Class in Santa Barbara August 10, 2012
Making the Most of ...
- How We Fit a Round Dance
into a Square Room -
An "All Levels" Pre-Milonga Class
with Deb + Stephen
8:00 - 9:00 pm just before
Friday, August 10th at Lisa's Kay's Studio, Goleta
Corners" + Milonguita Grande
Friday August 10, 2012
Lisa Kay's Dance Studio
6396 Hollister Avenue (at Aero Camino) - Goleta, CA
8:00 - 9:00 p.m. - All Levels Welcome *
9:00 - 3:00 a.m. - with DJ Marcos
$15 / dancer ... for Class and/or Milonga
Hosted by the incomparable Antonio Gaona
"Alas, we do not live by tango alone ...
sometimes, there must also be flan."
* All Levels Class = Accessible
to Newer Dancers ... with Fresh Challenges + Ideas
for Dancers with More Experience
Click here for driving
directions and scroll down for more details &
background about the class ...
on "Hidden Corners" & the Shapes of Social Tango
Tango's Deeper Social Waters: Dancing with the Room
One of the delicious ironies of Argentine Tango is: The more
popular it becomes, and the more people tend to gather at familiar
venues, the less space everyone has to dance.
Indeed, tighter conditions on the dance floor is the norm in many
well known destination cities for tango San Francisco, Montreal,
Berlin as well as in major festivals throughout the world.
And the familiar expression "the crowded dance floors of Buenos
Aires" highlights just how common this situation is in the city
where tango was born.
Closer to home, we can regularly encounter the same circumstances
during the busy periods of many popular milongas such as Milonguita
Grande in Santa Barbara, or Oxygen, CalTech, El Floridita
and El Encuentro down in Los Angeles.
This feeling of "dancing on a crowded floor" is also
quite common in any gathering where the space itself is limited
or smaller in size, such as in the house milongas and cafe settings
of Wednesday night's Milonga Cambiante in Santa Barbara.
However, instead of being seen as a liability, this very "lack
of space" is often experienced and engaged as an important facet
of one of Tango's most celebrated qualities: The coming together
of many different kinds of people to share and enjoy this renowned,
communally-created art form.
- Indeed, in order to maximize their contact with each other and
other members of the community, many aficionados and experienced
dancers alike favor and deliberately seek out crowded Tango events.
- Not only do they enjoy the invigorating challenges of exploring
the music on a tight floor with other skilled dancers, but they
relish the "contact high" that comes from sharing and
amplifying Tango's many social qualities.
By way of metaphor, some of these ideas are similar to our dancing
with a "school of fish" many individuals joining
together to create One Larger Being that moves and flows effortlessly,
seamlessly, like a river. And for many, the sensibility and feelings
involved can be profound, leading us ever deeper into that fabled
state sometimes known as tango bliss.
A Living Dance vs. Static Architecture = A Round Peg in a Square
As newer dancers, we are often consumed with learning how to move
our own bodies, how to communicate with our partners, and how to perceive
and respond to elements and ideas we hear in the music. Plus, since
tango is famously an improvised dance, we encounter the extra challenge
of bringing these many aspects together and letting them unfold smoothly
"in the moment," through time, all without a roadmap or
But as we gain more confidence and experience and take our tango
improvisations out onto the social dance floor, the complexities we
confront jump to a whole new order of magnitude:
- In addition to communicating and coordinating with our partner,
on the social dance floor we have the extra challenge of making
our choices and movements fit well with those of our neighbors
to somehow give and receive "floor space" with other nearby
- And by extension, with the entire room the larger "school
of fish" composed of even more couples all of them improvising
to the music while sharing the dance space together.
Of course, without reference to some kind of guideline, the "mass
improvisations" of many dancers could easily generate a chaotic
or turbulent environment, perhaps similar to a boiling pot or a pinball
game, where movements are randomized and collisions are more likely.
Fortunately, tango has evolved several approaches and conventions
to help us address the challenges involved among the most prominent,
the idea of the "Line of Dance," the imaginary pathway
that describes our counter-clockwise progression around the room.
In tango, this Line of Dance is called la ronda.
Similar to the English word "round," ronda
suggests the idea of "going around" or making a circuit
around the edge of something around the perimeter of
our shared dance space.
But this image becomes more somewhat more problematic when
we also adopt the idea of a "round shape"and apply
it to la ronda...
- In a typical setting, the dance floor for tango is anything
but round. Instead, it is influenced and determined by the
architecture of the room a structure that is most often
bounded by straight edges and sharp corners ...
- As a consequence, we lose something when we try to fit a
"round peg in a square hole."
With a "rounded ronda," our dance
space gets significantly smaller in a rectangular room,
reducing the number of dancers who can comfortably share the
floor together ... and/or increasing the "pressure"
on the dancers themselves by compressing and crowding them into
a smaller area.
Twenty-Four couples share a dance floor framed by an oval
"Live of Dance" in an
18' x 25' rectangular room.
In the example above, the yellow corners
represent "unused space," the loss of which
can reduce everyone's room to dance by up to 25%.
Not using the corners tends to crowd other
dancers toward the middle of the floor, reducing or
eliminating their room to maneuver and chance to progress,
and greatly increasing the possibility of collisions.
When there aren't many dancers on the floor and everyone has plenty
of room to move, the ultimate shape of the dance space itself is of
little consequence by analogy, on an empty desert highway,
we can drive however and wherever we want and not bother anyone.
But when the floor is crowded and space is at a premium, the idea
of a common set of "Rules of the Road" becomes much more
- On a crowded freeway at rush hour, it is critical that we maintain
our awareness of every neighboring car and driver, and that we all
match our speeds, watch our distances and signal clearly in order
to create the optimum flow and to avoid collisions.
- If any one car stalls or stops for too long, or begins to wander
randomly from lane to lane or if construction or an accident
takes a lane away entirely then even routine traffic quickly
piles up and the freeway can become a parking lot.
Squaring the Circle The "Line of Dance" Revisited
The same way that drivers on a busy freeway make use of all available
lanes, and the water in a river stretches fully from bank to bank,
so too in tango.
As Tom Stermitz, long time dancer, teacher and organizer
the the popular Denver Tango Festivals observes:
On a crowded social dance floor, Argentine Tango goes around the
perimeter of the room if that room is rectangular,
then the "Line of Dance" is also rectangular ... not circular.
Some of the common "Rules of the Road" that we use
on a crowded dance floor:
Maintain Good Lanes: Whatever its shape, the perimeter
of the room describes the far edge of the "outside lane."
When this lane fills up with dancers, a new/second lane forms
to just the inside of the first both continuing to
follow the larger outline or contour of the dance space. If
needed, additional inside lanes are also added the same way.
Use All the Space: In order to create a rectangular
Line of Dance, it is important that each couple use all the
available space and carry their own dancing all the way into
Don't Cut Corners: "Rounding off" any corner
in order to make our own progress easier at the expense of
others can be considered very poor form disrespectful
and disruptive to our neighbors, and the mark of a careless,
unaware or unskilled dancer.
Twenty-Four couples using lanes and a rectangular
"Line of Dance" to share the same 18' x 25' rectangular
In this new example, everyone makes maximum
use of their shared space by keeping to their lanes
and dancing all the way into the corners of the floor.
As a conequence, each couple here has
more room to move and express themselves, there are
fewer "traffic jams," and no one is boxed
in or stranded in the center of the room.
Sailing our Tango to the Far Edges of the Dance Floor ... without
Centuries ago, many of our ancestors conceived of the world
as a "flat disk" suspended under a dome of heaven,
and they imagined that if sailors ventured out too far from
land and wandered deep into the chartless oceans, they risked
sailing off the very edge of the earth into the empty void.
On a dance floor, the tango equivalent of "staying close
to shore" is avoiding the edges and huddling in the middle,
where there is the illusion of "plenty of room."
But when all our boats cluster together and drop anchor in
the same small harbor, none of us have room to raise a sail,
catch a fresh wind, and point ourselves toward new ports and
In tonight's pre-milonga class, "Making the Most of Tango's
- We will point our tango compass directly at these far horizons
by proposing several ideas aimed at taking us into the "unexplored
waters" hidden in plain sight, deep within the corners of the
- Along the way, we will celebrate the exceptional social nature
of Argentine Tango by maximizing the space available, for both our
own dancing and that of our neighbors.
- And to keep things interesting, fresh and unexpected, we will
pay particular attention to some of the less common ways we might
get into and out of corners for example, how we can sometimes
turn left ... by turning right 270°
We hope to see you there ...
More About ...
"Milonga with a Twist" - at Milonguita Grande, May 2012
A look back at "Milonga
with a Twist," where we caught the inner pulse of
milonga, explored some traditional single-time interpretations
of our tango grandparents, then revolutionized our dancing by adding
something new + unexpected a "twist"...
Background & Information on "Floor Craft"
Helpful rundowns from festival organizers Tom
Stermitz of the Denver Tango Festivals and Daniel
Boardman of the Albuquerque Tango Festival ...
More on the sensibility and practice
of Argentine Tango, insights into its improvisation and creativity,
and links to online resources for additional background and perspective
Debbie Edwards + Stephen Bauer
More on Debbie + Stephen
as dancers + teachers ...