[Tango-L] Beginners and milongas (or Milongas)

Laurence Moseley lgmoseley at aol.com
Sun Feb 17 17:58:35 EST 2008

We sometimes count, but only when we have already warned the class that 
we do it only because they are likely to go to other classes at which 
the teachers will give an instruction like "Cross on 5". Indeed, once 
they can lead and follow, for example, a Cross we rapidly try to get 
them to cross on 5, 7, 9, 11, or whatever takes their fancy. After 
that, the numbering becomes meaningless. We also try to get them 
dancing without hands (e.g. lady's hands on gentleman's shoulders) so 
that he gets used to indicating his leads by his body shape. That is 
very helpful when teaching them to cross when it is led (5, 7, 9, 11 - 
I have seen one Argentinian go as far as 19 before leading a cross) - 
not because you have reached some pre-determined number. Indeed. we 
teach men how to dissuade a lady from crossing automatically on a 
particular number - for example by crowding her right thigh slightly.

Another reason for not counting is that we wish to distinguish between 
steps (changes of weight) and beats (when you might step, 
brush/collect/etc, decorate, or whatever). Indeed, when people are 
learning to hear the beat in traditional Tango we try to get them to 
count AND 1 AND 2. We stress the AND, and argue that it is the most 
important beat in Tango. When the man has collected, however briefly, 
he is in a position to change his mind (and direction) in the middle of 
any "step". Similarly, when the lady has collected, she is able to 
react instantaneously to his lead, however subtle. The nice feature is 
that the AND can last only one beat but, if the music or the mood gives 
you a hint, it can last several beats - the "mira como esperan" 

It should be the leader's change of weight, or change in shoulder 
speed, which leads the follower's change of weight. That is impossible 
if one has only learned counts. Try getting beginners to do (a) a rock 
step i.e. changing the weight from foot to foot but without changing 
the position of the foot on the floor and (b) a cunita or cradle i.e. a 
definite step forward with a weight change and brush followed a 
definite step backwards with a weight change and brush. In our 
experience, they quickly learn how different are the two feelings 
produced by (a) and (b)

We also try to discourage unled changes of weight (which is what you 
get if one of the partners dances to a fixed count, rather than to the 
music or the lead) by suggesting that after doing a figure - say an 
Ocho or two - the man should let the lady settle and become comfortable 
before moving off again. To do that he has to wait. That wait might be 
one beat, two beats, four beats, or until a nice piece of music comes 
along suggesting that they move off. It also gives them time for him to 
"gather her in" by closing up his embrace ready for some more walking.

If the music, the lady, the mood, the floor traffic, or whatever, 
suggests it, the leader should be able to change his mind during any 
"step", at the point of the brush, and the lady should be able to 
respond. It is definitely not after any "step", still less after any 
figure. If you are bound by counts, your freedom to dance is 
immediately removed.


Laurie (Laurence)
18th February 2008

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