Saturday, July 26, 2014

The magical 7th beat - and the real reason you rush!

Many of you have told me about your problem of rushing on the dance floor . . . or that your partner rushes.  

There is no rush in tango.  Not even in milonga.  Not even in a corrida (a “run”).  Every single movement, and non-movement, in social tango is done calmly and deliberately, even when the music is fast or when it’s dramatic and passionate.  

I’ve always said that “Rushing in tango = ANXIETY”.  When one partner rushes, it means they’re stressed. Rushing kills all the pleasure for both the rusher and the partner. 

When you rush, your partner can’t enjoy your company.  If the man is rushing, the woman can’t feel safe with him, because he doesn’t give her the time that she needs to be secure in her axis between steps. If the woman is rushing, she’s anticipating.  In both cases, the partner who's rushing prevents any meaningful dialog or artistic co-creation from taking place. 

I’ve written a number of articles on my blog about why you may be rushing, and what you can do about it.  My main premise was that if you’re a rusher, it’s because you’re afraid - 
- afraid to be still and silent on the dance floor,
- afraid to miss a beat in the music,
- afraid you’ll be judged and criticized for not “doing” something,
- afraid your partners will think you don’t know what you’re doing.  (On the contrary!  Those who do less are those who know more.)

But I recently made a breakthrough discovery about the true source of anxiety that makes people rush and I can’t wait to share it with you:

Almost everyone who rushes is misinterpreting the music at a very specific, recurring point that happens in phrase after phrase of many tangos. 

* * * * *

I’m going to tell you the precise cause of this problem, and how you can recognize the musical trigger that throws so many people off.  I’ll tell you how you can - and must - do something much more musically accurate and emotionally meaningful, as you effortlessly eliminate the rush.

“The trigger” happens in the last two counts of a musical phrase.  And it’s part of the repeating phrase-structure of a great number of tangos.

But first I must give you some background info about how tangos are structured.

If you saw my two “quick-and-dirty analysis” musicality training videos over the last couple of weeks (going back into the archives on Monday), you saw me counting and marking on a chart mostly phrases of 8 rhythmic counts.  

Now, I don’t want you to count while you’re dancing in a milonga; I want you to FEEL the music, and “dance with your heart”.  However, I DO want you to count when you’re studying a tango so you can really understand what’s going on in the music.

Most tangos are structured in phrases of 8 counts.  The 8 counts are made of downbeats (strong beats) and upbeats (weak beats), that are played by the single rhythmic instrument in the orchestra - usually the double bass (contrabajo), or occasionally, the low keys of the piano.  

The count given by the bass usually goes “ONE and TWO and THREE and . . .”, continuing through “EIGHT and”.   The integers (1, 2, 3, etc.) are the downbeats, and the “ands” are the upbeats.  

Please make sure this is clear to you before reading on.  If it’s not, go back to the video of my “stick-chart” analysis of a Regular tango.

Tango music usually calls us to step on the downbeat, and to rest on the upbeat.  The upbeat is most often a moment when we can ground ourselves between steps, relaxing our free leg as it swings.  

I call that split-second rest the “micro-pause”.  I also call it the “Split Second Difference in Your Tango”, because this micro-pause can make the DIFFERENCE between mediocre and excellent dancing.  

When the bassist takes his right hand off the strings of his instrument, for a full beat or longer, he’s offering a greater pause, a “macro-pause”, to the orchestra and to the dancers.  

In the most commonly structured tangos of the Golden Age, the ones I call “regular tangos”, . . . and here’s my “writer-downer” message to you today:   

. . . the 7th beat is often the last beat the bassist plays in a phrase!  He leaves “and-EIGHT-and” quiet, inviting you to pause.  

You can eliminate what is possibly the major cause of your rushing by  listening for the rhythmic sound of the bass through the 7th beat in a phrase of tango, and respecting the rhythmic pause that often occurs in the “and-EIGHT-and” at the end of the phrase.

If this is new to you, please take a moment and let it sink in before continuing.  

"But," you might argue, after listening and indentifying the 7th beat in several phrases of a classic tango, “there’s plenty going on in the music after the 7th beat!  Am I supposed to just stand there like an idiot while music is playing?” 

Great question, and you’re right.  Rarely is there total silence when the bass gives the orchestra a pause at the end of a phrase.

Which brings us to this week's BIG LESSON:   the "musical trigger" that makes so many people rush!  

I'll be back in my next post to reveal exactly what the trigger point is, and I'll even give you some examples of where it happens in two popular tangos.  Then I'll tell you how to use it to your great advantage, to make your tango feel beautiful and to increase connection with your partner!

*  *  *  *  *  *

Meanwhile, please leave your comments below!  Do you sometimes rush during your tangos?  What do you think is causing it?


  1. Ah! Excellent analysis with the stick graphs of the regular and irregular tangos and the tricky 7th beat! Brilliant Helaine!
    ~ Steve

    1. Thanks for your words of appreciation, Steve! I'm glad you got value from these teachings. There's a real golden nugget coming in the next post, part 2 of "The magical 7th beat".

  2. Like your insights and analysis very much.

    1. Thank you, Shlomo. I know you've done quite a bit of musicality analysis of your own!

  3. Yes, this is VERY good indeed.
    I believe, I never rush. Not any more. For years I have been of the opinion that rushing or feeling the need/urge to do so is a symptom: Something is wrong :)

    1. Yes, Steffen. I believe it's a symptom of anxiety, and there could be are a number of reasons. I list several above, including simply a misinterpretation of something in the music, which I'll discuss in the next post. Let us know if you have additional thoughts!

      I'm so glad you gave up rushing some years ago. Doesn't slowing down make you feel more confident? :)

  4. Recently, I´ve been too busy, and on a very tight bugget -to tell you the whole true-, that´s why I hadn´t enroll in your courses yet.
    Nevertheless I´ve been following some of your invaluable free lessons. Thanks a lot !. . . I really appreciate them. God bless you.
    HP ( Tangetty )

    1. Thank you so much for writing, HP! I'm so happy that my articles are valuable to you.

  5. P.S.
    I can hardly wait part 2 of this revelation.
    Thanks again for your generosity; sharing your knowledge in your blog and in your trial / gift lessons. You are an angel.
    HP ( "Tangetty" )

    1. Part 2 is coming. I decided to rewrite it twice, and add some examples!

      You are so welcome, HP. Thank you for being part of the worldwide Tango Mojo community!