Monday, 23 June 2008

Los Dispari 3, 6, and 7 - walking and turns

So, a much briefer account of three more classes with Jorge Dispari and Marita 'La Turca' organised by Tango in Action. (I'm spelling it Marita, the same as TiA do on their website, because I clearly heard Jorge so pronounce it - but mostly you see it written 'Maria'. Will someone tell me, is Marita just a diminutive? If so, I'll go back to writing it the usual way.) Previously: Class 1 (Essentials of Villa Urquiza style, embrace, posture, elegance), and Class 2 (essence of milonga walk).

3) Technique for the Tango Walk: details, tips and suggestions for the perfect Tango de Salon Walk

I didn't go to this one, although I considered it, so this is second-hand. But, I did dance at the weekend with a regular partner who had taken it, and his dance had been subtly but completely transformed. He was nicer than average to dance with before, and sometimes very nice, but suddenly he was a lot nicer. Apparently, he had had the class telling off, to the effect of "stop doing spins - nobody does spins - and it's very rude to do them less than two-thirds of the way through a dance" - and had had a revelation that it's fun to just walk. He was the sort of leader who never does moves he can't do, but constantly worries about boring the woman, not realising that if she has a trace of her own musicality she probably gets pretty bored with constantly expressing someone else's. Somehow, the Disparis had got this idea through to him. His dance had coalesced into a delightful musical walk with the occasional smooth turn or half-turn, and I was a happy hedgehog. There was also something about not repeating crosses too close together. My informant was finding by experiment that this advice was good, but he wasn't quite sure what Jorge's point had been, or why it worked; it may have had to do with drifting sideways or interrupting the flow.

Now, 6) Turns: unveiling the secrets for the execution of smooth, elegant turns - balance, hold, the lead and the woman's role, and 7) Turns part II: more advanced turns with complex footwork for leaders and decorations for followers.

These two I did take, and the second followed on from the late-starting first with a fifteen-minute break. I struggled much more with the Spanish than in the previous classes, because there was a lot more digressing as well as a lot more technique. The part about the woman's role included very specific disagreement with people who teach that once the turn starts, the woman should continue going forward, side, back, and so on until it stops. Every step should be distinctly led, Jorge repeated, and the leader's right hand helps to give the forward, backward, or sidewaysness. The woman should never take a single step by rote, and should never, ever have to think about what she should do; she must be free to 'feel'. He told us that some professional couples prearrange a signal with the open-side hands which tells the woman to keep turning so the man can stand on one leg and do ornaments with the other one, and not lead; he condemned this as fake and tasteless, and said it made him think of a poor little horse pulling a giant lorry. The woman should not be doing all this work, in his opinion. [Edit: I forgot a bit. He said here that the man should 'make himself shy,' and be showing the woman off, not himself.] (If you're wondering what this does and doesn't mean technically, watch a few videos of Jorge, and other people, before deciding what you think he's on about. From 02:25 in the video below might be relevant, for example, together with the bit about footwork, below).

Quotes included:

"The lead is round - the turn is round - Marita and I are also round ..."
"The turn is linear ... everything in tango is linear ... "

Those weren't, in fact, contradictory in context. The point of the second one was that the turn should start with a short backward step by the woman, the leader releasing her somewhat, and not a sidestep, as most of the class incorrectly assumed. It was not a turn out of the line of dance and back into it, but a turn on the spot, without leaving the line of dance at all.

The man's footwork was technically demanding, featuring a smooth complete turn on the spot, changing feet only once and using an opening and closing coiled-spring movement of the hips. In the second class, another turn was added in the opposite direction. You can see something rather like it, but much more so, in the video above, especially from about 02:35. These foot movements have names, and someone asked about the difference between two of them, but I don't remember that part clearly enough to repeat it. Anyway I don't think it would help much, compared to standing on a smooth floor and trying to work out how to make yourself rotate on the spot by wrapping one leg around the other and then unwrapping them again. The important technical points for men were to do with where the free leg is in relation to the standing leg, in front or behind, and that you open the hips for an outward movement but "squeeze your balls" (I'm not going to reproduce Stefano's pussyfooting translation - I'm telling you what Jorge said) when the free leg comes in front. So those points are probably what you should think about, if you want to try this at home. Other points were that you should always be on the balls of your feet, but without visibly lifting the heel - just releasing it from the ground - and that you always point your foot in the direction you are going, and outward, not in.

I think there's a fair chance that most of those who couldn't do it without losing their balance would find they could do it if they came back to it next week, but also a fair chance that they won't dare trying. Certainly a few were disheartened by the end; some just because they'd booked for too advanced a class.

By the end of the two classes I was exhausted, and my own dancing had gone backwards, if anything. We didn't change partners enough, which makes it far more difficult to find and fix problems.

I'm glad I heard what I heard, and the effect on many of the leaders was certainly good. I also think I learned something from watching Maria. The only point of technique she uttered in my hearing was to do with the free foot, the man's, in fact, tapping down en pointe rather than on tiptoe. But the same certainly applies to hers, if you watch. I felt I learned something from observing her and how she moved and responded to the music. I would have to be feeling a lot happier in myself and more sure of my leader to make use of what I learnt, but I have done my best to file it for a better day.

I can't tell you about the evening milonga. I was too tired, and couldn't have got there without crying, so I went to bed.


Limerick Tango said...

What do you mean by 'spins'?

The more I read of this the more I wish I had been there.

msHedgehog said...

I am fairly sure my informant meant when you plant the lady on one foot and walk around her. If you take her off-axis it turns into a volcada, but you don't have to do that. I'm ok with one or two in the right places, but a lot of them are very wearing on my foot (it's almost always the right foot), and do get tedious.

John said...

Thanks, once again, for putting all that down. I've got to work over the section on turns, but what you've put down is really useful. & I think this shows how the teaching market skews tango. I've been taught turns with barridas, saccadas, ganchos, planeos, boleos and probably more, but only once have I been taught that I should lead every step my partner takes. The decorations look flash and convince paying students that they are learning tango but it can be a distraction, and superficial.

That's a lovely video. There's a kind of courtesy throughout, which gives a new sense to 'leading'.

I recently came across a curious 30-second clip with a perfectly simple but very beautiful turn. It's not on YouTube, so this is the address: .

It's curious because it begins with a rather well-known tango dancer dancing, well, perhaps not so well, and ends with an unknown dancer dancing magically. Watch the tall guy lead that turn (I'm sure he does lead it). How he fits it into a musical phrase, from start to finish. How exactly his back cross mirrors his partner's front cross. How elegant and graceful, almost casual, and with a springing step that suggests enjoyment of the music. It's a perfectly basic, simple turn, it's just done so well.

If you scroll down that page and click on 'next', then down to the last video on the next page, the headless couple, there's even better. Talking bodies, so to speak. I find it enthralling. How do you learn that? Short of visiting BsAs, probably by spending as much time as possible with teachers like Los Dispari.

Elizabeth said...

This is much appreciated. The Disparis are favorites, but they never are in Seattle that I know of. Maybe I will find them next time in BA. Lovely, real, sweet dancing.

Psyche said...

"is Marita just a diminutive?"

Yep. You can do this with the masculine too: Pablo > Pablito. And with non-names: chico > chiquito > chiquitito (my favourite).

koolricky said...

Hi mshedgehog.
I heard wonders about the workshops. If I wasn't too busy organising other tango event I would have been there.
Would what your friend calls spins be callecitas?

msHedgehog said...

John's link above, that doesn't show properly in the comments page, is actually here. I don't find the writer's analysis of what he's seeing in that video especially persuasive, but it doesn't weaken the rest of what he's saying there.

msHedgehog said...

@koolricky, yes, I think they are called calesitas. I was glad to have heard what JD had to say. It's too early to say yet whether taking these classes will turn out to have done anything for my dancing as a follower.