Tag Archives: Practice

Tango Victims: Charity Dances, Pity Dances, and Being “Nice” Dances

*I vant to suck your Tango blood!

We overheard two women over the span of five minutes ask a young tanguero to dance with them later in the night.  We know this tanguero and his inability to say no; the same inability that still creeps up on Jorge sometimes.  Heck, K has even been caught off guard lately.  Women abuse this knowledge and are often asking said tanguero for dances.  Although we’ve written about the lack of a consistently used “cabeceo” in our community and how we believe that women and men have equal rights to ask for dances, there’s something that people should understand about Tango: Tango and Tango dancers are to be respected.

This is what we overheard: “I was his partner in the class so he should be nice and dance with me in the milonga.”  This is not so different from the common rumblings of how tango teachers should dance with their students in a milonga.  Or how friends should dance with friends.  Or how better dancers should be “generous” with their dances and dance with beginners.  These types of statements are very frustrating.  To begin with, most people go to a milonga to have a good time, enjoy dancing, and get away from the “real world”.  Then why are people being expected to do something that may include not having a good time or enjoying their dance?  Practicas can be used for this. That said, Toronto has, in the past, been virtually void of any real practicas.  Either everyone has already “perfected” their Tango or they think practicing means dancing a whole song or tanda without stopping, without giving feedback, and in general, without improving one’s dance.

What gets to us more than this is the complete disregard for what Tango is and what it means to dance Tango with someone you don’t want to.  Tango is an extremely intimate dance.  You are putting your chests together, wrapping your arms around one another, touching heads/faces and sharing approximately 12 minutes of your life this way.  Forget Tango for a second and ask yourself how you would like it if a stranger came up to you and asked/demanded a 12 minute hug from you (simply because you had a chat with them at the corner store)?

If you want to dance with a visiting/local teacher, take privates with them.  When your dancing is enjoyable for the both of you, the teacher will ask you to dance or let you know they would like to dance with you in a milonga.  Teachers are people too and they dance Tango because they love it (or at least we do).   No one should have to sacrifice their love of the dance to dance with students, potential students, friends, or just to be “nice”?

As in all facets of life, there are exceptions,  but these should not be expectations.  In order to avoid making any assumptions, please use the cabeceo.  Use it from your seat.  Don’t come and stand around the person you want to dance with in a stalker-like fashion.  This, by definition, turns the potential dance partner into a Tango victim.

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The Tango Plague

There exists a plague within Tango, found in Tango communities around the world, and perpetuated in blogs and by many tangueros alike.  It feeds on the very notion that Tango, unlike every other dance, is more special, more elusive, and more unique.  Death is slow and painful.

Symptoms of The Tango Plague

Those afflicted with the Tango Plague show signs of confusion.  They begin to believe that they do not need to practice or take lessons.  They believe that the best place to better their craft is on the dance floor of the milonga dancing with the best “Milongueros” (although there are no actual milongueros in their community).  They don’t believe that there are dancers that range from beginner to more advanced even though it is often plain to see which dancers are better and which are worse (one only needs to look at the dancer’s musicality, embrace, posture, and movement).   Finally, the infected are often the first to say, “You never stop learning.”

Treatment

The Tango Plague can be remedied very simply.  First, the infected must realize that like ANY hobby, sport, or interest, one must learn and practice in order to maintain and better oneself.  They must remember some people are good at their chosen interests and exhibit a talent for it, while others struggle to acquire the basics.  The aftermath of this plague leaves us with communities full of dancers who stopped learning after taking one 8-week Tango session; dancers whose dance is infected with little more than bad habits.

We were traumatically reminded of this topic when we went to a neighbourhood matinee Milonga here in Buenos Aires.  The dancers were respectful when navigating the floor and were quite musical.  However, most men shuffled along the floor even though there was space and their bodies were able (EVERY teacher here from the young to the Milonguero has instructed us to take bigger steps when there is the space), and most had embraces that were visibly of the death-grip variety.  K danced with six men, two of which repeated the EXACT SAME PATTERN for FOUR WHOLE SONGS!?  Jorge danced four tandas with three different women, two of which decided the steps for him (if these women danced with the men K danced with, it’s no wonder they anticipated/decided the movement before it was lead).  These women, although appearing to be average dancers, could not maintain their own axis or even follow at the most basic level.  Why?  Because they dance with the men of this milonga who lead by force rather than by invitation and have a non-existent vocabulary of movement.  K would have preferred to walk to the beat for four songs than repeat “Ocho Cortados” the whole time.  That said, we have come to the realization that a large number of men here cannot walk and that the walk is one of the most difficult concepts in Tango.  It is far easier to lead and follow variations of ochos than walk.

We are not suggesting that these Porteños start taking lessons.  Our point is only to open people’s eyes to the MYTH that dancing in the milonga (even and especially the milongas of Buenos Aires) will in itself (or at all) a better dancer make.  Those outside of Argentina with the financial means have no excuse to stop learning and/or practicing.  The whole point of taking classes (learning technique) and practicing in practicas (applying technique) is to SET YOU FREE.  When the embrace, musicality, leading/following, maintaining your axis, and maintaining your posture, are no longer challenges, you are able to experience Tango in the realm of absolute FREEDOM.

Our plea to the Tango Universe: Stop telling people that they don’t need to take classes, that they don’t need to practice outside of the milonga, and that they will learn everything by dancing in a milonga.  Tango is no different from any other dance or skill.  The ability deteriorates without proper use and practice, and updating one’s skill is necessary to maintain even a stagnate level.