Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search of humanity, connection, love, 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, 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, accommodation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.
March 29, 2017
The fact that more women dance tango than men 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 in tango is very high. Tango is well known for its health and fitness effects. 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 the torsos of the two dancers are connected in the embrace in tango, the woman has to swivel her hips in order to dance around the man, resulting in a twisted body posture (TBP) that highlights the flexibility and 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 needs to dissociate her upper body and lower body, that is, turning her upper body without turning her lower body, or turnin her lower body without turning her upper body, or combine dissociation with CBM - turning her upper body in one direction while swiveling her lower body in the opposite direction, which projects even more the pliability of her body.
TBP occurs in the following scenarios:
While keeping her torso connected to the man, she swivels her hips to the left and stretches her right leg forward to the right side of the man.
While keeping her torso connected to the man, she swivels her hips to the right and stretches her left leg forward to the left side of the man.
While keeping her torso connected to the man, she swivels her hips to the right and stretches her right leg backward to the right side of the man.
While keeping her torso connected to 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, dancing around the man in molinete, zigzagging in molinete, turning with pivot or rock steps, rotating the hips in planeo, boleo, gancho, back sacada, etc. TBP is the reason why women's feminine beauty can be fully displayed in tango.
This gives us a clue on how to make her look stunning in the dance. For example, we can display the suppleness, pliancy and grace of her body by using steps that involve TBP and hip rotation. We can make her step diagonally to our right and left, frequent the change of direction, increase turns, alternate front ocho and back ocho or use zigzag or planeo to make her swivel her hips continuously, increase her TBP by stepping diagonally to the side in back ocho to make her twist her body more than if we walk straight in line with her, combine different steps to increase the variety of her pose, suspend her TBP with slow motion, or pause when she is in a twisted body position to highlight her curves, etc.
Keep in mind that a woman's body is much more pliable than ours and can do amazing things if we know how to lead her. Beware not to overdo, though, as tenderness and comfort are also important to women. In fact, feminine beauty is 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 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 movements. That is why milonga, which is danced in smaller steps than tango, is so good at displaying the feminine beauty of women.
Therefore, dancing tango is not doing big ochos and big turns endlessly, which is a common delusion in American 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 a soulful dance and women are particularly emotional, susceptible to intimations and capable of expressing feelings. Tango gives women an opportunity to release their emotions. Feminine beauty, therefore, lies more in a woman's psyche than in her appearance. Relaxing her, letting her resonate with music, stirring up her feelings and bringing out her inner beauty are the leader's most challenging and rewarding test. (See The Conceptional Beauty of Tango.)
March 18, 2017
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 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 in fact they do not. Novice women often shy away from intimacy by leaning back or proping with their arms and hands against the man to keep a distance. Their steps are too big, which take them away from the man. Some women deliberately step away from the man in order to do fancy performance. Many have 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. In tango, close does not mean within an arm's length, but integrating into his body and being one with him. The man who dances around the floor needs to keep up with traffic. The woman who dances around the man must always be one with him and not separate from him.
To do that the woman needs to swivel her hips and turn her lower body sideways in order to step on the side of the man or around the man. (See Dissociation and Gear Effect.) She must keep her torso connected to his torso while doing that. A woman who cannot dissociate her lower body tends to turn her whole body instead, causing the rupture of the embrace and incoherence of her movement. That is why dancing with a novice woman is often uncomfortable.
Dancing around the man often involves molinete, a figure in which the woman turns about the man who serves as the anchor for her rotation. Their torsos are connected in the embrace and the woman swivels her hips side to side to make four steps, a front step, a side step, a back step, a side step, in a circle around the man. Every tanguera knows the figure but executing it coherently so it feels smooth, comfortable and musical 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 places her foot too far apart from his foot to prevent her thigh from touching his thigh. In fact, touching is what she should do to make the movement compact. The woman must not be afraid of touching the man's leg when dancing around him. However, she needs to imagine a circle around his feet with a radius of one foot from his feet and always place her foot on that imaginary circle when she rotates around him, because while stepping too far apart from his foot will take her away from him (see 6:20-8:00 in the following video), stepping too close to his foot will cause her to lose the leaning position when the turn is completed.
In short, five things are critically important regarding to dancing around the man. First, understanding that the woman's job is not to dance around the floor but to dance around the man. Second, establishing the concept of integrating into his body and being one with him. Third, maintaining a good embrace in a slightly leaning position to secure the torso connection and mutual support. Fourth, spending a lot of time to practice dissociation, especially in the molinete sequence, until you are versed in swiveling your hips with your torso attached to his torso in a slightly leaning position. Finally, being careful about the details, including how to keep the movement compact and where to place your foot so the two of you may always remain connected as one in the dance. For a woman, learning tango is not primarily 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
Being a milonguera is a high call, only the best tangueras deserve that title. A milonguera is not a performer but a social dancer. She dances for her partner's enjoyment and her own pleasure. Dancing with a milonguera is a real treat because her consummate dance skills enable her to pay great attention to her partner, her body is so well-trained that she can make him feel totally comfortable even in the most challenging movements, and her musicality is so excellent that dancing with her becomes an indulgence.
A milonguera has transcended the narrowness of egocentric popular ideas like egoism, individualism and feminism. She understands that tango is a relationship and teamwork, that the gratification of tango comes from surrender, cooperation and sharing, that her own enjoyment of the dance relies on her partner, and that unless he is happy 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 forward into him with a firm yet gentle pressure of her breasts against his torso, tuning constantly to the messages emitted from his chest. She stretches her body upwards as if it were the string of a violin that vibrates at his slightest touch. Her head rests affectionately 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 secure the torso connection and 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 meaning of tango to her is not so much in impression as it is in the communication of feelings. Steps, just like the embrace, are the tools she uses to connect to her partner, express her emotions, being one with him, 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 or around 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 are always perfectly connected in even the most difficult maneuvers. For her, to tango is to pamper the man in her arms, and she is equipped with an 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 can concentrate on making him feel good. She knows all the tricks to please him with her body: caressing him with her body when she twists it 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 (master) of the art of seduction.
A milonguera knows the music inside out. She knows the story of every tango song. She knows how to express the feelings of each song with her every movement. She is moody when the music is moody, passionate when the music is passionate, sentimental when the music turns blue, and affectionate when the music becomes tender. She accelerates, slows down, strengthens, softens, reinforces, 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 music without slightest disharmony.
A milonguera is versed in the milonga world. She follows the protocols about personal hygiene, dress, seating, invitation, mirada, cabeceo, navigation, and all the dos and don'ts of the milonga. (See Milonga Codes.) She is easygoing, polite, warm and charming. 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 second nature. 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 transformed her into a marvel - a milonguera treasured by all milongueros.
I've just returned from Newport News Encuentro, Virginia, one of the best milonguero gatherings I have attended. 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, 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.
The Chivalry of the Milongueros