In tango, the concept of leading and following is radically different then in predictable dances. Inside the close dance-hold which is a spiral, the partners feel their circular movements. This means that there is a 3th beat-pattern dimension. Underneath the "quick quick slow"-steps and the living pulse of the music, grows a dialogue of rhythm in the couple's dance interaction.
Social dancing before 1900 involved mainly dances with prescribed, restrained steps. Western males appear to have been released from this straight-jacket to do creative social dance choreography by Vernon Castle in 1911.
Vernon Castle's method of dividing ballroom dances into "figures" may be viewed as the construction of a set of symbols. The mapping of these onto numerical digits is exemplified using figures from the Argentine Tango.
Castle's change from sequence dancing to ballroom dancing can then be viewed as a change from rational dancing (like rational numbers that have recurring groups) to irrational or creative dancing (like irrational numbers having sequences with no repetition). Creative dance also promotes personal explorations in the control of the body and its relationship to space and time and to other individuals. It gives a form of controlled non-verbal expression of emotion, a release of tension, and an opportunity to create (Farley, 1969, 88).
The milonga has been used as an example of Irrational Dancing. It is a very soft private dance, with visual emphasis on the leg movements. This character was changed dramatically in Paris in the 1930's, where the dance was combined with the proud torso of the other ballroom dances, and given a staccato action. This moved the visual emphasis to the torso and head.
The standard ballroom dances have diverse origins. rhythms, tempos, and aesthetics, but have one thing in common: they are all danced by a couple (usually a man and a lady) in 'Closed Hold', in milonguero style changed into a close embrace, giving a wonderful connection with your partner and the music during an exclusive moment.
In this hold, the lady's upper arms are both held horizontal by a suitable placement of the man's arms and hands. This not only makes it comfortable for the lady to follow the man's lead, but also gives the couple a deportment of regal appearance. This deportment is a characteristic of dances coming from Western Europe, and is a heritage of the origin of ballroom dancing in the royal courts of Europe. The erect and fixed torso is even more evident in Classical Ballet, which had the same origins.
The peculiar ballroom dancing "Closed Hold" possibly had its origins in the time when men wore swords while dancing. As most men are right handed, it was conventional to wear the sword and scabbard on the left-hand side of the belt, so as to facilitate the drawing of the sword with the right hand. Thus if a man was to put his arm around a lady's back, she would have to be on his right, or she would keep tripping over the sword. Thus he could only put his right arm around her; and if she was receptive to this advance, she would place her left arm over the man's right. From here it is a simple matter for the man to offer his left hand for the lady to hold for additional balance while dancing.
The word 'ballroom' denotes a room where balls may be held: that is: formal social dances. Balls were important social events in the days before radio and television (as in 'having a ball'). The word 'ball' derives from the Latin 'balare' meaning 'to dance'. This is also the origin of the related words : ballet, ballerina, ballad. Ballroom dance is a style of partner dance which originated in the western world. Its performance and entertainment aspects are also widely enjoyed on stage, in film and on television. Choreography or dance composition, is the art of making structures in which movement occurs.
Ballroom dancers will tend to put appearance above connection, while club dancers will tend to focus primarily on their partners. Nightclub and street dances tend to focus on connection between partners and musicality, ballroom dances tend to focus more on performing to an audience. Of course, ballroom dancers do learn about connection and musicality, and club dancers are often excellent performers.
Competetive ballroom dance consists of some number of couples each performing for the audience's attention, and as most of the audience are themselves dancers, everyone gets a chance to try to outperform their peers.
There is also a growing interest in formation dance, which is also performance-oriented. Formation ballroom dance involves anywhere from two to dozens of couples performing a choreographed ballroom dance routine.
more: IRRATIONAL TANGO