Javier Rodriguez, Castration, and More

Oh Javier… how we love thee.

If you haven’t been fortunate enough to have learned from Javier Rodriguez, let us share some of his wisdom with you. But first, let us give you a mini-summary of Javier in his role as a teacher.

Javier is blunt, has no shame, and shares all that he has learned and knows about Tango without apology. We’ve heard that (North) American Tango dancers/communities have found him to be too abrasive and too frank (ex., he has no problem telling women to stop squeezing their “chichi“) and he doesn’t work as a teacher so that he can lie to you and tell you how good your tango already is.

In North America (and we’re starting to think in all English-speaking countries) everything needs to be sugar-coated and oh-so-positive. That’s why anything goes in North American Tango. We don’t want to be told what Tango is or how to do it. We’ll tell people to follow Gavito’s advice when he tells a class to only speak positively about Tango and to only say what we like  about a person’s dance (although we don’t know the circumstances behind that comment and in fact, he has told dancers to also notice what they don’t like),  yet we won’t listen to Gavito when he says the embrace and the walk are what make Tango what it is. We think we can do it better and we think we should change it to make it our own (while calling it by the same name).

Meanwhile, in Asia, many of the cultures may be more direct (How old are you? Are you married? Do you have children? Why not?). However, they sure as hell aren’t used to hearing about “chichis”. Yet it’s these same Asian communities that embrace the traditions of Argentine Tango and will happily do as they are asked. They respect and look up to their teachers.

With that said, let us divulge some wonderful insights Javier and Andrea shared with the class in Seoul:

Don’t Castrate Your Partner Women, pull your hips back and make room for the men. When you keep your hips flat, you castrate the man you are dancing with by stripping him of his freedom to walk forward without restraint.

Javier demonstrated this with multiple men and we don’t think there was a person left in that class that doubted this assertion.

Hierarchy Among Dancers  Javier & Andrea were asked about a problem that exists in various communities. What happens when the best dancers only want to dance with the best dancers, the mediocre followers only want to dance with the best leaders, and the mediocre leaders are left wanting? Javier responded (in a way that most of us North Americans don’t like to hear) that this is the way it is everywhere around the world… and this is the way it should be. If the mediocre dancers want to dance with the best dancers, they need to become better dancers. If the best dancers are already dancing with them, the mediocre dancers have no reason to improve.*

* There are too many dancers who no longer take lessons OR who only take lessons that teach new sequences rather than those that improve (BASIC) technique (which is where the problems lie).

Hierarchy on the Dancefloor  Many dancers understand the dancefloor setup now. There’s an outer lane and one or more inner lanes. Javier & Andrea told all of us what many people learn after going to Buenos Aires: The outer lane is for the best dancers. It’s for those who understand floorcraft and who can dance well. Those who cannot follow the rules of floorcraft and, more importantly, are not very good dancers, should dance in the inner lanes.*

*Swallow your ego and place yourself accordingly on the dancefloor. In the same token, deal with the crappy floorcraft and try to dance in the outer lane if you’re one of the better dancers in the community.

Our Thoughts on What Others May Consider IDOLIZATION

We’re not sure where the loathing of “idolization” has come from. We understand that some people take their idolization too far… and obviously a teacher is not a god. But it seems that people are loathing the fact that some dancers look up to their teachers as mentors – with respect and adoration. Those dancers who respect and learn from/follow one or two professional teachers tend to be the best dancers in a room. It’s those dancers who learn from anybody and everybody who CLEARLY show no progress in their dance.

About Movement Invites Movement

We are relatively young Argentine Tango dancers and teachers who are married both to each other and the dance. We truly found Tango after making an 8-month Tango pilgrimage to Buenos Aires and we are using this blog to share our thoughts and feelings about our Tango experiences. We are not aspiring authors and our writing skills are questionable, but we write our truth. View all posts by Movement Invites Movement

19 responses to “Javier Rodriguez, Castration, and More

  • judiebe

    Javier Rodriguez is one of my tango heroes. Thank you for this great post!

  • jantango

    Move your hips back — Javier is a slim guy. He may need Andrea to give him room. The result is her butt sticks out, which isn’t natural in tango. I dance with heaftier milongueros with bellies that provide space. Even so, my toes are no more than a few inches away from my partner’s. I checked yesterday while dancing with Alito in El Arranque. Our toe tips were almost touching. I have contact from the head to below the waist, and we never have problems. Again, it may be Javier’s slim body partnering Andrea. He is making a generalization that may not apply to everyone.

    Hierarchy on the floor — I’ve been told by milongueros that those who dance in the outer lane want to be seen and because it’s the safest lane in which to dance. It’s not uncommon for milongueros to dance in the second lane simply because of traffic. It doesn’t really matter to them. They don’t have to show off to anyone. The second lane is more of a challenge than the outer lane. That’s where floorcraft skills are put to the test. The floor density is constantly changing, and milongueros are aware of it. They know how to navigate and avoid dancers who cause collisions by changing lanes. Yes, they do, contrary to what teachers tell you in class.

    I don’t believe many are going to rank themselves and dance in the center of the floor. Keeping up with dancers in the outer lane may be the best way to improve, especially in BsAs. No one in BsAs enters the floor by going to the center. All start from the outer lane and see where it takes them.

    Idolization — I agree. Teachers are just like everyone else. Their fame comes from name recognition and internet videos. Hollywood celebrities are famous and household names, but certainly the same is not true about tango dancers. We need to keep that in perspective. The fact that teachers dance better than students is because they practice all day long and have done so for years to make a career from tango. Javier is 30 something and shares the knowledge he learned from his teachers. He is still learning, and it will be more than a few years before he imparts wisdom.

    • Movement Invites Movement

      Hi Janis. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

      We keep up with your blog and are aware of your thoughts on “hips back”. We obviously won’t be able to change your mind, but we’ll just add a few points based on what you said.

      Our toes are never very far apart either – perhaps an inch – and we’re both slim. So yes, we need to create the space. However, we’re willing to bet that the majority of men (AND milongueros) will enjoy a female partner who pulls her hips back more than one who doesn’t (separate of what it may look like). Dancing with a woman who keeps her hips flat is like trying to dance with a wall in front of you. Perhaps the better flat-hipped woman feels like a wall of bristol board, but the worse flat-hipped woman feels like a wall of bricks.

      Our 8-month experience in Buenos Aires (and not just what our teachers told us) clearly showed the hierarchy of dancers on the floor. Just because one or two dancers per milonga (Tete was an obvious example while we were there) moved in and out of the lanes, doesn’t mean this was/is the norm. Tete obviously liked to move around more freely and with larger/longer movements, therefore he didn’t let the idea of “lanes” stop him. The inside lanes were clearly being used by the not-so-good dancers – and so yes, obviously this will put one’s floorcraft skills to the test. You’re right that most dancers won’t rank themselves to the middle of the floor, but then better leaders can always find a way to “squeeze” them to the middle – and we saw that happen in Bs.As. too.

      Javier is still learning, we are still learning, and you know what? The milongueros are still learning. That’s what life and Tango are: a continuous learning process. So to say that it will be “more than a few years before he (Javier) imparts wisdom” is quite arrogant. If Javier tells us something that Portalea shared with him, it means he is sharing wisdom with us. However, wisdom need not only come from the milongueros!? He is also sharing wisdom when he simply reminds dancers to be free when they dance Tango.

      • krassimire

        In my experience, feeling the woman like a wall comes from the non-verticality of the standing leg, it must be vertical in the posture in order to avoid disturbing presure and feel her light. So “hips back” can help in this regard, creating the space in question and in the same time avoiding tilt of the standing leg. And my observation is that the better dancers use some space, about 15-20 cm. (6-8 inches) between the toes.

      • Movement Invites Movement

        If the leader takes, or wants to take, steps that are longer than about a foot with a flat-hipped woman, it feels like a wall. It doesn’t matter how vertical the standing leg is. The “wall” feeling is coming from the woman’s hips and is translated through her chest. However, it’s strange that you mention 6-8 inches between the toes because this means the woman is leaning on the man – and therefore can’t have a vertical standing leg – OR the man is bending over. Or perhaps you’re talking about an open hold and not an embrace? In both instances, that’s not the kind of Tango we’re talking about.

  • krassimire

    I thought we both are talking about this kind of tango:

    I see A LOT of space between their toes. And no, she isn’t leaning, at least not what is usually meant by leaning.

    • Movement Invites Movement

      True true. Perhaps it’s fair to say that it depends when/where in the dance we’re talking about the distance between toes. Also, a demo will have far larger steps – and likely more room between the feet – than if one was dancing in a milonga.

      • krassimire

        Yes, in a well dancing couple the leader can regulate it to his liking or better said, depending on the circumstances, or what he intents to do next.

    • nul

      Well, since Javier doesn’t like things sugar coated…

      As the name itself clearly states, Tango Salon is tango danced in a way that is suitable for the salon. In other words, tango danced in a way the is suitable at a milonga. How is this at all suitable for a milonga with all those giant steps, and going against line of dance, and legs flying???

      Also, very ugly hand clasp, and his musicality was intermediate level at best in this video.

      • Movement Invites Movement

        Hahaha! You’re funny “Nul”. You need to use a fake email address and name in order to insult a dancer/teach who is loved by so many (and yes, some people don’t like him). Surely you’re able to dance all of Javier’s movement easily since he is of an “intermediate level”, right?

        In reply to your statement about the way he dances in performances – most teachers will tell you to use the space when you have it. Anyone who has seen Javier dance in a milonga can vouch for the fact that he is an excellent social dancer. As for an ugly hand clasp… Really? That’s what you’re going to pick on?

        Thanks for your comment “Nul”.

      • nul

        My point exactly. This is not Tango Salon, closer to Tango Fantasia. I would not try to copy his moves, but I definitely have much better musicality than is shown here. He is clearly trying to get as many “steps” into his performance rather than dancing the music. If you can’t see that, then you are blinded by your idolization of him. But at least you did concede that it is an ugly hand clasp.

      • Movement Invites Movement

        We didn’t concede anything, but thank you for trying to put words in our mouths.

        Very few people would ever attempt to say that Javier does a TON of steps when performing. We could direct you to virtually any other big-name dancer for you to see that. If you are choosing to pick on one of his Pugliese performances, we can still confirm that it is improvised and a far cry from Tango Fantasia.

        And again, really? As an anonymous commenter, you’re going to state your musicality is better than his? And what video are you referring to anyway? There isn’t a video posted in this blog post.

  • Liner

    Hmm… I don’t know where to begin, but I think there are many things that don’t jive in this post. Honestly many things didn’t really make sense to me or were contrary to teachers I really respect. I think everyone has their own philosophies and his teaching is his own that may work for students who idolize him.

    One of the most respected dancers in NY from Buenos Aires teachers her ladies when dancing tango that she SHOULD be squeezing her “chichi” to improve her technique. Go figure!

    “Put your hips back” I think is overstated. In fact this advice is very bad thing for some teachers. These teachers emphasize to rotate your tailbone UNDER the spine for good posture and less angular pressure on your lumbar spine. This makes sense as good posture will straighten the spine, improve being grounded and will help to reduce injuries later in life. I don’t think this moving hips forward relative to the chest necessarily will cause a “wall” like feeling when dancing because it doesn’t matter what ‘shape’ or position her hips are as long as she moves and moves out of the way if we are doing as simple as walking or something like chained saccadas in a molinete. In fact many girls will use this ‘castrating’ technique to stay close and flirt with the men down there, yet they still will move deliciously out of the way with any lead.

    Hierarchy may make sense in BA where the codas are strong. But it may not make sense at all in other cities, where everyone is taught to try and dance the outside lane, and to use the second lane for passing so the best dancers will often go to the second lane for more ‘freedom’ at the milonga (true in New York). I agree with the sentiment the best dancers shouldn’t be required to dance equally with beginners and their own, because there would be no incentive to improve. This is not a problem, it is a very good rule.

    Hmm… I’m a little late posting to this discussion, but oh well… I’ve had my input. So many blog entries, clearly you are a tango addict!

    • Movement Invites Movement

      Thanks for your comment Liner. It seems what you’re saying is that Tango is not a standardized dance and you would be right! This means what one teacher says may not “jive” with what another teacher says.

      We agree that not everyone should use the outside lane, but using a second land for passing is not a typical floorcraft rule?! In general, good dancers should not need to pass and should be able to dance well and freely on the same spot. Of course, there are exceptions. If/when a couple in front of you is completely disturbing the flow of the dance floor, then you may have to pass.

      As for squeezed “chichis”, we personally find it a detriment to a follower’s dance. If a woman is constantly looking to squeeze her thighs together, she will often have trouble matching the man’s side step. This is something we have had a lot of personal experience with. Our beginner students who haven’t been taught to do this have no problem following bigger/faster side steps, but others who have been taught this way are often difficult to move sideways.

      For clarification: “hips back” does not mean the same thing as a rotating the hip bone forward or backwards. Your hips can be pulled back without arching your back and it can even be done while tucking your tailbone under (though we wouldn’t suggest that).

      Cheers!

  • AlexTangoFuego

    I love it.

    We Americans *are too sensitive and too fucking politically correct and oh so very prone to delusion individually and collectively.

    Hola, y’all! I am still lurking out here on the fringe and dancing once in a blue moon…take care!

    (And I look forward to reading all those great comments down there…!)

  • Janet Rieck

    I really have to take issue on the arrogance of JanTango and the rest of you who seem to think they are some kind of authority on dancing tango. First of all, if you have a chance to study with Javier, you should do it. His classes are simple and he works on fundamentals…until you are green…really. I personally love to work on fundamentals. You can feel the difference when you are dancing. He is a superb dancer…why in the world would you put him down for that. Unfortunately, JanTango only dances one style. A real tango dancer can dance with anyone. The problem is later on you prefer to dance with dancers more on your level…and you deserve and should do that…but be aware that no matter where you dance they all will be different. Hanging on your partners is not good dancing. Waiting for your partner to tell you what to do…is not good dancing. Taking classes with only miliongueros will give you a very limited range. You should take from people you admire and who can also teach. But the real truth is that if your fundamental skills are not there, you will never be a good tango dancer because everything you will try to do will fall apart. Dancing in Buenos Aires is a very real challenge…more so today than years ago. Most dancers do not take formal classes…sadly. The older men are wonderful (not all are) but they have had 50 years to master the craft. One of the best dancers I have danced with here is about 95 I am sure. We are lucky to have the opportunity to learn from talented performers…they did not. But another truth is that they can only give you technique…it is up to you to take that and make tango your own. My advice is to take from only the best, including milongueros and try to make the most of that knowledge. As far as floor craft goes, even the best dancers dance in the middle of the floor…but not because it is easier or they are bad dancers,,,it is more for having the freedom to dance the way they feel. Dancing on the outside is simple and easier…has nothing to do with whether you think you are a good dancer or not. Whatever you do avoid changing lanes…very annoying to those around you. Lastly, the culture of tango and the codes in the milongas are very important to know and follow. It is very important to respect them. I have been dancing tango for 23 years and have been told I am a very good dancer. And I feel I know nothing until I start to dance with another person. I concentrate very hard to find the mark and energy of my partners in order to respond to them. This is not an easy dance to master. You are continually learning how to dance tango. It is so much fun and I never get bored….until I read some of the stuff about so called authorities of tango…they make me laugh. I dance 6 hours a day in Buenos Aries. There is not one day that is the same as the next. Be flexible in your thinking and practice and be open minded and you will survive in the tango world.
    .

    • Movement Invites Movement

      Hi Janet,

      Thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts.

      Are you speaking to us or Jantango? This post clearly illustrates that we have taken lessons with Javier and this post (which Javier himself has shared on Facebook) are from his comments made in classes.

      Cheers.

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