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October 28, 2008

The Size of Steps in Milonga

Tonight after a class, a woman who is rather new to tango, but who dances naturally and well, said that she wanted to ask me a question. Normally she dashes out of class without speaking. This was a little unusual, and apparently she had a "burning question."

She said that at a recent tango dance, a man she was dancing with told her that steps in milonga are always very tiny, and that her steps were too big. (She demonstrated, showing me a back step of about 5 inches, and saying that he told her that step was too big for milonga.)

She asked me if what he said was true or not.

I said that milongas can sometimes be very fast, and that makes for small steps. Also tango dances tend to be crowded, and that makes for small steps. So, yes, there is truth to what he said that milonga has small steps. But, I told her that she will only be able to take a step of the size that the man allows. He might guide her into a big step or a small step. It's up to him to decide that. If he has to tell her with words how to step, that can be taken as a signal that he probably doesn't know what he is talking about.

Then she said that he must have known what he was doing because he said he was a teacher. And, according to him, in milonga all steps are very tiny. I said I couldn't imagine any tango teacher saying such a thing at a dance. She said, oh no, he teaches tango, he told her so.

Well, I told her, as I said, whoever he was, if he had to use words to control your steps, he doesn't know how to dance tango, and it should suggest to you that he might not really know what he is talking about.

Rrrr.

I think that telling women their steps must be of a certain size whenever they dance - whether you are telling them to make their steps "long" or "short" - is a crime against tango dancing. It plants the seed of an evil intractable idea that interferes with the reality of all future dancing situations. Later some other dance partner in some other situation will tell this woman to take longer steps. And eventually, if she keeps listening to self-appointed dance masters at the milonga, she will become one of those women who dance by mentally processing a memorized collection rules that they have been told by men who don't know how to dance. Some women have told me that they use one technique for dancing with one guy, and a different technique for dancing with another guy, because the men tell them how they should dance, but their rules all contradict each other.

Thanks a lot, self-appointed teachers.

Posted by joegrohens at October 28, 2008 02:51 AM

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