A recent comment on “How We Teach and Promote Argentine Tango” and a recent email seeking to organize a milonga (in the “Nuevo” style) brought us to the realization that far too many people want to water-down or dumb-down Argentine Tango. Tango is perfect the way it is! Why must it be radically changed?
We treat our students like mature and evolved beings. We trust that they will love Argentine Tango music (the Golden Era stuff). We trust that they will love the dance without all the showy moves. We trust that they will love a chest-to-chest embrace and will not be embarrassed by it. We trust that Argentine Tango is special enough without all the fluffy extras.
It is our job as teachers to educate our students. And so, we educate our students about the codes, the music, and the dance. It frustrates us when people feel the need to organize fusion events or play alternative music so the “young people” will like it and have a “fun” time. There is an assumption made that young people can’t possibly appreciate the complex music of the Golden Era Tango orchestras. We don’t make that assumption and we teach a predominantly young student base at the University of Toronto Argentine Tango Club. They don’t ask for alternative music or salsa intermissions because we have guided our students to love Tango the way it is. This is comparable to avoiding bringing your children to McDonald’s for the first time. Although they may like it, it doesn’t mean it’s good for them or that they should have it.
As an aside, we also find it quite frustrating that many dancers try to segregate among age-groups in Tango. We have been rallied numerous times to give our support to events that our youth-focused (which will end up excluding the “older” crowd). Why would we do this when the majority of our favourite dancers are among that crowd? This is another way we educate our students; we inspire them to seek the best embrace among all ages and not their BFF among their age-group.
June 6th, 2012 at 4:36 PM
I entirely agree with what you say about watering down. I have been railing against this very thing for years but because I was not dependent on my pupils for my main income, I could afford to do that. Not that anybody listened to me, as far as I know. There was a time when I coined the name ‘Ukango’ to refer to the version of Tango finding popularity in the UK. Show moves and aerobics of a totally anarchic and anti-social type, open un connected embraces with women held under the right armpit, milongas with no cortinas and both neo-tango and frankly non-tango. Danced by people whose idea of tango appeared to centre mostly on wearing fedora hats and correspondent shoes. Sadly, the same nonsense can now be seen in milongas in Baires. I despair!
June 6th, 2012 at 4:58 PM
Thank you for sharing your frustrations with us. We still feel confident in the scene in Buenos Aires. Although the odd dancer or couple show up to do their “thing”, it’s not the norm at the main traditional milongas (at least from our observations from our last visit in December/January).
Here’s to hoping the watered-down glass is half-full rather than half-empty.
June 21st, 2012 at 5:53 PM
The true masters teach what they know the student needs and not what the students want.
March 9th, 2013 at 5:28 PM
Bit of a contradiction here: you (a) believe Tango should accomodate all age groups but (b) don’t want to accomodate different interpretations of the dance.
March 28th, 2013 at 1:13 PM
How is there a contradiction? Accommodating different age groups and different body types has no relation to dancing Argentine Tango in different ways. Using the word “interpretations” seems like a nice way of saying changing the dance into something it’s not and still wanting to call it Argentine Tango.
May 15th, 2013 at 1:19 PM
I really like the theory you have behind teaching tango that you showed in “How We Teach.” My dance partner and I try to convey several of the same concepts, especially focusing on the music and doing a composer of the day routine to help them better appreciate the culture and style to which they are dancing.
There are some parts where you describe watering down as just the incursion of new types of tango, and while I definitely prefer golden-age to nuevo music, there was a time when tango was the new thing and the people who danced to it were the crazy rebels. I also appreciate your aversion to ganchos, even though I recently decided I might as well master them since they weren’t put in to tango to distract from the dance and connection, but rather to enhance it (this decision led to me to figuring out all sorts of sacadas that I had deemed “too showy” and finally getting the hold of some basic colgada technique).
Anyway, I obviously don’t have the authority to say whether or not nuevo and alternative belong in the milongas, but they are there.
On another positive note, it’s wonderful when teachers go somewhere new and truly let themselves be students. I loved my own trip to Buenos Aires largely for that reason — and it was nice to finally experience the feel of an enormous tango community.
You both sound like you would be a delight to dance with.
May 16th, 2013 at 3:54 PM
Thank you for your reply David! Abrazos.