Monday, December 1, 2014

The Untypical Sexteto Típica

Recently a comment of not listening to the music while improvisationally dancing tango surprised me.  An advanced, German dancer at a French milonga told me: “I never listen to the music. The music throws me off from what the man is doing."  Gratefully, she added:  "But the music was transparent as we danced tonight.”   I think that she could have listened with many men before, but had trained herself to be deaf to the music.  Certainly I have not been the only one who dances musically with her.  I KNOW this!  How many women before her have I danced with that were not listening to the music?  At times it feels like there is no way to make the music transparent to my partner or I don't sense the music she hears.  But I think I know where this problem comes from:  Shame on the teachers who teach steps.  Dance is not steps!  Dance is the emotional and somatic reaction to music--a behavioral reaction only found in the human species.
The Solution
How do we all make the music transparent?  I can tell you that many women make the music transparent to me, and I dance better because of it.  It is not the man's job.  It is teamwork:

The Team:  A Sexteto-not-so-Típica
  • Great musicians play danceable music. 
  • A great sound system that fairly represents their music. 
  • A DJ that is aware of what makes the milonga guests dance. 
  • An organizer who makes sure that the dancers are being safe and provides a warm ambiance.
  • Partners who are equally attentive to the music. 
  • A room of couples around you who catch the ambiance of not only that night, but communal dance since the start of humanity. 
Sure, dancing musically can be left up to one "star player" on the team, but that is a lot of responsibility on one person.  It takes a community to create a great team.  Are you doing your part?

Photo credit of piano hands

Orquesta Típica:


  1. TT worte: "Shame on the teachers who teach steps."

    They can only teach what they know. And unfortunately many of them know only what they've been taught, which is steps.

    Occasionally one does find a teacher who understands the dance comes from the music by a process that is sabotaged by attempts to impose the dance artifically. From one such teacher, some wise words here:

    "If you take the same common mortal and ask them to
    memorise a precise sequence of steps and movements
    while hearing music being played they will only be
    able to achieve those moves by ignoring the music. I
    have even seen professional musicians relegating
    D'Arienzo to the wallpaper while they struggle with
    the Basic [Salida] Step [and they candidly admitted to
    it]; once they had mastered the step they found it
    difficult to open their ears again, since the
    music=wallpaper reflex had been ingrained at the
    initial stages of learning. The earlier the reflexes
    are developed the more difficult it is to change them.
    We end up in a situation where many seasoned
    tangueros, weaned on the Salida, find, after several
    years' experience, that they need "musicality"
    precisely because it has been taken away from them at
    the very beginning. "

  2. I do understand the followers point. I have seen leaders who are very technically advanced dancers but are oblivious to the music, preferring to treat the dance more like a mathematical problem to be solved. I watch as they move from position to position based on where they and their partners are positioned, which way their bodies are facing and how to move themselves and their partner into a new position smoothly. The music is irrelevant to them. But both appear to enjoy it.

  3. Anonymous, what you describe has been developed here in England over many decades, and the result is the quintessentially English tango seen here. The problem is only that so many so-called tango teachers have misunderstood their own application of the same teaching methods to have resulted in the dance we call Argentine tango.

  4. "How do we all make the music transparent?"

    Re the English ballroom tango clip, you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching Stepford Wives type automatons. The more I go on, the more I see dancing Argentine tango as that emotional, behavioral reaction you mention TT - to music, to people, to what and who is around you.


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