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Sunday, 14 December 2008

Cabeceo ….. the subtle game of pursuit

Having been immersed in the tradition of Buenos Aires milongas, I still feel compelled to use the ‘cabeceo’. Cruising around the milongas with hand outstretched is not for me, nor creeping up on unsuspecting women with a tap on the shoulder. Such a public display of authority will quickly change to one of abject humiliation if the object of my desire replies with a sharp, “No thanks”!

What now? Slink back to my chair and become as small a target of sniggers as possible, or repeat the clumsy request with another woman … who now knows full well that she’s ‘second best’?

After all, she had every right to slam the door in my face – she mightn’t know how well ……. or badly, I dance. Or perhaps she does, and is looking after HER reputation in the milonga. Who’s going to give her a second look if she’s subjected to 10 or 12 minutes of stumbling around, avoiding mis-directed back sacadas and stepping to a beat that barely resembles what the orchestra is pumping out?

But wait a minute - I know I’m better than that. I also know that women have music they love to dance to and other pieces that they hate – just like I do. All the more reason for them not to look my way when some music is playing, but if it’s Canaro, Di Sarli, Donato, Malerba, D’Arienzo, Rodriguez, etc., then I’d expect any woman who wants to dance with me to at least give me a glance.

Often, if I’m sitting with a lady I’ll invite her to dance, but how would I know when other potential partners are available and want to dance with me? The glance – that’s it; then a nod - no more. Of course, I know better than to interrupt a woman when she’s deep in conversation! But if the music lights her fire, then she’ll chat AND scan ….. She wants to dance!

So, when does my cabeceo start? In a sense, it starts as soon as I see dancers on the floor at a milonga. I watch and work out which women I’d like to dance with – their technique, embrace, musicality, poise: some or all of those. Then I wait … for the right music. I take a long hard look at a woman I’d like to dance with. If our eyes connect, then it’s onto the dance-floor to connect with each other and the music.


Friday, 28 November 2008

Some recent BsAs milonga photos

Just loaded up some snaps taken at Buenos Aires milongas a few weeks ago.

Our very talented and renowned teacher, Aurora Lúbiz, introduced us to Sin Rumbo, a historic milonga in Villa Urquiza. Driving home in the wee hours, Aurora explained the significance of the place. This unassuming neighbourhood milonga, full of classy dancers - young and old, is where some of the great names of tango learned about the dance. At that time, there were no tango teachers as we know them. As very young dancers of other disciplines (ballet, folkloric, etc.) they would take the bus for over one hour across the BsAs metropolis to learn from locals like Julio Duplaa - an elegant dancer who has been running the Friday night milonga for around 40 years. At these informal practicas, young dancers like Aurora, Jorge Firpo, Pablo Verón, Lorena Ermocida, etc. first learned to dance tango. After the practicas they would journey home again by bus, where they would practise till the early hours and make sense of the dance which would later take over their lives & careers, and become a worldwide obsession.

It was also great to catch up our friends, Gustavo Benzecry Sabá, author of Embracing tango and María Olivera at their haunt, Salon Canning. Despite having returned that day from teaching in the USA for a couple of months, there they were at the milonga, exhausted but still dancing! They are great believers in totally improvised tango, including for their performances. This video shot at the Portland Tangofest is a perfect example. The unfortunate DJ experienced major technical problems: their selected music would not load up properly , and when it started playing, the speed was variable, so in the end, he just threw on something else. Their milonga performance brought the house down.

Dru and Roger from Adelaide experienced Club Sunderland for the first time. Yes, it is held in a brightly lit basketball stadium, but the organisers always arrange a high quality couple to perform for the crowd. But to be honest, I reckon the regulars are more interested in just dancing. Still if you are lucky, you might see the likes of Javier Rodriguez and Andrea Missé.

We were treated to a less traditional performance at La Baldosa, with Miguel and Augusto, organisers of La Marshall, the gay milonga at Maipu 444. The crowd at La Baldosa, which I would have thought was quite conservative, loved them.

Finally, a couple of shots of the gorgeous Teatro Maipó, taken after the brilliant show with the orchestra Sexteto Mayor celebrating their 35 years!

It's good to be home, but a few more weeks there would have been better.

Friday, 7 November 2008

More on Buenos Aires milongas

Attending milongas as a single opens one to new experiences with unfamiliar partners: adjustment to the new body, style, musicality - not unlike getting to know someone in conversation, actually.

As a follower, I find that allowing myself to be at one with my partner and the music for a tanda, means I feel like a different dancer each time, expressing myself differently with every new leader. Such is the experience of the entrega. Bob's experience is not dissimilar. His partner's embrace will tell him whether certain movements are likely to be feasible, eg. an unchanging embrace will limit possibilities for turns - without diminishing the dance. After all, the enjoyment of the tanda comes primarily through the connection with one's partner and the music.

As a single, your seating at a milonga makes a difference to how easy eye contact is for the cabeceo - singles who are regulars at a milonga get prime positions, of course. At the start of a tanda if your desired partner is across the dance-floor in a busy milonga, you have to establish eye contact as early as possible, otherwise it will be near to impossible to use the cabeceo due to the crowd of dancing bodies which rapidly gathers. The exception seems to be tandas of milonga music, in which somewhat fewer dancers seem confident in the dance, or might be uncertain whether a prospective partner would handle the challenge - yes, this happens in BsAs, too!

Each milonga has its own personality, even if the venue remains the same. The venue of Maipu 444 is an excellent example, where milongas are held most nights of the week. On Tuesday evening, the milonga Sentimental y Coqueta is a traditonal, largely singles milonga, with great music and very open to visitors who can dance well. Wednesday night sees the venue hosting a gay-friendly milonga: La Marshall. Whereas Saturday night, Cachirulo, seems to be a somewhat more exclusive milonga. For more details on milongas and other tango topics, you can subscribe to the free online version of BA Tango by emailing abatango@yahoo.com with the subject line Subscribe. El Tangauta, another free monthly tango publication can be read online at www.eltangauta.com

Music may be purely Golden Age tango, or some milongas include tandas of swing, rock & roll, chacarera and even cumbia. At a couple of milongas, some tandas of tango/electronica will appear. A few milongas seem to be largely an opportunity to catch up and dance with friends who are regulars, whereas at other milongas, getting a dance as a visitor is much easier. Of course, the more frequently you dance there, the more people get to know you. We're finding that with each visit to BsAs, dancing with familiar faces means knowing which style you can slip into when you take up the embrace. On the other hand, dancing with a new partner can be quite exciting, especially when after a few moments it becomes apparent that it is going to be a memorable tanda together.

Pat & Bob (looking forward to our last week in BsAs.)

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Updates on Buenos Aires

The economy - the word on everyone´s lips at the moment. Not only is our cost of living being affected by the vagaries of the world´s financial situation, but prices in Buenos Aires have also shot up since January. It´s getting expensive for us, and we marvel at how the locals might be coping.

Last night at a stunning show to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Sexteto Mayor, a tango group of international renown, the 50 peso tickets were within our reach, but most of the audience would have been locals! On a more positive note, the group did their original director and lead bandeonista - the late Jose Avellaneda - proud with brilliant renditions of many tangos, but most scintillating were the Piazzolla compositions. The two remaining original members, now elderly but sprightly violinists, brought the house down with their virtuosity. It was clear that the crowd in the intimate Teatro Maipo - a absolute jewel of an old-world theatre - did not want to let them go. Last year we were fortunate enough to catch the historic Mariano Mores show - one of the greats of the Golden Age - despite approaching 90 still playing piano and conducting like a young man!

After a week here, we´re getting the sense that the message about milonga etiquette is being understood amongst our fellow "tango tourists", or maybe it´s got something to do with the milongas we´re attending. Certainly, part of the fun of milongas is meeting up with friends and chatting, as well as watching and learning. Recently at an early milonga in Salon Canning, an older couple were an absolute treat to watch. At first glance, they didn't appear to be doing anything of great note, but then the timing, playfulness and skill quickly became obvious. They were utterly mesmerising.

And now for a word on the music played at milongas: the great DJs here never fail to surprise; not by pulling out obscure versions of tangos or lesser-known and perhaps inferior orchestras, but by their ability to mix & match great pieces into coherent tandas, played at the right time to suit the mood of the crowd and keep them dancing.

Tonight we're off to Sin Rumbo, one of the very traditional milongas in the suburbs with our teacher Aurora, and next week to Glorias Argentinas for a taste of tango of the Golden Age. Well as close as you can get to it in 2008. More to come later, but in the meantime, here's a video of the famous Dispari couple at Sin Rumbo.


Friday, 3 October 2008

Decisions, decisions ...

Heading off soon for the annual pilgrimage to Tango-Mecca and already I know that we'll be spoiled for choice with milongas. Some hard decisions will have to be made, especially around weekends. We love milongas where the traditional codes (codigos) are respected.

Should we head over to tried-and-true favourites like Club Sunderland each Saturday night? Mario Orlando, the DJ never disappoints, and the largely porteño crowd means that the floorcraft is good, despite the large number of dancers. It's primarily a milonga for couples and groups, although singles are usually seated in an area where the cabeceo is possible. Inevitably the evening will be punctuated with a couple performing - sometimes well-known hotshots, otherwise lesser-known emerging dancers.

Just a couple of streets from our "home" is Salon Canning which also hosts a nice milonga on Saturday night. The excellent parquet dance-floor is a treat and the couple who host it are delightful.

Niño Bien's lovely setting and great music are certainly attractive, but it has become so popular, it's hard to move on the dance-floor for most of the evening. El Beso on a Thursday evening is intimate - in sharp contrast to Niño Bien. Not only is it small, but it's very popular with good dancers. Ladies are seated separately to the men, unless you arrive as a couple, in which case you get seated at the back and are not considered part of the available pool of dance partners. Music and floorcraft are very good. The nice thing is that this milonga starts in the evening around 7pm. So after we've had our fill of dances for the night, we can head off to a nice restaurant for dinner before the witching hour and still have a good night's sleep!

Then there's Lo de Celia, where Dany Borelli's music is superb. It's an older crowd and the etiquette very traditional.

And the list goes on ....

Thursday, 11 September 2008

To decorate or not to decorate ...

Decorations, embellishments, adornos ... call them what you will.

Inevitably ladies ask for them to be taught. After all they can look pretty, if done well. Most tango videos of performances feature amazing decorations by both men and women. But I reckon this fervent desire to decorate comes about primarily because some ladies seem to feel that only by embellishing, are they able to contribute something to the dance in which their partner has a greater say - well, that's my theory anyway. Perhaps it's a product of liberated women, feeling somewhat awkward in this traditional dance which has fairly clearly defined male and female roles. Although some would argue that this is an attraction of tango. But I digress from my topic...

In my humble opinion, adornos are best done intuitively, organically and genuinely, when the emotion of the music and the moment produce a small, almost unconscious, flourish. A decoration is just that ... not something which disturbs the partner or the dancers around you. Beautiful adornos are a natural expression and response to the music, flowing from what has been led and often a sign of appreciation from the woman to her partner. I love those elegant and understated decorations which add to the enjoyment of the couple dancing, and are scarcely noticeable to observers.

However, as we all know, subtlety of movement requires a high degree of physical control. So there's no getting around the fact that fundamental technique - axis, balance, timing, dissociation, weight transfer, etc. - needs to be mastered first. After all, a decoration is the extra little something for the couple dancing, the delicate extension of the movement, a little icing on the cake, perhaps.

It is important to work on tango technique and practise decorations privately, in class and practicas many, many times. But to be quite honest, I find that repeated and predictable embellishments during a milonga look utterly contrived and overdone - a bit like a woman wearing her entire jewellery collection on the one occasion. Doing adornos in social dancing is definitely a case of less being more.

Jennifer Bratt has developed an excellent website on adornos, including video clips with various types of embellishments, important advice on technique and exercises for the feet. So for ladies bursting to develop tango decorations, go for it ... but elegantly, please!


BTW Here's Jennifer performing with her partner Ney Melo.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Aurora and Hugo

Just found this stunning video of Aurora Lubiz and Hugo Daniel dancing to one of my favourites by Carlos Di Sarli with Alberto Podestá: Junto a tu corazón

PS. They're fabulous at milonga, too. I love them dancing to Canaro's Despues de quererla tanto (see video links).

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Tete @ Practica X

Here's Tete Rusconi, a true milonguero who feels the music in every cell of his body, having a great time performing a vals for his birthday at one of the "nuevo" venues in Buenos Aires.
Looks like he and his partner are having a blast.


Thursday, 14 August 2008

"A feeling that is danced" Discépolo

I've noticed an interesting phenomenon in our tango community of late - there's an increasing level of interest in and sensitivity for the music played in practicas and milongas - in particular the Golden Age music.

In the space of just a couple of days various comments were made quite independently from each other, and came, it seemed, out of the blue from several dancers. One person was saying that they didn't used to "get" Golden Age music until recently, but now the modern stuff just doesn't interest them much. Another was visibly annoyed when a tanda of tango - all Golden Age - wasn't coherent in their view. They felt that one of the tangos simply jarred when combined with the other three in the tanda.

These comments bring me back to an earlier posting in February: Two angles on the tanda. Let's face it, the music evokes a physical and emotional response. For most of us, that's why we feel like dancing, or for that matter .... sitting out a tanda. Hopefully, the DJ will generally be able to sense what the crowd needs at various stages of a milonga ... and respond to that so that the dancers feel they have engaged in a satisfying emotional experience, rather than a roller-coaster ride. Equally, too much of anything - music that is energetic, romantic, intense, etc. - simply leads to desensitisation and boredom.

Creating a mood at the start of a tanda, only to jolt dancers out of it within the very same tanda can feel like a slap in the face. Try this pair of Di Sarli tangos as an example: Nada followed by Shusheta. Lovely - but not together, please! Singers can make a huge difference, too. The orquesta of Ricardo Tanturi with the romantic voice of Enrique Campos, creates a totally different mood to Tanturi with the voice of the streets, Alberto Castillo.

Want to know more?
Guides to Tango Music developed by Stephen & Susan Brown
Heroes of the Silver Disc by Melina Sedó
ToTango DJ Forum
Tango DJ


Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Tango therapy

We all know that tango is a good form of physical exercise. And not long ago, there were articles in the press extolling the merits of learning to dance as a strategy for delaying the onset of dementia. Now, the therapeutic benefits of learning to dance tango are being studied in the fight against depression. Read more in ABC news online.

Who knows, soon you may be able to claim those lessons on Medicare!

Happy dancing,

Friday, 13 June 2008

Australian International Tango Festival

Adelaide Tango made a significant impact on Australia's biggest tango event of the year. 22 tangueros from Adelaide took the opportunity to immerse themselves in the most diverse range of workshops yet, as well as five milongas in five nights!
The strong SA contingent received a special mention at the Opening Milonga, also DJed by yours truly. And at the final milonga on Sunday night, Arthur from Brisbane made the unsolicited comment that the Adelaide folk were not only nice dancers, but the friendliest bunch of people as well!

We were spoilt for choice with the widest array of workshop options, electric performances and seven renowned teachers from Buenos Aires. For the first time in the festival, the structure of the music and how it influences the dance was tackled in a thorough and practical manner in a series of workshops by Joaquin Amenabar, a BsAs professor of bandoneon, and tango dancer.
Joaquin's close work with a trio of talented local musicians meant that their live music at two of the milongas not only pleased the ear, but kept the crowd dancing.

Los Hermanos Macana were true to form and entertained with their comic antics. Cecilia Gonzalez and Donato Juarez, both regular visitors to Sydney, were in demand with their warm teaching style and focus on technique & elegance in figures. While Aurora Lubiz and Hugo Daniel's multi-faceted contribution to the festival included technique & coordination, various tango rhythms & chacarera, and a generous desire to share the culture of tango with us all. Not to mention Saturday night's mesmerising folkloric performance. For many of us, they were the stars of the festival and we sincerely hope to see them back in Oz soon.

Congratulations and thanks to Lilian and her tireless team of volunteers. It was indeed a festival not to be missed!

Pat & Bob.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Music for milongas workshop

Do you go along to a milonga and dance to anything that's played?
Have you experienced the music transporting you and your partner?
What goes into selecting music for a milonga?

These questions and more were tossed around and debated at the recent Tango Adelaide Club workshop, with lots of perceptive insights. A key thread was the emotional impact of music. Natalie's point about the influence of music in movies was not lost on us, at all. Here's an experiment for you. Just focus on the music accompanying a scene in a film or TV show sometime, with your eyes closed. How does it make you feel? I'll bet you find that the choice is not accidental, nor the impact incidental.

Sometimes the music is sublime to listen to, but does it move you to dance? Is dancing to it within your current capabilities? Especially with a partner in the tango embrace?

Does a piece of danceable music energise or calm the floor? When might a few tandas result in a chaotic dance-floor, put most people to sleep ... or irritate the hell out of you?

Stimulating stuff, but we only had 2 hours for the workshop, and we needed time to put the theory into practice ... by constructing danceable tandas. Walking the talk - that's when the things got really challenging.

Want to know more? Take look at Stephen & Susan Brown's highly regarded website.


Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Carel's surprise visit

What a treat it was for us on Monday evening! Carel Kraayenhof (bandoneonist from Holland with an Argentine heart) was in town for concerts with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and fortunately for us, was interested in making a contribution to the Adelaide tango community before heading off to Perth, then Sydney.

Passionate about tango, especially those of Pugliese, Carel delighted us and accompanied our dancing with various tangos, Romance de Barrio (vals) and even Milonga de mis Amores. But his interpretations of Gallo Ciego and Piazzolla's Adios Nonino were utterly sublime. All this, while seated on a stool in our humble Baptist Hall (which we discovered has great acoustics) with his sheet music spread out on the floor! Check out the photo gallery.

Next time he's in town remember to buy him a Guinness. He enjoyed his pint at the Daniel O'Connell.

Thanks so much, Michelle and Greg, for arranging it all. It was truly a night to remember.


PS. Check the gallery for more photos.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Sharing the real estate ... aka floorcraft

Energy levels were high at the recent Comme il faut with 50 people in attendance. It was a great night! But it also led to several experienced dancers tentatively, and ever so politely, suggesting that a reminder about floorcraft might be timely.

Tango is, after all, primarily a social dance. In general, the flashy, cool moves which dazzled us all in our early days of learning tango, tend to be more suited to performance and are inappropriate at a busy milonga. You know the sort I mean: where a section of the dance-floor, disproportionate to the dimensions of the couple, is effectively unavailable to others for fear of lethal stilettos, or simply because they "need" the space. Dancing in control, in la ronda (ie. in one lane, following the line of dance) with awareness of those couples around, rather than zig-zagging, will mean that everyone can enjoy the dance. It's one thing being transported into the tango zone, but as someone's mother somewhere, sometime said, "It's not all about you! You have to learn to share."

Depending on the size of la pista (dance-floor) there may be two, even three, parallel lanes. "What about changing lanes, when there's a gap in the traffic?" I hear you ask. Well, the convention is that you don't ... at least not during a piece of music. The couple in that lane, or at least the leader, will know how much space he has to play with and you're courting disaster, in the form of a collision, if you cut them off. If there's plenty of room and you wish to change lanes, all you have to do is wait for the window of opportunity between tracks.
"Patience!", I hear mother say.

With all those parallel lanes, there's going to be a section in the middle which can also be used. In my experience, that tends to be used by dancers requiring more space. Navigation is less predictable, but the same principle applies, ie. ensure that your dancing doesn't interfere with others' enjoyment. How that works depends on the amount of space available.

Granted, these conventions are strong in BsAs where sheer numbers at milongas absolutely require them, and we're only in little ol' Adelaide. But as our tango community grows, we need them more and more. These codes have been refined over the decades and are still going strong ... because they work.

Interested in knowing more? Take a look at the piece by Tom Stermitz in ToTango from North America.

Happy dancing,

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Some tango quotations

I thought I'd share some quotes which ring true for me. Some from tango celebs, others not. Let me know if you have other favourites you'd like to share. Pat.

"A good dancer you recognise by the way he walks, not by acrobatic figures" Pablo Verón

"Don't dance 100 different steps in one way, dance 1 step in 100 different ways" Jean-Michel

"It took several years to get past being fascinated with the steps, which were my first draw to the dance. The dancers who were doing less footwork were uninteresting to me and I just didn't see them. Then, years of advice from the milongueros to feel the dance, not just learn steps, began to take effect. I started to notice the dancers for how they stood, embraced and felt the music. It isn't like I didn't know these things before, I just didn't see them ... even though they were right in front of me."
Daniel Trenner

"Tango ... a sad thought which is danced"
Enrique Santos Discépolo

"El tango te espera" (Tango waits for you)
Anibal Troilo

"When you dance tango, you must give everything. If you can't do that, don't dance."
Ricardo Vidort

Entrega ... or what could be likened to "The Tango Zone"

Many say dancing tango - as danced in the salon, not on the stage - is about the man, the woman and the music. But that doesn't quite get to the heart of it for me, and it certainly won't help the uninitiated "get it".

For quite a while I have thinking about this notion of la entrega in tango. More and more, I believe that is what dancing tango is all about. It's something like surrendering to the emotion of the music together; and the stronger you both feel about the music, the more powerful that fleeting experience may be. Rick McGarrey in Tango and Chaos writes about a shared informed passion. But better see for yourself what he has to say about that.

The rest of his website is also a must for any tangoholic.

Happy reading,

Monday, 17 March 2008

Another tango movie, with a difference ...

Ever wanted to work with Pablo Veron? Fancy an all-expenses-paid trip to Buenos Aires? Like to tell your tango story? Well here's your opportunity.

Just go to the Seduced by Tango website for more details. You know the old saying: You've got to be in it to win it!


Friday, 8 February 2008

Tango, tourism and the economy

Tango tourism in Buenos Aires is big and making a significant contribution to the Argentine economy, according to a recent travel item in the Sydney Morning Herald. Carnivores get a good run for their money, too!

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Two angles on the tanda

… a dancer’s perspective

Before I even consider dancing a tanda, the music needs to ‘grab’ me, because if I can’t connect with it emotionally, I certainly won’t connect with it on the dance-floor with my partner. The nature of the tanda will also govern how I dance – the figures I lead, how much I dance to the down-beat as opposed to other lyrical aspects of the music (usually the violin or the singer), how I employ pauses, etc.

For my partner, the first tango will be her time to discover how I dance to this style of music – how I lead & vary figures that she’s familiar with (anticipation is the ‘killer’ of improvisation), how much time I tend to give to pauses (hence if & how she’ll decorate), the level of energy going into my leads (hence the speed of her pivots, etc). It’s also my time to determine her responses to my leads, rhythms, & energy. It’s therefore not surprising if the first tango lacks some fluidity, but there’s every reason why the remaining tangos can reach a high level of connection such that we are moving together in response to the music we are hearing, and to each other.

The cortina signals that we should go our separate ways (after I have escorted her back to her table, of course) because the music in the next tanda will be different and the whole process can start again. After all, my responses to tangos from Di Sarli, D’Arienzo, Rodriguez, and Pugliese will all be different, and the same will apply to valses from Caló as opposed to Biagi, and milongas from Canaro as opposed to D’Agostino. But that’s part of what makes tango the seductive challenge that it is.


… a DJ’s perspective

There is a range of views on the best way to compose a danceable and satisfying tanda. Well, one thing’s for sure: a haphazard collection of tangos, even from the same orquesta, does not a tanda make! At the other extreme, some DJs go to the extent of considering the beats per minute of each song when making their selections. For me, the selections are based on the feel of the music (eg. predominantly lyrical, rhythmic) and the emotional response that each piece of music evokes.

The first song of the tanda should, in my opinion, generally be a call to the dance. With the subsequent 2 - 3 songs somewhat consistent in their flavour, but not so similar that boredom sets in. On the other hand, a degree of coherence means that having liked the sound of the first piece and therefore got up to dance, dancers will not be disappointed with the rest of the tanda. I love concluding a tanda with something really memorable – a mini finale, of sorts.

Next tanda?
A different emotional response will be created. Does the energy of the dance-floor need to be raised or lowered? Are the dancers sufficiently primed for music of greater intensity and complexity? What does my DJ’s intuition tell me?

If you’re interested in the role which music plays in the brain, you will find Musicophilia, by Oliver Sacks, riveting. He was recently interviewed on ABC radio


Tanda — A set of dance music, usually three to five songs, of the same dance in similar style, if not by the same orquesta. The tandas are separated by a brief interlude of non-tango music called a "cortina" (or curtain) during which couples select each other. It is customary to dance the entire tanda with the same partner unless the man is rude or very disappointing as a dance partner, in which case the lady may say gracias (thank you) and leave.

Friday, 18 January 2008

What do women want? What do men want?

I've lost count of the number of times I have heard the following sentiment expressed by men learning to dance tango: "I feel I should dance lots of complex figures at the milonga so that my partner doesn't get bored".

But as a woman in tango, I wish to feel transported by the music and the intimate communication with my partner - whoever that might be at the time. Here's Milena Plebs' take on this topic in Tango íntimo. Just scroll down a little for the English translation.

Happy dancing,

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Chaperones and the milonga

I recently came across an interesting historical perspective (alas, only in Spanish) on the development of some strongly held milonga codes, and it all makes absolute sense. The fact that those codes still serve very useful, but somewhat different functions today has ensured their longevity in the world of tango.

Consider the era - maybe the 30s. A young (unmarried) woman wanted to go dancing. Nice girls could only do so in Buenos Aires when chaperoned by a trusted relative. This naturally implied that any interested, young man would certainly not be permitted to join her at her table. That would have compromised her reputation. So the invitation to dance was made by the clever game of eye contact, or the cabeceo. Today, of course, it remains an unbeatable strategy for selecting dance partners, while avoiding the embarrassment of public rejection.

Ever wondered why couples don't just start dancing as soon as the music begins, and instead spend chunks of valuable dance time chatting before taking up the embrace? I guess if a young man wanted to chat up a tasty, but chaperoned chica, those brief opportunities were all he had to make a lasting impression on her. Nowadays, the social function is still served, but the chat-time also provides the opportunity to feel the music, not to mention waiting for a space to clear in the line of dance.

Why on earth have a cortina, that snippet of non-dance music separating the tandas, when the dance-floor should be cleared? Well, just imagine the gossip resulting from dancing more than one tanda consecutively with the same partner, or a single woman not returning to her own table during the cortina. That señorita's reputation would have been somewhat tarnished, to say the least. In today's traditional milongas in BsAs, this would still signify an existing or budding relationship, but dancing with a range of people is a more social activity anyway, don't you think?

See you on the dance floor,

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