Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating idea, philosophy, culture, and lifestyle. In many ways, tango is a metaphor of life. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit of connection, love, unity, beauty, harmony and humanity, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a people or species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. We are humanists. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation, reconciliation and compromise. If you share this conviction, please join the conversation and let your voice be heard, which is urgently needed and long overdue.

Together we can awaken the world.




October 1, 2017

The Issues on Cabeceo


Last week I went to En Tu Abrazo - Encuentro at Grand Geneva, Wisconsin, a mesmeric event through which the organizers, Ray Barbosa and Richard Miller, pushed the Midwest tango to a new height. The event was well organized, with an intimate and friendly environment governed by milonga codes, like-minded and experienced dancers, excellent DJs, golden age music, close embrace, and high quality dancing, all reminiscent of a Buenos Aires milonga.

The venue is a rectangular room with fixed seats. Men and women sit separately on the opposite sides of the room, so they have to use cabeceo to invite partners. This arrangement created a coherent atmosphere as the participants must pay attention to each other and be emotionally engaged even before the dance started.

But, using cabeceo from a distance is proven to be a challenging task. First, the woman I try to invite is sitting among other women who may also want to dance with me. Second, when two or more women respond to my cabeceo, how do I make them know whom exactly I am inviting? Third, if two men nod at the same woman, how can either man tell that she is responding to him and not the other? Finally, her response may be so subtle that it could be overlooked.

Perhaps due to cabeceo is still a relatively new skill to a lot of us, I made more mistakes in this event than I have ever made in Buenos Aires, even with such an experienced crowd. I learned later that someone had responded to my cabeceo, but I failed to recognize. In one case I walked to a woman who did not respond to my cabeceo, but I thought she did. There was also a case in which the woman who accepted my cabeceo did not look at me as I was walking towards her, and I ended up danced with the woman next to her who kept her eyes on me. Two times I walked to someone only to find that they had accepted other's invitation. There were also occasions two women stood up when I reached their table, both thought they were the one I was inviting.

In retrospect, I believe I should make my cabeceo more conspicuous and unambiguous. I should be more aware that a subtle cabeceo is difficult to detect from a distance. When there could be confusions, I should make sure that all involved parties knew exactly whom I was inviting. I should turn around to see if there were others communicating with the same woman. I should stand up to make eye contact with the woman sitting behind other women. I should move closer to the woman sitting far away from me before cabeceoing her. When walking towards a woman, I should stare at her exclusively and avoid making eye contact with another woman to avoid confusing both.

On the women's part there were also problems. I must say in Buenos Aires portena women respond to cabeceo quiet differently from most women in this country. Their facial expression is more expressive and unmistakable. If they are not sure about my cabeceo, they would make gestures to let me know they need more information, such as tilting their head, leaning sideways to let me see them more clearly, looking around to see if someone else is responding to me, standing up if they are behind others, pointing at themselves with a questioning facial expression, or using lip or sign language to communicate with me, etc. An Argentine woman would not look at me with a blank face, as many women in this country do, but would use facial expression and body language to convey her emotions. She would accept my cabeceo with joyful smile, nod, wink, bow, or other expressions to let me know she is delighted to dance with me. She would also stare at me intently when I walk towards her, so I know there is an unmistakable agreement between us. In other words, an Argentine woman is more proactive, which makes a huge difference because such openness and expressiveness could prevent errors not only by the two involved, but by the third party who may also be involved as well. Also, such enthusiasm would lead to a more intimate and satisfying dance. 

Here again we see the influence of culture on tango. (See Tango: Historical and Cultural Impacts.) We Americans have an exaggerated ego due to our individualist, feminist ideologies, which emphasize personal dignity, rights, liberty, individuality and independence. (See Tango and Individualism and  Femininity and Feminism in Tango (I).) Many are ashamed of showing dependence on others, or letting people know that they need others, or begging others for a dance, etc., which could lead some to seem aloof, cold, reserved, indifferent, arrogant and rude in the milongas. When doing cabeceo, the Americans tend to show less spontaneity and more self-esteem,  especially if they do not get the expected attention or response, whereas in Argentina people would take very different approaches in the same situation. For example, in Buenos Aires, a portena woman took the trouble to walk to my seat during the cortina to tell me she had been trying to cabeceo me, and she pointed to where she sat so I could cabeceo her later.

July 14, 2017

A Dance that Teaches People to Love


We use the word love to express many different feelings. To love a country is to feel deeply attached to the country. To love tango is to be fascinated by and addicted to the dance. To love a child is to adore and pamper the child. To love a friend is to appreciate and feel comfortable, agreeable and close to that friend. To love someone with superior intelligence, talent, character, or physical attributes is to hold great respect, admiration and reverence for that person. To love someone of the opposite gender is to be sexually attracted to and want to marry and have children with that person.

None of the above alone completely expresses the true meaning of love. True love is a combination of all these feelings. It is the deepest appreciation, attraction, attachment, admiration, adoration, veneration and affection for someone for whom you are willing to give up everything. True love is altruist. It has no ego and pride. It is selfless, kind, generous and patient. It trusts, surrenders, devotes, obeys, gives, supports, yields, tolerates, endures, forgives and protects - just like the way we are treated in tango. Love, like tango, is a relationship in which each partner must do his/her best in order to bring out the best of the other. The synergy of love will cease if the interactions stop; therefore, it should not be taken for granted, as tango attests.

Another truth about love is: men and women have different expectations of love. Men are strong and goal-oriented. For men, love means to provide, support and defend - more in a physical than emotional sense perhaps - and that is also how men expect from love. A man cannot feel loved if he is not appreciated, respected and revered. Women, on the other hand, are more delicate and feeling-oriented. For women, love means being adored, pampered, protected, and particularly being romantically, adventurously and heroically pursued. A woman cannot feel loved if her fantasy and emotional needs are not met. In other words, men need to learn to be more sentimental, attentive and thoughtful in their relationship with women, and women need to learn to be more respectful, appreciative and agreeable in their relationship with men. Men and women are different, and they play different roles in life and tango. Learning tango helps us to understand these needs, to play our respective roles, to cultivate team spirit, and to achieve harmony through cooperation, compliance, accommodation and compromise. (See The Gender Roles in Tango.)

It needs to point out that, throughout human history, most relationships are not love-based, but need-based. Men and women have learned to love each other, because they need each other, and for the sake of their common happiness, they have no choice but love each other, as it is the case in tango. Like hatred, kindness is reciprocal. You do good to others and others will reciprocate the hospitality. In that sense, love is determined kindness, and the consequence of such efforts. Before individualism and feminism brainwashed us with egocentric, selfish, resentful and hateful messages, that is what people do to each other throughout human history. (See The Spirit of Tango.)

The ability to love is God's best gift to the mankind, which makes us better husbands, wives, friends, coworkers, citizens, and tango partners. Imagine a world in which people all love each other, in comparison to the world in which we live. (See Tango Is the Search of a Dream.) Love is not only a feeling, but also a skill that needs to be studied, taught and learned. Of all the skills essential to a healthy, functional, stable and harmonious society, love perhaps is the most important one. This is true in tango also. (See Tango Is a Relationship.)

Unfortunately, the American education completely ignores this. Our schools are dominated by capitalism, individualism and feminism that teach young men and women to be greed, individualistic, independent, self-seeking, strong-minded, disagreeable, competitive, and aggressive, i.e., everything that is opposite to love. The results are disastrous. According to an internal Department of Homeland Security report dated March 1, 2017, most foreign-born terrorists operating in the United States do not become radicalized until several years after entering the country. This means our own culture has contributed to the radicalization of the young minds. This culture is also the root cause of the dissension, disunity, extremism, hostility, polarization, antagonism, uncooperativeness and dysfunction in our governments, and the rapacity, competition, intolerance, hatred, tension, brokenness, divorce, crime and violence in our society today.

Nothing has done more harms to our society than narrow-minded radical ideologies that teach people to be greed, selfish, disagreeable, resentful, antagonistic and hateful. This country is desperately in need of love, and tango, a dance that teaches people to love. (See The Art of Love.)

June 13, 2017

Dancing to Rhythm and Melody in Milonguero Style


Rhythm - the duration and accents in music, characterized by interrupted, regular, steady and repeating beats - is the most essential element in music, which can exist without melody, as in the drumbeats of primitive music. Rhythm is what makes us tap and dance when listening to a piece of music - we dance to the pulses of the music.

But music is more than rhythm. It also has melody - the linear, coherent, fluid and sweet tones in music. Melody cannot exist without rhythm, but it adds emotion, sweetness and continuity to music. Melody is what causes our steps to become elegant, sentimental and lingering, as we try to express the beauty, emotion and fluidity of the melody.

Some tango music are more rhythmic, such as D'Arienzo's and Biagi's, which are easier to dance to. Others are more melodic, such as De Caro's and Pugliese's, which are more difficult to follow.

In social tango, the milonguero style is more rhythmic. This style focuses on the sensation and feeling caused by the motion of two intimately connected bodies. It suits to music that is more rhythmic. The simplicity and rhythm-generated feelings, often being described as intimate, comforting and soulful, are what make this style popular among feeling-oriented dancers.




On the other hand, the Villa Urquiza style is more melodic. This style is danced in a loose embrace, emphasizing the visual impression of the footwork. It suits to music that is more melodic. The style, often being described as fancy, stylish and beautiful, appeals to movement-oriented dancers despite its short on intimacy and soulfulness. (See The Styles of Tango.)




The milonguero style is the dominant style in Argentina, Uruguay, Span and Italy - perhaps due to the cultural ties between these countries. (See Tango: Historical and Cultural Impacts.) In recent years it also starts to win popularity in other parts of Europe, North America and Asia. The following video is a good representation of this style.




This clip has been used previously in this blog, so you probably have seen it. But for the purpose of explaining how the milonguero style is danced, I want to call your attention again to some fragments highlighted below.

17:24 - 19:33 (129 seconds)
This fragment is a classic example of how the milonguero style is danced. It is danced in simple and rhythmic steps. Pay attention to the rhythmic pattern used by the first couple. It sounds like: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and, 5 6 7 and 8 9 10 and, or: slow and slow and slow and slow and, quick quick quick and quick quick quick and. The steps are simple, but the speed, direction and length of the steps are varied. Most steps are small, sometimes a big step weaves in, and rock step, forward step, back step, side step and turn are blended to make the choreography interesting.

As you can see, although simple, the dance is mesmeric. The woman obviously is intoxicated with it. She snugs in his arms and dances in complete agreement with him, totally comfortable with everything he leads her to do no matter how simple it is, and not acting in excess of her role to cause complication, noises and disharmony. Her steps are simple and inconspicuous; no adornment is made to impress. The attention is focused on the music and feelings. One can tell from her facial expression the power of such simple and rhythmic motions.

13:40 - 14:04 (24 seconds)
Here is another good example, also danced in rhythmic, simple and synchronized steps, focusing on the oneness of the union, not the performance of the individual.

If these are the representations of the milonguero style, then our tango, although danced in close embrace, is not the milonguero style. The tango that most Americans dance is too fancy, less rhythmic, and not synchronized. Even the music selections in our milongas are often too melodic, reflecting only our perception of tango.

I don't think myself, or even a milonguero, can dance the milonguero style with most women in this country, because achieving that degree of coherence takes a woman who is able to synchronize. (See Driving and Synchronization.) In order to dance as one body with the man, the woman has to overcome her independence, ego, habit of acting on her own, and desire to show off, etc., surrender to the man, and follow him unconditionally.

I mention this because many women in this country have a different philosophy. They do not buy the idea of surrender, obedience and submission. They are not comfortable with intimacy and simplicity. Their femininity, or gentle and quiet soul, as the Bible put it, has been corrupted by ideologies that encourage women to be rebellious, independent, disagreeable and aggressive. They only know how to be themselves, but don't know how to be one with another person. They try too hard to impress, but overlook the one thing that a woman must do well first in tango: to surrender. Consequently, they miss out the magic that tango can offer. 

3:30 - 3:43 (13 seconds) and 5:45 - 6:13 (28 seconds)
The milonguero style is a rhythmic dance, but it can also be danced melodically, as demonstrated in these two fragments. 

Tango songs played for dancing the milonguero style generally have lucid beats, accompanied by sentimental melodies. The beats are strong, steady and easy to follow. But sometimes the emotion takes over and the beats diminish or are hidden into the background. In such case, the dancers should adapt to the changing mood and dance melodically. Dancing to rhythm, the movement is vertical, forceful and interrupted. Dancing to melody, the movement becomes emotional, horizontal and continuous. Slow motion and pause are often used to suspend a step in order to match the lingering notes, or to wait for the next phrase to start. It is a moment of emotional display and exchange.

My personal take is that many women in this country do not follow melody well. When the beats fade and melody takes over, they feel lost. Many women don't know how to dance to melody and express emotions. There are certain palpable impatience and anxiety in their movements as the music tells them to slow down or wait, because they still struggle to catch the beats. Which is not surprising given the fact that most people are only taught to step on the beats and not trained to follow melody. But dancing to melody is an ability a tango dancer must have, especially if you are a woman, for melody represents and can better express femininity. (See The Gender Expression in Tango.) 

In short, the milonguero style is a rhythmic dance. It is designed to stir up sensations and feelings pertinent to the rhythmic motion of the two intimately connected bodies. It is danced in close embrace with simple, small and synchronized steps, and is fully enjoyed when the partners surrender to each other, put in their feelings, and move together as one unified body. The focus of the dancers is on the music, embrace and feelings rather than the steps. It is best danced to music that is rhythmic. Given the intimate nature of the style, it can also be danced to music that is melodic. But dancing to melody in the milonguero style is different from that in the Villa Urquiza style. The latter uses fancy and stylish steps, the former uses slow motion, suspension and pause to maintain its simplicity, synchronicity and soulfulness. As the milonguero style becomes increasingly popular in this country, we need to learn the correct way of dancing it in order to fully enjoy its magic power.






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May 10, 2017

The Gender Expression in Tango


Unlike in America where gender expression is deemed politically incorrect, in Argentina it is a cultural symbol, which is evident in many aspects of their life* and particularly in their dance.

In chacarera, for example, the man deliberately demonstrates his masculinity, as saying to the woman, "Look how strong I am!" And the woman deliberately displays her femininity, as saying to the man, "Am I beautiful enough for you?"






Such unconcealed gender expression is evident in their tango also.








For Argentinians, male strength and female beauty are positive traits that the two sexes use to allure each other. Masculinity and femininity are not sexist displays, but attractive features resulted from millions of years of natural selection, which allow the human species to sustain and flourish. Opposite, interdependent and complementary, men and women are created for each other. From their union comes children, family, society, and moral principles that hold the society together, such as love, fraternity, agreeableness, teamwork, role play, and cooperation. The sustenance, harmony and stability of the society would not be possible if men and women were not attracted to each other and loved each other. Therefore, gender expression is not a sign of social inequality. Rather, it is a binding force that strengthens the society.

Feminists only think of men and women as separate and independent individuals with conflicting self-interests, but fail to see them as a team in which each sex needs, depends on, supports and complements the other. The feminist proposition that "the history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man towards woman" is a rabid and untruthful claim. Human history is not a history of gender animosity. All men are sons of their mothers and brothers of their sisters, and all women are daughters of their fathers and sisters of their brothers, who love each other by nature. In fact, for a period much longer than the recorded history human society is matriarchal, and the love between men and women has been well documented throughout the recorded history as well. While inequality is a fact of life, it is more a common social issue than women's issue, and the solution to that is not to repudiate gender differences, gender roles and gender expression, or to incite hatred and antagonism, masculinize women, imitate men, reverse gender roles, assert women's independence, women's emancipation from family and women's self-reliance -- even in their sex life, and promote lesbianism and same-sex marriage, etc. The attempt to uproot and reconstruct the world according to radical ideas never has made the world better, as attested by the disastrous consequences we are facing now, because such wishful thinking is anti-nature and anti-human.** (See Tango and the Relationship of the Opposite Sexes.)

True solution lies in embracing gender differences, gender roles, gender expression, love and cooperation, which are nature's way to achieve unity and harmony in contradistinction to the arbitrary culture of individualism, feminism, animosity and antagonism. (See The World Needs a Different Philosophy.) Thanks to tango we have a living testimony of how that works. "Tango is based on the ideas that men and women are interdependent rather than independent, that masculinity and femininity complement rather than un-equalize the opposite sexes, that being a masculine male and a feminine female is attractive, beneficial and desirable, that the harmony of the two genders is arrived at through mutual submission and cooperation rather than confrontation and power struggle, and that love triumphs over hostility. While individualism and feminism focus on our individuality and independence, tango focuses on the partnership and oneness of the two. It asks us to be friendly, submissive, humble, adaptive, cooperative, agreeable and yielding. Tango proves that the two sexes can form a harmonious relationship by conforming to these values. Despite the challenges that tango faces in the West, it continues to exert positive influences on our societies, I believe, because unless we adopt its values, we are unable to fully enjoy the dance." (Femininity and Feminism in Tango (II))

Gender expression is important in tango also because the juxtaposition of opposite moods complementing each other is a marked feature of tango, which is heterosexual rather than homosexual in nature. Tango music has a rhythm that is masculine: lucid, strong, steady and forceful, accompanied by a melody that is feminine: soft, beautiful, sentimental and fluid. Dancing tango, you have to imagine that you are playing the music with your body. The man and the woman are different instruments. One is like the bandoneon, the other the violin. One is the passion of the drum, the other the beauty of the melody. Each with its unique sound, expressing different emotions. Both are indispensable and irreplaceable, and they must complement and collaborate harmoniously in order to create a beautiful tango. (See The Characteristics of Classic Tango.) The attempt to make tango a homosexual or gender-neutral dance would only nip the vitality of tango. Without gender expression, tango will loose its richness, beauty and charm. (See Artistic Sublimation and Vulgarism in Tango.)

______________________________________

*I was dancing at Club Gricel and suddenly my partner uttered a scream. She was struck by someone. As I wondered how could that happen, the man of the couple who clashed with us said something reproachful to me, like a male goose protecting his female goose. Perhaps it was my fault, I apologized. We moved on and forgot about the incident. On my way out of the venue, I was approached by that man, he said he wanted me to know it was his fault and he was sorry. The man had to be virile in front of his woman, but privately he admitted his mistake. -- That is an Argentine man, not flawless, but good in nature. I had no problem to forgive his being manly.

**"If we want to achieve the perfect degree of human nature, or at least close to this level of perfection, then all rules and regulations of mankind should be adapted to human nature. Because experiences prove that we cannot use rules and regulations to bind human nature without destroying their happiness. The attempt to obey rules and regulations that contradict human nature is the main source of human suffering. Any attempt to promote human wellness will not have any result until there is no radical reform in this respect." (On Human Happiness by John Gray)

March 29, 2017

Revealing Her Beauty in Tango


The fact that more women dance tango than men may be attributed in part to their beauty. I don't think it's coincidental that the percentage of women with a beautiful body in tango is very high. Perhaps the desire to demonstrate their beauty and to remain fit helps to explain their large turnout number. Women's highly developed sense of beauty certainly contributes to the formation of this beautiful dance.

Tango is notably good at displaying a woman's beauty. Because tango is danced in close embrace in which the torsos of the partners are connected, the woman has to rotate her hips in order to step on the side of the man, causing a twisted body position (TBP) that highlights the curving line of her feminine body.

TBP is different from contra body movement (CBM) in that CBM is turning the right side of the body towards a left moving leg or turning the left side of the body towards a right moving leg, but in tango, the woman keeps her upper body still and rotates only her lower body, which projects even more the curves of her waist and hips that characterize her gender. (See Dissociation and Gear Effect.)

TBP occurs in the following scenarios:

She swivels her hips to the left and stretches her right leg forward to the right side of the man.

She swivels her hips to the right and stretches her left leg forward to the left side of the man.

She swivels her hips to the right and stretches her right leg backward to the right side of the man.

She swivels her hips to the left and stretches her left leg backward to the left side of the man.

These scenarios occur in many tango steps such as front ocho, back ocho, walking on the side of the partner, walking in diagonal steps, dancing around the man in molinete, zigzagging in molinete, turning a half circle around the man in media luna, etc. TBP is the reason why women's beauty can be fully displayed in tango.

This gives us a clue on how to make her look more attractive in the dance. For example, we can display the suppleness, pliancy and grace of her body by using steps that involve TBP and hip rotation. We can make her step diagonally to our right and left. We can alternate her ochos to make her continuously rotate her hips. We can increase her TBP in back ocho by stepping diagonally to her side to make her twist her body more than if we walk straight in line with her. We can combine different steps to increase the variations of her posturing. We can suspend her TBP with slow motion, or pause when she is in a twisted body position to highlight her flexibility, etc.

Keep in mind that a woman's body is very pliant and can do amazing things if we know how to lead her. Be careful not to overdo, though, as comfort and tender feelings are equally important to women. (See Tango Is a Feeling.) In fact, feminine beauty is revealed more in small than big movements that in some cultures women are taught to walk in tiny steps. In ancient China, women's feet were wrapped from a very young age to prevent them from growing bigger, so that they had to walk in that way. Women's wearing high heels in modern times serves the same purpose. In other words, we can unfold a woman's beauty regardless of how small the steps are, because that beauty lies in her femininity, and perhaps more characteristically in small movements.

Therefore, dancing tango is not doing big ochos and big turns endlessly, which is a common delusion in our tango. (See Floorcraft, Choreography and Hastiness.) Rather, it is using a combination of conspicuous and especially inconspicuous movements, big and especially small steps, normal and especially slow motions, fluxions and especially suspensions, pauses and poses, etc., to express the feelings stirred by the music. The number one reason why women love tango, I believe, is their sentimentalism. Tango is an intimate and sentimental dance, and women are particularly emotional and good at expressing feelings. Feminine beauty thus lies more in a woman's psyche than in her appearance. Revealing her inner beauty is a leader's most challenging and rewarding test. (See The Conceptional Beauty of Tango.)



March 18, 2017

Dancing around the Man


Tango masters Alberto Pas and Valorie Hart first discussed this important concept in 1998: the man dances around the floor and the woman dances around the man. But many students today still don't know what that means.

Simply put, it means in his duty to follow the line of dance the man needs to step a little bit away from the woman, and it is the woman's job to keep up with him and stay close to him.

Many women may think they dance close enough to the man but in fact they do not. Students new to tango often step away from the man in an attempt to keep a distance. Amateur dancers may intentionally save a room in order to do fancy steps. The truth is, most women outside of Argentina do not dance close enough to the man. They don't feel comfortable to be in close physical contact with a stranger man. They lean back, or prop with their hands against the man to keep a distance. Their body is untrained and inflexible, disabling them to dance close to the man. Their steps are too big. Many never learned to dance in close embrace, and they do not know how to move their body around the man in a compact way.

To truly enjoy tango, the woman needs to dance really close to the man. Close does not mean within an arm's length, or even in inches. In tango, close means body touches body, cheek touches cheek, and leg touches leg. In other words, she needs to integrate into his body and be one with him.

The man leading the dance must keep up with traffic. The woman dancing around him must stay close to him and not step away from him. To dance around the man, the woman needs to swivel her hips to let her lower body turn sideways, so that she can dance around him. She must keep her upper body attached to the man and rotate only her lower body. If she cannot dissociate her lower body, then she has to turn her whole body, which will cause the rupture of the embrace That is why dancing with an amateur dancer is oft uncomfortable.

Dancing around the man often involves molinete, a figure in which the woman dances around the man who serves as the anchor for her rotation. Their torsos are connected and the woman only rotates her hips side to side in order to make four steps - a side step, a front step, a side step, a back step - around the man. Every tanguera knows the figure, but executing it in a coherent way so it feels smooth and comfortable is not easy. In fact, most women cannot do molinete well because of their lack of training in rotating the hips. (See Dissociation and Gear Effect.)

Where she places her foot is also critical. It should be placed close to his foot. If her foot is too far apart from his foot, that will carry her away from him - a common problem of those who dance in big steps. A novice woman often tries to avoid touching her partner's foot. In fact, that is what she should do. Her foot must always land next to his when she dances around him. Even a slight over-reach or misplacement of her foot can cause incoherence of the dance. 

In short, three things are critically important: First, establishing the concept of dancing around the man, which means integrating into his body and being one with him. Second, spending a lot of time to practice dissociation (especially in the molinete sequence) until you master the skill of swiveling your hips while keeping your upper body still. (Do not cheat by turning your upper body and keeping your lower body still.) Finally, being careful about the details, including how to move your body around him and where to land your foot, so that the two of you may remain coherent in the dance. For a woman, learning tango is learning to be one with the man. Tango is an intimate dance. How you dance it could make a big difference.



March 11, 2017

For Milongueras


Being a milonguera is a high call - only the best tangueras deserve that title. A milonguera is not an exhibitionist but a social dancer. She dances not to impress others, but for her partner's enjoyment and her own pleasure. Her skill is so superb that she can focus her entire attention on him instead of on the steps. Her body is so well-trained that she is able to make him feel totally comfortable even in the most challenging maneuvers. Her musicality is so excellent that dancing with her is a pure enjoyment of the music, without slightest disharmony.

A milonguera has transcended the narrowness of egocentric popular ideas like individualism and feminism. She understands that tango is a relationship and teamwork, that the satisfaction of tango comes from surrender, cooperation and sharing, that her own enjoyment of the dance depends on her partner, and that unless he is content she cannot be so. Therefore, she gives her undivided attention to him, just like he does to her. Tango is an altruist dance, and a milonguera is an altruist.

A milonguera connects to her partner by leaning her body slightly forward against his body with a firm yet gentle pressure of her breasts on his torso, tuning constantly to the messages emitted from his chest. She stretches her torso upwards, as if it were the string of a violin that vibrates at his slightest touch. Her head rests tenderly on his cheek, void of pressure. Her body is completely relaxed, thus it is comfortable to be held in the arms and is easy to lead. Her weight is on the ball of her standing foot, but her whole foot, including the heel, is in contact with the floor, thus she is stable. Her right hand rests in his left hand without weight, and her left arm lands on his right shoulder to allow her to enjoy his embrace. But she keeps her own balance and doesn't hang on him for stability, thus she is light. (See Raul Cabral, Driving and Synchronization.)

A milonguera dances beautifully, but the point of the steps to her is not so much the aesthetics as it is the communication. Just like the embrace, the steps are the tool a milonguera uses to connect to her partner, communicate her feelings to him, seduce him, and pamper him. They are a part of what makes tango an intimate, loving, playful and comforting dance.

Her body is so supple and flexible that she can dance on either side of him without upsetting the embrace or causing discomfort to him. She can twist her body in his arms in such tender and seductive way that it pleases to the sense of his body. She can dissociate her upper body and lower body to such a degree that the two partners always remain perfectly connected even in the most difficult movements. For her, to tango is to pamper the man in her arms, and she is equipped with a perfect and educated feminine body to do that.

She has danced the milonguero style of tango for at least ten years and has accumulated tremendous experiences. Her skill is so proficient that she can dance by intuition without having to think about the techniques or steps. Thus she is able to concentrate on making him feel good. She knows all the tricks to please him with her body: caressing his torso when twists her body in his arms, letting her chest trundle on his torso when swivels her hips, massaging his chest with her breasts in ocho cortado, wrapping his body with her body in molinete, and entangles his leg with her leg in sacadas, etc. She is a maestra of the art of seduction.

A milonguera knows the music inside out. She knows the stories of each and every tango songs, and she knows how to express the feelings of the music with her body. She is moody when the music is moody, passionate when the music is passionate, sentimental when the music turns sour, and tender when the music becomes affectionate. She accelerates, slows down, softens, stresses, syncopates, pauses, and suspends as the music tells her to do so. She can express the feelings of the music so well that you feel like you are dancing with the music itself. Dancing with a milonguera is a pure enjoyment of the music without slightest disharmony.

A milonguera is versed in the milonga world. She follows the rules about personal hygiene, dressing, seating, invitation, mirada, cabeceo, navigation, and all the dos and don'ts of the milonga. (See Milonga Codes.) She is warm, polite, charming, and easygoing. She greets everyone, respects everyone, is friendly to everyone, and does not have an attitude that scares men away. She always let men know her appreciation and love for them. Milonga codes have been a part of her life for so long that they become her life principles. She might have been an arrogant, egocentric, individualistic, independent, competitive, and feminist ultraist. She might have possessed all the attitudes, habits and imperfections many did when they started tango. But tango changed her and turned her into a marvel - a milonguera treasured by all milongueros.


P.S.

I've just returned from Newport News Encuentro, one of the best milonguero gatherings I have attended. It is the women that I have danced with in that event inspired me to write something about them. My special thanks to Liga Losseva, Sherry Chou, Olimpia Stein, Eva VonEsse, Flo Woodreuff, Yemiko Yagui, Lan Tran-Phu, Marina Aleshker, Sandra Angel, Emily Mooney, Shirley Putnam, Gloria Swindoll, Pamela Ruth, and many others whose names I don't know or remember. Special thanks also to Andy Stein, the organizer of the event, and to Raul Cabral, whose writings are always an inspiration and whose appreciation for milonguera women I deeply share.

January 29, 2017

My Two Cents on Music Selections


Music plays a crucial role in the milonga. Of all the elements that make a successful milonga, music is among the most important three. The other two are a friendly environment governed by the milonga codes, and a high level of dancing. Good music connects and motivates the dancers, touches their hearts, lifts their spirit, stirs up their emotions, synchronizes their movements, and ignites their creativity. Without good music, the dancers cannot perform well and be totally satisfied no matter how good other conditions may be.

Unfortunately, the music played in our milongas is not always good. Many DJs choose to play songs that are not of the highest quality while leave the best songs sit in their computer rest in peace. I have heard the theory that dancers like to try new things, they don't like to dance to the same old songs again and again, and they'd rather take risk than be bored, etc. Such theory does not match my experience. Most dancers that I know like to dance to music that they know well. Familiar songs arouse their desire to dance because, like singing and playing music instrument, they do better when they know the music. Tango dancers will never ever be tired of the best classic tango music. Although there may be generation gaps, I believe the majority of the songs played in the milonga should be well-known to the dancers overall, including younger generations. New songs can be experimented, but they must be absolutely danceable and kept in minimum.

I am a fervent believer that only the most beautiful and danceable songs should be played in the milonga - so fervent that I deleted all the songs that are not of the best quality, and only kept the very excellent, beautiful and danceable songs in my computer. The fact is, you don't need thousands of songs to dj a milonga. A three-hour milonga only contain 12 tandas or 48 songs. If you meticulously select 500 songs that are of the highest quality, you can play for ten milongas in a row without any repetition. It is the quality and not the quantity that counts. (See The Signature of Tango.)

Some DJs play too many fast songs, which, although energetic, could cause fatigue easily. Others play too many slow songs, which, although sentimental, lack an energy and excitement. I believe the majority of the songs played should be in media tempo, but they should be combined with fast and slow tandas to avoid boredom. If all tandas are of the same speed, whether fast, medium or slow, the dancers will get tired. A proper mixture of different tempos and moods suits the tastes of most dancers. But the majority of the songs should be in walking pace, which is most suitable for tango dancing.

Tango as an intimate dance is best danced to music that can stir up tender feelings. DJs should select songs that are beautiful, sentimental, soulful and rich in syncopation to facilitate protean steps capable of expressing delicate and involved sentiments, and avoid songs that are dull in emotion and monotonous in rhythm. Nonetheless, the music must have lucid beats that are not too difficult to follow. DJs need to be aware that not all tangos are created equal. There was a period in Argentina during which tango as a social dance was suppressed by the military rulers (1955 - 1983). Tango music produced in and after that period is largely for listeners and not dancers, often with unpredictable rhythms, or using vocal techniques influenced by the Jazz music that are hard to follow. Such songs should not be played in the milonga no matter how novel and creative they are. Good, danceable tango songs, in fact, are smaller in number in comparison to songs created for listening and not dancing. A DJ should be able to distinguish the two and play only good, danceable songs in the milonga. (See Tango: Historical and Cultural Impacts.)

In selecting tango music, I believe the attention should be paid particularly to songs that are juxtaposed with opposite moods. A good, danceable tango has a rhythm that is crisp, forceful, steady and easy to dance to, accompanied by a melody that is beautiful, supple, fluid and sentimental, so it can stir up the masculinity of the man and the femininity of the woman. The two partners in essence are playing the music with their bodies. Like bandoneon and violin, the man and the woman are different instruments, each with its unique sound, expressing different emotions. Both are indispensable and irreplaceable. They must complement each other and collaborate harmoniously to create a beautiful tango. Lacking either mood would make the music less symphonious, gender expressive and gratifying. (See The Characteristics of Classic Tango.)

I always feel indebted to good DJs like Tine Herrman, Paul Akmajian and Burak Ozkosem, to name a few. Every time I hear their music, I feel worth the trouble to travel a thousand miles just to enjoy the music. But the truth is, such pleasure is rare. I believe DJs should let their playing philosophy known to the public, so dancers may have a choice. I believe event organizers should be more specific about the music requirements to the DJs they hire. I hope, with the growth of our tango, the music in our milongas will improve also, so that wherever we go, we can always enjoy the very best music and dance. 

January 22, 2017

Tango and Equality


Tango is created by people living at the bottom of the society. Their imprint still remains in the dance. The original tango is a lowbrow dance. It is raw, simple, sensual, soul-searching and comforting, touching the heart of one's humanity. Dancing that tango reminds Beatriz Dujovne of a birthing mother's ecstasy, struggle, agony, sweat, pain and joy. Whether a maid or a queen, she wrote, the basic birthing experience of all women is identical, just like that in tango. "Tango is all of us in life's common places. It is who we are at the core, behind our social masks." 

That shared humanity in tango is a huge source of sublimation for people struggling at the bottom. Tango liberates them because in tango they have regained the dignity of being on the same footing with others. All dancers are created equal in tango whether they are taxi drivers or CEOs, servant girls or first daughters. You enjoy that person dancing with you for who he/she is as a fellow human being regardless of his/her social status. Tango is where Cinderella and Prince Charming fall in love. "It melts down differences by zeroing in on our commonality," Dujovne wrote, "it feeds our hunger for being on a level with others." (See The Tangoin All of Us.)

Equality has been a dream of the American people since the creation of this nation. When the early immigrants to America were unfairly treated by the English King, they called for equality. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1776: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That document, The Declaration of Independence, laid the foundation for this nation.

After 240 years, however, the gap between the rich and the poor in America did not narrow. In fact, it is widened in our times. Power corrupts. When we were under the oppression of a despot who mistreated us, we wanted equality. When we gained the control of our own destiny, we started to do the same thing to others. Compassion and self-interests are juxtaposed in human nature. When we keep a balance between the two, we are doing fine. But when we lose that balance, when we only think about ourselves and disregard others, when we formulate theories like personal liberty, individual rights and individualism to legitimize selfish behaviors (see Tango and Individualism), when we misinterpret the founding documents from a narrow, individualistic perspective in favor of the self rather than the society, the rich rather than the poor, and the criminals rather than the victims (see The Freedom in Tango), when we allow ourselves to pursue self-interests at the expense of others, when we form monopoly groups and build unfair systems such as those in our financial, insurance, healthcare, pharmaceutical, commercial, real estate, and legal institutions to benefit and protect special interests (see Mammonism), when we allow the rich to use their money to influence the policy making, when we use freedom to promote violence, obscenity, homosexuality and alternative life styles (see Tango and the Relationship of the Opposite Sexes), when personal liberty is used to undermine traditional marriage and family - the very foundation of the society (see Tango and Family Values), when divorce, irresponsible sex, single parent family and same sex marriage become the accepted norms and are sponsored by the state, etc., we get ourselves further and further into the mess we now are in.

Ours is the lesson of freedom lost for the majority of people when we only seek for personal freedom. Only few can be winners in the competition if equality and justice are not the premise of all other human rights. True freedom is the freedom from being violated by others, not the freedom to violate others. It is the right to act within the limits of law necessary to the public good, not that to harm the society. It is a self-disciplined human right under the principle that all men are created equal, not the right to do whatever one pleases at the cost of others. In other words, a free society is an equal society based on compassion and cooperation, not on self-interests and competition. It is where individual rights are subject to the communal interests of the society as a whole, where nobody's freedom will be deprived by another's freedom, and where coexistence, brotherhood, compassion and sharing are the common values of all people. It is a society consistent with the spirit of tango.

The following clip is relevant to the subject. I cannot refrain from smiling when watch this video. It is well-directed, thought-provocative, and with many humorous details like the responses of the crowd, the looks in the girls' eyes, and the old lady being carried away, etc. The dance is of the highest quality with excellent musicality and choreography. I especially appreciate the ending where the elegant dignity of the heroic nonentity won over the arrogance of the elites. Watch in fullscreen.





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The Freedom in Tango