Walking (Part IV)
A Short Pause
I’m not a musician, and I'm not sure about the terminology, but I know that music comes in phrases. When I was first learning, someone told me tango was often in sequences of eight beats, or multiples of eight, so I began to count eight beats—and sure enough, I often found changes there. I even worked out ways of practicing where I would move forward through the middle of the phrases, and pause for weight changes or giros at the beginnings and ends of the phrases. I don't do it any more, but in the beginning it helped me find a basic structure for moving to the music. For now, let’s just say the music often does something similar for a phrase or two, and then changes in some way. It may be a place where the singer catches his breath, or the orchestra may change instruments or volume. In any case, a tango dancer needs to do something with it, so let's get a tool to use. At this point, giros are somewhere down the road, so let’s do the simplest thing we can: We'll practice pausing.
We’ve seen how a step accelerates down through the strong beat, and rises and slows on the weak one. This time, instead of passing the weak beat, we'll wait for one full beat before taking the next step. Shouldn't be too hard, no? If we're doing it right, we should already be slow, balanced and tall, when the time comes, so we'll just wait there for one beat, and then take the next step. I’ll put it in two very short clips, the first with only ticks of the strong beat added to the soundtrack, so you can see how I wait for one beat without stepping, and then in the second, we'll have both a tick on the strong beat, and a tock on the weak one. Normally with Alej, I just do one at a time, but I’ll link a few to demonstrate, and the result should look like a sort of slow walk, or a walk with a bit of hesitation. Note that although I keep my free foot very close to the floor, it doesn't actually touch. First with only a tock on the strong beat:
Pausing at every other strong beat of the dos por cuatro.
Now we'll do it with ticks-tocks to mark both the strong and the weak beats. Down and faster on the strong beat, tall slow and balanced on the weaker one, and then pausing:
You must always hear both the strong and weak beats of the compás as you dance.
The tick-tocks on this soundtrack should be going through your head during this pausing exercise.
Although it's not too common to link walking pauses, it's an important musical tool to have. Alej and I use them all the time in the milongas when the music calls for it, but it takes a lot of practice to do it well. Remember the basics, and instead of moving right into the next step, slow on the weak beat near your Zero Point, and let a strong-weak pass underneath you before dropping down to pick up the next one.
By the way, how did it go? You probably found it's not as easy as it looks. In fact, it was probably damn hard. Go back and practice the balance exercises, and on the next page we'll go into some more details about stepping that might help.
Oh yeah... one important thing. Never rely on your partner to steady you or hold you up. Remember, you should never do anything in a milonga until you can do it smoothly, and in balance first... but on second thought, that may not be a good idea. If we enforced that rule, you'd need to close all the milongas in Paris, New York, L. A., and Miami! (Ha! Ha! Don't get mad... just kidding.)