Tag Archives: Culture

Hugging Technique

Tango is, without a doubt, found in the music and the embrace.  It is a dance of the people – for the people.  We understand that and we only truly learned it and understood it after 8 months of living (and inhaling Tango) in Buenos Aires.  We also understand, as people who have danced the majority of their lives, that having good technique only enhances one’s Tango.  There is no debating that having better posture and good balance are going to make the dance feel better for both yourself and your partner.  Having “perfect” feet – well, that isn’t so important.

In Tango, we can all understand that the embrace is a hug and that we’re giving our partner a hug that lasts a whole song.  However, it has been assumed by some that there is no technique to hugging and people don’t need to learn how to hug.  If students need to learn to walk (and they do), hugging (which is something they do far less than walking) is definitely going to have to be taught.   If you think that hugging and walking are easy for Tango students, go observe a beginner class to see how the majority of students end up walking on bent legs (something they didn’t do before arriving to the class) with their hips and feet leading the way.  But this is a topic for another time.

We previously wrote about the “Culture of Touching” that exists in Argentina and how living in a country that does not have this type of physical interaction leaves many at an “embrace disadvantage”.  There is a reason that many people mock the North American hug with its minimal touching.

This might be a bit of an exaggeration…

We have been the recipient of innumerable awkward hugs (in and out of Tango).  Hugging may be natural, but it is NOT normal or comfortable for many people.  We have been given crushing hugs, limp hugs, half hugs, and soulless hugs (to name a few).  The truth is, many people DO need to learn how to hug – especially how to give consistent hugs in Tango to friends and strangers alike.


Copycats and Being “Unique”

 

This intro comment is going to confuse people slightly:  We’ve had our fill of hearing how everyone should learn and discover their “own style” of Tango.  “Be unique”, “don’t copy”, etc, etc.

Please read on:

Back in the good old days in Buenos Aires there were plenty of dancers to watch and learn from.  It was possible to absorb bits and pieces (aesthetically, technically, etc) from multiple AMAZING dancers.  No one went to a class with ONE role model; the milongas with all its dancers were the role models.

How is a student supposed to do that now?  Especially a student outside of Buenos Aires? All one can do is look to their teacher as a role model and (consciously or not) copy them in the beginning.  Only after years of dancing and feeling at peace with the dance can one begin to take an individual path.  Otherwise, dancers end up spending more time trying to look “different” and “unique” instead of actually dancing nicely with their partner.

The whole idea of finding your own “style” is quite ridiculous to us.  Firstly, we dislike the word “style”.  Ultimately, you can only  truly dance who you are – you can only dance “you”.  So if “style” means the way you stand, embrace, tilt your head, etc. (i.e., the external package), we repeat:  ridiculous.  There will be copycats, but you will see it right away when there seems to be more effort in replicating favourite steps rather than just dancing.   It will probably look soulless or forced.

Here is a very recent example of what copying looks like.  There is no denying that this couple (especially the man) is dancing someone else’s dance and not their own (and we all know whose dance it is):

This is an unfortunate example of how trying too hard to look and dance like your role model results in a completely unoriginal and soulless dance.  There is plenty of talent here, but it has been severely sacrificed.

Some people claim to have their own “style” – simply because the outer package looks different – but these same people (international and local dancers alike) are the ones you see doing Javier’s “moves”, Julio Balmaceda’s “moves”, Gabriel Misse’s “moves”, Osvaldo&Coca’s “moves”, or any other “youtube” move, one after the other.  That is far more average and dull than the people who may have similar postures as their favourite dancers, but actually dance their own dance.

It is the responsibility of a Tango teacher to teach proper technique (i.e., providing students with natural and comfortable postures and movements) so that partners don’t hurt each other or themselves.

It is the responsibility of a Tango Teacher to teach the concepts of Tango (i.e., embracing fully, taking care of the woman, dancing with masculinity/femininity, etc).

It is also the responsibility of a Tango teacher to teach the culture of Argentine Tango (which includes the music, the codes of the milongas, and more).

Withholding any of these or expecting your students to find them on their own is a sign of neglect and makes us wonder if these teachers even like Tango (and/or teaching it).

ANALOGY: Dear student, we want you to learn the Finnish language.  We won’t tell you what real Finnish language is, instead we’ll let you find it on your own.

Good luck with that ;)


One Dance for Another

Many tangueros speak of all they have given up in order to dance tango and how everything revolves around the dance – more than any other. Overall, it was the opposite for us. Having been competitive ballroom dancers, we actually spent more time dancing and practicing, spent more money (memberships, competitive outfits, private lessons, practices, competitions), and we were all-consumed by it. We didn’t read tango blogs – instead we researched our competitors, looked at competition photos, and shined our trophies (kidding ;) We traveled around the country competing and had we continued to live and compete in Finland, we would have begun traveling throughout Europe to compete. For us, dancing tango meant we had more free time than we’d ever had and more money … well in the beginning anyway.   Then the privates started.  -We are still aghast and disgusted by the fact that Tango teachers charge more for privates than National Ballroom Champions who are experts in FIVE or TEN dances rather than ONE and have generally danced far less time (not including any milongueros).-  Then the shoe fetish began.  Then the extra group classes we wanted to attend.  Then all the milongas and practicas… and finally, the plan for a pilgrimage to the Tango mother land.

Now, we breath and live Tango.  We listen to the music almost all the time (there wasn’t a chance we would have listened to Ballroom music all the time), we watch youtube videos, we read blogs, and  generally have Tango on the brain.  Whereas some people have difficulty adjusting their lives (friendships, etc) to this new love, it was something we were both used to doing with other dances.  We LOVE dancing and dancing has always been a passion for us.  Now that we have Tango, the passion has deepened and we feel the culture of Tango within us.

We couldn’t be happier that it all turned out the way it did.


Culture Immersion

When we were in Buenos Aires we often felt very conflicted about seeing dancers we knew from Toronto.  Let us rephrase that:  We weren’t really conflicted, but we didn’t want to offend anyone.

Let K preface by saying that she has lived abroad.  K originally went to teach children English in Finland for a year, but then met Jorge and moved back there for another 3.5 years.  During her first year, she was invited by a foreign student to befriend all the other foreign students, as had her predecessor.  Although very thankful, K had no interest in this.  Had she really traveled all that way to hang out with other foreigners?  No.  Instead, she befriended Jorge and spent all her free time with him and his family, and she immersed herself in the Finnish culture.

That said, we hoped that anyone we saw from the homeland would be of the same mindset as us.  Which was: We went to Buenos Aires to experience the culture. Let us say hello, possibly go for coffee, and then be on our separate ways.  We certainly didn’t spend all that hard-earned money to see and spend time with the same people we see back home.

In all honesty though, we did meet some lovely Asians who were wonderful people and who danced the “same kind of Tango” we danced (perfectly said by one of these new friends).  Although we did spend a lot of time with these gringos, the positive was that they were gringos of a different culture than ours.

“Those who visit foreign nations, but associate only with their own country-men, change their climate, but not their customs. They see new meridians, but the same men; and with heads as empty as their pockets, return home with traveled bodies, but untravelled minds.”
– Caleb Colton