The Next Step

So far we’ve identified a few quick examples of what it means to have the music inside. In the first 20 seconds of Ismael’s video we looked at how he waited and picked up the music with his first step, and how he used a half giro to follow a short bit of piano in Extraña. We also looked at how a younger couple marked bits of melody and compás in Biaggi’s Quejas. While these are small things, they’re also profound—because not one in a thousand tango dancers does them. We also presented examples of more “complex” steps (or patterns or movements) in the Blas-Graciela and Pachin-La Gallega videos. The question is, where to go next. If our goal is to present videos as a path for learning tango, we should present an organized series that progresses from the basics up through more advanced levels of musicality. It would be possible to do, but it would be a lot of work—and I’m not really sure how effective it would be. I’m not sure who will read this, or how many would want to use it in a serious way to learn tango. I think a better (and much easier for me) approach is to just present a sampler of good dancing, and let people absorb or enjoy what they want.

So, these next videos would never be here if this were an organized tango instructional. They’re very advanced, and they’re idiosyncratic—common to only a few dancers. Few dancers can do them, and only a small handful do them well (read "with the music"). But they are interesting, and they are part of tango. So here they are: The “triple step” or “quick step”, and the “enrosque”. Kids—don’t try this at home!

The Fastest Feet

The compás of tango is STRONG-weak, STRONG-weak. Vals is STRONG-weak- weak, STRONG-weak- weak. It’s as simple, and as complex, as that. The secret to dancing vals is to be aware of the two weak beats, and if you’re going to do a quick step, you always need to step sharply on the first one. It’s a surprisingly difficult and subtle thing, but it’s the key. Absorb it, and you will begin to move like the best vals dancers—and more importantly, you’ll begin to love vals. We may use video to show this in the future, but for now we’re going to put the cart before the horse and show something more advanced.

In these next two videos, Hector and Maria Eugenia will first demonstrate adding a quick step in tango, and then stepping on all three beats of the vals compás. Hector has been dancing tango all his life. When he was a young man in the Argentine air force, he had a black friend who danced rock and swing, and Hector introduced him to tango. The man was Facundo, who then went on to a nice life of teaching and performing. Hector is much less well known. He dances quietly with his partner, mostly hidden from the world. So let’s shine some light on them:


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I don’t know if this has a name in tango, but for now I’ll use the term “triple step”. So this clip demonstrates the “triple step”. Hector is putting two steps between the strong beats of the dos por cuatro. Technically, (probably too technically) he is stepping on the strong beat, and then instead of quick stepping on the weak beat, he steps twice, once on each side of the weak beat. To me, the result is like a very quick badabump drum roll. You need to look closely to see it. This step isn’t too common—there are probably only about a dozen milongueros who do it regularly. Tete is the most famous, but for me, the most proficient are Hector, and two other milongueros we can’t show because they're on our "don't share” list.

Now for the triple step in vals. This next video is crazy. Hector is trying to hit every beat of one of the fastest valses in existence. I’m only showing the first minute, because he got so tired he couldn’t do it anymore:



Wow, that was fast. Triple stepping in vals is less common than in tango, and you can probably see how it would tire you out. But look at how relaxed and natural Maria Eugenia is. The couple is flying, but she's never rushed or out of balance because she maintains her posture and keeps her feet on the floor. Her centered, stable dancing is one of the reasons the couple is able to move so quickly and smoothly.

(The couple in the background at the start of the video are our good friends Napo and Lili. Napo is a milonguero from Avellaneda, and Lili is from Canada. He’s in a white shirt and tie—we'll look at them soon.)

On the next page we'll look at Carlos and Nelida.