Rasche Notation: Writing and Publishing your Tango steps

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Rasche Notation: Writing and Publishing your Tango steps


El Tango es el producto cultural más auténtico del país de los argentinos

Have you ever tried to write down your dance steps?

'Starting classes of Tango 1990, I wanted to remember the steps that I was learning. This was difficult, as it only took a day or two before I had forgotten what they were. I would try to write the steps down long hand, but to limited effect. They were muddled notes, that combined aspects about music, my partner's moves, my feet, her feet, my leading, her following, feelings, various alternatives, details and more. Taking videos was not an option, so I decided to design my first  notation system. This worked at first, but with time it has changed, improved and been simplified. Now, after more than 10 years of development, here is a system that you can understand in 10 minutes!

'I am pleased to announce the publication of my work in the new book Rasche Notations:.
I trust that you will be able to benefit from this notation system, to be able to write the steps that you are teaching, choreographing or learning, for all levels of Tango.'  Thomas

What is Rasche Notation?
Rasche Notation is a sophisticated dance notation for Argentine Tango that makes it is easy to write your dance steps. You can write the steps of two dancers: in detail, and as dance phrases, all with reference to the music. The notation uses familiar text symbols to describe the destinations of each step, so that you can write them by hand or computer. First introduced in the book Argentine Tango - Class Companion, the notation has now been fully revised and updated in the new Rasche Notation book. This notation is suited for all teachers, choreographers and dancers who wish to write and recall their steps.

A short summary of Rasche Notation:
As a quick summary to help you understand Rasche Notation, here are some essential bits:
  • The notation describes destinations of movements.
  • Words and sentences are abbreviated using the syntax 'what goes where'.
  • Useful symbols are the four giro steps (these define step destinations relative to the partner):  S (side step), F (forwards cross step), $ (side step, with pivot), B (back cross step).
  • Directions can also be described (absolutely) as clock directions, e.g. 3 (to the right).
  • Other symbols can describe much more detail, such as weight, parts of steps, step sizes etc.
  • The stave combines context (music, phrases and information) together with the steps.
  • The stave and lines of notation are written across the page, using text symbols.

What does Rasche Notation look like?
Rasche Notation is written across the page using familiar text symbols you can find on the computer. Each row of notation is made up of four lines:  the Compás line, the  Description line, and the Man and Woman dance lines. The Compás line is a summary of the music phrases. The  Description line is a summary of the dance phrases (and various other bits of information). The Man and Woman dance lines are two lines, one for each dancer, and they are used to describe the details of each step. Together, these four lines are called a stave (similar to music; US=staff). Here is a simple example:

C   A1  1             2             3             4             5             6             7             8
D          { walk                                    }                                                                  
M          L             R            L             #                
W         R             L            R             #

In this example, you can see:

  • The four lines that make up the stave, labelled C, D, M and W:
    1. The Compás line (top line) counts the music phrase,
    2. The Description line (second line) for the dance phrases and notes,
    3. The Man's line, for the description of his steps and movements,
    4. The Woman's dance line, for the description of her steps and movements.
  • The Compás counts 1 to 8 on the Compás line.
  • The phrase label A1 which indicates which section within the music this phrase occurs.
  • The step symbols of the man and woman, which describe the steps in detail.
  • The dance phrase summary, using the {  } brackets. it is labelled as a 'walk' step.
  • Comparing the vertical alignment of the Compás counts, steps and dance phrase brackets, it is possible to read which and how many steps are taken, and how these fit to the music.
  • The dividing line separates context and general descriptions above, and details below.

The step symbols are abbreviations of the essential words, those used if a sentence was to be written. Rasche Notation then also uses a syntax, as well as a series of assumptions, to reduce the amount of writing further. This means that only essentials need to be written down, leaving the page uncluttered. The notation is a clear, efficient and powerful system to represent Tango dance movements.

The syntax used is 'what goes where', to describe the destination of each movement, for example, a foot is described (L left or R right), followed by a direction. An example of an assumption is that if no direction is written after the L or R, this means straight ahead for the man, or the direction is mirrored by the woman.

Here's and example to describe 'the left foot goes to the left':
Notice the syntax 'what goes where': 'the left foot (what) goes (goes) to the left (where)'. Abbreviating this, the left foot is L and to the left is in clock direction 9.
Therefore, this step is described with:  L9

Here's another example to describe the woman's cross step (her left foot steps across the right foot, so that the little toes touch). Notice the syntax 'what goes where': 'the left foot (what) does a closed step (it is placed and takes weight)(goes), in clock direction (in brackets so as she sees it)(where)'. Therefore, this step is described with:  L#(3)

Usually, this is reduced to #(3) , because it is clear that the left foot moves.

Steps can also be described with more detailed information. This description can show the steps to be small or large, whether they are early or late movements, with an embellishment, whether they are placed relative to oneself or the partner, musicality and more.

Furthermore, for more complex steps, the dance phrase can be expanded beyond a word or name. It can also summarise a step sequence, with information about it's type and more. This is very helpful if  the steps are complicated, as it allows a quick understanding of what the intention of the steps is.

What symbols are used in Rasche Notation?

Here are the essential symbols for Rasche Notation. Using these, you can reduce the amount of writing you would normally have used. The benefit of this is to keep your notes clear, as well as fitting neatly across the page, when you use the stave as shown above:

M, W
Man(-’s), Woman(-’s).
You can abbreviate the words man and woman to their first letters.

L, R
Left… (foot), Right… (foot).
You can describe the left or right foot (and therefore also the leg) with their first letters.

Clock direction, as on a clock face. Relative to the inter-axis line, from the man's perspective.
You can describe a destination, where you place a foot, accurately.

Clock direction (in brackets), from the Woman’s perspective (written on her dance line).
This enables you to describe the destination from the woman's perspective.

Close step. The free foot steps to be next to the standing foot.
You can easily describe a foot closing against the other, with it taking weight.

S, F, $, B

The four giro steps: Side, Forward, $ide and Back steps.
You can quickly summarise open or crossed steps, which form part of a giro (turn).

C+, C-
Lower body pivots: clockwise and anticlockwise.
You can describe a swivel of the hips, as you take your next step in a new direction.

Torsion. Upper body rotates, above and from the hip.
It is possible to show how you turn your embrace.

Step between partner’s feet (or info. inside of).
You can avoid a small drawing, as this explains a step between the partner's feet.

Π, ∩
These are parts of a step. They describe weight transfer (completely, or in part).
You can describe a movement, even if it is not a complete step.

Note: the best font suited for the notation is Arial (san serif).
This enables you to keep your writing clear and neat.

An introduction to Rasche Notation

How can I write my own steps?
Rasche Notation is designed to be easy to write. It uses normal text symbols and is written across the page. This makes it possible to write it long hand, or as a text on your computer, phone or eReader. To help you get started, you can use a Notebook, which contains pre-printed staves and some Compás counts, as well as a summary of all the symbols.

Can I publish my own steps?
Yes, you can publish your own steps.
Imagine: you can write your own steps and publish them. You can describe your favourite steps or create a curriculum for your Tango class. You can even fully choreograph a Tango piece!
You can publish your steps on paper, on a website, in a book, or as you prefer. If you want to publish on your own website, you can include a link back to this website for people to find out more (for this, use the Rasche Notation logo). Also, you can publish and discuss your steps on the collaborative Notation E-group page.

Where can I find out more information about Rasche Notation?

Rasche Notation is a sophisticated and powerful dance notation system for Argentine Tango. It is simple to learn and use.  It enables you write the steps of two dancers, in detail and as dance phrases, all with reference to the music. The notation uses familiar symbols to describe the destinations of each step, which can easily be written by hand or on computer.

This new book is the official and authoritative guide, for less than the price of a private dance class !

Rasche Notation features:

  • A comprehensive notation system designed for Tango,
  •  How to summarise music into phrases:  Compás line,
  • How to summarise dance into phrases:  Description line,
  • How to describe steps: the Man and Woman dance lines,
  • Reduce information clutter by using generalisations,
  • Familiar symbols which are easy to learn and use.

This new book is a complete and detailed description of Rasche Notation, with the use of explanatory text, diagrams and many examples. It is an essential book for all dance teachers,  choreographers as well as all students of Argentine Tango wishing to write down and recall their steps.

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