Simply beautiful. Enjoy.
Some people are content to walk through life at a shuffle. They are content (although not necessarily happy) to be where they are in life. They see no need to improve themselves or to grow as an individual. In this same way, some people are content to shuffle their way through Tango.
In “real” life, K is a major speed walker; full of energy (read hyper), and constantly on the search for efficiency. She also likes to take the lead in life. For this reason, her struggles in Tango (and in life) revolve around slowing down and letting go.
In “real” life, Jorge is easy-going and indecisive. He’s gentle and has difficulty accepting who he is. For this reason, his struggles in Tango (and in life) revolve around taking the reigns and being in charge.
Those who want life or tango to be all-positive and all-perfect refuse to accept all that life… and Tango… have to offer. When you don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable, you are likely to miss all that life… and Tango… have to offer. For some people, denial is a strong motivator and they prefer to live in an “everything-is-fun-all-the-time” delusion.
Tango is Life. Life is Tango. Be happy with who you are and be happy with your Tango. Love all the perfection and the imperfection. At the same time, strive to be all that you can be and don’t settle for being “content”.
Women: Wash your hair before you Tango.
Many women have long hair and that means there’s a lot of hair smelling good… or bad. If that hair hasn’t been washed the day you are tangoing or if it has been but it’s been at the gym, that’s a lot of hair giving off a lot of nasty fumes right into the nostrils of the men you are dancing with.
Please smell good. Wear deodorant, wear clean clothes, shower, AND wash your hair. Men, that includes you too.
There are several unnatural body movements and concepts found in Tango. One of the obvious ones being the woman’s back walk. However, many of the movements are very natural (or can be) and that is how we teach our students to see Tango. It is also the way we believe Tango has evolved – giving women the ability to be stronger and more independent in the dance, and allowing the movement for both dancers to be more natural. The problem is that many students are taught to dance in countless unnatural ways.
Collecting Collecting one’s feet (or specifically squeezing the thighs) OBSESSIVELY is not natural (or necessary). Let gravity work its magic and the leg will fall naturally perpendicular to the floor, straight under the pelvis. Having legs that act like pendulums will allow the ankles to come close together or make contact between steps.
Pretty Feet In addition to being taught to collect legs obsessively, many women have also been taught that their feet aren’t pretty enough. In order to “pretty” up the feet, women are taught to pronate their feet. There are many dancers and professional tango teachers that now have completely over-pronated feet.
This is an example of an over-pronated foot in Tango:
This is an example of a more natural line:
Having natural lines mean your feet fall downwards when they are beneath you. When they are to the side, they can relax, but they should NOT be pushed downwards in order to get a more “intense” (pronated) look to the foot.
Some dancers coming from ballet may have developed this pronation in their feet, but it should not be taught and it should not be the expected norm.
Toe first How do most people walk in their daily lives? Do they land toe first? No. Humans walk in a way that has the heel hitting the ground first. Students new to Tango have enough to worry about without having to relearn how to walk. Although toe-first can add an aesthetic variation to the dance, it is by no means necessary. Plus many who teach the toe-first technique often also teach the idea that the foot should lead (or move first) and then the body. We’re always fascinated by this. How on earth is a woman supposed to feel a man’s foot moving first?
Photo borrowed from Simba Tango.
**We’ll always remember what one Milonguero told us: Toe first is for dancers; heel first is for Tangueros.**
Hips Forward Tango requires room between the man and woman’s pelvises. Otherwise, women, you are castrating the man. You are taking away his ability and liberty to walk forward freely. We will admit that at first glance, having your hips back is unnatural. However, if you want to hug, create space, and not lean on your partner (or have all your weight on the balls of your feet), then your hips will need to be pulled back so that your centre of gravity will be over your own feet. Having your hips back mean that your legs will be perpendicular with the ground. Leaning forward with the weight all in the balls of your feet is unnatural and painful… and if you are not leaning forward, you are touching one another’s groins… and that is unnecessary in Tango and brings us back to the point that the man is being “castrated”.
One or Two Tracks Very few people naturally walk in one track (this being the equivalent to walking on a tightrope). Why? Because just like walking on a tightrope, it’s difficult?! We stand on two legs that are under us in such a way as to give us good, natural balance.
Over-Disassociation or No Disassociation We’ve seen students who have been taught to disassociate exaggeratedly when walking – especially when walking outside of a partner. The disassociation is so extreme that when these students dance with anyone who has not learned from their teacher, the entire balance of the couple is thrown off. On the flip side of the coin, we have (more often) seen students who have never learned to disassociate – in general or as part of the lead. These people move like cement pillars and wonder why they can’t lead any of the more demanding movements (without tension).
Overly-Relaxed or Full of Tension It is fundamentally important that dancers be relaxed in Tango. Teachers who ask their students to have firm (read stiff) arms and embraces, clearly don’t understand that Tango consists of an “abrazo” (hug). But again, there’s a natural way to be relaxed when dancing and it requires a little more muscle activation than what is needed when lying down. When it comes to being “relaxed”, here are two phrases to remember:
Hug your partner. Don’t turn your embrace into a frame.
Relaxing does NOT equal collapsing
A local Tanguero recently put up a Tango video of a very famous male dancer (we’ll call him Tango Jerk). Tango Jerk is known (yes, through rumors and gossip) to beat the women he dances with. What’s frightening is that we’re quite certain many of you know exactly who we’re talking about with only that small amount of information.
K couldn’t hold back. She felt the need to comment on the video to say that she had seen a picture of the female dancer with bruises, (allegedly) from Tango Jerk, and therefore, the video shouldn’t be promoted. The resulting comment, from this very sweet and nice Tanguero, was that it was Tango Jerk’s personal life and therefore he didn’t care, nor was it any of his business. Before many of you become irate, let us assure you that if you knew this Tanguero, you would know he didn’t mean it to sound as heartless as it sounds.
K then responded that if abuse has actually occurred, then she does care, Tango Jerk should be in jail, and again, no one should promote Tango Jerk. Four females proceeded to “like” K’s comment and that made sense. Unfortunately, no males “liked” the comment (besides Jorge). But what we found particularly baffling was that a female had liked the Tanguero’s comment about it being Tango Jerk’s personal life.
Please comment dear readers. Tell us we’re not the only ones who understand that domestic violence is EVERYBODY’s business and that we ALL care about it. Please tell us that Tango talent does not supersede a woman’s safety and the law. And please feel free to pass this on.
We’ve previously written about copycats in Tango. And we will write in the future about our thoughts on the slowly brewing Tango norm: “Estilo Mundial” (This is a randomly chosen video and they ALL look the same!?). For now, we wanted to delve into what we think about being “creative” and “unique” when there is such a HUGE stress on it in Tango.
We think it’s bullshit.
How about this: Just be yourself.
People constantly complain about clones and when they do so, there’s an unspoken/unwritten assumption that the person should be “unique” instead. By definition, each one of us is unique – hence the term “individual”. However, we are all humans. We are all one. We share more things in common than not (“Hug a stranger today. If you go back far enough we are all related somehow.”). So why do we have to try to be so different?
Don’t get us wrong, we aren’t interested in being clones. We’ve never really been sheep. In childhood, Jorge only had whatever his mother could afford. This, of course, meant brand names rarely existed in his home. Plus he was a ballroom dancer. That’s not quite what teenage boys are usually getting into at that time in their lives. Meanwhile, K specifically fought against going with the norm her whole life. She purposefully avoided many fads: desert boots and Converse in the 80’s, George Michael and belly button rings in the 90’s, and cell phones in the 2000’s ;) HOWEVER, it didn’t mean she flipped to the other extreme to be “unique”. Being “unique” is really just a timeless FAD. Why aren’t people happy to just be themselves?
Yes, we need innovators in the world. We need people who push the envelope and challenge themselves and others. However, Tango evolved (slowly) as dancers sought to challenge the dance ever so slightly and/or stumbled accidentally upon better and more efficient ways to move. We don’t believe there was a goal in mind to be super creative or unique, or an effort made to change the dance. Those who sought to change the dance (quickly), by being “unique” and “creative”, are those responsible for Nuevo Tango and other versions of Tango (which are not, as many people would like to have us believe, a “style” of Argentine Tango).
By being yourself, you are being all you need to be in life and in Tango.
Taking Gabriel Missé’s workshops allowed us to make some observations about ourselves in the role of student. We compared these observations to our own students, as well as to students we’ve seen in other teachers’ classes. This is what we realized:
When we take someone’s class, it means we’re there to respect the teacher. We become blank slates, we believe the teacher knows best, and we do as we’re asked. We push ourselves hard. We listen while the teacher speaks. And we ONLY work on what a teacher has asked us to work on. Perhaps this is one of the major reasons why after almost 4 hours of lessons with Gabriel Missé and Analía Centurión, we were (more or less) dancing in their style and using their technique. That’s not a pat on our backs. Rather, it’s a thought to you, the reader, to ask yourself what you do to better your dance when:
A) You struggle with body awareness
This isn’t an insult. This is a fact for many people. You are struggling with body awareness when you are constantly being given the same corrections from every teacher you take a lesson from (or even from one single teacher). In the same way you might work on technique, body awareness is a skill that needs to be developed and (re)learned.
B) You learn from many different teachers
There is an issue when specific techniques you use come from different teachers and you are not working on only one specific set of techniques. Mixing and matching is dangerous in Tango. Every teacher you take a class from will try to correct the other teacher’s technique you have (unless their focus in on figures/sequences or they have a complete lack of desire to see your dance improve). With that said, we have observed teachers who choose to avoid “wasting” their energy on a student until they see that the student has a genuine interest in learning from them.
C) You believe you are the best judge of your Tango.
Do you argue with the teacher? When a teacher asks you to do something, do you say, “I am doing that!” or “I can’t!”? Do you claim to prefer doing something a certain way? If you answer “yes” to any of these, then you believe you know best and we believe this will hinder your ability to improve.