Tango Topics | Social Dancing Tools

Open post

Musical Interpretation – Parts 3 & 4

Please go look at Parts 1 and 2 of Tango Topics Musical Interpretation series. 

Musical Interpretation – Parts 3 & 4

One aspect of Musical Interpretation that almost never gets talked about is the how you actually Interpret the Music. How do you develop the skills necessary to allow you to interpret the music in such a way as to make it structured, clear, clean and most of all appear ‘fluid’ ? How do you do that ? That’s what workshops and classes are for, right ? Yes and no. The ‘Yes’ part should be self-explanatory by isn’t. And the ‘no’ part requires a bit of history (see Parts 1 & 2 for that).  The long story shortened is that as you’ll see below, most Tango ‘Musicality’ classes or workshops are all on ‘Aspects’ of tango music not what you do wiht the rest of the song. This series is on the what you do with the rest of the song! 

Today’s Tango Topic takes shows you the meat and potatoes (as it were) of one way on how to Interpret the Music, with the end goal to create a structured process that allows us to make free choices instead of haphazard choices that don’t necessarily fit what’s going on in the music. In one respect this is about training you, and in another, this is about conditioning you or in this case re-conditioning you to respond in a very structured manner. For most people when they begin this process of Musical Interpretation they are rightfully overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the problem. How do you interpret the music when the topic of Tango Music is so vast ? How do you even begin to tackle the problem because not only is Tango Music vast (over 90,000 pieces and counting, and only a fraction of that we actually dance to on a regular basis) but it’s also insanely multi-layered, and multifaceted? If you thought the vocabulary and the execution of technique was the unending onion, the music itself will drive you right over the wall of madness! How do you solve a problem this vast ?

There is no one way to interpret the music. There is no all-encompassing methodology to interpreting the music, no ‘one-size-fits-all’. There is no ‘right’ and there is no ‘wrong’. There is only desirable and less-than-desirable, so get that thought right out of your head! There are many ways to interpret the music. Some of them are desirable, and a good portion of the processes that you’ve likely come into contact with are less-than-desirable. And there’s a really good reason why they’re less-than-desirable. It’s because they only address a piece of a particular aspect of the music. For example: What do you do when you hear a Sincopa in the music ? (Hint, there are several things you can do)

Answer: One thing you can do and should do is once you hear it, once you are able to recognize the Sincopa (there are 4 types by the way), you can’t walk through it, and yet…that’s exactly what most people do. They walk right through it. Most are confused by the idea of Sincopa. However, Sincopa, is an aspect of the music. It’s not the entire song! What do you do with the rest of that piece of music ? Wander around for 2 minutes waiting for the Sincopa to happen ? No. That’s where Today’s Tango Topic comes in. It, or in this case, they deal with how to handle the rest of the song! Today’s Tango Topic is about two co-interdependent topics that create the necessary stepping stones towards Interpreting the music fluidly, Alternation & Symmetry.

Before We Go Down The Rabbit Hole. Let’s be clear about the end goal here, the thing that we’re really after: To be able to freely, and fluidly, interpret the music so that our dancing matches what we hear in the music, and then (here’s the hard part) are able to execute that idea musically. HA! Easier written/said than actually done. The methodology on how to do that was covered in Musical Interpretation Part 1 and Part 2. If you’re not familiar with it, please go read it thoroughly before you proceed here. It is a pre-requisite.

However, before we can get to the ‘freely and fluidly’ parts, we have to jump through some hoops for the ‘interpretation’ stuff to actually work on a social dance floor, otherwise, you’re quite literally going to waste your time. First and foremost you absolutely must be able to properly identify the 5 Pause Types, religiously, without fail! You can not and will not be able to interpret the music without them. Everything, everything that Tango Topics talks about musically is built off of this construct. Failure to be able to identify without fail every single Musical Pause in a particular piece of music (Tango, Vals, Milonga, Tango-Milonga, Tango-Vals, Milonga Criolla, Milonga Porteña, etc) and you’re just pissing into the wind, and what Follows will be a complete waste of your time in reading this stuff. Put another way, so that you get the gravity of the situation. Can you correctly identify the 7 pauses in the following piece ?

If so, then you can move on to the next stage of your tango development, interpreting the music. If you can’t, then you’re going to have a problem with today’s tango topics. Why ? Because the topics are based on the idea that the pause must be respected, it’s what breaks up the music into logical, bite-sized chunks that make it accessible to us. Instead of arbitrary 8 count that may or may not actually be present in the music which may or may not have an actual relationship to what you’re hearing in the music. The 5 Pause Types are really markers, and while the piece above only shows you 2 of the 5 (the 1st and the 4th), they’re common enough markers that you should be able to distinguish them. However, doing so religiously ? That’s an entirely different prospect.

Secondly, you must be well versed in the 6 Ways of Walking (from a Leading and Following perspective). This is about walking, not Turning, not Sacadas, not Volcadas, not Ganchos, not Paradas, none of that stuff, but Walking with your partner. Elegantly. Cleanly. Clearly. Tango is by its very nature a ‘walking’ dance at its core. While modern Tango has become a dance all about the turn due to the fact that the ronda doesn’t actually move anymore, and due to the fact that Gustavo Naviera made the Follower’s Molinete ‘sexy’, but instead it does not move so we have to find other things to do while we’re not actually going anywhere, the foundation of that movement is still ‘walking’. So it serves our ultimate purpose to understand, and more importantly, be able to execute the 6 Ways of Walking from either perspective of Leading or Following. Religiously! Failure to do so and you’re not only pissing into the wind but having said piss splatter back at you! Not a pleasant thought. You must, must, must be able to execute a clean, clean, stable walk without hanging, without pulling, without pushing, without compression in any way, shape, or form. Failure to do so, and again, more piss in places you don’t want anything to do with!

These two points cannot be stressed enough. 1.) The 5 Musical Pause Types. and 2.) The 6 Ways of Walking are PREREQUISITES to further going down the rabbit hole here. That said, proceed at your own risk of further confusion. Hence the reason why this part of the topic today is called BEFORE We Go Down The Rabbit Hole. You have been warned.

The Topics of Alternation & Symmetry: In their simplest forms, these ideas by themselves aren’t all that exciting, and if we’re being really honest, once you see them you’re going to say to yourself, "I don’t get it. Why is this stuff important ?". Remember that Alternation & Symmetry are only a stepping stone to our ultimate goal of dancing ‘fluidly’, and seemingly freely, but with STRUCTURE! This stuff (Alternation & Symmetry) is that Structure that you’re looking for! It’s the very heart of Structuring Tango Music. Well, truth be told, far more Symmetry than Alternation. These concepts and practices are the answer to the question, “What do I do with the rest of the dance ?”! That said, let’s define these ideas:

Alternation: At its core, Alternation, is exactly what it sounds like – Alternating between two ideas or in this case, pieces of vocabulary. You pick two pieces of vocabulary and then ‘Alternate’ between them. That’s it. It couldn’t be any simpler than that.

Symmetry: Symmetry, on the other hand, is where we start to invoke a little bit of actual structure, and some rules! 5 of them in actuality. But before we get to that part, Symmetry is best defined as ‘executing’ Alternation in mated pairs.

That’s it, that’s all there is to it. You can stop reading now. Back to dancing. What a complete waste of your time, right ? Yup. Sure was. All that build up so that you could basically get to Alternating between two ideas, and then making it Symmetrical. Ok. Duh. So why on earth do you need a video on this stuff ?

Stop and think about it for a moment, do you actually know what it is that you’re Alternating ? or making Symmetrical ? or for that matter why you want to do it in the first place ? Well, of course, the 6 Ways of Walking right ? Not so fast. Yes, and no. Yes, because this is all about walking. And ‘no’ because there are some rules at work here. So you go right ahead and alternate this stuff until you’re blue in the face and see how far that gets you! You may come up with some interesting ideas but until you have mastered the 6 Ways of Walking (told you that you were going to get beat over the head with this stuff), and until you have mastered the 5 Musical Pause Types, Alternation and Symmetry are a complete waste of your time. Remember this is not about dancing to an ASPECT (remember ‘sincopa’ ?) in the music, but what you do with the REST of the DANCE! To be fair, Alternation and Symmetry does not deal with the end of the Musical Paragraph (see section 5), nor does it deal with the very important structural components of the song (see section 7), nor does it deal with how one goes about mapping a song (see section 8), nor does it deal with Accent notes (Section 7), nor Sincopa (Section 7), nor the specifics of a Turn (section 6), nor where (not how) you place an Argentine Cross! (see section 6). So you can alternate until you’re blue in the face, but knowing where this stuff exists and why creates the structure that we’re looking for.

The Musical Pause Component. The Musical Pause exists for a variety of reasons and rightfully deserves it’s own topic however, in this instance we talk about because it’s importance here is the backbone of everything we would like to do. Without it, musical structure can not be danced using this method. The pause is important just for this reason alone. However, there are 3 reasons why we as Dancers (from a Leading Perspective and a Following Perspective) want to respect the Musical Pause:

1.) The ‘Reset’ Button. Frequently, unless properly trained to do so, we fall out of alignment with our partners while dancing with them either through design (see ‘The Armpit Dancer’), or by happenstance (Turns, and Traveling Ochos).  In either case, we ideally want to be buttons-to-buttons with our partners. Unfortunately this does not happen all that often, and as a result we have to ‘Reset’ the partnership. At the same time while a misalignment is going on, usually we’re using our arms to force our partner to stay close to us. There’s tension in the embrace, pressure, compression, and the longer it goes on, the more painful it becomes. It’s work basically unless several things occur. One of them is a ‘Reset’. Using the musical pause is a logical place to not only reset the couple’s physiological alignment, but also reset the embrace!

2.) The Vocabulary Change. The Musical Pause is also a logical place to engage our vocabulary changes from one idea to the next. For a Lead that means changing to our next possible step/pattern/figure. From a Following perspective this means engaging an Adornment (not an embellishment, they’re not the same things).

3.) Structure. Employing the Musical Pause sets us on the path of creating Musical Structure with our dance, and what we’re hearing. And that’s what Tango Topic is doing, hopefully. It’s A tool for doing this. It’s not the only tool but it’s one of them to help in this process. Structure in this case means to create some kind of visual representation of order that shows us what’s actually happening in the music visually. There are several ways to dance to emphasize the music, one of them is pattern matching. Still another is counter matching, where you’re literally going against the music to show it’s poignancy. Still another is ‘impressionistic’, where you show a hint of the idea and let the viewer’s mind fill in the rest. However, this isn’t about performing for the 15th row or a room full of people. It’s showing your partner, you remember them, right ? It’s showing your partner how YOU are hearing the music and what’s possible! Contrary to what you have been shown or taught, Tango is first and foremost (today at least) a social dance, not a performance form. Although given the state of things, in 5 years this may or may not be true any longer for a variety of reasons.

Ideally once we go through this process of learning the pauses, and learning Alternation and Symmetry we will promptly forget them and start to freely associate ideas and concepts in the dance, but there are a few steps before that fluid choice can happen…freely. But understanding the importance of the pause and it’s place here should not be undersold or misunderstood.

dancing in a small space ? watch these videos!

bsas-prep-title

Please go look at Parts 1 and 2 of Tango Topics Musical Interpretation series. 

The Details of Alternation: There are some details to this stuff. The devil is in the details. And brother this is some detail! The fact is that while the concepts are simple enough executing them is a whole different kettle of fish. You’re going to ask yourself why on earth do this ? And it’s a really valid question. The simplest answer is that it is one way to create structure in what we’re doing. It’s not the only way, but it is a starting point. And sometimes that’s all you really need, a starting point. This (Alternation & Symmetry) is that starting point! Mind you this is not the only way to create structure but it is a starting point, a beginning.

Before going any deeper, Alternation should not be confused with another Topic that we talk about around here ‘Alternates’, which is the 6th way of Walking. Alternation starts out with one choice, for example, a walk in parallel system, however at the musical pause, we instigate another of the 6 Ways of Walking that goes with the music. The kicker here is that there is no counting, no beat counting of any kind. You execute and respond until the next pause. Every time there is a musical pause, we change back to the 1st choice. This is Alternation in it’s simplest form.

There is no hard and fast rule about this idea. You could do this for the entire song, and to be fair…it’s been done, as an exercise. However, you do NOT want to do this for an entire song, except in practice. This is only a stepping stone. Only a means to an end. The goal here is not necessarily to be Mr. or Ms. proficient with the vocabulary changes, but more importantly to be facile with them! To be able to identify at the pause and execute at the pause said change, and then (here’s the hard part) remember to go back to what you were doing in the first place! Sounds simple, right ? Ok. Do it. Here’s an example:

Do that for an entire song. Every time. Without exception. No errors. No hiccups. No, if’s, and’s, or but’s. Do it. If you can do that, then you can move on to the next stage….Symmetry. And that’s where things go right off the rails!

The Details of Symmetry: In a Musical Paragraph there are anywhere between 4 to 6, sometimes 8 Musical Pauses. And as that is the case, there are usually ‘pairs’ of pauses, we can use that pairing of pauses (which is where this process gets its name from) to create ‘Symmetrical’ Patterns of ideas that represent those pauses in our dance! To be fair, while you could do this with almost any piece of step/pattern/figure, we ideally want to keep this ‘simple’ – hahaha, as if! The problem with a step, pattern, or figure is that isn’t malleable. It doesn’t allow for modification. Usually, one step is built upon the one that came before it. So modification doesn’t necessarily work in this instance. This is the primary reason why steps, patterns, and figures don’t work. And then there’s the tiny little problem that they don’t generally work on a social dance floor due to space requirements. This stuff ? DOES WORK ON A SOCIAL DANCE FLOOR BECAUSE IT FITS EVERYWHERE!!!!

However, as you’ll see, this is anything but ‘simple’. Symmetry as a whole can become quite complex and quite lurid as a way to dance with nearly infinite possibilities to play within a 3-minute song! The options are seemingly endless. Seemingly. There is an upper limit that for each possibility represented there are 17 available options with the 6 Ways of Walking. Honestly, though, a pattern or figure would be infinitely easier to do in many ways, because it removes all doubt as to what to do next. However, there is another skill that we’re actually building here, and that’s Facility. The ‘Facility’ to do all of this stuff off the top of our heads! Symmetry reinforces this skill and then doubles down on it, meaning that we build into our skillset not just facility but also it starts to build structure in what we’re doing.

Also, engaging Symmetry adds layer upon layer upon layer of options and opportunities for lots of accents and ‘playfulness’ in the music with lots and lots of places where BOTH partners can play not just the lead! If Alternation is the meat of the meal, Symmetry once you see it, is quite literally everything else about that meal that is appealing!

It should be noted that the ideas being presented here are more than enough without adding steps, patterns, and figures to keep you busy for months going through all the possible permutation and years to come. You could dance this way all night long without adding any pattern, or ‘spice’ or accent vocabulary (volcadas, sacadas, colgadas, ganchos, etc), and it’s not only a fun dance, it’s also visually appealing to watch and play with.

There are 6 types of Paired Symmetry where we use the words “Same” and “Opposite” each to represent 1 of the 6 ways of Walking, and where the ‘|’ represents a Musical Pause, and the “.” represents the END of the Musical Paragraph.

Type ‘A’: Same|Same | Opposite|Opposite | Same|Opposite.
Type ‘B’: Same|Opposite | Opposite|Same | Opposite|Same.
Type ‘C’: Opposite|Same | Same|Opposite | Opposite|Same.
Type ‘D’: Opposite|Opposite | Same|Same | Opposite|Same.
Type ‘E’: Same|Opposite | Same|Opposite | Same|Opposite.
Type ‘F’: Opposite|Same | Opposite|Same | Same|Opposite.

This is all gobbly-gook until you put some real values in there that make sense. So let’s do that using 2 of the 6 Ways of Walking.

For the ‘Same’ value we would use a Type 1a Walk (Parallel System on 2 Tracks) for ‘Opposite’ we would use a Type 3a Walk (Follower ‘Lazy’ Ochos).

Example Ideas:

Type ‘A’: 1a (Pause) 1a (Pause) 3a (Pause) 3a  (Pause) 1a (Pause) 3a (End Musical Paragraph).
Type ‘B’: 1a (Pause) 3a (Pause) 3a (Pause) 1a (Pause) 3a (Pause) 1a (End Musical Paragraph).
Type ‘C’: 3a (Pause) 1a (Pause) 1a (Pause) 3a (Pause) 3a (Pause) 1a (End Musical Paragraph).

You can fill in the rest for yourself. You can easily see how this plays out, and this is without turns, without crosses, without any spice vocabulary. It creates an ordered structure which provides near-infinite possibilities and variations. This is why Symmetry and the video series is an insanely powerful tool, and this is just 3 possibilities of the 6!

It should be noted that this is only what happens when there are only 4 pauses in a section of a Musical Paragraph, we remove the last set of pairs! What happens when there are 8 ? We double the pair sets! Again, structure and order!   

fun ? spice ? variety ? watch these videos!

The ‘Odd Pause’ Rule. Occasionally, not always but there are times when there are an odd number of Pauses or the ending of a Musical Paragraph where you want to do something a little different. While we will talk about that ending in Section 6 of the series in depth, we want to invoke The Odd Pause Rule. Which states that when you have an odd number of pauses or it’s the last pause before the end of the Musical Paragraph, we want to compress and reprise what we’ve done within the space of one pause! So, for example, we have a Type ‘A’ Structure of a Type 1a Walk (Pause) Type 1a (Pause) Type 3a Walk (Pause) Type 3a Walk ? Take out the pauses and compress everything so that it fits within the space of ONE pause!

So the effect would be this Example Ending or Odd Pause > 1a-1a-3a-3a
As a whole the entire paragraph would look like this, musically speaking >
1a (Pause) 1a (Pause) 3a (Pause) 3a (Pause) 1a-1a-3a-3a (End Musical Paragraph).

The Follower’s Role. In all of the above the Follower would be very tempted to completely disregard all of this stuff, and rightfully so, because seemingly so there’s almost nothing there for the Follower.

NOT TRUE!

Nothing could be further from the truth there. You quite possibly have the biggest role of all here! While the Lead is mapping this stuff out, you have to execute this stuff! Furthermore you have the possibility to decorate nearly everything that’s being asked of you here! Look at those structures above, again, and then think about Los Golpecitos (a touch/tap with the free foot before the step happens) just as an example! Now add in an adornment at the pauses, now add in Doble Golpecitos at the pauses or a patter, or a Caricia ….and you’ve got near infinite possibilities here. You’ve got places to add decorations nearly EVERYWHERE!

While the Adornment is the musical addition, the embellishment tends to happen at double time to the note or happens outside of the note or beat structure. Tends to. Not always but ‘tends to happen’. Tango Topics sees the Embellishment as exterior to the beat, whereas the Adornment would like to happen directly on the beat and at the pause. However, in either case, the Adornment or Embellishment is within the musical structure never outside of it. In other words, we, as Followers, never go outside of the music. If it’s not in the music, it’s not on the floor. This rule should also apply to the Lead as well. 😉

One More Thing. Remember that Alternation & Symmetry are only a stepping stone, they’re only a passageway towards created structure, or a latticework with our dance. Also, remember that this stuff does not replace what you’ve learned in other classes about ‘musicality’ or rightfully “Interpreting The Music”, it can and does work hand in hand with it. Remember that stuff that you’ve experienced in other classes on this topic is about the accent idea, mostly. This is what you do with the rest of the song!

Where can you study the Musical Stuff ? Tango Topics has a number of musical courses that you can take:

1.) (Beat Course) Clarify what the beat is, and is not, and then develop a regime to teach how to hear a beat within its proper tempo (speed) consistently. What are the markers for a beat, and what to listen for. 
2.) (Beat Course with Exercises
) Recalibrate someone’s innate (and quite natural) ordering and sorting skills, as it relates to hearing the ‘pattern’ of the music out of the chaos of the music, with the goal to hearing and retraining someone to hear ‘Musical Time’.
3.) (Pauses Course) Introduce the Dancer to the 5 Common Types of Musical Pauses that occur everywhere in Tango Music, and then practice hearing those pauses every day for 44 days with examples of Tango, Vals, and finally Milonga music of where a pause is, and then type those pauses, consistently through daily Tango del Dia quizzes. 😉 Starting with the 14 Days of Tango Music.
4.) (Accents Course) Introduce the dancer to Musical Accents, Off Notes, La Variacion, and The Singer, and employ Tango Del Dia Level 2.
5.) (Structure Course) Introduce the dancer to the overall structure of the music and the 6 (sometimes 8) parts of a song.

And of course, as a subscriber, you can see the entire 54m:22s video that you currently can’t see unless you’re a subscriber. 🙂 

This video is NOT for sale. You can only view it with a Tango Topics Subscription.

About The Video. This video package comes in at 54m:22s in length in 5 Sections.

Section 3a – Alternation – The Basic Idea – 00:14:35
Section 3b – Alternation – Walking Ideas – 00:06:10
Section 3c – Alternation – With the Music – 00:08:21
Section 4a – Symmetry – The Whole Ball of Wax – 00:17:17
Section 4b – Symmetry – With the Music – 00:07:59

This video can not be purchased, only viewed online via Tango Topics Subscription. 

Watch It On Youtube? Why should you subscribe to this website when stuff like this is available on Youtube ? Because this stuff doesn’t exist anywhere on Youtube. That’s why! This content has been sitting in the back of my mind for the better portion of 8+ years. I have spent most of that time refining it through teaching intensives, clarifying the ideas, cleaning up the inconsistencies that existed with the theories, and practices, and ended up developing this course as a result. It has been tested, and tried through hundreds of dancers that have gone through the intensive process.

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.

Please go look at Parts 1 and 2 of Tango Topics Musical Interpretation series. 

Open post

Musical Interpretation – Parts 1 & 2

Musical Interpretation (parts 1 & 2)

Musical Interpretation. When most people hear the phrase ‘Musical Interpretation’ they usually end up looking at you with a blank stare, blinking their eyes at you now and again, until you use the word that makes sense to them: “Musicality”. And then they’re like, “Weeeeellll! Why didn’t you say so in the first place…..”, and then it’s like you’re best buddies again! 

First and foremost, let’s get something out of the way. “Musicality” doesn’t mean what you think it does, as you’ll soon see. Secondly and most importantly the word itself means ‘to BE music’! Hmm, you can write the music, you can listen to the music, you can dance to the music, but you can not…if I am not mistaken, BE music. It is impossible. However, you can INTERPRET the Music! 

The Workshop Problem. A class or workshop tutorial on ‘Musicality” doesn’t actually teach you about music, nor does it teach to dance to the music as a whole. A 1hr (or 1.5 hr) workshop or even a 6 week series is not going to teach you to dance to the music. The topic is wide and vast, and seemingly overwhelming. Further still, the very idea that you can ‘interpret’ the music is so far beyond most people’s understanding (or so they believe) that it overwhelms them when they begin to see the complexity of the topic at hand. 

Usually most people’s experience with ‘musicality’ workshops that they’ve had in the past is as follows: 1.) you are first shown/taught a step, a pattern, or a figure. 2.) You go through several rotations of partners learning the step/pattern/figure. 3.) The last 15 minutes to half hour of class is showing you the same example of the figure you’ve spent 45 minutes learning only now somehow, magically, it goes with a piece of music or a style of music or an aspect that is specific to that piece of music that may sometimes occur here and there. 4.) You’re shown a few variations on a theme of the figure, and somewhere about the 3rd or 4th your eyes start to glaze over. 5.) The idea of Counting Beats is reinforced: On the 2nd beat you step here, on the 3rd beat the Follower is supposed to step there, on the 4th….and so on.

Is this dancing ? No.
It’s a game of Twister, only to music. 🙁

Ask yourself the following questions: Are you any wiser as to where the beat is at, or were you stomping behind someone else, copying them ? Has the class or workshop taught you about the orchestral style ? Probably not. Has it informed you about why this orchestra was important or any history about that orchestra or in fact the primary singers of that orchestra ? It may, but the topic is so wide and vast that it quite literally hurts your head to consider all the permutations that it’s impossible to put it all into one 1.5 hr session or into a weekend workshop. (note: This is what Tango Topics has broken out into the Tango Del Dia section of the process so that you can learn this stuff independently, and learn why it’s important to the process. You can see the ‘lite’ version of it here).  Has it taught you what you’re supposed to be listening for, and more importantly why ? And beyond that has it taught you how to do that ? More than likely it’s taught you a figure, but that figure only applies to that specific piece of music, and types like it. And further, the figure only applies in bits and pieces, or sections of the music. So what are you supposed to do with the rest of the time ? Walk ? Ha! At the same time said workshop has most certainly thrown this word around “Phrase”, but do you have any idea, more so now, than you did 45 minutes ago what a ‘phrase’ is and how it applies everywhere else ? Are you any clearer on the idea of ‘Musicality’ than you were 45 minutes ago ? Probably not. But what you have done is spent the better portion of an hour or so, learning a figure that you’ll probably never use, and very little time on the ‘musical’ part that you absolutely need to learn. 

This comprises most people’s experience of a ‘musicality’ class. It’s not all of them, nor is this to disparage anyone’s work on this topic. This section is here to point out the disparity of the problem, and why teaching and learning this stuff takes time, patience, and lots of practice! And more importantly why you do actually have to study with someone for a long while to get this stuff. It’s not going to happen in 5 minutes, or 5 weeks, or 5 sessions, or 5 months. Get that thought right out of your head. That’s a fallacy! 

What is ‘Musical Interpretation’ ? Musical Interpretation is a term that brings together two very different skillsets that should not be confused or co-mingled together. And they usually are, sadly. Both have to be accessed at the same time in order for Musical Interpretation to work properly, however these are two very different skills that must be pursued with all due diligence.  

The first part is ’Musical’. Which can be, but is not limited to – Either role hears the music in a very specific way, whereby they’re collectively, and/or separately, able to hear the beat, pause, and phrase (not phrasing – that’s entirely different idea) within the overall structure of a piece of music. This is about hearing the music, and its individual components. Not acting on them, but instead hearing them, keeping track of them, and understanding what’s going on. That last part is insanely difficult to do, and takes some time to get. Sometimes, ok – a lot of the time, most people get too wrapped up in their own excitement of the next part of this stuff and never focus on the one thing that they absolutely must… AND/OR they focus on one aspect (the beat, usually) alone and believe that this will be ‘enough’. It’s not by the way. This idea is, and this is not to disparage your ideas, can be almost pedestrian in nature. We do want to aspire to something more that accentuates the nuance and spirit of the music, not just it’s beat alone. 

The second part is ‘Interpretation’, which is what you do with that beat, pause, and phrase (the ‘phrasing’, that’s the doing part of phrases) of the overall piece of music so that you see the movement or dancing part in the music. Ideally this is the desired result. However, and this where Interpretation takes on its real meaning. While you can vary that idea to express a point, a counterpoint of the music, but in the end, one is always working towards creating a larger vision of the music. Not to just visually represent the song note for note or phrase to phrase, but to show its nuances as well as its overall presence in the physical world. This is the beginning of ‘Interpretation’. 

 

A Few ‘Musical’ Problems. There are some problems with the Musical part above that must be addressed first and foremost. One problem that comes up a lot of people is that they’re beat challenged and don’t know it. 1.) They run too fast (ahead of the beat and actually think it’s one thing when it’s another). 2.) They run too slow (same problem as too fast, only in reverse). And/or 3.) They are slightly ahead, or slightly behind the beat, and/or running across the beat all at the same time.

Compounding the beat problem is that most of you reading this from a Leading perspective have been taught to Count Beats which is about as useful as a small kitchen appliance that’s been unplugged. From a Following perspective you’ve been taught to “do your thing as long as it doesn’t interrupt the lead (small ‘l’, the action, and not the person ‘L’) without actually ‘hearing’ what it is that you’re ‘not interrupting’.

Next we have the Musical Pause or ‘Rest’ issue that is frequently misread, misunderstood, or ignored completely by design or as is more likely the case, ignorant that a Musical Pause actually exists and is not arbitrary, but in fact built into the music and must be respected. But a question comes up in this, which is one reason why it’s highly misunderstood, “How do you hear something that isn’t there ?”.

Still another issue that compounds the Musical problem is purely psychological. Some people have been told from a very early age that they can’t find a beat to save their lives. This message is so ingrained that they buy into this fallacy without question over time. Still another is that some are so wrapped up in the fear of not getting the beat, or not understanding it, that their anxiety over their inadequacy that they anticipate the beat in the wrong places, and at a the wrong times. The common solution for a lot of Leads to these problems is to learn lots of steps, patterns, and figures to mask the overall problem.

The Performance Problem! Let’s remove a component from the table that needs to be addressed. This is not about a performance. Social Musical Interpretation is not about replicating someone’s performance that you saw on youtube. No. That is an artistic expression from that couple, and their idea of what can happen under certain ideal conditions. However there are a few problems with this expression. 1.) First and foremost, 9 times out of 10, what you see in a performance can not, and will not work in the line of dance! Mostly because there is no space for 90% of that stuff. If you take out all the volcadas, sacadas, boleos, ganchos, what’s left are turns, ochos, walking, crosses, and variations of them in open and close embrace, which forms the basis of Social Tango! 2.) What you’re looking at is generally selling that couple’s idea of tango to you. It is, again, a performance to sell you on them. However, this isn’t about selling you anything, this is about dancing with your partner, to accentuate the music and to create a pleasant dancing experience that you’ll have lovely memories about! 3.) No one gives a rat’s damn if you know 356 Sacadas, or can Boleo over your head! The only thing that most people care about is whether or not the dance was pleasant, enjoyable, and most of all ‘musical’. That’s all that people care about. And that’s the basis of SOCIAL TANGO or in this case, Social Musical Interpretation.

How to Clean Up The Musical Problem ? In order to clean up the problems above, five things must happen in sequence:

1.) (Beat Course) Clarify what the beat is, and is not, and then develop a regime to teach how to hear a beat within its proper tempo (speed) consistently. What are the markers for a beat, and what to listen for. 
2.) (Beat Course with Exercises) Recalibrate someone’s innate (and quite natural) ordering and sorting skills, as it relates to hearing the ‘pattern’ of the music out of the chaos of the music, with the goal to hearing and retraining someone to hear ‘Musical Time’.
3.) (Pauses Course) Introduce the Dancer to the 5 Common Types of Musical Pauses that occur everywhere in Tango Music, and then practice hearing those pauses every day for 44 days with examples of Tango, Vals, and finally Milonga music of where a pause is, and then type those pauses, consistently through daily Tango del Dia quizzes. 😉 Starting with the 14 Days of Tango Music.
4.) (Accents Course) Introduce the dancer to Musical Accents, Off Notes, La Variacion, and The Singer, and employ Tango Del Dia Level 2.
5.) (Structure Course) Introduce the dancer to the overall structure of the music and the 6 (sometimes 8) parts of a song.

How to Start to Interpret The Music ? It is important to recognize that the process of Interpretation is not an easy pathway. It is going to take some time. Note the language that’s used here in the opening question, “how to START…?”, “Start” being the operative word. Interpretation doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t just magically start to interpret the music. No. You must first be trained in what to listen for. However, that training above this is only one half of the equation. The other half of the equation is the vocabulary component, it is an important stepping stone (no pun intended). In short, you have to know what to do with that music. And that’s the vocabulary portion of the process.

The belief is that Musical Interpretation can only happen with lots of intricate and complex patterns, and figures. Not true. And quite honestly those patterns and figures are based on very, very simple, easy to digest, concepts and ideas –  Ochos, Turns, and Crosses.

A really good way to start the process of Musical Interpretation is with very simple ideas that can be built upon and then expanded, and that’s where we introduce an important, but foundational structure that must be clear in the dancer’s mind regardless of role: The 6 Ways of Walking! Without this key component present in the dancer’s bag of skills, there’s quite literally no point in doing anything else until this skill has been introduced, practiced religiously, and then thoroughly and completely mastered from a Leading AND Following perspective. As this idea is the cornerstone of everything else that comes after it.

What’s Next ? It’s not a ‘next’ but a ‘while’. All the while that the above is going on, 3 things must absolutely occur at the same time:

1.) The dancer must have mastered the 6 Ways of Walking from a Leading perspective as well as from a Following perspective.  These are literally the ‘keys’ to the city of Tango. Without them, there’s no point in cleaning up the ‘Musical’ problem, or trying to Interpret the Music. Because the tools for what you will do with that interpretation do not exist. The 6 Ways of Walking is the First tool. And if this sounds like a sales pitch. It’s not. It’s what has to be present in order for everything else to take place. Everything that is in this course contains this most basic element. Sections 1 and 2 of this course begins this process by walking you through and marrying beat and pauses with the 6 ways of walking.

2.) The dancer must begin their mastery in 3 types of Tango vocabulary. In specific: Ochos, Turns, and Crosses.

a.) 2 of the 8 types of Ochos. – Milonguero (“Lazy”) Ochos and Traveling Ochos.
b.) The 8 types of Turns, and in specific the Follower’s Molinete, the Milonguero Turn, and the Argentine Calecita.
c.) 2 of the 256 types of Argentine Cross, and Back and Forward Floating and Rotating Crosses.

3.) The dancer must be introduced to 2 foundational concepts that take us to the next level of Musical Interpretation: Alternation, and Symmetry.

Next month, sections 3 and 4 of Musical Interpretation will display Alternation, and Symmetry!

dancing in a small space ? watch these videos!

bsas-prep-title


About The Video. This video package comes in at 52m:32s in length in 6 Sections, and 8 Subsections.

Section 1 – Opening – 00:02:48 (this video is above)
Section 2 – The ‘What’ Part – 00:10:59
Section 3 – The ‘What’ Example – 00:05:40
Section 4 – The ‘How’ Part – 00:03:02
Section 5 – Level 1 – 00:12:32
   – part 1 – walking on every beat – parallel system. (metronome)
   – part 2 – walking on every other beat – parallel system. (metronome)
   – part 3 – walking on every beat to the pauses – parallel system. (metronome/music)
   – part 4 – walking on every other beat to the pauses – parallel system. (metronome/music)
Section 6 – Level 2 – 00:17:37
   – part 5 – walking on every beat to the pauses – 6 ways of walking. (metronome)
      a.) parallel. b.) 3 track cross. c.) milonguero ochos. d.) inside ‘snake’ walk. e.) outside ‘snake’ walk. f.) alternate walk ‘a’.
   – part 6 – example dance – walking on every beat to the pauses – 6 ways of walking. (music)
   – part 7 – walking on every other beat to the pauses – 6 ways of walking. (metronome)
      a.) parallel. b.) 3 track cross. c.) milonguero ochos. d.) inside ‘snake’ walk. e.) outside ‘snake’ walk. f.) alternate walk ‘a’.
   – part 8 – example dance – walking on every beat to the pauses – 6 ways of walking. (music)

One More Thing.

It’s important to recognize that while you’re going through this process above, and it is a long process that will take you about 6 to 9 months to ferment in your mind and body, that you must also be practicing every single day (solo practice), you must be going out social dancing as much as possible. You must be dancing with as many people as possible, in every kind of condition, and in every space. The reason is that the dancer must be trained to be able to exist under all possible conditions with every type of dancer, every style, in every opportunity. This is conditioning in it’s simplest form. It forms the basis of The Neurology of Leading (and Following).

Learning this stuff in a studio or at home is ok, but you need real world experience and practice. 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.

Can You Download This Video Series ? Sadly, no. 🙁 Due to legal and financial music issues, this video series is only available to paid subscribers.

Watch It On Youtube ? Why should you subscribe to this website when stuff like this is available on Youtube ? Because this stuff doesn’t exist anywhere on Youtube. That’s why! This content has been sitting in the back of my mind for the better portion of 8+ years. I have spent most of that time refining it through teaching intensives, clarifying the ideas, cleaning up the inconsistencies that existed with the theories, and practices, and ended up developing this course as a result. It has been tested, and tried through hundreds of dancers that have gone through the intensive process.

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.

Comment Below

Scroll to top