Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search 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 community and people. 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.




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 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 the dance. 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. 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 they had to walk in that way. Women's wearing high heels 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 so in small steps. 

Therefore, dancing tango is not doing big ochos and big turns endlessly, which is a common delusion in our tango. Rather, it is using a combination of conspicuous and especially inconspicuous movements, big and especially small steps, fast 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 psychology 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 think that they dance close enough to the man but in fact they do not. Novice women unaccustomed to close embrace often lean back to keep a distance from the man. They prop with their arms against the man to create a gap. Their steps are too big, which take them away from the man. Some deliberately step away from the man in order to increase movement space or remain independent. Many never learned to dance in close embrace and don't know how to dance 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 to him and not step away from him.

To do that the woman needs to dissociate her lower body, i.e., to swivel her hips and let her lower body face a different direction in order to dance around him without breaking the embrace. (See Dissociation and Gear Effect.) She must keep her torso connected to the man while dancing around him in a dissociated or twisted body posture. A woman who cannot dissociate her lower body often turns her whole body instead, causing the rupture of the embrace and incoherence of the movement. That is why dancing with a novice woman often is uncomfortable.

Dancing around the man also 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 swivels her hips side to side in order to make four steps, a front step, a side step, a back step, a side step, in a circular motion around the man. Every tanguera knows the figure but executing it coherently so it feels musical, smooth 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 from him to prevent her thigh from touching his thigh. But touching is what she should do to make her movement compact. The woman must overcome her fear and not be afraid of touching his thigh when she walks on his side or rotates around him. However, she needs to imagine a circle around him with a radius of one foot from his foot and always place her foot on that imaginary circle when dancing around him because while stepping too far apart from him will cause separation, stepping too close to his foot will cause her to lose the leaning position when the turn is completed.

In short, four things are critically important in regard to dancing around the man: First, establishing the concept of 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 dance 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 own enjoyment and her partner's pleasure. Her skill is so superb that she can focus her entire attention on him rather than the steps. 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 into 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 herself to enjoy the 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 are 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 techniques, thus she is able to focus her attention on making him feel good. She knows all the tricks to please him with her body: caressing him when twisting her body in his arms, letting her chest trundle on his torso when swiveling 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 story of each and every tango song, 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 affectionate when the music becomes 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 protocols 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 has changed her and transcended 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.