well!

Quite honestly your stability can be controlled through a series of confined exercises that, if done daily, will greatly improve control of your weight transfers regardless of role, age, height, or weight! Although shedding more than a few pounds will probably do wonders for you in the long run as well.

The Ballet Rise Exercise ? One exercise that comes to mind that can help you control and contain your stability is The 'Ballet' Rise Exercise. It is so named because it comes from 1st position of Ballet. However, it borrows heavily from a guiding Tango idea: Collection! The exercise is seemingly easy at first but quickly you realize that you're going to be very unstable the first few times you try it. Truthfully you're going to wobble, you're going to waiver, you're going to 'shaky' and uncontrolled in the beginning (read that as a few days if not weeks). However in the long run it really does a wonder on your achilles tendon, as well as the 5 metatarsals (the bones of the foot) and their related tendons, as well as the phalanges (the bones of the toes) and their tendons. Talk about a humdinger of an exercise that will blow your mind ? This is the bomb! And the best part is that you can do this by yourself, as much or as little as you want, whenever you want. Standing in line, talking to someone, anywhere. You don't need to go to the studio, you don't need to go anywhere. You can do this in the comfort of your own home. 

Reality. The exercise does not come without some warnings like if you've had surgery on an Achilles Tendon, or you have chronic Plantar Fasciitis, check with your Doctor or Physical therapist before you do this kind of work. It would be a real bummer if you had to stop dancing altogether because you have ruptured or injured your tendons! So don't just jump right in and think that you're good to go. If you have these issues, then check before you jump, ok ? Otherwise, read on. Still another reality is that when starting out with the 'rise', it's important that we not overdo it. So a good practice is to perform the exercise on an 8 count very slowly, 10 times. One 8 count up, and one 8 Count down...is one repetition. Doing it more than once in a day is counter productive. So it's best to do this first thing in the morning and then to let it go. There's no reason to do it more than that. Unless you're feeling like you didn't get your reps in for the day, in which case...go do. Still another reality is that more in this case is not better, the effect is cumulative, not iterative. Meaning the more that you do is not going to improve you. This work is done over time, typically a 30 day period of time at minimum.

The key to this work is really the speed at which this is done: Slower is better. This isn't about powering through this, but rather slow and patient, mindful work! The goal of this work is to build up strength, endurance, and control. And you will learn nothing through speed! Control is not gained through powering through something but rather slow and patient understanding of this process. One more key, it is important that you not lock out your knees during this exercise. You actually want a 'micro' bend to them! 

The Benefits ? The benefits of this exercise will take time to show up. It's not going to magically happen over night. Get used to that fact. This exercise requires patience, practice, and persistence to see the benefits. And quite honestly just because you do this a few times, nothing is going to magically change in your dance. Nothing. The exercise must performed religiously every. single. day. before you start your day!  The benefits will be felt gradually, and in specific how your foot comes in contact with the floor. You'll feel a bit more control, a bit more stability and a bit more as if you can do what you want with very little effort. That's because you're building up the strength in the tendons around the bones in question. Something you quite honestly don't use all that often in quite this way. This exercise forces you to use those tendons in new and expansive ways that you will end up using in tango whether or not you realize it or not. One benefit is that you will finally be able to control that super enrosque that you want, or an over-rotation because the muscles of the foot have been strengthened for you to effectively hold your weight. Whereas prior to this work, you would fall out of the rotation or enrosque! Still another benefit is that you'll be able to hold a backstep for a few seconds longer without wobbling, or a forward step without needing to hold onto your Follower for stability! See there's that word again, stability! In short, control the foot, and you control the application of your stability! Oh and before we forget, so the 3 things above that control your stability ? 1.) Your feet. 2.) Your inner ear. 3.) Your cerebellum! Your 'balance' is an affectation of your inner ear, not (for the love of christ) your 'core', please stop repeating that lie. 

Fortunately for you, dear reader, you have access to a video that explains and shows you what to do and how to do it, and even better that you can watch it and share it with your friends. Now if only you were a Silver or Gold Level Member, then you could see the entire video. But alas you're not, unless you were to subscribe... ©Tango Topics. 

Follower Technique – Part 1

Follower Technique

The very words for most Followers boils down to 5 things, minus adornments and embellishments. 1.) Posture. 2.) Embrace. 3. ) Forward Steps. 4.) Side Steps. 5.) Back Steps. A good portion of the time this training also covers Body Position and Body Placement within the construct of the embrace (e.g. how to stay in front of and then with your Lead). The training usually stops there and does NOT include a physical dissertation on Disassociation or Applied Disassociation...but rather perpetuates the fallacy that a 'pivot' is Disassociation and that they're the same things – they're not. All of this in service to do several things all that same time: a.) To improve the Follower's kinesthetic capabilities with regards to the 5 things listed above. b.) To create a deeper awareness of the 5 things. c.) To give the Follower a slightly better toolset than they had previously. Usually this is done in a single 2 or 3 hour session whereby afterwards the Follower is supposed to have magically improved by leaps and bounds. Ummmmm...ahem....not bloodly likely, not today, not tomorrow, and not next week. Follower technique does not magically happen after 2 or 3 hours of 'class'. It is a diligent study that happens over a long period of time of patient study, correction, influence, building skills, and most importantly – time, and lots of it.

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From a Leading Perspective most Leads (the person) don't have the skill set, or the language for that matter, to describe, be aware of, or to witness whether or not a Follower is executing proper technique. This is mostly because they don't dance the role of the Follower themselves. Isn't it odd that a good portion of them dole out advice to Follower's in attempt to 'help' as to what the Follower should be doing though ? (ahem...it's not 'odd', it's down right rude and wrong) The only thing that they're truly aware of is whether or not the Follower is in the right place, at the right time, when they asked (or in a lot of cases told, and shoved) them to be. They can sort of tell when it feels good, and they can tell when it's not. Which mostly boils down to when the Follower isn't 'following' what they believe they were leading (the action). This comprises the Lead's understanding of 'good' Follower Technique. Honestly the lot of them could give a damn if the Follower does X, Y, or Z just as long as they do what what was led. If they add anything, just make damned certain that it doesn't get in the way of what the almighty Lead is leading, and for good christ's sake don't screw it up! And whatever is done, don't miss anything!!! Or heaven's forbid engage in an actual conversation or have a thought as to what should happen. That would be....tantamount to sacrilege! Pahhhh-leeease.

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From a Following Perspective a good portion of Followers DO know Follower Technique when they see it. They're not able to describe what they're looking at (mostly because they don't have the language descriptors). However, they are able to witness and recognize it. Unfortunately that recognition is limited to the awareness of what they've been exposed to, which boils down to the prettier Followers that get all the dances and emulating their 'habits' which masquerades as 'technique' that those Followers learned from watching YouTube videos of a performance of someone else's and then doing their own version of it! Ding! Instant 'technique'. 

From a Dancing Perspective as long as the dance is served, and everything comes out alright, quite honestly seemingly no one gives a damn. As long as there is no blood lost, no limbs injured, and there are smiles, giggles and laughter at the end of the tanda, quite honestly...no one cares whether or not 'proper' technique was executed or not. Until someone comes onto the floor, that is executing proper technique, and then the whole room is talking about nothing BUT that, and then all of a sudden everyone cares!

The Dancing Fact is that the 'Technique' actually matters a whole lot on multiple levels. It matters because the correct execution of that technique actually improves, not only the quality of the experience as a whole, but it improves each and every single step, which in turn improves the quality of the vocabulary being executed, which in turn improves the quality of the dance on the whole! It quite literally changes a dance from 'meh' to 'omg'. However that 'omg' has a lot of gradations built into it for one simple reason: It depends on the amount of study and practice time, the amount of detailed information that they possess and are able to access at any one time, and more importantly the level of corrective self behavior the Follower has employed previously to change or correct their abilities. So that 'omg' is very subjective. However you do recognize the 'skillz' when you see it and more importantly when you dance with it. The skillz are the difference between 'omg' and "oh my f*cking GOD!!!" Execute them properly and you're on to something that separates you from the run-of-the-mill Follower. Execute them poorly and you're going to end up sitting more often than not. 

Quite honestly good follower technique rocks! The operative word in the sentence ? 'Good'. There's lots of less-than-desirable technique out there, and there's also a lot of desirable technique. And there's a lot of technique out there for Export. ie: Show Tango masquerading as Social Tango. Stop and think about it, when you're on a social dance floor do you need your legs flying all over the place or adorning and/or embellishing every 3rd step ? Seriously ? You would only do that if you were performing for the 15th row to Pugliese or Piazzolla based music when you have an entire stage to yourself and aren't in the line of dance. In other words – stage tango. Proper Follower Technique executed within the embrace does not need to interrupt the lead (the action) at all, it only enhances the overall experience of the dance, the embrace, the walk, the desired vocabulary, and to a limited degree - the musical interpretation....or basically everything you do. 🙂

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Learning proper technique ? Really that's the question. Do you want to learn ? And then when you're done learning it, are you going to practice it ? Because learning it is one thing. Practicing the frak out of it is another. Truthfully you can learn proper technique but you absolutely MUST spend a fair amount of time actually practicing what you learned. Failure to do that, and you're just putting money in someone's pocket for an hour or two, and it was a complete waste of time because you're not practicing it – daily! The fact of the matter is that if you don't practice it, daily, then it's not going to happen on a social dance floor when you need it the most. If you have to stop and think about it, you're screwed. Hence the reason you practice the frak out of it. And yes, sadly, this does require repetition...but not mindless repetition but rather mindful, conscious repetition of watching yourself in a mirror, spending a few hours every week in front of it, going over what you can remember. 

Memory. Your memory is fickle. You're going to forget key aspects of what you've been taught. So that means that either you spend a few hours a week with a private teacher which can get rather pricey over time or you invest in a few well produced videos from a few reputable sources. 

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Who to work with ? The question comes up, can you learn proper technique in person ? Yes. Can you learn less than desirable technique in person ? YUP! And the same is true of video work. What matters is the source of the information and goes right back to picking a good teacher or a knowledgeable source of the skill set. Which brings up another question, does that source have to be a woman ? Answer...No, it does not. It can be anyone that has spent a good amount of time studying the form of either role, gender doesn't matter. What matters most is how deeply involved that person has immersed themselves in the form. Quite frankly, most men that invest in being a 'good' Follower want to be better than the women around them because they've recognized that they don't want to be that 'girl' that sits. Further still they want to get it 'right', so they'll invest hours...weeks...months in learning the intricate in's-and-out's of Following. Their goal is not to perform, nor is it necessarily to teach, it's to understand the form as a whole. Truth be told there are more than a few really amazing male Followers in the world and to be quite honest with you, they blow the doors off your run-of-the-mill Followers and more than a few 'performing' teacher Followers IMHO.

Fortunately for you, dear reader, you have access to a teacher that has spent a considerable amount of time learning, relearning, exploring, pulling apart, putting back together, figuring out, asking questions, dancing, studying, more dancing, more studying, investigating, and then a lot more dancing (in heels), discovering every aspect of the role of the Follower from the Embrace to the Walk and back again. Now to be fair, while this teacher does spend a fair amount of time in either role, in class and on a social dance floor it does not necessarily make him all knowing - all seeing but it does make him...shall we say...'aware', and we'll leave it at that.  That being said you may wish to take advantage of that resource by clicking that green button below, just a thought...nudge, nudge, nudge... 😉 ©Tango Topics. 

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