Adrian shows Jo the Argentine Tango
Durrant Dances: Week Five
As Jo Durrant continues to sample Gloucestershire dance classes, she visits Cheltenham and attempts to tackle the Argentine Tango.
The Argentine Tango
This social partner dance originated in the late nineteenth century in Buenos Aires although some claim that it came from Uruguay. It is a passionate dance where the man leads the woman follows. There is a also a certain amount of improvisation involved and it should not be confused with the Ballroom Tango.
Adrian Barsby and Janet Earl have been running Tango Cheltenham for over three years and teach beginners, improvers and intermediates the Argentine Tango. They hold classes at St Marks C of E Junior School in Cheltenham, which is where Jo headed for her fifth dance class.
Although popular now, the Argentine Tango has gone in and out of fashion over the years.
Teacher Adrian Barsby revealed: “It’s been up and down quite a lot… it disappeared a little bit and then it became popular because it was taken into film in Hollywood… and it sort of re-arose then in the 20s / 30s.”
Strictly not Ballroom
The Argentine Tango and the Ballroom Tango are quite different to each other, although people do still confuse the two. There are differences in the way the two dances are performed and how the dancers move.
Teacher Adrian and Jo dance the Argentine Tango
Teacher Janet Earl explained: “The Argentine Tango is very lead and follow. This means the female doesn’t know what’s going to happen, it’s always the man leading the dance, whereas the ballroom, it tends to be a little bit more choreographed.”
You would also expect to see “staccato” movements in the Ballroom Tango, like sharp snaps of the head, but not so in Argentine Tango. The posture is different too, with the partners leaning away from each other in the Ballroom but slightly towards each other in the Argentine Tango, which again represents the passion of the dance.
Janet told us: “In the Argentine Tango they’re dancing for each other.”
Although students will be taught certain moves, there is more improvisation in the Argentine Tango than in some of the other dances featured in the series. This relates to the environment it would have been danced in originally.
Janet Earl explained: “It was very often danced on a very crowded dance floor, so you couldn’t do long choreographed routines. The men were having to think on their feet all the time to stop the lady before she crashes into someone…so it’s true improvisation.”
There were two classes taking place alongside one another in the large school hall that Jo attended. Firstly, the students did a warm up before the beginners were taught on one side and improvers on the other. Adrian took one class, while Janet and her helper Pete took the other.
Keeping your balance
The teachers demonstrated each new move before the students had a go. They tended to separate the men and women when first teaching a new step, and then getting them to work together and to the music. As the man is leading the dance, if he pauses then so must the woman. (Chest pointing). Although there are certain things to remember, once the steps are put together the dance looks very impressive.
Accompanying Jo on her travels to Gloucestershire dance classes is Henry Tosh, who is the Lunchtime Show’s Fitness Expert and a local personal trainer and gym owner. He offers advice and also commentates on Jo’s attempts at each dance and gives her a mark out of ten every week, along with the teachers.
He noted this week that the men appeared to working harder than the women and very much controlling the dance. However both partners need to have good balance and maintain the correct posture.
As Henry commented: “They’re getting a lot of benefits muscle wise [because] they’re using a lot of the body…because it’s so unstructured in the way that you don’t know where you’re going to be going each time, you’re getting different muscles being worked than you might do if you were just doing a set routine.”
Jo dances the Argentine Tango
Once the classes took a break it was time for Jo to learn the basics. Teacher Janet showed her the moves on her own to start with, before she put that into practice with Adrian. Jo had to get into the correct hold – similar to that in the Latin dances (like the Salsa and Paso Doble), but Janet explained that she had to keep her shoulders down, chest slightly forward and hips towards the floor.
The basic eight steps consisted of the “Salida” (where you do a basic forward, close, side, close), the cross (where Jo had to cross her left foot over her right) and the resolution (which is a back step and side step to close back up again). Jo found that crossing her feet over meant her weight shifted from one leg to the other, so she had to learn to keep balance.
By the end of the dance Jo had gradually picked things up and once she thought less about the steps and just followed Adrian’s lead, the moves flowed much better. Teachers Adrian and Janet felt she showed signs of improvement each time and listened to their advice. Fitness expert Henry Tosh was less impressed this week and said he could tell she struggled at times.
Each week she is scored on her efforts:
You can see how she got on by clicking on the video link at the top of this page.
You can also hear the interviews and Henry Tosh's commentary from the evening:
Next week - Jo tries the Slow Foxtrot
If you want any details of any of the classes featured in Durrant Dances call the CSV Action Desk on 01452 331133.
last updated: 08/04/2008 at 10:35