Tango Building Blocks – Number 1
In Today’s Building Block Episode (#1) we have three pieces of tango vocabulary that are used frequently in most people’s dance:
However, most times we don’t combine them or put them into useful musical expressions. They’re used to get us from point a. to point b. The first of these elements is so ubiquitous that most people don’t even realize they’re employing them. The second gets used with some frequency as an accent idea. And the last one does get used a fair amount and on the scale of execution its difficulty can create a bit of an issue here and there. So it’s a good idea to go look at the foundational and individual technique item for each of the pieces mentioned above to review these items. Today’s Building Block episode discusses these ideas in relation to your dancing experience and creates options and opportunities that you wouldn’t ordinarily think of. The video above is a very, very, very small snippet of what’s present in the Buiding Block.
That said, let’s dive into Today’s Tango Building Block.
Difficulty Rating: (2.5 / 5)
What is a Tango Building Block ? In many ways, Tango is a lot like a set of Lego™ Building Blocks. With just a few simple blocks you can build very complex and intricate structures. Tango is the same way. With just a few basic moves like forward, side, and back you can build very complex movements that can later be applied in very different ways. That’s what makes Tango so amazing. It’s never the same dance twice even with the same partner and the same music!
A Tango Topic Building Block goes one step further. This isn’t just about showing you a move or a step, pattern, or figure but giving you tools that you can integrate into your dance immediately. Ideas that you hadn’t even thought of or considered.
Frequently when we dance, we get very ‘stuck’ in our repetition of the same piece of vocabulary over and over and over again. This series is designed to give you ideas, options, and opportunities to employ differences to add a bit of spice to your dance using very simple ideas.
Let’s get something out of the way going further: This video series and everything in that follows is not a step, pattern, or figure video series. We’re not going to teach you a series of patterns. We believe that steps don’t really help you. Tango, for lack of a better way of putting it, is a dance that is choreographed on the fly, meaning that it is improvised. While that improvisation has some elements to it that are common (the building blocks) how you put those elements together is where the real artistry is at. Put another way, the dance is not ‘canned’, meaning that it is mapped out precisely in time to the music as though you would choreograph a ballet. That would be a performance. What Tango Topics is offering you is a way to expand your dancing repertoire using the vocabulary you already know today, in ways you hadn’t really thought of, and more importantly for use on a social dance floor.
Today’s Building Blocks Overview:
1.) The Follower’s Molinete to the Lead’s Giro. Quite possibly the single most difficult piece of vocabulary for most Followers to execute for a variety of reasons especially in 3 steps (not 4). It’s also the second most ubiquitous piece of vocabulary that is expected and required by every dancer. The thing that makes it even more challenging, for Followers, is that most Leads (the person, not the action) do not accommodate the Follower in the one way that they need to.
While the Molinete itself is 3 steps (forward, side, and back) the tricky part is the Follower’s back step. It’s the dissociative (not a pivot) back step, where the step tends to go away from the lead (the action, not the person), and not ‘around’ the Lead. Hence the problem alluded to above. In Today’s Building Block version of the Follower’s Molinete, the Follower is being led to start the turn from Traveling Ochos. While there is a version of this turn that can be done from a Parallel System Walk, the reason this isn’t done is because it’s a ‘jarring’ turn for the Follower. So a bit of set up is required, hence the Traveling Ochos!
2.) Lead Extensions (sometimes called “projections”). The teaser video above alludes to 3 versions of this idea. However, in the video detail only 2 of them are presented. 🙂 A projection or as Tango Topics refers to them, ‘Extension’ was covered in extensive detail in the Golden Nugget Extensions video. For brevity’s sake a Lead Extension is exactly what it sounds like, a Lead (the person, not the action) extends their leg. Where things get complicated or challenging is when and where that extension happens, and more specifically without weight transfers! These are Extensions, not a Walking steps. If we add weight transfers to the Extension, they will become a walking step which could, in this case, create a possible Sacada. Get that thought right out of your head. There are no Sacadas here. Sorry, not in this episode. Later in another Tango Topic Building Block, yes. But not today. There are some really lovely things that we can do with this idea as it relates to the 1st piece of vocabulary. Mostly though what’s shown in the video are using the Extension as an accent to a stressed note, OR just as a way highlight the beat. 🙂
3.) The Follower’s Parada. (see Paradas for clarity) This is a surprise move. However, to be fair, after the first time it’s led, it’s no longer a surprise. And the more that it’s led, the less of a surprise it is, and the more of an annoyance it becomes. To be clear, there are several places where this idea can be invoked. However like all Tango vocabulary it’s overuse can be detrimental to its uniqueness. Which is why we call it a surprise! We don’t want to over use it. The video shows several places where this idea could be invoked. And that’s the important part, ‘could be’ invoked. For most Followers being asked to step over the Lead’s Leg is a bit of an annoyance, and they don’t really see why there is a leg and a foot in their way. Further still they see adding any kind of decoration/embellishment as further annoyance. And yet that’s precisely what is being asked of the Follower, to add a little bit of decoration to the couple’s dance. The problem is that a good portion of Leads overuse this device. They’re a little like Ganchos, that once the Lead learns them they want to use them everywhere. In this video there 3 possible options for when the Parada is led and followed. One of them is out of a Circular Ocho Cortado and an Argentine Cross!
Notes For The Follower. There are some bright spots in these vocabulary choices for you. Most notably the Parada itself. You are in complete control. No matter what any teacher or Lead may tell you. That particular piece of vocabulary is YOUR vocabulary. You can take as much time or as little time as you want with it! Why ? Because the Lead actually is in a vulnerable position, and they’re quite factually (and actually) ‘waiting’ for you in every sense of the word. Unless you step over their leg, they’re just going to end up standing there with their leg stretched out. 🙁 Which gives you oodles of time to catch your breath and create a really nice adornment (or embellishment if it’s outside the music). To be fair, there will be some L/leads that take offense to you taking your sweet time to embellish or adorn the Parada. They’ll see it as taking over the lead. We both know that’s not true but that’s how the Lead will see it. Sadly. And they’ll try to push you to go faster. Don’t let them. At the same time, do be respectful of what’s happening in the music when said Parada is engaged. Meaning ? You do want to be ‘jane’ on the spot in your response to the next available beat that occurs. Just sayin’….
Truthfully any one of these 3 pieces of vocabulary are going to create problems for you for a variety of reasons. From the typical pulling and resistance from the Lead’s embrace, and the squeezing and compression of their right arm, and not to mention the fact that most Leads rush through Leading their Giro and your Molinete like it’s race (thereby pushing you to move along), to the Armpit dancing, right up through the Lazy Man’s Turn debacle that happens quite frequently. And don’t even get me started on the Lead Extensions, as they’ll frequently be late and you’ll end up having inadvertent Paradas whether you wanted them or not. 🙁
Notes For The Lead. You’re going to have a desire to repeat yourself, frequently here with this Tango Topics Building Block. Especially with the Parada and the Extensions. Don’t. Use them is sparingly as in once in a blue moon. The reason ? They want to be an accent, not a staple of the L/lead’s vocabulary. It wants to be a surprise for a variety of reasons. Once or twice in a song is fine but more than that….and you’re kinda sort of blowin’ the whole dealio with it in the first place. There are lots and lots and lots of places for you to engage these ideas…and you’re going to want to refrain. They’re accent more than anything else, especially the Lead Bolito variations (that’s a hint by the way of what’s contained in the actual video series itself).
1.) Repetition is not your friend.
2.) Variety (and variation) is the spice of Tango.
3.) Rushing the Follower is never a good idea.
Nor is, while we’re on the subject:
a.) Correcting the Follower’s dancing abilities while you’re dancing with them. Or…
b.) Talking to the Follower while their trying to do what you’ve ‘suggested’. And
c.) Pushing … ahem…”heavily suggesting” to them, that they move their ass! So…NOT!
You would, of course, never do those things…right ? 🙂 Of course, you wouldn’t.
Close Embrace. Obviously, you’re going to want to try most of what you’ve seen here in Close Embrace (CE). I will simply say that that’s a fabulous idea. But first you want to master this stuff in Open Embrace (OE) and make certain that it’s clean on multiple levels: Your Balance, Your partner’s Stability, No Micro Pressures from either party, No Micro Stability Issues with the Hands and/or fingers from either partner. Just to name a few. This is one reason why this stuff is shown in OE and not in CE. The CE variations of these ideas are simple-ish, the difference is that in CE everything is much smaller and requires even more precision than you had in OE. That’s why you perfect this stuff in OE first and foremost!
The Use of Open Embrace ? Don’t make the mistake that just because you’re seeing this stuff in Open Embrace that you should discard it because it’s not Close Embrace. Open Embrace has lots and lots and lots of uses as a good starting point for developing really good habits. Most notably it allows you to see everything that’s going on from both roles, whereas Close Embrace requires you to video the entire construct because what you feel is frequently not what is being seen! Truthfully the ideas noted above work well in almost any embrace format. The singular pieces of vocabulary noted above have their Close Embrace constructs as well, so please see the individual elements for their counterparts. There are nuances that have to be addressed and for that, they have been.
No Technique Discussed ? Nope, not a word of it. Ok, maybe a little bit here and there. But the end result is a deeper exploration of the possibilities than with the individual pieces of vocabulary. The technique itself is contained in the individual videos in both Open and Close Embrace. The reason no Technique is discussed in Building Blocks is because the video would take HOURS to do, so we decided to opt for focusing on Transitions between the elements and multiple options where you can invoke these ideas that you generally wouldn’t think of. Some of them are obvious….and some of them aren’t.
About The Video. This video is 3 sections and when combined create a singular viewing experience of 44m:33s. Part 1 (19:08) – Explains the 3 pieces of vocabulary with options and variations. Part 2 (19:46) is with a Metronome to show you how some of these ideas can be set to a time signature. And part 3 (05:43) is with a piece of music. There is no Technique discussed in the video. For technique please visit the individual topics.
Part 1 – Explanation (00:19:08)
Introduction – 00:00:30
Follower’s Molinete to Lead’s Giro – 00:05:09
Lead Extensions – 00:02:31
Lead Extensions/Lead Bolitos – 00:01:28
Follower’s Parada – 00:03:27
Building Block Ideas
w/Traveling Ochos – 00:01:11
w/Parallel Molinete – 00:01:51
w/Lead Extensions – 00:00:59
w/Lead Bolitos – 00:01:37
Part 2 – Metronome Tools. (00:19:46)
Introduction & Tools – 00:04:54
Traveling Ochos Lead in – 00:05:26
Lead Extensions w/Molinete from Traveling Ochos – 00:01:45
Lead Bolitos w/Molinete from Traveling Ochos – 00:01:28
Follower’s Molinete w/Follower’s Parada – 00:03:19
Argentine Cross w/Follower’s Parada – 00:02:31
Part 3 – Music (00:05:43)
Related Videos Mentioned In This Article:
Follower Technique Series – Definition/Download
The Six Ways of Walking – Download
Disassociation – Definition/Download
Applied Disassociation – Definition/Download
Lazy Ochos – Definition/Download
Traveling Ochos – Definition/Download
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Remember that what you’re seeing is a couple that is performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they’re not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about ‘Social Dancing’ or how to make things function on a social dance floor. Social Dance floor ? Your local milonga! They’re showing flashy moves as a presentation! But not stopping and talking about how this works, why you’d want to put that piece of voabulary there, or how to make things fit. These website is all about those things and more!
You could watch those videos and thereby spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that particular 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. This is known as Tango Twister. 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 showing you how to properly excute this stuff from a Leading Perpective as well as from a Following perspective!
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