Saturday, 13 December 2008

A Physical Change

Alex is annoyed about un-led voleos and ganchos. He's responding to Limerick.

I agree that what the follower is supposed to do with her free leg is difficult to explain. A lot of instructions on what to do with my free leg have seemed patently divorced from reality - what on earth is "a totally natural posture" even supposed to mean in high-heeled shoes? And even a good explanation, won't get the intended result if the lead that comes with it is mistimed or misdirected; so this is not something easily learned from a teacher who doesn't dance with you personally.

I don't think the technique is difficult to learn, but it does take time and practice to be able to do it physically.

For me it feels like getting my pelvis out of the way, without holding the thigh joint in a particular position - which I didn't find at all natural until I'd been dancing for over a year. I didn't even realise it was possible, and quite possibly it hadn't been, for me, till then. I think it takes time for those tendons to loosen and the muscles to find where the options are. Nowadays I can do a half-lotus; I couldn't do that a year ago. There's been a significant physical change, and you can't make that happen with explanations.


Tango commuter said...

Ganchos and boleyos 'just happen' because of slight changes of direction, axis and height created by the leader at the right point in a movement. They should feel involuntary. The follower chooses to decorate when she finds she has a free foot and a few moments to spare. They aren't quite the same; perhaps teachers don't make this clear enough.

I was once involved in an accident as a result of a follower trying out a gancho I wasn't leading (since I never lead them) so followers should come to an arrangement with their partners if they want lots of ganchos, rather than doing them regardless! Dance floors are hard.

The changes tango can make to our mental attitudes and physical bodies! An interesting topic: could one get a grant to make an in-depth study of the psychosomatic effects of Argentine tango? Well, a while back I found a book in Foyles by an American academic on the sociology of the milonga, which seems to have involved a grant for six months research, dancing every night in Buenos Aires... Dream on.

ghost said...

I agre thatthe hard part of learning them is having someone who can lead them, which logicaly in a class on ganchos / boloes probably isn't going to be the case.

I think there's several stages to learning to follow boleos.

Stage one - distract your mind. Don't try and think about it. Just relax. I once did a class on boleos and at the end a newish intermediate was frustrated that she still couldn't follow them. So I asked her dance with me in the practica and chatted constantly to her about her country, the weather, anything, while leading boleo after boleo after boleo - and not caring in the least if they didn't work. 2 mins later she was following boleos, though it took her another 30 seconds to realise (I wanted to be sure so I kept talking a bit longer).

The next stage is to gradually let your mind watch. Don't try to do anything. It's more "Oh a boleo happened".

Eventually you understand and then you start adding your own styling / control to it.

But yes, unled boleos and ganchos are a thing of evil.

As regards physical changes, one of the main attractions of tango for me is that it is done remarkably well by pensioners - theres not too many 60 year old ballet dancers. Which to me suggests that it's not that physically demanding (well at least for the guy) providing you have enough skill that you're not having to use strength etc to compensate.

I can follow boleos and I can do a half lotus, so there may be some truth to the theory. It's certainly an interesting thing to enquire at milongas....

Game Cat said...

I haven't read the Alex/Limerick dialogue yet, but from posts here it sounds there are 2 things to learn for voleos, ganchos and in fact any technique.

Firstly mastering the execution of the physical action itself, which may require adapting the body till it's comfortable with it. For this I think genetics and time spent accustomising the body (i.e. practice time) are the main limiting factors to accomplishment. In ballroom dancing, the general rule I've heard is "1-to-5" - every 1 hour of instruction requires 5 hours of practice to be profficient with the technique...and ballroom is imo 80-90% about technique. At my current time spent on the floor, that's about a month for me (okay - I'm a little slow).

Second - and this is trickier - being able to fit the technique into the right place and time without conscious interference (a la Ghost's cunning trick - fantastic!). I guess "interference" from a follower's perspective could be an "unled" gancho. From a leader's perspective, it could be abrupt tension as you're about to execute.....which gets transmitted to the follower and then she starts to feel fear and seizes up.

There's an analogy here with showjumping lurking at the back of my mind, but I'll pass on that for now. Instead I'll ask how and in what ways you all feel your bodies and minds may have changed after dancing tango for a while?

ghost said...

A tango teacher recommended I take up Alexnder technique; this has involved overhauling pretty much most of my body. Tendons and muscles that had adapted to positons of tension had to be released and lengthened (ouch). Another teacher's recommended Fendelkrais though I haven't tried that yet.

My body's certainly taken a fair amount of abuse, particularly my legs. The problem with learning tango, especially walking (or even just standing properly) is I don't think you can learn it in one go. You have to learn it piecemeal. But that means while you're learning it parts of it are wrong. Which tends to cause stresses and strains. (Oh and women doing unled ganchos into my legs is always fun...)

Well I was never really sane to begin with....

My ability to pick up sequences from watching them demoed has improved dramatically.

I can dance with a woman's face touching mine. That took some getting used to.

A more intuitive understanding of what passes for "floorcraft" in London. Feeling the ebbs and flows amongst the dancers.

Arlene said...

It is my understanding that Ganchos are to be lead as the leader must make room for it to happen. Voleos can be lead and a follower can also use it as a decoration if there is the space and the leader allows enough time in the dance. Too many leaders rush through a dance and don't allow the follower enough time to express herself. Personally, if there isn't the space, I don't take up invitations to do a gancho. I really good leader wouldn't ask you to.

msHedgehog said...

I've done some alexander technique, it's very useful for getting more choices about your posture and sorting out the problems you get from work.

I agree that it has to be bit by bit, I've been down quite a few very useful wrong tracks already. Recently I've been looking for the next one.

@gamecat, I have an analogy along those lines in the drafts file. I might schedule it to pop up while I'm on holiday next week ;)

Game Cat said...

Ghost, Ms H - I agree with the "bit by bit" path to tango proficiency. Because that is so, I think a real risk to progress is failing to turn good practice into good habits. There's no point focusing on another problem if doing so causes the last problem you tried to fix to resurface. As you can probably tell, this is a source of considerable personal annoyance.

I think Arlene makes 2 good points. I was taught too that ganchos and boleos are led (or at the least, "invited"). I've also heard the comment of not having enough time from very good followers....please, are there any tips for leaders?

Ms H - "Pop up"? As in over the hedge? :) Have a good holiday!

ghost said...

@ MsH Oh I'm looking forward to this...

@ Gamecat - if you haven't already done so, get a teacher to lead them on you. Then get a range of leaders to lead them on you, so that you too can experience the joy of "What the heck are you trying to lead me to do?" and "Yikes, missed it".

A lot of followers often refer to missing a boleo when in fact they mean they missed the opportunity to adorn it. My understanding is that a boleo that doesn't leave the floor is still a boleo.

I'd also highly recommend leading them on a follower who has a very good axis. A lot of intermediate followers have a cylinder for an axis which can be confusing. Lead these moves on someone who has a line for an axis and suddenly they make a lot more sense.

You can increase the follower's reaction time by making it obvious from your body positioning that you're setting up a boleo. Also with skilled followers it's a much more subtle lead. It feels like "bullet time" in the Matrix, which gives them the space to adorn it and then you speed back up to "normal" again as she collects.

My last piece of advice is subjective. I think the mistakes are useful in the long run. Understanding them gives you useful insights, especially when dancing with a wide variety of people. Having said that, I think that in tango, information is passed on in several ways
a) Spoken out loud
b) Shown in a "freeze frame" pose
c) Shown in motion
d) Physically shown

How much of these you pick up in classes very much depends on the teacher, but I think there's a point everyone reaches where they have to decide if they're content staying at the level they're at (which for social dancing they may well be) or not; if not, then I suspect the best way forward is private lessons. Effectively you go to a good teacher who dances in a style you like and say "Here's all the jigsaw pieces I've collected, here's how I've put them together. Help." When they stop swearing / laughing / crying, hopefully they'll show you the missing pieces and how it all fits together.

cindy said...

as a follower, the description that works best for me is 'the free leg comes behind like a heavy curtain' (korey & mila)... (which wd be the completely led kind, naturally...)

the challenge (for me) has been finding my core (as in deep core muscularly) on/through/in the standing leg side, the 'down into the ground' on the one side that makes the other, loose side possible....
& it does feel as though the time has been in finding those (previously un-isolated?) muscles...

Arlene said...

Re: Gamecat's comment on tips for leaders. With regard to time, you give the lady as much time as she needs. Afterall, it is a dance for two people, not just one. What leaders seem to forget or have never been taught that the dance is about the woman. The man protects the woman on the floor from mishap as he guides her around the room. He invites her to do something at her level so she is not uncomfortable. He gives her time to also express herself in the dance. He tries to make her look good, and if she looks good, he looks good. How's that?

Game Cat said...

Ghost - I've been led voleos by a very good leader once. The most important memory I hang on to is how he sent the signal, whip-like, down my upper body to the tip of my toe, and placed my foot down precisely where it needed to go next into a girls out there are damn lucky. Bullet time indeed.

Arlene - That's the most eloquent articulation about it that I've ever heard. Thank you!

msHedgehog said...

@gamecat - in which case you also know, or can easily imagine, what it feels like if it's mistimed. Ow.

msHedgehog said...

@cindy - that's a nice description of the feeling, I like it.