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, fellowship, unity, harmony and beauty, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us into individuals, but tango unites us into a team, community and species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, 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 altruism, affinity, cooperation, accommodation, and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.

May 12, 2024

The Advantages of Simplicity versus Flashy Movements

Tango performances that best convey the essence of the music and the emotions of the dancers largely feature simple movements. This is because tango is fundamentally about the interaction between two souls rather than the execution of complex steps. Simple movements enable dancers to immerse themselves in the nuances of the music and the depths of the feelings, fostering a deeper connection and inward focus that allow for more meaningful conversations between the partners.

Conversely, performances that prioritize flashy movements often appear artificial and frivolous. The focus on intricate footwork and elaborate choreography diverts dancers' attention away from fully engaging with the music, feelings, and the partner, resulting in a performance that feels disconnected, contrived, cluttered, and superficial. Additionally, the focus on choreographed flashy movements can hinder dancers' ability to respond intuitively and exquisitely to changes in the music and their partner's cues, leading to a performance that feels rehearsed and robotic rather than spontaneous, vibrant, and expressive. The following is an example.

While this example appears extreme, vaunt and ostentation are not uncommon in tango. In our contemporary culture, where flaunting and pretense abound, it's important for tango enthusiasts to resist the urge to show off and instead focus on what truly matters: the music and the connection with the partner. By keeping things simple, minimizing the frills, and sticking to simple steps, dancers can create a tango experience that is much more intimate, soulful and satisfying. After all, it's not about putting on a show - it's about sharing a moment, heart to heart. (See Embracing Elegance: The Timeless Beauty of Tango.)

April 18, 2024

Embracing Elegance: The Timeless Beauty of Tango

The beauty of tango can be roughly divided into two categories: elegant and fancy. Elegance incorporates simplicity, naturalness, refinement and decorum, creating a sense of grace, balance, calm and harmony. Fanciness is characterized by garishness, flamboyance and frivolity, reflected in elaborate footwork, intricate movements and excessive embellishments. While both elegance and fanciness have their place in tango and each can contribute to the richness and diversity of the dance, in our age, which celebrates superficiality and ostentation, embracing elegance seems to take on even greater significance. (See Paola Tacchetti.)

Tango at its essence is a dialogue between two souls, requiring the focus on feelings rather than impression. This is why the most popular form of tango, the milonguero style, prioritizes elegance over fanciness. Elegance in tango is a reflection of inner harmony and a deep understanding of the dance. In its simplicity lies an inward focus that speaks to the heart and resonates with the soul. While the allure of showcasing flashy moves and intricate footwork may seem irresistible, true mastery of tango lies in the pursuit of elegance. For dancers striving to transcend mere performance and elevate their artistry, embracing elegance is not just a choice - it's a journey towards deeper inner experience and timeless beauty. (See The Power of Simplicity versus Flashy Movements.)

Unlike fleeting trends or transient fads, elegance endures through the ages, leaving an indelible imprint on both the dancer and the observer. When we watch a truly elegant tango performance, we are captivated not by the complexity of the steps, but by the sheer beauty and grace emanating from the dancers' inner selves.

But perhaps the most compelling reason to embrace elegance is its transformative effect on the dancers. As we cultivate an elegant style, we embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. We learn to let go of ego-driven desire to impress and instead focus on deepening our connection with the partner, the music, and ourselves. In the quest for elegance, we learn the invaluable lesson of restraint - the art of doing less to achieve more. By stripping away excess embellishments and focusing on the purity of movement, we uncover the true essence of tango and experience a newfound sense of authenticity and depth. We discover that true beauty lies not in the outward display of skills, but in the inward journey of music, connection and interaction with another soul. (See True Beauty Comes from Within.)

So, to all tango dancers who aspire to transcend the ordinary and reach for the extraordinary, remember the words of Audrey Hepburn: "Elegance is the only beauty that never fades." Embrace it, embody it, and let it guide you on your journey to becoming a master of the dance. (See The Elegance of the Milonguero Style.)

February 15, 2024

Ismael Choreography

Ismael Heljalil (1929-2018) was a revered figure within the milonguero community, known for his kind nature and gentle demeanor. Though details about his life remain scarce, his legacy endures through the dance videos he left behind, offering glimpses into his gentle character and profound love for tango. (Please click the link to watch on YouTube.)

What distinguishes Ismael Heljalil from his peers is his distinctive choreography, characterized by a seamless fusion of rock, retreats and rotations. A hallmark of his style is the rock steps with the left leg as the fulcrum to place his right leg behind, culminating in a graceful pivoting to the right.

While this movement can be mirrored with the left leg, Ismael's preference leans towards the right, showcasing his comfort and mastery with his signature spin.

Another notable move involves rocking the right leg back, pivoting to the left while shifting weight to his left leg, and then stepping the right leg forward. As his weight is now on the right leg, he can either continue walking in circles to the left, or step back with his left leg and pivot to the left. No one can alternate right and left turns with backward and forward steps as seamlessly as Ismael does. This remarkable ability hinges on his unparalleled musicality.

In essence, Ismael's dance style is characterized by a continuous rotation anchored in backward motion, skillfully blending elements of rock, back steps, and turns. This unique approach sets him apart, inspiring many to emulate his technique, yet few can truly replicate his finesse. What is difficult to copy is not his footwork, of course, but his comprehension of music, underscoring the depth of skill possessed by the master himself.

"If God could dance, he would dance like Ismael. He masterfully improvises what he feels in the moment. He walks, and oh…how he walks with intimate knowledge of every phrase and nuance of the music from his soul." - Jantango

February 8, 2024

Making Your Leading Stand Out

When leading tango, it is important to avoid cookie-cutter routines. Here are some tips to help you be a distinctive leader:

1. Embrace variety in your dance route: Instead of moving straight forward along the line of dance, dare to explore different directions and patterns, break away from monotony, frequent the change of direction, interweave different steps, and lead your partner in unexpected move patterns.

2. Incorporate backward steps: In tango, men mostly move forward and women move backward. If you could break the pattern and dance backwards, it would be a change for both parties and make the dance stand out. (Click the link to watch on YouTube.)

3. Simplify your movements: In a world where complexity often reigns supreme, dare to stand out by embracing simplicity. Remember, less is often more when it comes to making a lasting impression.

4. Master the art of pivoting: In tango, it's customary for men to navigate the dance floor while women dance around them, often resulting in men relying on static steps. However, by integrating pivots into your movements to enable agile and fluid turns toward your partner, your lead will truly shine.

5. Engage your torso and hips: Most students don't rotate their torso and hips very much when dancing. If you can engage your torso and hips more, your leading will reach a higher level. The rule of tango is that your torso must always face your partner, no matter which side of you she is on or moving to. The competence to swivel the torso and hips helps the man to maintain good connection with the woman and enhances his ability to use his torso to lead her.

6. Use a variety of rhythms:Most men dance too fast and in a monotonous rhythm. If you slow down the pace and use a variety of rhythms, your dance will stand out. Pause and slow motion are to dance what punctuation is to writing. They make the expression more meaningful and interesting.

7. Lead her to turn in slow motion:Most women turn too hastily, either forced by men or due to their own habit of chasing the beat. But in fact women's feminine beauty is better revealed in slow motion. When leading steps that involve turns, such as molinete, ocho and planeo, if you can slow down her pace, that will make her movements look more appealing.

8. Dance to express, not to impress: Above all, remember that tango is a dance of connection and feelings. Instead of focusing on showcasing your technical prowess, dance with genuine emotion and feeling. Let the music guide you and inspire your movements. By dancing to express the music and feelings, you'll create a profound and unforgettable experience for both you and your partner.

February 6, 2024

Philosophies that Separate Two Different Worlds

Chinese philosophy embraces a holistic perspective, viewing the universe as a cohesive whole rather than disparate parts. It posits that despite the existence of contradictions, harmony prevails, with seemingly opposite elements interrelated, interdependent and complementing each other like the two sexes. Humanity is perceived not as isolated individuals but as a collective, wherein success hinges on collaborative efforts. Central to this worldview is the pursuit of unity, balance and harmony, eschewing conflict escalation and adversary elimination. (See Understanding China: Yellow River and the Character of the Chinese Nation.)

Emphasizing peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, Chinese philosophy prioritizes collective interests over personal ones, advocating for consensus-building and the creation of an equitable, just, and moral global community. In this framework, human rights extend beyond individual entitlements to include the collective well-being of all humanity, encompassing equality, justice, a safe and satisfactory living environment for all, cooperation and resource-sharing, freedom from poverty and crime, humanitarian assistance, as well as individual liberties.

Politically, the Chinese emphasize the role of the state in fostering unity, managing differences, protecting the vulnerable, providing infrastructure, and advancing the common good. They endorse democratic centralism while opposing decentralization and partisan politics. Economically, China operates a mixed economy that includes state-owned, private and market components, with the goal to achieve common prosperity for all citizens. This approach harnesses individual initiative while maintaining state oversight of capital to safeguard the interests of all people.

In international affairs, China upholds the following five principles: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. It advocates for international cooperation, peaceful development, global common prosperity, and the creation of a community with shared future for mankind.

In contrast, Western thought is characterized by atomism, which deconstructs the world into discrete entities and posits that these entities compete for self-interest. Western individualism views people as independent actors with conflicting interests, subscribing to the Darwinian concepts of the "struggle for existence" and "survival of the fittest" that embrace a "law of the jungle" mentality wherein the suppression or elimination of opponents is seen as necessary to safeguard one's own interests. (See Darwinism and Eastern Philosophies.) The Western view of human rights is also individualistic, prioritizing personal interests over collective concerns. This version of human rights is highly deceptive. While ostensibly promoting freedom for all, it in fact only serves a privileged minority, allowing them to exploit competitive advantages to defeat the disadvantaged majority, thereby controlling legislation, the economy, media, military affairs, and foreign policy, to benefit themselves. The result is that the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and for most people, human rights and freedom have become empty words. (See Democracy vs. Plutocracy.)

Politically, Western elites employ Machiavellian tactics and engage in partisan fights, fostering social fragmentation, division, conflicts and polarization. Economically, Western ideology champions private ownership, free competition, capitalism, mercantilism, financialism, and neoliberalism. Although these unscrupulous, profit-oriented practices may spur initial economic growth, they also aggravate inequality and corruption, subjecting national interests to the dominance of capital and ultimately resulting in economic failures. (See America Is in Big Trouble.)

In international relations, the West adopts strategies of divide and conquer geopolitics, promotes unipolar hegemony, and engages in zero-sum games. These approaches disrupt global equilibrium, provoke conflicts, and sow turmoil worldwide. The success of the West historically hinges on the conquest, colonization, genocide, exploitation, and plunder of weaker nations.

For a considerable period, the Chinese struggled to comprehend Western behaviors, yet they have now come to understand its underlying logic. Unless Western plutocrats alter their philosophical outlook, global peace remains elusive. This sentiment was succinctly expressed by the Chinese delegation during the Sino-US talks in Alaska: "We overestimated you and assumed you would adhere to basic diplomatic norms. We must clarify our stance: You lack the authority to assert dominance over China." Despite the potential calamitous consequences of their worldview, Western plutocrats are unlikely to relinquish it. It may require the collapse of the existing paradigm before humanity can aspire to construct a new world.

Fortunately, of the two philosophies, which represents and can lead to a brighter future for mankind is becoming increasingly evident. Humanity is amidst unprecedented global transformations. The ascent of China and the decline of the West have given countries in the Global South new hope, allowing them to glimpse a possible new world characterized by civilized values, peaceful coexistence, equality, fairness, justice, and win-win cooperation, contrasting to the current landscape of self-interest, inequality, bullying, plunder, aggression and war. (See Pluralism vs. Monism.)