An unplanned, and very exciting, focus on rhythmical dance

I’ve long favoured lyrical tango over rhythmical – legato over staccato. While most songs of course contain elements of each, there’s a huge difference between say Fresedo’s Buscandote and D’Arienzo’s El choclo. The former has me leaping out of my seat, the latter shrinking back into it.

Partly that reflects my musical tastes. My non-tango music is dominated by singer-songwriters, so it’s natural that my tango tastes would lean heavily toward songs where the singer is the focus. But there’s a second factor …

My slow dance is partly a preference, but also driven by the fact that my tango brain doesn’t work fast enough to dance very quickly.*

*I mean, I can dance milonga, but that’s because I haven’t been attempting anything more than steps and weight changes. A large part of my milonga has been the 6-step basic, combined with turning during it so it feels more varied than it is, then mixing in some fast rebounds, forward and side steps just to break it up.

At milonga speeds, that feels fine. In my experience, with milonga, if you’re on the beat, dancing fast, and dance with an attitude that it’s just about having fun, most followers will enjoy it. However, the simplicity of my milonga feels way too basic to dance a rhythmical tango.

Diego Bado is back in town, and I of course immediately booked a private with him, as did Steph and Asia. My original plan was to focus the lesson on getting a better understanding of cross system, but when I watched the end of Steph’s lesson, they were working with interrupted steps.

That is, Diego would begin leading a step, then stop it after a short distance (landing but keeping most of the weight on the original standing leg), then maybe do the same again, and finally complete the step. Kind of like rebounds, but with no actual return.

This was a revelation to me. I find it almost impossible to lead double-time steps, but this looked like a way to get the same kind of feeling in a much easier form. So when it was time for my lesson, I told Diego “Let’s do that, please!”

Leading it is harder than it looks (act surprised!). Mistakes I made while attempting this were:

  • Leading too much weight transfer, thus leading an actual (small) step
  • Failing to provide enough blocking, so the follower continued beyond me
  • Rebounding rather than just stopping
  • Lack of clarity in my leading of the length of the actual step

A key goal is to make it feel like you’re going to lead the full step, then interrupt it – instead of making it feel like it’s only going to be a partial step from the start. That’s what gives it the snappy feeling.

We made some decent progress on these issues during the lesson, and the good news is that I can tell when I’m leading it well and when I’m not. There was one forward-step version where it felt perfect to me, and Asia responded with an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ – and knowing what’s good and what’s not is considerably more than half the battle when working on technique.

We’ll continue to work on this next lesson, and by a happy coincidence I’d already agreed to Janet’s suggestion of having milonga be the focus of the next private with Filippo, so that couldn’t be better timed!

I already feel excited about this! I’ve so far considered lyrical tandas my playground, and very rhythmical ones a kind of interruption. I’ve sometimes sat them out, and sometimes danced them with a feeling of not really being able to express the music in the way I’d like to. But this feels like a really viable route to being able to enjoy dancing to rhythmical music too. I can’t wait to play more with it …

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