Tango Form Phrasing
- think of "phrasing" like "Mary had a little lamb, her fleece was white as snow" or "Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are".
Tango has 8 slow beats. And think of sentences that end. A good example is Di Sarli's "Viviani". Try listening to it and try counting out the 8 beats. All tango songs follow this....but NOT always 8 slow beats. There are trends but not formulas. Some tangos don't have special effects. Some are written in Marcado 4 and some are written in Marcado 2. One phrase may have six slow beats instead of eight. So, if you expecting, looking for eight beats, your dancing will be off by two beats. So, it is important to listen to the melody line as they come and go and find the rhythm.
As Tango Dancers.......we learn to walk, we learn ochos, we learn to cross.......and the phrasing gets lost. We learn to dance one word sentences.
But....when we dance.....we want to dance sentences, dancing the phrases.
The old tangueros of Buenos Aires told me "it is like telling a story, when you dance a tango. There is the introduction of the characters, the connection, the pressure, the playing out, a tense moment and then the release near the end. Each one, each tango dance....is telling a story...it's not about executing one thing, then finishing and executing another thing and finishing and executing. The old tangueros describe the dance as telling a story.
And musically, what is going on...is.... you have sentences, that tell a story.
When you dance you want to dance a story. You want to dance musical sentences. Four phrases make a section....each section like a paragraph. And there is always three sections, A, B and C sections.
The first paragraph introduces the characters and melody. There are three musical sections: A, B and C. There is always a repetition of section A. If you do not know the tango song and you are chatting with your partner during the first 30, 40 seconds of the opening section, it is a good time to take it in and learn what the song is about.
A section: introduces the characters and melody. Maybe a happy melody.
B section: will have a different feel or tone to it. Maybe a darker or different melody.
A+ section: a variation of the first A section. The orchestra never repeats A as A
maybe the melody in A+ will be staccato, with a counter melody in legato
C section: different from A or B and often with a resolution step...and the variation to come in A".
A++ section: The Variation with rapid rhythms typically at the end...(very tango)....let's dancers show "what they got"
The musical progression could be ABA'CA", however could also be ABBA'CA", or ABCA'A". There is no set form.
As social dancers we don't necessarily think about this progression of phrases too much, because we are improvising, we do no know in the A section what we are going to do in the C section. Nor do we need to know. These are things we come to expect....that there will be these changes and you will deal with them as a dancer.
The first time we hear Tango music
- We hear a Wall of Sound
- We don't know what instruments are there, we hear the music as just one piece.
- As we get better, we should be able to distinguish rhythms from melody.
- Learn to hear it in layers as multiple things coming into your ear, not just one block of sound.
- And begin to catch the melody and the counter melody.
When You Dance I Hope That You Feel the Music and Dance A Story !