December 30, 2006

 

What figure in Tango inspires fear in the hearts of even the bravest women on the dance floor? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the dreaded molinete. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you. It’s the figure we often call the woman’s grapevine. Whenever she feels it coming, she cringes in mortal terror. Why? Because she knows she’s going to have to race around her partner at breakneck speed, almost falling down all the way, and probably end this traumatic experience with a final Olympic sprint to the cruzada before she has time to get herself anywhere near back into balance.

 

Sound familiar? Oh yes, ladies, you know this all too well, don’t you. And who are the perpetrators of this terpsichorean travesty (sorry, I mean bad dancing). It’s those nice guys you dance with all the time, who are usually so careful and polite (well, most of them anyway), but suddenly start spinning like tops whenever they lead the molinete. Leaders, don’t stop reading. I’m talking about YOU!!!

 

Followers have a lot to do during a molinete. Next week, we’re going to devote our Tango Tip to some of the complex technique that goes into dancing the molinete correctly. But for right now, let’s talk about the leader’s role. Once, you’ve led her to begin with a forward or a backward ocho, all you have to do is turn your body continuously in one direction. She does the rest. When you want the molinete to end all you have to do is stop turning. She’ll stop moving, because she has caught up to your center. That’s pretty much all there is to the lead.

 

The problem is that most of you turn too quickly. Turning around in a small space is so easy, you can get it done as fast as you want. But physically, she just can’t go that fast. She’s way out there on the outside of the circle. To get around you, she has to take big steps.  And pivots. And balance. And style. In other words, she’s got a lot to do. So, if you want to give your follower a chance of being able to execute a molinete reasonably well, please slow down your turn. Watch her carefully as she moves around you. If she doesn’t seem to have a look of panic on her face, chances are, you’re turning at just the right speed.

 

Pat and I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year. We hope you enjoy our Tango Tips each week, and we promise to keep them coming in the new year. Here’s to slow and steady molinetes for 2007.

 

December 23, 2006

 

Hello everyone, Pat here with a very important tip for both leaders and followers. Go to any milonga, sit quietly in a chair and watch the people dancing. Almost certainly, you will be able to pick out couples who are demonstrating the subject of our tip for this week. Either one or both are looking down!! Have they just dropped something? Is there something wrong with their shoes? Has one just stepped on the other’s foot? This latter could be true, but the chances are that none of these reasons is correct. Looking down for many dancers is a habit they get into when first learning tango, and they never learn to straighten up.

 

It should never be necessary to look down when dancing tango. It creates an awkward and sometimes uncomfortable dance embrace; it does not generate any intimacy between the couple or their connection; it does not help the balance; leaders cannot maintain good floor craft, if they’re looking AT the floor, and will be far more likely to bump into another couple; the intrinsic body lead that is so crucial for the leader and the follower is compromised -- and frankly, you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

 

It’s possible that some dancers feel a strange sense of security in looking down as if they’re less likely to do something wrong. This is a myth that prevents you from gaining confidence. If you learn to dance with your head up and a good straight posture, a whole new world of tango dancing will open up for you. So don’t dance tango as if you just came out of the prehistoric cave, all bent over and crouched…become homo sapiens, stand up straight.  You’ll be amazed at the improvement in your dance!

 

December 16, 2006

 

Let’s talk about the embrace or dance position. Quite often, leaders feel the need to place their arms on the followers’ sides all the way down at the waist, when assuming the embrace or dance position – rather than around her back. This practice might be a result of a leader’s being shy, or inexperienced in dancing -- or it might be an attempt to show maximum respect for her personal space. But the result of such a dance hold is a very tenuous connection between the two partners. More precisely, this kind of embrace makes it difficult for the leader to communicate to the follower, and for the follower to “read” any lead, which may be offered through the leader’s upper torso.

 

So this week’s tip is simply the following: Leaders: When you take your partner in your arms for a dance, your right arm should encircle her in mid-torso with your hand on the middle of her back. It’s important that you not pull her forward toward you by tightening your hold. Just maintain a gentle connection with her back and side throughout your hand and arm as it encircles her. This will enable you to provide her with gentle invitations to walk one way or another through your torso, and have those invitations (or leads) be felt by her through your arms (as well as any part of your body which might be in contact with her).

 

Try this in your Tango, and see whether it works for you. If you have any questions about it, just ask Pat or me, and we’ll be glad to help. See you all next time with another Tango Tip of the Week.

 

December 7, 2006
 

Hi everyone, Fran here with your Tango Tip of the Week. Last week, we talked about leaders knocking their partners off balance by moving too aggressively into their space during a forward step. This week, I want to talk about a similar problem, which often occur during a side step. Let’s say, a leader is moving to his left side (taking the follower to her right side). For any number of reasons, he ends up taking a longer step than hers. She falls to her right, blames herself for having taken too short a step, and forgets which foot she’s supposed to be on. Oblivious to her dilemma, he takes his next step. At this point she trips and almost falls, because she’s using the wrong foot. For the moment, at least, the dance has become on ongoing comedy of errors – all precipitated by that side step.

 

What to do? It all began with that first side step to the leader’s left. So let’s rewind, and figure out how to fix the problem. This time, he still takes a longer step than she.  But that’s not the problem. The reason she stumbled the first time is that, in taking the longer step, he didn’t realize that her step was shorter than his, and unconsciously kept her upper body rigidly encased in his inflexible embrace, thereby literally pulling her off balance. To fix the problem as a good leader, he has to a) sense that her step is shorter than his, and b) release his embrace (his right arm) enough that she is able to balance herself at the end of her step. That may be asking a lot of leaders, but it’s one of the things that makes us good (or not so good) at what we do.

 

Leaders, try this in your Tango, and see whether it works for you. If you have any questions about it, just ask Pat or me, and we’ll be glad to help. See you all next time with another Tango Tip of the Week.

 

December 2, 2006

Hi everyone, Fran here with your Tango Tip of the Week. Last week, we talked about leaders knocking their partners off balance by moving too aggressively into their space during a forward step. This week, I want to talk about a similar problem, which often occur during a side step. Let’s say, a leader is moving to his left side (taking the follower to her right side). For any number of reasons, he ends up taking a longer step than hers. She falls to her right, blames herself for having taken too short a step, and forgets which foot she’s supposed to be on. Oblivious to her dilemma, he takes his next step. At this point she trips and almost falls, because she’s using the wrong foot. For the moment, at least, the dance has become on ongoing comedy of errors – all precipitated by that side step.

 

What to do? It all began with that first side step to the leader’s left. So let’s rewind, and figure out how to fix the problem. This time, he still takes a longer step than she.  But that’s not the problem. The reason she stumbled the first time is that, in taking the longer step, he didn’t realize that her step was shorter than his, and unconsciously kept her upper body rigidly encased in his inflexible embrace, thereby literally pulling her off balance. To fix the problem as a good leader, he has to a) sense that her step is shorter than his, and b) release his embrace (his right arm) enough that she is able to balance herself at the end of her step. That may be asking a lot of leaders, but it’s one of the things that makes us good (or not so good) at what we do.

 

November 18, 2006

 

Hi everyone, Fran here with your Tango Tip of the Week. Let’s talk about one of the very common problems, which occurs as a leader is finishing a forward step into the follower’s space. Let’s say that she is trying her best to balance herself at the end of her backward step. But he tips his body too far forward into her balance axis at the end of the movement, sending her further backward into another step. He is, of course, completely unaware that he has inadvertently knocked her off balance, and tells her that he didn’t lead this additional step. She has no idea why the problem occurred, and blames herself for anticipating, which she knows she shouldn’t do.

 

The fault is this case is not the follower. The problem here is that the leader didn’t take care to keep out of her territory; that is, her balance axis. By leaning too far forward at the end of his own step, he forced her to fall backward, and thus commit herself to an unwanted step. Once the leader is aware that such a problem can occur, he can avoid it simply by stopping a bit shorter than he’s used to doing, giving the follower the space she needs to find her own balance at the end of each step.

 

Try this in your Tango, and see whether it works for you and your partner. If you have any questions about it, just ask Pat or me, and we’ll be glad to help. See you all next time with another Tango Tip of the Week.

 

November 11, 2006
 

Hello folks, Pat here!  When you dance Argentine Tango, what would you say is (arguably) the most important component of the dance?  If you thought ‘connection with your partner’ you are absolutely right. This doesn’t just mean the physical dance embrace, it must include a focus and concentration on and with your partner that is binding and eliminates all exterior distractions. One way to create this special state while dancing is the subject of our Tango Tip for this week:

 

Leaders and Followers, stay in front of your partner and turn your body as you dance so that you are always facing each other. If you make an effort to do this, you will find that it will make your dancing much easier because with your upper body always trying to face your partner, your movements will resolve and align almost automatically. And it could also happen that you will both get “lost” in the dance and have one of those memorable dance experiences that we’re all search for, right? That’s what the dance connection is all about.

 

See you next time with another Tango Tip of the Week.

November 4, 2006

Hi everyone, Fran here with your Tango tip of the week. One of the problems that crops up again and again in Tango consists of one or both partners, leaning on one other inappropriately during the dance. The result of this is that both partners are constantly out of balance, and the interaction ends up being more of a wrestling match than a dance. To make matters worse (and it pains me to say this), some misguided teachers out there today are actually instructing their students to lean on each other as they embrace. In my opinion, leaning on one another – whether accidentally or on purpose -- is bad dancing.  Certainly, there are times, when the leader may invite the follower to lean on him momentarily – as in a figure sometimes called a “puente” or bridge. However, the overall success of the fundamental lead/follow relationship strongly depends on the ability of both partners to remain independent from one another; that is, for each of the partners to be individually balanced.  

 

Let’s talk about what we mean by balance. We’ll keep it simple. When you stand on two feet, you’re balanced. Otherwise you’d fall down. Now, try picking up one of your feet for a moment, and see whether you can comfortably balance yourself (remain perpendicular to the floor) while standing on just one foot. This is the kind of balance you need, when you’re dancing Tango. Each time you complete a step forward, backward, to the side, or in place, you need to be able to bring yourself into balance on one foot. If you usually require the other foot to prevent yourself from falling, it means your balance is faulty, and you need practice in balancing yourself properly. Here’s what you can do. Try taking a step in any direction, and mentally concentrate on being balanced, when you reach the end of the movement. Just think about the end of every step, telling yourself that you’re going to find balance as the step concludes. See if it works. If you focus on this mind/body exercise a bit, you’ll most likely find that after a few attempts you’ll start to feel more confidently balanced than when you first tried to do it.

 

Practicing the skill of balancing yourself in this way should help significantly, when it comes time to dance with a partner. If you can balance yourself appropriately, you won’t have to resort to leaning on your partners, and they’ll be able to concentrate on their own balance without being hindered in any way by you. The next time you dance Tango, try to notice whether you’re in balance independently – or leaning on your partner for balance. If you find that you need to lean on them, practice the skill of balancing on your own – and see whether it makes a difference in the way dancing Tango feels to you. 

 

If you have any questions about this, just ask Pat or me. See you next week with another Tango Tip.

October 28, 2006

Hi everyone, Fran here with your Tango tip of the week. Last week, we talked about molinete from the leader’s point of view. This week, I want to address it from the follower’s side. Quite often, we see followers rushing around in the molinete as if getting it done as quickly as possible was the only thing that counts. This results in a very uncomfortable few moments of dancing for the woman, not to mention a feeling from the man that his lead has nothing to do with the movement. From the follower’s point of view, the answer to this dilemma is very specific: Slow down and control your steps.

 

Molinete is a very complex series of consecutive movements. For example: If you’re led to begin with a forward ocho, you next pivot, then take a side step, then pivot, then take a back ocho, and finally take another side step. After that, you may be led to start all over again. If you simply throw yourself around the leader, you’ll be off balance and totally out of control. But is you treat each step individually, moving slowly and making certain to finish each movement before beginning the next, you’ll experience the right way to execute molinete. Even if you’re being encouraged by the leader to move too quickly, slow down. Exercise control, Be balanced. Both you and your partner will start enjoying molinete as never before.

 

If you have any questions about this, just ask Pat or me. See you next week with another Tango Tip.

October 21, 2006

Hi everyone, Fran here with your Tango tip of the week. Let’s talk about molinete. (That’s when the leader turns in one place on the dancer floor, and invites the follower to move around him in a continuous circle.) Unfortunately, what we often see in the molinete is a leader who is whirling around as quickly as he can, and a follower who is trying desperately to keep up with him while executing her complex “grapevine” figure. At best, this is very uncomfortable for her. At worst, it’s downright dangerous to her health.

Here’s what we’d like to see. Leaders, your job is to make it possible for the follower to get around you comfortably and in a balanced way. It takes very little effort to turn around in the center of the circle (that’s you), but far more effort to move around on the circumference (that’s she). If you make up your mind to turn slowly, marking her movement mentally (say that three times!), it will be much easier for her to get around you without feeling as if she’s going to fall down any second. So, this week’s Tango Tip is to turn slowly when executing molinete. This will make your followers very happy.

If you need help with this, just ask Pat or me. As always, we welcome your questions about Tango at any time.

October 14, 2006

Hello everyone, Pat here with a Tango Tip for the Followers that pretty much defines the word ‘Follower’. I am sure many Leaders will recognize a common occurrence in their dance when it seems as if they have to catch up with their partner. This is a Follower who is anticipating what he’s going to do next and decides that they’ll help out and do it on their own. Unfortunately, this creates a Leader who is not allowed to lead and who will not be able to develop proper leadership skills.

 

And so our Tango Tip for this week is: Followers, do not anticipate your next step! You must be prepared to stop after every step. Whether it is with a regular partner or a new one, you must wait for the lead. Listen to his body…if you feel nothing, do nothing. It’s that simple. You may know what the Follower is supposed to do, but that does not mean you just do it. Resist the urge to take charge because he’s not leading you! Yes, it will take some practice, but I can assure you that if you put in the time, your dance will feel so much more exciting and connected, not to mention that your Leader will want to keep dancing with YOU because you are such a good Follower!

 

As always, Fran and I welcome your comments or questions. We’ll have another Tango Tip for you next week.

October 7, 2006

Hi everyone, Fran here with your Tango tip of the week. This one is for leaders. When dancing Tango, beginners tend to move all the time. Once they start, they can’t seem to stop themselves. If they’re not actually going somewhere, they’re “keeping the beat” by bouncing up and down to the music in place. This way of moving may be just fine in ballroom dancing like Foxtrot or Waltz, but it doesn’t necessarily work in Tango. Ideally, Tango is a dance of movement and of stillness. The five basic elements of movement in Tango are forward, backward, sideward, changing weight in place, and la pausa – the pause. Sometimes we travel with our partner, taking a few steps in sequence, one after another. Sometimes we remain absolutely still for several beats of the music, not moving at all.

The pause gives you time to collect your thoughts, time to check your balance, time to reorient yourself and your partner in the line of dance, time to take a breath. The pause also adds visual contrast to your Tango, which is an important part of the overall beauty of the dance.

How do you put the pause into your Tango? A good exercise is to choose one, two or three steps in sequence – okay, maybe even four -- then pause for a few beats before moving on to your next sequence. Once you form the habit of pausing, you’ll find that it’s pretty easy to do, and that it actually improves your overall sense of balance, musicality and skill on the dance floor. If you aren’t currently using the pause in your Tango, try to incorporate it into your dance, starting now.

If you need help with this, just ask Pat or me. As always, we welcome your thoughts and questions about Tango at any time.

September 29, 2006

Hello Followers, Pat here with a tip that I’m sure will resolve what may be an ongoing issue in your Tango. Let’s start with a situation that many of you will find very familiar: The DJ is playing one of your favorite Tangos; you love dancing with this leader; you’re dancing close … he leads some back ochos. Oops! Mysteriously, space begins to appear between you; you start to feel strangely far away from him! Soon, there’s discomfort; he’s put off his stride; you lose your balance; the whole dance becomes … oh dear! This could be a disaster.

 

But here’s our Tango Tip of the Week to the rescue:

 

Followers, when executing your back ocho, make sure that your back step curves around your leader’s center. Do not step away from him, or even sideways in a straight line—this is what creates the unwanted space and takes you away from him! Stay close by twisting enough at the waist to create a pivot, which enables you to curve your step around an invisible circle, while keeping the distance equal from one step to the next. This will help the two of you stay together during back ochos. No more mysterious distance, no more potential disaster.

 

If you need extra help with this, just ask Fran or me. As always, we welcome your questions, and are delighted to offer you these weekly Tango Tips.

 

September 15, 2006
 

Hi everyone, Fran here with your Tango Tip of the Week. Today, I’d like to focus on ocho adelante or forward ocho. One of the things a woman does quite often when executing a forward ocho is to move closer to her leader. Let’s say she starts at twelve to fifteen inches away from him. By the time she completes her first walking step in the forward ocho, she has closed the gap to four inches or even less. When this happens, it can create a situation in which the leader finds himself suddenly quite uncomfortable – or even knocked off balance. If he holds his ground, the follower may lose her balance, or even bump into him because of the close proximity. There’s an easy way to correct this problem, and – you guessed it! -- it’s our Tango Tip of the Week.

 

Followers: When he leads a forward ocho, he’s asking you to move laterally across his front – as if you were negotiating an invisible circle around him. When leading an ocho, he becomes the center of that circle; you find yourself standing on the circumference. Just before you begin your ocho, you are a certain distance away from him, usually ten to fifteen inches or so. It’s not his job to steer you exactly where he wants you to go on the circle. Instead, it’s up to you to find the right traveling path. And what lots of women do at this moment is cut the distance between them and their partners by choosing a path that is simply too close. Instead, when you take your first step in forward ocho, try to make certain that you land on the invisible circle approximately the same distance away from him as when you started – and everything will be just fine. This will take you a bit of time and practice to get right, but once you do, the relationship between you and your leader will improve quite noticeably. Then, you can start concentrating on not moving away from him, when executing your back ocho. But that’s another story.

 

Well, there you have our Tango tip for this week, folks. You can ask me more about this or anything else that has to do with Tango whenever you see me at the Firehouse.
 

September 8, 2006

Hi everyone, Fran here with your Tango Tip of the Week. Right now, I’d like to focus on what the leader does when he wants to invite the follower to execute a forward ocho. What I often see is that he uses his arms to pivot and walk her, while his body remains rigidly stationary. This means that at the end of her first walking movement he is facing forward, while she is somewhere on his side. After the next pivot, he does finally bring her back in front of him, but during the first part of her ocho she has been asked to ignore a primary “rule” of Tango; i.e., staying in front of her partner. It’s very important for the leader to start using his upper body in a way that promotes this front-to-front relationship during such figures as ocho adelante (forward ocho) in order to make it feel appropriate to the follower. And this brings us to our Tango tip of the Week.

Leaders, when you want to invite a forward ocho, the lead comes not from your arms but from your upper body – transferred to the follower through your arms. (This is what some teachers would call a “frame” lead.) Learning to rotate your upper body in order invite the ocho, is, therefore, crucial in enabling you to develop an expert lead for this figure. Let’s review the elements of a lead for an ocho adelante to the leader’s right:

  1. Begin by making certain that her weight is to your right (that means she’ll be balanced on her left foot).
  2. Pivot her so that her front is facing approximately at a right angle to your right. To do this with a frame lead, rotate your upper body slightly to your left. As you rotate, you’ll notice that she rotates to her left, thereby facing toward your right side.
  3. Now, rotate your upper body slightly to your right without relaxing your frame. This will induce her to walk to your right.
  4. As she transfers weight to her right foot, increase your rotation to the right slightly. This will pivot her so that she will now be facing your left side.
  5. Rotate your upper body slightly to your left, thereby inducing her to walk to your left.
  6. If you simply stop rotating as she transfers weight to her left foot, she will now rotate herself to face you (in order to place herself in front of you as she knows she should), and the ocho is finished.

se. As always, we welcome any comments and suggestions you’d like to offer.
 

August 27, 2006

Hello Folks, Pat here with another Tango Tip for our fearless followers. If you read last week’s tip about how leaders deal with ochos, this is the opposite side – how followers respond. Maybe one of the most common bad habits that followers get into is what one could call the automatic ocho. Leaders will know what I mean. When the lead for either a forward or backward ocho is given, the follower executes the whole ocho on her own -- and just keeps going…leaving many a perplexed leader wondering how on earth to stop her! Followers, the ocho can be one of your most sensuous tango elements; it can be intimate, it can be fun, and there is a host of fabulous embellishments in ocho…but only if it is danced correctly. So this brings us to our Tango Tip of the Week for followers:

Please, allow your partner to lead every step of ocho: The pivot, the walk, the pivot and the walk.  If he leads a second set of ochos, the same thing must happen. If you don’t feel any lead, just pause and wait. You can follow the lead as slowly as you like, adding style, and adornos as you wish. You’ll quickly find that ocho has become one of your most favorite moves.

That’s our Tango tip for this week, folks. As always, we welcome any comments and suggestions you’d like to offer. We’ll have another Tango Tip for you next week.

August 20, 2006

 

Hi everybody, Fran Chesleigh here with this week’s Tango Tip. Before I continue, though, I wanted to say OOOOOOOOOOOOOOPPPPPPSSSS! Last week, I accidentally rewrote a tip I had offered a couple of weeks ago. I did a pretty good job, too … like reinventing the sewing machine …. Anyway, I was a bit under the weather at the time, so please forgive me for repeating myself. Okay, moving right along, this week, I’d like to talk a bit about ochos. From the follower’s standpoint, an ocho consists of a pivoting action and a walk. She can be asked to walk forward for ocho adelante (forward ocho), or backward for ocho atras (backward ocho). When leading these ochos, many leaders tend to use their arms, attempting to actually steer their partner one way or the other – and making her feel quite uncomfortable in the process.

 

This brings us to our Tango Tip of the Week. In leading forward or backward ochos, the leaders arms should remain quite stationary. What actually leads her to pivot and to walk is a series of movements from his upper body – the frame. If the leader wants to invite a forward ocho to his right, for example, he first makes sure that her weight is on his right side (she will be balanced on her left leg). Next, he rotates his frame slightly to the left (counterclockwise) in order to pivot her so that her front is facing his right side. Finally, he rotates his frame slightly to the right (clockwise), in order to walk her forward to his right. As she completes her walking motion she has executed one side of a forward ocho. To lead her in on ocho to the left, he then reverses the two rotations of his frame. His arms don’t move by themselves. Any motion in the arms comes from the rotation of the frame.

 

Most beginning Tango dancers have a great deal of difficulty with this way of leading. It is something that has to be carefully learned – preferably through one-on-one instruction with a qualified teacher -- and practiced a lot in order to do well. Learn this way of leading ochos, and your Tango will feel much more natural, much more poised, and much more rewarding.  

 

That’s our Tango tip for this week, folks. As always, we welcome any comments and suggestions you may wish to offer. We’ll have another Tango Tip for you next week.
 

August 13, 2006

 

Hi everybody, Fran Chesleigh here with this week’s Tango Tip. This one will benefit both leaders and followers. Two of the five fundamental elements of the Tango walk are a) the side step, and b) the weight change in place. Each of these movements is unique in the dance; yet followers often mistake one for the other when being led. And leaders are often frustrated that their partners often do one when they believe they’ve clearly indicated the other. What’s the problem, and how can we fix it?

 

The problem is that the lead for a weight change in place feels to the follower virtually the same as the lead for a side step. Both ask her to make a lateral weight change to one side. The difference between the two movements, of course, is that with a weight change in place she is being asked to remain in one spot, while with a side step she is being asked to travel through space. One could say that to solve this problem she should simply concentrate on staying in front of the leader, and that way, when he moves, she will, too (and when he doesn’t neither will she). Unfortunately, this generally doesn’t work, because it is only after the mistake has occurred that the follower will be able to tell that she’s moved inappropriately, or remained in one place, when he wanted her to travel to the side.

 

What we need is a way to clearly differentiate one lead from the other. This brings us to our Tango Tip of the Week. When I lead a weight change in place, I remain stretched upward without any pre-movement compression, and simply shift my weight from one balance axis to the other (moving my entire body, not just my lower half). Furthermore, I generally do this somewhat slowly, so that my follower won’t feel rushed or confused by what I’m asking her to do. On the other hand, when I’m leading a side step, I employ a slight lowering as I initiate the movement, and take my step through an arc from its start to its finish. I also lead my side step with a bit more energy than the weight change in place. The introduction of these two elements – the arc (a technique sometimes referred to by ballroom dancers as rise and fall) along with the more aggressive energy – make my lead for the side step feel quite different from the less complex lead for the weight change in place. My follower may not read the difference the first couple of times, but eventually – as we get to know each other – she’ll start to respond quite consistently, differentiating one lead from the other.

 

That’s our Tango tip for this week, folks. If it sounds a bit complicated, ask me about it the next time we meet, and I’ll be happy to give you a demonstration. As always, we welcome any comments and suggestions you may wish to offer. We’ll have another Tango Tip for you next week.

August 6, 2006

Hello folks, Pat here with this week’s Tango Tip. This one is for you followers. How often have you arrived at the cross (la cruzada), and felt that your feet were all tied up, there was no room to move, your leader was crowding you and stepping on your feet, and you were both practically falling to the ground? This is no laughing matter, and unfortunately it happens all too often! Our Tango Tip for this week presents a frighteningly simple solution to all these problems:

Followers! When you know that your leader is taking you to the cross (since he steps outside partner on your right and continues in this line on the next step), on the step back with your right foot just before you cross, make sure to take a LONG step back, and only then cross left over right. This long step before the cross will ensure that you give yourself plenty of room to easily slide your cross into place. It will also insure that your leader will not be falling into you, and (hopefully) that you will both be nicely balanced. Your feet will thank you, your leader will thank you, and you will marvel at how easy and comfortable it is to do your cross.

That’s our Tango tip for this week, folks. As always, we welcome any comments and suggestions you may wish to offer. We’ll have another Tango Tip for you next week.

July 30, 2006

Hi folks, Fran Chesleigh here with a tip for you leaders. In Tango, there are two movements, which tend to feel almost exactly the same to a follower. They are a) a weight change in place, and b) a side step. Each of these two movements involves a lateral shift of weight from one side to the other. Because both movements feel the same, it becomes quite easy for even an experienced follower to believe that a weight change in place is a side step -- or that a side step is a weight change in place. This puts her in a position of having to guess which step to take – rather than being able to act confidently on clear information provided by the leader. (From the leader’s point of view, it’s quite frustrating to think he’s leading one type of movement, and to have his follower react by doing something else.)

So, the question is: As a leader, how do you clearly communicate the difference between a weight change in place and a side step, so that your follower responds correctly?  The answer to this question is our Tango Tip of the Week.

Since both movements feel virtually the same when led, the leader must do something different when leading one, so that his follower can clearly feel the difference between the two. Here’s what I do: When leading a weight change in place, I stay very tall in my stance, and simply teeter from one side to the other without using a surge of energy. In trying to stay with me, front to front, my follower will almost always teeter from one side to the other right along with me. If she’s paying attention to my lead, it won’t feel appropriate for her to lurch to the side. When leading a side step, I begin the movement by lowering slightly (less than, say, a quarter of an inch) as I begin my sideward journey. I also add a bit of energy or impulse to the movement, which I did not do with the weight change in place. I find that this combination of lowering slightly – plus a small surge of energy – almost always ensures that my follower will take a side step to coincide with mine. Try this way of differentiating the two movements, and see whether they work for you. If you have any questions about all this, just ask me the next time we meet.

July 23, 2006

Hello followers, Pat here with a very important Tango Tip for you! One of the most important elements in your Tango occurs whenever you take a backward step (which as a follower you do about 75 per cent of the time). The technique you use in executing this movement can make the difference between a successful and a disastrous experience. When you move backwards, if your step is small, hardly the length of your foot and taken from the knee, your leader will likely:

a) Step on your foot (ouch!)

b) Throw you off balance

c) Throw himself off balance

d) Your knees will collide (most uncomfortable)

e) You’ll both stumble out of the step….and maybe even the dance!

To avoid ALL of these ugly happenings, here is the secret…and your Tango Tip for this week:

Followers—each step backwards must be made by moving your whole leg back from the hip joint.

In slow motion, to execute this movement, you should:

1) Have your weight poised forward (not leaning!), but on the front portion of your foot while still being on your own balance

2) Stretch your whole leg back from the hip joint until the leg is straight and the toe of the foot is pointed and resting on the floor

3) While maintaining your forward poise, move your weight onto that leg, allowing your foot to round onto the floor from the toe to the ball of your foot and eventually to your heel as it receives the weight

4) Bring your feet together and wait for his next lead.

This may seem to be a complicated movement, but if you practice, doing each backward step slowly, you’ll find that your backward walk will soon become more fluid, more balanced, and your tango partnership will be a lot more enjoyable.

July 16, 2006

Hi everyone, Fran Chesleigh here with your Tango Tip of the Week. This tip is primarily for leaders, although it applies as well to followers, when walking forward. In Tango, leaders are called upon to move forward into the followers’ space quite often. (A forward step is one of the fundamental movements in the repertoire of elements which comprise the improvisation.) Moving forward, however, can feel quite risky to the beginning leader, who almost always believes that he is likely to collide with his follower’s feet and cause her harm. To offset this possibility, he often falls forward from his upper body first, then lunges with the foot. What happens? He ends up stepping on her anyway. If he takes the other alternative; that is, extending the foot forward in a probing manner before bringing his body forward, he also steps on her foot.

Seems like there’s no solution. But, of course, there is, and it’s this week’s tip:  Leaders, when moving into your follower’s space, try moving your whole body forward at the same time as one complete unit. In this way everything will be simultaneous, and – as you’ll find out for yourself – very successful. The follower will feel the lead coming from your upper body, and will be moving backward as your feet move into her space. Try it a few times. It really works! If this causes you any difficulty, just ask Pat or me to help you with it on any Thursday evening at Firehouse Tango.

July 9, 2006

Hello folks, Pat here with your Tango Tip of the Week. This one is for followers. As you probably know by now, Argentine Tango is a dance which consists of both movement and stillness. There are as many places for the leader to stop in the dance as there are places to move. One of the most commonly used techniques for stopping the movement of the dance is the leader's barrera -- or barrier -- where he slides or places his foot in front of and sometimes around the followers feet. When this occurs followers, he’s asking you to stop and wait for further instructions! Unfortunately, all too often, the follower disregards the barrera, and immediately steps over the leader’s foot inappropriately. The next time he wants her to stop at the barrera, he may grasp her in a strangle hold to prevent her from vaulting over it. Not fun, and bad Tango technique.

So this week's Tango Tip is for Followers: Do not automatically jump over the leader's foot when you feel the barrera. Stop, maybe do a simple adorno or embellishment, and wait for the invitation to step over. When he gives you the lead to go, take your time while stepping over, pivot to face him, and wait for the next instruction.

June 29, 2006

Hi everybody, Fran Chesleigh here with your Tango Tip of the Week.  This one’s for leaders. The Tango embrace – or what we generally refer to here in this country as the dance position – consists of a gentle encircling of the woman’s upper waist area by the man’s right arm, offering very little -- if any -- pressure on her back. This is accompanied by the two partners holding hands -- his left and her right -- the hands generally being at about the level of the leader’s nose, with each partner maintaining his and her own arm weight. Sometimes, a leader will either consciously or unconsciously use his arms in order to lead the woman from one step to another – rather than allowing her to read the movement of his frame through the dance connection. In such cases, the woman feels that he is pushing and pulling her right arm while squeezing her and pulling her off balance at the waist. Women who have suffered this treatment over and over may well ask themselves whether they ever want to dance again.

So, leaders, here’s your Tip of the Week: please don’t use your left arm to push or pull your follower around the floor. And please don’t squeeze her waist with your right arm, pulling her off balance. Instead, assume a connected but gentle embrace, and allow her to read the movement of your body as you choose each step in the dance. Once you discover this very important technique, you’ll find that women really enjoy dancing with you over those for whom every dance is like a wrestling match. Ugh!!

June 22, 2006

Hi everybody, Fran Chesleigh here. Thanks very much for all your good wishes about our new Tango Tip of the Week column. This week, Pat is going to offer an important tip for followers

Hello everyone, Pat here. Leaders! How many times have you decided to lead something and your partner has other ideas? How often do you take a couple of steps, and then want to pause to collect your thoughts --- but your partner keeps walking; or she can’t seem to stop doing ochos, or she races around in the molinete, or she jumps over your foot in the parada --- all before you’ve had time to even think of the lead

This week’s tango tip is for Followers

The single best thing you can do to help your partner to be a good leader is actually something you don’t do: Don’t move until and unless you receive a clear lead to do so. In other words, don’t anticipate what he’s going to ask you to do next! Even if you think you know what he should be asking for, don’t help him out — wait for his lead. It might not be what you think. Allow him to lead every step you take. A follower who dances this way helps to create a more balanced, connected and dynamic partnership, and makes a big contribution to improved leadership!

That’s our Tango tip for this week, folks. As always, we welcome your ongoing comments and suggestions. It helps us make Firehouse Tango the best Tango venue in New Jersey, and certainly the friendliest anywhere in the known universe! See you next week.

June 15, 2006

 

Hi everybody, Fran Chesleigh here. Welcome to the very first installment of our brand new Firehouse Tango Newsletter Column, "Tango Tip of the Week." (Pat and I are going to try to include this segment in every Firehouse Newsletter from now on.)

One of our pet peeves is the following: The leader invites the follower to execute a forward ocho, but before she finishes the pivot to face him at the end of the movement, he rushes into his next step, sending her reeling off balance -- and probably placing her on the "wrong foot." The inexperienced follower will almost always assume that this horrible moment of significant discomfort has been all her fault, believing that she just wasn't quick enough in completing her ocho. However, this just isn't true. The leader, in fact, jumped the gun. He
neglected to allow for an important moment of recovery between the time she completed her ocho, and the time he began inviting the next movement, whatever it might be.  So, this week's Tango Tip is for leaders:

After inviting a forward ocho, please allow the follower to come to a complete stop after her final pivot, then rest for a brief moment or two, before you invite the next movement. She'll be happier; you'll be happier; I'll be happier; and, of course, the world will be a better place.