Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Find the ONE when you need it!

to recognize the ONE
why  and how
taping and stepping
speed up the song
low volume
Julio & Juana
Joaquin Amenabar

For the first ten (!) years I was dancing and even leading without *hearing*, being aware of the musical structures. In other words, I couldn't tell you when the ONE....One .... One was sounding in music, not even on a most simple song. Surpricingly my feet knew better and I was appreciated for my musicality, my ability to step on the accents and fit the phrases. This gave me enjoyable tandas with musical partners but was a hell at musicality workshops! I didn't understand, I wasn't able to do anything of the stuff a teacher asked! The lessons became easier when I learned to recognize the retuning ONE in the music structure and the workshops became bearable! The retuning ONE is a fundamental base, giving me valuable anchoring points in music and organizing the sometimes overwhelming musical chaos. It was so for me and therefore to make it easier for you I have written down some guidelines which I used to break through the sound barrier in tango!

How to recognize the ONE and series of them!

The most important guide for me has been Joaquin Amenabar's book Tango: Let's dance to the music! When I got it I had been dancing for 10 years without never recognizing a single ONE. After doing the exercises for two weeks I first time knew: THIS is ONE! and HERE is another ONE! and there!  and here again!

The exercises made me sound, tap, sing and step - to approach the music from different angles and I was put to express the sounds my ears could catch. For me this has been the most important tool for development - to do something when I hear the music, to train my body to become synchronized with the sound, to connect my ear and foot! That's what the dance is about, isn't it?

The book will be available again later in autumn! This time digital and in seven languages!

There are a lot of other things dancers can do by themselves at home. Youtube provides some helpful features for aiding the learning and I have used these possibilities! When listening to youtube songs I do it sometimes at a higher speed because that emphasizes the sound structure and the One is more audible. Another trick is to put the volume down so you hardly hear the weakest parts and this highlights the ONE structure to be easily recognized. .... and all the time I am tapping on the table, on the edge of my laptop to clue the music and body together!

On youtube you also find JuanayJulio website with several examples presented with rhythms and suggested steps. Here is an example of tango and milonga! Tap you through these examples several days in a row! Leave them for a while and return again for some additional days! On an adventurous day, you can test the steps too or test the songs with more variation on the structure.

tango: https://youtu.be/pZzLqvpeuA4Aa
milonga  https://youtu.be/rQ5m1z2ebXM

I work happily at home but If you like to work together with others, form a group and learn together or maybe the teachers are with you! There may be an occasion, time for such a course! Ask them! During a workshop teachers can help their students forward by using a short exercise or a game for learning and then even the music educated can survive the training moment without getting dead bored!  

I have also noticed that when the base is stable many additional patterns can be developed more easily. Just this now: 1-3-1-3. When you know the ONE and step on it you can place the next step in the middle on your way to the next ONE. Try the milonga above with this in mind!

My initial drive to work on music was to become a more skilled dancer! Music was part of the path. Later on, the motivation and goals became more diversified including the enjoyment for me and my partner, understanding the lessons, to hear more details as well as larger structures in music. The persistent basic training has even increased my enjoyment in listening to other music and the enjoyment seems to continue growing . . . . 

How to orient among all these options?

Friday, August 27, 2021

Surprises and Challenges when learning

When I started to relearn tango the landscape surprised me! There were things I thought I could already but when trying they crashed quite totally. Some new complicated figures were just complicated for me but the follower continued taking the cozy old steps. Then we had some old figures I knew very well and could perform with most of the followers but this time we were supposed to do them in a synchronous manner with the partner and this was demanding. Here are some of the issues!

Change the system

When dancing I never thought of the changes from the parallel system to crusada and back but during the class I became aware of my habit to fix the change by myself. To let the follower's feet fix the change felt like an effort! Now I had to plan it in advance!

Contraposition leading

I am a leader, born into nuevo tango and there the open, counterposition ochos were the very basic skill. When she was moving to the right my sidestep was advancing to the left. Later on I learned the old milonguero style small counterposition ochos and all that was ok. On nuevo training, the teacher was even astonished that I could make them that well.

So all this in my pocket I wanted to lead this!  
(8.44min if the link is failing us!)

In the video, Cristina is walking in line but my teacher wanted us to lead the follower to a series of sidesteps left/right/left, a kind of advancing ZZ. It is a good way to manage the figure in a small space! We did it in the leader tech class and then I was going to lead it on a private but it all was a big splash, crash! For some reason, I wasn't able to lead a follower in one direction and go myself in the opposite direction. I could not find a way to make it work. I was just standing there wondering How come? and What happened? I had done it before, why not now?


I think the enrosques are the most demanding skill a leader can achieve.  He needs to be able to isolate the shoulder, hip, feet movements and have complete control of the upper body and abraso. His frame control is combined with a different pattern in his free leg and foot.  The teachers said that many of these figures are impossible to process with followers if they are not advanced. I wonder if it is true? The follower needs to know the giro and ochos. She needs to be sure, stable on the basics and always reach to the space in front of her leader - that's enough I think!
We will see if I need to change my mind later on . . . .


My early baridas were of the type: stop and drag the foot or let the follower drag my foot. No problem there! This time we were supposed to do it simultaneously in a flow while turning or walking in line. The simultaneous version puts demands on both in the couple, we need to have balance, to be able to stand on one leg and move the other parts of the body freely. We need to come together with a partner to train so we become comfortable with all common variations in different settings.

So some things are standing tall and some collapsed down!
 but also
Some found, sound and working!

Tango Lesson: Syncopated Snake-Walk & Beyond in Vals

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Why would an advanced leader train with me?

This question a follower was wondering about!

I don't think that the advanced social dancers have all techniques at top level and if the leader wants to lift up something the problems can be similar to those at my level. When I want to add a variation of a known figure to my milonga vocabulary there are just a short rough period and then we can catch up the normal flow. If I instead want to introduce, develop a for me totally new technique the situation is quite different.

The day I want to expand to a new skill I start to work on it at home up to a level I remember the steps for me and the follower on the chosen figures. After that I can have a private lesson with a teacher but later on I need to train them with a partner and Yes! At this point the problems start!

In my world most of the followers start at beginner courses but as soon as they can atract sufficient number of tandas most of them stop regular courses and trust on that the leaders will teach the rest of the needed skills. There are not many at a practica who wants to sparring dance with me not even if I promise to dance the same number of songs so they can train the steps of their choice!

When it is time to introduce the new elements to an informal milonga there is a clear drop of skill on several areas. Even if I can move ok on pista the flow is not so smooth, not so effortless. When I am tweeking in the new steps the variation of other content gets lower as well as my focusing, selfconfidence and musicality.

There are followers who do not accept this drop in the tanda quality, but want a full dance experience always! This forces the leader to seach new partners and here is an opportunity for the followers willing to cooperate in learning and learn themselves. Maybe you are interested to get new friends also! Here the changes are quite obvious!

Are you training with me now?
 A follower asks irritated at a milonga

Nooo, I just dance badly today!  
A suggestion to the leader

I have been asked and others have confirmed the same phrase at milongas


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Feeling for cultivating or for composting learning?

It is crucial for your development to know what type of learner you are, before choosing your long-term learning process. I am a visual learner, who has an enormous appetite for training and tango is my main hobby. Are you also towards those patterns then you may have use of these my experiences!

Do you too recognize this?

I participated in a lot of workshops. Afterward, I talked sometimes about the content with my partner and we tried to run it occasionally. Time passed by and little by little other things occupied my time and mind. However, some figures and techniques survived and became part of my pista vocabulary but the extensive majority of them have withered at some remote corners of my mind.

It looks like this! All my forgotten figures . . .

What about frequently reactivate the knowledge history?

I was not happy about my routines and started to cultivate the workshop content instead! I use my camera to film the class summary and I try to memorize the verbal instructions and teachers' feedback on my issues. At home I watch the video material/run through the memories and decide what to keep and update into the training log**.  That log is maintaining and organizing all the material for my coming reviews at practicas and solo training sessions! Those two are my knowledge cultivation events!

To develop a decent physical fluency on sequences requires repetitions but not so much time. The bottleneck slowing down and lengthening the repetition sessions is the memory* - or anyhow my memory for me! Use any tricks you know to memorize the steps and the groups of sequences - pictures, stories, whatever you have learned during a lifetime, to support your memory!

How much time is needed?

To get an idea about the time needed for repetition we assume that you want to keep 60 of your favorite workshop figures for social dancing. If you still remember the steps from the workshops your solo training will take about 15 minutes and some longer with a partner. This is realistic when you can the steps by heart but if you need to check the video often then two hours will not be enough!

In a 5 mins micro training session you are able to run through a lot of details you want to improve and maintain. I watch also the videos regularly and the time varies. It can be 10 mins but it can be longer if not properly prepared. I run all these activities several times per week and after a rest period of 4/5 weeks, they are activated again! The key is to pick them up before you start to forget them!

When you prepare your review material do it carefully and edit your videos so only the important pieces are on the final compilation. In this way your review time will become shorter and your learning becomes focused. You get faster to your goal!

 If you choose to work with the figures, micro train your technique consistently and review the material regularly you will develop a stable technical base. When you cultivate systematically the chosen part of tango, you will feel the difference in your body and I am pretty sure it will become visible too!  

What do you think, are you interested?           

This routine will have an impact on certain parts of tango, I mentioned the technical development, but there are more to tango and you will always be surprised and challenged by new learning possibilities!  :)

*The memory is highly needed at practica but it should be shut down in a milonga!

** Via the link below you can read about a Training log I use