Showing posts with label nederlands tango. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nederlands tango. Show all posts

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Styles of tango

What are the different styles of tango and why is it important?

For some time I have been intrigued by the different styles of tango as a topic for both understanding but also for how this understanding then has a huge impact on how I dance and teach. When I set topics based around understanding the styles of tango, people often ask why they would want to have this information when they simply want to dance comfortably with a partner and do all the different tango moves available while dancing with the music. For me it’s one and the same. To dance a comfortable dance with all the vocabulary options available is to be aware that each style offers different ‘natural movements’ and ‘unnatural movements’ in the body due to the choice of embrace, way of communicating/ connecting between leader and follower. But also importantly to understand that tango is a dance and music genre that has evolved and been fused with different influences through the years. So what are the different styles of tango and why is it important? Its important for the comfort and effective communication between leader and follower. Music can dictate the style or the style influences the way we interpret the music. Lastly it is a topic misunderstood and full of obscurity due to the lack of documentation about the earlier styles and that while people think they know what style they dance its usually a mixture. I hope to shed some light and at the very least bring the topic into the open for discussion.

Below I will go through and briefly explain the various styles in chronological order where possible, the music that has influenced them and the history surrounding them.

Canyengue is a dance that preceded tango and has been born, left to history and revived again with what people think was the original style and feel of the dance. Said to have been danced between 1870s- 1920s and contained the original volcada. One big difference between the old canyengue and the revival is that originally canyengue was danced in taverns or the cobble stoned streets of Buenos aires, making smooth elegant movements impossible.  Dancers adopted a more jerky hopping style which has been smoothed out in the revised version due to being danced on better floors and by dancers having a smoother stepping technique in their bodies from dancing tango. Most of my sources agree that music of canyengue was 2/4 time and contained the habanera rhythm that gave the dancers a more lilting feeling while dancing.  Steps by the women were small and contained due to the fashion of long tight dresses at the time. Dancers used a v shape embrace while sharing an axis, allowing a lot of shared upper body movement. Often danced to music from the old guard like early Francisco Canaro, Roberto firpo and Francisco Lomuto.

Roughly in the 1880s Canyengue evolved further into two different recognised styles. Probably more of an evolution than suddenly arriving Orillero (1880’s-today) and Liso (1880’s – 1910’s) styles came to the floor.  Tango Liso or smooth tango is said to be an early term for tango de salon and took on the character of small steps due to there being many dancers on the crowded floors of the inner city. In contrast Orillero developed in the outskirts of the city where there were less dancers and so this style took on a form of bigger steps and vocabulary including a lot of playfulness with Rhythmic syncopated quick steps, cortes, quebradas, sequidillas and even jumps.  In outward appearance Orillero was more staccato than the smooth Liso style.

Tango liso became Tango de salon or tango that’s danced in a ballroom (salon). Not to be confused with ballroom tango that could be said to be yet another style of argentine tango but has become more closely related to the other ballroom dances and their own unique philosophy about dance. Salon tango developed around 1910s and is the root for a lot of the modern styles today. Whatever Salon tango was in the beginning it was social, danced in the centre of Buenos aires and danced by the upper classes where Orillero was danced by the poor. It later lead to distinct styles with their own flavour.

Following the threads salon de tango lead to club style (also known in the 1940s as confiteria style or tango apilado) characterised by the couples appearance of leaning toward each other creating a shared axis, full upper body contact and upper bodies parallel in the embrace. Giving rise to more staccato movements and feet were kept close to the floor. Due to the full body contact dancers couldn’t disassociate in the same way that the contemporary tango de salon dancers could, giving rise to a number of movements that felt more natural for the Club style e.g. cortes, ocho cortado, volcada like movements due to apilado or leaning. Club style later becoming more famously known as milonguero style when people visiting Buenos aires observed the dancers way of moving. Some say it was also an advertising gimmick in the beginning of the 1990s when people used the term to describe the only authentic way to dance tango because this is what the milongueros dance in Buenos aires. The milonguero style has taken on a life of its own with avid followers have even begun to set up special events for those who want to dance with a particular dance floor etiquette including no lifted legs (boleos or ganchos), good line of dance and the use of cortinas and tandas. Which allows for the wonderful phenomenum of the cabaceo, a way of asking someone to dance using eye contact and body language.

Another thread from the 1910s-1940s tango de salon is de Villa Urquiza style. Villa urqiza is a barrio or district in the north of Buenos aires and the dance is characterised by a smooth slow elegance and changing distance in the embrace. Some choose for a v-shaped embrace while others remain more or less parallel as the changing distance between the couple allows for a lot of freedom. When danced close it tends to be only the solar plexus contact which allows a lot of torsion which is essential for movements like pivoted giros, sacadas, and a specific range of free leg movements.

The third thread coming from the original tango de salon is caberet and later the show styles of tango fantasia and escenario. Styles in their own right and often the first thing none dancers see of tango. With influences from ballet, other sorts of show dancing and the social styles of tango. Show tango in all its forms is often said to not be the real tango and yet it has a strong identity and image in peoples minds as well as many bigger movements filtering down into the social dancing.

With any evolution there will always be a Nuevo style or new way, whether really a style by itself or a new outlook on what has been before. It depends on the time and how main stream this Nuevo style becomes. Some say that the term was first coined with Petroleo in the 1940s celebrating choreographic advancement through innovation and investigation into whats possible instead of what has been. Others would more commonly recognise tango Nuevo coming from a group of four men who came together with the idea of systemising tango allowing for a more didactic approach to teaching and learning. Gustavo Naveira, Fabian Salas, Chicho fromboli and Mauricio Castro identified more possibilities of what was already danced through this process allowing greater ability to improvise and brought new names for things already danced, one example of this would be volcadas which can be traced back to the axis sharing canyengue style but also a more recent dancer famous for the apilado (lean) style in which he danced many volcadas if not constantly in volcada, Carlos Gavito. The one big thing that did change from the 1990s with this Nuevo style is that teaching has become higher quality, understanding of tango and what we do as dancers has gone deeper than we have ever gone before and in the last few years people have been bringing the things learnt in this new movement back to the close embrace and traditional music that is so rich  and intriguing to dance on. Nuevo usually isn’t lasting in the same way, good traditional music can’t be listened to enough. For many argentines the term doesn’t even exist while many Europeans believe it to be big steps, none traditional tango music inviting open embrace and big extreme vocabulary. So whether you take any one of these three possible explanations of neuvo style I would like to leave you with this last thought. In 1940s Petroleo and his friends created a Nuevo style, in 1960s-1980s piazolla was described as making Nuevo music/neo tango music and in the 1990s Naveira and the others created a new movement with their systemisation of the dance. For me Nuevo style only exists in context with the traditional styles as its more a movement forward from what has been than an actual style of its own. What do you think? Nuevo styles in the future will be different in character but will probably use the same name.

In conclusion, one basic division in styles is those for social dancing and those danced during shows. What people understand as milonguero, tango de salon or any of the other styles seem to be blurring, making the general concensus over what these styles are nowadays move further away from what they were originally. Loosing the old dancers who were around in the times we have been discussing through this article means that now more than ever its important to find more clarity on what has been and document it before it leaves us forever. Or maybe, this loss is part of the evolution of tango and the history is carried in our steps. Food for thought. After some years of searching for the new way we have started to look for authenticity of the traditional tango.

Check out one of my other dance articles.

Make tango history and upload! 

'A Vision of Tango'

'Abundant obsession', Argentine tango

Why we love Pilates (and you should too)

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The 9 Biggest Dance Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid

After years of watching dancers on the floor and working to improve the technique and posture of students. I have noticed some easy to avoid mistakes which tend to have big consequences in the dance both socially and for the dancers own health. Look at the list below and check where you stand, is there one you can avoid?

  1.  Bad quality shoes or wearing really old ones might very well be beautiful or super comfy, but do very little for you feet. Ranging from breaking when you only have one pair of shoes with you to physically placing your feet in an estranged position affecting muscles and alignment.
  2. Cling filming. What is that you say? well imagine the super thing plastic rapped around a vegetable and then imagine that this is what many women do with their hips. Rapping the guys package that in the least can be annoying and make guys avoid dancing and girlfriends won't like it. Make the social side of dancing easier and take your hips away from the leader. Its titillating and to all the women out there, that guy who loves to dance with you while you are doing this probably doesn't dance with you for your skill!
  3. Not caring for each others bounderies and the bounderies of the people around you. Often we become more relaxed about contact as we become more advanced in dancing. Caring for the bounderies others have around you takes a little bit of thought and can make a huge difference to the relaxation of the social environment. Respect individuals, their relationships and your own.
  4.  If you have a storm cloud above your head people won't ask you to dance in social settings. Imagine you are in their place and you see someone sitting there, obviously wanting to dance but is really saying with the body language that you will have a terrible time if you dance with me. You are probably very unlikely to go and ask them to dance.
  5. The dress that always moves up and too tight trousers. While the rules in dancing about clothing is often more relaxed so good pointers would be to make sure you choose clothes that won't become indecent when you move and avoid tight ones that will hold you back. A short tight dress will always move up.
  6. Not warming up before dancing. this is a well known one i think but well worth mentioning. Whether its light exercise or a rigorous workout, warming up the body is essential and gives time for the mind to get into the flow too.
  7. Apoligizing too much when things don't go well. This is a little counter intuitive but saying sorry for every mistake will not only make the others around loose focus but also make the likelihood of more mistakes higher. Everyone from beginner to advanced dancer is making mistakes all the time. The only difference is that higher level dancers aren't worried about it and actively search to deal with the thing that happens like regaining balance, rather than stop the dance to say sorry.
  8. Doing all the dance moves you know in the first dance. Whether you are a solo dancer or a couple dancing, bringing out your whole repertoire is usually overkill especially with a new dance partner who has to decipher or an audience who don't have enough time to absorb some of the great things you are doing in the barrage of steps. In many cases less is more.
  9. Expectations of dancing with the best dancers or an amount of dancers in one evening. I think we all fall into this trap at times, but consider this. If for example you have a storm cloud over your head (point 4) would you dance with you? probably not so why go into an evening expecting a certain number of dances. Secondly if you are less experienced why go creating a pressure that you must dance with all the best dancers in the room in order to have a good evening. Often as one of the experienced dancers in the room i will active avoid those who want to dance with me because i am a teacher and instead will go to those who see me as a person and with whom i can have fun with at what ever level of dancing. Going without expectation can give some pretty incredible evenings full of fun, socialising and dancing.

Any more things to add? I am sure there are a whole load more for this list. Add suggestions to the comments section below or check out one of my other dance articles.

Make tango history and upload!

'A Vision of Tango'

'Abundant obsession', Argentine tango

Why we love Pilates (and you should too)


Monday, 25 January 2016

Make tango history and upload!


Introducing 10 tips to find great tango on the web

In this day and age the internet and all things social media are opening up some interesting options for niche groups like Argentine tango lovers to share and bring new information to the surface. Many tango dancers resist all things modernized in the upkeep of the old ways and the charm that comes with them. While i too must confess to being in love with many of the social and practical etiquettes of tango, i am also loving the new information at my fingertips. Like the old black and white videos of people dancing in prehistoric tango times or the up and coming dancers doing their first promotion videos.

Much of tango history has gone uncatalogued making it harder for those who would like to spread informed and widely respected information about Argentine tango. Whether about how tango was danced in the early days with the stories of that time, or indeed techniques every student should learn to become a good dancer. We each have our ideas on this, but with time some of the best resources have diminished with the ageing of orchestra leaders and notable dancers who were around in the good old days when Argentine tango was forming and being shaped. With the natural cycle of life and ageing come the deaths of some of our most renowned maestros and the generations that have witnessed a lifetime of tango and its evolution. Prompting a wish amongst the many Tangueros out there to preserve some of this knowledge in the shape of video interviews, documentaries, articles, and online resources making this information available to the world.

We can actively take part in our Tangos history by becoming active in uploading old footage and publicizing the new dances being created. Below is a short list of some of these new fountains of knowledge, in no particular order.

Tip 1: TENGO UNA PREGUNTA PARA VOS por Pepa Palazon,

A video series where Pepa interviews many of the worlds best known tango dancers. Getting their take on all things tango. Search the above title in youtube to find a huge number of video interviews. Including Julio Balmaceda, Gloria y Rodolfo Dinzel, Milena Plebs. (spanish)

Tips 2: The Youtube search

Type any of the following words in together and you will find a whole wealth of old videos of everything from D’arienzos dramatic leading of his orchestra in the 1940s to black and white movies of some of the first tangos ever recorded on film. search terms to try: tango orquesta, 1920 tango, 1930 tango, 1940 tango, golden age tango. (various languages)

Tip 3: Todo tango website

Probably one of the best known tango website resources out there, giving deep and informative information about dancers, musicians and all things tango. If you understand spanish then its well worth checking the spanish pages and each language has a different amount of information available. I found the rap sheets on the orchestras useful in getting a feel for how all the different musicians interrelated and through this how the end result we hear today came to be. (Spanish, English, German, Portugese)

Tip 4: site

This is very basic in the way it looks but if you are interested in no fuss information it provides a great source of information laid out in a utilitarian but easy to understand way. (various languages due to user content submission).

Tip 5: To tango net

This site has some great articles about everything included in the tango genre

Tip 6: Cyber tango site by Cristian mensing

An incredibly useful site with listings such as links for journals around the world, articles, books, websites and blogs for more information about tango. Its a great resource. (english)

Tip 7: Articles and book by Christine Denniston

i found her articles and website when i first started dancing and in want of more knowledge. With easy to understand and informative writing style, this is a great place to start reading about tango history. (english)

Tip 8: Tejas tango dictionary

A great regularly updated tango glossery of terms explained. (english)

Tip 9: Argentine tango videos net

This is a website dedicated to videos old and new,

Tip 10: Tango and Chaos

Read stories of recent times in Buenos aires with Tango and chaos website - (english)

With the new information coming to the surface all the time it enables us to further research argentine tangos murky beginnings and hopefully write with a more informed approach than the regurgitation of tango histories out there. Many containing the same play on words, vocabulary and factual information. Wanting to offer my students a history of tango on my website at one time or other, i was also culprit of this. With the continual new information we have a very natural record being created like never before. There are many ways to be an active part in the history of tango, come and join in the fun.

Other articles in the dance genre:

'A Vision of Tango'

'Abundant obsession', Argentine tango

Why we love Pilates (and you should too)

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

5 fantastic dances to improve your fitness, which fits your personality type?

Ever wondered why some people tango and others do rock and roll? With a few exceptions that like to mix it up, many people get attracted to different dances. What brings people to a dance in the binning and what keeps people training once they have started? Well I am not sure i have the answers to this but to have a little fun, I have listed 9 dances below and their personality types.

Bohemian thinker / artist

Argentine tango is a mixture of introvert and extrovert. Both for show and social, in full view and danced for the couple alone. Scientists and artists looking for a way to communicate, usually finding hard to do this in every day life. It appeals to the masculine mind with its geometric concepts of lanes and line of dance, circles and angles for turning and much more. Sophistication and trampery in one foul swoop, not to mention the more commonly seen variations in dance couples, men leading men, women leading women gives tango the title Bohemian dance of the group.

Party animal

Salsa - generally extraverted unless you see the natives dance (people dancing a long time to a high level), then it can be slow and sensual. Salsa tends to attract the younger generations who like to party but want something more than simply bouncing around. Full and curvacious, even men will discover hips in this dance. Culture and modern music mixed in a party atmosphere with bright colours and vivacious music filling the whole room,  think carnaval. This dance is queen of the party.

 Sorceress / magician

Flamenco - dramatic outward appearance and a lot more going on inside, strong rhythmic movements. Masculine and feminine mixed together with energy and purpose. Traditional feel and dress exuding the best of old times in performances that make your hair stand up on end. The duality of the masculine and feminine found in this dance rarely seen so equally standing side by side make this the dance of those who want to explore their inner power and expression enabled by the play with live musicians. Making this dance the one divine connection of all things.

    Hippy fest

    Folkdance or Balfolk - high energy, fun with simple movements compared to other dances. Great for getting everyone up on the dance floor, its the social animal of all the dances listed here to the point of attracting all those who don't want to go mainstream. Cross culture sharing, hippy hugging and live music create lots of great sharing experiences with this dance.

    Chilled out groover

    Swing - with different moves set groovily in the 1920s-1940s jazz scene. Golden oldy or nostalgic young one who likes to get a feel for the richness of a whole range of different dances included in this genre. This dance brings lots of great historic references together with the dance that is still very actively danced today and increasing momentum by all accounts. This dance is king of chilling out and variety.

    Please take this as a little fun, i love dancing and think every dance has its charm. 

    Liked this? then it would be great if you share you dance personality, even if its not the dance you actuality dance at this moment. I often wondered at the personalities of different dances and there are so many that aren't on this list. i made a shortlist this time but maybe another time its nice to broaden it out. i hope you enjoy.

    Other articles in the dance genre:

    10 Quick Surprising Tips About dancing

    'A Vision of Tango'

    'Abundant obsession', Argentine tango

    Why we love Pilates (and you should too)

    Wednesday, 16 December 2015

    Bounderies in tango?


    Just a thought really from dancing at a milonga. i am wondering what is happening with peoples bounderies as we dance more tango. i see a different ideal of the sort of things that are acceptable in a traditional milonga and a more alternative one. Many sorts of bounderies are possible, important ones? well theres a question. but i do wonder how relationships survive in a milonga where its culture finds it absolutely acceptable that a woman comes and sexually kisses a mans neck from behind, in full view of everyone including the mans wife. i don't mean a peck on an intimate spot but full on kissing, biting, sucking! i know the couple well and didn't want to be part of what went on due to respect to the mans wife.

    so questions arise, why did he act as if this is normal behavior from someone who is a 'friend'? is it for people around to make judgements? if she is indeed a friend does she respect either the man or his wife? aside from a judgement should i have to accept something that breaks down inhibitions that we as a culture slowly come to find 'normal' because of our acceptance? There are a lot of tango events out there that unconsciously or/and deliberately break down peoples bounderies. but where is the social responsibility to putting these people back together or indeed asking permission before you therapise someone. and when people are in an unbounderied state what does this mean for their relationships, friends, husbands, wives, lovers, the group? And importantly respect for each individual as they come, complete.

    i am still in the process of questioning as you can see from what i have written above. Questions hihi. but the reality of this through answers is an interesting one. what happens when you ask yourself some of these questions. from two perspectives: 1. from an acceptance of other individuals to make their own choices in life and 2. how you feel deep down. are good healthy bounderies that protect your individuality and individual specials relationships (friendships, lovers, relations of any personal kind) being broken down?


    'Inside Story' Argentine tango traveling the world


    Smooth Moves Ezine March 2008

    Argentine Tango came about in the late 1800's, at a time when many cultures were mixing (mainly European and Argentine), in music, in culture and in a basic need to survive in a place where work was scarce, The lure of promised riches from fertile land in Argentina were laid barren when many immigrant men arrived from countries all around the world. They found desert or rock in their allotted land, and so most migrated into the big cities, namely Buenos Aires and Montevideo. At one time there was approximately 70% men to 30% women and it was said to be even worse, this was due to many of the immigrants having left their families behind. These where the circumstances that lead to the formation of Tango, and the common representation of two men practicing together in order to increase their chances of dancing with a woman.

    Its very hard to say exactly where it came from or how it formed, due to the many myths that engulf its past adding to the element of mystery in the dance which is so much a part of our intrigue as dancers. Some say it developed in the brothels of La Boca a barrio of Buenos Aires, others whisper conspiracy in saying that it originated in Montevideo and isn’t of Argentine origin at all. For me as a dancer I feel its origin isn’t so much important as its nature to evolve and change with the times, and even the fashions of clothes, music and the way people are expected to relate to each other in society have had influence. The pencil skirt for example, made it impossible for the women to make large steps, so in the 50s when this was ‘ la mode’ the movements become smaller and much more compact. But there is also a wonderful sense of preserving the old, there are many organizers that promote traditional tango in a form that is as close to Buenos Aires as it ever can be considering that we live in a another culture with a different way of life, tempered also by a change in times and the roles of men and women.

    But the dance is something more than an explanation of its existence. This is merely a context for tango, a generality or cerebral way to try and understand it. My personal experience of Tango has been an adventure I could not have predicted. Improvisation, playfulness and a willingness to explore are characteristics in the dance that have unconsciously diffused and taken residences as a way of life.

    I still remember my first lesson which was in a big theatre, edges darkened, lights dimmed for atmosphere and its most prized possession was a perfect wooden dance floor. A woman clad in a beautiful flowing dress, red when caught by the light, took us through the first steps of tango. There was one moment about half way through the class, when she gave me some hint or glimmer of what the dance could be like in experience both in terms the sensuality in the body while creating the movements of tango, and the feeling of simply expressing the music. I was hooked in the space of half an hour only to be told afterwards that there were too many followers, and that I being the last to sign up would have to wait until the new classes started. I was upset and crying when I left, but was soon rescued by another teacher who had more men than women. So the precarious start to my tango journey had begun only to lead to more obsessions in body and movement as the months past. I now teach and dance all around the world, moving from one dimly lit room to another.

    I am always in search of something that the dance gives me and still I cannot name it. But what I do know is this dance is beautiful for the fact that you can never stop learning if only you are open to the possibilities. The improvised nature of Argentine Tango gives special moments of spontaneity and connection very hard to find elsewhere. With music and a space to explore and freely express it being introduced to the concoction, I am surprised any of us ever find a reason to stop.

    The dances existence was provoked by the differences between men and women. Its evolution and origin forming from the immigrants with their many dances, and music traditions when arriving to Argentina. Its status and reputation growing with the travel between Buenos Aires, Paris and the popularity that is growing around the world. Continually evolving with the times but protectively coveting the old and the traditional. Lastly Tango is the technique and playful improvisation that allow two people to experience connection with each other around and through the music.


    'Step into the Dark side'


    Smooth moves ezine, September 2008

    The tango dream, one of passion, amor (love), and the embrace. Often blurs through taboos such as sensuality, lust, sexuality and politics. Painting a smudged flowery picture that is perceived to include clearly all of the above.

    Another image is one of the Holy Grail that entraps every dancer into an ever-lasting fanatical search of the ‘One moment’ within which we will find a deep-seated feeling of unity with our partner and the space. Forever goaded on by the multifaceted mysterious awe of the elixir de tango that is the music. On occasions when we find such a connection it feeds the addicts need to find more of the same sustenance. So we are doomed or enlightened (depending on ones outlook), in the search for the Holy Grail, that is the oneness of two. But what about a step into the dark side.

    The drama, passion and fire of tango are often what attract people to start dancing in the first place. But this is only surface tension seen and exposed in stage tango (tango fantasia). My interest is in the emotional and physical fuel that feeds the fire. Not the fire itself. As a dancer and teacher of tango I am intrigued by the processes people go through in order to learn and through this enjoy the dance. The way they deal with often-intense situations. The expectations and desires that come into play when confronted with oneself in relation to a partner or social jostling of a group of dancers. The desire to know oneself, to be sensually in ones own body. Or to explore the boundaries of sexuality within the dance. Sexuality and sensuality are often mixed up with desire or lust and amor (love).

    Sensuality can be seen as ‘a preoccupation with the gratification via the physical senses. It’s about arousing the senses or appetites. Internally its about embodying yourself, externally exciting the senses of another person’. But this is too mechanical. As a dancer I don’t always seek to sensualise the dance for the other person. I am in the search to become sensual in my own body and to find a containment that allows me to know and feel myself better. Through this my feeling of sensuality is made stronger because it’s more intensely concentrated. Other people can enjoy the sensuality they feel in me, and even become sensual through this. But the important thing is that I am sensual for myself. Many people take this as a sexual come on within the dance. One is not allowed the hedonistic feeling of being in touch with ones own body. Instead it’s often taken into new realms of lust, love and sexuality.

    I have seen many short stories of love/lust grow and diminish around me. Sometimes lasting only a few hours, days and long ones weeks. These stories are the culmination of two people dancing in the right circumstances to allow two to become one in movement, embrace and thought. What I mean by stories is basically taking this connected and sexual dance feeling to bed. WE, in our present culture don’t understand how to be in our bodies, so when we experience such a connection with someone that’s so strong, be it sensual sexual or otherwise. We mistake it for love in many cases. In others where there is more experience of this phenomenon, it’s more about a necessity in the fulfilment of desire, closeness and often wanting to be in RELATIONSHIP but have many fears around this in everyday life. Tango attracts many people who are unable to be in relationships in the outside world and so instead search for the hedonistic instant gratification found in tango. Often being disappointed (after a while), in what they find. But for me one thing seems clear. We all want to feel secure and be LOVED. Not all will agree, but if you look closely I think that you will at least see in others that what motivates us is to find security in what we need to live, one aspect of this is intimacy with others. We will go through many profound emotions, experiences the unfathomable histories of hurt and pain that are deeply held in our body memory. Also remember the joy and laughter, the happiness of good times and what it was to be accepted in a group or by an individual. The embrace once more allows us to experience this acceptance.

    Permission is given, one dancer to another. The embrace is unhurriedly made. The dance begins, and the connection is made. The exploration of what is comfortable starts and then the tuning in fades. The individual ceases to exist in the sluicing movements of tango, endlessly moving around each other, sometimes for hours on end. All senses are unified in the sole purpose of staying present NOW. Attention focused somewhere in the centre of the embrace. Oblivion to the outside world in a cocooned sphere of energy and desire. Again the need for containment is present which intensifies all. The more restrained one is in not acting on desire, the more one is able to experience the nature of the desired. It’s like standing still when the music is building higher and with more energy, higher and higher again elevated into a climax of notes that ecstatically entwine themselves in the bodies of the two dancers.

    The other alternative is to take all the energy of this epiphany and to spend it in movement, thus diluting and loosing the moment. Often seen in show tango because it’s more interesting for the audience to see movement and speed rather than a seeming closed off unemotional dance. The image of an animal with four legs comes to mind. Words hardly do this justice but if you have felt it you will know what I am talking about. If you haven’t then you have an idea of what could come.

    Politics is also rife in tango as with any place where strong emotions exist and there are high personal stakes to be gained and lost. I am not talking about the politics of tango schools or those that exist between two teachers. But of the politics of hierarchy. One rises or falls on the grounds of dance ability and social ability. Being a performer, a teacher and/or organisers also has a big effect. The status is not so important as what it means. SECURITY in ones social group. More dances giving more chance of INTIMACY and possibly LOVE. Along with Stability and acceptance. We are happy in these states but what about taking a step to the dark side?

    The alternatives are infinitely more interesting. Feelings of exclusion, not being loved, loneliness in a room full of people. Not feeling good enough, young enough or beautiful enough to be danced with. Age-old insecurities held in mind and body, suddenly exposed by rejections, the intimacy of an embrace or even a teacher working with a specific body part.

    For example the jostling that can give a feeling of being with the in crowd is often due to past angst with groups. Someone who has experienced being a nerd or social outcast in school might feel the need to be ‘cool’ surrounded by those people who represent this. But if one is not accepted and in some way feels excluded deep emotions arise. I have the experience of one particular person being distraught, crying and intensely angry at not being asked to dance. She saw it as her right to have a set number of dances in one evening. The anger was directed at me because I am a host and teacher. For three days this woman let go of all her frustration at the situation, her anger and later the tears and sadness she felt at once again feeling like an outcast. I simply held the space, open for her to feel and to experience the process she needed to go through. On the fourth day she came and apologised. She owned her feelings and we talked of a time at school where she felt insecure and lonely. It was due to a lot of things happening in her family life at the time, but the loneliness and insecurity were created by a group of people at school. She had unknowingly transferred this past situation into this new group of people, and strangely they were reacting in the way she expected because she was projecting past pain onto new people. Of course they wouldn’t want to dance. On the 5th day she had the most dances she had ever had and said goodbye to be smiling and happy. She had been able to find a way of releasing old histories and found security and even a possibility for intimacy in someone else.

    Another example is of a businessman who is used to working for himself. Having full autonomy and power to do, as he will in his working life. In other words an alpha person. He is used to being associated with the top, and will find it difficult firstly to start at the bottom in learning to dance. But also in not necessarily being seen as alpha in the tango world. The number of times I have been surprised to discover how many men and women there are, with high powered jobs and who are confident at what they do. When it comes to tango they become shy and seemingly needy of attention. Like a fish out of water, they try to find their way back to what they know. The top of the hierarchy. Either through obsessive learning of the dance or by association with the top. Anger is something often felt if they aren’t able to find water, i.e. to become alpha. I have another experience of an aggressive man in classes who is incredibly intelligent. He has the need to be recognised. He knows all the terminology and tries to bully teachers into giving more information than he is ready for. He gets angry if he thinks someone is denying him and passive when he is receiving a lot of personal attention from the teacher. When things don’t go his way or he can’t find a movement he is ‘supposed’ to know he will often take it out on his partner. A while ago we had a private lesson that I was secretly dreading, but agreed to. We had 2 dances in the whole lesson. One to start and one to finish. We ended up working with aggression and anger, what these meant for him. He wanted to explore these topics with me, and we made a good start. He realised that by being anxious about where he was in the social world of tango and as a dancer he was becoming a monster. Someone who everyone avoided and refused to dance with. His story is a little longer and took a lot more lessons but over the months he has become calmer and softer with his partners. Again through being aware of feeling insecure and out of water he was able to start to find more favourable place for himself.

    Whether we are aware of tango as love and passion, or a simmering cauldron of sexual energy and sensuality is based on point of view. Backed by personal experience both in life and how much experience of tango one has. I am not intending to make you mind up for you, but to simply bring a little more light to the sexuality, sensuality, lust, love and politics that are seemingly inherent in tango.

    Alongside this our own personal quests for the ‘Holy Grail’, each of will have a completely different story to tell, but there will be similarities in experience. Many people I have talked to at one moment or another, have felt some disillusionment about these deeply unfathomable moments of connection that at times surpass anything they have ever felt with a lover or partner. One has no idea its possible until it happens, it’s rarely talked about in any depth and one automatically assumes you have felt it when it is talked about. Without knowing for sure, with no context of what it is and what it means. It’s often misunderstood to be love instead or lust. There is no black and white here only a grey area for every individual is different, every experience of the ‘Holy Grail’ is different and is for the dancers to place.

    If we take one step into the dark side we can become more aware of ourselves, we can open up possibilities in creating the security and intimacy we want and need to be happy. But this road is more difficult as you will find many things about yourself you don’t like and will want to change. And many others aspects of yourself which are truly beautiful and should never be exchanged for simple acceptance in a group.

    The journey through darkness is more profound than the light at the end.


    'A Vision of Tango'


    Doble Ocho Festival Paper 2009 
    Smoothmoves Ezine March 2009

    I thought to try and describe how it is to dance tango but the words escape me, partly because I like the words unsaid. … maybe also because for me the tango has allowed me to experience myriad of situations, emotions and people. When all is stripped away I find myself, and inevitably the long search for the something that remains out of reach just far enough to take me further along the road and close enough to let me glimpse something of what I seek. But the subject of my journeying remains elusive even now.

    Over the past 7 years (since the age of 16), Argentine Tango has become my life. It has changed the shape of my body, it has shaped the way I move when I walk down the street or enter a room. The fascination is in finding an understanding of Tango vocabulary felt in the core body, rather than externalised brain-induced shapes that fit a tango mould, and inevitably feel tense and ungrounded. The music offers me a chance to express my emotion, cliché I know. But if you imagine an individual who is so used to walking through the world alone, that they need a key to allow them to embrace another person, and through this embracing themselves. What are we without the key that unlocks us, and the mirror that is our partner when we dance? A question I am asking myself now, while searching for a little of life in the outside world.

    Imagine being ensconced in red and black sheets, entangled in the naked beautiful limbs of a lover who is resting in this tiny cocooned world of two. Thoughts taking flight from the seeming entrapment of body, going to past experiences, scared of not living the full potential of life. Translated into encountering big experiences. Another box to tick off. But once you have found familiarity in the grand, one realises the skill of living is being present in the tiniest moment. I come back to my unbound body, to realise that I was trapped by my own search for freedom and any place apart from the one that I inhabit now. For me absolute freedom renders an individual immobile, but a periphery can be a starting point for boundless creativity and improvisation. Contained by dancers around you, moving inside the embrace of a partner giving integrity to their frame saying, I AM HERE.

    My vision of tango is really a set of experiences and images; it’s a way to express my self in the fullness of the person that I am now. My views and thoughts are always changing, growing with time, as is the feeling of always wanting to learn and explore new ideas. If I remain true and present now, then tomorrow will be transformed. The last image a friend gave me, her vision of tango in brief. A good dance is like being snug in a sleeping bag, sinking deeper into this tiny world of two. A bad dance is being trapped in a sleeping bag with a partner and desperately trying to get out.

    Other articles in the dance genre:

    'Abundant obsession', Argentine tango

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