Tango newbie tips?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by mellody43, Feb 23, 2007.

  1. mellody43

    mellody43 New Member

    I just completed my first 5- week group class series in Argentine tango. We learned basic walking, left and right turns, ochos, and ocho cortado.

    Although I have years of experience with other social dances (salsa, cumbia, merengue, bachata, chacha, swing, zydeco), learning to put weight into my partner was very challenging for me and probably will continue to feel strange until I have more opportunity to practice! Also, learning to balance myself against leads who were also learning was often comical =) I hope I can dance with some more experienced leads soon to help cement the basics that have not yet taken root completely into my muscle memory.

    Any tips for beginners? Things to focus on as I develop? I feel confident in my reaction time and musicality overall so am less worried about those things than just getting beyond the initial awkwardness of learning something completely new.

    Gracias,
    Melissa
  2. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    Hi! I'm in Seattle too! First of all, welcome to our world.:)

    My best advice is that now that youre familiar, take it to the dance floor and practice, practice, practice... Oh Practice! Keep taking classes (I recommend Sonny & Nancy Newman).

    See you in a milonga. check out http://allseattletango.com/plan/ to find out which milonga is happening where in Seattle. I frequent mostly the weekend ones, so see you there :D
  3. mellody43

    mellody43 New Member

    Well hi there! How will I know it's you? =) Are you volunteering to dance with a slightly off-balance new follow?

    How do you recommend I tell leads that I am a beginner? Just state it flat out?

    I have the tango schedule printed out on my fridge for when I find the courage to go!

    Melissa
  4. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    I sent you a PM. Let's hook up so you know how to recognize me.

    Well, just tell your lead that you are a beginner, and he should be cognizant of that.

    Have courage! Go! If I'm there, I'll dance with you. I actually dance with anyone regardless of level.
  5. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    For a follower, I reckon "balance, balance, balance" is a key thing.

    Luckily, that's something you can practice by yourself - doing pivots and walks, either free-standing or against a wall. If you can pivot without your leader's support, then so much the better.

    Also, on the pivots, try to power them with the lats rather than the hips - i.e. don't rely on momentum, the slower you can do it, the better.
  6. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    If I may also add, one vital skill you would need to learn to be good at AT is to learn to follow.

    Argentinean Tango is so HEAVILY reliant of the Lead & Follow relationship.
  7. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Abso-freakin'-lutely!

    Learn the art of standing still. As in, don't move until you're asked to move. And then wait until you're asked to move again. Think of things one step at a time, not sets of steps or figures. Definitely not figures. (Something I think is different for beginning leads and follows.) Any step can flow into any other step, and there is no set tempo for any of it. The only way you can follow it is to think, and follow, one step at a time.

    What helped me learn to follow was my first teacher being very dramatic (he also acts, or used to) and getting all "play weepy" if he wasn't the center of attention. It was funny, but it got the point across. At the very beginning, he wanted me to keep my shoulders parallel to his--if he changed the angle of his shoulders, I had to keep mine in relation to his. And along with my shoulders staying with his, the angle of my hips. With this, I learned that following was a combination of the angle/rotation of my shoulders/torso/hips together with the direction of travel. It simplified things tremendously.

    The second big thing I'd suggest is to learn the art of walking backwards. Reach out with your leg like your trying to land on your heel first. You won't succeed, of course, and will end up stepping with your toe. But it'll help keep your upper body forward (instead of back, like in ballroom--can't remember if you said you have ballroom experience), and create room for the lead to move his legs. Otherwise you'll be bumping knees. Think of extending your leg back by contracting the muscles in you butt and the back of your thigh.

    Just my $.02. And, keep in mind I'm a beginner as well, so take this with large grains of salt, and know that I haven't mastered this either. (Well, I do pretty good at the following bit, if I may brag a bit.)
  8. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    Just so luv you when you do that! ;)

    Peaches has captured it so eloquently here. This is the very basic beginnings of the term Follow. Without this most fundamental AT elements, the dance tends to disintegrate very fast.

    In AT, you will hear A LOT about maintaining "Keeping one's Center to your partner." Again Peaches describes the beginnings of it very eloquently.

    ...not to mention producing a beautiful extension which not only looks really nice, but quite sensual and elegant at the same time.
  9. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Not to mention, if you dance AT enough, it makes for a good butt exercise!
  10. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Well, of course, Darlin'. All men love it when a woman agrees with them without a debate! :p
  11. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    Not only that Mi Amór, it's your flowery mastery of the colloquial language at the most opportune times. :D
  12. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Ohh, you make me feel all a-fluttery when you say that! :)
  13. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    In re-reading your initial post, this caught my attention.

    I'd hesitate to think of things in terms of "balancing yourself against leads"...particularly those who are learning.

    (Disclaimer: if you're being taught apilado style, then disregard this.)

    You should have your own balance. I tend to stay balanced somewhere in the vicinity of the arch of my foot--that's where I feel the majority of my weight. Maybe a bit in front of that, between the arch and the ball, but not on my toes, and I don't balance against my lead.

    Try this exercise, which I found made very clear the difference between letting the lead have your balance vs. keeping your own balance and yet pressing into him.

    Stand very close to a door jamb. Get your AT posture all set--standing tall, abs toned, pelvis slightly tucked, ribcage lifted, and your weight centered on your foot where you want it to be. Now, keep that posture and let yourself lean against the wall. You'll probably feel like if someone took that away from you, you'd fall on your face. That's not good. Now (you might have to scoot just a bit closer), stand there such that your chest is in contact with the wall--and press ever so slightly into it. You should still be balanced over your own two feet, but you'll still have a good connection and shouldn't feel like you'll fall if the wall moves.

    Also, and this could very well not fly in a group class, I don't dance in close embrace if the guy doesn't have his own balance. I can take care of myself. But if he doesn't know how to move his own body in such a way as to maintian his own balance, and to lead without disturbing mine, then I don't give him the opportunity to throw me off as much.
  14. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "learning to put weight into my partner was very challenging for me and probably will continue to feel strange until I have more opportunity to practice!"
    I was cheered when I read this. But at the same time I wondered how long it would be before you came back here and wrote "the guys are telling me I'm leaning on them". It didn't work out exactly that way.
    If this is what you are being asked to do, do it. I applaud your instructor. Apilado or not, gravity is the glue, in the form of sharing some weight, that holds you and your partner together.
  15. Me

    Me New Member

    Well, I haven't seen you dance, so my comment is of course a general one. :)

    Many dancers who are new to tango rush through their dancing. I would say, don't panic and think too hard. Try to take it easy and enjoy the music. Take time to find your center, and then move. :)
  16. Purr

    Purr Well-Known Member

    And

    Both of these posts are tremedously helpful, especially the second one. :)
  17. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I'm glad.

    Granted, with the second one, it's debatable. And often is debated here on D-F. But that's just how I dance. If you're being told to give your balance to your partner, I don't want to interfere, but I can't offer insight. For that, try talking with Steve Pastor--he dances that style.
  18. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    It's not debatable. I actually agree with you. Our styles are actually closer together than Steve's. Both methods are right! It's a matter of which AT style, and preference. I dance either way (Salon, Milonguero, Apilado), depending on my partner. It's the lead's job to adapt to his partner's capabilities.
  19. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Er...I think we might have a miscommunication going on.

    I agree that both methods are right. That's why I consider my second point debatable--it's only one way of establishing that connection, can be tweaked depending on the style (salon or milonguero), or not be entirely relevant if dancing apilado.
  20. beginners_luck

    beginners_luck New Member

    Tango has prescribed moves, it's true, but they're not...strictly necessary at first. When I'm teaching newbie follows, I tell them that it pretty much boils down to paying attention to where your partner wants you to go and picking the easiest, most natural way to get there. If you can do that to the music, voila! You're dancing! In fact, I've heard teachers tell me that if it's very difficult, I'm probably doing something I shouldn't be.

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