Mix and Match

29th March 2010

(More Next Steps articles.)

"If their feet aren't in the right place, at least their hearts are." ~ Christian M. Chensvold


So, I dance a lot at Ceroc Berkhamsted - the organiser there kindly allows us some time to do a little early tango practica session in a spare room in the evenings, and it's a lovely night anyway, with some great dancers and good music.

It's a great way to mix and match - Jive and Tango, hey, that sounds familiar.

However, the problem is that mix-and-match is difficult. There are many many articles on this site about fusion of Jive and Tango; about the similarities between Jive and Tango, and about the differences.

But one new angle is when you try to switch styles - if you've been dancing Modern Jive for an hour, say, then you get asked for a Tango. Or, of course, vice versa.

It's difficult; there are many habits you fall into, and it can take time to adjust yourself, mentally and physically, to those differences.

"I can feel him on you"

Good tango leaders, I'm told, can "feel the last leader" on their partners. That is, they can tell from the follower's responses what type of tango dancer their partner has just been dancing with.

I'm nowhere near that good, but I can sense that this is plausible; it's not much more than an extension of the style adjustments a decent leader will sense and adjust for as part of the leading process. The same sort of thing as adjusting your dancing to the level of your follower, or to the style that your follower prefers (not yanking her into a death-embrace if she wants to dance in open, for example).

So it makes sense that an advanced and sensitive Tango leader can be attuned to the often-subtle differences that a leader will have induced in a follower, between Tango dances.

Back to Jivelife

This difference in Jive is far from subtle; so I can feel it. I can dance Tango with a woman, then she may dance Jive for a while, and I then return to Tango with her, and I can usually definitely "feel the Jive on her". She'll dance differently, and, usually, it's not an improvement. Admittedly, I may be biased...

Some problematic things that I've enountered "in transition":

  • Faster movements: after the relatively frenetic pace of Jive, going back to a slower Tango movement takes adjustment.
  • Moving on the beat; typically, they may change weight unprompted, shifting on the beat without being led to do so.
  • Posture / Embrace - it can be difficult to get back to the tango posture and hold, going from the accordion (in-and-out) style typical of Modern Jive.

Fixing the problems

Of course, everything's fix-able.

Faster movements

Solution: stand still. Relax. Calm, deep breaths. Take your time. Then lead the dance.

Moving on the beat

Solution: lead explicit transfers of weight at different tempos, to communicate the "only move when led" concept.

Posture / Embrace

Solution: use an embrace that works - if close embrace doesn't work, open it out and play with that. If it goes wrong - well, no-one dies.

 - David Bailey, 29th March 2009

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