Quiet feet

In June 1996 I heard that a milonguero by the name of El Tano Guillermo was living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  It was a 90-minute drive on the highway from where I was living in Illinois at the time, so I arranged a meeting at his daughter’s house.  We talked for hours and danced outside on the deck in the blazing sun.

I will never forget the lesson I learned dancing with El Tano Guillermo.  I was adding adornments and he asked, what are you doing with your feet?  I feel everything you do in my chest.  He made it very clear to me that day that I didn’t need to add anything to the dance.


Three years of Tango Chamuyo with 431 posts.


7 Responses to “Quiet feet”

  1. Jaimito Says:

    Minimalist art can be beautiful, but other forms can also be equally or more beautiful. Adornments can be done without sacrificing the embrace. Try to be a little more open minded.

  2. jantango Says:

    Adornments have their place in stage performances for an audience; the milonga is different. I respected El Tano’s advice and don’t add anything on my own. In all the years I’ve danced with dozens of milongueros, not one has suggested that I do more with my feet. It’s enough that we dance together in the music.

  3. b Says:

    When a women begins to adorn, I feel sad that I have lost her for that tanda, and that her attention is now on entertaining others who are sitting around the floor. And yet I often see milonguero/milonguera videos where the old gal can’t resist but to kick up her feet and “do stuff.” I can only guess that it is either nervous energy or boredom. She has not found the magic we all hope for, with that man in that dance, so she is making do in other ways. Jaimito, above, seems to indicate that dancing a tango is a performance art of some sort, rather than an intimate experience between two people. For him it may well be that.

  4. jantango Says:

    It’s unfortunate that tango is better known as a performance dance (exhibition or stage) that as a social dance today even in Buenos Aires. The salon champions go directly into performing. When one dances for an audience, the tendency is to “do stuff” to please others, not dance for one’s partner.

    It will always be an intimate dance for me.

  5. Kristi Says:

    Quiet, yes. Driven by the music, yes. Felt by the lead? Of course.
    Did he think you had nothing to say?

  6. jantango Says:

    I understand my role is to accompany my partner and to be present in the moment with him. The dance is an intimate communication between two in the embrace, and I don’t feel the need to add anything to interrupt the dance (conversation). That’s what adornments do for the milongueros.

  7. Paul Says:

    This is a tricky one as it touches on various issues, among which might be mentioned the following.

    One is the question of the essence of the dance itself. What is it when stripped of its extra bits, its adornments and embellishments? Some would see it as an embrace that walks in sensitive response to the music. Everything extra added is therefore seen as gilding the lily, superfluous and even, in the case of El Tano Guillermo, downright distracting. Others take the line that there is no essential tango but rather a spectrum of possibilities from which the dancers select as the feeling and the music inspires them.

    Another point is motivation. Some social dancers want to show off and strut their stuff and feel cheated if denied sufficient opportunity to exhibit dazzlingly unquiet feet. Others (the ones we appreciate more, perhaps) may seek and experience the intimate embrace in which one responds to the music and to one’s partner.

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