Learn on one.
Archive for the ‘Learning tango’ Category
The sidewalk in front of Confiteria Ideal on Suipacha has the basic step ingrained in stone. I found it recently and took this photo. The diagram installed by the city includes a copyright by Hector Mayoral and Elsa Maria Borquez, who performed in Tango Argentino. I am certain they teach this sequence in their classes. The back step is not included in the footprints on the sidewalk, but it is part of the sequence that all beginners memorize.
Now we know who takes credit for the sequence which is no part of tango in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Every first tango class should begin like this showing an improvised and compact dance with this video as required viewing.
How do you memorize a feeling?
There is nowhere to dance on Sunday morning at 10:00 in Buenos Aires, yet I was dancing on the radio program Cumbre de Tango. Mundo Sur is the newest radio station with audio and ustream video on their webpage. This past Sunday I danced a tanda of Carlos Di Sarli with Tito Aquino and Chino Fanel, and the Juan D’Arienzo tanda with Pichi Piccini. The program has regular viewers in Italy, Korea and Japan.
The studio is small with carpeting on the floor to reduce noise. They taped a webcam to the board on the wall for the ustream video. The broadcast technician adjusts the camera manually during the program so viewers can watch the dancing. I don’t know of another radio program in Buenos Aires with live tango dancing.
Ricardo expressed interest in learning to dance tango. He is so enthusiastic about learning that I gave him his first lesson during the De Angelis tanda. We began with the embrace. After his first tango, he said, “it’s easy.” Yes, I confirmed, but dance teachers make it complicated. I told him to listen to the music. After working only a few months on the program, he’s hooked.
Millions of viewers watch flashy dance performances on entertainment television. They probably have no idea that those choreographed routines called tango have nothing to do with the music and dance that originated in Buenos Aires.
A few days ago I filmed dancers’ legs during a vals tanda. This is social dancing at its best.
Another blogger wrote about her dilemma on finding the time and money to improve her dancing. Tango is a booming industry because of an addiction adults have for taking classes for years in the hopes of dancing like their favorite professionals. The ego is never satisfied with how well you dance.
I know American women who paid Argentine tango professionals one hundred dollars or more for an hour private lesson. Did it help their social dancing? Did the men dance with the women in a milonga? No. But the women got to tell their friends about dancing with world-famous tango stars.
What is the best way to improve your social dancing?
1. take lots of group classes, weekend workshops, private lessons?
2. focus on technique and choreography?
3. find a practice partner?
4. dance in the milongas, preferably in Buenos Aires
No. 4 is the best way. Classes may get you to practice some, but a class of beginners doesn’t help many improve beyond a basic level. Ladies, you need to dance with men who know how to dance. Workshops with teachers who disappear in three days with your money do you no good, especially those with a championship title who sell choreography instead of improvisational skills for the milonga.
Case in point. Jean arrived for her third visit in Buenos Aires. She danced very little in the milongas during her first two trips because she was too busy with classes and going to the wrong milongas. She came to improve and gain confidence as a social dancer. I gave her a milonga schedule where I knew she would dance. I told her to forget classes with teachers whom she would never see at a milonga. She followed my advice. She went to the evening milongas and danced every tanda for four hours, something she never does at her local milonga. I filmed her dancing in the milonga at the beginning of her trip and at the end. I pointed out one thing to practice. Her dancing changed by the end of three months. She had to adjust to a different partner for each tanda. The result was she gained confidence and improved her dancing.
Many of the milongueras I know learned to dance in the milongas. They didn’t learn in classes. There were no technique classes to attend. Their private lessons were tandas with the milongueros at Club Almagro and Club Buenos Aires. The milongueros know how to dance well, and the women learned by dancing with them.
Teachers avoid explaining the embrace because they don’t use it themselves. It is what sets tango apart from all other social dances. Any milonguero viejo will tell you that the key to dancing tango is the embrace. It is the vital element in the tango conversation.
I know many of you are thinking there is no way you can go to Buenos Aires to improve your dancing. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Find a way before the milongas and milongueros are extinct. Or at least stop taking classes that don’t help your social dancing one bit.
My post “Do Women Need To Be Men in Tango?” received more comments than any other in Tango Chamuyo. Seeing a woman invite another woman to dance two years ago in Lo de Celia Tango Club prompted the post.
Last Wednesday was another situation. Two foreign men in their 40s danced together. This was a first at Lo de Celia. I pointed them out to the security guard at the bar who then informed Celia. The guard was told to tell the men that tango between men wasn’t permitted in the salon. The men left the floor and returned to their table.
Anyone taking a few minutes could see that tango is between men and women at Lo de Celia. Most of the men have danced tango all their lives and go regularly to dance with women. They may have practiced with their pals while learning, but their goal was to dance with women. Tango for them is masculinity embracing femininity. Argentine men are machistas who want to see men dancing with women, not men with men.
Two women told me they didn’t have a problem seeing two men dancing together. If the milonga doesn’t continue as we know it, where are we going to dance? Someone commented that it could be considered discrimination when two men are not allowed to dance together. There are venues that welcome that option. The men tested the waters at Lo de Celia.
It’s a given that women outnumber men in dancing, no matter what social style you name. Women learn to lead out of necessity to dance. There aren’t enough men teaching social tango, and too many men learn from women teachers. There is a difference. Tango needs more real men.
The five-part series with tango teachers in Rosario, Argentina (subtitled in English) includes:
What is the tango?
A brief history of the tango.
First tango experiences.
The tango embrace.
Alito and I stopped to have a quick bite to eat at La Americana before going to dance. It’s one of the oldest fast food places in Buenos Aires specializing in empanadas since 1935. I remarked to Alito that tango today is another fast food.
Fast food tango is for those who eat on-the-go. It’s available in packaged form at festivals all around the world. It feeds a large number in a short time at a reasonable price. It’s high in fat and lacks the essential nutrients. It’s consumed by those who don’t know what they’re eating, and they eat more than they really need.
Fast food is an American obsession. And so is fast food tango.
There was a time during the 1940s when the boys learned tango by watching friends in the street or at a dance. Everyone wanted to learn how to dance in those days. Alito was fortunate that his mother was a ballet dancer and taught him social dancing from an early age even though she didn’t take tango very seriously. Seventy years later, Alito is still dancing.
Alito was telling me about an academia on Cangallo (now Pte. Peron) in the 1200 block near Montevideo where boys went to practice tango with women who knew how to dance. The cost was ten tickets for a peso. They paid the women for each dance (two minutes) with a ticket. The women didn’t wait for the boys to invite them; they initiated the invitation. The more they danced, the more tickets they collected, and the more they earned. In those days three pesos an hour was a lot of money.
Alito recalled that a friend took him to this academia where he didn’t have to pay for the women to dance with him — he was already a good dancer. Boys could only dance with other boys at practicas, and the academia was a preparatory step for the milonga.
My tango journey began exactly twenty years ago in Chicago. I heard about a dancer who had been to Buenos Aires to learn tango, and his teacher/partner had moved away. I asked if he needed a new partner. We began meeting twice a week for practice that always began walking to the music. I was organizing a ballroom dance studio event featuring tango, and my partner prepared a choreography to “Copacabana” recorded by Osvaldo Pugliese, but I don’t know how we ever danced to it.
I attended the Stanford Tango Week in July 1993 to study with Juan Carlos Copes.
A few months later I began teaching tango classes based on what I had learned from my Argentine teachers.
It wasn’t until my 1996 trip to Buenos Aires that I had my first glimpse of tango in the milongas. It was an eye-opener, to say the least. I’m grateful to the teachers who guided my first steps in tango. The milongueros helped me discover its essence.