Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Your feet can be big red herrings swimming on the beat

What brought this to mind was a remark on a discussion board (by someone who knows who he is and might pipe up in the comments) that he'd stopped trying to 'synchronise' his walk with his partner's. Instead, he'd introduced a slight delay, so that he transferred weight slightly after her. Both of them thought it smoothed out his lead.

In the writer's case it was either an accidental discovery or a suggestion of his partner's. But more than one of the better teachers I've been to have given advice which I think adds up to the same thing.

Last year I had a workshop with Adrian and Amanda Costa, and the very first thing they said, after watching us dance to assess where we were, was about moving on the beat. The way Adrian put it was that we should push with the weight-bearing leg on the beat, put our energy on the beat, not try to land on the beat at the end of a step. He told us to dance again, making that change; and the immediate, subtle, but marked improvement in the smoothness and musicality of the dance has stayed with me ever since.

My way of putting it would be that we were walking on the beat, not treading on it like it was a dropped fiver on a windy day.

Another thing I've heard a lot in classes that improved the leads I was getting is something like "you lead, then she moves, then you move" - which sounds a lot like the discovery above. I agree that it happens in that order, although of course it happens at almost the same time, and I think the end of this (from 02:05) shows you how it works. He leads, she steps, then he can step or not, as he chooses. From her point of view, until then, it was the same.

Your experiences in the Comments, please. Also, Adrian and Amanda Costa were here while I was away, so if you took one of the classes they gave you can tell us how it went.


Anonymous said...

Well I agree entirely on stopping trying to 'synchronise' everything. Tango isn't about synchronisation that's what waltzes and other ballroom dances are for, finding someone who is already on your wavelength.

My own preference for describing the walk is that he must push from the leg with weight through his chest into hers and down into her leg. His push must displace her leg giving him somewhere to put his foot. Of course this won't work if he has nothing to push into because she is synchronised into falling away from him.

As for the 'costa walk' (for the want of a better label) I think the push should be at its most intense on the beat. Not beat 'oh!' push, but mimicking the bellows of the bandoneon.

msHedgehog said...

@limerick, I think that is also a good description of what we did in that class. And yes, I agree that's what it means for where the beat is.

tg said...

This is interesting! A few years ago I was watching the BBC film about the Confiteria Ideal, and started to notice that the leaders seemed to step a fraction later than the followers. I don't think this could be deliberate, but I wonder if it's the result of the leader 'placing' the follower's foot on the floor very precisely with the beat, and as a result stepping marginally later. I wonder if followers feel that a good leader actually does place their feet like that.

& (possibly unrelated) watching close up of a well-known bass player, how his plectrum seemed to hesitate a micro milli-second before hitting the string, and how this fraction of delay seemed to drive the music forward.

msHedgehog said...

With a good leader I don't know when or where he's placing his feet, unless of course they actually touch mine. It's undetectable and irrelevant.

tg said...

I said: "I wonder if it's the result of the leader 'placing' the follower's foot on the floor very precisely with the beat" - the follower's foot, not his own foot.

And, of course, as he should lead with his chest, his feet are going to follow with the momentum.

msHedgehog said...

Oh, it was the final "their" I misinterpreted. I thought you'd switched to talking about the leader's again.

tg said...

PS: Adrian and Amanda's class was Milonga Traspie, so perhaps the tango 'rules' don't apply. The substance was: milonga is a fun dance, have fun. & they pointed out that in milonga you can use the same kind of musicality you'd expect in tango; milonga is more rhythmic, but the beat isn't inflexible. Their demo is on YouTube, at tanguero2x4.