Musicality for Ceroc-ers Three: Some More Orchestras

21st September 2010

(See Musicality for Cerocers - One for a basic introduction and Musicality for Cerocers - Two for an introduction to different orchestras)

Introduction: Coyote Ugly

Girl: "What does 'Coyote Ugly' mean?"
Lil: "Did you ever wake up sober after a one night stand, and the person you're next to is layin' on your arm, and they're so ugly, you'd rather chew off your arm then risk waking 'em? That's Coyote Ugly."
Girl: "But, why would you name your bar after somethin' like that?"
Lil: "Oh, because Cheers was taken."
~ Coyote Ugly

The first draft of this was horrendous, Coyote Ugly horrendous. It would have been very successful at getting people to give up tango, but not much else. While I was pondering how on earth to make something useful out of what had become essentially a "Big Book of How to Dance to Tango Orchestras" thankfully I remembered Tasslehof.

"I asked my father once why kenders were little, why we weren't big like humans and elves. I really wanted to be big." he said softly and for a moment he was quiet.
"What did your father say?" asked Fizban gently.
"He said kenders were small because we were meant to do small things. 'If you look at all the big things in the world closely,' he said, 'you'll see that they're really made up of small things all joined together.' That big dragon down there comes to nothing but tiny drops of blood, maybe. It's the small things that make the difference."

In Musicality for Cerocers - Two (if you haven't read this yet please do that first) I discussed the idea that you could move in a Flowing way to Di Sarli, Stillness to Pugliese and a Staccato way to D'Arienzo. Those are the "little things" I'm going to use to explain a rather Big Thing.


Now imagine each of those ways of dancing being represented as a colour. I'm going to go with Blue for Flowing, Yellow for Stillness and Red for Staccato.

By combining those three colours in different quantities you can create a huge range of other colours. Same thing with the many tango orchestras. Effectively the different orchestras and the different songs and even the different parts of the songs are just different combinations of these three ways of moving.

Errr.... how?

"But how do I actually do that?"~ David and I at umpteen tango classes

Don't worry, I'll give you lots of examples below. My advice is to use these examples to understand the idea of blending these three principles in different ways. Then try it out to different pieces of tango music.

Amy Zheng has a lot of videos of commonly played tango music as well as demonstrations as to how they could be danced in a social way.
(NB there's a lot of them and I've only browsed them so if she put in a few videos of flying cartwheels use your common sense)

Don't remember this stuff

I wouldn't really recommend trying to memorise all the ways of dancing to the following orchestras, but obviously you can if you want to. Another possibility which is worth mentioning is that some dancers just like certain orchestras they prefer to dance in a certain way. There's no rule that says you have to dance to everything that's played.

But if you can understand what it feels like to move in a Flowing way and how you need to adjust that when the music becomes more rhythmic and so on, then you can dance to pretty much anything on the fly. Course it'll probably take a while to get enough practice / experience to be able to do this, but that's part of the "joy" of tango.


"K.I.T.T.'s not another Trans Am, is it?"
"It's a Mustang."
~ Knight Rider

Let's start with Canaro. He's a blend of Flowing and rhythm.

This next bit doesn't matter terribly, but just for completeness blue + red = purple.

So how do you dance that? To me it feels like an early Di Sarli, not so polished. The rhythm is more pronounced so the end result is although you still are mainly taking steps, pauses, pivots and giros, it's a bit more "raw" than the elegance of Di Sarli. So basically you reign in the elegance of Flowing a bit and temper it with Staccato.

And that's basically it. Combine the three ways of moving in different ways and you can dance to anything.


"You need to feel the rhythm." Jermaine Dupri

I've covered him already in the previous article; he's basically Staccato - rhythmic, but fairly simple, usually there's a double-time going on, some flurries and there's an element of Flowing to this too.

So you end up with lots of red + some yellow + a little blue = a reddish brown.

So to dance to his music use Staccato steps, often ignoring the music that's going on over the beat, especially when it goes into flurries.

Or basically you move in a mainly Staccato way but depending on the music it can become a bit more flowing eg you can hear the music shift to more flowing at 30s and see the corresponding change in the dancing.


"Oh boy..." ~ Sam Beckett

It's easy to think of him as a manic D'Arienzo.

So pretty much Troilo's bright red.

His faster rhythm causes the Staccato moves to begin to be smoothed out to be a bit more even throughout and a bit less Staccato especially in doubletime walks and giros. There's some small flurries which again you pretty much ignore and some Flowing which again is usually dominated by the rhythm.


"He has no thoughts at all. It's as if his mind were empty."
"Ah, you seek meaning. Then listen to the music, not the song."
~ Talia and Kosh, Babylon 5

Again covered in the previous article as Stillness. He pretty much abandons the rhythm except for bits here and there and instead concentrates on flurries of notes.

Lots of blue with a smattering of red and yellow = Pretty much deep blue

Dance like Gavito, very slowly savouring the movements and pauses occasionally broken by small walks / steps to the rhythm when it appears.

Di Sarli

"Smooth as a baby's bottom"

Again covered in the previous article as Flowing. There's a gentle, slow rhythm and flowing notes.

So Flowing with a bit of rhythm to keep it grounded

Blue + red = purple again like Canaro, but this time it's more a deep blue purple.

Reminds me of dancing Villa Urquiza, long and elegant walks, pauses, pivots, giros.


"You're doing what with the who now?" ~ Homer Simpson

Very rhythmic with steady beats, but also lots of accents on the off-beats as well as flurries and long notes.

Pretty much a bit of everything.

Blue + yellow + red = brown.

It's similar to dancing to Canaro, but the off-beat accents make it feel a bit weird frankly. There are places for the melody to be danced to, but then the rhythm kicks back in and takes over again. Apart from the off-beats it's almost "neutral" tango.

You'll have to click on this link to see this, but it's well worth it

Some advice

Here's some advice on dancing to Biagi

From Homer (the other Homer)

And Amy Zheng


"And all that jazz"

Just lyrical / flowing / jazzy, with not much actual rhythm, but much calmer than Pugliese.

Blue + yellow + a little red = a dark green

Again dance like Gavito but there's more notes that you can reasonably step on now.


"From one thing, know everything" ~ Miyamoto Musashi

I've said this several times, but it bears repeating - all those variations are just coming from 3 possibilities. It would be a nightmare to try and name all the colours (just look at the names on tubes of artist's paint if you don't believe me, or ask a chemist about all the different reds in the flame test).

But knowing how to mix them from the three primary colours is something you can teach to schoolchildren. There's an obvious parallel with elements and sequences.

There's no way you can memorise every single sequence - you couldn't even dance them all in a lifetime. But you can learn how to do the elements that make them up well and how to combine them.

"Take it easy on yourself" ~ Don Williams

I also wouldn't try to do this in one go overnight. Hopefully the concept is simple enough and will let you break down tango music into something more easy to understand. But sorting out what's going on with the music may take a while to get your brain and body around.

Plus eventually you'll have to do this at the same time as leading, floorcraft etc.

Take your time, get the foundations right and it'll serve you well in the long run.


Joaquin Amneabar pointed out that when people talk about a particular orchestra they're really talking about a particular period when it produced its best output or the output that's usually played.

So if you listen to the same orchestra's output from another time when another kind of sound was fashionable or useful depending on who was dancing, it may sound quite different, and if you listen to a different orchestra's output from the same time it may sound rather similar. Although there's some overlap, I've listed the above orchestras in chronlogical order and given typical examples of each.

 - Christopher O' Shea, 21st September 2010

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