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

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 quickly 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, flexibility, balance, stability, pivot, dissociation, gear effect, cadencia, musicality, and the basic steps like walk, eight-count steps, 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 can do 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 in a short period, 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 steps but the basic skills that decide the quality of their dancing. They must 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 the fundamentals, they will be able to achieve twice the result with half the effort in their future learning. This is the only way to become a good tango dancer.

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

>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]
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]
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]

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]

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

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

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.

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]
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]

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]
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]

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]

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]
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]
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]
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]
  • 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).



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]
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]

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]
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]

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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Cats [Nov. 18th, 2018|04:10 pm]
The last of our original four cats died at the end of September.  It was a very difficult and sad time, but he had a long and happy life.  Two of our cats were strays we found on the street; the two others we adopted from the local shelter.  We had them before we started Tango, so they accompanied us on our Tango journey and witnessed all the ups and downs of our Tango adventure - and were really mad at us whenever we disappeared for two weeks to travel to Buenos Aires!

It was devastating to come home after a milonga late at night and have no kitties waiting for us at the door.  Sometimes we would forget that we had no more cats and we would open the door thinking he was still waiting patiently in his usual spot for us.

Man Yung didn't want to adopt any more cats.  He complained it was too much work to clean and care for cats, and he was getting older and too tired to deal with another cat. And we can't travel guilt-free if we have pets at home.

Actually I think he was most afraid of having to go through the grief of losing another cat.

I knew we had to adopt another cat.  There are so many cats in shelters waiting for their forever homes.  Having a cat is beneficial to mental and physical health and we would be doing a good deed.

And a home doesn't feel like a home unless we have a cat.

After much debate, we went to the shelter and adopted a feisty tiny two year old Tortie.  She had been found abandoned with her litter of kittens.  We don't know what happened to the kittens (the shelter wouldn't tell us) but when we got back to our condo, Mrs. B jumped out of the carrier and made herself home right away like it was destiny.

It's been only four weeks but it feels like we have had Mrs. B forever already!

Man Yung with Mrs. B, wearing his brand new 
Alice Starmore Kinsale fishermen's sweater that I knitted for him.  
It is a huge bonus that Mrs. B lets him carry her around like she was a baby :-)

Mrs. B doesn't Tango she doesn't know what the fuss is all about.  No partner is good enough for her! Joking aside, she can only be the sole cat in a house because she is very territorial and she attacks other cats.  She is great with people though.  A complete cuddle bug who purrs up a storm.

Mrs. B may not want to Tango (with other cats), but loving and caring for her and all of our original kitties IMHO made us better dancers.  And better people (hopefully).  There's nothing more wonderful than to infuse our dancing with all the (kitty cat) love in our hearts.

Just look at that sweet face!

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Pluralism vs. Monism [Oct. 24th, 2018|11:56 pm]

Pluralism posits that the world is composed of many entities independent of each other, in contrast to monism which views the seemly independent parts as connected fragments of an integrated whole. Pluralism is used by individualists to underscore the individuality, independence, liberty and sovereignty of the individual, and to promote personal freedom, diversity, unconventionality, alternative life style, LGBTQIAPK, same-sex marriage, multiculturalism, etc., against the monist view regarding individuals as dependent parts of a coherent human society, emphasizing unity, connection, integration, harmony, common values, common cause, responsibility, and the well-being of the society as a whole. (See A Wise Voice.)

Aristotle said, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Before modern times, monism was the dominant philosophy throughout human history. (See Meeting in the Middle.) Early humans understood the importance of unity and cooperation to their survival. That is changed when modern science and technology empowered the individual and made him/her increasingly self-sufficient, resulting in the rising of individualism and pluralism that lead to divergent personal choices and lifestyles, multiculturalism promoting different cultures and values, relativism denying the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and civil and uncivil, affirmative action protecting marginal cultures, minorities, heterodoxies and alternative lifestyles, reversed discrimination against mainstream culture and orthodox tradition, and the aggrandizing fragmentation, division, disunity and polarization of the society. (See The Spirit of Tango.)

What pluralism and individualism fail to take into consideration is that as a people and species we rely on each other for survival and our success depends on our cooperation. (See Tango and Individualism.) Human societies must be based on philosophies that unite people rather than divide people, and some forms of government, organization and order. Turning people into egocentric rivals could only create conflict, animosity and chaos, as attested by the unrest resulted from the US led efforts to "free" people, and the consequent refugee problem, aggravated by the open-border policy and multiculturalism at home. The situation could only get worse if we keep propagating radical liberalism, asserting absolute personal freedom, putting the self above the society, opposing any order that we consider authoritarian, calling democracy "the tyranny of the majority", fragmenting the society into more and more conflicting entities, disparaging mainstream culture and tradition, labeling one gender the sex predator of the other, and politicizing and radicalizing education, media and law. (See Tango and Equality.)

Neither authoritarianism that deprives personal freedom nor individualism that rejects commonality and cooperation can lead to a harmonious society. A healthy and coherent society is based on unity, love, sharing and collaboration of its people who are united, agreeable, cooperative, accommodating, putting common interests above personal interests, and can work as a team. (See The Lessons of Tango.) -- That is how a nation wins a war. That is how a country becomes strong again. And, that is how we dance tango. Despite the negative influence of pluralism and individualism, tango gives us a new perspective to see ourselves as interdependent members of the community. Tango teaches us to cherish, love, cooperate and accommodate with each other, and has demonstrated that is the only way to a better world. (See The Freedom in Tango.)

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The 4th M of Tango [Oct. 22nd, 2018|04:43 pm]

bout four years ago, I came up with a motto for this blog: 
"The 3 M's of Tango: Music / Movement / eMbrace."  

But now, I realize now that I was missing an essential element. The 4th M is Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is an essential element of what draws people to tango. I have had trouble through the years of knowing the difference between fun and mindful euphoria, and it has become clear as I have a regular meditative practice. Without the meditative, mindful part in tango, we may have a fun time but this fun will go by all too fast.  Mindfulness brings a time-slowing euphoria.

Nearly anyone who has danced tango has experienced the difference of a tanda that haunts you forever rather than one that was over too fast and then forgotten. Sure, time goes fast when you are having fun.  But meditative, mindful euphoria creates the experiential reality of time slowing or even stopping.

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Champaign Milongueros [Sep. 8th, 2018|11:57 am]

Champaign Milongueros is a group of local tango dancers committed to the milonguero style of tango. We chose this name for the group because we want to continue the milonguero tradition and distinguish ourselves from the existing tango culture in this university town. Champaign is one of the earliest tango communities in Illinois, yet for more than two decades Champaign tango remains small and weak because it has only focused on university students, the part of the population who would leave the town after graduation and are interested in things that do not appeal to older local dancers.

We want to depart from that path and try a new approach.

1. This group is mainly aimed at locals. We believe that only with local dancers as the mainstay can Champaign tango community meet the needs of the permanent local residents, deviate from the current culture, achieve sustainable growth, and have a better impact on university students.

2. We are dedicated to the milonguero style of tango that features close embrace, feelings, gender roles and classic tango music, not the Nuevo style featuring open embrace, exhibition, gender-neutrality and alternative music. In contrast to the ideologies that unduly promote pluralism, diversity and differences, we emphasize authenticity, standardization, conformity and milonguero tradition.

3. By observing the tango protocols practiced in the milongas of Buenos Aires, including milonga etiquette, dress code, separate seating, cabeceo, and navigation rules, we want to create an integrated, respectful, friendly, pleasant, elegant and orderly environment in our milongas.

4. We emphasize team spirit, brotherhood, love and responsibility within the group against the individualistic tendency that focuses on the independence, rights, liberty and freedom of the individual. A milonguero is not an individualist. He/she belongs to a group of dancers who understand the interdependence of people and the importance of the community, and who regularly dance together, conform to the group standard, observe its codes, participate in its administration, and are role models for novices and newcomers. We want to continue that milonguero tradition and work as a team to make our milonga a welcoming home for all like-minded dancers.

5. To secure the quality of our milonga, this group opens only to selected dancers. To become a member of the group, you need to complete a 20-hour training course on the fundamentals of the milonguero style and milonga codes with us. We welcome anyone to attend our classes, but only those who meet our standard may become members of the group and visit our milongas. Students who have failed the course may repeat it until they qualify.

6. Members need to continue their training and actively participate in group activities to retain their membership. Members may lose the membership if they fail to keep up with the standard of the group.

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Timeless Flow and Insights for Tango [Sep. 7th, 2018|11:24 pm]
Timeless flow is the state of mind that makes tango magical.

"Timeless Flow" is a way to describe the wonderful state of mind that everyone has experienced while in a dream state or in the joy of a magical moment.

As much as I enjoy being "scientific" in my understanding of the universe and life, I am becoming more interested in the Science of Experience.  I want to expand my experience of paying attention to the things that really matter in life. As we increase our awareness of the here and now, time stops in this euphoric space.  This is the best that tango gives to us--a sense of flow.  Musicians, artists, dancers have been describing flow for eons.

I discovered timeless flow in tango while dancing with a yoga teacher and mindfulness coach for businesses.  She said, "That tanda when by so fast." I challenged her with, "Let's dance another, but imagine that time slows or stops or expands."  We did just that, and it forever changed the way I dance. I physically slowed down some for that tanda (and every tanda since that one).  My change of mind created this change of experience. I now avoid saying "time goes fast when you are having fun," or "our vacation went so fast." Did it really? When I am mindful of all that happened, it becomes amazing to consider all of what I had experienced.  I shared that observation with my wife in our recent 30 days in France, and she added to the list of magical experiences.  So we are learning to say instead: "It is as though we had a century of wonderful experiences."  Or we say:  "Time stopped.  That was wonderful"; "it's as if we have known each other for a century."  It helps that have been practicing being careful with notions of time since I was 20 years old.  I saw that as people get older, they'd say time goes faster.  Is it because we have left the mindfulness that we possessed as a child?

I celebrate mindful moments and pay careful attention to them. Join me in the science of time perception, and be as attentive as if you were observing the collision of atoms at a billion-dollar particle accelerator.  The microseconds of evidence in a particle accelerator has led scientists to discover the inner workings of the universe.  A particle accelerator is similar to our moments of timeless flow:  Keep collecting the evidence!  Tango is the best particle accelerator for experiential scientists and much less expensive.

The moments of timelessness that you perceive have a far more practical application than what happens particle accelerator, however.

The practical application of the science
of stopping time is that you can expand 
your experience of timeless flow from
a mere fraction of your experience to
the majority of your experience.

The tango-experience of flow is so powerful, that people keep returning to experience it some more.  Sometimes "flow" is elusive only when we discount the moments of timelessness we experience.

In my next post, I will add some practical ways to expand timelessness in your life and in your tango. I would love to hear from you about your experiences.  You can message me on Facebook or email me at

I plan to post the next step to timelessness as soon as time stops.  Just give me a moment.  :-)

Comment or "like" Tango Therapist's Facebook page at this link

Photo Credit:  Photo Credit:  Kasia Derwinska.  See/buy her art at Saatchi Art.

Regarding flow.  Notice the section on spirituality--fascinating and the definition of "autotelic"

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Death of the Embrace [Aug. 26th, 2018|03:51 pm]
A couple of years ago a very respected veteran Toronto Milonguera told me that a Milonguero Encuentro could not be organized in Toronto.

I was surprised she would say that.  There seemed plenty of "Milonguero Style" Toronto dancers in Toronto.  It's not like everyone is flocking to Nuevo Tango.  Why wouldn't an Encuentro work?

She was right, of course.  There are maybe TEN really good Milonguero Style dancers in Toronto now.... and most of them don't even come out to dance anymore.

Another Toronto Milonguera told me recently that she goes through phases of not wanting to come out to dance.  It was just too disheartening, arriving at some of the more popular milongas in town, anticipating a having a good time dancing - but leaving disappointed because:

1.  The FIVE really good Milonguero Style leaders have all decided to stay home (and not get kicked in the shins at the crowded and crazy popular milonga);

2.  Being asked to dance and having to dance with Flingy leaders who just want to do ten million giros, enganches and ganchos - all in the same tanda.  And not leading them very well either.

3.  Not being asked to danced by any of Competition Tango Laddies, because they like to stick with the Competition Tango Ladies who have all gone to the same classes as them and have been trained by the same Competition Tango instructors and therefore have a chance to understand WTF they are leading.

4.  Being asked to dance by any of the Competition Tango Laddies, and then not knowing WTF they are leading because hey, she never learned the same "Choreography".

5.  Not being asked to dance, or refusing to dance, because it's a raging seething sea of Flinging and Tango Competition Choreography out there.

#1-5 above means no fun AND it also means the Embrace is dead.  Or dying.  Or people think the Embrace is something that it is isn't what it really should be.

Even Flingers and Tango Competition Choreographers can write f'g beautiful, literate, convincing, bring tears to your eyes essays about the Embrace.  They truly may believe they are good/excellent/Tango Gods of Embrace because they have lots of dance partners/placed well in a Tango Competition/Teach and Perform Tango.

But come on, are they even Embracing?

Flingers only need the "embrace" like a Judoka wants you to put your hands on any part of his or her body in a fight.  Someone's gotta be touching you in order for you to execute a (Judo) move on them.

Please hold me tight... so I can throw the s*** out of you.*

Tango Competition Choregraphers look like they have perfect embraces - of course, they score points for them in Competitions!  The better the "look", the higher the score.  Some of these types of dancers will "rearrange" their partners embrace (basically by pushing them out of it) so it would look better and they will have some space to do some nifty Tango Competition Standard movements and adornos.

No, no, no!

I am in the minority I guess in the Brave New Tango World of flinging and competition but that's not the Embrace for me.

I won't Embrace someone just so I have a grip on them and can make them "do stuff".

I am not Embracing someone in a certain way so that I would "Look Good" and "Score Points".

Embracing someone and thinking "Moves!" or "Looking Good!" is a failure to Embrace.

To Embrace, you have to be completely present in it, not elsewhere with your thoughts.

You have to give your whole Embrace to your partner, and in return they have to give their whole Embrace to you.

All those Tango pauses you are supposed to do with the music?  They aren't to show off your Tango posture or to show off your ability to pause strategically to win points and admiration.  They are moments to feel the Embrace more deeply and intensely.

And to connect with your partner completely.

Dancing Tango without the Embrace is like stuffing your mouth with shovels of food, but Tasting absolutely nothing.

*By Mhultstrom - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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Sorry - No Points for that [Aug. 6th, 2018|02:54 pm]
A couple of Toronto's more notorious high kickers and reckless Tasmanian devil whirligig flingers just participated in the Canada Tango Championship last week.  I shuddered and eye rolled until my eyes disappeared into the back of my head when I received word that they were competing.

There was big collective sigh of relief all around when neither of them placed in the top three.  Thank God!

Do we really need these freakin' dangerous dancers to believe that they are entitled, via "good results" in the competition, to kick and knock the bejesus out of everyone around them?  Hell no!  Now don't laugh, but I truly believe that since their heads are so inflated with their own imaginary greatness already, placing in the top three will make their heads so big they will start hitting people with their faces when they dance.

However, the fact they didn't "win" this time only gives me temporary comfort.  I'm sure they are going to try try try again.   And one of these days they are going to make it into the top three, or maybe even WIN, because you can actually win these things (especially in Canada with it's small pool of dancers) by being persistent and signing up year after year after year.  Once the "best" tango couple wins, there's going to be a vacuum and the "next" best will win the next time.  And so on, and so on. One of these days, your local obnoxious kicker/flinger is going to make it and unfortunately, not because they've miraculously become better, or more caring dancers.

As you know we are NOT fans of the "Tango Competition".  It has set a rather superficial and skewed standard of what is considered "good" in Tango in order to make what is not quantifiable quantifiable for ease of judging and now, as we have rightly predicted back in 2008(!), the Tango Borg has taken over the Tango Universe. 

Coming to a Tango Community near you!  Or maybe they are there already :-(

These days, thanks to "Tango Competition", a lot of dancers believe that the only indicator of "good Tango" is how much one can conform to Tango Borg standard, a great deal of which is about looking attractive while dancing and not breaking rules.  Unfortunately, few or NO points are going to be given for any of the following:

1.  Creative, original, idiosyncratic steps.

2.  An embrace that makes you melt.

3.  Musicality that makes you smile.

4.  Ability to adapt to any partner - regardless of size, height, experience - and make them feel wonderful and not inadequate or awkward when they dance with you.

5.  Ability to dance on very crowded dance floors without hurting yourself, your partner or other people.  That means being agile, considerate AND also means being able to edit the stuff you do and still make your dancing lovely and fun, and being able to restrain yourself from showing off the whole goddamn space-hogging figure you were taught/invented.

6.  Being completely bad-ass skillful with the cabeceo.

7.  Being a top notch Chamuyo bull-shitting flirty charmer with your partners.  And making them laugh!

8.  Willingness to dance with ladies who have been sitting all night and haven't been invited to dance because they are not young/attractive/skinny/or don't conform to Tango Borg standard of beauty and skill.

9.  Being "yourself" and no-body else in Tango.  Unless you were born Tango Borg, in which "yourself" means same same same as everyone else who is competing and you will probably WIN.

10.  Just being a great person and a joy to meet and talk to at the milongas.  We have some wonderful people like this in Toronto Tango.  They make everyone feel welcome and at ease and everyone loves seeing them at the milongas.  They may even organize Tango events for charity.  Beautiful souls.

The important things that makes Tango truly Tango for us unfortunately does not score points in Tango Competitions and it really seems like to us that this whole competition thing is rapidly making Tango go to Ballroom competition Hell in a hand basket.

Yes, we have been talking about this topic FOREVER (more blog whining can be found here) but do people ever listen?

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