Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Of men, women and corriditas

I made a passing reference to women teaching tango and suddenly there's a discussion, which is worth continuing.

Why do I value women teaching? Obviously, for most leads, to dance tango you need to embrace a woman and move with her, which you really can't practice effectively with a man. The older dancers practiced with each other as kids, yes, but in close embrace? I don't think so. Anyone know for sure? They practiced together but never danced together.

& then women experience the way men dance in a way that men almost never do. An example came my way recently. A corridita is a 'little run' of steps. Tete used to use it often after the cruzada, the 'cross', in vals; a quick left-right-left, one-two-three. But how is it led? You can't just plough ahead and hope your partner's going to get out of the way fast enough, or she's going to get out of your way pretty fast when she sees you looking for a dance! If you look closely at a video or if you watch a Buenos Aires dancer, you might notice that there's a slight right-left-right movement of the shoulders. If you look very closely you might even notice a slight apparent lift. If you ask the guy how he leads it, he'll probably tell you he's no idea: it's just something he's done since he was 12. He just does it, one-two-three.

But women who take an interest in the hows and the whys of close embrace dance notice the energy they get from that 75 year-old leader when he leads a corrida; they know precisely when the corridita is going to come – and they need to know! They notice that a young guy, who's got great musicality and energy can't quite deliver that kind of energy, and moreover they're never quite sure when he's about to lead it. They realise that the old dancer breathes in, a quick inbreath, before the corridita, the tiniest momentary pause, and breathes out as he makes the 'little run'. The woman feels this slight physical lift and relaxation and follows effortlessly. This is the kind of insight that women who have danced a lot with the more experienced dancers and thought about their experience, are better placed to give you. Of course a partner you dance with regularly will know when the corridita is coming, led clearly or not, but then it's become a choreography, not something that necessarily works straight away with any partner you dance with.

Learning how to co-ordinate this is another issue: personally I know when the corridita is there in the music when it happens, but predicting it in time get a breath in is another matter. But you need to be aware of the need for it before you can start getting it together.

(With thanks to Monica Paz and Practimilonguero.)


Florian said...

This looks like close embrace to me:

Of course I cannot tell whether they practised like that when they were young too, but it seems likely. It's something that needs to be learnt, not something you want to try for the first time when you finally get to dance with a woman... Although one could question whether close embrace as we know it now was so much the standard in those days.

Chris said...

" A corridita is a 'little run' of steps. Tete used to use it often ... But how is it led?"

John, I would be delighted to dance it to you as Tete danced it to me.

"If you ask the guy how he leads it, he'll probably tell you he's no idea"

You'd hope so. If he can dance it to you, you won't need his explanation. If he can't, you won't want his explanation.

"women experience the way men dance in a way that men almost never do."

I agree. But to me, that's one reason women's teaching based on their experience is of so little real value to men. Not to mention that a woman who doesn't dance as a man has no way directly to validate or communicate her interpretation of that experience for the purpose of helping a man to learn.

I could find someone who's learned everything there is to know about a spoken language by listening to it's best speakers, but still it will be someone who speaks the language that can best help me learn to speak it myself.

Tangocommuter said...

Yes! TangoandChaos is a great guide to the practice and background of BsAs social tango!

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks, but Tete danced it with me too, but not in close embrace, so I've no idea if he used breath. Fact is, Tete could get a brick wall to dance, which doesn't mean the brick wall could dance or show anyone how to dance. & not everyone accepts Tete was a good example; your friend Jantango doesn't have a good word for him as a leader. I chose him simply because it's easy to find examples of the corridita in videos with him.

You might find verbal explanations useless, but to many of us they are helpful. Your tango dogma is bizarre: something can be explained in words, therefore it's no good!