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Dancing In A Small Space – Addendum

(Important Notation: If you haven’t seen the Article/Video on “DIASS”, look at that first, otherwise this stuff isn’t going to make a whole lot of sense to you!)

Quite possibly you’ve been at a Milonga and the available space continues to decrease to the point that it feels cloistered, because of that you feel like you can’t do anything at all. What’s worse, whether you know it or not, due to this experience (from a leading perspective) you start to repeat the same things over and over again, and (from a following perspective) you feel like a record stuck on repeat. Not only is your vocabulary limited at this juncture, but your embrace becomes compressive, restrictive, and wholly uninviting.

There are a few reasons for this experience to occur, not the least of which is the Fear Of Hitting Someone or Something! And if you’re thinking of this stuff solely from a Leading perspective, think again. Fear happens for both roles, the more cloistered things become, the more disjointed and compressive the dance ‘devolves’ into. It is for this reason that we need to learn how to Dance In A Small Space (DIASS). Honestly, there are very few classes, workshops, and/or tutorials on this stuff. Which has to do with the fact that it’s because the topic is so wide and so incredibly vast that it almost seems like you shouldn’t bother in the first place. Nothing could be further from the truth! Factually speaking, very few teachers talk about this stuff for a few more reasons, because the topic takes into consideration Close Embrace, Close Embrace vocabulary, Navigation, Floorcraft, Musical Interpretation, and the Neurology of Leading, as well as the Experience of Following (which are not the same things by any stretch of the imagination). Tango Topics has already produced a video on this nebulous topic called, “Dancing In A Small Space”. Today’s Tango Topic video is an addendum to Dancing In A Small Space. That said, let’s dive right into Dancing In A Small Space (DIASS) – The Addendum Edition!

Difficulty Rating:  (4 / 5)

First a reminder of What is “Dancing In A Small Space” (or ‘DIASS’ as Tango Topics refers to this idea) ! There are two parts to the answer to this question:

First, in it’s simplest form, it’s all about the vocabulary and engaging Five pieces of Tango vocabulary. The Five Pieces ? 1.) The 5 of the 6 Ways of Walking. 2.) Milonguero Ochos (sometimes referred to as ‘Lazy’ Ochos)3.) Milonguero Turns (not the Follower’s Molinete). 4.) Back and Forward Crosses (not the Argentine variety, there’s no space!). And 5.) Linear (and Circular) Ocho Cortados. This is all done in Close Embrace. Note that there are no Sacadas, Colgadas, Volcadas, Ganchos, Boloeos, or Death Drops and/or Drags. None. However, there are a whole bunch more pieces of Tango vocabulary that almost never get talked about, or thought of here, that can also be applied, such as Calesitas, Paradas (Step Over), Pasadas (Drags & Sweeps), ’Patter’ (sometimes referred to as ‘Pitter-Patter’), The Incrementals (see Golden Nugget Extensions), just to name a few.

Secondly, there’s the actual ‘Dancing’ part of the statement which is more about movement more than anything else. Said movement is done in a very confined space, no bigger than one meter square, if that. The people that practice this way of dancing, while they may not be conscious of it, there is a sincere desire to not to take up space, mostly because there isn’t any space to begin with. This is moving in milonga environment really, where the distance between couples, on all sides, is no more than about the length of one hand (about 17 centimeters). So from the perspective of the Small Space Dancer, there is precious little space to ‘do’ anything at all due to the conditions of the ronda, so as a result of this confinement, the dancing part is really about the minimal. Everything is done either around the lead, or the space that the couple current occupies and does not extend beyond that space. Quite factually, depending on which city we’re in when dancing this way (Buenos Aires comes to mind), one would take up no more space than the space that one’s feet occupy at that moment in time, and no more than that, but without moving from that spot!

Is Dancing In A Small Space Easy ? No. It’s not. It can take years of practice, private lessons on various topics, and lots and lots of social dancing to get to the crux of what DIASS is and is not. And quite decidedly so, for most people DIASS not a conscious action until much, much, much later along the curve for a lot of social dancers. They just ‘dance’ and work the environment that they’re in. Unfortunately a good portion of them fail at the practice of DIASS because there is no concerted effort to really get at what the foundation of DIASS is and how to dance within that space, and as a result we freak out (lead or follow) and end up with lots and lots of bumping into things and other couples. 🙁 This is obviously not a desirable way of dancing.

Another Whopper of  Problem! One of the larger problems with DIASS is not just the use of your arms to control your partner (tsk, tsk, tsk), or the tension, and arm compression that you think you don’t do but are doing but you’re not aware that you’re even doing it, is the fact that you don’t actually practice this stuff. And it needs to get practiced. A lot. Watching a video on this stuff is all fine and good but honestly, you do need to practice this kind of dancing on a regular basis. The original DIASS video gives you an example of what you need to do to start to play with this stuff, and use that as a practice guide. The fact is that even though your milonga may have oodles of space, you rightfully should start to engage these ideas in every aspect of your dancing. Why ? Because this isn’t just about DIASS when the floor is crowded, it’s about making things function when things go awry (and they always go awry…always), it’s about creating solutions and realistically making those ‘solutions’ fit within the available space. The operative word in that sentence is ‘fit’. Making things fit is a hallmark of DIASS. There will be times when you seemingly have X amount of space to do something but because you have practiced ‘A’ that takes up oodles of space, obviously ‘A’ isn’t going to fit. So learning to modify your ‘A’ or ‘B’ or ‘C’ to fit is absolutely crucial and that means practicing DIASS everywhere so that you can learn to dance ‘economically’!

A Reminder About Fear. The reality is that regardless of what role you dance, this stuff is going to freak you right the frak out! You’re going to be afraid of X, whatever X may . Mostly because it’s unfamiliar to you. Most beginner leads, and quite a few intermediate ones lose their collective minds when they have to navigate at a crowded Milonga. They’d rather sit than have to step all over someone’s feet or stumbling and bumbling here and there and apologizing everywhere with their favorite Followers. So rather than dance to their favorite Di Sarli or De Caro they’ll sit out and wait for the floor to clear a bit. Followers have a slightly different bend on this fear thing, it’s the fear of stepping on someone’s feet, and not necessarily their partners. It’s OTHER people’s feet. Why ? Because they know they’re in 3 in heels and those things are like lethal weapons on their own. One good ‘stomp’ and that’s someone’s night right there at an emergency room at a hospital!

Tango Vocabulary Vs. Tango Figures. Rightfully this section deserves it’s own topic. However, for the purposes of right now, we need to accept a few things – First we need to define what these words mean. Tango Vocabulary & Tango Figures ?

Tango Vocabulary ? This is, thematically speaking, Walking, Ochos, Turns, Crosses, Sacadas, Volcadas, Colgadas, Boleos, Ganchos, Paradas, Barridas, and Adornments & Embellishments. This is ‘Tango Vocabulary’, in it’s simplified form. Do not mishear this as that’s all that there is to tango because that’s not the case. There are variations on these themes, lots and lots of variation on these themes, but these ideas represent the 50,000-foot view of the available vocabulary for Argentine Tango. Understand that in this instance that we are not talking about music, nor it’s interpretation. Nor are we talking about Floorcraft or navigation or technique as to how to relates to vocabulary. This is simply the available vocabulary forms of the dance. Mind you, your understanding of these ideas may be someone limited (or expansive) based on your exposure to “what if….” methodology. Meaning ? That your idea of an ‘Ocho’ may just be limited to the common form of ‘Traveling’ Backward Ochos, and very infrequently the Traveling Forward Ocho.  However, there are 8 types Ochos that Tango Topics discusses and shows to it’s paying subscribers. For instance, there are Lazy or Milonguero Ochos, Linear Ochos, Over-Rotated Ochos just to name a few. What about ‘Turns’, there are 8 of those too, and if you’re thinking of just the Follower’s Molinete to the Lead’s Giro as THE Turn. Emphasis on the ‘THE’. As if it were the only turn. It’s not. There are loads more. These are variations on a theme of Tango Vocabulary. 

Tango Figures ? Succinctly put a Tango ‘Figure’ is a series of ‘movements’ that are based on simple Tango Vocabulary that when you put one piece of vocabulary behind or ahead of another they should rightfully flow from one piece of vocabulary to the next. This is, in some Tango Musical Interpretation circles called when properly applied, a Complex Tango Sentence.

Now to the focal point of this section: The fallacy that More Figures Is What You Need! No. You Do Not! A lot of people (Leads and Follows alike) believe that if you know more ‘stuff’ that this will give you greater range. Not true. What you’ll see whole swathes of dancers practicing, is elaborate figures that they’ll almost never use. While there’s nothing wrong with this idea because it does force you to work on the underlining technique of how these things are executed, which is always desirable, however, most people don’t see that. They see the that they now know another figure and can then use it on a social dance floor. Great! No ? No. The simple fact is that:

a.) Most ‘figures’ as defined above don’t actually work within the Line and Lane of dance. There’s no space for it to work.

b.) The Ronda doesn’t necessarily allow for complex figures to work due to couples around you taking up more or less space than the figure requires. In short ? There are other people on the floor aside from you and your partner, in case you hadn’t noticed. 😉

c.) Most ‘figures’ often work to a very specific section of a piece of music or musical structure that only happens ONCE in a particular song. So assuming that you have said song which is 2:30 in length, and for 20 seconds a particular figure is supposed to be applied to a particular portion of the song, what are you supposed to do with the remaining 2:10 of that song, and really the rest of the tanda which may be 4 to 6 songs in length ???? The solution….

d.) More Figures!!! Add enough figures and you can simulate that there is variation and variance in one’s dancing skills. Keep doing this until you have a staple of figures say 20 or so. The problem with this line of reasoning is that eventually, eventually, you’re going to run out of figures to continue to keep things ‘fresh’ and interesting! Eventually, the people that you dance with will get wise to what you’re doing and be able to predict EXACTLY what you’re doing to do, and how you’re going to do it, and when you’re going to do it. You can literally set your watch by this stuff in most cases. 🙁

The best social dancers that Tango Topics has run across has been those that employ simple vocabulary choices. Simple. Not complex figures. Nothing of the sort. They don’t need them, and neither do you! They do need to have a command of the simple stuff and learn to execute it well, succinctly, sharply, and with effortless ease. 

Why is this relevant to DIASS and really the DIASS Addendum ? Because all you’ll see here in this video is simple tango vocabulary, but not actual figures and think to yourself that you’re being cheated. When that’s not the case here at all. For a lot of people when they’re stuck they honestly don’t know what to do next, this guide is a primer for ideas that work well with DIASS! Secondly, music is left out of the equation here, which gives you enormous amounts of options and opportunities to try these things out in any number of situations to any number of orchestras and styles or genres of tango music. And lastly, and this part cannot be stressed enough, you really do need to have a command of the vocabulary that’s being suggested!

Lastly, the vocabulary listed in this addendum is just that vocabulary, they’re suggestions. Don’t get hooked on the vocabulary, it’s here to give you ideas of what to do next, and things to start to put into your practice regime. Things to try out and to refine and make better! Use the techniqe videos in the library to understand the underlining techniques, and these videos in this series to give you ideas! 

This video cannot be purchased, at this time, and can only be seen in its entirety with a Gold or Diamond Level Subscription

About The Video. This video comes in at 12m:01s in 8 sections in HD 1920×1060 resolution. Lead and Follower is combined and commingled, in both videos. This is NOT a technique video. For the technique on each of these topics, please see their respective areas linked in the text below.

Section 1 – Introduction – 00:00:26
Section 2 – Cross Body Incrementals – 00:00:37
Section 3 – Closed Sided Turn – 00:01:51
Section 4 – Close Side Turn Trick – 00:01:36
Section 5 – Media Luna – 00:01:47
Section 6 – Follower Reminder for DIASS – 00:00:37
Section 7 – Example of 4 Ideas – 00:01:48
Section 8 – The Wrap Up/Example – 00:02:55

This video cannot be purchased, at this time, and can only be seen in its entirety with a Gold or Diamond Level Subscription

spicy dancing ideas

One More Thing. Learning this stuff in a studio or at home is ok, but you need real-world experience. That real-world practice must be concurrently used with all of the above. Without it, there’s quite literally no point in doing any of this stuff. You will falter in your goal to be able to dance in a ‘musical’ way. The reason is that while dancing in a studio space with just one partner, or practicing with just one partner, in an antiseptic environment without other couples in the line of dance, while being good ‘practice’, does not prepare you for actual social dancing. The line of dance, at an actual milonga or practica, is the only place where you can get that experience.

So while sitting here and tapping out a beat, and/or watching a video on what you need to do, to give you ideas of what has to happen is all fine and good…this point can’t be stressed enough, you actually have to go out social dancing as often as is humanly possible. Read that as EVERY WAKING MOMENT! No excuses. None. Family, job, relationships, bills, money, etc…all of that stuff must take a back seat, temporarily, until you start this process. Make it part of your weekly regime, set yourself an easily attainable goal: 2 to 3 Milongas a week where you can play with the stuff below, or 2 Practicas and a Milonga every week, and once a month head off to a larger tango environment in a larger city, like Boston, Portland (OR), New York, Berlin, Dallas, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Frankfurt, San Francisco, St. Louis, Tampa, Miami, Tokyo, Taipei, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Perth, Brisbane, Houston, Melbourne, London, Paris just to name a few.

thoughts about tango ?

The Missing Information. Dearest Reader. TangoTopics is glad that you are reading this topic in the hopes that it may get you to question and to dig a little deeper into your foundation, into the music, into the codigos of the dance. However, this topic only scratches the surface. Because you’re only seeing half of the information. You really do need to see all of it. If you had registered or ponied up the kingly sum of $7.95 for your first week, then you’d either see a free tip here, or if you’re a paying subscriber you’d see some detailed notes about the video that were either left out of the video or were an afterthought to the video after it was shot! However, because you haven’t gone and registered at least, you’re missing some helpful information that could give you a tip to making your dance a better experience for you and your partners!

Why should you subscribe for access ?  Several reasons. 1.) Even if you’re a Free User, you’ll get access to free tips that aren’t available to anyone just reading the post like this one. 2.) Sometimes there are slightly different versions of the videos, that add a bit more content for the free user vs. an unregistered user. 3.) And real reason you should subscribe ? If you’re used to YouTube videos where you’ll see a performance, those Youtube videos don’t explain or walk you through how these ideas work! That is why! What you’re seeing is a presentation, a performance. Not how things work! And what you really need to see is how things work, and more importantly why they work! This website shows you that and more! 

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!

The goal of YouTube videos is to get you to study with those teachers in person. The goal of Tango Topics 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 you’re done.

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 of how and why things work, so you can easily reference those things in the corresponding articles that go with the material, and or any language in the Tango Topics Dictionary. 

– 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 subscriber today.


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