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Five Social Figures

You’ve been dancing a while, and as you’ve become more and more proficient with the dance, something begins to dawn on you. And this ‘something’ happens for both roles but it’s not immediate. It only happens after you’ve gotten over the learning hump that happens for us all. And then started the refinement hump. It’s near the end of that second phase of the learning curve that this realization occurs. As a side note, not everyone comes to this realization. Some people in fact, never come to it. They’re still stuck in the perpetual cycle of “More IS Better”. Meaning more vocabulary is better. It’s not by the way, but no matter how often you share this stuff with them, no matter how many times you tell them “Less is more”, they can not and will not see that. Uuuuuugh. Assuming that they start the third phase of their development, understanding the music…not learning it, but understanding it, it is generally about this point in time where the realization occurs.

In case you’re not clear on the Four Phases of Tango Development:

Phase 1 is Learning the Vocabulary and the Codigos of the Dance for the Milonga Environment.

Phase 2 is the Refinements of Phase 1, meaning that you’re in a state of constant refinement of the abilities and techniques of the Vocabulary employed.

Phase 3 is the Musical Understanding of the Dance. This is not learning the music of the dance. That happens in Phases 1 & 2 to a limited degree. And in that case it’s more becoming familiar with the music because it’s played so often, but not really paying a whole lot of attention to it. Phase 3 is where we start to get serious about the orchestras, the structure of the music, the origins of the music, and start to hear the nuances of the music. That last part will go on a long, long, long time even after we’ve passed into the next and last Phase of our development.

Phase 4 is the Social Dancer is Born.

To be honest, some people…ok, MOST people skip Phase 3 entirely and graduate to being a Social Dancer without ever having done their musical homework. At the same time Phase 2 (Refinement) and Phase 3 (Musical Understanding) is not necessarily predicated on each other. They can, and sometimes do, happen concurrently with each other, and very rarely does Phase 3 happen in Phase 1. Just as a side note, with our Intensive Study program this actually does happen and quite frequently. They’re not mutually inclusive.

Today’s Tango Topic is that realization that occurs at near about the end of Phase 2 and/or somewhere in Phase 3. It’s one that we have referenced sporadically in our writings that we’ve sometimes called “Four Common Figures” or “Four Social Dancing Tools” or something very similar. When we stopped and thought about it, it was no longer 4 but in fact 5. It’s really 6, but the 6th is implied and not really a figure, but it’s always there and has a distinct bearing on the other 5!

So what on earth is this mysterious ‘thing’ that we’ve referenced so sporadically and we haven’t mentioned until this sentence ? Today’s Tango Topic is the title of the video: Five Social Figures.

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Learn > The Six Ways of Walking

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What are the Five Social Figures ? In its really basic form, it’s the 5 things that we do all night long with every dance partner. We do these things so often and with such ubiquity that we don’t even consider that we’re doing them or the implications they have for what we’re doing with them, musically or from a floorcraft perspective. The five are detailed below but they are in order of precedence: 1.) Walking. 2.) Ochos. 3.) Turns. 4.) Crosses. & 5.) The Cortado. You can stop reading here, but we can tell you that the vocabulary we just mentioned is kinda barebones and just scratches the surface. And there’s a sort of a gotcha that’s waiting for you near the end of all of this. So you can skip to the end now and read the gotcha, or read on through.

Why Do You Need This Stuff ? Several reasons. First and foremost, your foundation! Honestly, this should come as a no surprise to you, but if you’re studying with anyone, you’ll notice that they continually take you ‘back’ to 4 simple things: Forward Steps, Side Steps, Back Steps, and your embrace. Because these four things are the foundation of the dance. Embedded in those four things are a host of other things that you are more than likely lacking or you have forgotten about. And it’s those 4 things that are continually screwing up your ability to dance the way you want to dance. So it’s not rocket science what we’re on about here. It’s simple foundational stuff. Which, the deeper you go, you realize isn’t so simple and is in fact far more complex than you thought or you understood. The simpler things appear, the more difficult they are in certain situations, this is one of them. Secondly, this is about understanding your vocabulary and not just from a Leading perspective, but also how it’s received by the Follower, thereby the Follower’s perspective. How it’s understood and why things happen or progress as they do. The issue here is assumptions and lots of them. We want to eradicate those assumptions and make absolutely clear why things happen. And the only way to do that is to remove the assumptions completely. Still, another reason why this stuff is important has everything to do with something that we vehemently and passionately believe in: Facility. Facility, in this case, means the ability to do X, Y, or Z. The Five Social Figures affects your underlying Facility to execute whatever you want to dance, in whatever way or to whatever style or genre of music from a Leading OR Following perspective. It effects Every. Single. Part of the dance! Everything. Facility also means the ability to execute what you desire and WHEN you desire it. Tango vocabulary (Ochos, Crosses, Sacadas, Volcadas, etc) is great, but if you can’t execute that stuff in time to the music, it kinda falls flat. So…ummm yeah, FACILITY! Want one more ? Variations! Let’s roll back the article a bit. Remember we reminded you that you dance the same things over and over and over again ? Dancing Symmetrically opens up loads of options and opportunities for you that more than likely didn’t see. For example: Playing with a Mirror Cross opens up the possibility of leading the Follower to a forward step to the Open Side of the Embrace, which only happens … ummm … NEVER! Gosh, have you thought of what do after that ? Well, here’s an opportunity to do precisely that. Discover the possibilities! And that’s all based on taking that one extra step and resolving differently. There are LOADS more of these things. All of your preconceived notions of what you think the dance is about all changes. And change, whether you believe it or not, is a very good thing. So yeah, you need this stuff.

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Have you seen some of our Popular Posts ? On the topics of Asking A Woman To Dance ? Asking a Man To Dance ? The Follower’s Rescue Plan ? La MarcaTango RigidityI Move MeResistanceConnection ? The Active Follower ? The Seven Basic Moves of Tango ? These topics and more are some of our more popular items, go look. You won’t be disappointed! 

See > Popular Posts

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There’s a lot more to this ArticleThere’s the extensive Lead’s Perspective, the deeper Follower’s Technique Perspective, and sometimes we throw in a complete Dancing Perspective part, all of which are only visible to Tango Topics Freemium Registered Users, Gold Subscribers, Diamond Level Users, and Milonga Madness Users. To become a Freemium user, Registration is absolutely 100% FREE, click the button below, and you get access to this article, and over 400 videos, hundreds of articles on a wide range of Tango Topics. So what are you waiting for, go register, then login to your Tango Topics Library page and then select the “ARTICLES” button and you’ll see this article with all that good stuff in there. Easy. No ? 🙂

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The Reality of WHY You Need This: There are many moves, steps, patterns, and figures to Argentine Tango that are really cool. What you may not realize is that most of that stuff is ‘fluff’, they’re nice to have, they’re nice to know, but honestly, you’re not going to use them that often! Mind you this is one side of the argument. This ain’t that! This piece is one of the more venerable selections of Argentine Tango that you will use frequently like Walking, Milonguero Ochos/Milonguero Turns, The Follower’s Molinete/Traveling Ochos, or The Argentine Cross. Tango Topics take this stuff very seriously, and we say that because we use this stuff ALL – THE – TIME! Our case is that you need this stuff because > This is all about foundation, or one of the Seven Foundation Steps that we use all the time to create the dance that we know as Argentine Tango. That’s why! 🙂 That said, you do actually need to watch this stuff. You can learn what you need from this video and then apply it. No lie. No gimmick. As always YMMV and to remember that the video itself is only a stepping stone! You will need some private lessons to go along with it to get the ‘feel’ of things. That is the reality of WHY you need this stuff. So subscribing for a few months to TangoTopics to get what we’re on about wouldn’t kill you. Further, it would probably help to hear another person saying what your current tango teacher has been saying all along. Think of this stuff as one more reminder that you absolutely need to hear.


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The Missing Information. Dearest Reader. TangoTopics is glad that you want to read this Topic, so that you can dig a little deeper into your foundation, into the music, into the codigos of the dance. However, you’re missing three important parts to this Article: The Follower’s Perspective, The Lead’s Perspective, and The Dancing Perspective. Which can change your thinking by informing of some important pieces of information that you may not necessarily be aware of. Watching a 5 minute video will not help you to change. Change is a concerted effort and requires a little thinking on your part: Becoming a Freeium User! As the name implies, it’s FREE. Register. You get to see everything above, and a whole lot more! 😉 Have a nice day.

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Why should you subscribe instead ?  Several reasons.  1.) Probably the biggest reason is to save a boatload of money. Buying these things outright isn’t cheap. Besides when you buy you only have access to the one video. Subscribing, on the other hand, gives you access to everything else so you can see the foundational material that goes with this stuff. 2.) Even if you’re a Free User, you’ll get access to free tips that aren’t available to anyone just reading the post like this one. 3.) Sometimes there are slightly different versions of the videos, that add a bit more content for the free user vs. an unregistered user. 4.) Because the Dancing Perspectives (Lead, Follow, and Dancing) are hidden to the open user. And that’s where all the information is at, unless you actually subscribe. Until you do, those very important textual descriptions of what’s going on for both Lead and Follow you want to read. 5.) And the real reason you should subscribe ? If you’re used to YouTube videos where you’ll see a performance, those Youtube videos don’t explain or walk you through how these ideas work! That is why! What you’re seeing is a presentation, a performance. Not how things work! And what you really need to see is how things work, and more importantly why they work! This website shows you that and more! 

Remember that what you’re seeing is a couple that is performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they’re not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about ‘Social Dancing’  or how to make things function on a social dance floor. Social Dance floor ? Your local milonga! They’re showing flashy moves as a presentation! But not stopping and talking about how this works, why you’d want to put that piece of vocabulary there, or how to make things fit. This website is all about those things and more!

You could watch those videos and thereby spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that particular situation. Bend your body this way or that, twist and force this position or that. Place your foot here or there and figure it out. This is known as Tango Twister.  Which can be a lot of fun, but more than likely it won’t help you, because you’re missing something: The explanation from an experienced teacher showing you how to properly excute this stuff from a Leading Perspective as well as from a Following Perspective!

The goal of YouTube videos is to get you to study with those teachers in person. The goal of Tango Topics videos allows you to work at your own pace, in the comfort of your own space, so that you can play them over and over again to improve your understanding of the vocabulary or technique being described to therefore better your dancing experience. The goal of classes and workshops is to get you to come back over and over and over again, thereby spending more money with that teacher. This website and the videos under it are here to act as a resource for you to help you to improve your dance. Pay once and you’re done.

Eventually, one way or another you’re going to pay for this lesson, either here and now, or with them. TANSTAAFL! The difference between that lesson and this ? Is that you get to play this lesson over and over and over again. Further still, there are supporting materials (other videos) that help to explain the language and the underlying technique of how and why things work, so you can easily reference those things in the corresponding articles that go with the material, and or any language in the Tango Topics Dictionary. 


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