Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating culture, idea, lifestyle, and philosophy. In many ways, tango is a metaphor of life. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit of connection, love, 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 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 and compromise. If you believe in this cause, please join the conversation and let your voice be heard, which is urgently needed and long overdue.

Together we can awaken the world.




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, flexibility 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, etc.

Keep in mind that a woman's body is very flexible and can do amazing things if we know how to lead her. Be careful not to overdo, though, as tenderness, comfort and feelings are equally important to women. (See Tango Is a Feeling.) In fact, feminine beauty is so vividly revealed in small 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 their attempt to keep a distance. Amateur dancers may intentionally save a room for them to do fancy steps. In fact, most tangueras 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 arms and hands against the man to keep a distance. Their steps are too big. Many never learned to dance in close embrace. Their body is untrained and inflexible, and they do not know how to dance in a compact way.

The truth is, 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 cheek touches cheek, body touches body, 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 the 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 face his side, so that she can step around him. She must keep her upper body still and turn 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 a reason why dancing with an amateur dancer 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 she only rotates her hips side to side in order to make four steps - a front step, a side step, a back step, and a side step - around him. 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 dissociation.

Where she places her foot is also critical. It should be placed very 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 contented 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 dressing, seating, invitation, navigation, mirada, cabeceo, and all the dos and don'ts of the milonga. 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 love and appreciation 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.