Believe it or not

False advertising abounds when it comes to tango.

“Any advertising or promotion that misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities or geographic origin of goods, services or commercial activities”

Promotion for two shows originating in Buenos Aires are prime examples.  They say they are one thing when they are another.  You can believe it or not.

This is what you read about the show Tango y nada mas, now on tour in Sydney, Australia.

“The real tango that is danced in the halls for the first time on stage.”

One viewing of their promotional video for the show confirms that this is not tango danced in the milongas.  You will never see four couples dancing a routine at any milonga anywhere in the world.  These trained dancers make their living performing and teaching choreographed tango to social dancers.  They don’t have time or the desire to dance in the milongas with other partners.  These world salon champions are not social dancers, but dedicated performers who practice hours each day to do their routines for an audience.  The only time they show up at a milonga is when hired for exhibition.  This tour is to sell workshops.

Another show with the title “Social Tango” is also misleading.

“on one hand, [we] wanted to bring the beauty of the stage tango dance through seven pairs of professional dancers. But without unlinking the dance of the social side of what tango means to people. ”

It refers to the social aspect of tango, but it’s all choreography.

Where do you find the real tango in Buenos Aires?  In the milongas.  The real tango is not found on any stage.  It’s a feeling that two dance in an embrace and for each other.

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24 Responses to “Believe it or not”

  1. embrujamiento Says:

    What saddens me even more is that this ridiculous outward show is probably still the idea most people have of tango. Well, I would love to be.. able… to say that tango becomes more accesible if people knew about the real character of (simple) social tango. However, in Europe, I see sooo many long-term tango dancers who resemble the stage dancers in this article of yours, and who have no clue about (and most likely no interest in) walking to the music, about a real embrace, dancing together, and so on. They are simply not interested in what tango really is. I usually don’t complain openly about this, because I still think people should do what they are interested in, and tons of blog posts have already been dedicated to this phenomenon. But as time passes, I get more and more pessimistic about the possibility of a globalization of tango culture instead of just a few lame steps.

  2. lina Says:

    the first question i always get when i say i dance tango is ‘ you mean like dancing with the stars’. that is what the world thinks tango is. it is too bad. and the shows you describe just reinforce that misinformation.

  3. Patricia Says:

    There’s stage tango and then there’s social tango.

    No doubt many people will enjoy the spectacle of this show. And that’s absolutely fine. But they’re being conned if they believe the advertising that this stage tango is what is danced socially in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Let’s hope that the tour’s workshops focus instead on skills essential for the social dance, otherwise it will be a missed opportunity for Aussie tangueros.

    As Lina and Embrujamiento have already said, many people involved in the tango scene sadly don’t appreciate the difference between dancing for an audience and the intimacy of dancing socially. And they don’t know what they’re missing out on.

  4. Chris Says:

    Janis, you’re too kind to these people. You left out their most damning promo line:

    Direct from Argentina, “TANGO Y NADA MÁS”, brings to the stage 100% authentic Tango de Salon as danced in Buenos Aires!

    And didn’t mention that the awesomely good music credited to the show band Orquesta Tango + Tango directed by Tito Farias is actually an overdubbed Juan D’Arienzo hit of 1952.

    You will never see four couples dancing a routine at any milonga anywhere in the world.

    Except of course in London, UK: video here.

  5. paymentmatters Says:

    To me, it is reasonable to use some hyperbole to attract an audience to a stage production, especially in a country where the promoters are attempting to describe a genre that is not well understood. Whether the stage shows attract people to the dance is debatable, but it does expose an audience to the genre, some of whom may never have experienced it before.

    The bigger issue, as you suggest, is performers dishing up classes in performance as the social dance. We, in Australia, suffer from a stream of performers teaching at festivals and workshops. Many of them are poor social dancers and / or do not differentiate between performance and social dance. The result is fairly chaotic. There is also an issue for local teachers who find that the continual stream of “exotic” guests soaks up a good deal of disposable income available to spend on dance classes. Lately, there is a move to dance festivals with no classes. It is an indication that people may be tiring of the touring circus.

    “Tango y nada mas”

    The show played to a Sydney audience of around 1,200 (total) over four performances in a modern suburban theatre. The audience appeared to consist of the regular Sydney Tango community, some visitors from interstate, South Americans nostalgic for some culture from home and a general audience otherwise attracted to the show.

    The description of the dancers as Tango Salon world champions is indicative of the style of performance. I would describe it as “demonstration” with a few flourishes, rather than high impact stage performance. The quality of the individual performances was average. Daniel Nacuccio and his partner Cristina Sosa stood out.

    The dance performances were static, either in a group performances or as individual couples. There was no theme to the show and nothing to link the individual performances, with each couple, in turn, entering and departing the stage. Given the style and quality of dance, it would have been much better to theme the show, e.g., as “A Night in Buenos Aires”, where the players could share the stage and play off one another. A storyline would have brought more interest to the overall performance.

    Australians do not often get an opportunity to hear good, live Tango with full orchestration. The band consisted of piano, contrabass, 2 to 3 violins and two bandoneons. The band was assembled by violinist and bandoneonist Maggie Ferguson. Maggie has single handedly developed live Tango music in Australia through TangoOZ youth ensemble and her association with The Tango Project and Ignacio Varchausky. http://tangomusicproject.com Nicolas Maceratesi added a dimension with his excellent soloist capability on bandoneon. The music was mainly traditional with some concert numbers. Their rendition of Adios Nonino was lovely. it is a pleasure to know that Tango music is being developed in Australia at such a high level.

    The singers were good and added to the show with classic numbers. Nyla Danchuk sang very nicely, with passion. The male singer (his name not on the promo materiel I have) also sang well, though I felt his performance came to life at the piano, where he demonstrated a deep understanding of playing and singing Tango.

    The night finished with a busy milonga some distance away from the theatre. The performers arrived and, to their credit, joined in. It is nice to report that, apart from one young couple determined to show off, the guests enjoyed the social dance.

  6. jantango Says:

    Thanks, John, for your review of the show in Sydney. I am not surprised there was no theme to the show Tango y nada mas.

    What you see is what you get. And for the past 30 years, what you see on stage is what you want to learn to dance. The shows only fuel the demand for choreography classes which don’t help anyone dance socially, but performers are glad to sell what people want to buy.

    Tango Argentino had a bigger impact in the world when it opened in 1983 with dancers over 50 years old on stage. We have all seen enough acrobatics by young dancers.

  7. Chris Says:

    Janis wrote “And for the past 30 years, what you see on stage is what you want to learn to dance.

    Janis, that would seem to say that for the past 30 years, no-one has learned the social dance. I don’t think that is true. I have met quite a few who have survived the show-based class system and gone on to learn the social dance of the milongas.

  8. jantango Says:

    Generally speaking, yes. Dancers take classes for years with teachers who don’t dance socially. I don’t see how they can ever expect to be social dancers going to classes instead of the milongas.

    The Festival and World Cup 2013 schedule is published. It’s no surprise that performers are teaching the classes.

  9. Chris Says:

    Janis wrote: “Dancers take classes for years with teachers who don’t dance socially.

    Non-dancers do. There are dancers that don’t.

  10. Alex Says:

    I think it’s a little absurd to state that these dancers don’t dance socially. I know for a fact Daniel Nacucchio, Sebastian Achaval, and Sebastian Jimenez dance socially (I know people who have seen them dance at the milongas / what else did they do before they became professional dancers?), though perhaps not as much as they used to since their current profession requires a lot of time spent traveling and teaching. There are YouTube videos of Sebastian Jimenez dancing socially when he was a teenager, and they look quite good to me. Moreover, based on what women (that are excellent social dancers) who have danced with them tell me, they are great social dancers as well.

    I’m also not really sure what you mean by saying they teach “choreographed tango”- sure, in a class they may teach a sequence or a figure, but its more of a means to an end (using the sequence/figure to demonstrate and develop some aspect of good tango technique) as opposed to an end in itself (teaching the figure because it’s flashy or cool). In any case, the sequence still has to be led- it’s not like the woman automatically does something because it is choreographed.

    That said, I agree that the show does not demonstrate “authentic Tango de Salon as danced in Buenos Aires.” Not sure if that was an error on the part of the sponsors of the show responsible for advertising, or on the part of the dance company.

  11. Chris Says:

    Alex wrote: “what else did they do before they became professional dancers?

    I wonder why you think they would need to do more than take lots of classes and practice lots of show dance. There’s no requirement for a tango dance worker to be accomplished at social dance, because so few of their buyers are.

    they may teach a sequence or a figure, but its more of a means to an end (using the sequence/figure to demonstrate and develop some aspect of good tango technique)

    The idea that teaching sequences and figures leads to anything more than the learning of sequences and figures is IME not born out by the facts. Such teaching makes it easy for teachers – not learners.

    the sequence still has to be led – it’s not like the woman automatically does something because it is choreographed.

    This is untrue. The majority of these classes use the the standard DIC (Demonstrate-Instruct-Correct) model in which the woman copies her ‘part’ of a choreographed demonstration given by the teachers, often without music. She may then be instructed to practice it solo. She then partners with a guy with whom she attempts to perform her parts in syncronisation with his.

    This is not the way Argentine tango dancing works and it is anathema to the way it is traditionally learned. Argentine tango dancing begins with the music and the embrace.

  12. jantango Says:

    Alex,

    The show Tango y nada mas has traveled to several countries. Its marketing has always included the statement that it brings tango from the dance halls of Buenos Aires to the stage. One photo from the show tells the whole truth. It was not in error, it was intentional to sell tickets. Roberto Zuccarino is the producer, the one responsible for the false advertising.

  13. Alex Says:

    Chris,

    Did you miss the part where I mentioned that the dancers in the show are accomplished social dancers, as well as performers/artists?

    Re: the sequences thing- well, perhaps in your experience that is true, but not in mine. There are always going to be teachers that focus on sequences merely for the sake of adding to your repertoire of steps. Ideally, learning a sequence should be like learning an etude for a violin/piano- for the purpose of honing technique and adjusting to new sensations.

    I don’t know what classes you take, but typically in all the classes I’ve ever taken, and in all the classes that the aforementioned couples give (viewable on YouTube) the leader is supposed to LEAD- the woman does not automatically move on her own. Of course, there are always women taking classes out there who just try to “get the sequence right” and end up synchronizing their steps with the leaders’. Obviously, tango starts from the music and the embrace. This doesn’t mean there is no merit in these teachers’ classes.

    Also, if you are suggesting that the performances these aforementioned dancers give at milongas and festivals are not led, and that the followers simply move on their own, then that is simply absurd. Even stage dancers have to lead- the followers don’t just move on their own (except for adornos and when they make other stylistic choices).

    Chris, how do you think Argentine tango traditionally learned?

    Jantango- I agree this is false advertising on Roberto Zuccarino’s part. Looks like an interesting show, though. By the way, I love all your posts about the old milongueros- I’m glad not everybody has forgotten about them.

  14. jantango Says:

    Alex,

    Roberto Zuccarino opened a milonga in Buenos Aires on August 1, a fact that just came to my attention today after seeing this video where he speaks at the end. A shrewd move to connect himself with social dancing, but his show is all choreography for stage.

    Is Roberto a social dancer? Only if you count his participation in the 2005 world salon championships when he placed 8th in the finals, the year Sebastian Achaval won.

    We have the milongueros viejos to thank for social dancing today, so they’ll never be forgotten if I can help it. Thanks for reading Tango Chamuyo.

  15. Chris Says:

    Alex wrote: “Did you miss the part where I mentioned that the dancers in the show are accomplished social dancers.”

    No. I couldn’t find that part. I found only the part where you report what you have heard said by some other people.

    in all the classes that the aforementioned couples give (viewable on YouTube) the leader is supposed to LEAD- the woman does not automatically move on her own.

    Well, having just had a look at some of those videos, I see no evidence to back that claim. If you have any, please do present it.

    there are always women taking classes out there who just try to “get the sequence right” and end up synchronizing their steps with the leaders’.

    Perhaps you now see why your claim “the sequence still has to be led” is false.

    Bye for now.

  16. Alex Says:

    Janis,

    I’ve always wondered how one defines “social dancer.” I suppose (rather loose) definition of a social dancer is somebody who attends and dances at milongas. In that case, I would consider Roberto Zuccarino a social dancer because he has undoubtedly danced at many milongas during his lifetime. I’ve seen videos where he is sitting at a table in a milonga in BAs where he is not the one performing. I know people who have danced with him in the milonga. Of course, he probably doesn’t attend many milongas nowadays because of his professional life- traveling, teaching, the tango show, etc. Can one be both a tango professional and a social dancer? My answer is yes. That said, I have no idea well he navigates crowded dance floor, but most of the tango professionals I’ve seen in real life are quite competent at doing so- they don’t take inappropriate huge steps nor do flashy figures when there is no space.

    However, I agree his show is choreography for stage and doesn’t really promote the true image of social tango as it is danced in BAs.

    Chris,

    Well, by your standards, we can’t really accept your examples of people that are good social dancers, either, since we haven’t seen them dance ourselves. In my case, I am presenting my opinion, which I believe to be true, based on people that are highly desired social dancers with firsthand experience dancing with the dancers we are discussing.

    Notice how Sebastian breaks down the sequence step by step and is able to stop and reverse whatever step that Roxana is taking in the molinete. Sebastian does not have a telepathic connection with Roxana that enables her to magically follow him. He leads her and places her where he wants her. The goal of the class is to be able to do that. If a woman decides to synchronize the sequence with a man, then that is the woman’s fault, not the teachers’ fault.

  17. jantango Says:

    Alex,

    I go by Roberto’s biography on http://robertozuccarinoymagdalenavaldez.com/#!roberto-zuccarino/ where he doesn’t describe himself as a social dancer or milonguero. He had his eye on a professional career, and that is exactly what he is doing. I’ve never seen him dancing in a milonga, only in video exhibitions.

    There is a big difference in these two tango worlds. Social dancers (including milongueros) pay to go to the milongas for socializing and recreational purposes. Professionals get paid to dance tango. There is nothing wrong with earning a living from tango. Argentines who misrepresent tango in other countries are doing a disservice for the sake of money. That bothers me.

    This New York Times review makes a good point:

    Yes, tango is inherently dramatic and scintillatingly musical, but its whole emphasis can be distorted by rendering it theatrical or exhibitionistic.

  18. Alex Says:

    So can a dancer be both a social dancer and a tango professional, if the tango professional can dance socially?

  19. Alex Says:

    Also, aren’t there many milongas in BAs? It could be that he goes to milongas that you don’t frequently attend. I do know people that have danced with him in the milongas. Also, if your job is to earn a living from tango, you will probably have less time and energy to dance socially. From my experience, is true of most tango teachers across the board, especially if they travel.

  20. jantango Says:

    Can a professional do both? Yes. Do they? No. They’re too busy with the business of organizing tours, rehearsing choreography, teaching classes, planning wardrobe, etc. The next time you have an encounter with a tango pro, why don’t you ask him the question: how much time do you spend in the milongas dancing with other women? Professionals don’t have the need to dance socially with others. Milongueros do. When El Flaco Dany returns from teaching abroad, he’s in the milongas. He earns money from classes, but his life is in the milongas. That’s the difference.

  21. Chris Says:

    Alex linked: ” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNg1FyDsTMQ ” showing a sequence demonstration in a dance class in Istanbul.

    This discussion is about what the advert describes as the “authentic Tango de Salon as danced in Buenos Aires“. The dancing in that video is not something you’ll find in a traditional BsAs milonga. It’s not Tango de Salon. It is Tango de Workshop. Tango de Salon is a dance improvised to the music. The dance of this video has no music and no improvisation. As Janis says, it is choreographed. That’s why we see the same sequence repeated again and again. This sequence is being demonstrated for students to copy. If the filming had not been cut short, you’d see all those students copying the sequence. That’s the primary purpose and effect of such classes. Such classes are not for people to learn the social dance found in BsAs milongas and in the milongas worldwide that follow this tradition.

  22. Alex Says:

    Janis,
    I think the blanket statement “professionals don’t have the need to dance socially with others” is incorrect. I have seen tango professionals in the milonga. I have danced with tango professionals at the milonga. I feel like part of the reason tango professionals go into tango is for their love of the dance- there are more lucrative job opportunities elsewhere.

    In these videos- you can see tango professionals sitting at a table in a milonga where they are not performing (obvious from what they are wearing). Apparently, they do show up at the milonga. Perhaps you attend these milongas infrequently, or not at all.


    (see Dante Sanchez in the back table in the middle of the screen)

    (see Roberto Zuccarino and Sebastian Jimenez together in a table on the right side of the screen)

    As for milongueros’ having their lives in the milongas- well that’s what makes them milongueros and such an important part of the history of tango. If being a milonguero is a prerequisite for being a social dancer, then none of us that post on your wonderful blog would be considered social dancers. Many social dancers that are not milongueros have the need to dance socially with others.

    Chris,

    I’m afraid you don’t understand the purpose of the classes. The point is for leader to hone his technique and to practice his leading and for the follower to hone her technique and practice her following. Being able to lead (or follow) the sequence well demonstrates a certain degree of mastery over the concepts and techniques required to do the sequence. As I mentioned, before the point is not to produce some kind of synchronized series of steps.

    If I successfully lead that sequence with a woman I’ve never met in a milonga, am I performing choreography?

    Please enlighten us how “traditional Argentine tango” is learned. Do you think El Flaco Dany, Petroleo, Ricardo Vidort, or any of the milongueros of the past never showed their milonguero friends how to lead certain sequences or steps that they found to be interesting, useful, or fun in their youth? Does this mean they are performing choreography because they created something ahead of time? Are they going against the tradition of social dance found in BAs? Where do you think many of these classic sequences taught in classes come from? The milongueros came up with them. The ones that invented social dancing.

  23. Chris Says:

    Alex wrote: “I’m afraid you don’t understand the purpose of the classes.

    I’m afraid I do. The purpose of such classes is for touring tango show workers to earn side money from people who are under the total misconception that classes based on copying choreographed sequences will help them learn the (in the words of the show’s false advertising) “authentic Tango de Salon as danced in Buenos Aires“.

    Where do you think many of these classic sequences taught in classes come from? The milongueros came up with them

    If that were true, we’d see that kind of dancing from milongueros in milongas in Buenos Aires. We don’t. The only such dancing you’ve presented is from show dancers in classes in Europe.

    Bye for now.

  24. Alex Says:

    Chris,

    You didn’t answer my questions.

    1) If I successfully lead that sequence with a woman I’ve never met in a milonga, am I performing choreography?
    2) How is “traditional Argentine tango” learned?

    And we do see that kind of dancing from milongueros in milongas in BAs. See below.

    By the way, we do see figures invented by milongueros that are taught in classes today. Ever heard of the giro? Or the cross?

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