Only for Laurel and me, I have to say right off -- before the title of this post sends Argentine Tango aficionados into a frenzy. Many of those who dance the Argentine version of Tango are really into it, which is great.
What the world needs now, as always, is more dancing fools.
When the economic times are bad, troubles are easily forgotten when the music starts up and two bodies begin to move in harmony (or, in our case, semi-harmony).
We've just taken another turn on our dancing path.
After some West Coast Swing classes we jumped into Argentine Tango lessons for the better part of a year. Then we flipped to American Tango, the ballroom counterpoint to the greater closeness and smaller moves of Argentine Tango.
On my urging, we gave Argentine another try via some lessons offered by the Tango4Salem group that's started up in town. After making it through a beginner series, we moved on to the intermediate class.
I've learned a lot, as has Laurel. The basics of partner dancing, such as leading and following, apply to every style. The instructor, Elizabeth, pointed out that I'd been leading too much from the lower half of my body rather as a whole-person movement.
This went a long way toward explaining why our feet would get tangled at times. My legs would start moving before Laurel got the message from my chest where we were heading.
But insights like that had to be balanced against another fact: Argentine Tango is damn difficult. There's a reason we kept being told in our first exposure to the dance, "Argentine Tango is the Ph.D. of partner dancing."
It is, in our admittedly shallow exposure to some ballroom styles: Waltz, Foxtrot, Nightclub Two-Step, Swing, Salsa, and, of course, American Tango.
Like I said before:
I'm no ballroom dance expert, that's for sure. However, I can say from personal experience that if you've tried Argentine Tango and found it too difficult, given American Tango a try. There's more structure, as most patterns we've been taught hold to the eight counts in the basic movement.
Quick (Q) is one count. Slow (S) is two counts. The basic pattern is S, S, Q, Q, S (eight counts). A rock step also is S, S, Q, Q, S. But a box turn is Q, Q, S, Q, Q, S. Also eight counts, with a different beat.
I'm not at all musical; I'm a bit more mathematical. So my male brain resonates with the eight count patterns in beginning/intermediate American Tango. I can dance along softly muttering to myself, "quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, slow."
With Argentine Tango, I often was muttering also. However, it was more like "what the heck…now what?...oops, that didn't work…" Lora tells us that we'll eventually be able to throw Argentine moves into our American Tango. So all that earlier muttering won't be wasted.
Here's another description of the difference between Ballroom and Argentine Tango by someone who knows a lot more about dancing than I do. He makes some of the same points, though.
We're going to return to concentrating on American Tango and other ballroom dances now. It'll be possible to meld some of the Argentine Tango techniques we've learned into the ballroom style. Maybe someday we'll return to get our Ph.D., but for now elementary school feels more fun.
Tonight we finished up a four-week Basic Swing class at the RJ Dance Studio. It's been a kick (so to speak).
What I'm always struck by, when we learn a new dance, is how the first class or two is the most flowingly enjoyable. All I know is a few moves, so there isn't much decision-making for me as the leader. Option A, B, or C. That's about it.
With Argentine Tango, there's always a multitude of possibilities. It doesn't follow a defined rhythm, nor specified steps. Improvisation is the primary rule (or non-rule).
Dancing in this fashion is marvelous, when it works. However, it takes a lot more skill and experience than dancing rhythmically to mostly patterned moves.
Laurel and I enjoyed our final swing class tonight. Per usual, I did best when I did the least. We had the most trouble with what I think is called an "overhead slide." You've seen it -- looks way cool when it works, which much of the time it didn't for us.
Timing is sort of tough. Especially when you think about each move. "Let's see, slow, slow, quick, quick; raise both arms on second slow, step out on first quick, slide arms on second quick; or was it...?"
Then the clock hit 9:00. Quitting time. Swing music was still playing. I grabbed Laurel and gave it one more try, not thinking much about it.
"Hey, that felt good!" she exclaimed. "You do the best when you just do it."
Yes. Such is the never-ending lesson of dance. And of life.