Why Tango? - A Leader's Appreciation
He guides her into a walk. They are already there. So simple....yet excitement grows - the prelude to three minutes of exquisite communication between the sexes. The passionate song unfolds. You don't have to know the person or even want to know them. It seems different with each partner. You learn about yourself through the partnership. The Tango experience ...
It takes your breath away.
So breathe. Relax.
You want to know about posture and how to move your body - not just how to do steps. How to be elegant and poised; comfortable with who you are.
Ah, this is about who I am. And who do I want to be? What mask shall I present as I find out who I am? The dancers seem to have no expression - except concentration - on their faces. The emotions are brewing within.
The heart is beating.
Someone has to decide what how they move - that's the lead. He uses his (body & mind) attitude, hands and his intentions to tell her legs what to do ... ask her if she'll do it. Her legs, in and out of his, tell the story. Their faces reveal only the mask. Everything of meaning is deeper.
Ocho atras; giro (sounds like "hero") 'round to the left and right; cadencia; cadena; salida, sacada - some names of the steps and the lyrics of the songs are in "Lunfardo," the Spanish dialect of the Porteños of Buenos Aires who invented Tango.
The music slows. The man suspends his partner and they gently sway, somewhere without time. She waits with him. The music will tell them what to do.
It changes to a harder pulse. They move again in an expression that will never be exactly repeated, even though their feet are doing the same steps they have learned in class. This moment is how they feel right now - and it will never be precisely the same again. This is the dance that was invented for a universe of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Dynamic. Uncertain and slightly scary. Personal.
We have dreams that might not be realized; problems eluding solution; desires life might not fulfill. In some way we are all immigrants seeking a home. But we have the answers for our troubles in this moment. We find them in Tango Argentino.
The milonga experience - social tango dancing - is intoxicating. People from everywhere and of all ages move counter-clockwise around the room as the great Tango orchestras' recordings play heavenly music. Bodies touch and relate, proving beyond all doubt that there is a humanity surrounding us, supporting us. The motion gratifies the physical need humans have to move rhythmically and in concert with another. Add the real intellectual challenge/satisfaction, and you know why you love Tango. Physical, metaphysical. The duality of nature in aspect.
Chan-Chan! The song has ended. Its emotions ran a gamut, constantly changing patterns in a surprising way that no other musical form attempts. In the last three minutes we have felt trepidation, excitement, joy, harmony, regret and satisfaction. We've been to other places and times and come back having shared without talking; gained without losing; experienced intensely personal feelings without being exposed or alone. It's fantastic. Tango is more than you can say in words.
Argentine Tango has much to reveal and to give, but it does so only to those who will work to gain access. Social Tango looks harder than it is, so almost anyone can learn to dance it; but there is always another level of difficulty. You can never learn all of the steps, because you can never learn all there is to life, and Tango is the great physical metaphor for life in a changing world where you are not quite alone. How you dance comes from who you are. So the more people you dance with, the more you find out about yourself, and others. And how to express yourself in a beautiful way, without the need for words.
Communication 101: it takes two.
Now Argentine Tango is becoming a rage again. In cities all over the world, ordinary people are drawn to the mystery; the sweet melancholy; the sensual pleasure and social satisfaction it gives. They want to learn more. In a world full of anxiety, its touch is a tonic.
Full of heart.
Why Tango? - A Follower's Appreciation
Yes, I know that there may be technically perfect leaders--and followers--who may not value or grok this..... AND it is delicious to me!
In fact, I can be buoyed for a week or so by the memory of even one or two such dances. This type of communion is exquisite--and the reason I keep coming back to tango.
On the other hand, I also enjoy dancing with men who are always experimenting, and leading me in new ways and combinations...so I need to stay very tuned to my insides, and therefore be more available to picking up, sensing, where they are, and what they are wanting of me, in each poignant moment. In those dances, it is thrilling in another way...sort of a dance of discovery. [In a funny way, I feel as if I'm being deftly led westward, across the plains, in the arms of a modern-day Lewis or Clark. Always venturing where we've never gone before...]
Recently, in a very crowded practicum at the home of one of my teachers, it was literally a mob scene, of mainly beginner dancers. It was not always safe dancing with them, especially 'cause they were often focused on the steps and not on the follower's safety. So it was hard to relax and stay focused - I was trying to watch out for myself too.
However, when I began dancing with one of the more advanced men, who DOES dance from the inside out...even in the midst of this melee, I could hardly keep my eyes open! What I mean is...that his depth naturally awakened me to my depth and it was hard to focus on the outer environment much at all---meaning anything beyond my body and his. [So here I am dancing in this tango-zoo with my eyes closed!! Transported to an inner world where the music and close movement seemed to meld our bodies into one.]
And it really was like being part of his body...or being part of the One body that our two bodies become for those three minutes.
This, for me, is tango at its best.
And it's amazingly sensual without being sexual. In fact, in a funny sense, it's almost as if bringing in overt sexual energy would be an intrusion, a dilution, or diminishment, of what is so lushly available. [And it could be wonderful...just different.]
Also, I've enjoyed dances of this nature, or at least in this direction, with a few men who I've never danced with before. And there are even a few more "beginner types" locally who naturally bring this sense of moving "from the inside out" to their learning and leading. I enjoy dancing with them too.
BTW, in the back of my mind, I keep thinking I should qualify what I'm saying ...so that those who are more technically oriented, or less feeling or intuitively oriented...will realize that this is One woman's view. It is Not about them...how they lead or what they value.
It is about what I/I/I value. And certainly not every woman values this I know. It may not even make sense to some or many of them.
However, for me, it is food for my soul. And it's why I do the Argentine Tango.
Tango Gender Equality
There is no doubt that a man in tango is male and macho. Tango is a product of popular Argentine Culture, the same as Jazz, Fox-trot or Swing are artistic manifestations of its American counterpart. Tango, in that sense, is a reflection of Argentinean spiritual values; values that are to some extent still prevalent in an attenuated way.
To be macho the Argentinean way is to be self confident, to be certain of where a man stands and where he is going. He is in charge, he is reliable and accepts responsibility. He cares for the well-being, safety and happiness of his woman.
When walking on the side-walks he allows the lady the inner side, the side closer to the wall and away from the street for her protection. He enters the milonga holding her hand in a ceremonious way and allows her to walk in front following the maitre to the table. There he grants her the area behind the table as he sits to the side with his legs exposed. He passes his arm across her shoulders for everybody to know that he is in charge of all her needs.
When dancing, he acts with conviction, poised and certain of his role. He leads.
He talks for some time awaiting to get the feeling of the music. He initiates the embrace allowing her to decide how close she wishes to be. The musics evokes in his mind the moves of the dance, he leads by transferring that feeling to her. He is always in charge, moves through the floor effortlessly, without interfering or disturbing the other couples. Navigates with grace and determination. He makes sure that she is enjoying the moment. He allows time for her artistic expression, is attentive to her spiritual and physical needs.
After the music stops, he holds her in his arms for a few more moments, like the real treasure that she is. Then he walks slowly to the table allowing her to walk in front. He pays for all the expenses, never allowing a lady to pay for anything.
He is happy to be male, she is happy to be female. Both are equal in their relationship. They do not compete - rather co-operate; they walk hand in hand helping and respecting each other. The strength of the woman is in her femininity, something mysterious that the man treasures and respects. His strength is in his masculinity, something different that she also respects.
Yes, some Argentinean men may object to a woman taking a lead role. They may strongly dislike such behavior. Most Argentinean women will as well. Tango then reflects the cultural elements of Argentinean society at the time of its evolution. Even when some of those values are rapidly disappearing, they are still alive and prevalent in the tango world. It is my impression that they are some of the strongest attractions to the modern couples, a place where for an instant the man and the woman can still be masculine and feminine without further consequences.
Rav & Aliona - Tango - Strictly Come Dancing - BBC
So the first way to seek it's beauty and its rewards is to listen to the music a lot - even when you are not practicing or dancing. In the kitchen; in the car; as you prepare for sleep. A certain familiarity with the music is the key to getting your body to move nicely with it. It has to be inside you for it to work. If you notice you never get tired of listening to it as the months go by, you will find many pleasures and rewards in Tango for the rest of your life.
On this website (ToTANGO.net) I have a few pages about the great Tango orchestras and who I call "The Big 8" Maestros, whose music embodies the essence of Argentine Tango. Knowing a little about the recordings, like being able to immediately identify, "That's Di Sarli!" or "Ah, Pugliese!" will really advance your abilities through understanding - not because of "what" you know, but because of what you will have gone through in listening to know it. Trust me.
HOW TO GET REALLY DANCING TANGO
- The first responsibility - of both the woman and the man, is to really listen to the music. The more open you are to its influence, the sooner it will carry you along to its Heart. Listen before you move. Every song. Always bring yourself back to this basic starting point.
- Slow down. As you get excited, you lose it. So I mean slow down your inner workings. Thinking is not doing. The time to concentrate on details is in your own practice time. On the floor, it is only time to lose yourself in the moment. That calls for a certain unconscious competence. Here's the practice part coming in ...
- Only practice will get you going smoothly. And each Beginner must practice regularly alone at first to get sure of the basic movements. Your solitary love of moving with the music is the beginning point for being able to enjoy the dance with another. The follower must be able to do her ouches, for instance, without holding on to someone or something. The leader must work out in his mind what he will lead next - and compose little combinations he likes of the figures he has learned. Fluidity will come. Keep your "frame" up at all times when you move by yourself. Act a bit - move as if you were a great dancer already. Be one in your mind! Tango isn't about your feet, it's about all of you - spirit , mind and body. A good frame supports your desires.
Now practice with partners. Don't just always dance with the same partner.
Remember it's your Body Memory that is most important. The moves have to become automatic for it. Figures or "steps" are for your body memory, not your head. In this way, it becomes automatic and you're on your way.
- Go social dancing often for the fun and pleasure of it!
Illustration from Clyde Mendes column at Salsa TV, Singapore