(Article Updated: 09/17) The moment you hear the word “Articulation” you’re going to say to yourself, “What the frak does that have to do with Argentine Tango ?”. And you’d be right to ask that question. That’s because this word isn’t necessarily related to Tango all that much, if ever. It’s a Tango Topics term. When we hear the word we’re more than likely to think of its literal iteration, “the formation of clear and distinct sounds in speech. The act of putting into words an idea or feeling of a specified type. The act or manner of uttering a speech sound, especially a consonant”. However, if you’re a music geek, the word has another meaning, “The clarity in the production of successive notes”. In either case, neither of those two definitions have anything to do with Articulation from a Tango Perspective.
What is Tango Articulation ? Articulation and Tango Articulation are the same things, just one is from a Tango perspective: Tango Articulation is a state where by the movement of one’s body parts, specifically the extremities of feet, legs, arms, and hands, create sharp and detailed lines that accentuate the form of the body in relationship to the pleasing and iconic shape of the couple in the embrace. The idea of ‘Articulation’ could mean, but is not limited to, pointing the toes, pointing the foot, generating a horizontal line with the arm around and across the back of your partner, raising of the head and pulling the head backwards towards the spinal column, the elbows, elongating the spinal column….all of these can be ‘Articulation’. Articulation is an accentuation of the form to detail the lines or shape of the dancers at all points along a movement, and in long form, the dance. To be aware of that movement and to create clean, clear, sharp lines of those shapes. So in essence the original English dictionary definition of this word isn’t that far off. Further one might start to think of this particular topic as ‘Posture’. Posture is only one place where Articulation can occur. It’s everywhere, toes, feet, legs, arms, hands, head but not necessarily the ‘trunk’ of the body. In the video above, Articulation is only viewed from the perspective of the feet and toes at first and then later legs. While it’s good focus on feet in this instance, that’s not the only place where Articulation can and should occur!
For a lot of dancers Tango Articulation is a very foreign idea to a certain extent. And that’s because the moment the some people see it, and truly understand it for what it is, it’s very possible that those people will see it as ‘perfectionism’ and/or ‘performance’ Tango. Yes, it is ‘detailed’ work and for some people, it’s just too much work for them, and this topic is unimportant minutiae. The dance is about ‘fun’ for them, and this is not ‘fun’, it’s work. From their perspective, Articulation is too difficult, an effort to remember (true to a point), hard to practice (lie), not important (another lie), and hard to do (another lie). Yet, at the same time, Articulation is what sets the better dancer apart from the dancer that views this stuff as ‘work’.
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From a Following perspective Articulation of one’s feet is what factually defines the elegance that is looked at in ochos, molinetes, crosses, adornments/embellishments. The more that a Follower Articulates, the more the Follower ‘sells the shoes’ as it were, and the move, and in a larger sense…the couple! And by ‘sell’, meaning that the visual presentation is seen as very desirable. Whether or not it’s ‘pleasurable’ is a different story all together.
To be clear, Articulation is not something you’re going to come to on your own. It requires that you have some awareness of what you’re doing and why and that means being exposed to a teacher who can and should point these things out to you…religiously! Just watching this video is NOT enough! You must be kept after, constantly. Why ? Because you’ll slip back to doing what’s comfortable for you.
This is NOT easy work. It’s not like you’ll spend 45 minutes in a class or workshop and then you’ve “got” it. NOT going to happen. This is blistering amounts of detailed work, every day for weeks, if not (depending on your age, and personal work ethic) months on end. You are going to suck at this stuff at first. And then later on, ‘poco a poco’. A little bit at a time…
Going a little deeper, once you start paying attention to this stuff, you’re going to start seeing this stuff EVERYWHERE! Everywhere in others at first, and then later on in you. And so that we’re clear about this, generally not in a good way either. You’ll notice that a good portion of the people that dance around you are generating a ‘sloppiness’ in their Articulations. While this may seem like pointing at other people’s flaws, it’s a good exercise for you so that you can see all the places where this stuff occurs, and it occurs a lot!
The humbling point: Once you think you’ve got a handle on Articulation in yourself, you’ll see that you don’t. How’s that ? This is about learned behavior, and about you unlearning what you have learned and replacing that with a more visually desirable end result. In many ways this is like editing your own words that you’ve written, words that you’ve fallen in love with…and you can’t bear to part with. However you have to in order to make the overall point of your words much better, cleaner, sharper, and on point!
From a Leading perspective it’s easy to dismiss this topic as solely a Follower issue, especially given the video above. That would be unwise. Articulation matters to you as well.
Articulation defines the presentation of the Follower’s movements.
Why ? While the Lead is leading, they’re quite literally, if not actually, pointing at something the Follower is doing the entire time. For you, as the Lead, your whole thing is about presenting the Follower. The more that you present the Follower, the more people see the couple! The current line of thinking for most Leads is that ‘Presenting the Follower’ means adding oodles of vocabulary (sacadas, colgadas, volcadas, ganchos, boleos, etc) … and while these things have their place, usually these things are poorly executed (sloppy), and ill timed, and so we do not want to use them. Instead we want to add these things as accent, or ‘spice’ to the meal! And the meal is ? Less vocabulary and focusing on the 5 Basics of Social Tango. In short this means: 1.) Walking. 2.) Milonguero Ochos or Traveling Ochos. 3.) Milonguero Turns or Follower’s Molinete. 4.) Crosses & Cortados. and most importantly 5.) Dancing to the Pauses, and Accentuating the Musical Phrase!
The Lead has an incredible responsibility here, and that’s to Articulate wherever possible to accentuate the Follower’s execution, everywhere. However this is typically NOT what happens.
Putting this as simply as is possible: Articulation is not a role issue. It’s a dancer issue. So regardless of whether you dance one role predominantly or not, you still must articulate everywhere.
Watch It On Youtube ? Why should you subscribe to this website when stuff like this is available on Youtube ? Because what you’ll find on Youtube doesn’t explain and walk you through this stuff. So this is one reason why you want access to these video, and more importantly to have this stuff broken down for you from a leading and following perspective.
So, please, go right ahead, go watch all the presentation videos on youtube all you want. Because that’s what they are ‘Presentation’ videos. The couple’s that you’re used to seeing are performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they’re not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about ‘Social Dancing’. So please, go spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that 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. 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! (ahem) ME! The goal of youtube videos is to entice you to go study with those teachers in person. The goal of these 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 be done with it. 😉
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.
In an hour long class, with the blind leading the blind through rotation of partners (uuuggggh!), you may glean a piece of the information you need and not get the whole thing, and you’ll miss important pieces that you’ll end up having to take a private lesson for to get the finer points. This way, you can watch over and over again, and get all the supplementary materials, and if you want you can still go take the class, only you’ll be better prepared to do so!
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.