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Nine Common Tango Habits

The deeper we get into Argentine Tango, and the more that we develop, we begin to generate specific habits. Habits of how we move, familiar patterns of vocabulary,  comfortable ways of moving. Which, as a side note, is comfortable for us, but may or may not be so comfortable for someone else. Further, and more importantly, those comfortable ways of moving usually create some very repetitive motions. These are habits that may hinder our long-term development in ways we hadn’t even considered. It’s really the repetition, our habitual way of doing things that need to be watched, checked on, and then dealt with. Today’s post deals with Nine Common Tango Habits we can change in our dance that can lead to less repetition, and greater variance in what we are ultimately trying to create: A very desirable dancing experience for our partners.

A good deal of dancers like to believe that they are the exception to the rule. They will be different. They’ll be better because they have studied with Magical Teacher X. The common thinking is that a few minutes, or an hour or two a week, or a weekend ‘boot camp’ or a week-long seminar of study with said Magicical Teacher X, and not to mention a few steps/patterns/figures, and then miraculously there will be ‘change‘. Everyone, their partners, everyone will immediately notice the difference and fall madly in love with the difference from where they were to where they are now due to Magical Teacher X. “You studied with X!!!! OMG you’re so much better now!!”.  The belief is that studying with X will create a better and more desirable dancing experience for your partners and more importantly for you.

While there may be some validity that X is indeed an amazing teacher, it is more than likely something else occurred that the dancer was wholly unaware of after the fact of studying with X: The dancer ‘backslid’! Meaning the reverted back to doing what they were before time spent with Magical Teacher X. Quite realistically almost immediately after leaving X’s presence! And the reason is really a simple one: Comfort. Meaning ?

a.) What that dancer is doing right now is far more comfortable, than what they were shown to do. So the dancer will revert to what is more comfortable than what they were shown.

b.) The dancer will ‘drift’ from what they were shown. They’ll misremember what was said, or shown to them, or even if they write down what was shown, the exact language of what was said, the exact bodily positions and placements will not be retained and as a result the dancer will drift to what is comfortable for them to do, not what they need to do. As a result, they’ll begin to miss-practice what was shown to them thereby creating more problems.

c.) More than likely the dancer will end up using their arms, and hands to push and pull/push their partners.

The Good News! All of the above sounds almost dire, doesn’t it ? Like what’s the point of studying if you’re just going to backslide and go back to what you’re doing right ? However there is some good news. There are some ways, assuming that you implement them, and (this part is very important) actively want to change what you’re doing that can change your habits. While this video doesn’t go into the technique of how to do A, B, and C (please register, it’s free, and then subscribe to get access to all the details), it does show you Nine Common Tango Habits where we could, if we made a slightly different choice here and there, create a difference or change in how we access and thereby execute our dancing ideas.

To be clear, ‘Change‘, regardless of whether or not you want to believe it, will only come, if you put the time in to actively take charge of your tango (re)education. And that means concerted, continuous, near daily reminders about the execution of technique, daily solo practice, bi-daily private partner practice, bi-daily or weekly private lessons, and actual social dancing at every opportunity. It means working on your foundation with clear, detailed, and intricately laid out instruction with oodles of visual, verbal, textual, and kinesthetic examples. Every. Single. Day. It means practicing daily. It means daily solo work. It means a daily consumption of tango music. It means analyzing your dance in a constructive fashion with detailed, honest, and clear language to describe what’s actually happening instead of the tried and true euphemisms of tango (“Being on your axis”, “I need resistance”, etc). It also means using video and video feedback of the foundational technique (how you’re walking close up, from the hips to the feet, from the side, and from the back/front) replayed, then demonstrated to the dancer, and then having the dancer replicate what they’ve seen with oodles of video trials. Doing it once correctly is not enough. Doing it a hundred times the same way without error is better! This, for those of you who think this is crazy talk or Perfectionistic Tango, is what Tango Topics has developed and is known as The Intensive Process.

It is from this process that we have the Nine Common Tango Habits that Tango Topics has identified as places where a dancer can make a different choice. And that if you stack these different choices on top of each other they can by the whole create nuance or variance in the dancer’s choices. And that’s ideally what we’re after. However, understand that if you only make these nine changes, this is not going to improve your ability to dance. Nor will it improve the execution of your dance. Nor will it improve how you hear the music. It will not improve your ability to embrace, or your habitual errors that you aren’t even aware of! The only way those things will change is with a continued, concerted, and detailed study of your movements with a qualified instructor of The Intensive Process! (see: Tango Topics Teacher Training)

So without further adieu, here are the Nine Common Tango Habits that we want to keep an eye on:

1.) Stepping Outside Partner. Meaning, that if the couple is walking in Parallel system (lead left to follower right, and lead right to follower left) and the lead steps with their right to the Lead’s left side (the open side of the embrace) the Follower will more than likely believe that what comes next is an Argentine Cross. This is habit. This is also default behavior. There are multiple ideas that are possible here from that simple outside step: An Outside “Snake” Walk (type 5 of 6 of Tango Topics 6 Ways of Walking), the opening step to a Media Luna turn, a scissor step, etc. There are options here, and the idea is that we want to break those habits and make different choices. However, a problem will occur and that’s where when leading a Follower is that because the Argentine Cross is so ubiquitous and done so often, that you’re now invoking their habit instead of their listening skills. And so they’ll immediately think, “Ahhhhh Argentine CROSS!!!!”….and then you’re off to the races, as it were.

2.) Turning To The Open Side. Most dancers think of a turn to the Open Side of the Embrace. This is the ONLY direction that a turn can happen. There is no other.  Ummm not. Simply put, you do know there is another direction you can turn in ? 😉 There is no rule that says you can only turn to the left (as a Lead, or Right as a Follower). You do know that ?  There are 3 types of turns, specifically, that Tango Topics Talks about that are designed for the Closed Side of the Embrace. 1.) The Linear Ocho Cortado or it’s kissin’ cousin the Circular Ocho Cortado. 2.) The Close Side Turn Trick. 3.) The Close Side Turn. Regardless of the variations of the turns the Closed Side of the Embrace, changing this simple action opens up ideas that you more than likely haven’t even considered. You may also discover that you have a weakness on the Close Side of the Embrace attempting to turn in that direction. You may also discover that you have an instability (as a Lead and as a Follower). And more than likely a little bit of both!

3.) The Followers Molinete Default. In case you weren’t aware, and you’d be surprised at how many people aren’t aware of this: There are 7 other types of turns. Crazy !?!??! Huh ? Yup. There are seven other types of turns that you can engage in. 1.) Milonguero Turns. 2.) Linear Ocho Cortado & Circular Ocho Cortado. 3.) Rock Step Turns. 4.) Walking Turns. 5.) Calesitas 6.) Colgadas & Single Axis Turns. 7.) The Anti-Molinete Turn. Mind you that last one requires an orientation change, but it’s still kinda cool. The point is that most people only consider this one type of turn as the ONLY turn that is available to you. And as a result your dancing abilities and available options and opportunities become somewhat limited. Very limited. Just as a side note, it wasn’t until about 30 years ago, that the predominant Tango Turn was the Follower’s Molinete but in fact the Milonguero Turn! Gustavo Naveira changed all that, or so the story goes.

4.) The Rock Step Default. When a lead hits an obstacle they’ll slam on the brakes and immediately go into Rock Step Mode. This has been detailed here on Tango Topics in two places in Practical Tango Advice: The Rock Step Everywhere and The Lead Back Step Issue. Obviously this is not desirable, and yet…how many of you engage in this process continuously ? A LOT! Aside from that, there are other ways to solve for there being an obstacle in the couple’s line of dance. Most notably one could engage any one of the 7 other types of turns to avoid the impending crash of bodies, or one could come to a complete stop and reset the embrace, which is always a good idea no matter what’s going on.

5.) The Same Five People Default. The reality is that we get comfortable dancing with the people that we enjoy dancing with. And once we get comfortable we tend to only allow a recommended few into our dancing circle for a variety of reasons. Basically this is closing off our options. What you may not realize is doing that limits not only your dance partners, but more importantly it limits your available options and opportunity for growth and change in your dance. You may like what you’re doing but it can easily become stale if you don’t let it out for a breath of fresh air now and again. Meaning that introducing other people into the equation is what’s required here. Those other people will have different ways of reacting to your dancing style and that will create the necessity in you to learn to compensate for them, or more importantly to adapt! And in case you weren’t aware, a Tango dancer’s greatest strength is their ability to adapt every kind of dancer that they may encounter in their tango life! So… more people, means more options and the greater possibility for your dance to be a bit more nuanced and fresh!

6.) Three Ochos Default! Before we go any further with this one, the reality is that Tango Topics Musical Interpretation series (1 – 5) talks about employing a standard number of Ochos in its Interpretations exercises, and as a standard rule no more than 3 Traveling Ochos in a row. Why ? Because it’s inordinate amount of work for the Follower. And we don’t want them to work so hard, they have a whole bunch of other things to do. This shouldn’t be one of them. Besides repetition isn’t exactly what the Follower signed on for. So…not so much with that one! That out of the way…. The reality is that a greater number of dancers have a set number of Ochos that they’ll lead and follow before they’ll do anything else, and it never, ever varies. So the suggestion is try mixing up from time to time! Fewer or More now and again.

7.) Traveling Ochos Default. Traveling Ocho. Traveling Ocho. In case you weren’t aware. There are 7 other types of Ochos that you may wish to investigate. For most people when they hear the word Ocho they immediately only think of one variety of Ocho, and that’s the Traveling Ocho. In case you were unclear, and you may be, that there are seven other varieties of Ochos, most notably the 1.) Milonguero Ocho (sometimes referred as ‘Lazy Ochos’). 2.) Linear Ochos. 3.) Circular Ochos. 4.) Over-Rotated Ochos. 5.) Anti-Ochos. 6.) Milonga Ochos. 7.) Time Based Ochos. Remember that what you think of as an ‘Ocho’ is what Tango Topics refers to as a Traveling Ocho. This is the default Ocho that everyone thinks of and only considers this to be the only ocho ever.

Whether you realize it or not, engaging in Milonguero Ochos, for example, opens up a whole line of dancing that you may not have been aware of, like for instance it opens the possibility for Floating, Linear, or Rotating Crosses down the line of dance. It opens the real possibility for Milonguero Turns to happen. It also opens up a variation on the Linear Ocho Cortado. It also opens up the Close Embrace Sacada options, and a host of other possibilities that occur simply because you’re working with less. Speaking of which the Traveling Ocho tends to take up space, whereas the Milonguero Ocho, or the Floating Backcross does not! Which leads one to working on Dancing In A Small Space! 🙂 You’re welcome!

spicy dancing ideas

8.) The Open Side Opening Step Default. This may come as a shock to you, but in case you were unaware, you have a Left Foot, and a Right Foot! IKR ? Shocking, no ? Why is this important ? Because most people start off the dance on the standard Lead Left Foot/Follower Right Foot! That’s why. This instantly leads to item #9 on this list but it also limits you in terms of what you will normally do. There are other options to as your opening step. Actually 17 of them (In the form of the 6 Ways of Walking), and that’s not including The Salida Steps or Side Step options. Why any of this relevant ? Because it’s yet another way to break your habits of how you access or start a dance. Try this really simple exercise. The next time you start a dance start on the Right Foot (lead)/Left Foot (follower) and see what happens. However if we take that idea to the next level, and it is the next level, now try to start any vocabulary with the Right Foot ONLY (lead)/Left Foot ONLY (follower). And if you want to really add an interesting idea, Leads, you can only step with your Right foot, the Follower can do whatever they like. (See: The Dark Side Salida for more information.)

9.) Parallel System Walking Only Default – This last one is pretty much self-explanatory, and we’ll just leave you with this idea…there are 5 other types of Walking! What are they ? If you were a subscriber, you would see all 6 methods, while there are a few on screen in the video above, trust that you’re not seeing the whole of it. It’s a bit more complicated than just the 6. Register, (it’s free) and see the entire list!

The Wrap Up

Let’s be clear about something watching a 6 minute sampler video, and then the full 20 minute video is not going to change your tango habits. It’s just not. What needs to happen is actual mental discipline. You first have to recognize that there is something better or different and then you have actually go out and get it, and then…here’s the hard part – do it! Watching this video (and if you register to see the full video) is only the first part of changing those habits for the better. The rest is entirely up to you and your process. This video is only the first part of that. It’s a gateway to more diverse and varied tango to step (no pun intended) outside of your regular tango way of dancing. That’s it, that’s all. It will not change your dancing skills at all. It will not change how you access those dancing skills. Nor will it change how you hear the music. You’re still going to hear the music the same way, which by the by you may be missing something. To change how you hear the music, consider registering for our Music Course! All of those things will still be true. However, the one thing that will no longer be true with time and practice is the variances that you put into your dance.

There’s one thing that is NOT covered in this video. And it’s a notable absence. Most of the stuff that’s discussed here is from a Leading perspective. There’s the Follower’s side of the equation! For that ? Please see our forthcoming video on Adornments and Embellishments. Trust us, it’s an eye-opener!

Lastly, and mostly, overall enjoy and explore your dance.

See you in class and on the dance floor!

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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