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.
The topic of the month seems to be Chicho and the interviews he had with the ATDRC and El Tangauta magazine. Personally, the interviews irk us on so many levels – starting with the fact that Chicho refers to himself as a milonguero!? However, there’s no point in discussing that. What we did want to bring up deals more with Chicho’s floorcraft and that of Nuevo Tango dancers (although Chicho claims to dance straight-up Tango). It’s been said that Chicho dances “properly” like the other dancers in a traditional milonga. Anyone who has been to Sunderland Club in Buenos Aires has most likely seen Chicho show up to dance towards the end of the night. This means they’ve also seen how he goes into the middle of the floor, claims his space, and dances there for most of the night. He may move around, but what you will definitely see is people making space for, or steering clear of, him and his partner’s flying legs. It’s true, you can see he’s aware of the people around him and ready to adjust his movement, but nonetheless, he’s taking up more space than any other couple on the floor and he’s not following the unspoken rules of the milonga such as keeping your feet low to the ground.
All this to say that Nuevo Tango dancers may be very aware of the dancers around them and ready/able to adjust their dance, but it doesn’t change the fact that the very dance they’re dancing is not conducive to a small or crowded dance space. Simply by being in an open hold, you are taking up almost twice the space of a couple in an embrace. And when the most common nuevo move (the boleo, or volcada, or colgada, etc.) is inserted into an open hold dance, you are taking up a load of space and infringing on someone else’s space.
By the way, there’s also a fantastic example of Gustavo Naveira’s questionable floorcraft on Tango and Chaos.
We have come to a realization that there are three kinds of (“Argentine”) Tango found in the world.
1) Argentine Tango – regardless of whether it is “Barrio” style or “Centro” style
2) Nuevo Tango
3) Alternative Tango (which encompasses all the “alternative” forms of Tango found in between and outside of Argentine and Nuevo Tango
The waiter hand was observed numerous times in Bueno Aires… and there were numerous times that we heard teachers (of Argentine Tango) mock this kind of hand hold in classes. We have never liked this hold and have never understood why any man would want to hold his hand this way. On a purely esthetic level, it’s visually ugly. On a male ego level, what are you trying to say?
In a culture that prides itself on its machismo, we came to understand why this hold is disapproved of and we were given this explanation: The man’s left arm represents his virility. What are you saying, men, if you let your hand flop over into that “in-fashion” waiter hand? Is your manhood not functioning properly? Similarly, if some of you men are raising your left arm far above your head… Keep dreaming. No one believes you ;)
In addition to this, we were told that the positioning of the man’s hand speaks to the equality between the man and the woman. That is, the arm should be in a comfortable position for both the follower and the leader. When a man places his left hand folded over the woman’s hand, it makes you wonder what he thinks of women (i.e., lesser than?) because he obviously does not want to provide her with comfort. Perhaps one famous exception was Gavito who was known to say that the woman plays an equal part in the dance and yet he had an “I’m-Above-You left arm hold and he was famous for putting women in back-piercing leans.
One milonguero made this comment about Nuevo Tango to us and some other dancers present:
Nuevo Tango is not Argentine Tango because it sacrifices the embrace, the musicality, and the walk. And these are the elements that make up Argentine Tango.*
* This was said by an actual milonguero in Castellano and although not a direct translation, it almost is.