Monthly Archives: August 2009

Who is Javier Rodriguez?

Let us begin with a quote a dear (tango) friend of ours made about Tango and Javier: “Not knowing who Geraldine and Javier are would be the same as saying you love ballet and you don’t know who Baryshnikov is.”

We are constantly amazed when people who love Tango have no idea who this couple are (were) and this is a thought we have had even before we came to Buenos Aires and before we finally decided to try a private lesson with Javier. We booked a private with him long after arriving in Buenos Aires and only after seeing him perform in Sunderland (a milonga here in Buenos Aires). It was there that we saw just how incredible and respected he is. After his performance with Stella Misse, the locals (including many milongueros) were on their feet and the sound of applause all but raised the roof!

Javier does not teach choreography unless it’s specifically what you are looking for. He dances an improvised Tango and his performances are improvised (unless it’s an OBVIOUS choreography – we say obvious because we have heard/read many people say/write that one of Javier’s demos was a good choreography when it was in fact an improvisation). Whether he dances big or small is completely dependent on the space he has. There hasn’t been a dancer/teacher/milonguero here who has has told us to dance small all the time. In fact, we’ve been told the complete opposite: When you have the space, use it!

Javier’s lessons have completely opened our eyes to what Tango is here in Buenos Aires. He has helped us to understand how porteños view and feel about Tango … how to dance with male and female energies… etc, etc… Javier can blow your mind and change your life with regards to tango. And he can do it in just one lesson.

Finnish Tango

Finnish Tango is yet another misconception of Tango that we feel the need to clear up.  Jorge is Finnish and lived in Finland until he was 22 years old.  At which point he moved with K to Canada in 2005.  K lived in Finland for just under five years working as a kindergarten teacher.  While we lived there together, we enjoyed going out to dance socially to live music in the dance halls (inside and outside).  At these places, many dances were danced including Fox Trot, Quickstep, Slow and Viennese Waltz, Jive, Rumba, Cha Cha, Humpa, Jenkka, Polka, Samba, and FINNISH TANGO.

Being from, and having lived in, Finland causes many people to ask us about the large tango scene that exists in this tiny country.  Many people who dance Argentine Tango mistakenly believe that Finns are dancing some form of Argentine Tango.  This is somewhat understandable given that Wikipedia says Finn, “Finnish tango is an established variation of the Argentine tango“…How misleading!  Yes, there is a very large tango scene in Finland, but Finnish Tango is just that:  Finnish Tango.  It is not Argentine Tango and does not resemble Argentine Tango in any way.  In fact, it mostly resembles ballroom tango, as does the music.  At a minimum, the majority of the population can dance Viennese Waltz (they learn to do so in school) and in general they can all dance tango as well.  At its most basic form, Finnish Tango involves moving to the music and not much more.

When Argentine Tango is danced in Finland, it is completely separate of Finnish Tango.  Not unlike many other Argentine Tango communities outside of Buenos Aires, Finland has a small A.T. community that dances to Argentine Tango music.  If someone wants to learn A.T., they go to classes specifically for A.T.

For a taste of the (rather depressing) sounds of typical Finnish tango music, take a listen to Mikko Kilkkinen, the Tango King winner of the 2002 Seinäjoki Tango Festival:

As further proof that Finnish tango, the dance, has more in common with ballroom tango, we can let you in on another dirty secret of ours.  We were actually in one of Mikko’s music videos with another young ballroom couple.  The four of us danced our ballroom tango choreography to his song.

Finally, you can watch this video of a couple dancing Finnish Tango:

This is a much more elaborate version of the dance and you will rarely see the general public dance it this way.  Therefore it should be pointed out that this couple used to dance International Competitive Ballroom and probably still teach it.  In fact, they used to teach Jorge when he was a child!

To Teach or Not to Teach

Choosing to teach Tango (or any other art/dance/skill) is a huge decision that should not be taken lightly.  It is a decision we are currently grappling with and have been thinking about all year.  Many in our community assumed, before we left for Buenos Aires, that we would teach when we returned.   This has never been our assumption.

Our thoughts have revolved around the various experiences teachers bring to the table (and their resume).

1)      Years of Tango experience

2)      Being Argentinean (which more or less holds no weight unless you grew up dancing Tango in Buenos Aires)

3)      Visiting from Buenos Aires

4)      Having learned in Buenos Aires

At times, these should not be taken as positive points if they cannot be backed up.  However, the following are absolute requirements that should be seen in the dance of a teacher you want to learn Argentine Tango from:

1)      There is an esthetically pleasing look to their dance

2)      There is an embrace that is typical of Argentine Tango and not of a trendy or wimpy variety

3)      The man dances with a “male” energy and the “woman” with a female energy

4)      There is an understanding of the music and the various orchestras

5)      The dance is Argentine Tango and not some form of alternaTango.  If one is new to the dance, it may be difficult or impossible to discern the difference.  Therefore we suggest that a newer or confused Tango dancer look at some youtube videos.   Andres Laza Moreno & Isabel Acuna and Javier Rodriguez & Andrea Misse will give you a look at young people dancing A.T. while  Osvaldo & Coca Cartery and  Alberto Dasieu & Paulina Spinoso will give you a look at how older milongueros dance A.T.

6) Has HONESTLY learned from milongueros/teachers who are HONESTLY from/living in Buenos Aires (while some may argue that this is not very important, we strongly believe it is since Tango is more than a dance; it is a culture).

There are two questions a teacher-to-be should ask themselves before deciding to become a teacher:

1)  Do I have more to offer than one of the top 3-5 teachers in my community?

2)  Am I a “better” dancer than one of the top 3-5 teachers in my community?

The answer to both questions should be “yes”.  Offering something “different” rather than something more is an excuse teachers-to-be use to get into teaching.  Everyone has something “different” to offer!  And although being “better” is subjective, it is not difficult for a group of people to spot and agree on the best dancers on the floor.

Our Tango community probably does not need more than 5 teachers and yet there are over 15 at any given time.  Even if there was a big enough community, that in itself is not a good enough reason for people to start teaching.  It is these people that pollute the dance with inaccurate information and false concepts. Entering the teaching community is not something that should be taken lightly.  Neither is staying in it.  It would be admirable if teachers knew when to step down to make way for better teachers.

Finally, a love for Tango is never reason enough to teach.  However, it is this love for the dance and the culture that should stop some people from doing so.