Training the Eye
Sometimes I check out the tango videos that people post on the Internet. They're often accompanied by comments about how spectacular the dancing is—but I usually don't find them very interesting. And if I ask Alejandra to take a look, she usually feels the same way. I think Alej and I must be looking for different things—so I’d like to take another look at a video we posted earlier to see if we can show more clearly what it is we look for in tango. It’s a short clip of Alejandra and Pocho we used in the Entrega article (page 19, Chapter 3). When I first posted it, Alej didn’t like it much. She said, “I remember that one. It’s just normal dancing. I hadn’t danced with Pocho in a long time, and you can see I’m not sure which way he’s going to go after he pauses.” But that’s not really important. We used it earlier in Chapter 3 to show some of the elements of women’s technique, and now I'd like to use it here for something else:
What Alej said is true. This is just “normal dancing”... but it’s very good normal dancing. So let's take a closer look at what Pocho is doing. We'll begin with the first 15 seconds (to help, I put a dotted line between two arrows ^.....^ below the slider to mark the first 15 seconds.)
We begin with Pocho facing the camera. He waits a moment, and then takes two smooth, surging steps forward. Then he turns slightly to his left, marks the compás for a couple of beats, and does a full giro (turn) to his right. Try to absorb both the music and the movement together as you watch—it may take awhile to do this, but I think it’s important.
If you watch a couple of times, you should begin to notice that the two surging forward steps are done just when they should be. Berón sings, “Que te imporrrr..ta”, and Pocho floats slightly as Berón draws out the word, surges on the “ta” at the end, and then takes one more quick step to emphasize the word “fin”. Then, as Berón’s words jump around with the music, Pocho rocks with the compás for a moment, and begins a giro. Look very closely at the giro—watch Pocho’s head as he finishes the turn. In the last half of the giro he takes an emphatic step right with the orchestra, and then slows the turn slightly as he finishes. He's carefully varying the rate of the turn to stay with the flow of the orchestra. The result is that he and Alej to “ride” the music through the turn.
Just after this sequence, he takes a couple of steps forward and does an ocho cortado, where he faces a little to the right, and then brings Alej back inside to a cross. It's a simple movement, but if you watch this several times, you should begin to notice how carefully he stays with the music. He goes right, and then returns slowly as Berón again draws out his words. At the finish there is a slight surge of the strings, and he and Alej time her step into the cross to go right with it. Pocho's pivot to the right and back has the harmonic motion of a pendulum, and Alej's foot finishes exactly on the surge. The strings go wa wum, and Alej steps into the cross exactly on the wum (it happens just when the slider passes the arrow), and then she keeps both feet planted for just an extra micro second, as the strings finish the note! Part of this is led by Pocho, and part is a subtle, but important contribution by Alej. It's hard to see, but the whole thing is right on, and it's done as a partnership.