Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tango Classes

The guy was really nice, open minded and very dedicated. He'd been dancing tango for some time. As we paired up and tried milonga lisa and traspie mixtures it dawned on me that he couldn't keep beat. He also didn't know how to lead a change of weight. He just expected me to do it and followed the exact steps directed by the teacher and only that. I knew I was in trouble.

I took a deep breath, hope I didn't offend, switched the embrace and started leading him. I tried to be as smiley as I could and communicated what needed to go on. When we switched partners, this happened again. The class was milonga lisa and traspie.

A lot of men have trouble with traspie. It's not a step, not a complete change of weight, but a bounce. This eludes many. During group discussions I explained to the crowd that as a lead, you can stick your foot out as many times as you like, but if you don't bounce, there will be no signal to your follows to do the same. But if you take a step, you're going to be late on the beat. It is the intention of a step, quickly pulled back that equals a traspie. The intention is transmitted to the follow and she does the same.

At the end of the class I took a sigh. I had hoped to learn something intricate, but instead ended up fixing and cleaning people's leads. This makes me sad because its an intermediate/advanced class. Leading a change of weight is a basic foundation of tango like one's ABC's.

Tangoing for 5 years does not make you advanced, intermediate or beginner. It just means you've danced within the span of five years. Once a month for five years is different than every day for five years. So here's a list of things to check off before calling yourself intermediate (not in any specific order). Feel free to add.


1. Do you know how to change your partner's weight?
2. Do you know what a cabaceo is?
3. You use cabaceo routinely.
4. You do not lead your partner into other couples.
5. You do not gancho your partner into tables, chairs and/or other inanimate objects.
6. You do not EVER lead high boleos on a crowded floor.
7. You stay away from the center of the dance floor.
8. You will NEVER lead jumps, splits or aerodynamic maneuvers unless its an empty floor.
9. You haven't knocked anyone off their axis within the last 6 months.
10. Followers know exactly what you are leading without you telling them, correcting them or showing them, 80% of the time.
11. You know your basic rock steps, turns, pivots, walking forward, backward, sideways in your sleep!
12. You know where her feet is 90% of the time.
13. You do NOT look down to see where her feet is, where your feet are or possible moves you make. Unless there's roadkill on the floor, just don't look down. It's tacky and silly.
14. You have perfected your embrace. It is solid. Not mushy, not too light, not too soft, not too hard.
15. She can follow you blind-folded.


1. You do not anticipate the next move. It could be anything. (this took me a whole year!)
2. Relax. Get comfortable. Think happy thoughts :)
3. Be grounded in your axis at all times (with exceptions).
4. Understand clearly the basics of tango, change of weights, change in direction, ochos, etc
5. You do NOT do what you are not led to doing. If it doesn't feel like a gancho/boleo, don't do it! You're not helping anyone by doing something that was lead incorrectly.
6. You stop thinking about steps.
7. You start thinking about how things feel.
8. You can follow him blind-folded.
9. You do what you are led, not what you thought may have been led. See #5