Monday, July 4, 2011

Good Tango Karma

This way to good karma

Imagine if ideas for dance steps were the same as writing a novel.  Each tango move, let's say, were a story in and of itself.  Imagine for a moment -- just pretend --  that each tango step were intellectual property.  Now let's also assume, that unlike in the world of intellectual property and commerce, that in the tango world we all agreed to share and simply give credit where credit is due.  

This world already is very real in the world of Karma -- tango karma.

These are the steps to good tango karma:

1.  The music inspires and gives you a totally new idea.  You silently or openly acknowledge the music when some new beautiful movement results.  The music includes so many things:  The composer, the musicians and the DJ.  Go over and thank the DJ and find out what he or she knows about the music.

2.  You are dancing with a women or a man who consummates this new idea from the music and takes you to a new place you never have been.  I try to remember this woman by naming the step after her.  Sometimes it is only for that moment, and I cannot go back to remember her or the movement, but I recognize the magic of that moment and from where it came.

3.  If you are a teacher, you take this new move to a tango class and teach this inspiration taken from the music and your partner.  You give credit to these sources of inspiration and ideas.  Also, you might mention the composer and orchestra who inspired the move.  Why not PLAY this music too?  If your partner is there at the class, you demonstrate the new step together.

Giving credit opens up a whole new world of the joy of movement, of a community which embraces each other.  In literature or scientific journals not giving credit (even in a foot note) would be grounds for a law suit and/or being severely reprimanded by the professional community.

I have suggested in early posts la Música is the true leader.  But music is much more.  It is our great inspiration.  Our partner corroborates in the inspiration.  So this is "tango karma":  If you really want to be prolific with ideas and the beauty of tango -- acknowledge your sources of inspiration.    If you do not want to have bad karma, tango teachers, always teach with the music that inspires a step.   Certain orchestras make you dance differently.  Mention that.  And if you really want to have good karma, mention the tanguero or tanguera who inspired the new idea.  If the idea was taught by an old milonguero/milonguera, give credit.  It is probably too late now, but wouldn't it be nice to know who inspired him or her -- which composer, orchestra, piece of music and person in his or her arms?

This is the way to good tango karma, and much more enjoyment in this art of movement.

Photo credit (not sure who did the original photo -- but found two sources) and two good articles:


  1. "always teach with the music that inspires a step"

    It is a moment of the music that inspires the step. It the class teacher to repeat that musical fragment over and over as he teaches the step? It is bad enough when a teacher of a so-called musicality class playes Poema over and over for one hour...

  2. Chris... you bring up an important procedural problem of presenting the music that inspires a particular move. However, I did not suggest playing the music over and over. You are right that a teacher can actually ruin your favorite tango! Usually when "Poema" is played over and over it is not for the purpose of musicality but usually out of laziness or because of the tempo desired, which makes the music nothing more than a metronome for the instructor. I think that bringing out the fact that music inspired a particular move allows students to know that this particular move fits only certain musical/rhythmical patterns. The present tendency is to introduce a step almost like salsa or a waltz step which will work with almost all of the dancing one does. The nature of improvisational tango does not suit this common but inappropriate way of teaching a tango pattern.

  3. "I did not suggest playing the music over and over."

    Agreed. What you suggested was "always teach with the music that inspires a step" and my question remains: how could you do that without repeating the music, if your teaching is based on repeating the step?

    "The nature of improvisational tango does not suit this common but inappropriate way of teaching a tango pattern."

    Again agreed. But I think it truer to say that the nature of improvisational tango does not suit teaching of patterns, period.

    Pattern teaching is for pattern dances. Tango dancing is not one.

    We have patterns in social tango dance classes only because many so-called teachers cannot teach any other way. That in turn is due to them having learned in the same kind of classes.

  4. Chris, I am delighted to have opinions from "across the pond." Thanks for speaking up because surely others may wonder about my point -- especially teachers who want to break away from pattern teaching. The question that remains about "how" a teacher could use this ideal of referring and giving credit to the orchestra and music: First, you would have to agree that this ideal has value. I believe that you indeed see that this is a good ideal. So if this is true, then I would suggest that you could implement this ideal in your own way and in the way that your creative mind would fit this ideal. But I can suggest something for you --> Play the phrase a few times for the class. Let's say that it follows a common pattern such as *e**2**da/*e**da/4**** found in di Sarli, Biagi and Pugliesse. (The stars are rests assuming sixteen beats per measure and the first star is on the downbeat of a phrase or measure). Since this patern has inspired the step, why not show that musical pattern? And this answers your second objection/question. I am talking about improvisational musical patterns not stepping patterns. I apologize for not making this clear. Tango improvesation (much like baroque and jazz) is full of musical patterns that go unrecognized because of teachers' teaching step patters rather than musical patterns. Music inspires human movement and improvesation not teachers with cool moves. I hope my intention is clearer, and thanks for the question.

  5. "Tango improvesation (much like baroque and jazz) is full of musical patterns that go unrecognized because of teachers' teaching step patters rather than musical patterns."

    They go unrecognised only if people don't listen to the music. Throughout the golden age of tango, dacxners appreciated and understood the music without dance teachers to teach them musical patterns. All that's needed is to listen to the music. I think the suggestion that teachers in class should extract and repeat musical phrases from recordings will further discourage tango lovers from tango dance classes. Certainly I do not want to hear this beautiful music broken into pieces.


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