Timing

10th October 2009

(More Fusion articles.)

"Ultrasuede is a miracle...this is just good timing" ~ The Simpsons

"Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow"

Huh, I'm doing Argentine Tango not ballroom?

Well just to confuse things even more let's look at it from an Modern Jive perspective.

There are typically two ways to measure steps in Modern Jive, beats and counts.

A count is simply two beats

Normally in Modern Jive you would take one step per beat.

However normally, you would do one part of a move per count. Thus when a teacher describes the "In and Out" as:
"and step back"
"and step in"

It's over two counts ie 4 beats and not 2 beats. If you led it over 2 beats instead it would simply be twice as fast.

Actually "simply" is mis-leading here. The In-and-Out is a very basic move. Try leading it twice as fast and it suddenly becomes a lot more difficult. Hmmm. I'll come back to this point in a bit.

What is slow?

So in tango, a step once per count (2 beats) is a "slow". Which you don't really do in standard Modern Jive. Obviously you can, it's just I can't think of a standard move where you do.

A standard Modern Jive step is a "quick". Which is a bit strange. I mean where's "normal" in all this? You don't dance Modern Jive thinking "quick, quick, quick" all the time after all.

Now take the Lassoo. That really is fast! Twice normal Modern Jive speed. You sometimes encounter this in other moves where you turn the follower on one count rather than two. There doesn't seem to be an agreed upon tango term for this so for the sake of simplicity let's just call it "Fast"

To complicate things you here terms like double-time and half-time used in tango but with the meanings changing depending on who you're talking too. Musicians usually pitch a hissy fit and start talking about eighths of notes and so forth and soon no-one has any idea what's going on. So I'm going to cheerfully ignore all of that for this article.

Back to basics

Back to the fundamental problem.

Say you're leading manhatten walks in Modern Jive. Are you leading quicks, slows or what? Well given that you're still stepping once per beat, you're actually leading quicks. However if you think you're leading slows and try and lead quicks, ie steps twice as fast, you're now leading fasts!

i.e. instead of:
Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow

You're doing:
Quick, quick, fast-fast, quick

This can also lead to the following interesting situation that happens a lot

You dance tango to a slow song and actually are leading slows. You then try and lead "quicks". But because what you think is "quick" is actually "fast" you end up doing

Slow, slow, fast-fast, slow.

You'd better hope your follower has good 0-60 acceleration! The confusing thing is that some of them do. So it will work some of the time. And then you'll wonder why it didn't work the rest of the time? It was just waaaaaaaaaay to fast a shift. (The ones who followed it probably weren't thrilled at the experience either.)

Milonga

To further increase the confusion there's milonga with its own equivalent rhythms of quick and fast among others. So unfortunately you can end up randomly combining milonga elements and stylings into the mix as well. For example, rocking the follower from side to side.

The Good News

You can already do quicks. Woo hoo! For me the trick is to actually think of the "slows" as being slow. Then instead of leading quicks, just lead "normally". Eg say you'd done a turning manhatten into walks you just lead quicks. You don't think about it.

Exercise

a) Walk stepping once per count (every 2 beats or half normal Modern Jive speed)

Slow, slow, slow, slow.

b) Now pronounce the third slow as if it was hyphenated and step on both parts

Slow, slow, sl-ow, slow.

The nice thing about this is that it gets you on the last slow properly. Otherwise you can end up doing

Slow, slow, quick-quick-quick, pause.

Optional:

c) Keeping the same timing change the words first to

Slow, slow, nor-mal, slow

Then

Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow.

The Secret

Keep going back to manhatten walks. Think about it - you don't do a lift, you don't rock from side to side, you don't hit her with enough force to subdue a small elephant. You just do it. It's even taught in intermediate classes and there's no major fuss involved.

Feedback

Feedback is welcomed, though I would deem it a mercy if it was written in simple English.

 - Christopher O' Shea, 10th October 2009

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