Got No Rhythm

Among Tango dancers, there are those who have played instruments, have gone to university to major or minor in music, and/or are music aficionados.  While some have proven to have excellent beat perception, we have been continually amazed by Tango music’s ability to make one “deaf”.

All that we have observed, read, and heard (not to mention, using a little plain old “common” sense) have led us to understand that ignoring the “compas” (ie, the beat) while dancing Argentine Tango is absolutely unacceptable.  The music, in Tango, is king… and within the music, the “compas” is king.

While in Buenos Aires, whenever the late Osvaldo Zotto’s name came up, the following comment almost always followed: “muy sordo” (very deaf). Did he feel the music and move within the music?  Sure.  But he had an ability to miss/avoid the beat like no other well-known dancer we have ever seen.

There’s no doubt that Tango music is very complex and oftentimes the beat is very elusive.  For those of you who have difficulty finding the beat, maybe this will be helpful. However, if this doesn’t help, maybe you have an actual case of beat deafness.

About Movement Invites Movement

We are relatively young Argentine Tango dancers and teachers who are married both to each other and the dance. We truly found Tango after making an 8-month Tango pilgrimage to Buenos Aires and we are using this blog to share our thoughts and feelings about our Tango experiences. We are not aspiring authors and our writing skills are questionable, but we write our truth. View all posts by Movement Invites Movement

3 responses to “Got No Rhythm

  • jantango

    I never heard the comment, “muy sordo” from anyone, but I feel it applied to Osvaldo. His 1997 exhibitions in Club Almagro with Lorena Ermocida show him caught up in choreography trying to impress the audience that wasn’t impressed, sliding around the floor, with no respect for the beat. I watch the milongueros watching him and wonder what they were thinking that night. Some never applauded him. Afterall, he was dancing for those who improvised tango in the moment. Osvaldo only danced choreography.

    One stage performance stands out in particular. Tangox2 was in Columbus, Ohio in 1995. I remember Osvaldo dancing milonga choreography and missing the downbeat entirely. That only proves he never felt the music — he only went through the motions. You can’t miss the strong beat of milonga.

    Osvaldo usually danced Pugliese music with many dynamic changes. When the music contained more notes, he danced more steps, and not because of a tempo change. I don’t understand how Lorena could partner him for so many years when he couldn’t find the beat.

    Tango requires a good mind for the music in order to dance it well. There are many who don’t feel the music and can’t hear the beat. If everyone was in sync, crowded floors wouldn’t be a problem.

    • Movement Invites Movement

      We would agree that there are definitely videos of O. Zotto that show choreographed dances, however, we would say there are more that are not choreographed. He had quite the repertoire of “moves” that he probably had no trouble improvising. Either way, we’ll never understand how he danced so off the music OR how we know quite a few people who think his dancing was very musical!?

      We see it all the time in our classes though. Tango students really have a hard time finding the beat in the music. We find it fascinating and we love seeing the process by which they finally end up hearing the beat and dancing on it.

  • jantango

    I put Osvaldo’s brother and several other teachers in the same category. It’s all about the steps, and they forget the music.

    People go to dance classes and learn steps which keeps them in their heads. Not until they start listening to the music and moving with it do they get to know what tango is about. It’s more than dancing on the beat, it’s responding to the feeling in the body.

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