Carlos y Nelida

"I perform on stage, but I can't dance like the milongueros.
I study them, but I can't do what they do."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX-from a discussion with Miguel Angel Zotto


Carlos and Nelida are great vals dancers, and they use the triple step very subtly and sparingly. It can be hard to spot—sometimes it’s so fast that it’s more like a quick weight change than an actual step:


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I knew this was going to happen. We have limited server space, and these videos take forever to download... but I came across this next one when I was looking for the triple step, and I had to include it. It doesn't show anything special, except that this Laurenz/Podestá vals is too damn beautiful to leave out. This is really what dancing vals is all about:




Okay, we can't just put things on here totally for fun. This video actually shows a lot, so to justify the bandwidth, we should have a quick tech discussion (skip it and just enjoy the video if you want).

Let's ask a question: Why does their dancing look so good? I think there are a lot of reasons. Obviously, without the right posture, step, connection and compás they couldn't even begin to dance this way. But there's a more specific reason. The key to vals is that if you do a quick step, you should hit the first of the two weak beats. The problem most people have is they step between the two weak beats. Or somewhere around the two beats. Can you see the right way to do it here? If you look closely, you'll see that their quick steps seem to come just a little earlier than in tango. It's because they're hitting the first weak. That's what makes vals special, and that's why their dancing looks like vals.

Finally, note how they use the music. Here's just one example: As the music builds Carlos links two giros, and then exits with a back corrida. He lets the music carry them into the giros, and he varies the speed of the turn to match the music. Finally, he slows the turn, and walks out backward in a weaving path, using some of the weak beats as the music fades. There's one place just after the midpoint of the clip where Carlos really catches his stride. It happens just when the slider passes the two small arrows  ^--under the screen. As they approach the right corner of the floor, they do a double giro, and then Carlos does his weaving back corrida toward the camera. Try blocking out their feet and watch the way their bodies flow with the music. And for ladies who are looking for a tango role model, you couldn't do any better than Nelida in this video. Carlos can be difficult to follow, but she makes it look easy. Notice her feet. She's a perfect example of the clean, beautiful style that we discussed in the section on women's technique in Chapter 3.

Discovering things like this in a piece of video is the reason I'm so fascinated by the milongueros. I have tremendous respect for them because they're ordinary working people with no training in dancing or music, but they are somehow able to walk into a dance hall and create something beautiful that's never been seen before. How do they do it? Who showed Carlos how to express this vals in such a brilliant way? There's literally no one else in the world that does it. He just invented it! Every time I study a video of the milongueros, I find something unique like this. That's why I think the film is so important. Without film, the things they do will die with them. No one would ever know Carlos and Nelida, or anyone else for that matter, could to do something like this.

There's a lot more to discuss—especially some of the subtle ways Carlos is interacting with the cadences of Podestá's voice. But we can talk about that later. Let's move on.