Not walking

31st August 2009


Traditional tango is walking.

When you dance to traditional tango music, the entire basis is the walk. Of course, you can vary the speed, the intensity, and the energy of the walk - that's pretty much where the skill of dancing comes in - but fundamentally, if you're dancing to traditional tango music, you really should be dancing mostly within the context of the walk.

Yes, there are variations - an occasional ocho, a giro, ocho cortado, maybe a cross now and then - but if you're not walking 90% of the time, you're not dancing traditional Tango. Traditional tango music has a drive and a beat almost insists that you walk - if you're not mostly walking to traditional music, you're almost certainly not dancing to that music, you're just exercising or practicing fancy patterns.

There are exceptions, of course. If you're really really really good, andd if you have a lot of space to dance in, you can do non-walking based tango, in a milonga, and it'll work. For example, here's a YouTube clip of Fred and Caty Romero.

But if you're not up to this level (and 99%+ of us aren't up to that level), then don't do this at home, folks.

And then... not walking

Now, let us consider a nuevo track, which is played quite commonly - Apocalypta's "Nothing else matters". It's a lovely track - operatic, building to a crescendo, lots of great musical structure to play with.

But it doesn't have a driving beat. So for tracks like this, you can try - all you want - to "just walk" during it. And it just doesn't work. I know - I've tried, and it simply doesn't feel right.

What does work is all those fancy patterns you learnt at all those other classes. Ganchos, boleos, planeos, soltadas - throw them all in, this is where they come into their own.

In fact, for this type of music, they're ideal. Long pauses, allowing for poses. Longer and (for want of a better word) "sloppier" musical structures, allowing you to develop entries into these poses.

A "Tango-shaped dance"

This raises another question - "Is it tango?"

Bit of a can of worms, this one.

If you dance tango to non-tango music, are you dancing tango? Well, I dunno. There are some purists who'd say that if you take tango out of its traditional mileu, it's no longer Proper Tango. On the other hand, there are some weirdos who think that if you put a giraffe in a zoo, it's no longer a proper giraffe, it's a "giraffe-shaped animal".

So, to me, nuevo tango is still tango. And when dancing to non-traditional music, walking doesn't work.

~ David Bailey, 31st August 2009

Comment - BorderTangoMan

5th September 2009

I dont think its as cut and dried as you make it out to be...

I think we need some words for the non-rhymical movements; one tango teacher describes it as "slo-mo". "Lyrical" is a better expression in my opinion; a flowing movement.

I'll take playing sax as a parallel; notes can be tongued, which has the effect of each note being either discrete (having a beginning and ending) or slurred (which mean there is no space between the notes and they sound continuous).

Both the human voice and the bandoneon (and other instruments) can create both these types of sound.

For example, in traditional tango we might hear this lyrical / slurred effect in the voice of Campos in Tanturi & Campos' 'Una Emocion'. Another example - in a contemporray piece, the slow Bandoneon sound in Narcotango's Viz Sin Lubi.

If you dance to Gotan, say Santa Maria del Buenos Aires, you have a steady driving rhythm then lyrical phrasing coming from the female vocalist and the bandoneon; so you have a choice. If you stick to the rhythm throughout it becomes pretty boring but if you dance to the phrasing you capture the wonderful sleazy sounds of the voice and bandoneon.

If you listen to Pugliese's La Yumba is about the driving sound of the Bandoneon, but it is not a percussive sound; it's more of a sharp accented crescendo:

~ BorderTangoMan, 5th September 2009

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