Posts Tagged: argentine tango

LABELS LABELS everywhere! Part 1

Dancers, who have been dancing for a little bit, I do feel your pain. And I am listening to your complaints. You were attracted to this dance called Argentine Tango and now teachers telling you to embrace a certain way and then more experienced dancers telling you to dance a certain way, guest instructors say something else, like it’s the only truth.

Sometimes I can find the thread of truth in all these. After all, aren’t all these tango teachers just regurgitating either, what they were taught or what works for them?

When I was first learning tango I seem to vaguely remember terms like Salon Tango or Tango Salon being tossed around. I wasn’t clear as to what it meant and I remember going to Buenos Aires on my first tango trip and seeing dancers dancing chest to chest at the milongas. No one mentioned to me a label, it was clear we were all dancing tango in a salon de baile (a ballroom or could also be called pista de baile). Yet I was learning to dance a more open embrace in the US. I was vaguely confused but made a decision that I was going to dance, what I wanted to call, social tango, something that I saw in the milongas in Buenos Aires, after all it’s a social dance, right?  Ironically, a friend in my home community articulated his frustrations that what he was learning in classes wasn’t very useful at milongas. And at the Milonga en Buenos Aires Tour 2010time I thought, “Me Too!”

Subsequently over time I think I ignored the labels that people were giving to the Argentine Tango. I found teachers that were recommended to me and I took a lot of group classes and I went out to milongas to dance socially in a close embrace that I had experienced first hand in Buenos Aires. Everyone seemed to be doing it, dancing close embrace, and those that weren’t; I didn’t dance with all that often.

In retrospect I can see that there was a lot of confusion in people’s bodies as to how to lead and how to follow. What I too would hear from one teacher would be totally contradictory to another. What a mess and that was only 14 years ago. One teacher would explain leading through the right arm, another would explain leading as being in the chest, the shoulders, the solar plexus, the center, and others would divide the leaders from the followers and give each of us our pattern and then we would fight it out together! Somehow I swam through the sea of confusion as many of you, or shall I say us, still do now.

You may know that I began teaching Argentine Tango out of curiosity and somewhat by default. I began by teaching what I knew to be my Teaching at ASU Night Galleryexperience in Buenos Aires: from those teachers that shared what I most closely understood to be that which I danced in the milongas in Buenos Aires. Teaching has taken me on a very long adventure which fortunately or unfortunately has included changing what I understood and therefore, what I have taught.

I set out to teach others how to social dance in Buenos Aires as I had done. I did not have a label for it: to me it was Argentine Tango. Soon after my return to Arizona, where I began teaching only Argentine Tango, did the questions begin to arise. “Are you the milonguero teacher from Phoenix?” I recall being asked by a prominent festival organizer. I didn’t answer or maybe I did by the strange look on my face and the repetition of the words, “milonguero teacher?”

I made an attempt to see if I needed the label. I looked up Argentine Tango online only to discover that there were several more labels that I had never heard of, I looked around to see who was labeling themselves what…  (The 90’s saw the label Milonguero and then soon followed was Nuevo, and then came Villa Urquiza.) What kind of a teacher was I if I didn’t have a label? My students were dancing with little complaints so I continued without a label.

My journey has now taken me into a new realm – into an actual label. In competing in Argentine Tango we are now labeled as Tango Salon and thus seemingly poo-pooed by those hanging onto another label. Which is funny to me – because I still can dance at the milongas. For me nothing has changed, except that I am training to look and dance a certain way with my partner. Somewhere in the tango label lineage Tango Salon went categorized as being closer to Stage Tango and with learning choreographed steps. Interestingly enough Melina Sedo in her blog, Melina’s Two Cents, has had a similar struggle with labels and enlightened me that Tango De Salon in France was interpreted as ballroom tango.

Recently a friend of mine who teaches back east said to me, “Aren’t you learning essentially choreographed steps for the competition?” I thought this was an interesting claim as we are constantly working on certain turning patterns that are expected in this label, Tango Salon, and in the competition in the category of the same name.

So where does this bring us – to our frustrations as students. And an entire blog without too many confusing labels and to my point.

A female student came to me recently. She has been studying fast and furiously with many teachers, going out to milongas diligently, has a practice partner, and was beyond confused and frustrated. How does a follower follow all these different leaders? All these different corrections?

From the follower’s perspective I don’t think any of it is wrong but it is about learning and understanding that there are certain possibilities based basically on embrace. Which means that if I am dancing super close, chest to chest and socially, there are a certain set of expectations (this has been labeled milonguero). Those expectations are not to leave the chest, not to pivot the hips, and I think often misinterpreted that the follower is “hanging” on the leader, although I have never heard those words come out of a teacher’s mouth but I observe it all too often on the dance floor and then hear about it from the leaders and their pained shoulders.

I could also be dancing a little less close and socially which offers me other options. The music will dictate and the space and geography might all give me clues, yes, for me as a follower too.

The clues are exhibited on the dance floor for me to see, as a follower, and as a leader. And in this case “like attracts like”. Do you see an embrace that you like? Basically that embrace will dictate that dance. And when you are in that embrace remember one of Graciela Gonzalez’ adages: ”Follow what you feel not what you think”.

(part 2 of labels next week and for more historical notes on Tango Styles visit Stephen Brown’s site at: and scroll down to The Continuing Conflict over Tango Styles.)

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Action Packed Tango Week

Gentle Reminder of the week’s activities. See you there!

TuesdayGraciela Gonzalez will be teaching at Practicando.

ThursdayGraciela Gonzalez will be teaching the tango class prior to Mijana Milonga.

ASU TANGO 101: AN IMMERSION FOR THE BEGINNER with Momo Smitt from Portland, OR.
Classes begin promptly at 6:15pm on the Main Campus of ASU in Tempe in the Physical Education Building East.


Friday – 9:00pm-2:00am at Tempe Woman’s Club
Saturday – 8:00pm-12:00am at ASU Art Museum 51 East 10th Street  Tempe, AZ 85281
12:00am-6:00am at ASU Gammage Promenade
12:00pm-3:30pm ALTERNATIVE MILONGA at Memorial Union (Student Union)
8:00pm-12:00am at Memorial Union (Student Union)

There is a lovely Pasta Dinner on Sunday night catered by the Memorial Union which includes your choice of pasta and sauce, sides, salad, cake, and beverage. This will keep you close to the dancing and must be purchased in advance.

ParkingParking Sign

I know that this is often a complaint coming to campus. And we do understand the frustration that is sometimes involved. ASU Tango Club Board and myself are doing what we can to communicate clearly about this.

The link to the festival map is to be updated soon but in short:
Parking for campus and for classes is covered on the link to the map. Remember to read the signs or to avoid meters.
Friday’s milonga there will be additional parking at the Church on Mill at 1300 S. Mill Ave.
Saturday and Sunday there will be a lot of activity on campus and at Gammage. We will have further recommendations in the upcoming days so check the ASU FESTIVAL WEBSITE.

Enjoy the weekends events and remember, ASU Tango Club can produce this event only with your support.

Oh, and one other thing, remember you milonga etiquette and try out your cabaceo!



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Tango and Love

Just in time for Valentine’s Day I am compelled to broach this topic.

How many times have you fallen in love on the dance floor? How many dancers do you know who have met through tango or even married because of tango?heart-shaped shoes

One of my first tango teachers said, “you fall in love for 3 minutes when you dance tango”. And I remember giggling and feeling excited about this prospect. Who isn’t looking for love? At the time I was single, doing my Masters, feeling ready for Prince Charming to make an appearance, and I guess I was thinking tango might show me the way or at least introduce me to a few viable P.C.’s.

But for me there was a confusion between falling in love for those 3 minutes and wanting a lifetime romance. It took a few (million) tandas to realize that I can fall in love for that tanda and what happens on the dance floor stays on the dance floor. What happened to those amazing people off the dance floor? Or possibly what happened to me off the dance floor? It seemed like all the magic disappeared. Sometimes 2 people can be very attracted to each other and have a terrible dance or the other way around, not be attracted to each other and become very attracted after the dance! I soon began to understand that the context of the dance was important. The context of the dance, in the milonga space, creates this electrically charged environment. Those exciting tandas where I felt attended to, taken care of, playful, interesting, and interested often disappeared off the dance floor as I was reminded by a life coach friend of mine that the dance is a context for those emotions. And thus back to the idea that you do fall in love just for 3 minutes.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”  ― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
And I definitely think I found and lost myself a few hundred times since those beginning days! And I still am finding myself within this art form.

I think most people have a love – hate relationship with the dance. Some still mistake their lust for their love. We get angry at the dance for giving us such great tandas and some bad ones too, for allowing ourselves to become too vulnerable or too this or too that. And yet, all this is part of being alive and human, isn’t it? To say that you have felt something?

Teaching a bunch of sexually blossoming and hormonally active 20 somethings (and sometimes not just 20 somethings) I find that the etiquette of the dance provide a structure and can serve as healthy boundaries for the couples in the dance. Where the arms go in a proper embrace? how to ask for a dance with a cabaceo?

And I think the roles help to guide the tango- is- like- love metaphor  in the sense that regardless of the gender the roles in tango are what we are drawn to. And the idea that there are identifiable roles is very appealing.

The Roles

To guide, direct, suggest, invite, protect, be confident, attentive, patient, playful, attune, musical, flirtatious, to dance.

To be invited, protected, taken care of, reassured, attended to, to be waited for, to feel beautiful, to flirt safely, to feel safe, to dance.

Our loves in tango, our love for tango, reminds us that we are alive and capable of the emotion.

On this St. Valentine’s Day may you all fall in love during your next tango dance.





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A Few Announcements!


Saturday February 4th 11am – 1pm I am hosting a Lunchtime Practica at Plaza de Anaya Fusion Studio at 524 W. Broadway in Tempe. This is an opportunity to involve my new 8 week fundamentals class to the idea of Practicing and to other dancers. I am looking forward to integrating them into a positive experience of social Argentine Tango.

I have 40 brand new students in that class and they are enthusiastic and very focused. I look forward to introducing them to everyone who joins us. SO come on out and get some practice in!


I want to continue to encourage people to register for the ASU Experience. And if you have never danced before TANGO 101 will be just for you. I can’t stress enough the quality of instruction, the new format that will be explored, and the good time we will have. Here is a list of highlights:

The TEACHERSGraciela Gonzalez

*Graciela Gonzalez will be in town for the festival and for a week. She is available for private lessons. She is the teacher most responsible for changing my dancing. I am honored to have her with us again. Don’t miss out.

Tomas Howlin and Shorey Myers*I had the pleasure of taking a Tango Teachers course with Tomas Howlin last year and respect him highly as a teacher. He has lots of great stories and incredible information to share.

*Jaimes and Christa run the 8th Style School in Seattle. They too come with a breadth of knowledge and in-depth understanding of the dance form. I am happy that they will be joining us!Jaimes and Christa


* There are only 6 classes during the festival. Each class slot is designed with a different concept in mind. For example: the first class on Friday is conceptually about “Walking, The Embrace and Connection”. The teachers who will be teaching at that time have been asked to design a class around that concept. AFTER each class there is a 30 minute PRACTICE slot for you to spend time refining what you learned, dancing, playing, meeting new people OR asking the instructors on hand for more assistance on that particular class.

* Take advantage of this new design. We know you’ll love it!

The MILONGAS and the DJ’s

* 5 milongas – plenty of dancing time over the weekend. These include Friday night at the historic Tempe Woman’s Club, Saturday night at the beautiful ASU Art Museum and the all-nighter on the Gammage Promenade, Sunday will be in the Memorial Union with the option of a pasta dinner. There is also an alternative milonga planned for Saturday afternoon.

* Our DJ’s have been chosen by the Tango Club as some of their favorite DJ’s. Mike from Portland milonga scene, Michelle from Albuquerque, Shorey from San Francisco, and our very own Acacia. We love these DJ’s and know how important it is for them to keep us dancing. I know they will.


* This is one of the most economical festivals. ASU Tango Club created the festival for a love of the dance and not for a business. A full pass is just $185.

* Registration is through google checkout. There have been some glitches with it but don’t despair. Just send a check or let me assist.


Those people we enjoy dancing with. We have lovely dancers joining us from Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; Minneapolis, MN; MA; CA; DC; and all over AZ!

Keep dancing!



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2012 to Begin Something New!

“January is the gyms’ favorite month”. I heard this quote yet again and thought about all those people making New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight or to start something new. Have you decided to do something new?

Dancing usually falls into this category. “I wanted to try something new” is why some begin their journey into Argentine Tango. And I get very excited in the New Year to welcome new people to Argentine Tango and its benefits.

We have all heard of the benefits of dancing or of any exercise for that matter:  increase flexibility, movement lubricates the joints, endurance, coordination, strength, burns calories, stimulates the brain, oxygenates the blood, allows for self-expression, increases self-esteem, and helps with social skills. (I really like this chart on the benefits of dancing –

For many people I have seen Argentine Tango completely transform their lives through these benefits and most specifically through the actualization of a sense of belonging, their sense of community.

I have seen many dancers transform from being very shy people to finally having an outlet for expression in their lives. Some have gone from being not very popular in their work or every day life to very popular in their tango circles.

I think the Argentine Tango community in general is a research project for a “Group Dynamics” seminar but for the sake of this post I wanted to comment on the sense of belonging that I have felt over the years.

I was born with the travel bug. I love to travel and when I couldn’t because I was so focused on my dancer career, I dreamed about it and watched the travel channels and bought travel magazines. I eventually have been able to take many tango vacations – making contacts with tango people in many other countries to connect and share in their community for a visit. I know many people who do this but my world of travel was very different before I found tango. The idea of going anywhere in the world and having people to share tango with was amazing and fantastic to me. Technology has subsequently made this idea even more accessible. We can connect through Facebook or through other “social platforms” with friends we have met and their friends and find milongas all over and people who will be at that milonga when you arrive…. FASCINATING really!  And what this has also allowed is a way to connect through others joys and sorrows as well.

In the last few months, since October, Tango has lost 3 young tango dancers who have been a part of my extended tango family. And the news was relayed through the internet through Facebook. And the impact of the loss is felt in waves as people share their stories and their sorrow for all the Facebook world to see.

We are a community – a Tango Tribe, if you will, filled with a diverse group of people. We sometimes connect and other times don’t,  we have good dances, like having a great day, and we have not so good dances, like having a bad day. Either way, whatever kind of day it is remember that the community is actually quite small. These 3 young lives remind me of the preciousness of life and of the connections we make every day – on the dance floor and off the dance floor. I am reminded to be a gracious person. And that the benefit of having such a large interconnected tango family is to be able to share what we have in a positive way.

Remember why you love to dance and why you love to share it with others. Be grateful and thankful to the community that shares in your self-expression.

In Memory of Anne Sophie, Pablo, Andrea for all that you shared and gave to our collective community.


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