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Why your tango seems like an addiction [Oct. 31st, 2019|11:39 pm]
syn_tangotherap

Tango itself is a wonderful activity that has no dark properties that are any different than other wonderful things in life, such as holding a child, surfing a wave, watching a sunset, listening to an inspiring live concert, or simply "dancing for joy." Tango is not an addiction.  If you agree then there is no reason to read farther! However, if you are not so sure, then read on.

Why your tango may seem like an addiction
When tango is paired with behaviors that color it in the dark, smokey hues of a private cigar and brandy club, then it may seem like an addiction.  Late-night venues with alcohol are the last vestige of tango-as-an-addiction.  There used to be more unhealthy things tied to tango, such as fights, knives, prostitutes, thick clouds of secondary smoke filling your lungs, fierce competition for competition's sake, men and women looking for love or a night of pleasure. These things are still possible; however, tango itself is slowly distilling down to its primal essence as a healthy avocation that focuses on the dance and the music.

So if you feel that you are "addicted" to tango, then look at the things you have paired it with.  Is your tango community toxic or your dance partner or tango teacher? Are you obsessed with buying tango clothes?  Are you spending impulsively on endless lessons that have made tango the most expensive hobby in your life?  Is there an obsessive drive to be acclaimed in your tango performance skills that cannot be quenched, leading to a very dark dead-end street of getting older and unable to keep up?  Even then, these are obsessions and compulsions, not "addictions."

The dark side of tango is not the dance called tango.  Even the dark side (obsessions and compulsions) are not usually addictions unless you are snorting coke or drinking excessively with your tango.  Yet to have the full joy of tango, these must be "surgically removed," which means to stop pairing stimuli (tango and smoking or tango and drinking or tango and sleep deprivation, or tango and toxic relationships).  Dissect your tango and leave the good part and eschew that which is not good for you.

And what is left?

Musicality, a great embrace, the joy of movement, and mindful-flow.  This is not an addiction.  This is the pure joy of tango.





Photo credit and article on addiction
https://theconversation.com/is-addiction-a-brain-disease-51248
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The one behavior that helps us survive psychological trauma [Sep. 16th, 2019|12:39 am]
syn_tangotherap
He danced great as a baby, but now says he can't dance. 
What happened?



Homo sapiens are hardwired as the dancing animal.

How is it that many of my friends, family, and colleagues say, "I cannot dance," or "I have two left feet"? Even if you have some friends who can dance, how is it that there's a good chance that they bemoan that their life-partner cannot dance?  How is it that the dancing animal believes that it is not hardwired into the human psyche? Growing up as a white, heterosexual male in a country that sees dance as unimportant, I have a few theories and anecdotes to tell. But not today. I would like to focus on why homo sapiens dance when they hear music even if they had never seen anyone dance. It's fascinating!  And dance is not a random trait.  It's all about survival from psychological trauma.

Survival of the Fittest [Dancers]
Dance has long been associated in human history to survival.  Dance is continuously and ubiquitously supporting psychological wellbeing:


  • Dances of birth, new beginnings
  • Dances for courting a mate
  • Wedding dances
  • Dances of celebration, like coming of age
  • War dances
  • Dances telling the story after war and other human tragedies
  • Dance for rain during droughts; dances of celebration after it rains
  • Dances to express each and every human emotion.

These dances often have their focus on the survival of the person, or perhaps the group, even the race. Nerdy scientists (who often don't dance or see dance as superficial or even primitive) don't seem to even wonder why humans dance. Certainly, evolutionists seem particularly inept at seeing this link, even when it is under their noses:  If dance is hardwired into our brains, then survival is behind it.  Those who dance (along with musicians) know the answer in their gut: We dance to survive. In a world experiencing an international epidemics of suicide, this should be clear:  Wellbeing = survival.

After years of being a musician, then a dancer and now a trauma therapist, it seems pretty clear to me. As we have evolved, music and dance help us survive terrible things like slavery, sexual assault, and war.  No wonder that the great dances of the Americas were started by slaves! Have troubles in your life? Then the music and dance will come to you in the form of the blues, or melancholy country or tango. And of course, music and dance are there to celebrate life too, which, in turn, also helps us survive.  Dance meets us as infants and follows us through life.

I am not sure about you, but I need to deal with the many psychologically difficult events in my life through music and dance. Movement--like walking and running or biking or swimming is great--I know, my "therapy" was once completing an Ironman Triathlon while I was living in a little a town without dance.  But what movement has the most psychological benefits over all other movements?  Dance.  Please don't repeat the shoe company ad, "Just Do It!"  No.

 Just dance. Survive.





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Learning Tango: Two Perspectives [Sep. 6th, 2019|08:13 am]
syn_paulyinga

The following behaviors are common among beginners: (1) They are eager  to learn fancy steps but neglect the fundamentals. (2) They don’t follow instructions carefully. (3) They want to run when they still cannot walk well. (4) They imitate the movements but don’t pay attention to technique details. (5) They lean back to avoid intimate bodily contact. (6) They use the arms and hands to lead and follow. (7) They grasp hold of the partner to do steps. (8) They focus on personal performance and neglect the partner. (9) They don’t listen to the music. (10) They dance according to their own will and anticipation. (See Learning Tango: Imitating Steps vs. Developing Skills.)

These are all due to one reason: They focus only on the steps and themselves. Tango to them is only the steps or a personal skill and they think if they acquired that skill, they can dance tango. That wrong perspective leads them to overlook many other aspects of the dance.

Tango is not steps but what the steps express, that is, the feelings stirred by the music. The emotions of the song affect the dancers and arouse their sympathetic feelings. Tango is the expression of that feeling through movements. (See Tango Is a Feeling.)  

Tango is also a teamwork. The two partners who listen to the same music share their feelings via direct bodily contact, which is intimate, personal and soulful. Dancing tango requires seamless cooperation. The dancer not only has to follow the music but also match the movement of the partner in order for the two to dance as one unified body. Different bodily movements carry different messages. For example, when the man’s right chest becomes tense and pushing and his left chest becomes soft and pulling, that indicates he wants the woman to swivel her hips to his right, and when his left chest becomes tense and pushing and his right chest becomes soft and pulling, that indicates he wants the woman to swivel her hips to his left. Often, the movement of the body is so subtle that it cannot be seen and must be felt. Tango is a sophisticated body language. Learning tango is not primarily learning steps but learning that body language, learning to feel, communicate, lead, follow, comfort and bring contentment to the partner with the body. (See Tango Is a Language (1).)

This perspective requires the dancer to lay emphasis not on the steps but on the body, embrace and connection, to use the sense of the body to feel, to pay attention to the music, to listen to the inner voice and feelings of the partner, to share with the partner what you feel, to agree and cooperate with him/her, and to please him/her with your body. Tango is created to feel. It is the dance of love. (See The Thirteenth Pitfall of a Tanguera.)

The transformation from a step-oriented, self-centered and single-focused beginner to a feeling-oriented, partner-centered and multitasking team player is a long process. Beginners will not fully understand the essence of tango until they have accumulated enough personal knowledge, skills and experience. But right perspective from the beginning can help shorten the process and save them from wasting time on wrong approaches. (See The Four Stages of Your Tango Journey.) Unfortunately, many students get this too late.

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Who takes the blame for Magical Moments? [Aug. 25th, 2019|05:17 pm]
syn_tangotherap


A common experience I hear from followers is that during their earlier tango days, they experienced the most wonderful magical moments

I wonder if this comes from giving all the praise--especially as a beginner--to a great leader. And leaders, being human, can easily and gladly accept the "blame" for the magical moment. My experience is that equally wonderful moments happen in the arms of a non-judgemental woman who opens doors I didn't know even existed. 

A few women especially come to mind. As a relatively new dancer, I once met a beginner who co-created magical moments with me.  Now as a veteran dancer, she still does it. The problem that I see, is that she still "blames me" entirely for all the cool ideas that come out of our dance--things I have never done before. If anyone is to blame, she is. Another woman in the same community does the same thing for me, and just recently after years of not seeing her, we danced again.  It's true that I feel I have far passed her ability, but the same magical moments happen with doors opening that I never knew existed.  I do not "blame her" for these moments. We share the "blame" for our mindful moments and magic.

Tango addictions
It's no wonder that people call tango "addictive."  Tango that has it's best highs early on sounds a bit like cocaine. The best cocaine highs are reported by addicts when they first snort this drug, and then after this early experience, one is simply chasing that earlier high.  So get over the addiction model, and start taking at least half of the "blame" for your highs in tango. This will snuff out the addiction model, which eventually will lead you to be "cured" one day from lack of working on your responsibility and your need to grow as a dancer, both psychologically and spiritually.  No one is perfect in this regard, but magical moments will increase and not diminish on this path of shared responsibility.

Tango detox
Tango is not a drug that is responsible for our highs.  But this perception happens when another person's great dancing is perceived as responsible for our magical moments. It's hard not to blame others who are either judged as good or bad dancers.  But it is all about shared responsibility. Generally speaking, I think it easy to practice tango "blaming"--both positive and negative. These are two sides of the same coin.

Share responsibility!  Even if the dance did not go right, many other things are amazing about the night when I look mindfully. The person who isn't dancing well may have just recovered from cancer treatment or is finally getting on with their life after a dark period.  Who knows?  The magical moment is to be present, and when I do this, I have lots of magical moments in all aspects of my life, not just tango.

I need to remind myself of this over and over.

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How to Dance Milonga [Jul. 26th, 2019|04:09 pm]
syn_paulyinga

Among the three genres of tango music, milonga is the fastest. Milonga music is 2/4 time with 16 sixteenth notes in each measure, counted as: 1-and, 2-and, 3-and, 4-and, 5-and, 6-and, 7-and, 8-and, which is twice as fast as tango. How well one dances milonga depends on one's ability to handle its fast rhythm.

There are three ways to do that.


Milonga Lisa

The first way is milonga Lisa, in which the dancer uses two feet alternately to step only on the downbeats, that is, right foot on 1, left foot on 3, right foot on 5, left foot on 7, in even speed.




Milonga Lisa is the simplest way to dance milonga. But it feels a little monotonous.


Complex timing

Another way to dance milonga is using complex timing to let the two feet step alternately on both downbeats and upbeats in different speeds: slow, quick-quick, slow, quick-quick; or quick-quick, slow, quick-quick, slow; or slow, quick-quick, quick-quick, slow; or slow, quick-quick, slow, slow, or quick-quick, quick-quick, slow, slow; or slow, quick-quick, slow, slow; or slow, slow, slow, quick-quick; or quick-quick, quick-quick, quick-quick, slow, etc., which requires very good handling of the rhythm of the music. Using complex timing to dance milonga is more interesting, but it is busy and could be tedious if the whole tanda is danced this way.






 Milonga Traspie

The more advanced and more relaxed way to dance milonga is milonga traspie. Meaning stumble, traspie refers to the stumble like steps used to reduce the movements thus slows down the pace of the dance.

When the foot is blocked by an obstacle, it would either cross over to land on the other side of the obstacle, or rebound in the opposite direction. Similarly, there are two ways to do milonga traspie.

The first is double-step traspie, in which the dancer steps twice with the same foot on two consecutive downbeats in slow-slow timing. The first step resembles the foot meets the obstacle. The second step resembles the foot crosses over the obstacle. The first step is not an actual step but only a tap carrying 50 percent of the body weight. The second step is a real step carrying 100 percent of the body weight to allow the other leg to be free.






The second is rock traspie, resembles the foot rebounds in the opposite direction after meeting the obstacle. In rock traspie, the dancer uses a rock action to transfer weight from one foot to the other foot back and forth three times in quick-quick-slow timing: (1) steps forward/side/back with one leg and transfers 50 percent of the body weight to that leg on the downbeat, (2) pushes with that leg to transfer weight back to the standing leg on the upbeat, (3) pushes with the standing leg to transfer weight completely to the other leg again on the downbeat to free the standing leg. 






Whether using tap or rock, traspie cuts down the movements to allow the dancer not always have to busily change weight from one leg to the other leg on every beat, thus makes the fast-paced milonga easier to dance. 

Experienced dancers mix all above methods in their milonga dancing to make the dance more diversified, expressive, interesting and fun. The following are few examples.








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The Intimacy of Dancing Tango: Therapy for Contact Deprivation in North American Society [Jul. 24th, 2019|09:32 am]
syn_tangovoice
  • In English speaking North American subcultures, outside family and intimate relationships, in most circumstances there is a tendency during social interaction to minimize physical contact and maintain a relatively large space between individuals.
    • Limitation of physical contact is particularly evident in interactions between men.
    • Reliance on social media for social interaction in lieu of face-to-face interaction, increasingly common in modern North American society, has also reduced physical contact between individuals, adding to feelings of physical isolation.
    • Increased awareness regarding sexually inappropriate behavior (e.g., via the Me Too Movement), while addressing a serious problem, has had some unintended consequences in inhibiting the initiation of appropriate intergender expressions of affection.
  • Insufficient physical contact with other human beings can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression and therefore have a negative impact on physical and mental health.
  • In contrast to North America, in Argentina daily social interactions are characterized by hugs and kisses on the cheek given to friends and acquaintances, typically in the context of greetings and departures.
    • Cross-cultural research has identified that, in general, Argentines maintain a smaller interpersonal distance than identified in other cultures.
    • Tango dancing, as practiced in the milongas of Buenos Aires, with its close personal contact (chest-to-chest, cheek-to-cheek) between partners, sometimes between people who have never met previously, is an example of the lower limits of personal space in Argentine society.
    • In North American milongas there is a wide range of variation in partner connection, from the maintained embrace characteristic of Buenos Aires milongas to a maintained open position, with a partner hold shifting between closed and open positions appearing to be the most common.
  • Close personal contact with other human beings has a positive effect on human health, lowering stress and blood pressure and decreasing the risk of loneliness and depression.
  • Tango dancing in a maintained embrace provides the benefits of close personal contact.
    • When the Traditional Milonga codes of partner respect are practiced, intergender couple formation in tango creates the possibility for dancers to explore romantic and sexual relationships under conditions of mutual consent and safe boundaries.
    • Use of the cabeceo in partner selection, as well as within community policing to identify violators of the mutual consent guideline, should be sufficient in marginalizing sexually inappropriate behavior at the milonga.
  • The promotion of tango as a performance dance, common in North America, prevents many developing tango dancers from experiencing the physical and emotional intimacy of tango.

 

Outside family and intimate relationships, and oftentimes even within the boundaries of these relationships, daily social interactions between adults in Anglophone North America are characterized by the avoidance of physical contact and a relatively large distance between interacting individuals (Personal Space and American Individualism), especially when viewed from a worldwide perspective (Americans Love Wide Open Spaces Between People; What Personal Space Looks Like Around the World). This contact avoidance is magnified in interactions between adult men (Why Men Need Platonic Touch), where physical contact is typically ritualized in the form of handshakes, fist bumps, back slaps, and other forms of brief and hard physical contact; interpersonal contact of a softer nature (e.g., hugs, arm and shoulder touching) may play a role in some interactions between adult women who are close friends. Increased societal acceptance of open homosexuality (and awareness regarding it) may also play a role in contact avoidance between men (Inside the Fear of Being Gay) and, in some cases, between women, when there is concern that affection with a person of the same sex may be perceived as homosexual.

Technological changes also have contributed to physical and social isolation in North American society, as well as in other technologically advanced societies. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) have been designed to create connections between individuals, yet the consequence of social media engagement has often been the opposite, i.e., social isolation (Is Social Media Making You Lonely?). The availability of electronic communication often results in a decrease in face-to-face interaction and thus also less physical contact between individuals. This social isolation can lead to loneliness and depression (Feeling Lonely? Too Much Time On Social Media May Be Why; Health Effects Of Isolation).

In North American society (and elsewhere in modern progressive societies), intergender interactions (see Appendix) in particular are often fraught with ambiguities and therefore misunderstandings regarding physical contact, with entry into one’s personal space itself often being regarded as sexually suggestive and viewed as invasive, or perhaps desirable, depending upon the intentions of the interactants. In recent years, the Me Too Movement has drawn public attention to the most egregious assaults of a sexual nature, in particular those committed by prominent men in politics, business, and entertainment, but has also raised awareness regarding verbal comments of a sexually imposing or suggestive nature (Verbal Sexual Harassment: What You Need to Know to Identify and Report It).

Although the root causes of sexually aggressive behavior (sexual harassment and assault) are complex, and its motivation is not purely or even primarily sexual (i.e., it is a expression of power) (The Thinking Processes of Sexual Predators) to a significant degree these behaviors are characteristic of individuals who are socially isolated and therefore have not experienced normal affectionate physical contact and, in particular normal intergender contact (Common Characteristics of Sex Offenders); sexual repression and its consequence – a barrier against normal expression of affection between the sexes – has been implicated as one causal factor for abnormal sexual expression (The Dark Reality Of What Happens When Someone Is Sexually Repressed).

In contrast to the clear violation of individual integrity in cases of sexual assault and harassment, there are situations in which physical contact is initiated (e.g., placing a hand on someone’s shoulder) or compliments are made (e.g., regarding attractiveness of personal appearance) in which there is ambiguity regarding the intentions of the actor, yet the recipient nevertheless feels uncomfortable, possibly even threatened. Therefore, associated with the social exposure of unwanted physical contact has been a discussion and/or reevaluation of the boundaries between appropriate and inappropriate physical contact and verbal content (e.g., compliments, humor) in social interaction in general, or in specific environments [in the workplace (What Are the Boundaries of Appropriate Touch in the Workplace?), on a college campus (Be Curious Not Invasive … Physical Contact & Personal Boundaries), in religious institutions (Safe Church Unit: Physical Contact)]. Often the recommendation in these latter cases, in order to avoid the creation of discomfort, is to minimize physical contact and verbal compliments. The standard established in many social environments is to limit physical contact to a handshake, and to not make compliments regarding one’s personal appearance (The Dilemma of Physical Touch & Appreciation in the Workplace).

As prior standards for intergender interaction are being reevaluated, men sensitive to social mores are placed in a quandary regarding initiation of physical and verbal contact with women, with the result that often the choice made is to minimize this contact. These newly imposed prohibitions, in conjunction with more general cultural norms of contact avoidance and larger personal space, have led to increased emotional isolation in North American societies (Health Effects of Isolation), with a greater impact on men than women.

Given the traditional prohibitions against interpersonal contact and the increased sensitivity regarding intrusion into intimate space in intergender interactions, tango dancing, in which couples envelope their arms around each other with chest-to-chest and even cheek-to-cheek contact, maintaining this close contact unwaveringly for minutes without separating, stands in stark contrast to the contact avoidance prevalent in North American society. This contrast indeed may present the primary attractiveness of tango dancing, in that it provides a relief from chronic physical isolation. However, how tango dancing achieves (or attempts to achieve) social acceptability within a culture awakened to increased sensitivity to respect for intimate space is an interesting enigma. This post examines the status of tango dancing within this matrix of cultural traditions, changing values, and personal choices. These issues will be examined here within the framework of the cultural underpinnings of the Argentine culture that has engendered this unique form of social interaction. Implications of the transference of traditional Argentine milonga customs to North American milonga are also discussed.

 

Contact and Personal Space during Daily Social Interaction in Buenos Aires

Contrast the paucity of physical contact characteristic of North American social interactions with daily life in Buenos Aires. During the course of a typical day, most porteños greet numerous people with hugs and kisses on the cheek; even men greet each other in this way. Although greetings with hugs and kisses are typically (but not always) limited to family, friends and close acquaintances (of which there are many), upon introduction to friends of friends for the first time, hugs and kisses on the cheek are standard interaction [Argentine Culture: How to greet an Argentine; Getting Cheeky in Argentina: How and when to Kiss People in Buenos Aires; The Art of the Kiss (video)]. Argentines are also recognized as having a small personal space, standing close to one another when talking, in a queue, or sitting next to one another. They frequently touch one another during conversation. One study found Argentines to have the smallest personal space among all 42 nationalities examined (Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology; Summaries: Washington Post; The Telegraph).

 

Personal Space in Buenos Aires Milongas

Personal space boundaries are relaxed further in Buenos Aires milongas. Upon entering a milonga, the guest is often greeted by the host(s) with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Additional exchanges of hugs and kisses may follow upon encountering friends and familiar dance partners (and sometimes their friends and family) in movements to and from where one is seated. This is more common in Milongas del Barrio, where neighborhood residents who are already familiar with one another tend to congregate, than in Milongas del Centro [Tango de Salon: The Tango of the Milonga (Part II of ‘Tango Styles, Genres and Individual Expression’)], but is common in both types of milongas.

If not coming to the milonga with a partner, the means of acquiring a partner for a particular tanda is through visual signaling with the cabeceo (Use of the Cabeceo and Gender Segregated Seating in Milongas in Buenos Aires and Elsewhere in the World). After agreement to dance together has been achieved through this communication from a distance, the man walks to the part of the dance floor in front of the woman’s table; she rises and comes out onto the floor and they embrace, often prior to exchanging any words. This embrace is maintained throughout the first song in the tanda (set of 3 or 4 songs) they are dancing. They then separate and there is no body contact, if the milonga customs are followed [Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited)]. There is some conversation for about 30 seconds into the next song of the tanda. During this conversation the man may give piropos (Tango Adelaide), usually compliments about the woman’s appearance or dancing. These piropos may be poetic and romantic in nature and are not vulgar (examples). They embrace again and follow this pattern of contact and conversation until the end of the tanda. Men following traditional milonga customs then may escort the woman back to her seat by gently holding her arm or placing his forearm gently around her waist (Tango Chamuyo). This pattern continues with each partner over the course of the milonga.

When a woman accepts the invitation to dance by cabeceo from a man, there is a tacit agreement that they will embrace upon dancing, i.e., that they will enter into and remain in each other’s intimate space. Nevertheless, there are still rules governing this engagement. The embrace should be firm but not constraining; the woman should not feel that she is being pulled toward her partner, only positioned comfortably in his embrace. Hands should be placed in a comfortable position on the partner’s back or upper arms and maintained in that position; i.e., hands should not move below the waist, wander around the back, or touch the front of the torso or the face. Frontal body contact does not extend below the waist; i.e., there is no pelvic contact. Interlacing of legs with the partner’s legs (ganchos, leg wraps) or upper body (piernazo) is considered vulgar, whereas sacadas (displacements) of the leg and caricias (gentle brushing with the foot) directed below the knee are acceptable, though uncommon in Milongas del Centro [Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited)]. Between songs in a tanda, the embrace is released and the partner is not touched. When behavior extends beyond these boundaries, the offended partner has the right to cease dancing with the perpetrator and leave the dance floor. Thus, although permission is granted to enter one’s personal space, there are rules governing this release of personal boundaries. In essence, for the most part the embrace in tango is an extension of the embrace given upon greeting in that it is maintained and incorporated into a walk.

In contrast to the entry into intimate space permitted in a couple’s embrace, making contact with other couples on the floor while dancing is considered rude in Buenos Aires milongas. Movements that increase the risk of making contact with other couples on the floor (e.g., high boleos) are frowned upon.

 

The North American Tango Environment

With the exception of ‘slow dancing’, social dancing in North America typically lacks an embrace; in most circumstances, there is a social taboo against maintained upper body contact while dancing, reflecting the general lack of embrace in social settings outside family and intimate relationships. Therefore, when teaching newcomers to dance tango, the dance is almost always taught in what is usually described (in oxymoronic terms) as an ‘open embrace’, i.e., upper body contact at arm’s length (Variations in the Tango Embrace – ‘Open Embrace’ and ‘Close Embrace’ Styles of Tango: The Evidence from Buenos Aires Milongas). [Nevertheless, there have been some North American tango instructors who have advocated teaching dancing tango in an embrace (often redundantly referred to as ‘close embrace’) at the beginning level of instruction (e.g., Albuquerque NM; Minneapolis MN; Portland OR; San Diego CA; San Francisco CA area; Santa Fe NM).] Avoidance of the embrace is usually characteristic only of beginners, with most North American tango dancers eventually entering into some form of embrace while dancing, the main exception being those who do not bring their (Argentine) tango dancing outside the ballroom dance community. However, the current trend in North American tango dancing is to use what is often referred to as a ‘flexible embrace’, i.e., to begin dancing in an embrace and then open the embrace for ochos, giros, and the ubiquitous sandwich. With this shifting ‘flexible embrace’ and the associated attention paid to steps and adornments, the connection, relaxation, and emotional intimacy of a maintained embrace are not achieved.

Even when there is a maintained embrace in dancing tango in North American milongas, the likelihood of emotional release in the embrace is less likely and usually of lower intensity than is typical of porteños in Buenos Aires milongas, something to which North American tango dancers who have attended Buenos Aires milongas can attest. Porteños often comment that North Americans can be very good tango dancers technically, but lack emotion while dancing. This is undoubtedly a consequence of the inhibition against expression of affection characteristic of a contact avoidant culture.

In contrast to Buenos Aires milongas, in North American milongas, some violations of Traditional Milonga codes [Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited)] regarding interpersonal contact and between couple contact are generally permissible; e.g., use of ganchos and high boleos is common and unintentionally making contact with other couples on the floor is usually tolerated to some degree.

 

The Healing Power of Physical Contact

Physical contact is a critical ingredient in forming social bonds with other human beings. This is apparent immediately in infancy, where prolonged physical contact forms an integral part of parent-child relationships. Physical contact in various manifestations (e.g.. hugs, hand holding, contact play) continues to play a role in normal early childhood development, typically including other family members; physical contact is also a characteristic of social interaction between peers as children become more peer oriented. However, after puberty, the role of social interactions between peers changes, and this varies among cultures. In North America, adolescent girls to varying degrees still retain some affectionate physical contact with one another, but physical contact between adolescent boys is channeled primarily through vigorous or rough contact, e.g., as rough play and in sports activities; contact between the sexes often needs to be negotiated and may be interpreted as expressing a sexual motivation. Among more highly educated or wealthier people, where certain rules of social etiquette come into play, physical contact may be reduced even further in adulthood, particularly between men, and is often reduced to a formalized hand shake in greetings, introductions and departures.

Nevertheless, giving and receiving physical contact of an affectionate nature (e.g., touching while conversing, holding hands, embracing) is critically important for emotional health. Affectionate touch communicates caring, support, comfort, and love (The Healing Language of Appropriate Touch). Physical contact, particularly prolonged physical contact of an affectionate nature (gentle touch) has a positive impact on health (The Power of Touch), reducing stress (as indicated by decreased cortisol levels and decreasing blood pressure), and eliciting increased pleasure (in part a result of increased levels of oxytocin).

Absence of affectionate physical contact can lead to feelings of loneliness, unhappiness, chronic anxiety and depression, as well as being associated with physical health problems such as insomnia, hypertension and a weakened immune system (What Lack of Affection Can Do to You; Health Effects of Isolation; Loneliness Predicts Increased Blood Pressure: Five-Year Cross-Lagged Analyses in Middle-Aged and Older Adults).

 

Intimacy in Dancing Tango  

Dancing tango in a maintained embrace is an intimate experience that provides the health benefits of close personal contact. Several tango dancers have publicized their experiences and the associated benefits of dancing tango.

Kathy Davis (2015; Dancing Tango: Passionate Encounters in a Globalizing World, New York University Press) describes the stimuli and impact associated with the tango embrace:

The embrace is what sets tango apart from other couple dances….

…(O)ne is immediately assailed with smells…. Partners can hear each other’s breathing, feel each other’s hearts beating. They sense skin against skin, … the cushiony feel of a stomach or breasts as bodies lean together. … This is an intimacy without words. (pp.57-58)

There is an embodied sensation that occurs without words being said. The embrace conveys the sense of being free of all distractions, able to leave everything else behind. As experience, it resembles meditation. (p.60)

Veronica Toumanova describes tango dancing as ‘intimacy practice’ (Facebook). She covers considerable ground in describing the effects of tango dancing:

(S)ocial tango is a world in itself, capable of profoundly transforming your life….

(T)he most important thing will always be not what the dance looks like to the outsiders but how you feel dancing it with this particular partner to this particular music….

Toumanova notes that for many, the first impression of tango is that provided by the tango of the stage but, upon learning to dance tango, that image changes:

The first thing that shatters completely when you get to know social tango a little better is the very image of vulgar erotism described in the beginning. Instead comes an understanding of this dance as a play between two different energies meeting in music and starting an unpredictable, yet surprisingly harmonious exchange….

The impression that strikes a new person observing the dancefloor in a milonga for the first time is actually the intimacy of what is happening, despite tango being quite a dynamic dance to quite a dramatic music. A man and a woman embrace each other closely and start moving in a synchronised way, harmoniously, but without showing off….

The first and probably most important thing is learning to create a close physical contact with another person, a contact that is sensuous, deeply felt, musical, intimate, yet not sexual….

The sexual nature of dancing tango is underestimated here, but Toumanova is correct in describing the contact in dancing tango as intimate and sensuous.

She continues, emphasizing the positive physiological and social consequences of the tango embrace:

As modern human beings we mostly lack this kind of physical contact in our urbanised context. Our environment rarely provides us with a possibility of close physical contact devoid of (sexual) ambiguity…. (S)cientific studies confirm that physical contact helps to heal depression, reduce anxiety and increase the level of the “love hormone”….

By setting up clear boundaries, tango creates a safe space for bodily contact in its most general sense.

Similar sentiments are expressed in an oral presentation by Gina Cloud entitled “The Intimacy of Tango” (YouTube).

Dancing tango can be transformative for those engaged in its practice. Shy people can experience a deep emotional connection with others that is missing in their lives. In this regard, Kathy Davis (op. cit.) comments:

Tango provides the possibility for men who could be considered unattractive, insecure, or even social losers outside the milongas to discover a new identity on the dance floor. Given the almost chronic surplus of women dancers in most salons, men who are good dancers will find themselves in great demand. Women who wouldn’t give them a second look outside the salon are suddenly vying for a chance to dance with them (p.114).

Davis expounds further on the romantic possibilities emanating from dancing tango:

… (W)hile love and romance are conventionally associated with women, tango seems to open up this unfamiliar terrain for men as well. It enables them to experience the affective intensity of a romantic attachment and, at the same time, keep it safe from the encumbrances that are part and parcel of relationships outside the milonga. (pp.117-118)

Tango’s attraction resides precisely in the kind of encounter it offers. It provides physical contact, intimacy, and emotional intensity, all without the messiness of sex, long-term obligations, and children. In late modernity, intimate alliances have become temporary, fragile, or fluid. With the erosion of the constraints of community, family values, and tradition, the “pure” relationship has emerged, undertaken for its own sake and requiring ongoing negotiation between autonomous agents, responsible only to themselves. Whatever the vicissitudes of these relationships, they have left modern individuals with an insatiable longing for intensity, risk, excitement, and danger. In this view, tango provides the perfect encounter with its endless recycling of intense connection followed by “easy exits”. (p.122-123; references excluded)

Although intergender relationships in contemporary technologically advanced societies are complicated by changing gender roles and increased sensitivity regarding initiation of physical contact, tango dancing provides a safe environment not only for experiencing the interpersonal contact missing in daily life, but also for having a romantic experience, however short-lived. Nevertheless, despite Davis’ deemphasizing of the possibility of romantic relationships extending beyond the milonga, many people become involved in dancing tango with the specific purpose of seeking such a relationship. It is readily apparent that the milonga environment provides safe opportunities for exploring, initiating and developing romantic relationships that extend beyond the milonga, as an alternative to the more precarious arenas of the singles’ bars and online dating. It is a good environment for this precisely because one can focus on dancing in the here and now, getting to know someone gradually over time without the pressure of a interaction cast immediately into the spotlight of dating and hooking up. So, although Davis is correct in noting that the shared tanda is a safe intimate connection from which one may escape when the cortina intervenes, it can also be the first interaction in the development of more intimate relationship.

One shared tanda can be the first step on the pathway to further intimacy because much can be learned about a partner in dancing in a maintained embrace during this 10-12 minute connection. The embrace communicates the emotional state and character of one’s partner, whether that person is kind, affectionate, caring, supportive, sharing, confident, insecure, aggressive, controlling, self-centered, etc. On the basis of this emotional communication, usually augmented by repeated dancing with this partner, one can feel to what extent a relationship with this person can develop. For some partner combinations, there is a brief respite from the lack of physical intimacy experienced in daily life, and nothing more, although this in itself can be beneficial. But for other couples, there may be an exploration of an increased level of physical and emotional intimacy through mutual relaxation in the embrace, an increased affection in touch, cheek-to-cheek contact, and coordination of breathing. This increased intimacy may be only an episode whose duration is no longer than the course of the tanda, satisfying only some immediate need for intergender connection, from which each partner can safely extricate oneself; however, if both partners are willing, this can be the first encounter in the development of a more intimate relationship.

In a more general sense, affectionate contact in the milonga need not be limited to intergender interaction while dancing. If associated Buenos Aires milonga customs of hugs and kisses upon greeting and departure (for all gender combinations) are incorporated into the atmosphere of the milonga, the overall milonga environment becomes a warmer and more welcoming place, a refreshing contrast to the impersonal atmosphere of contemporary urbanized society; one can leave this impersonal environment behind at the door when crossing the threshold into a milonga.

 

Caveats

One aspect of Buenos Aires milonga customs that is unlikely to be widely incorporated into North American milongas is the use of piropos, the romantic / poetic compliments given by men to women, usually during the pauses in dancing that occur between songs in the tanda. Piropos may be interpreted as archaic, corny or possibly even demeaning by contemporary standards [and they are also decreasing in frequency in Buenos Aires milongas (Living in Argentina: Catcalls and Piropos)]; nevertheless, after sharing intimate personal space in the embrace, nonvulgar compliments regarding a partner’s appearance, dress, demeanor, or dancing skills should not be considered out-of-place, when they occur. These compliments can be shared in both directions, from leader to follower and vice versa. It is a shame if contemporary society has become so overly sensitive that polite compliments regarding personal appearance are considered disrespectful.

While the milonga may and should be a safe environment for seeking comfort in close intergender physical contact, the possibility of unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of the intimacy proffered cannot be ignored; i.e., the milonga should not provide a safe haven for sexual predators. Buenos Aires milonga guidelines of proper etiquette for interacting couples have been discussed above. If someone violates the accepted boundaries of physical or verbal interaction, the offended partner has the right to cease dancing with the perpetrator and leave the dance floor. Communication among members of the milonga community should be exercised to raise awareness regarding sexual miscreants, achieving their marginalization. In conjunction with the adoption of the cabeceo as the standard for dance invitation and the associated rejection of the Direct Approach method, the possibility of dancing with violators of personal space boundaries can be minimized.

Despite the positive benefits and appeal of dancing tango, it would be naïve to think that dancing tango could be a panacea in combating the pervasive malady of contact avoidance imbedded in North American and other technologically advanced urbanized societies; tango dancing simply does not have and is incapable of having the widespread distribution of participants to transform social interaction outside the milonga. It is necessary to understand that even in Argentina, tango arose from Argentine culture; tango is a reflection of that culture rather than a factor that has transformed the nature of social interaction within that society. The social environment in North America has a long history of contact avoidance and although it has changed significantly in 400 years, it still stands as a socially conservative culture in which spontaneous expression of affection is limited to prescribed moments defined by family, intimate relationships, and rituals within events of celebration and commiseration. Nor should one be naïve in assuming that dancing tango can be an effective inoculation against sexual aggression, the causes of which are numerous and complex (The Etiology of Sexual Offending).

Some dancers become committed to tango because of the physical intimacy it offers. However, working in opposition to this is the marketing of various derivations and deviations of Tango Argentino that avoid or minimize focus on the embrace and emphasize instead various step concoctions, e.g., Tango Escenario, Tango Nuevo, Tango Campeonato. These direct appeals to a culturally inculcated appetite for exhibitionism in social dancing may assist in attracting newcomers to tango, but dancers enticed by conspicuous step patterns are also attracted by other step-oriented social dance forms (of which there are many) and therefore are less likely to remain involved in tango dancing or, if they remain involved with tango, may never understand and experience the intimacy it offers; attention paid to step acquisition common in tango instruction masks the unique enjoyment and benefits experienced by persistent involvement in tango culture. In contrast, dancers who find fulfillment in the tango embrace are less likely to abandon tango for other social dances.

Tango community organizers are advised to consider the factors discussed here in planning the development and sustenance of tango communities.

 

Appendix: Note on Terminology Related to Sex and Gender

Definition of terms related to sex and gender are inconsistent in contemporary English speaking countries. Therefore, definition of some terms with regard to sex and gender, as used in Tango Voice, are necessary to minimize misinterpretation.

Sex refers here to reproductive anatomy (i.e., genitalia) and secondary sexual characteristics (e.g., breasts for women, facial hair for men). With the exception of persons in medically based sex transition and the rare condition of ambiguous sexual classification at birth (intersex), humans can be classified according to their reproductive organs as belonging to the female sex (women) or the male sex (men).

Currently in English speaking countries, particularly in vernacular usage, ‘gender’ has often been used as a synonym for ‘sex’. The definition for ‘gender’ used here is:

Gender is the state of being male or female in relation to the social and cultural roles that are considered appropriate for men and women.

Thus, ‘gender’ refers to a person’s cognitive identification with culturally predominant feminine or masculine behavioral characteristics. A person who identifies with neither culturally prescribed role of male or female is usually classified as ‘gender non-binary’ or ‘intergender. However, the term ‘intergender’ has also been used as an adjective to describe interaction between people with different gender identities (Wordnik), which is the preferred definition here, with ‘gender non-binary’ the preferred term for those who do not identify with traditional binary gender classifications.

With respect to dancing tango, commonly used terms to differentiate role either refer to ‘man’s part’ vs. ‘woman’s part’ or ‘masculine role’ vs. ‘feminine role’ (‘rol masculino’ y ‘rol femenino’ in Buenos Aires) or the gender nonspecific designations of ‘leader’ and ‘follower’. Although there is value in using this last classification, in particular with respect to Queer Tango, there is no simple commonly accepted adjective to describe the interaction between leader and follower. The term ‘intergender’ is used here to define this interaction and, for the sake of economy in argument, it is assumed here that all tango partnering occurs between people who are compatible in sexual orientation (i.e., heterosexual for opposite sex partnering, homosexual for same sex partnering), while recognizing that, in reality, this may not always be the case; however, these latter incompatible pairings are considered to be outside the realm of the arguments presented here.

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Learning Tango: Imitating Steps vs. Developing Skills [Jul. 20th, 2019|09:58 am]
syn_paulyinga

One reason beginners are eager to learn new steps is that they want to succeed in the milonga as soon as possible. Many of them only regard learning tango as imitating steps. Once they can imitate a step, they think they have learned the step, and their attention is shifted to imitating another step instead of spending time to temper the step. They believe in this way they can learn faster and be able to dance sooner.

What they don’t know is that whether they can dance well is not decided by the number of steps they know, but by the behind the scene skills on which the steps are built: posture, embrace, connection, communication, torso leading and following, lightness, flexibility, balance, stability, pivot, dissociation, gear effect, cadencia, musicality, and basic steps like walk, salida, resolucion, cross, front ocho, back ocho, media luna, molinete, giro, rock and traspie. These are the building blocks of all tango steps. Those with a good grounding in these basic skills can dance beautifully even with few simple steps. Those lack these basic skills, their dance looks awkward and ugly even though they may know a lot of fancy steps.

The purpose that the teacher teaches a step is not just teaching the step, but more importantly training basic skills. For example, when teaching back ocho, the teacher instructs the students to use dissociation, because that skill can benefit them in many other tango steps. But students don’t understand that. They only focus on imitating the step by crossing one leg behind the other leg and leave out the hard work of swiveling the hips. Instead of taking the pain to develop the skill, they take a short cut to get quick results. Consequently, even though they may have touched many steps, they have mastered none, their basic skills remain poor, and their dance does not look good.

The eagerness to succeed is a big obstacle to learning for beginners. Students must understand that it is not the fancy steps but the basic skills that decide the quality of their dancing. They need to focus on developing skills rather than copying movements, so that what they learn in each step can become the building block for the next step. By proceeding in an orderly and gradual way, by carefully following the instructions and paying attention to technical details, by taking pains to practice, and by obtaining a solid grounding in basic skills, they will be able to achieve twice the result with half the effort overall. This is the only way to become a good tango dancer. (See Tango Is a Language (I).)

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It takes too TIRED to tango . . . [Jul. 6th, 2019|04:07 pm]
syn_tangotherap

>It takes saying "too tired to tango" before we realize that doing something great for one's health at the wrong time will harm our health and levels of energy.

>It takes "too tired to tango" until exhaustion or multiple health issues stop us in our tracks.  

>It takes "too tired to tango" 
before a person finally tries to find balance.

That's my story: Just call me Mr. Sleep Deprived I fully participated in the worst health risk of tango. No longer, but I was too tired to tango.  That doesn't mean I stopped tango! I tried to stop in 2017.  But instead, I just started dancing at earlier events. Presently, I go to a practica in my town that has great dancers and starts and ends early.  I started a Facebook group called Early Milonga Enthusiasts in my town (please copy the idea in your town). I now go to encuentros where the timing is always an early milonga and an evening milonga that does not go so late.  I sleep in as much as I can on these weekend encuentros.  But I'm not "too tired to tango"--during an encuentro! I dance for as much as 8 hours of tango. My Fitbit, worn on my ankle, indicates I walk for over 5+ miles (8-10 kilometers).  The point of good sleep is that we are NOT too tired to tango!  Sleep and tango are buen amigos!
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The Early Milonga Revolutión [Jun. 22nd, 2019|11:40 pm]
syn_tangotherap
Catch to 8am milonga at La Confitería Ideal* in Buenos Aires.
But how about your town's own early milongas?
I am asking you to take up arms!  And use those arms to hug people who also enjoy earlier milongas. I think they are the silent majority, and it is time for an Early Milonga Revolutión!

When I wrote about the health risks that tango dancers have because of sleep deprivation caused by late-evening start times, I got hundreds of emails, messages, and comments in agreement.  (See Tango's Worst Heath Risk.)  I made the point that sleep deprivation is unnecessary if we just had earlier milongas.
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Tango's Worst Health Risk [Jun. 17th, 2019|12:15 pm]
syn_tangotherap
Is tango harming your physical health? Probably.

It is very likely that tango is harming your long-term health more than helping it.

Luckily, that can be changed easily enough. Tango is healthy for us in many ways as this blog has pointed out for over ten years. In the last ten years, scientists have only started realizing just how bad sleep deprivation is. And the problem with tango?  Mostly we do it at the wrong time of our sleep cycle! Our present enjoyment of tango too often leaves us sleep-deprived and with a messed up circadian rhythm.
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The Suspicious Tango Pastor [Jun. 1st, 2019|09:16 pm]
syn_tangotherap

Organizers and teachers in my experience most have been wonderful, giving people. But then there are a few bad apples.  (If you have a bad apple in your community, see the "solutions" at the bottom of this page.)

Most people I know have great skills with avoiding cults, religious zealots, and hell-and-brimstone pastors who claim to have "all the truth." Politicians too.  But with tango?  All those skills of being leary of zealots seem to be thrown out the window sometimes when a tango organizer or teacher claims they have the whole truth, the only way to tango heaven. Why?
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Yin Power in the Stillness of Tango [May. 27th, 2019|05:21 pm]
syn_tangotherap

Yin is the unsung hero of tango's magic. 

What people often watch and praise, however, is the Yang-action in tango.

Even in life, Yin is the unnoticed hero, in my opinion. I wrote the majority of this post about six months ago. When rediscovering the draft, I took away about half of it and now, I'll add something my wife told me about one of her favorite dance partners:  She said he had a way of building a feeling of preparation for the next move. Isn't this an example of Yin? That night the added description changed the way I dance.  (Yes, I listen to her descriptions of tango magic.) My wife noticed my change right away.

It is worth a moment or two to consider what this Yin energy is. Instead of thinking in male/female terms, here are two analogies of the Yin energy which promotes balancing these energies in oneself:
  • Breathing:  Each person needs to breathe in (the action of Yin) in order that a person can breathe out or talk (the action of Yang).  Yin is powerful!  One cannot just breath in or just breath out. But for those who are singers, swimmers or practice breathing medication, balanced breathing takes effort to fully breath out and then fully breathe in. 
  • Throwing a ball:  Yin as behavior is winding up gracefully. Yang is throwing with grace and also with power.  The often unrecognized power, however, is in the graceful, relaxed winding up before throwing the ball!
People notice movement, not stillness.
But stillness is the power that brings effective movement.

At tango performances watch how people tend to notice leading or ornamentos, but then fail to see stillness (which precedes, not "follows"). Women who so wonderfully embody Yin Power, which precedes everything I do, too often deny their important role.  They say, "I was just following what you led" after I say how wonderfully she empowered the dance.  How can Yang do anything without Yin?  Yes, and so in remains: Yin is the unsung hero of tango's magic.



Photo Credit:  Alan Thornton --Getty Photos
https://www.thespruce.com/the-yin-yang-theory-and-feng-shui-1275241


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When will the Tango Teacher Disappear? [May. 8th, 2019|11:42 pm]
syn_tangotherap


Get ready!
If you love a subject and you are ready, the teacher will appear-- or so goes the saying.  But it's just not that easy. Most find that there is more to it. So...

Get set!
As a student, you will find teachers who will demotivate you or attempt to distract you from the good path you were on. Maybe you had a wonderful embrace or amazing walk that a new teacher has now "disassembled."  Now your latent talent must be recovered.  So the "get set"phase may slow your greatest desires.  It's just the fact in any human endeavor of learning that teachers can be a student's biggest obstacle.  On the other hand, if you have a lot to give as a teacher, many students will appear who will not be able to hear or find what you have to give.  It will all be worth it when the right student or the right teacher appears.

Go!
If you stick with it, the student will find the teacher and the teacher will find the student. Then one thing remains.  When will it be time to disappear from one another, the student from the teacher and teacher from the student?

Lao Tzu answers this question in his wisdom for both teacher and disciple:
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Study [May. 5th, 2019|07:58 pm]
syn_ireneyman
Some people like to study with championship tango dancers and watch videos of championship tango dancers dancing tango so some day they may also win a championship.  And if you don't win this time, try, try, try again!

Some people like to study stage tango movements because if they can't get people to pay attention to their low key, boring social dancing, they can kick it up a notch by flinging their partner into outer space (and other people)!  

Does anybody really want to study how to dance well on a crowded dance floor anymore?  Where the best dancers can express the music with the simplest movements while they are shoulder to shoulder with the couples around them?


Maestros Blas Catrenau and Myriam Pincen dancing on a VERY crowded dance floor.  Perfection!

I don't know about others, but I think this is the highest form of Tango expression.  I leave ambitions about winning championships and showing off for other people!
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Changing Direction with Rock Steps [Apr. 21st, 2019|11:23 am]
syn_paulyinga

Rock refers to using a rebounding action to transfer weight from one leg to the other leg when the two legs are apart and not collected. It is a three-step sequence typically done in a quick-quick-slow rhythm: (1) step forward with one leg, (2) push with that leg to transfer weight back to the standing leg, (3) collect the free leg and change weight again. The first two steps are rock steps, carried out when the legs are apart. The last step is a normal weight changing step to allow the other leg to take a new action. Rock can be done in various ways: back and forth, left and right, forward and side, back and side, vertical or diagonal, linear or circular, on spot or drifting, with or without turn, with or without pivot, with or without dissociation, etc. Rock steps are often used to alter the direction of travel in dancing. The following video show you how.




This lesson includes three parts. In the first part, the man starts with the basic forward-back-collect rock pattern: He rocks forward with the left leg, transfers weight back to the right leg, and collects and changes weight to the left leg again. He then repeats the sequence with the right leg. This pattern can also be done diagonally by stepping to her left with his left leg and stepping to her right with his right leg. The woman mirrors the man’s movements. Notice that she does not collect the free leg but lets the free leg remain in place as her weight is transferred back to the standing leg. She keeps the knee of the free leg straight and tilts up the foot to make the movement stylish.

In the second part, the man changes the rock pattern to a forward-back-side pattern: (1) steps forward with the left leg, (2) transfers weight back to the right leg, (3) steps sideward with the left leg. He then repeats the sequence with the right leg. Notice the 90-degree turn of his body when he rocks to either side. The woman keeps her standing leg in place, but moves her free leg side to side as she mirrors his movements.  

In the third part, the man demonstrates how to use rock steps to change direction at position 5. He first leads the woman to the cross, then uses a forward-back-side rock pattern: (1) steps forward with the left leg, (2) transfers weight back to the right leg, (3) steps to the side with the left leg. The last step changes the direction of travel 90 degree to the left. He then adds a forward-turn-collect pattern: (1) steps forward with the right leg, (2) transfers weight back to the left leg while pivots the left leg 180 degree counterclockwise, (3) collects and changes weight to the right leg. The two rock patterns are combined to form a revised version of ocho cortado, which is done on his right side instead of on his left side, though. Notice that in doing the second rock pattern the woman steps forward with her left leg, pivots 180 degree to the left, then steps back with her right leg, which is a common technique used in the change of direction.

Other rock patterns could also be applied at the cross, as shown in the following clip.




In this example the man starts with a forward-turn-turn rock pattern: (1) steps forward with his left leg to lead her step back with her right leg, (2) turns right 90 degree and changes weight to his right leg to lead her change weight forward to her left leg, (3) turns right 90 degree while collects and changes weight to his left leg to lead her step forward with her right leg. On her part the woman uses a back-forward-forward rock pattern: (1) steps back with her right leg, (2) transfers weight forward to her left leg, (3) steps forward with her right leg. Notice, again, as her weight is transferred to the standing leg, she does not collect the free leg but lets the leg remain in place, keeps the knee straight and tilts up the foot to make the movement stylish.

The man then uses a right-left-turn rock pattern: (1) steps diagonally forward to the right with his right leg while turns his upper body 90 degree to the right to lead her right leg pivot 180 degree and her left leg step on his right, (2) pivots 90 degree to the left with his right leg while transfer weight to his left leg to lead her transfer weight to her right leg, (3) continues the pivot with his left leg to lead her left leg to step forward and pivot 180 degree to face him, while he collects and changes weight to his right leg. The woman uses a left-right-forward rock pattern: (1) pivots 180 degree on her right leg to let her left leg to step on his right, (2) transfers weight back to her right leg, (3) steps forward with her left leg and pivots 180 degree counterclockwise to face him. Notice the dissociation of her upper body and lower body when she walks back and forth on the side of him. The whole sequence is another creative variation of ocho cortado.

The couple further exploit rock patterns in another video.




This time, the man uses a forward-back-back rock pattern in a circle. After leading the woman to the cross, he (1) steps forward in a curve with his left leg to lead her right leg to step back to her right, (2) steps back in a curve with his right leg to lead her transfer weight forward to her left leg, (3) steps back in a curve with his left leg to lead her right leg to step forward to his right. Notice that his upper body is turned to the right to allow her walk in circle around him. He then uses a back-side-turn rock pattern: (1) steps back in a curve with  his right leg to lead her left leg to step forward, (2) steps to the side with his left leg to lead her right leg to step to her right, (3) pivots to the left with his left leg to lead her left leg to step forward and pivot 180 degree to face him, while he collects and changes weight to his right leg. The result is a circular version of ocho cortado. It is the most interesting variation of ocho cortado that I have seen.

Rock steps are featured steps of tango milonguero that contribute to its simple, compact, rhythmic and elegant style. The patterns described above are only a few in a pool of rock patterns commonly used by the milongueros. Familiarizing yourself with these patterns can help you improve your dance.

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Walkie-Talkie Dancers [Apr. 16th, 2019|02:09 pm]
syn_tangotherap
He's talking and she's looking for an escape.
This blog post focuses on Mindfulness (one of the four M's of Tango).

tango community where I once lived had a problem. When I arrived there, I was astounded by conversations going on while dancing. The garrulous dancers were entirely veteran men and women dancers!

The word "conversation" should not need to be defined, but let me clarify:  Walkie-Talkie Dancing is not occasional sighs, or a few chuckles, a once-in-a-while "wow" or an occasional blurted "that was fun." Walkie-Talkie Dancing is an ongoing conversations while dancing.

Walkie-Talkie Dancing usually stops when a person learns a bit of tango etiquette. But seasoned dancers? No excuse.

This post is for new dancers who have to decide for themselves if their local veteran dancers (role models) are modeling the best habits or not.


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Tonight will be my last ever milonga . . . [Mar. 17th, 2019|12:23 am]
syn_tangotherap

This is what she says each time she goes dancing:

"Tonight will be my last ever milonga."

But she says it with a smile.  She makes the most of each "last time" she has in a joyous way.

She practices for the true last time that surely will come sooner or later--not as a sad reminder that there is in all things always the very last time, but that she may be aware and simply to show up fully.  She's not on her phone.  She's not just chattering loudly next to the dancers. She is present, catching the eyes of others who want to dance too. She's aware. She's there.
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Osvaldo [Mar. 10th, 2019|08:25 pm]
syn_ireneyman

Osvaldo and Coca performing a beautiful Vals at La Nacional - "Con Tu Mirar"

Today would have been Osvaldo's birthday.  We remember the first time we celebrated Osvaldo's birthday, we were at Confiteria Ideal on the closing night of Martha and Manolo's Camicando festival in 2007.  It was the first time that we were in Buenos Aires, and Osvaldo and Coca were teaching milonga at the festival.  It was a wonderful night - live performances by all the maestros of the festival, live music by Tubatango, and even a group performance by the students.  A night to remember!

Our dear milonguero friends and maestros were full of life, living their tango lives to the fullest with milongas every night, busy teaching schedules and teaching tours lined up for months in advance.  In a blink of an eye, we have lost Alberto, Martha, Osvaldo....and we miss them every day.

Last night we were talking to two veterans of Toronto Tango, both have been dancing Tango for over 20 years.  They had seen and experienced even more of the old maestros than we had, the ones that passed before we even started learning.  How quickly things change in life and in Tango!  A mere five, ten years ago, tangueros and tangueras all around the world wanted to dance with the milongueros and like the milongueros.

Now everyone wants to train and dance with the newest and shiniest cookie cutter competition winning couple, learn the fanciest figures and adornos, and maybe even win a competition themselves.  Milonguero?  What is that?  Those old people danced strange and funky.  They didn't follow competition rules.  We don't want that!

Luckily we have the magic of Youtube to keep examples of the old style milonguero dancing alive and accessible to all - along with hundreds of videos of performances by Osvaldo and Coca.  When Osvaldo was alive, they performed almost every night and everywhere they went.  They were beloved, and they always brought down the house.

Would there be a day when everyone will become tired of Tango turning itself into Ballroom dancing?  Would they re-discover the Milongueros and want to dance in the old way?


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Practicing [Mar. 3rd, 2019|04:24 pm]
syn_ireneyman
As a follower, I hate it when a leader "practices" on me in a social dance (that means "milonga") setting.

Recently, I danced with a relatively new local leader.  He was a eager lesson taker and had improved quite quickly.  He could dance all evening non-stop and he had quite a lot of the "good followers" on his dance card.

He was also quite aggressive (and clever) in befriending Man Yung and I in order to ask me to dance.* Can't really say "no" to a "friend", can you?

* Has someone used this tactic on you?  Do you use this tactic yourself sometimes to get dances with people who aren't cabeceoing you?  This can be a subject of a whole post by itself.

The first couple of times I danced with him it was "ok".  Sometimes it is easier to just go ahead and dance with someone who is a "friend" even though it isn't "great", rather than rejecting them and risk being seen as "unfriendly", not "nice" or maybe even "an asshole".

Unfortunately (or maybe Fortunately) he had just taken a slew of private and group classes with some visiting teachers and he couldn't restrain himself from unleashing his newly acquired steps and adornments on me, even if it meant tripping over his own feet and almost falling on his face. Obviously he didn't know how to do any of those new steps well yet but what a fantastic opportunity to PRACTICE on an experienced follower!

That was wonderful because it turned me completely, utterly, WTF off and I didn't care about being rude or unfriendly the next time he asked me to dance.  I could turn him down guilt-free!

In my opinion, when social dancing, it is inappropriate to practice stuff you don't know well on your partner UNLESS they have consented to it beforehand.  It is also inappropriate to practice in a milonga if it will be disruptive to others on the dance floor.

Ideally, practice on people who are not your regular dance partner (or any practice at all) should only be done in a class, or in a practica where it is understood that people are there to practice.

When I lead I like to err on the side of caution.  When introducing a step (that I actually know I can lead) to a follower, I stop immediately at the slightest sign that either of us are stumbling.  I am not going to try, try, try again until we both get it.*

* Yeah Man Yung, stop heckling me on the sidelines when I am dancing with some of the best milonguera followers in Toronto - I am NOT going to practice NOTHING on them so there!

I don't think being able to lead or making (or forcing) followers do a gazillion trillion steps enhances the dance experience.  Rather, I think there is more merit and enjoyment in being able to connect with a follower on a level that is comfortable for the follower, and being able to express and communicate the music and feeling in Tango simply, WITH LIMITS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO.

To quote W. Somerset Maugham "To write simply is as difficult as to be good."  Applies to writing, applies to dancing too.

I was joking to a woman leader in ballroom/latin dance a few weeks ago about how NONE of the followers I was dancing with wanted me to throw some back sacadas and enganches at them to spice things up.

She laughed and said, "Yeah, me too - I ask my followers whether they wanted me to do a triple axle double salchow and they all said no too!"

So, if you want to practice, find your OWN partner and go torture them with the complete step repertoire of Forever Tango at your leisure.  If you are lucky your partner will be a super adornista and she will have a great time toe tapping and foot flicking all over you too!




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Where do all your passions meet? [Feb. 5th, 2019|12:54 pm]
syn_tangotherap
A moment of stillness before the International Dance Concourse in Vienna
A concourse is an open space where people or paths converge. Yet, a more significant place is the converging paths inside of me and you: A psychological internal convergence of paths, which you feel throughout your body when you arrive there.

Many want to know which path to take in life. Well, perhaps that is the wrong question. Ask instead: "What is my internal concourse for life?" Tango has helped me see this very clearly. If you have a passion for tango, I think that we probably have very similar places that converge.

The following are some of the many paths leading to the open space of my external concourse, and although they are mine, I think that many reading this post might have similar experiences:
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Juan Ventura Esquivel and Thomasina Gabriele - Tango Exhibition in Portland [Jan. 26th, 2019|02:40 pm]
syn_ireneyman
Recently, we received an email from the renowned milonguero Juan Ventura Esquivel and his lovely partner Thomasina Gabriele with links to their Tango exhibitions in Portland.

We wanted to share their beautiful milonguero performances here!  They are dancing to Tangos by Fresedo and D'Arienzo:





Juan Ventura Esquivel is one of the core members of the show "Milonguisimo".  We had the great fortune of seeing him perform at the show in Glorias Argentinas the first time we were in Buenos Aires.  We had the pleasure of bumping into Juan numerous times at milongas in Buenos Aires over the years.  He and Thomasina are great friends of Osvaldo and Coca so sometimes we even get to go to the milongas with all of them together.

It's really cold in Toronto these two weeks - snow and ice and wind chill up to minus 27 C!  Not even a hug could make us warm!

Freezing at Centennial Park last week (No, the hug did NOT help)

However, did you notice Thomasina's gorgeous strapless dress with the colourful birds design in the video?  OMG I wish I had that dress! It is the most enchanting dress ever. Makes us think of springtime even in the middle of winter.

Keep warm and enjoy Tango!




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Is Queer Tango Compatible with Traditional Tango? [Jan. 26th, 2019|11:36 am]
syn_tangovoice
  • In Traditional Milongas, men assume the role of leaders and women the role of followers in partner formation.
  • Advocates of the Traditional Tango partner formation pattern defend this practice arguing that:
    • Men have assumed the leading role and women the following role in milongas in Buenos Aires for over 100 years.
    • Anatomical differences (men are taller and heavier) dictate leading and following roles.
    • Women leading negatively impacts their ability to follow.
    • Men dancing with men has a heightened physical energy that creates navigational hazards at milongas.
    • Tango dancing provides men the opportunity to express masculinity and women the opportunity to express femininity.
    • Roles in dancing tango reflect the leadership and following roles men and women have in society, something that has been shaped by millions of years of biological evolution.
  • Queer Tango challenges the Heteronormative Partner Formation pattern of Tradtional Tango. Queer Tango has two aspects – Gay Tango and Gender Neutral Tango.
    • Gay Tango recognizes the rights of homosexuals to dance tango with same sex partners at milongas.
    • Gender Neutral Tango permits the formation of tango partnerships at milongas where both men and women may assume leading and following roles, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
    • In its rejection of Traditional Tango customs, Queer Tango often is accompanied also by other aspects of Evolutionary Tango such as playing Neotango music for dancing, opening of the embrace and inclusion of elements of exhibitionism in dancing.
  • Tango is a dance that provides opportunities for greater physical and emotional intimacy, thereby fostering the development of romantic and sexual relationships.
    • The codes and customs of the Traditional Milonga (gender defining attire, Gender Segregated Seating, cabeceo for dance invitation, emotionally evocative Classic Tango music, embracing while dancing, piropos during conversation between songs of the tanda, invitations to meet after the milonga) create an ambiance that invites courtship and seduction.
    • Gender Neutral Partner Formation, which obscures sexual orientation, suppresses this aspect of tango dancing for people who do not already know each other’s sexual orientation. This affects both heterosexual and homosexual expression at the milonga.
    • The exclusion of homosexuals from dancing with each other at a Traditional Milonga denies them the same rights granted to heterosexuals. This is inconsistent with contemporary societal norms. Anti-discrimination laws and same sex marriage are indications that homosexuals have the same rights as heterosexuals in many countries where tango is danced, and this equality should be extended to the Traditional Milonga.
    • Recognizing the rights of homosexuals to dance with each other at Traditional Milongas also opens the door for them to enjoy other aspects of Traditional Tango culture, such as dancing only to Classic Tango music, having the freedom of choice in partner selection provided by the cabeceo, dancing on a floor where the distractions of exhibitionism and teaching are absent and the risk of collision is reduced, characteristics of milongas that may be absent in Queer Milongas.
  • The addition of same sex partner formation at Traditional Milongas presents a challenge to the values of Tango Traditionalists.
    • Gay couples dancing exclusively with each other present the least threat to heterosexuals, because this does not cause them to experience discomfort in dancing tango with someone of the same sex. This could be a first logical step in the transformation of a Traditional Milonga.
    • Use of the cabeceo alone for dance invitation, thereby eliminating the Direct Approach, allows each dancer at the milonga to dance only with partners of their choice, regardless of the sex, gender identity and sexual orientation of potential partners. Effective use of the cabeceo under conditions of Gender Neutral Partner Selection necessitates the creation of Role Segregated Seating, i.e., leaders in one seating section, followers in another, as a modification of Gender Segregated Seating.
    • Permitting Gender Neutral Partner Formation and recognizing that the sexual orientation of the selected partner may be unknown requires dancers to have increased sensitivity in recognizing the nonverbal cues inviting greater emotional and physical intimacy when dancing tango. This is a good thing regardless of the sexual orientation of the dance partners.
    • The argument made here is that Traditional Milongas should be open to Gay Tango and it is only in the uncertainty regarding the sexual orientation of potential partners that Gender Neutral Partner formation as a general phenomenon is advised.
    • Allowing Gender Neutral Partner Formation in a Traditional Milonga should not be interpreted as advocating experimentation in role assumption; the place for this is the practica or the Queer Milonga. Only dancers competent in their roles should assume them in a Traditional Milonga. Experimental partner formation resulting in navigational hazards or exhibitionism should result in intervention by the milonga organizer to control this.
  • What makes a milonga a Traditional Milonga is playing only Classic Tango music for dancing, using only the cabeceo for dance invitation, dancing in an embrace with movements close to the floor and the couples’ bodies, absence of exhibitionism and teaching on the dance floor, and absence of casual attire. It is the music and the embrace, as well as the absence of distractions, that creates an atmosphere increasing the possibility of romantic and sexual expression. Whether partner formation is opposite sex or same sex is irrelevant.

 

Traditional Tango customs include various aspects of music selection, dancing, the physical environment, and codes of behavior that are adhered to by participants within this culture (Codes and Customs of the Milongas of Buenos Aires: The Basics). Music for dancing at the milonga is limited to Classic Tango music from the Golden Age (1930s, 40s, and 50s) or, rarely, Modern Tango music that emulates Classic Tango. The manner of dancing includes embracing the partner, moving within the circulating ronda, keeping feet close to the floor and close to the body, and foregoing large and/or rapid movements that attract attention and risk collision with other couples on the floor. The physical environment of the milonga is structured to provide a rectangular dance floor, with tables positioned to allow dancers to view the dance floor, and sufficient lighting to allow dancers to see clearly potential partners across the dance floor. Codes of behavior include Gender Segregated Seating and invitation to dance using the cabeceo (Use of the Cabeceo and Gender Segregated Seating in Milongas in Buenos Aires and Elsewhere in the World); in couple formation, men assume the role of leader and women the role of follower.

This post focuses specifically on the Heteronormative Partner Formation pattern, i.e., of men leading and women following in tango couple formation, to assess whether deviations from this pattern, i.e., Gender Neutral Partner Formation, can be integrated into the Traditional Milonga environment.

 

Advocacy of Heteronormative Partner Formation

It has been the standard practice for over 100 years in the milongas of Buenos Aires that men assume the role of leader and the woman the role of follower in dancing tango. This pattern of sex-based partner role assumption has been incorporated into the exposition of Traditional Tango customs, sometimes explicitly (Tango Chamuyo; In Search of Tango; Tango VoiceEl tango, un ejemplo del orden entre hombre y mujer), sometimes implicitly (Siempre Milonguero; Tango therapist; Viaje por tango).

Despite the fact that partner formation with men as leaders and women as followers is overwhelmingly the most common couple pattern in tango dancing worldwide, there have been exceptions, most notably at events advertised specifically as Queer Tango, which have increased in frequency and in media attention in recent years. More quietly, there also have been some tango communities where there has been a shortage of men, and sometimes in these one can observe some cases of women leading women, usually without fanfare; these occurrences of women leading women tend to decrease as the sex ratio approaches unity. Nevertheless, in Buenos Aires, with the exception of Queer Tango milongas (e.g., La Marshall, Tango Queer) and festivals (Facebook; video), it is not only rare to see deviations from the Heteronormative Partner Formation pattern at Traditional Milongas, but when observed, it is (probably) always with women leading women, and usually with one or both of the partners being tango tourists [Wartluft; Davis (2015), Taylor (1998)]. In Traditional Milongas, dancers participating in same sex partnerships may be informed that this behavior is unacceptable. [See Tango Chamuyo, Davis (2015:134)] Regarding the rare occurrence of women leading women in Buenos Aires milongas, Elizabeth Wartluft notes:

Female leaders drew much attention and discussion from the other tango dancers.  Many people loudly condemned the practice of women leading. Very few people found it unremarkable or completely acceptable, and most had much to say on the subject. 

Wartluft also notes (ibid.) that in Buenos Aires

Even liberal, young, feminist women said they would rather follow than lead, and suggested that women can’t lead as well as men. 

Furthermore, women who assume the role of leader in tango may be ostracized, at least in Traditional Milongas, because they have violated the codes; Jeffrey Tobin (1998:93) writes:

… (I)f a woman in a práctica dances the man’s role with another woman, she is unlikely to be asked to dance by any of the men who are present. The stigma of having danced the man’s part may even follow her from the práctica to the milonga, where she is still less likely to be asked to dance, and if she does dance, her dancing of the woman’s role is likely to be judged harshly and to be held up as an example of the damage done by dancing the man’s role. 

As a justification for the exclusion of women from the role of leader, it has been stated frequently by Argentine men, including tango instructors and milongueros, that women leading in tango destroys their ability to be good followers (e.g., Carlos Gavito, Ricardo Vidort). Jantango provides an explanation for this:

Those women who lead forget how to give up control when dancing with a man. They lose their feminine energy in the dance.

[See also Davis (2015:133).] In contrast, men dancing with men (in practicas) has been recognized by Argentine tangueros as a suitable way for men (as followers) to learn the leader’s role in tango. Wartluft summarizes these different prescriptions for women and men:

The common explanation is that a man must learn the woman’s part in order to lead a woman, but that a woman does not have to learn the man’s part to follow a man. Many men even warn that once a woman has learned to lead, she is ruined as a follower. 

A justification for the prohibition against women leading men has been based in part on anatomy. The argument can be framed as follows. On average, men are taller, heavier, and stronger than women, making leading easier for men in opposite sex partner formation (In Search of Tango). In tango, where close body contact is the norm, women leading men may not have a clear view of the dance floor if their partner is significantly taller; when a man is significantly heavier than a woman, moving the follower through space can be challenging. These conditions increase the risk of collisions on the dance floor.

Despite the fact that men dancing with men at practicas, in order to learn tango, has been sanctioned historically within Argentine tango culture, men dancing tango with men traditionally has been prohibited at milongas. Men from the Golden Age have emphasized that male – male partnerships at the practica were only preparation for dancing with women at the milonga (Christine Denniston, Tobin 1998:93); men danced with men at practicas in part because women did not have the social freedom to attend practicas.

An objection to male – male partnerships at milongas can be made because this combination may produce a character to the dance that is incompatible with the atmosphere of a Traditional Milonga. In contrast to the peaceful, harmonious connection with mutual physical and emotional surrender that is the model strived for in male – female tango partnerships, male – male tango partnerships typically are characterized by heightened muscular tension, increased energy expenditure, and thus dancing that moves with greater velocity over larger spaces, often including opening the embrace and performing complicated attention-attracting movements. This is even characteristic of male – male dancing at the gay milonga La Marshall in Buenos Aires, as Davis (2015:133) reports in the comments of one of her informants:

La Marshall is for gay men, whatever anyone says. It’s a masculine space. Take the masculine energy of a straight milonga and multiply that by two.

This male – male athletic dancing may be accompanied by joviality and laughter, perhaps because it is so playful, but at times there also appears to be a nervousness to this dancing in which two (presumably straight) men are embracing each other (personal observations at North American milongas).

Prohibition against deviations from the Heteronormative Partner Formation standard at the milonga is reinforced with the recognition that tango is a Gender Affirmative dance in the traditional sense, i.e., in which there is a close alignment between biological sex and gender expression. In this perspective the man expresses masculinity in dancing tango, in deciding on the direction of movement, in guiding the movement of the woman, in protecting her against collision. The woman expresses femininity in surrendering decision-making to the man, coordinating her movements with his guidance. These ideas are have been expressed clearly in In Search for Tango, where justification for this differentiation of male and female roles is also provided:

As fashionable as it is to transform gender roles in the US, this fact remains unchanged: no one can be at his/her best against nature. Frankly, a woman is too feminine to be a leader. She simply cannot be as masculine as the leader must be, and function as a man must function to a woman, regardless of how technically adequate she can lead. Likewise, a man is too masculine to be a follower. He simply cannot be as feminine as the follower must be, and function as a woman must function to a man, regardless of how technically adequate he can follow. Tango is not just lead and follow. It is the interaction between the two sexes. Without masculinity and femininity, tango loses its charm and splendor.

So, what are the roles of men and women in tango, and how different these roles are?

Men in general are physically taller, stronger, firmer and more dependable than women. They also have a psyche different from that of women due to men’s hunting nature formed in the millions of years of human evolution through natural selection, such as their need for taking initiatives, subduing, conquering, keeping under control, and protecting their loved ones, etc. Naturally, men assume the masculine role in tango as they do in life. …

In contrast, women in general do not have the build and strength of men. They are smaller, shorter, lighter, softer, more flexible, beautiful and delicate. In addition, they have a psychology different from men due to women’s reproductive nature, such as their need of beauty (to attract male), affection, submission and security, which are also the results of millions of years of human evolution through natural selection. … Consequently, women assume the feminine role in tango as they do in life.

Despite changing sex roles in contemporary cultures worldwide, where women are given and have taken more responsibility in working environments (and in the home), in decision-making and leadership positions, in the environment of the milonga, traditional gender roles usually predominate, and the differences between the sexes are usually accentuated. Clothing is the accessory that magnifies the masculine and feminine characteristics of tango dancing. Men in suits and ties broadcast their management roles; women in revealing clothing and high heels focus visual attention on their movements, in an attempt to exemplify feminine beauty, as well as attracting men to invite them to dance. The genderization of attire is particularly exaggerated for women, who wear clothing and shoes they would not normally wear outside of the milonga. With regard to selection of clothing for the milonga, Paula-Irene Villa writes

The clothing is a crucial part of staging the tango. Women primarily wear short, tightly fitting dresses and skirts; their shoes tend to be tight and high-heeled (up to 10 cm but 5 cm on average)….

The colours of the clothes and shoes are predominantly black and red with a popularity of all things sparkling and twinkling. Men dress in a ‘classical’ gentleman style using suits, dark colours and fine quality shirts….

(T)he clothes of both men and women are a means by which authenticity is conveyed which is reminiscent of the (real or imagined) origin of the tango….

Davis (2015:106-107) elaborates on the accentuation of femininity in women in Buenos Aires milongas:

It is generally agreed that a tango salon is a perfect place to observe femininity in action. It is a space where femininity is performed in an exaggerated and highly sexualized form. While there are exceptions (queer tango, nuevo tango), in most classical milongas women go to great lengths to present themselves as feminine. They do this through the revealing clothes they wear, the seductive way they move on and off the dance floor.… (T)he unspoken rule in tango seems to be that you have to show something – a bit of leg, breasts, a bare back”. In Buenos Aires, local women dancers seem to have no compunctions about cultivating an explicitly feminine look – long, flowing hair, lots of makeup, lacy underwear, and bare skin.

The manner in which tango dancing affirms traditional gender roles is elaborated in greater detail in a lecture given by Adriana Pegorer entitled Performing Gender in Milongas of Buenos Aires (written version; video version: part 1; part 2; part 3). Further support for this viewpoint is provided by Elizabeth Wartluft and Kathy Davis (2015).

Despite an abundance of logical arguments for gender role differentiation in tango couple formation, one of the strongest source of bias against deviations from the Heteronormative Partner Formation standard is likely to be the culturally inculcated prejudice against homosexual expression (or the appearance thereof) that is common worldwide. Observing same sex couples dancing often causes some degree of discomfort for heterosexuals, although this discomfort is more likely to occur when men dance together than when women dance together because public expression of physical affection is more commonly accepted between women than between men in most cultures worldwide where tango is danced.

The bias against same sex dance partnerships is magnified in tango because of the maintained close physical contact that is a characteristic of the dance. In dancing tango, the embrace is a catalyst for the exchange of emotions. The range of emotions shared varies depending upon the individuals engaged in the partnership, but tango in particular among social dances is a conduit for the communication of romantic and sexual feelings. Because of the physical and emotional intimacy that can be achieved in dancing tango, the milonga provides the opportunity for the initiation of romantic and sexual relationships. Although it may require a behavioral scientist to provide an accurate description of the process of seduction that is initiated in the tango dance, and there is some individual (or dyadic) variation in its progression, some of its components are relaxation in the embrace, a tenderness in touch, and a harmonization of breathing. These subtle cues provided in interaction with a tango partner indicate receptivity towards further interaction, whether at the milonga (additional tandas) or afterwards outside the milonga. For some dancers, the intimacy provided during shared tandas may be sufficient or all that is achievable, yet still rewarding. In this regard Davis (2015:122) writes

Tango … provides physical contact, intimacy, and emotional intensity, all without the messiness of sex, long-term obligations, and children.

Because of its close physical contact and the emotions it evokes, tango is often described as a ‘romantic’, ‘sensual’, ‘intimate’ or ‘seductive’ dance. For example, in the blog In Search of Tango it is stated that

Tango is created to be a romantic and comforting experience that involves feelings, intimacy, tenderness, sensuality and romanticism. It serves the need for affinity between the opposite sexes and is suggestive of an affectionate, passionate and idealized romance.

Tango Mentor writes

Tango IS a game of seduction. Sometimes less, other times more – but historically and in reality, it is often something very similar to flirting. No one sane should deny that there is all sort of chemistry going on in the dancers in so close proximity. It is just biology….

Tango is personal and it does matter with whom you dance. Dancing is connecting with the soul of another human being, but it will be delusional to believe that it does not matter if that someone in your embrace makes you feel more like a man/woman.

At a higher level of intensity, Kathy Davis (2015:1) writes

Dancing tango enables a passionate encounter, in which two individuals join each other on the dance floor. …

The dance form involves a couple, one leading and the other following, who enter into an intimate embrace, bodies touching and legs entangled …

Tango is irrevocably entangled in cultural imageries that evoke intense passion, (hyper)heterosexuality, and dangerous exoticism. Dancing tango epitomizes desire and difference, sensuality and antagonism, connection and loss.

Since the Golden Age (and before) milongas in Buenos Aires have been a meeting ground for men and women to explore the development of romantic and sexual relationships; i.e., the milonga has been a venue for courtship and seduction. The milonga codes and customs incorporate this agenda. Men and women are segregated, but within clear view of each other. Couples who attend the milonga together are separated and are not disturbed. Invitation to dance is ritualized in the cabeceo, which brings a man and a woman together from a distance. The music played for dancing is the emotionally evocative Classic Tango music from the Golden Age. Couples embrace while dancing, which enhances the development of emotional intimacy. Prohibitions against exhibitionism focus the attention of dancers to each other, not to the audience. The couple remains together for 4 songs, allowing the emotional connection to progress. At the beginning of songs there is a brief period for conversation, during which time the man may make flirtatious compliments (piropos) to the woman. A man dancing several tandas with the same woman is indicating a continued interest in the woman. An invitation to meet for coffee after the milonga is an invitation to continue the relationship outside the milonga, which is interpreted as a proposal for sexual activity. In essence, the pursuit of romantic and sexual relationships is the raison d’etre of the milonga.

The close association of tango dancing with sensuality, romanticism, and sexual feelings heightens the impression that there is a violation of a taboo that occurs in same sex couple formation at a Traditional Milonga.

 

Queer Tango Advocacy

Queer Tango is the alternative to the Heteronormative Partner Formation standard; although rooted in the desire of homosexuals to choose same sex partners in dancing tango, Queer Tango has been broadened to include partner selection and role assumption independent of sex and regardless of sexual orientation. Within the realm of Queer Tango, women can lead women, men can lead men, women can lead men, in addition to men leading women. In essence, there are two (not completely independent) aspects of Queer Tango – Gay Tango, the partnering of two gay men or two lesbians who are are aware of each others’ sexual orientation – and Gender Neutral Tango, the partnering and role assumption of two people without regard to their biological sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. By logical extension, Queer Tango also includes the exchange of leading and following roles by a dancing couple within the course of a dance (Gritzner 2017:53, video), which is also a deviation from the traditional role assumption of the man leading and the woman following (throughout the dance).

A counterargument to the Tango Traditionalist’s assertion that tango is a dance between a man and a woman can be made by reference to early tango history (late 19th and early 20th century), when tango was danced primarily by male – male couples. In this regard, Olivia Goldhill states

… (D)espite a mythology that links the tango with brothels, historical research shows that the tango was danced by male couples from the beginning. And so, rather than pushing boundaries, queer tango is a return to the origins of the dance….

With respect to the sexual orientation of male tango dancers, Goldhill (ibid.) cites Daniel Trenner:

Though men began dancing tango with an eye to wooing women, Trenner says there was certainly a “semi-secret” gay culture. There were certain dancers who were famously good followers and who didn’t go to social dances with women. These men were “fought over,” says Trenner, as the preferred partners. “There was an unstated queer element of the male practice.”

Likewise, Jorge Salessi (1997:141) has argued that, in the days of its origin, tango dancing was to a significant degree associated with homosexual expression:

I venture that the original tango, repeatedly described by historians of Argentine music as a simulation or choreographic representation of sexual intercourse, is a cultural expression with significant homoerotic and homosexual connotations….

Tobin (1998) reiterates Salessi’s perspective and emphasizes that contemporary social tango dancing in Buenos Aires retains many characteristics of the early tango with respect to the relationship between men (p. 84):

(C)ontemporary tango dance continues to be marked by the forbidden homosocial desire. The contemporary tango couple dances its way back and forth, over a fortified and leaky border separating the straight and the gay. After decades of traveling across marital, class, and national boundaries, it is possibly tango’s nightly trip across this sexual boundary that continues to be its dangerous and forbidden passion.

Despite the evidence from numerous written accounts and photographs (Batchelor) indicating that tango was danced primarily by men with men in its early history, Queer Tango advocates only occasionally refer to this history as a justification for same sex coupling in tango dancing. Instead, they usually support (a broader) Gender Neutral Partner Selection pattern in contemporary cultural terms, i.e., in advocating a redefinition of traditional gender roles in tango dancing. Mariana Docampo, a pioneer in the Queer Tango movement in Argentina and founder of the Tango Queer practica, states the rationale for creating a Tango Queer environment:

… (I)t grew in many the need of creating a “liberated ” tango environment where rules and codes of traditional tango are not taken into account and are not there to restrain communication between people. Our proposal is to dance Tango without pre-established roles attached to the gender of the dancers…. “Queer” people dancing to Tango the way they feel like, is taking over this chauvinistic emblem that excludes diversity from the structure of the dance itself and promotes power relationships amongst genders. Taking-over offers the possibility of having different dynamics for each one, promoting communication as equals.

Davis (2015:140) elaborates on the characteristics of Queer Tango:

This is more than same-sex dancing or women leading men; it abolishes all norms for tango, whether gay or straight. Participants are expected not just to dance with whomever they want and to take whatever role they prefer; they can also freely exchange roles in accordance with the music or moods of the moment. They are at liberty to experiment with the choreography, open the embrace between partners to allow more adventurous dancing, and try out different kinds of music. The assumption is that leading and following will be flexibly negotiated between equal partners according to their individual desires rather written in stone by the dictates of traditional gender roles. In this way, queer tango liberates tango from the heteronormativity of the traditional salon with its old fashioned regime of rules and codes that restrict how individuals communicate and interact with one another, the kind of music that is played, and the choreography of the dance itself.

Unsurprisingly, queer tango often goes hand in hand with other attempts to modernize tango – like neo tango, which uses music from a variety of other genres – with more open, performance styles of dancing.

It is apparent from these arguments that Queer Tango originates not only from the desire for inclusion of homosexuals in tango social dancing, but is part of the Evolutionary Tango movement (Evolutionary Tango versus Traditional Tango – Part I: The Nature of the Tango Culture War). It also draws energy from feminist demands for a reexamination of the gender roles epitomized by Traditional Tango.

 

Arguments for and against Gender Neutral Partner Formation in a Traditional Milonga 

Despite its controversial nature within the minds of many Tango Traditionalists, the question to be addressed here is whether there are aspects of Queer Tango, i.e., specifically deviations from the Heteronormative Partner Formation pattern of the man leading and the women following, that can be incorporated into the Traditional Tango environment.

It is immediately apparent that a carte blanche implementation of Queer Tango norms of behavior into a Traditional Milonga will have a negative impact on its character. Associated aspects of Evolutionary Tango culture such as exhibitionism, Direct Approach partner invitation, and casual attire will destroy the ambiance of a Traditional Milonga. However, the more relevant question here is whether relaxing milonga codes to allow same sex couple formation on the dance floor is, by itself, a disruptive imposition into the Traditional Milonga environment.

The path of least resistance to the introduction of same sex couple formation may be the recognition that gay couples dancing exclusively with each other, in theory, should cause only minimal perturbation in the ambiance of a Traditional Milonga. In such cases, no straight dancer will be confronted with the discomfort of dancing with someone of the same sex. As long as same sex couples abide by other Traditional Milongas codes (e.g., having good navigational skills, refraining from exhibitionism, dressing appropriately), the character of the Traditional Milonga will not be disturbed. Therefore, one change in the Traditional Milonga environment that can be applied easily is the acceptance of same sex couples who dance exclusively with each other.

An example of two women dancing tango in a manner appropriate for a Traditional Milonga is shown in this video and a similar example of two men dancing together is shown in this video.

Undoubtedly, a greater threat to decorum in the Traditional Milonga environment is perceived when gay dancers enter the stream of free partner selection. Many straight people don’t want to dance tango with a person of the same sex. This is understandable; tango is an intimate dance. People may only want to dance close to someone who is within their degree of comfort for their sexual orientation or, stated more correctly, within the sphere of their sexual attraction; thus, this reservation applies in both opposite sex and same sex partner formation. This is where the cabeceo serves a useful function. If a straight person does not want to dance with a person of the same sex, they do not look at people of the same sex when partner selection is made via cabeceo, just as they would not look at people of the opposite sex with whom they would not want to dance. However, for the sake of clarity, this would necessitate Role Segregated Seating (separate seating sections for leaders and followers). Unfortunately, outside of Encuentros Milongueros, it has been difficult to impose Role or Gender Segregated Seating at what may otherwise be a Traditional Milonga. Regardless, elimination of the Direct Approach as a means of dance invitation removes the possibility of dancing with someone who is not a partner of choice.

Certainly the selection of nontraditional roles by both men and women on an experimental basis can have a deleterious effect on the equilibrium of the ronda, thereby increasing collision hazards. The place for experimentation in role assumption is the practica (the Queer Tango environment being perhaps an optimal environment within which to explore this phenomenon), not the Traditional Milonga. With the milonga organizer judiciously intervening to warn dancers who present navigational risks, dancers in all configurations of couple formation will adhere more closely to maintaining a safely progressing ronda.

It would also be logical to expect dancers to assume only one role (leader or follower) throughout the course of a milonga. Otherwise, invitation to dance via cabeceo could be confusing, although under traditional milonga codes it is the man (leader) who initiates the dance invitation with the head nod that is the cabeceo (Tango Chamuyo). Role Segregated Seating would eliminate this uncertainty.

Expecting a person to assume only the role of leader or follower also excludes the Queer Tango practice of exchange of lead and follow (video), which is distracting and can create navigational hazards. This practice also is contradictory to the Traditional Tango notion of a stable tango partnership.

However, openness to Gay Tango at a Traditional Milonga also invites the more general Gender Neutral Tango, because, in fact, the sexual orientation of any dancer at the milonga can no longer be assumed.  This creates a significant impedance to exploration of possibilities for romantic and sexual relationships. For heterosexuals, this means that it is unknown whether the opposite sex partner selected is heterosexual or homosexual; homosexuals face the same dilemma for selected same sex partners. The negative impact of unleashing Gender Neutral Partner formation into a Traditional Milonga cannot be underestimated.

One might argue that confusion regarding the sexual orientation of dancers can be minimized by having separate Gay Milongas, and that gay tango dancers would also benefit from this segregation. This argument was put forward in a previous Tango Voice post. However, in practice, in order for gay tango dancers to have an accepting environment in which to dance, it has been necessary for economic reasons (i.e., achieving sufficient attendance) to adopt a more inclusive Queer Tango edifice, with its accompanying Evolutionary Tango deviations from Traditional Tango that suppress romantic and sexual exploration. Therefore, it appears that the only feasible opportunity that normally exists for gay tango dancers to enjoy the ambiance of the Traditional Milonga is to integrate into that environment.

In order to incorporate Gay Tango into the Traditional Milonga without sacrificing the romantic and sexual energy in a Traditional Milonga, all dancers need to have an increased sensitivity in partner communication. Not all partners, regardless of sexual orientation, wish to develop a particular tango partnership formed along romantic / sexual pathways. Heightened sensitivity to the nonverbal (and perhaps verbal) cues inviting emotional intimacy in a tango partnership would enhance the development of this intimacy when mutually desired, while minimizing uncomfortable situations in which greater intimacy is imposed upon a nonreceptive partner (regardless of whether these emotions are communicated with heterosexual or homosexual intentions). Hopefully, selection of opposite sex or same sex partners by means of the cabeceo will correspond with a dancer’s sexual orientation.

One thing to keep in mind regarding factors impacting the milonga environment is that there are aspects of the Traditional Milonga other than couple formation that determine its character. It is the maintenance of the embrace, the emotional quality of Classic Tango music, the absence of the distractions of exhibitionism and navigational hazards, and the absence of casual dress that set the tone for the Traditional Milonga. With the absence of experimentation in the partner hold and movement possibilities characteristic of Evolutionary Tango, the focus at the Traditional Milonga on partner connection and musicality can be maintained even with the expansion of partner selection beyond the Heteronormative Partner Formation standard. If there is some caution here, it is that the leading or following role that a dancer assumes should be one in which the dancer is competent.

In summary, it should be apparent that deviation from the Heteronormative Partner Formation standard does not by its very nature threaten the ambiance of the Traditional Milonga. What is most important is that all dancers at a Traditional Milonga observe certain milonga codes:

  • Partner selection is by sitting together as a couple or by cabeceo (preferably with Role Segregated Seating), not by Direct Approach to the table.
  • Couples on the dance floor do not create navigational hazards or engage in exhibitionism.
  • There is no teaching on the dance floor.
  • Attire is appropriate for the milonga (i.e., no casual attire).

 

Justification

Since the latter part of the Golden Age (late 1940s to mid 1950s) there have been a number of constants in Argentine tango culture. People are still dancing tango to the music of the tango orchestras of the Golden Age. Stylistic variation in dancing then and now is still primarily some variant of Tango Estilo del Barrio or Tango Estilo del Centro. Dancing tango brings partners into close physical contact, a context in which emotions are shared and the development of romantic and sexual relationships is possible. These are constants in tango dancing that have existed for at least 7 decades.

There are some aspects of tango dance culture that have changed somewhat over the last 7 decades. One is the style of dress, which has reflected changes in fashion over this time period. Also, although most attendees at Traditional Milongas in Buenos Aires today dress reasonably well by societal standards, it is no longer expected that men wear suits and ties and women wear dresses. In recent decades, some women have worn more revealing clothing.

Other characteristics of Buenos Aires milongas that have changed since the Golden Age reflect changes in women’s social status. During the Golden Age of tango, the cabeceo was used for dance invitation, but with a different spatial orientation. In the past, young men gathered in the center of the dance floor to invite young women to dance using the cabeceo. These young women were seated at the periphery of the dance floor, accompanied by female relatives as chaperones. Today the cabeceo is initiated seated from spatially separated tables occupied by men and women. Young women no longer are expected to be accompanied by chaperones at milongas.

Same sex partner selection still is not an accepted practice in Traditional Milongas in Buenos Aires. In 2002, La Marshall, the first gay milonga, opened in Buenos Aires (Facebook). In 2010 same sex marriage became legal in Argentina (New York Times). The Campeonato Mundial de Tango is now open to same sex couples, indicating acceptance of same sex partnerships in this tango subculture (Tango Campeonato). One can only wonder when gay couples will be permitted in Traditional Milongas in Buenos Aires. It is predicted here that this will occur in the not too distant future, at least at some milongas that have been considered guardians of tango traditions.

However, the point of this post is not to argue what Argentines should do with their milongas. The issue of gay couples dancing in Traditional Milongas is something Argentines will decide upon themselves. This blog focuses on North American tango culture and, to some degree, the tango culture in European countries with similar social values. In these countries, Traditional Milongas are primarily represented in Encuentros Milongueros. With respect to Gender Neutral Partner Formation in Encuentros Milongueros in Europe, Melina Sedo reports (Facebook January 3, 2019):

I glad to say, that the so-called “milonguero” community seems to be more open to role changing than many of the other sub-groups – despite its association with the “traditional”. 

At least at the Encuentros that I frequent or organise, we usually have quite a large number of female dancers who register as 50/50 dancers, lots who register as followers, but still lead occasionally and a growing number of men who like to follow either men or women in a close embrace. 

I have never heard of someone having to explain this. Nowadays you can even see men dancing together at Italian Encuentros. This would not have been possible a few years ago.

However, the Facebook discussion cited is focused on role assumption and not sexual orientation and therefore appears to be in support of a generalized Gender Neutral Tango rather than specifically in support of Gay Tango. From the information available at this time, it appears that deviations from the Heteronormative Partner Formation standard are less evident at North American Encuentros Milongueros.

It is hoped that organizers and attendees of Traditional Milongas will recognize that the intimacy of tango is not limited to heterosexual couples; it should not be denied to homosexual couples. It is incongruous in any society that outlaws discrimination against homosexuals and legalizes same sex marriage to prohibit same sex couple formation at a milonga.

 

References in Print

Davis, Kathy (2015) – Dancing Tango: Passionate Encounters in a Globalizing World. New York University Press, New York.

Gritzner, Karoline (2017) – Between Commodification and Emancipation: The Tango Encounter. Dance Research 35: 49-60.

Salessi, Jorge (1997) – Medics, Crooks, and Tango Queens: The National Appropriation of a Gay Tango; pp. 141-174 in Everynight Life: Culture and Dance in Latin/o America, Celeste Fraser Delgado and Jose Esteban Muñoz, eds. Duke University Press, Durham NC.

Taylor, Julie (1998) – Paper Tangos. Duke University Press, Durham NC.

Tobin, Jeffrey (1998) – Tango and the Scandal of Homosocial Desire; pp. 79-102 in The Passion of Music and Dance, William Washabaugh, ed. Berg, New York.

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A tanda is not a marriage . . . [Jan. 18th, 2019|03:37 am]
syn_tangotherap
Fifteen minutes of commitment is harder than you might think.
It's an engagement. What got me thinking about commitment or engagement in a tanda was a conversation with a man I met at a training seminar. After a few days of conversation, I asked him if he and his partner danced. He said he had no partner. "Something is wrong with me. I just can't commit." That hit me hard. It seems like commitment was sadly unreachable for him. My automatic "fixer" mode kicked in, and I told him he should take up tango. I suggested, "The commitment to your partner is for only fifteen minutes. It's easy!"

Then I realized that was a really big lie.  It's not easy at all.
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Will Your Relationship with Tango Survive? [Dec. 30th, 2018|11:08 pm]
syn_tangotherap

How is your relationship with tango going these days? It will survive if you transition successfully through different phases that all lasting human relationships do.

I often wonder after seeing so many come and go in tango, what makes the relationship with dance last?  The answer is found in part in your hormones.

Let me introduce to you Dr. Gottman, the researcher/therapist who was the first to look at relationships through hormonal levels in the blood system as couples talked with each other about their difficulties. He eventually could predict whether a relationship would last or dissolve by briefly reviewing the hormonal levels in blood samples before and after sessions.  He and his research team found that even couples who looked as if they were learning to communicate were at times on their way to a surprisingly sudden and destructive end. In other words, if one's blood contains high levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, one's relationship is unlikely to continue long-term.

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Advice I followed (and advice I didn't follow) [Dec. 9th, 2018|04:57 pm]
syn_ireneyman
We recently received a comment on one of our old posts from way way way back in 2010.  I had mentioned in the post that our great friend and teacher Alberto Dassieu had told me three little things that took my following to an entirely new level - but I didn't actually say what they were.

So Mikhail very kindly made a comment (And thank you for reading our old posts, by the way!) and asked me whether I could share Alberto's advice.   

Sure!  What Alberto told me was (Drum roll please):

1.  Do not go faster than the leader
2.  Do not stick out your hips/butt when you are doing a giro
3.  Do not do any adornments unless the leader gives you opportunity to

I will also throw in the advice that the legendary Osvaldo Cartery gave me:

1.  Pick up your feet!  (Meaning don't drag your feet on the floor making feet draggy sounds when you are walking.  Yeah, I know that's four words and I had said "three words" - and it was three, in Spanish, and I forget exactly what they were but that's what they meant.)

A lot of you out there may be going "Pffffft!  I ALREADY KNEW THAT!" and "But that's what everybody says!" but hey, those little things were EXACTLY what was wrong with the way I was dancing. They are still my golden rules and I follow them to this day.

People seek and receive a lot of advice about Tango.  I know some dancers who take every single group class and private class available from local and visiting instructors regardless of the style or ability of the said instructor (That's right, I look at some of these instructors and think "WTF?  Should they really be teaching?") and continue to pester the instructors for more tips at milongas outside of the classes.  

With so much time, energy and money thrown into Tango you would think these people would be really really fantastic dancers and teaching their own classes by now!

Reality is they don't improve.  They keep on dancing the same ol' way OR WORSE, they get so confused by the landslide of good, bad, conflicting and/or irrelevant advice they completely ruin their dancing.

I think what it boils down to is judgment - or luck.  You either have to "know" when someone is telling you something that won't work (or is a total crock of bull****) - or you have to be really lucky and meet the right teacher at the right time who tells you just the right thing and nothing more or less.

We were lucky and we had really great teachers who didn't bull**** us and knew what they were talking about.  Some other Tango Professionals/Long-time veteran dancers gave us advice too, and I'd say we exercised some really good judgment about most of it.

So off the top of my head, here's a random sample of some advice that we had received over the years which we followed or did not follow:

1.  "It doesn't matter what shoes you wear to Tango!"

That was stupid and dangerous advice.  Man Yung followed this advice being a newbie (and because he likes a challenge) and wore street shoes with non-slip ridged soles.

This story ends with him wrecking his feet and bleeding all over our carpet.

2.  "You have to do MORE adornments and show off to people your beautiful footwork!"

Maybe this is good if you are an instructor selling "Happy Spectacular Tango Fancy Feet Whizzing Flicking Tapping Drill" workshops.  

Otherwise, this level of adornistatic enthusiasm truly ruins your following.  See above Alberto's advice to me.

3.    "To look more grounded and "Milonguera", your feet have to stick to the floor with every step."

Tried it, filmed it during studio practice, and it didn't work.  Trying to make your feet stick to the floor doesn't make your feet look like they stick to the floor.  

However, relaxing your feet and ankles and NOT dragging them on the floor (as per Osvaldo's advice above) makes your feet look more grounded and "Milonguera".  Go figure.

4.   "A leader has to keep his left arm back while dancing - you have to be able to put an umbrella in that space between left hand/shoulder.  All good Tango leaders practiced with the umbrella!"

This is great advice.  I have observed that most women leaders actually get this (WITHOUT practicing with an umbrella!) and have their left arm in the correct position.  Do you know why women leaders get this?  Because they have all been on the receiving end of a man leader who DOESN'T do this.  If the leader has his left arm pushing forward the follower ends up with a really really (and sometimes permanently!) sore right shoulder.

I have been told I am one of the most comfortable leaders to dance with.  That's because I have had the most permanently aching sore wrecked right shoulder from leader left arm pushing and I don't want to inflict that on anyone I dance with (yes Man Yung hint hint).

5.  "Remember to Pause while dancing."

Absolutely mandatory advice.

You think Tango happens when you are doing a triple gancho boleo volcada enganche piña colada with a banana split and a cherry on top?  

It's all happening the Pause, baby!  Yes it is!

6.  "Dance no more than ten (10) steps during the whole milonga."

Our Maestro and friend El Gallego Manolo told us this and he knows a gazillion steps.  

There really isn't any need to do all gazillion at once.  If you are doing a gazillion it means that for at least a trillion billion of them, you aren't that familiar with them and you are practicing steps at a milonga which is a no-no.

In any case, from a follower's perspective a walk and a giro feels exactly the same whether the leader is doing them regular with two legs one after the other, with a hop, skip and a jump, or with a costume change in a telephone booth in between.  

7.  "Be natural."

Osvaldo told us this.  You shouldn't be dancing Tango like "I AM DANCING TANGO NOW!"

Tango walking is just like any other walking (Osvaldo would mime taking Coca by the hand and walking down the street to the market).

Man Yung explains: "If you eat an apple, you just eat an apple.  You are not trying to impress people with your apple eating skills, you are not showing to people how elegantly you are eating an apple.  You are just eating an apple."

8.  "I have no more advice for you.  You are fine as you are!"

Alberto said this to me.  And he was right - at some point you don't need any more.  

However, Alberto, Osvaldo and Manolo always had more advice for Man Yung.  Lucky Man Yung!

And some of it was even repetitive advice :-(
















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Dilated Tango Eyes [Nov. 30th, 2018|07:02 pm]
syn_tangotherap

She peered into my eyes and looked concerned after we danced for just two songs of a tanda. I had been dancing at a small weekend tango event, and I suppose I was in a euphoric trance.

"Your eyes are really dilated.  Are mine?"

"No," I said. "Are you concerned?" I asked.

As a registered nurse she mentioned a few concerns, but ended by saying, "If you are feeling fine, then you are okay, but wow, they are really dilated."
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