Want to be able to dance confidently and feel comfortable in traditional milongas of Buenos Aires?
Our bootcamp-style social tango classes develop your musicality, connection, technique & improvisation, as well as your confidence with milonga etiquette.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Lust in the milonga

In between the songs in a tanda, Pat’s partner said, ‘Your husband must need glasses, letting you go out dancing on your own’, which simply brought a bemused smile to Pat’s face.  Of course, it was simply a piropo, which women can expect to hear often from local men in the milongas of Buenos Aires.

But this isn’t the lust I’m talking about, nor the more pointed invitation for ‘un cafecito’ after the milonga, that foreign women may receive.  

I watch the women dance, and focus on one, as I notice her pivots, the contact her feet have with the floor, her embrace, the way she responds with elegance to her partner’s leads, the occasional under-stated decorations that enhance rather than interfere with the connection, the one-ness she creates with her partner.  My desire kicks in: “I must dance with her!”  So begins the chase.  If she has seen me dance, then hopefully I’ve measured up.  But now, the cabeceo is all I have left to convince her to take a chance.

Then there’s the lust that hits immediately, when the tanda begins with Fumando espero (Di Sarli/Pomar), La abandone y no sabia (Tanturi/Campus), or Lo pasao paso (Di Sarli/Rufino), and to these I feel that I must dance – they are tangazos!  Now there’s a desperate search to see whether one of my regular partners, who I know will dance this well, is available.  And again, I must put my trust in the cabeceo at a distance, hoping that she feels the same.

The tanda finishes, and the lust is sated.  I can return to my seat, and for a while, savour the 12 minutes that my partner and the music have given me.  The feelings of delight and satisfaction will last all night.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

I like to watch ...

More often than not, I dance no more than 7 or 8 tandas in my 3 hours in milongas in Buenos Aires. I do that partly to conserve my energy for a) the music I really like, and b) the women I really want to dance with. Any single tanda is both physically and mentally taxing, so when I dance I want to put all the meat on the fire.

So how do I spend the rest of my time in the milonga apart from sipping on my mineral water? I listen to the music and I watch the dancers. Sitting at a table at the edge of the ronda, I feel part of the milonga, even when not dancing. But as I watch, I also learn. Of course, I watch the ladies’ pivots, their embraces, their responses to their partners, in order to guide my ‘cabeceo’ in future tandas. But there is more.

I watch the men – their rhythms, changing dynamics, playfulness, intensity; how they protect their partners, how they move their bodies with their partners; and I note small variations in movements that I regularly employ. I notice how their dancing changes with different orchestras, with the emotion of the singers, with the ‘light and shade’ in a piece of music. Not all men dance this way, but those that do are worth my intense scrutiny.

I often wonder about men, and women, who dance every tanda. Might they be missing an opportunity to observe and learn from others?  My advice: STOP. LISTEN. LOOK. LEARN.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Budding tango relationships

No, I’m not referring to those fleeting relationships typified by an invitation to have a ‘cafecito’ after the milonga. For those unfamiliar with this euphemism, the expectation is to share more than a cup of coffee! 

She has observed & approved of his dancing and his conduct in the milonga.  He, too, has noticed her elegance and entrega. So begins the game of visually seeking out the other for the first time.

Still metres from her table, he approaches, maintaining eye contact, thus confirming their agreement to dance.  Only then does she rise from her seat, in a heightened state of anticipation, wondering whether her observations will be confirmed when she accepts his embrace.

As she places her upper body against his, his embrace encloses her into a respectful cocoon of safety and comfort. She relaxes and they begin to move together to the music.  

He suggests simple movements, intuitively assessing her responses. She feels his responses to her. They gradually become familiar with each other’s idiosyncrasies, nuances, musical sensitivities and imperfections. During the 12 minutes of the tanda, they begin a non-verbal conversation which slowly gains more depth - the start of a journey of mutual discovery to be continued at a future milonga when their paths cross again.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Uh-Oh Moment

I don’t mean the Occasional Uh-Oh! moment
… the one that we feel when dancing with a new partner, in particular – those times when communication fails a little, and an opportunity for improvisation presents itself.

I mean the Serious Uh-Oh!
… when you’ve watched the dancers at a milonga, assessed someone as a good choice, successfully cabeceoed, taken up the embrace, taken the first step, then suddenly thought, “Uh-Oh!” … or even “Oh-No!”  You realise that your partner has a poor embrace: too tight, too loose, or can’t walk well, doesn’t pivot, pulls you around, and you come to the conclusion that this will be a long 12 minutes. 
You’ve misjudged your selection, so now you have to deal with it.  As a man, you need to quickly assess what your partner can do, and do your best to make the dance a success – keep it simple, give her the time she needs, make adjustments so that ochos work, etc. As a woman, you can forget about surrendering to the music and your partner. This situation warrants self-preservation tactics, i.e. good technique to maintain your balance and a readiness to take evasive action, if required.
Then there’s the Ultimate Uh-Oh!
… when the behaviour of your partner suggests that the dance may need to be cut short.  For example, dangerous movements in the ronda:  frequent collisions due to inconsiderate navigation, high boleos or sweeps by the woman; inappropriate personal behaviour.   

In such cases, it’s reasonable to have a few tactful words with your partner at the end of a piece of music, and essentially put him/her on notice (remember, we’re talking about the Ultimate Uh-Oh!).  Should the behaviour continue unchanged, then it’s appropriate to end the dance at an opportune moment; regardless, the man should escort his partner back to her table.

Maybe we should, in fact, value the Occasional Uh-Oh! moments because they are the ones that define every unique tango conversation with our many partners.  They’re not ‘mistakes’, but rather opportunities to adapt our dance in a way that will enhance the experience with our partners.

We know you’ve had them, so how have you dealt with your Uh-Oh moments?


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

That Buenos Aires embrace

What is it that typifies the tango embrace in traditional milongas of Buenos Aires? 

Firstly, no fear
No fear of one's partner. No apprehension about whether you will make mistakes. No concern about what onlookers may think. It's about surrendering to your partner, the music and the moment.

Becoming one with your partner
Mould yourself onto your partner's body, without compromising your axis. The embrace is relaxed, secure and comfortable for both, and not crippled by poor posture.

Man's embrace
While she 'stands up for her man' with a relaxed, good posture, his embrace provides security, conveying confidence and certainty. This allows her to surrender to the journey - his gift to her - knowing he will protect her all along the way.

You embrace your partner as though you really mean it. Let them in to become as one. Make a commitment for the tanda. There should be no 'maybe'.

You may also experience this elsewhere - not just in Buenos Aires. It is certainly how I like the embrace. What are your preferences?

Popular posts