The Exercise Tango

by Teresa Jennings

If you're anything like this writer, you may be a little bit intimidated by the topic of exercise. Being a bit overweight and more inclined toward cerebral activities than physical ones, exercise has always been a chore, if not a challenge to me. However, I finally recognize at this late point in my life that exercise is something to be cherished, not feared. Indeed, I wish sincerely that I had had teachers in my youth who took the time and trouble to instill a love of exercise and what it could do for me on so many levels. Now that I am exercising regularly, I know that it just plain old makes me feel better. I have more energy. I sleep better. I think better. And the tightening muscles and few pounds I've already lost are pretty nice, too.

If you are a teacher who is concerned about bringing up this topic because it's not necessarily an area of expertise for you, fear not. In the context of the revue, you don't have to be an expert. All you have to do is use this song. And even if you yourself don't exercise regularly, don't let it keep you from sharing the good word with your students. They need this! You can help.

The words in the script talk about the importance of exercise. Use this as a point of departure for your own discussions of physical health and well-being. If you have a physical education teacher, this might be a great opportunity to bring this whole thing across the curriculum. Ask him to join you and your students as you talk about exercise, and as you sing about it. (This also takes the pressure off of you to be the one who should not only teach about exercise, but maybe even lead by example.) While you're at it, invite him to participate in the revue, too. Maybe he can help with the movement ideas for this song, or any of the others. Or maybe he would just like to sing along. (Don't forget to credit him in the program.)

The tango is a very percussive and punctuated style of music/dance that is frequently contrasted by a smoother, more lyrical section. That is what we have chosen to do with our tango. It begins very dramatically (and theatrically) with just drums and four solo speakers. Ideally, your four soloists would also set the tone for the piece by adding movement and poses to their respective solos. Here is what we recommend for each:

  • aerobic - march in place, knees high
  • strength - strike a muscleman pose, tighten biceps
  • flexibility -ˇstretch arms and torso upward
  • balance - arms out, stand on one foot, hold pose briefly (alternate as needed)

In all cases, the action can be continued while the other soloists speak. Or the action can be stopped and the last position held as a pose until it's time to speak again, or until the introduction is done and the singing begins.

When the singers enter at the pick-up to measure 11, they may all join in the movement or you can just let the soloists continue the movement while the singers hold still. This movement can continue through the section at measure 17, if you like.

At the pick-ups to measure 27, either stop the movement, or change it to go with the change in style. This is where the tango becomes smooth. The singing should also change from punctuated to legato. (And the key goes from minor to major, in case you want to make note of that with your students.) A simple swaying every other beat would be easy to add here. At measure 35, have students raise their arms up fluidly as the section continues, maybe even alternating so that they create a "wave" of sorts. Obviously, when the tune returns to the minor section on the D.S., the movement should go back to whatever it was before.

Another approach to movement is to have couples do the tango (if anyone knows how). They could do it during either or both sections of the song. Even a modified tango with simple steps and roses clutched in their teeth would be amusing. (Watch out for thorns...) A simple step would look something like this: Two dancers face forward while their bodies face each other. They have their forward arms extended straight out and are holding hands. The other hands are on each other's shoulders (or one can be around the other's waist). They step in the same direction to the beat in pauses. For example, step hold step hold step step step turn. Then they repeat the pattern in the opposite direction. This is very basic. Modify or adapt the steps however you like. The more seriously or melodramatically they perform, the more amusing it will be. Add a bit more humor to it by having dancers wear sweat suits or exercise outfits of some type.

If this seems like too much, but you want to have movement in the song (after all, it is an exercise song), make it even simpler. Select a group of students to dress in those exercise outfits and just do exercises during the song! They can bend, stretch, do sit-ups, jog in place, lift weights, or whatever. If possible, have them do their actions to the beat. Alternate exercises for variety.

The recording for this song is delightful. It features an orchestra with accordion, solo violin, and all kinds of neat percussion, including castanets. If you have time to let your students listen to the accompaniment tracks, see if they can identify what they are hearing.

There is an optional second vocal part that comes in at measure 17 on the D.S. We have selected older singers for this part and you may wish to do the same. We also had all of our singers add a touch of vibrato and "maturity" (as they could) just for the fun of it. It seemed to work for this tune.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.