Monthly Archives: March 2011

Got No Rhythm

Among Tango dancers, there are those who have played instruments, have gone to university to major or minor in music, and/or are music aficionados.  While some have proven to have excellent beat perception, we have been continually amazed by Tango music’s ability to make one “deaf”.

All that we have observed, read, and heard (not to mention, using a little plain old “common” sense) have led us to understand that ignoring the “compas” (ie, the beat) while dancing Argentine Tango is absolutely unacceptable.  The music, in Tango, is king… and within the music, the “compas” is king.

While in Buenos Aires, whenever the late Osvaldo Zotto’s name came up, the following comment almost always followed: “muy sordo” (very deaf). Did he feel the music and move within the music?  Sure.  But he had an ability to miss/avoid the beat like no other well-known dancer we have ever seen.

There’s no doubt that Tango music is very complex and oftentimes the beat is very elusive.  For those of you who have difficulty finding the beat, maybe this will be helpful. However, if this doesn’t help, maybe you have an actual case of beat deafness.

Women Leading

It should come as no surprise to people who read this blog that we do not like it when women lead in Tango.  To preface,  let us say we are feminists.  We believe in equal rights.  We are very open-minded and very liberal. Anyone who has been to our classes can attest to the fact that we don’t appear to have a traditional/stereotypical relationship.  K does the majority of the talking in front of a group.  She is outgoing and loud (and a little crazy).  Jorge, on the other hand, is quiet, calm, and very easy going.  Leaving our personal relationship aside, let us put it this way: If ever there was a woman you would guess would start up leading in the milongas, your first bet would be K.

However, K doesn’t lead in the milongas and here are the main reasons why we don’t like women leading (in general and especially in the milongas):

1) lack of culture and tradition

Tango is a traditional dance that calls upon a man to lead a woman.  It is part of the dance and it is part of the culture. In the same way that neglecting to use the cabeceo or proper floorcraft are a disrespect to the culture, so is a woman leading.

2) lack of “manliness” or male energy

Men are on average bigger and taller than women (Jorge is taller, but not always bigger – and there are plenty of men that are bigger, but not taller :)  Men are more likely to emit a male energy when they dance – women are not as likely to do so.  A woman is more likely to look wimpy and dance in a “feminine” way (not to mention often in heels!?). She is also likely to feel wimpy. As such, “wimpy” men are not very enjoyable to dance with either.

3) lack of reason

Yes, it may be important for female teachers to learn how to lead (although if you teach as a couple, this may be less important). That said, the majority of dancers on the floor are not teachers.  Yes, there are often more women in a milonga (but K has no interest in getting up on the floor to lead those extra women and has no problem dancing less). Yes, K practices leading (and has yet to lead a better follower than Jorge ;).  Although it definitely benefits a man’s dance to learn how to follow, it does not help a woman to follow better. It may indeed give her insight into the minds of and problems faced by leaders, but it will not do much to improve anything in her dance.


Traditionally, Tango is a “man’s” dance, but this does not negate the fact that the woman has an equal role.  The culture and tradition of Argentine Tango can be respected and followed even while it continues to evolve.  For example, we teach our male students how to embrace a woman so that both parties are comfortable.  Perhaps it is safe to say that in days gone by, the man chose his embrace without any input from the woman… and no woman would dare tell him to change his embrace.  Our students are taught that they will eventually find an embrace that is theirs, but they are also taught, for example, that having a left arm that bends at a far steeper angle than 90 degrees in going to put strain on a woman’s right shoulder and her back… and so not to do it.

In conclusion, let us make it clear that we are NOT referring to, nor are we against, couples in a homosexual relationship wanting to learn and dance Tango. We would only suggest that each person in the dance partnership embrace the expectations of whichever role they choose, be it leader or follower.

Cheek to Cheek

The embrace or “el abrazo” in Tango is really a hug.  And just like a hug, it is made up of more than just arms and chests/torsos.  The embrace also includes the head.  When you hug someone, really hug them, your heads will touch and you will be in a cheek to cheek position.  Of course, this will not be the case if there is a disproportionate height difference or you use an open head position.

Some people say that having an embrace where the arms are nearing shoulder level (for the man) is very “ballroom”.  We definitely don’t agree with this statement.  We previously wrote about being concerned before our Buenos Aires trip that our posture and embrace would give us away as ex-ballroom dancers.  Yet no one commented on it and we were, in fact, often told that we look/dance “muy milonguero”. You need only look at some of the best milongueros (past and present) to see that they dance(d) with “high” embraces.  As examples, the milongueros Gavito, Vidort, Osvaldo Cartery, and Jorge Garcia all dance(d) with their left arms high up and they definitely do not look like ballroom dancers.

Argentine Tango Embrace

A sweet hug with lots of body contact



Ballroom Tango Hold

Ewww... yuk... don't get near me!


What really looks and feels like “ballroom” to us is if there is a lack of contact between the heads.  Ballroom posture is all about keeping the top part of your body (from the sternum up) away from your partner.  Even in a toned-down social posture, the heads are absolutely not supposed to touch.  However, in Argentine Tango, whether cheeks are touching or a chin is in contact with the top of the head, head contact is ‘muy importante’ and the cherry on top.

Sitting In

A comment on a post at My Tango Diaries got us thinking… The comment was in regards to Mari’s review of a teaching couple and it said: “I figured that I’ll watch this class, and decide whether I want to take the next one. But a few minutes later the other teacher returned to the room, and informed me that “If you don’t pay, you have to leave the room”.”  The commenter was not happy about this and felt the teachers had an “emphasis on payment”.

"All ears" while seated comfortably

As teachers, we understand that students want to test the waters before they commit.  That’s what drop-ins are for.  It’s rare that a teacher would not offer a drop-in option. Pay the $15 or $20 and then you can find out if you like the class. We often have students who come to the first class of the session and decide at the end of the class if they want to register for a whole session or only pay for that class.  This makes sense and is fair to everyone involved.  That said, it’s quite difficult to judge a class and a teacher in one lesson.  As an example – and in reverse to the obvious  “I didn’t like it in the beginning, but now I like it” idea… We initially really enjoyed the private lessons we were receiving from a couple in Buenos Aires.  It was only after the 3rd or 4th lesson that we realized that the teachers weren’t giving us what we needed or wanted, and were in fact doing very little for our dance.

This is NOT about the money.  This is about the principle of it all.  This is about being fair and not being cheap. Do you go to the movies and say, “I’m just going to sit in and see if I like the movie before I pay?” Do you try foods in the grocery store before deciding to buy them?  In this commenter’s case, she was listening in to see if she would take the next class.  Does this mean if she had liked the class enough to take the next class, she would have also paid for the class she was sitting in on?  Not likely. Maybe her excuse would have been that she had only sat in for 15 minutes.

We do not have an emphasis on money and agree with the comments that money can’t be the driving force in a Tango business.  Tango must be a labour of love and if it’s not, it shows (at least if one chooses to be observant). That said, we DO have an emphasis on payment.  What does this mean?  It means we need to constantly chase after people to pay us for classes.  We offer student rates and so we have had individuals who claim to be students when they’re not.  We’ve had a request for a 10-minute private lesson in order to get a feel for us… for free!?  This is our business (although not our primary source of income).  This is a service we offer.  This is something we ourselves have spent a lot of money on in order to be in this position.

Finally, the idea that listening to, and watching a teacher teach is not worth anything is absurd.  We’ve written a post in the past to attest that, more or less, there’s no such thing as too much talking in a class.  In fact, we are even planning to sit in on some beginner classes in order to pick up some new teaching strategies and evolve as teachers.  Should we tell those teachers that since we’re sitting and not actively participating, we don’t need to pay for the class?