Learning Tango

4th Day in BA

After, what feels like a whirlwind of an arrival, we are already at the end of day 4 in BA.

We arrived on Friday morning to very long lines in EZE (the airport), so long that our luggage was already off the carousel by the time we went through customs/immigration! AND torrential down pours. We crammed all of our luggage and the 4 of us into my uncle’s car, typical Argentine style with luggage in between and on top of each of us! and made it into Buenos Aires to our lovely home for the next 3 weeks.

My star ASU student, Tyler, is on a first major adventure with his brand new first ever passport and his tango sneakers, armed with very little Spanish, he is here, participating in milongas and Leader’s Tango Week with some very fine tango leaders, already eating pasta and empanadas like a local!

It is strange to find myself here without a tour to guide but nice that several ASU students are here for their exchange programs and Tyler, here to dance and experience tango to the fullest. Love having some of “my kids” close by.

Already I have seen my maestra, taken a private lesson with her, been to 3 milongas, and saw “old” friends who I either see traveling or in Buenos Aires! And tonite I will connect with more family.

The weather is chilly – especially for our thinned out Arizona blood! Our housemates have colds and we are fending that off with Vitamin C and Chinese herbs, thanks to J from Flagstaff. So far – so good.Congreso Buenos Aires

We are staying in a lovely tango house near Congreso – which is just a few blocks away from some great milongas and the Congress Building. Of course, we have not seen any of the weather that is in this picture!

I had heard enough about inflation prior to coming here but now being here we are seeing and feeling the impact first hand. The peso has 2 rates, the bank rate and the black market rate, of which there’s plenty of opportunity to purchase the latter. And that is significantly higher than the bank rate, of course. The cost of food is higher, taxis, buses, subways, everything, milongas, shoes – all of it, is higher. Even with the higher exchange rate it seems almost ridiculous to pay so much for that which was so much cheaper even a year ago and even markedly cheaper 5 years ago. It is common to pay between 12 – 14 pesos for a soda or bottled water at a milonga. At the bank rate, that’s $3. The milongas are between 30 – 45 pesos. I know it doesn’t seem like a lot of money but it’s almost normal prices for someone coming from the US. In other words, it’s not a cheap vacation anymore. (12 pesos for a dozen eggs.) It used to cost around 25 pesos to travel almost anywhere in the city by taxi, now it’s double that. From Congreso to Palermo it has been 45 pesos. Those were the milongas we chose for the last few nights.

Today in my class I was reminded – intention before stepping. So I leave you with that idea as well. Where is your intention when you take your steps both as a leader and a follower? Are you taking a step and then arriving where you want to be? Consider the inverse, “I want to be there” and then step there.

we are here!

Tyler and his ghosts!

 

happy to be among greatness!

 

 

 

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Special Weekend with Los Totis

Thanks to everyone who came to the weekend workshops and to the Special Milonga last weekend. What a treat to have this caliber of Viriginia y Christian y classdancing and instruction in the Phoenix area and to be 1 of 3 cities on their first visit to the US. SPECTACULAR!

A few comments were:

“They far exceeded my expectations.”

“I was so impressed with them.”

” I have always appreciated the quality of the events you put on and this was exceptional.”

We had an amazing experience with Christian and Virginia. The classes were not too big which allowed for them to go around the room to each couple and help them individually with their questions. Their teaching dynamic as a couple is very fluid – I am so impressed by this. They are calm and on the same page as they take turns in sharing information about the Virginia y Christian in Classsubject matter without taking too much time to get the points across.

Rommel and I spent 6 hours further training with them to enhance our tango for the Salon Tango Championships which are now about 2 weeks away! We have learned so much and have grown from each teacher we have had the pleasure to work with . The journey has presented us with teachers/guides/mentors who have helped us further understand aspects of Argentine Tango and its music. It is incredible.

Back to Los Totis – I am reminded again and again from this workshop weekend, about the clarity and integrity of the embrace, which is so important; which means connection; which ties into the synchronicity of this dynamic partnership; which to me means that the tango couple works together to create the steps, the lines, the music; which in turn translates to clarity of intention and lead. I always have a huge amount of respect for our dance when I interact with a couple like los Totis… The precision of what they do with such clarity and beauty is an artform.

Los Totis and UsWe will be catching up with them again in Buenos Aires in a few weeks. I am very much looking forward to our continued friendship and tango growth with them.

 

 

 

 

 

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About Embellishments

Many of you have heard me speak about embellishments and most followers are dying to figure out how to include them in their dancing. Followers Embellishments 1My experience is that leaders take their time in their excitement to learn these. (Maybe because they are called embellishments!) Sometimes there’s confusion as to what is an embellishment and what’s a led movement.

Recently I was pointed to an article on embellishments that I will reference here, another blog with insights from tango maestra, Olga Besio.  I particularly like this article as it paints a beautiful picture of the notion behind embellishments and it is a very holistic approach to embellishing which I think we can all strive for. In the meantime…..

I find that often students ask how to embellish. We see other dancers embellish and we remark on the expressiveness of the embellishment. And possibly even notice it as a movement that looks independent of the dance, as if all you see is the embellishment. My preference would be that I don’t notice the embellishment as a separate entity from the dance but that it appears to belong there in the meaningful exchange between leader and follower.

In the sited blog the embellishment is spoken about as an emerging expression from an understanding of the dance as a dialog and I totally agree. But I also understand the beginner follower’s desire to explore the possibilities.

With my students (in the US) I experience followers (more than the leaders) who want to embellish sooner rather than later or they are Followers Embellishments 2nervous or even fear trying to tackle adornos, as they are also called. I realize that the blog article doesn’t promote followers copying or having leaders wait for a follower to embellish, however, as a teaching tool, I think it is helpful for followers (and leaders) to model the behavior of possibilities. I am known to encourage followers to watch others and experiment with ideas to create their own toolbox of embellishments. I also think that with practice and with awareness through our growth in the dance we begin to fully understand how an embellishment can emerge from our bodies as a result of listening to our partner and the music. What magic to see an adorno materialize from dancers as a reflection of the music, their communication and their passion.

Most commonly teachers refer to embellishments as something to be done only with the feet and the legs. Many teachers also encourage them to include any part of the body. I recall dancing with a follower who had quite a repertoire of body embellishments. She wiggled and wagged and swam in my arms for an entire tanda. I found it quite distracting at the time. Who knows what she thought of my leading but my experience was that I was letting her have a monologue of expression as opposed to a dialog. Maybe I missed out or maybe we just chose to express and share differently.

What do you think of embellishments?

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Remaining Summer Classes

The remaining highlights for the summer! There are some Saturday workshops as well as some Tuesday and Wednesday night classes happening. Check below for the dates and times or check under Learn Tango in Arizona tab.

2 remaining Saturdays June 23 & July 21 at SNAP Scottsdale Congregational United Church of Christ 4425 North Granite Reef Road Scottsdale, Arizona 85251

INTERMEDIATE/ ADVANCED  12:00pm – 1:30pm as follows:
June 23  – “Social Sacadas”
July 21 – “Complex Social Combinations”

FUNDAMENTALS  1:30pm – 3:00pm
June 23  – “All about Turning: The Giro”
July 21 – “Cruzadas”
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Tuesday and Wednesday Night Classes at Interlingua AZ
June 26 & 27
July 10 & 11
July 17 & 18
July 24 & 25
Tuesdays 7:00pm – 8:30pm Intermediate/Advanced Level material
Wednesdays 7:00pm – 8:30pm For dancers with some Argentine Tango and who want more!
LIMITED to 10 people (so please RSVP)
$15/class
Interlingua AZ
5107 N. 7th Street, Suite 2
Phoenix, AZ 85014
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Check out Virginia and Christian on youtube.
They will be in Scottsdale for workshops July 13 – 15.
There will be a special Milonga with performances by Virginia y Christian.  You do not want to miss this opportunity to study with them. Call Rommel to register and to reserve your place 928-301-5215.

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Labels – Part 2 – It Gets Personal

I have discovered that I have a lot to say about the labels that are used in Argentine Tango.

Essentially one of the main reasons why I have never given myself, or my dancing, a label except for social dancer, is twofold – too often I find myself dealing with an uneducated public and more importantly a public that doesn’t dance or hasn’t ever moved, let alone social danced. This isn’t always true but often is the case.

So who are those labels really for? That person who wants show tango for their wedding? That person who wants you to perform Tango ClassArgentine Tango to 20 minutes of Astor Piazzolla? Or Gotan Project?

The label doesn’t get me any further with the general populace than with someone who has just started dancing. After all what do your non-tango friends ask you when you tell them you’re taking tango classes? Just this weekend prior to a performance a woman was confusing what she thought was tango with flamenco. Isn’t it amazing that we all become educators of dance when we have to explain what we’re doing? And in turn I consider most teachers not just dance teachers but educators of culture in this dance form. Would it make a difference to a newbie if I called myself a milonguero teacher, a tango salon teacher? It might encourage someone to do more research or it might turn them off.

Times are changing and the dance form is evolving. We are living in remarkable times for many reasons. Technology has globalized us. How amazing that dance of any kind gets air time and that on youtube you can see all kinds of dances with correct labels or not!

Another way that times are different in the culture of Argentine Tango is that there are so many more women than men dancing this dance. Not like how it was in the 40’s with so many men and not as many women. Times were different. Men had to be skillful and inventive in order to be popular at the milongas of their day.

But with this change – the competition is now “stiff” for women. We are competing for relatively few skilled dancers. And the number of women who are highly skilled is high. So often women dance with anyone just to dance regardless of skill level. (And those who know me well know that I am not speaking about how many laps around the dance floor he does or how many cool figures he does.) And this is a shame but it is a reality. A reality I do understand.

But what would it be like if the tables started to turn. If women only danced with those men who were good dancers. And what I’m talking Jon & Nancy dancingabout now is about labels – watching the dance floor. Knowing who we are as dancers, individually.

What is your label? What do you like?

And why would you dance with anything but a good dancer? A good dancer for you?

There was a time and often still in Buenos Aires, a man will not dance with you unless he has seen you dance. And the same is true, that a woman will not dance with you unless she has seen you dance.  Like is looking for Like. I want to be sure that I dance with someone who likes what I like.

I check out the embrace
I check out their musicality
Their floor craft
And assuming at this point that I do not know them – I take a chance and dance. (But remember that more often than not, people dance with those they know first.)

I hear the arguments coming – that sometimes you still can’t tell. A leader or a follower might dance one way with one person and then a tanda later dance completely differently with another. So is this globalization on a micro level? A milonga filled with variation and diversity of embrace? Like maybe it once was in Buenos Aires where those who danced a certain way in one neighborhood would be noticed in a milonga in downtown (El Centro) Buenos Aires where their tango was a little different or possibly forbidden to dance a certain way at a milonga.

Labels are our identifiers – a way to create connection – the – hey you may be like me because we are from the same city, town, village, tribe.

And in tango  – if the label helps you to find more of those like you who need and want the music, the embrace, the connection, then let the labels work for you. But aren’t we all still dancing? (And this is an important point.)

In a recent wonderful interview with Javier Rodriguez, which can be seen on youtube in Spanish, he says we are dancing Today’s Tango, Tango de Hoy. Isn’t this true?

Our society, our culture, is reflected in our dances. Argentine tango is reflecting all of its cultures. All those cultures that have embraced it regardless of what you want to call it.

So to that dear follower who struggles with all the information that is being tossed at her, I encourage her to continue to understand her Dancing at a milongatechnique as a follower, as a woman in this dance, as there are certain skills to know. And again “follow what you feel, not what you think”.

(I would like to mention and acknowledge that I think Europe and the US took a huge interest in pedagogy and gave rise to many teachers who were indeed and who still are very much interested in teaching, not just steps and figures but how the body executes them. And with this interest there has been a slow rise in Teacher Training Seminars, Workshops Labs, etc. Even an interview on youtube that I recently saw with a famous Argentine teacher, a woman, mentioned the current desire for teachers to teach the how.)

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