Reflections on Tango

The Cake Offering!

This is a story about a young beginner tango dancer. A student from another country enjoying his graduate studies and some tango and incidentally an excellent racquetball player. He had only been studying tango for about 2 months. So maybe he had taken 30 hours of tango by the time he excitedly made the decision to attend his first festival. Excited and nervous but eager to continue his learning of this fascinating dance he signed up and went. He spent several hours at his first milonga watching and dancing with several of his mates, who had also taken the brave endeavor of attending their first festival. Then he got the courage to ask another dancer, a stranger, a beautiful stranger, to dance. She immediately embraced him closely and within minutes, she left him on the dance floor.
GASP!
I hear your gasps!
He knew from his teacher and from more experienced classmates about tango etiquette, and he knew that this was not a good thing, being “thank you’d” and left on the dance floor. He felt badly. A little time went by and cakes Cake Slicewere served at this milonga. So he went to get a piece of cake and found this woman and brought it to her. He wanted to know what he had done wrong? She thanked him for the cake and he asked her directly what he could do to improve his dancing. She offered him a simple piece of advice, “stay in line of dance”.
His spirit was a little broken from the incident especially because he had been so enthusiastic about learning to tango. He knew about staying in the line of dance and he confesses that having a complete stranger in his arms was overwhelming at best.
BUT I thought the gesture of bringing the woman cake was an excellent and mature way to apologize and to show reverence to the dance and to the dancer.

How can we continue to be kind in this dance? What is your offering?

Happy Weekend!

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Technique with Maxi and Jesica Friday

As you probably are aware, Maximiliano Cristiani and Jesica Arfenoni are back in town for workshops, private lessons and performances. We have created a schedule of classes that is progressive in nature starting with a Leader and Followers Technique class on Friday night. No partner necessary just a desire to work on yourself. Maxi & Jess 4

Friday 8:00pm – 9:30pm Followed by an informal practica: a chance to just dance and to ask Maxi and Jesica questions.

Why take a technique class? Let alone focused only on myself for a couples dance?
I think this is a good question.
Technique is a fundamental basic part of your dance. Like a building, if this isn’t well established you will not be as sturdy. How many times have you asked about how to improve your balance or about how to do a more elegant embellishment? Or how about those enrosques that you have been wanting to try? All of these and more are possible when you understand your own body and have a technique to build upon.
I have found that taking technique classes helps me to find my own axis and to be clear about it on my own. It allows me the time and space to make connections to things in my dance that get blurred when working within the couple: like the relationship of my arms to my pelvis, for example. What? They are related??? See!

If you need more information contact Rommel 928-301-5215. I can only encourage you to support the improvement of your dance and take advantage of these 2 great teachers.

And lastly – $50 for the Friday class and practica and we will include the Saturday milonga. It all happens at Bond Hall at SNAP 4425 N. Granite Reef Rd. Scottsdale, AZ.

 

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Tango Etiquette and the Infamous Cabeceo

The rituals surrounding the milonga are prized among dancers. Almost like a rite of passage that once you know and have put them into practice you feel like you have actually been admitted into the social realm of Argentine Tango.

Fanning HerselfCabeza translates to “head” and a cabezeo is a nod of the head. This “codigo” or custom signals the invitation to dance. You do not need to approach someone to ask them to dance you can merely catch their eye, nod your head, and if there is a nod in response you have an agreement to dance. The follower will stay seated to wait for the nodee to come to her table to be sure that there is no confusion in a crowded milonga.

There is a lot written about this custom and in the US many argue for it and against it. The cabezeo means never having to say “no”. If you choose not to accept a cabeceo, you merely look away and no one needs to know.

Some milongas are small and it is convenient and expected to use the cabeceo. Other milongas are in very large dance halls and it is very difficult to cabeceo long distances. In this case the dancer looking for a dance (either the lead or follow) may approach who they would like to dance with and try to make eye contact from a closer distance. The goal is always to be subtle and polite. If you are at a milonga in a new city, observe to see what the locals are doing.
(Taken from the Tango Workbook Draft)

I want to make it clear at this point that I am not arguing the usefulness of this invitation, or the reason why it exists or why many people outside of Argentina (read mainly US, where I am most familiar) are very attached to this codigo. Tango etiquette and the infamous Cabeceo are part of the allure of the milonga! But I had a very interesting experience during my most recent trip to Buenos Aires.

I had the pleasure of taking several fantastic classes with well known teachers/dancers / performers. And the one remark that applies here is the following: “Times are different in Buenos Aires’ Milongas. Each milonga now has their own etiquette. Not every milonga uses the same rules.” And this applied to the cabeceo as well. There are milongas in Buenos Aires that are very ritualized and very adamant about los codigos. It is very clear from the moment you enter those milongas, I think you can feel it in the air, if you can’t see it right away. There are milongas where the women are seated by the hosts on one side of the dance floor and the gentlemen on the other, with the veterans or the faithful attendees sitting at their reserved and expected table every week. Ironically the spacing of these milongas usually adds to the ritual, as you often can not walk around and seek dancers out, you must be found at your seat or do the seeking from your seat, thus the cabeceo functions pretty well.

There are other dancing casuallymilongas where you find dancers searching for their friends, (in a dimly lit crowded space) and the gentlemen will approach a table, wait for the woman to look at him and nod respectfully and sometimes even ask, “Bailas”? If the woman ignores his hangout out by her table, he moves on. (Just as there are milongas where the dress code is different.)

Other milongas are in very large halls, a cabezeo from your seat would be almost ridiculous, although it is done. As the ladies scan the seated gentlemen during the cortinas,  you may spy a head nodding dramatically, emphatically and adamantly with eyebrows lifted in your direction. I think it is important to remember too that in Buenos Aires, if you do not live there and are only visiting, that you are entering into their weekly ritual. Dancers have milongas that they regularly attend and expect to see their friends and favorite dancers there. I always recommend that if you go to Buenos Aires, you must go for no less than 3 weeks and make your schedule milonga -filled (if that is your intention, which usually it is). Dancers will begin to recognize you and you will see what the etiquette is for those milongas you attend.

Generally speaking the milonga rules and codes are good ones. They respect others, the flow of the dance, and yet, the cabeceo is the one that people have the hardest time with. It takes a little practice and it’s not so unfamiliar to us in this culture. I see it among the young crowd in a “hey, what’s up man”, accompanied by a nod of the head.

Happy Dancing!

(Quote taken from The Tango Workbook that is currently in a draft stage.)

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Mundial Day 2 and Results

Ok. I know I left you hanging after these 2 qualifying rounds. Results were announced last night at 7:30pm and posted to the festival website around 10am this morning. Andmundial day 2 Facebook is buzzing with the expected controversy.

Day 2 went much faster than day 1. We arrived at 3pm and were dancing by 4pm. It went by so fast. We were in the ronda 29.

Here are some statistics:
389 couples competed in 36 Rondas.
37 countries were represented including Egypt and Lebanon (places I did not know had tango!) Out of those 389 couples, 71 were chosen to continue to the semifinals on Friday. 29 more couples will join those on Friday; these are the champions from other countries.

The highest score given for these qualifying rounds was an 8.61. And 7o couples followed after!

We ended up 108th with a score of 7.47. The last qualifier had a 7.66. I think this is an improvement from the first time we competed! And of course, there are very, very nice dancers who are touring i competed imageprofessionals who did not make it to the semi-finals. And there were about 5 older couples who made it through, which I mention only to show that age is not a discriminating factor. Click here to see the published listing.

Interesting that one of the judges posted on her facebook page a comment about why coaches of dancers who are competing are not teaching them how to walk, to listen to the music, to respect their proper space and the space of others, and to embrace. She continues by asking rhetorically if executing an artillery of moves that don’t go to the music is enough for the competition. AND you can imagine the responses. She is a well known respected close embrace teacher in Buenos Aires and internationally recognized. Anther judge responded to her by asking her what happened then if she was there and she was 1/10th responsible for the passing of those dancers!!!! Another fantastic response was how all teachers are responsible for what is seen on the dance floors throughout the tango world. Look inside and be truthful. What are you teaching?  He posted. (My super rough translations!)

Again it boils down to the same things you hear me say every time! The rules and the measurements are not well defined….

And the tango world continues to turn. And dancers will be fueled to try better and those winners and those teachers of winners will be well employed throughout the year if they want to be.

Now to enjoy the rest of my time here with the 80 degree weather and my winter clothes!!!

Remember to tell your friends to sign up for the Beginner Tango Blast in September. And I will be doing a 4 week Saturdays Take your Dancing to the Next Level for dancers who have taken the Beginner Blast and who have a little experience with Tango.

See you soon

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Mundial 2014 Day 1

What a crazy trip this has been so far! Some of you have been following me on Mundial day 1Facebook and know that my flight was cancelled and rescheduled for the following day. And it has been a whirlwind since!!! Classes, milongas, shoe buying, clothes fittings and fixings, non-stop!!!!

And today began the qualifying rounds of Tango de Pista at L’Usina del Arte en La Boca, Buenos Aires. (Incidentally, right across the street from a nice local restaurant called El Obrero where we went on one of the Cultural Immersion tours.)

Although the Usina is far from where we are staying it is quite a lovely venue and the dance floor is wood and wonderful!!!

Yesterday, we ventured to Usina by bus  which took us 40 minutes in light traffic and today by cab that took 20 or so minutes. This was a long weekend so the traffic was light.

The weather took a turn to 27 C. That’s 80 F !!!! It’s winter in Buenos Aires and I brought my boots and my sweaters!!!! They are expecting it to be warm all week. Strange since it was just 50F a few days ago!!!

Back to the Mundial! It appears there are about 380 couples registered for the Tango de Pista ( this is the Tango Salon competition’s new name since last year). For those who are new to my blog – this is different than the Stage Tango Category.

Out of all those couples we are #335 and we are dancing in Ronda #31. There are about 11 or 12 couples in each Ronda. We were told our 3 songs while we were back stage waiting to enter. Our songs were by Julio de Caro, Francisco Canaro, and Juan D’Arienzo. The goal is to express them differently and sometimes this is hard to do. You have to know your music! I leave this up to Rommel!!!

The space is an actual theater, an end theatre, with great seats for the audience in a sloped seating formation. There was formal lighting. It was nice.

It was pretty organized. We were given a call time of 3pm. I had time to do my makeup upon arrival. Then we had a chance to try the floor – a quick 1 song dry run!  Then the turn around time was rather quick. We performed and were done by 6pm. What a long day!!!! It started with getting my hair done at 1pm with a great hairdresser on the corner of our street. So grateful that Andrea Manoli’s a fabulous hairdresser and accommodating. She worked on the long weekend.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is day 2 of the qualifying rounds. After that we will know if we go on to the semi-finals. I was advised not to change dresses in previous competitions so the judges recognize you. However, there might be a change for me….

Reminder: if anyone you know wants to learn to tango socially I will be doing another Beginners  Blast in September. Send me a message if interested.

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