Saturday, July 14, 2018

Tango Music Concepts

Instructor: Homer Ladas
Athletic Playground, Emeryville, CA
July 7, 2018

I arrived to class late, as I was a first-time student at Athletic Playground, so had to spend a few minutes filling out their registration form and paying my fee.

Class began in barefeet with socks, shifting on the beat, walking back and forth, or to the side on the beat.

In an individual exercise, we were to only step on the beat, and not pause.  We could do grapevine feet, though we were to avoid crashing into people.

Next, we played a game, "D'Arienzo Surprise". To D’Arienzo’s Nada Mas, we worked on the concept of surprise. Everyone was to walk around the room, in any/all directions, always stepping on the strong beat to accent it in our walk, with energy going into the floor. Every once in a while, we were to surprise someone by touching them appropriately with both our hands at two points on their body (arms, shoulders, hips), always staying on the strong beat.

The purpose of this game was to get us used to the element of surprise as a musical tool, coordinating our dancing with the music. Every strong beat is a potential surprise. The Follower needs to feel safe and comfortable before she is surprised.

Next, we played a game of "tag" where one person is "It" and they would sneak up on someone and give them a shock by touching them with both hands at their shoulders.  We began with two people "It".  The goal was not to be the person who was "it" at the end, though it was OK to be tagged "it" duiring the song.  We were to do this all the while stepping on the strong beat, locking onto the walking beat.

For our next exercise, in partnership in open embrace, we were to step on the strong beat only, walking mostly, but we could do other steps suck as simple side steps and collecting (weight changes).  To convey the rhythmic intensity, you don't need to change the speed, you can change direction to convey it.  Step together, weight change, then step in opposite direction.  Forward/Backward, Side (weight change in between).   We drilled this to No Mientas, stepping on the strong beat.

We added touch steps, where we reach our leg, pull back, transfer almost no weight, but have pressure on the foot.  Reach back, stop on ball of foot, reaching to the side with the big toe on inside of the foot.
On the forward step, our foot can land flat or we can land on the ball of our foot.

We should have good reach in our back step.  Put pressure, then pull back to fake out your partner to create some interesting moves.  Keep your heels together.  The Leader tilts at his ankles to initiate the step.

Our next drill/exercise was in hand-to-hand hold, we were to feel each others' weight change and lead the touch step.

Our next drill/exercise was in open embrace, where Follower could have closed eyes to increase sensitivity.  We were to change direction/fake them out. 

Mastering weight changes.

To put this all in the picture, we drilled to Mil Pasos, doing walking, full weight changes, and touch steps.

DO NOT EVER BLAME YOUR PARTNER. It's your job to work with it and figure out a solution if things aren't going as you lead them.

Final concept is the idea of contrast.

Tango songs usually follow the structure of:
1 minute instrumental
1 minute instrumental

When the singer comes on, we go in slow motion.  During the instrumental part, we can go back to dancing rhythmically to add more dimension to the dance.

In Mil Pasos, during the jazz saxophone is when you can go slow.

Class concluded with some delicious home-made vegan popsicles made by the lovely Ms. Kyra.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

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