Beginning milonga (Salem tango)

Great work tonight, folks!

Here are the new steps we learned tonight:

  • stepping "side together" line-of-dance, either with leader facing the center of the room, or facing out.
  • cuadrado (square): "side (like the salida) maybe no side together connect"--as in walking to the cross with a salida, leader steps to the left with left, walks to the "inside" of the follower ("maybe"), forward into the center track ("no"), to the right with right, step together (weight change to left foot in place), and (if desired) step backwards line-of-direction with the right, to start again. By the way, some folks would say that the back step is the first step in the sequence. Remember, the cuadrado can be done very square to line-of-dance, or can be more like a blob, rotating.
  • cuadrado variation (step togethers--as desired--before completing the step backwards or walking forwards instead), add onto the "side together" component of the cuadrado. I often do three "side together" sequences here, but any number works.
  • vai ven (go-come) step: 6-steps, 6 beats: "Forward in place in place, backwards in place in place"--remember to focus on this being three sets of duple beat (12 12 12) in order to combat the ballroom dancer folks' tendency to make this a waltz hesitation step. Also, although the energy of the move has a wave-like feeling, try not to rise and fall: keep it on an even keel!
  • vai ven with traveling turn combination: My favorite way to use vai ven is to follow it with a traveling turn (I learned this from Daniel Trenner, way back in my tango Dark Ages!): After a full vai ven, the leader walks "forward maybe side step" to end facing out of the circle (follower is doing a side step facing into the circle); then flips to walk backwards BUT line-of-direction, leading the follower to do "forward maybe side step" before ending by walking forward line-of-dance again. The follower's steps during the second half copy the leader's steps during the first half of the turn.

The other thing we worked on tonight was a variation on a drill that Tete taught me in Buenos Aires in 2000. He had all the leaders walk in a circle around the room while he yelled "Turn! The other way! Half turn!" etc., and we practiced just changing our facing. Then, we tried to do the same things with a follower attached, without changing the drill to "help" our followers change direction. What I learned from both leading and following this drill was that the direction to move was clearer to the follower when the leader just faced a new direction, than when s/he "helped" the follower arrive in the right place.

I use Tete's drill as a jumping off point for more organic tango movement. Instead of figuring out what move to do, I can walk around the dance floor, facing into the circle or out (side together steps), switching from those to forward or back walks (1/4 turns or 1/2 turns if I am facing forward/back to start). Then, I make sure I am turning both clockwise and counterclockwise to gain proficiency in both directions. When I am really dancing, I let the music and the space dictate when I change orientation. I also add other steps into this pattern (like the vai ven and the traveling turn) as the music/space allow. Dancing this way, I KNOW that I can adjust to the space I have, so I let the dance happen and the steps occur in the moment, rather than planning ahead.

I find that this approach feels much freer and in the groove than: "OK, I walked to the cross. Now, I think I will set up a counter-clockwise traveling turn, and then I'll do a cuadrado." When you plan like that, you rarely have the space to follow your plan, and having a plan limits how you can adapt to the space you have. Try to just get out there, turn your brain off, and dance. I'm not saying you shouldn't think while doing tango; it's fine to enjoy an intellectual exercise in tango as well. However, for me, doing milonga is about cutting loose from that and grooving with the music and my partner!

Off to London!  See you for the next class on September 16th!