In 2017 I started learning Argentine Tango with Eliana.  This collection of notes, drawings, and videos is my attempt to make sense of the structure of Argentine Tango.  I hope that this can be the frame upon which future progressions can hang.
在2017年初我開始跟Eliana學習阿根廷探戈。 這一系列的筆記,繪圖和視頻是對理解阿根廷探戈結構的嘗試。 我希望這框架可以令學習更有系統,並希望這版本有助於大家對阿根廷探戈的認識

How to read the notes 如何使用這些筆記

Drawing

Despite the seeming complexity, most figures / steps for novice dancers can be fully described by referring to (1) the feet, (2) the hips, and (3) the torso.  Our drawings would thus break down movements into these elements.

Each of these parts can move independent of one other.   This may not be possible initially, and the torso and hips may rotate together as one block.  Exercises in dissociation improves this articulation.

繪圖

初學者的動作大部份可以三點來描述。這些分別是雙腳、寬關節、和軀幹。

Separate top views, one for each body part, is used to dissect individual movements and make the diagrams easier to interpret.  The underlying grid helps provides a reference.

An isometric view (right) shows all three parts together.

The leader part is shown in brown whereas the follow is in violet.  Movement is shown with arrows, with the previous location shown as a faint ghost.  The image underneath shows a walk where the lead takes a step forward, and the follow a step back.
The weighing of the feet is shown by the color intensity.  From left to right the following diagram shows weight equally distributed, weight on left (leader), weight on right (leader), and weight on the front of both feet.
You can click on the images to see a larger version.  This becomes useful when the sketches become more complex.

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina, and literally means good (buenos) airs (aires).  It is located in the Rio de Plata delta, which means river (rio) of (de) silver (plata).

布宜諾斯艾利斯是阿根廷的首都,字面意思是buenos優良的aires空氣。 它位於Rio de Plata 河套地區,意味著plata)河(rio)。

Culture

There are also some notes on Argentine culture.  Original words and phrases in Spanish is denoted like this: Argentine tango (tango argentino).  There are also purple side-bars that talks about things Argentina that I find interesting.

文化

這處還有兩點關於阿根廷文化的筆記,如下。 首先,西班牙語中的單詞和短語會以括號標註:阿根廷探戈(tango argentino)。 另外在紫色的邊欄藏有關於阿根廷文化的點滴。

The Embrace (1)

Walking (1): A Forward Step

Walking is the basic unit of tango, and has a surprising depth to it for both the lead and follow.  The refinement of the walk is a lifetime’s practice.

Walking is basically a transfer of bodyweight forward.  From even weight distribution, the weight is first shifted to one side (left foot as illustrated), the free leg moves forward, and then weight is transferred onto it.  In a regular walk this happens on a single beat.

The actions in a couple happen at the same time.  Two people can move simultaneously because the leader commits by pressing his torso a fraction of a second before making the walk (this is discussed later and not represented in the diagram above).

Some learning tips :

  1. the feet are parallel and closed
  2. the leader steps directly into the space previously occupied by the follow.  This draws two parallel lines on the floor.
  3. a brushing motion between the lead and follow’s feet is permissible
  4. the follow attempt to match both the size and direction of the lead’s step.  Avoid curving to one side, or taking a step that is too short or too long.

The first diagram in the above set shows a common beginner mistake, where the leader walks with open (and not parallel) feet, usually outside the follow’s feet.  This often happen because the lead wishes to avoid stepping on the follow’s feet in order to protect her.  This results in a cowboy’esque, waddling appearance.

The second in the above set of drawings show the follow not matching the lead.  In this case she curves to the left.  The result is that the original frame between the couple (green square) becomes distorted unintentionally.

Basico: the basic step.  Regression 1.

The basico, or Basic Step, is an 8-count pattern that is taught as the foundational unit of Argentine tango.  It comprises elemental movements such as the walk (inline and outside), side-step in both directions, and the cross.  It is thus a versatile platform for developing other figures.

The basico in its full expression requires a moment where the lead walks outside the follow, which we will look at in the next section.  This sketch represent a regression (simpler version) which we will refine later.

I find it useful to visualize the “shape” of the movements in my head.  In the basico the couple is translated directly ahead, with a minute discursion to the side.  Note how the weighing and space between lead and follow remains the same before and after: perfect for chaining basico after basico.  (But you wouldn’t do that, would you?)

The astute reader may notice that the count started at 1, and that this means the full movement takes seven counts rather than the promised 8.  This is part of the simplification in the regression: in the full expression we shall add back the first beat.

Details for the Leader

 

Basico regression for lead

 

  1. side step, with L, to the left.
  2. forward step with R.  Note that the feet brushes close to the L before advancing forward.
  3. forward step with L.
  4. R steps up to square with L.  The follower will be in (led into) a cross position.
  5. Weight shifts to the other leg.
  6. L foot, now free, steps forward.
  7. R foot, brushing against the left foot, takes a side-step to the right.
  8. L foot closes.

 

Steps 5-8 is often referred to “finish” or “closing”.

 

Note four things that are scaffolds.  First, the lead and the follow’s feet are always in front of one another, and the torso is squared.  This will be modified (at beat 2-4) when we reach the full basico.

 

The second point is related to the first one.  Here the follower (magically!) gets into a cross position; in the future this will be led explicitly by you.

 

Third, we are taking one step with each beat.  We will be looking at dynamics later, where we may choose to walk double-time in some steps, and v-e-r-y s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y in others.

 

Fourth, the steps are equal in length.  This does not need to be true.  You can play around with this now.

 

The last two choices are, ideally, dictated by the music.  This is referred to as musicality.

Details for the Follow

 

Basico (regression) for follow

  1. side step, with R, to the right.
  2. backward step with L.  Note that the feet brushes close to the R before retreating backward.
  3. backward step with R.
  4. L steps back in front and across the body.  This is the cross position.
  5. Weight shifts to the other leg.
  6. R foot, now free, steps backward.
  7. L foot, brushing against the right foot, takes a side-step to the left.
  8. R foot closes.

Steps 5-8 is often referred to “finish” or “closing”.

Note four things that are scaffolds.  First, the lead and the follow’s feet are always in front of one another, and the torso is squared.  This will be modified (at beat 2-4) when we reach the full basico.

The second point is related to the first one.  Here you (magically!) gets into a cross position; in the future this will be led explicitly by the leader.  Right now it doesn’t feel like anything, but when we get to the full expression you will feel a cross-motion in your upper body that signals a cross.

Third, we are taking one step with each beat.  We will be looking at dynamics later, where we may choose to walk double-time in some steps, and v-e-r-y s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y in others.

Fourth, the steps are equal in length.  This does not need to be true.  The leader can play around with this now.

The last two choices are decisions made by the leader, and are decisions that, ideally, are dictated by the music.  This is referred to as musicality.  As a follow you also have freedom to express what you hear in the music, but in a different role than that of a lead.  This we will look at much later.

Walking (2): Inline and outside

 

While we have discussed walking in two parallel tracks in Part 1, it is also possible for the lead’s feet to be in different lines than the follow.  This adjustment is necessary for the full expression of the basico.

This picture shows what it means to walk “in 2 lines” (in-line) or “in 4 lines”.  In the left figure both the lead and the follow occupies the 2 green lines, as the lead’s front foot displaces the follow’s.  On the right we have the lead walking in his (brown) lines whereas the follow walk in the purple lines.

The frame of the torso, illustrated with the green square, remains fixed.  Both partners need to rotation the torso in order for this to happen.

 

Notice that the hips remain squared, looking forward.  The hips and torso is dissociated.

 

A full view showing the stack of torso, hips, and feet is drawn below.

This four-line configuration is called “outside”, to distinguish from “inside” where the lead walk to the left of the follow.

Basico, the basic step

Having looked at walking outside, we are now ready for the traditional basico.

We have restored two elements as we go from the regression to the full basico

The first of these is the missing “1” beat – this is a step back by the leader.  We omitted it in the regression because the leader need to be aware of the space behind him, otherwise crashes will happen.  (In fact, Eli doesn’t teach this back step until much later.)  Restoring the backstep means that the overall displacement is one step forward instead of two steps forward.

The second change is that the couple is not always in-line with one another.  On the “2” side step the leader takes a slightly wider step, followed by a walk that is outside the follow’s leg.  This is accompanied by a torso twist, as in the walk outside described above.  For the follow, this twist will create the feeling the lead to the cross.

Details for the leader

Basic step for the leader

Details for the follow

Basic step – details for follow

Ocho: Forward and backward ochos

In Spanish the word ocho means 8, and the ocho is a signature tango figure where the follow’s trailing feet draws an 8 on the dance floor.