Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

Tango 'Noise'

Today’s Tango Topic is not a sexy topic, and it may almost sound like perfectionism, or complaining. When in fact it is a real world example of what can and does happen in Argentine Tango. Think of it as minutiae, but this minutiae has massive implications for how you dance and more importantly how your dancing skills are perceived!  Today’s topic deals with what can be referred to as ‘Tango Noise’. The word ‘Noise’ is a slight misnomer because this is not something that is heard but more importantly felt via the nervous system of the human body.
Before we go any further, let’s be clear about something: This topic is not about perfectionism! It’s an observation of what happens to the human body. This article and free video are not here to point out that you’re failing (which may or may not be true), so that you’ll be a perfect dancer in the end (as there is no end to this stuff). No! This article exists for the sole purpose of bringing your attention to the issues that you’re generating and then showing you a possible solution set. And so that we’re absolutely clear, this isn’t a beginner thing, nor intermediate, nor is it an advanced thing, nor does it have to do with those that have been dancing a minimal amount of time or a long period of time. Nor does it have to do with ‘style’, or genre of Tango in any way, shape, or for. No. Tango Noise as a whole is generated by those that have been dancing for 5 minutes and those that have been dancing for 5 years and/or 55  years, that dance any style or ideal of tango. Time and/or Style are not factors here. Perceived skill is not a factor here. Awareness is a factor, and it’s the only factor that matters at all.

What is ‘Tango Noise’ ? In its simplest form, it is a series of motions that by themselves are individual problems that we want to avoid, but are grouped together to describe what can, and does, happen to the human body while dancing that can generate kinesthetic unintentional motion which is perceived as instability or being unsteady. One of them this site has already detailed in detail is ‘Thud’. ‘Thud’, to refresh your memory, is where the dancer’s leg lifts the foot off the floor, and then is put down with some force, resulting in an impact with the floor that is heard as a ’Thud’. However more importantly the ’Thud’ is felt as a tremor which travels up the leg, through the hip, and then up through the spinal column and out through the arms of the embrace. This is just one element of Tango Noise.

Typically Tango Noise manifests itself as either unintended or unconscious motion in either the spine, hips, legs, arms, head, and feet. Which is your entire body. It is neurological in nature, meaning that it is generated by the dancer’s lack of kinesthetic awareness, however we only see the skeletal effect of this neurological lack of awareness.

Mostly everyone generates some kind or type of Tango Noise. Our goal in our solo practice is to minimize those issues or areas of Tango Noise as much as humanly possible. However the fact is that a lot of people don’t do that. They’re completely unaware that they’re generating these things to begin with, and believe, erroneously, that what they’re doing is desirable because no one has said anything about their abilities or skills. This is a fallacy of delusion. The reality is that a.) a good portion of the people that you dance with have not been trained to feel this stuff. and b.) because they’re untrained they’re not going to say anything about it. and then there’s c.) The Feedback Problem. Meaning that even if they knew about it, they have an issue with how to give you feedback so that you can hear it. 😉

That said…let’s talk about Tango Noise!

From A Dancer’s Perspective you can and do generate Tango Noise in a myriad of ways. While this is not necessarily an exhaustive list, it does touch on the major points that you want to become acquainted with.

1.) Tilting from side to side, breaking at the waist, usually in a side step.  2.) Pitching forwards and back (with & without breaking at the waist). 3.) Head Tilt towards and away from your partner. 4.) Wavering from side to side, or back and forth. 5.) Flailing arms, or threshing elbows. 6.) The leg going backwards, crossing the body meridian in an unintended, unaware, and uncontrolled fashion. and 7.) Obviously, ‘Thud’, which we’ve already detailed. There is one more which is common to both Follower and Leads, and we’ll get to that one below, and really it’s the focus of this article which is not shown in the video for good reason, it’s because it’s unseen, but rather felt: Wiggle. There are two areas where we feel ‘Wiggle’:

Spinal Column: The Spine can, and does, move a good amount which is desirable, we want that motion, mostly to be somewhat steady circular motion as it relates to Argentine Tango. At the same time a good portion of you are unaware that you are generating lateral ‘wiggle’ motion. This ‘wiggle’ happens in your spinal column which is felt as a slight or minor displacement that go from side to side, very slight. This motion is all to easily confused with walking instability. However if you stop moving, then then the ‘unsteadiness’ or ‘wiggle’ is felt independent of the walk. Ideally we seek a ‘quiet’ spinal column, no unintended motion, the less unintended or uncontrolled lateral movement in the spinal column the better. 🙂

Your Hips: While there is a certain amount of motion that we want in the hips, what we do not desire is where the sockets or joins are seemingly ‘wiggly’ through and through, meaning there’s a bit too much ‘give’ or looseness in them. This is usually felt as the leg extends, that it extends slightly diagonally to the left or to the right, and always to the same side with the same leg. To be clearer, sometimes this is an affectation of age and there’s seemingly not a whole lot you can do about this one, it’s just what happens to your body. Seemingly being the operative word. As you can in fact strengthen the tendons that surround those joints to a certain degree. Going forward, the looseness is felt as a ‘Wiggle’ and is undesirable. 🙁

From A Student’s Perspective let us be absolutely clear about something: “Tango Noise” is a Tango Topics term. Other teachers may have a different way of talking about this stuff, if they talk about it at all to this level of detail. Quite possibly this is not something that you’re going to hear from a lot of teachers on this topic in specific. You won’t find this stuff on YouTube or vimeo, and there is sincere doubt that your teacher is going to discuss it with you in any way, shape, or form, except as bypassing commentary while you’re dancing with them, and not necessarily address the underlining issues. That’s not a disparagement of your teachers or any teacher for that matter, it’s a statement of fact that they have a whole bunch of other things that they may need to address, so this particular point of minutiae may not be addressed at all, if ever. 

The Fix ? Ok, so we’ve identified the issue oh so wise and sage tango teacher (ha-ha-ha, as if!)…is there a fix for this stuff ? Yes, and no. Yes. The ‘Yes’ requires that the dancer start doing solo practice work. And in specific working on their extensions, and weight transfers. This site has a number of exercises that you can use to help you with that process if you need ideas and really what to focus on. Just by example ideally we want to focus on the minute movements, specifically at the beginning of the extension phase of the step, just as the leg is extending, that motion. Not the entire extension, sometimes referred to as a ‘projection’, but just the starting point of that extension. And learn to control it in ever increasingly smaller and smaller motion. 😉 No. The ’No’ part is that you can’t necessarily do the spinal corrective parts on your own. For that, you’d need another human being that has been trained in this stuff so that you can begin to hear it, and then learn to control it.

However in either case of “YES” or “NO” there is something that we can do to at least see the effects of this stuff, and that’s where we talk about “Glass” or “Water Work”.

Working With Water. The fact is that water is a great truth teller in this instance. Fill a flat bottomed glass with water about 90% of the way full. And then do 1 of 2 things, preferably in sequence.

One: Stretch out your hand as shown in the video above, and walk forwards or back, attempting to minimize the amount of motion in the water!

Two: Place said glass of water on your head, and walk with the embrace, as a Lead or as a Follow, by yourself! Not with a partner.

Working with water in this case is a great mitigator, it shows you where you are the most stable, and where you’re the least, it also shows you where you need to focus on to create a clean and stable walk.

Reality. Rightfully you must be trained to hear this stuff in order to correct for it. And you do want to correct for it. Because doing so will clarify and clean up the sensation of how you move. Truthfully most people, erroneously believe, that Tango is all about the steps, patterns, figures, and it is not that. It’s about how you move! The dance can be about anything you want, but in reality what lay under that dance is the technique of how you move. If you ‘just walk’ in Tango, this will get you around the floor. But if you were to video that ‘just walking’ around the floor, more than likely you’ll be unimpressed with the results, you’ll want it to look more elegant than that, more refined, much sharper, clearer. Tango Noise, and the topics under it as a concept, deals with that are beneath that ‘just walking’ part. It’s more about what is felt than what is seen. While you can present for the 15th row (if you were performing), that’s all fine and good, but most people do not perform, they Social Dance with their friends and acquaintances, and they’d like to that Social Dance to not only look nice but also feel nice. Tango Noise is all about removing those things that can generate a less than desirable experience, and thereby making the dance feel as good as it can without pulling, pushing, pressure, compression, tension, rigidity, or force in any way, shape, or form. 🙂 YMMV

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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.

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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!

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