Argentine Rock Steps
The Argentine Rock Step is a very venerable piece of tango vocabulary it’s used quite often as a way to avoid a hazard, and infrequently as a what is primarily supposed to be used for as musical interpretation. More often than naught for a lot of people the addition of the Rock Step is where they stop developing kinesthetically. This becomes their experience, their go to move, and they don’t realize that this is the case. So let’s talk about Today’s Tango Topic: The Argentine Rock Step.
What is A Rock Step ? First let’s define what the word ‘Rock’ means. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the English word ‘Rock’ in this case is being used as a verb. It has a noun form, which means “a mass of stone”. In its verb form, it means “to sway back and forth”. Next, when we apply that idea to Dancing, a ‘Rock’ Step means that you have a step that is going to go from weight transfer to weight transfer, very quickly.
An Argentine Rock Step is a little different. It refers to a very specific construct and is not swaying to from side to side, but actually weight transfer to weight transfer (usually back and forth) sometimes with a Resolution (more on that later). In a lot of ways, a ‘Rock’ Step appears to look like (operative word) as if the couple dancing is a Rocking Chair. The Argentine Rock Step is in the family of ‘Alterations’ of Tango Vocabulary. Meaning that due to a possible Resolution, the Follower’s direction (orientation) changes as a result. One more thing: There is a distinct and clear difference between an Argentine Rock Step and a Check Step and/or Incremental Step as shown in the video below:
The video above shows the difference between the two (and one possible error that happens quite frequently). A Check Step has no weight transfer forward (for the lead) and backwards (for the follower). In the case of the Rock Step there is a clear, and definitive weight transfer backwards AND THEN forwards. 🙂
Pre-Requisites: Walking. Weight Changes. Extensions. One does have to have mastered one’s walk and possess stability in their embrace without using the embrace for stabilization against their partners before they can initiate these ideas.
Difficulty Rating: (2 / 5)
From A Following Perspective there are two things that are going to confuse you about a Rock Step. 1.) The Rocking Motion itself. And 2.) The desire to collect your feet. Let’s deal with the second item first, as it’s the easiest to describe. You’ve been taught to ‘collect’, ‘collect’, ‘collect’, and then along comes the proverbial Rock Step that says, “don’t collect…not just yet”. While there is a collection there, that collection is in fact, a led collection. And that’s the part that will confuse you. Why ? Because a good portion of the Leads you’re currently dancing with will not lead it, and more over they expect that you’ll ‘follow’ them. This is better known as reading their minds. You’re not a mind reader are you ? Hmmmm, probably not.
Now let’s deal with the first of these issues, the ‘Rocking’ motion itself. First and foremost it is actually much like a rocking chair motion, only we don’t actually lift our feet off the ground. It’s more like a weight transfer back then forward more than anything else. Now for the confusing part, we actually want to add a tiny bit of ‘spring’ to the motion itself. Truthfully the rocking motion is kind of dead, there’s no energy to it. And that’s the problem with it right there. You’ll transfer your weight back, and then forward and it’s like a ’thud’. But we don’t want to that to happen, and instead we want a tiny bit of a ‘spring’ motion to happen on the back step. So for this, you’re going to bend your knee and launch into the forward rock.
The advice above, covers the Linear and Parallel/Cross System Rock Steps. However, when we make the step Circular and not Linear, and then make them Parallel or Cross System Rock Steps, and then the possible resolutions out of the Rock Step, this is where things get interesting for you.
Resolutions ? First we have to talk about resolutions. What’s that ? A Resolution means that you want to get back in front of the Lead. Usually facing the lead, your torso plane facing the lead’s. However when we make the Rock Step Circular and Cross system based, your rock step resolution (just the resolution part) is not back in front of your lead, but rather turned perpendicular to them (not shown above but in the Rock Step Video)!
This Circular Cross System Rock Step and Resolution part is a little confusing at first and the reason is that it’s an unusual motion for you, it’s not back to facing your lead. Most of your Tango life to this point has been about resolving back in front of your lead. “Stay in front of your lead” is what you’ll generally hear. The Circular Cross System resolutions specifically breaks that convention. Because you’re not, in certain cases, going to end up facing them, but rather perpendicular to them. 🙂 And you’re going to think to yourself that you missed something, or that you’re behind, or that you’ve ‘disconnected’, and that’s less than desired thinking. If you followed what was led, then you’re not wrong. The fact is that the resolution is awkward, fun, but awkward.
The Caveat of the Rock Step. A good portion of your leads are going to jerk you around with their arms and hands. They’re going to believe that they have to ‘stop’ you. And thereby they’ll feel that they need to pull you towards them. This is an error on their part, they haven’t quite mastered intention based dancing. Neither have you for that matter. So as a result their going to squeeze, or compress, the embrace with their right forearm to stop you from going any further. This is not desirable on their part, but they don’t know it. And since no one has complained about it, they see no reason to change their behavior. Unfortunately this stopping motion has an undesirable visual side effect. It make the couple look ‘choppy’, as if the lead is jerking the Follower around. Truthfully, there’s not a whole lot you can do about this. Sadly. You’ll just have to survive until the end of the song, at which point you can say “thank you” and move on. But that’s your choice. Best practice ? If the squeezing is really painful, switch embrace types, and then if that still doesn’t change anything, you can always say “Thank you” at the end of the song (and not the tanda). Remember to take care of you! There’s one more fix here and that’s to start saying “No” to these leads that Rock Step endlessly, and jerk you around, as shown in the video below.
From a Leading Perspective the Rock Step is over used. Once a Lead learns this stuff they lose their proverbial mind, and it becomes their go to vocabulary for every possible resolution. Further still they have a distinct and clear, unconscious in most cases, desire to squeeze their partners bodies in order to stop them from continuing backwards or forwards or resolving cleanly. It’s an evil thing really. Quite honestly the Rock Step is usually performed without any level elegance unless by a trained professional and sometimes not even that. However, most of the time it’s overused, and executed in a manner that makes the couple appear sloppy and inelegant. 🙁
Now we get to the good parts of the Rock Step. There are some really cool things that we can do with a Rock Step. And the fun parts really begin with the Cross System and Circular versions. Because in both cases they’re door openers to other ideas and other pieces of vocabulary. Basically they’re transition elements. If nothing else, they’ll act like glue between one idea and the next. And it is for this reason that they’re over used. There are other ideas that don’t get used at all that can take their place such as turns, ocho cortados and the options, wraps, colgada turns just to name a few.
One more thing: Stepping backwards in the line of dance. The Rock Step seemingly breaks the convention of stepping backwards in the line of dance, and that’s not necessarily the case. If done properly, it should take up no more space than a single walking open step. However, if you’re concerned that you’re taking up too much space, here’s a free tip: Angle the resolution step, backwards against the line and lane of dance!
From a Dancing Perspective as has been indicated, it’s over used, far too often. There are other ideas that we want to engage. However, from a dancing perspective you’re going to see it every where and think that there’s nothing wrong with it until, after reading this article and seeing the requisite videos that you start to recognize that you use them far too much. Is this article going to change your mind on the topic ? No. Are you going to continue to use them ? Yes. Are you going to continue to over use them and thereby squeeze the living daylights out of your partners ? Yup. So why bother wasting breath on this stuff ? Simple. Awareness. The fact is that the more voices out there telling you not to do something hopefully it will start to sink in. And that, friends, is the point at which change has happened or can occur and that’s part of the reason why this page and the site and the videos under exist. So that change can and does occur, that you begin to think differently about the dance than you have.
About The Video. This video comes is 14:16 in length in ONE section broken up by markers. Both lead and follower technique are combined and integrated in the video.
Section 1 – Introduction – 00:00:48
Section 2 – Lead Technique/Follower Technique – 00:01:15
Section 3 – Side Step Resolutions – 00:02:06
Section 4 – Parallel Linear Rock Steps (Example: Close Embrace) – 00:00:20
Section 5 – Parallel Linear Rock Steps/Resolution (Example: Close Embrace) – 00:00:18
Section 6 – Cross System Rock Steps – 00:01:27
Section 7 – Cross System Resolutions – 00:02:38
Section 8 – Cross System Examples with Resolutions – 00:01:20
Section 9 – Linked Rock Steps (Multiples) – 00:01:50
Section 10 – Chained Rock Steps with Resolutions & Closure – 00:01:57.
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