Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating philosophy, culture, and lifestyle. 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 and species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.

December 28, 2017

The Elegance of the Milonguero Style

In contrast to other styles that remind me of a bustling casino, the milonguero style of tango reminds me of a Zen garden - an oasis of austerity, serenity, peace and natural beauty for quiet contemplation. The style aims at inward experiences, so the look becomes less important. In fact, it is danced in simple and natural steps, very little adornments are used in order to avoid complication and distraction, thus enables the dancers to focus inwardly on the feelings.

That, however, does not reduce its aesthetic value. On the contrary, the style possesses a natural, simple and elegant beauty second to none. The following is an example.

Using cadencia to make the dance elegant

The key element responsible for the elegance of the style is cadencia. The woman leans chest-against-chest on the man's torso, and the man uses the connection as the fixed point to swing her torso, which brings the sway of her hip and leg in a chain reaction, causing the movement of her body to look elegant and graceful. Notice that the woman does not use her thigh to move her leg, but lets the leg follow the body to sway. Her focus is on the horizontal lilt of the body instead of the vertical action of stepping down, and she does not rush to chase the beats. Rather, she lets her body take its natural course to swing gracefully in accordance with the tempo and mood of the melody.

Using the hips to highlight her femininity

In doing so she often needs to swivel her hips so she can take advantage of the inertia of the body to sway her free leg. (See Cadencia and the Flow of Tango.) Since she dances around the man, she also needs to swivel her hips in order to step on his side. She needs to swivel her hips in her walk in order to use the hip to move the leg. (See Women's Walk in Tango.) She needs to swivel her hips when she does front ocho and back ocho, and when she turns around him in molinete... (See Dissociation and Gear Effect.) In short, hip rotation is used all the time in the woman's dance, which highlights the beauty of her supple and pliable body. The style does not emphasize the footwork, so she is able to pay attention to the hip movement, controls it to make the swivel gentle, subtle yet noticeable. She does not over turn the hips, but turns them only to a degree necessary to let it look graceful and elegant.

Dancing with simple and natural steps

Another element pertinent to the elegance of the style is using simple and natural steps. Some tango styles are known for their fancy movements and flashy figures, which, although may be beautiful in some way, lack naturalness and elegance. The following is an example.

As you can see, impressive maybe by some standard, a display like this relies on fancy footwork, intricate movements, exaggerated steps, abrupt turns and hasty actions. It looks busy, garish, farfetched and beat-chasing, but lacks the confidence, serenity, ease, simplicity, naturalness and elegance of the milonguero style. And, it does not match the melancholy mood of the music. (See Dancing to Melody - Poema.)

In contrast, the first couple use austere steps so that they can concentrate inwardly on quiet contemplation. The man leads by swinging the woman's body. The woman keeps her body tall and straight while swinging it gracefully, allowing its intrinsic, natural beauty manifest itself.

Audrey Hepburn Said, "Elegance is the only beauty that never fades." I am convinced of that.

December 17, 2017

Self-Centered Leading vs. Partner-Centered Leading

A leader is either self-centered or partner-centered. A partner-centered leader leads the woman gently, thoughtfully, attentively, patiently and comfortably, that is, in accordance with the physiology of her feminine body. A self-centered leader, on the other hand, tends to lead her do things beyond her comfortable zone. For example, he leads her take large, awkward steps, which a partner-centered leader would divide into smaller steps; or leads her chase the beats, whereas a partner-centered leader would allow her time to finish her steps; or leads her do arbitrary performance, whereas a partner-centered leader would use natural steps to display her natural beauty; or regards himself as the leading performer and uses the woman as a foil to his performance, whereas a partner-centered leader would accommodate himself to her, shine her, and let her be the center of attention.

Here is an example of self-centered leading.

In this example, the man only focused on his own performance. He hastily chased the beats and rushed the woman to make big moves and drastic turns, but failed to follow the melody to allow her feminine beauty to shine. (See Revealing Her Beauty in Tango.) As a result, his self-exhibition led to the eclipse of the woman.

In contrast, a partner-centered leader dances for the woman. Here is an example of partner-centered leading.

As you can see, in this clip the man did not lead the woman do big, awkward steps, as being the case in the first clip, but led her dance in normal steps to reveal her natural beauty. He did not coerce her by the hands, as being the case in the first clip, but kept her in the comfort of his embrace and used his torso to lead her very gently. He did not make her dance against the inertia of her body, as being the case in the first clip, but led her by the inertia to make the step easy for her. He did not force her to dance around him with himself as the center, as being the case in the first clip, but adjusted his position to suit her and facilitate her dance. He did not lead her do abrupt turns, as being the case in the first clip, but waited for her to finish each rotation before he led the next step. He did not rush her to chase the beats, as being the case in the first clip, but allowed her time to complete her steps.

These made it possible for her to concentrate on the connection and feelings, and also on making her dance elegant and graceful. Because the woman dances around the man and mostly walks in ocho, she needs to swivel her hips and use the hip to swing the leg. (See Dissociation and Gear Effect and Cadencia.) The hip action, while highlights her femininity, takes time to complete. The man must understand that and allow the woman time to display her feminine beauty, as being exemplified in this dance thanks to the excellent lead, and we can tell her appreciation by the way she looked at him at the end.

Please watch the video again in full screen to see how beautiful a woman's dance can be when she has a good leader. I recommend you use this clip as a learning tool. Every man, novice and veteran alike, can learn a lot about how to lead from this video. (See The Elegance of the Mionguero Style.)

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, experienced and like-minded 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. Seventy-five Men and seventy-five women are seated 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 that 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 some women had tried to cabeceo me, 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 invitations. 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 less ambiguous. 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 look 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 I cabeceo her. When walking towards a woman who has accepted my cabeceo, 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 clear 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, standing up if they are behind others, looking around to see if someone else is responding to me, 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 feelings. 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 expressiveness could prevent errors not only by the two involved, but by the third party who may also be involved. Also, such enthusiasm would lead to a more intimate and satisfying dance. 

Here again we see the impact of culture on tango. (See Tango: Historical and Cultural Impacts.) We Americans have an exaggerated ego due to our individualistic and feminist culture, which puts too much emphasis on the self. (See Tango and Individualism and  Femininity and Feminism in Tango (I).) Many don't want to show dependence on others, or let others know that they need them, or feel being obligated by others, or beg others for a dance, etc., which could make them seem aloof, cold, indifferent, arrogant, or even rude. When doing cabeceo, we tend to show less spontaneity and more self awareness, especially if we did not get the expected attention or response, whereas in Argentina people would take a totally different approach in same situations. 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 make eye contact with me and she pointed to where she sat so I could pay attention to her later. In short, the Argentinians are more sociable, friendly, proactive and approachable, while the Americans tend to be more reserved, rejective, defiant and hostile. I hope tango and cabeceo will help us change that attitude.

July 14, 2017

A Dance that Teaches People to Love

We use the word love to express many different feelings. To love tango is to be fascinated by and addicted to the dance. To love a country is to feel deeply attached to the country. To love a child is to adore and pamper the child. To love a friend is to appreciate and feel close to that friend. To love someone with superior intelligence, talent, character, ability, 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 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, admiration, adoration, veneration, attachment 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, devotes, surrenders, obeys, gives, supports, yields, accommodates, tolerates, endures, forgives and protects, just like how a mother cares for her baby and ideally two tango partners treat each other in order to enjoy each other and work as a team in the dance.

Young people often think that love is only a feeling, that if one has that feeling for someone then he/she loves someone, and that one should be loved for who one is without being asked to do anything in return, etc. That false belief is a source of countless failed relationships. The truth is, love is not only what one feels, but much more importantly what one does. It is not an unrequited affection but a bilateral relationship in which each party must be and do his/her best in order to bring out the best of the other. Love should not be taken for granted, because the synergy of love, just like the synergy of tango, ceases if the two fail to reciprocate and cooperate.

People often compare tango to love because the two share a common theme. They both involve a relationship between a man and a woman in which the two sexes play different roles but complement each other. The both require commitment, trust, communication, understanding, empathy, devotion, submission, accommodation and cooperation. The concept of tango has a universal value because it reveals the way to achieve oneness and harmony in all kinds of relationships.

Men and women play different roles in love as they do in tango. (See The Gender Roles in Tango.) Men are strong and goal-oriented. For men, love means to provide, support and safeguard - 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 romantic, 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 mutual commitment, submission, cooperation, accommodation and compromise.

The gift of love, just like the gift of tango, makes us better husbands, wives, friends, coworkers, citizens and tango partners. We learn to love each other because we need each other, and for the sake of our common interests we have no better choice than loving each other. 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 the 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.)

Imagine a world where people all love each other, in comparison to the hostile world in which we are living. (See Tango Is the Search of a Dream.) Love, in opposition to ideologies that advocate individuality, individual rights, personal freedom, self-interests, competition, confrontation and aggression, is the preposition of achieving unity and harmony through cooperation, teamwork, kindness, accommodation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a philosophy, a method of dealing with people, and a useful skill that needs to be studied, taught and learned. Just like we need to acquire the skill in order to achieve harmony in tango, we need to acquire the skill in order to achieve harmony in relationships. Of all the skills essential to a healthy, functional, stable and harmonious society, love perhaps is the single most important one. This skill must be taught to our young in all levels of education.

Unfortunately, the American education completely ignores this. Our schools are dominated by capitalism, individualism, feminism and Neo-liberalism 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 result is 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, hostility, polarization, antagonism, uncooperativeness and dysfunction in our governments, the rapacity, competition, intolerance, hatred, tension, brokenness, divorce, violence and crime in our society, and many problems in our tango today.

Nothing can do more harm to a society than narrow-minded radical ideologies that teach people to be selfish, greed, individualistic, disagreeable, resentful, antagonistic and hateful. This country is desperately in want 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, 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, graceful, 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 Calo'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 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 steps. It suits to music that is melodic. The style, often being described as fancy, stylish and showy, 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 gain popularity in Europe, North America and Asia. The following video is a good representation of this style.

This clip has been previously used 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. Please 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 them. 

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 being demonstrated in these two fragments. 

Songs suitable to dance the milonguero style of tango generally have lucid beats, accompanied by sentimental melodies. The beats are strong, steady and easy to follow. But sometimes the emotions take over and the beats weaken or hide 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 note, 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 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 that most people are only taught to step on the beats and are not trained to follow melody. But dancing to melody is an essential ability a tango dancer must have, especially if you are a woman, for melody represents and can better express emotions and 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, compact and synchronized steps, and is fully enjoyed when the partners surrender to each other, immersed in the music and feelings, and move together as one unified body. 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 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 and brave I am!" And the woman deliberately displays her femininity, as saying to the man, "Am I soft and 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 opposite sexes use to allure each other. Masculinity and femininity are gender characteristics resulted from millions of years of evolution, which allows the human species to sustain and flourish. Opposite, different, 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, teamwork, role play, agreeableness and cooperation. The sustenance, stability and harmony of the society would not be possible if the two sexes do not attract each other and love each other. Therefore, gender expression is not a sign of gender inequality or sexist display, as feminists claimed. Rather, it is a binding force that strengthens the society.

Feminists only think of men and women as independent individuals with conflicting self-interests, but fail to see them as a team in which the two sexes need and complement each 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 statement. 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, and they love each other by nature. In fact, for a period much longer than the recorded history the human society is matriarchal, and the love between the two sexes has been 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 contradicts human nature. (See Tango and the Relationship of the Opposite Sexes.)

"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

The true solution to gender harmony 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, hatred and power politics. (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 the individuality and independence of the individual, tango focuses on the partnership and oneness of the union. 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 and the relationship with the opposite sex." (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 - strong, steady, rigid and forceful, accompanied by a melody that is feminine - soft, beautiful, fluid and sentimental. The two opposite moods intertwine and respond to each other, reflecting the man and woman in the dance. Dancing tango, you have to imagine that you are playing the music with your body. The man and the woman are different instruments, each with its unique sound, expressing different emotions. One is like the bandoneon, the other the violin. One is the passion of the drums, the other the beauty of the melody. One is philosophy, the other poem... 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 because without gender differences and gender expressions, 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.

March 29, 2017

Revealing Her Beauty in Tango

The fact that more women than men dance tango may be attributed in part to women's beauty. I don't think it is coincidental that the percentage of women with a beautiful body is very high in tango. Tango is well-known for its fitness function. It also gives women an opportunity to display their beauty. Women's highly developed sense of beauty certainly contributes to the formation of this beautiful dance. 

Because tango is danced in close embrace in which the torsos of the partners are connected, the woman has to swivel her hips in order to dance around the man, resulting in a twisted body posture (TBP) that highlights the curves of her body. TBP is different from CBM (contra-body movement) 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 also uses a technique known as dissociation to only swivel her hips while keeping her upper body still, or combine that with CBM - turning her upper body in one direction while swiveling her lower body in the opposite direction, which projects even more the flexibility of her body. 

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 while her torso remains facing the man.

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

She swivels her hips to the right and stretches her right leg backward to the right side of the man while her torso remains facing the man.

She swivels her hips to the left and stretches her left leg backward to the left side of the man while her torso remains facing the man.

These scenarios occur in many tango steps such as front ocho, back ocho, walking diagonally, walking on the side of the partner, 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 stunning in dancing. For example, we can display the suppleness, pliancy and gracefulness of her body by using steps that involve TBP and hip rotation. We can make her step diagonally to our right and left, alternate her ochos to make her rotate her hips continuously, 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, combine different steps to increase the variations of her posturing, and suspend her TBP with slow motion or pose 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 tenderness are equally important to women. (See Tango Is a Feeling.) In fact, feminine beauty is often revealed more in small movements than in big movements that in some cultures women are taught to walk in tiny steps. In ancient China, for example, 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 steps. 

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, fluxing and especially suspension, pause and pose, 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 responsibility to follow traffic the man often needs to step a little bit away from the woman and it is the woman's job to stay close to him.

Many women may think that they dance close enough to the man but they do not. Uncomfortable or unaccustomed to intimacy, novice women often lean back to keep a distance from the man. Many prop with their arms against the man to create an extra room to maneuver their untrained body. Their steps are too big, which take them away from the man. Some deliberately step away in attempt to be fancy. Many never learned to dance in close embrace and don't know how to move around the man in a compact way.

Tango is an intimate dance. To truly enjoy tango the woman needs to dance really close to the man. Close does not mean within an arm's length. In tango, close means integrating into his body and being one with him. The man dancing around the floor needs to keep up with traffic. The woman dancing around the man must stay close and not step away from him. To do that the woman needs to dissociate her lower body from her upper body, i.e., to swivel her hips to let her lower body face a different direction so she can dance around the man without breaking the embrace. (See Dissociation and Gear Effect.) She must keep her torso always connected to the man while swiveling her hips side to side in the dance. A woman who cannot dissociate her lower body often turns her whole body instead, causing the rupture of the embrace and awkwardness of the movement, which is why dancing with her is 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 front step, a side step, a back step, a side step, circulating the man. Every tanguera knows the figure but executing it in a coherent way so it feels smooth, musical and comfortable is not easy. In fact, most women cannot do molinete well because of the lack of training in dissociation. 

Where she places her foot is also important. A common problem is that she steps away to avoid touching his leg. But touching is what she should do to make the movement compact. The woman must not be afraid of intimacy and touching. However, she needs to imagine a circle with a radius of one foot from his foot and always place her foot on that imaginary circle when she dances around him, because while stepping away from him will cause incoherence, stepping too close to his foot will cause her lose the leaning position when the turn is completed.

In short, four 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, maintaining a good embrace in a slightly leaning position to secure the connection and mutual sport. Third, spending a lot of time to practice dissociation (especially in the molinete sequence) until you are versed in swiveling the hips while maintaining the torso connection with the man. Finally, being careful about the details, including how to move around him and where to place your foot, so the two of you may always remain connected in the dance. For a woman, learning tango is not mainly learning steps but 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 herself. Her body is so well-trained that she is able to make him feel totally comfortable even in the most challenging movements. 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 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 herself 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 does the steps beautifully, but to her the point of the steps is not so much the aesthetics as it is the communication. Just like the embrace, the steps are the tools a milonguera uses to connect to her partner, communicate her feelings and bring contentment to 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 twists 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 maneuvers. 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 intuitively without having to think about the steps and techniques. 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 and tender. She accelerates, slows down, stresses, softens, syncopates, suspends and pauses 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 lets 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 transcended her into a marvel - a milonguera treasured by all milongueros.


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 Selection

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 well educated crowd. Good music touches the dancers, lifts their spirit, connects their souls, inspires their creativity, and synchronizes their movements. Without good music, dancers cannot perform well no matter how good other conditions may be.

Unfortunately, the music played in our milongas is not always good. Many DJs choose to use songs that are not of the highest quality while let the best songs rest in peace in their computers. I have heard the theory that dancers like to try new songs, that they don't like to dance to the same old music again and again, and that they'd rather take risk than be bored, etc. Such arguments aggravate the tendency of seeking novelty at the cost of the quality of the music.

It is true that new songs may be adventurous to dance to, but that is not the main thing dancers are after. In fact, most dancers do not like to dance to strange tunes with irregular and unpredictable beats, but prefer to dance to familiar and danceable songs with a somewhat novel arrangement. Familiar and danceable songs arouse their desire to dance because, like singing and playing music instruments, they do better when they know the songs, while new arrangement makes the songs more challenging and interesting. DJs should avoid extremist taste and take a balanced approach to serve the needs of most dancers.

In selecting music the DJ must first pay attention to the danceability of the songs. (See Tango Music and Its Danceability.) I am a fervent believer that only the best danceable songs should be played in the milonga, so fervent that I deleted all songs that are not suitable for dancing 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 14 tandas or 56 songs. If you meticulously select 560 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. 

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 in the milonga 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, the dancers will get bored. 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 sentimental, soulful, beautiful and rich in syncopation, and avoid songs that are dull in emotion and monotonous in rhythm. Nonetheless, the music must have lucid beats that are not difficult to follow. DJs need to be aware that not all tangos are created equal. There was a period in Argentine history during which tango as a social dance was discouraged by the military rulers (1955 - 1983). Tango music produced during and after that period is largely for listeners and not dancers, often with unpredictable beats, or using vocal techniques influenced by Jazz music that are hard to follow. Such songs should not be played in the milonga no matter how novel and creative they may be. Good, danceable tango songs, in fact, are much smaller in number in comparison to mediocre songs or 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.)

I also believe the best songs for tango dancing are those juxtaposed with opposite moods. Good tango music by its very nature is heterosexual rather than homosexual. Its rhythm is strong, crisp, forceful and steady, and its melody is supple, beautiful, sentimental and moody, corresponding with the masculinity of the man and the femininity of the woman who in essence are playing the music with their bodies. The two sexes are different instruments, each with its unique sound, expressing a different mood. Both are indispensable and irreplaceable and 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, Burak Ozkosem and Julia Ingram, 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. And 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 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 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 tangueros and tangueras are created equal 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 Americans since the creation of this nation. When the early immigrants to America were unfairly treated by the English King, they argued 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 called for equality. When we gained the control of our own destiny, we started to do the same thing to others. Self-interests and compassion 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 individualism, individual freedom and personal rights 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, when we allow ourselves to pursue self-interests at the expense of others, when we form monopoly institutions and build unfair systems in our financial, insurance, healthcare, pharmaceutical, commercial, utilities, manufacturing, real estate and legal professions 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 guns, 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 are in now.

Ours is the lesson of freedom lost for the majority of people when we only seek for personal freedom. (See The Freedom in Tango.) 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, brotherly love, compassion and sharing are the common values of all people. It is a society consistent with the spirit of tango.

The following video is relevant to this subject. 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.

Related Reading

The Freedom in Tango