Posts Tagged: competition

Pelando Variación: Give it all You Got!

Pelando Variación! It literally translates as: Peeling Variation, which hardly illuminates what this is all about. And I have a curious mind so I went on a small quest to understand the word pelando in this context, which meant, ask Carlos (my dad), who didn’t have any idea of how the word worked in this context, therefore, he asked his Argentine friends, who gave a variety of answers! Of course, I reached out to the organizers of this event for their input as well.

The word pelando seems to be slang and very popular today (however, my Argentine younger cousin had no idea what I was talking about!) and the older generation (my father and his friends) also had some trouble with this word.  Sacar a relucir came up, meaning to show off to shine. Also, I was told that it’s a 100% Uruguayan expression!!! I asked Rommel Oramas, who is currently in Buenos AiresRommel Oliver Gaston Rebecca and participated enthusiastically in this Pelando Variacion, who said it’s about showing off a part of the music, in this case the variación. Finally, asking Oliver Kolker, one of the organizers of the competition, who said, “Show me what you got!”

Before I went on the quest for what the heck pelando meant I kept thinking it was peleando!  Which almost sounds the same but peleando means fighting! Which makes me giggle because my crazy mind thinks with all the types of “dance battles” that we have today  – here we go with tango!!! And what a concept!

But now I’m on track. And clearly so are you!!!  Caught up in my 2 loves of language and its reflection/expression of culture and tango!

The brainchild of Oliver Kolker and Gaston Torelli, Pelando Variación is a competition, with great prizes! It entails only dancing the Variación in the music.

What’s the variación you ask?
Not all tangos have one but some of them have tremendous ones:  the part of the music that goes nuts! Sometimes in the middle of a song, more usually at the end, the variación climaxes everything fantastic in the orquesta to this moment in the music. Show dancers are expected to be able to really perform this part of the music. It is the virtuosic part of the song and for me the dancers too, show their virtuosity as they strive to reflect the music in their fast footwork and expression.

This is an excellent way to help tango students understand the music from this vantage point. Often times the tango music seems so complicated or boring to untrained musicians or non-Argentines and I think this is an excellent way to bring aspects of the music to the forefront and to also see how it relates to the dancing. Again, probably bringing up questions like, how can I dance the variación without choreography and just naturally during my tanda in the milonga? Will this mean more variations on musicality classes in the future?

This competition is judged by a panel as well as by the public. Go cheer your friends on! Keeping tango in the community alive! The judges look for: 1) Precision 2) Elegance (Quality of Movement) 3) Musicality 4) Originality 5) Difficulty. And the winner gets, among other things visas to come to the US for a month tour. A great prize as it is so difficult and costly for Argentines to obtain visas to the US for work. 

Here’s the video link to the semifinals of Pelando Variación Semi Finales – you can see the couples individually as they show off and give it all they got! The Finals are coming up on Wednesday October 21 and you can see the scores on Facebook @pelando variación.



Who is your favorite couple???!variaciones/c1lug

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Day 2 US Tango Salon Competition 2014

Day 2: End of the Qualifying Rounds 25 Couples moving on to the Semi-Finals.

Rommel and I spent an hour early in the day practicing. I had another fabulous doo by Keiko of Kibuki Hair and Skin.
I decided to wear the same outfit in order to remind the judges of who I was! And I was advised to really go for it… so we did!

Rommel and I made it to the semi-finals. We are 1 of 25 couples moving on. All the Arizona competitors have passed to the Semi-finals. Way for AZ to represent!!!

Rommel was having a conversation with a colleague, a fabulous teacher and beautiful performer, who has been 1 of our fans the last 2 years. He said to Rommel, “Do the judges know what tango salon is? Because of all the couples I see dancing you are the ones who are dancing ‘tango salon’. Maybe the judges need to decide what it is first!” This has been a problem over the years and I too have commented on this in the past. (see previous blogs on tango competition).

So we proudly dance onward!

Hair doo Day 2day 2 with David and Jennifer from Austin

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Part 2 – Finals

I have reflected on the experience as a whole and have received a lot of mail and commentary over the week. It has been fantastic to have the opportunity to share and voice my experience with friends and tango family worldwide. Thank you for that! And the following reflection is many layered as is tango!

I have come to the conclusion that the finals of the US Tango competition reflect the status of Argentine tango dancers in the US: confused.

We see this in our milongas: confused dancers. And why are they? Because of all the mixed ideas that are heard from teachers, these might be classified as styles. Teachers who tell you to share your axis, or to be on your own axis, to pivot, to not pivot, to lead with the chest, no with the legs! It’s amazing that we can even dance together in cities all over the world. So when dancers dance at milongas with all the varied understandings they have, how can it be expected that this idea of dancing in a salon or a Tango Salon competition be clear. I don’t think anyone in the US has ever really defined it for us.

There are many beautiful dancers in the US. Dancers who are musical, understand connection, have a clear walk, and good technique. There are dancers in the US who go yearly to Buenos Aires to train with other Tango Salon champions and more importantly with their teachers. Yet the US representation at the Mundial (the World Cup of Tango Salon in August in Buenos Aires) is small relative to the size and population of dancers in our country and the participation in the US is just as small. Why don’t the really good dancers compete?

The idea of a competition and the misunderstanding of the label tango salon has been a hindrance for the US. And I admit, I was skeptical, as those who have read my blog over the years know. But the truth is that the idea of Tango Salon as something separate from dancing socially is just not true and definitely misconstrued. Salon dancers do train by dancing socially at milongas. The idea is to dance to the music, in a comfortable embrace, socially. It is not about dancing off axis as a leader or a follower. It is about dancing in close proximity on your axis, showing an elegant walk, expressing the music through turns and dynamic changes of directions. It is about dancing! And when you begin to really focus on your dancing you just get better.

Through the competition, there is a fantastic opportunity sanctioned by the Ministry of Culture of Buenos Aires, to be acknowledged within the tango community at large as knowing and understanding Argentine Tango. It is amazing to me to learn that Argentines still don’t think that Americans can dance tango, that we can’t possibly understand it, because we are not Argentine! This reminds me of my Argentine, former soccer player father talking about how the Argentines / Latins feel the game of soccer and the team harmony and that the Americans focus on individual skills. In Buenos Aires you will find droves of dancers from Italy, Turkey, Colombia, Russia, Japan, China and Korea spending time, energy, and money training and dancing in Buenos Aires, participating every year in their own country competition as well as the Mundial in Buenos Aires demonstrating their understanding of the dance. Argentine Tango is being recognized not just as a dance for Argentines but a dance for many. Only 31 couples came to compete in SF this year. As I said, competition in the US is not widely accepted and it appears that there are few teachers making a case for it even if what they are teaching is just that, tango for salon.

The most unfortunate part of the US Argentine Tango Salon competition this year is that it resets a false understanding of what dancing in a salon is. If you have never judged a tango salon competition before or never participated in one, how can you judge objectively? The judges are a key factor for any progress, for the US to be seen as understanding the dance. The judges are responsible for giving a true representation of what kind of dancers are in the US. The goal should also be to have the chosen couple actually prepared for their participation in the Mundial (this is the prize for the first place Salon competitors from this competition, they are sent to Buenos Aires to compete in August). The level of dancing at the competition is so high not only from Argentines but from all those aforementioned countries. As an aside, the judging at the Mundial has been under fire for many years, so much so that many older milongueros told us that they choose not to be judges.

So what are those judges looking for? This is still a bit of a mystery to me but we are given the following rules: (the words in bold are not my own they were sent to us this way.)

  • Once formed, the couple must not separate while the music is playing. This means that they will not break the embrace, which is considered the basic dance position in tango.
  • For the position to be considered correct, the body of one of the members of the couple must be contained all the time by the arm of the other. It is understood that in certain figures, this may be flexible, but not throughout the duration of the dance. All movements must be made within the space allowed by the couple’s embrace.
  • As is typical in a dancehall, couples must constantly move counterclockwise and may not stay in the same part of the choreographic space, as this would obstruct the circulation on the dance floor.
  • Neither member of the couple may lift his or her legs above the knees.
  • The jury will take into account the couple’s musicality and walking style as fundamental to the score.
  • Within these parameters, the couple may perform any commonly used figures, including barridas (sweeps), sacadas al piso (drawn to the floor), enrosques (twists), etc.
  • All other figures typical of Stage Tango such as ganchos (hooks), saltos (jumps) and trepadas (climbs) are completely forbidden.

Seems like there is lots of leeway and room for interpretation. It doesn’t say you must perform commonly used figures, just that you may. But it seems that there is an understanding among those who seriously train for the Salon Competitions that there are certain figures danced as an expression of the music. And not to mention that how you execute them will be different for an early Di Sarli versus a late Pugliese Orquesta, for example.

So it seems that we are left with a disconnect, a fissure, of sorts. The confusion lies within the dancers’ bodies and their understanding of US Argentine Tango Salon Championships Finalistshow tango should be danced in the competition, the confusion lies with a lack of communication from the judges to the dancers as to what they are expecting to see, and finally, a lack of clarity from the organizers of the US Tango Salon competition, as to what their objective is in hosting this event? Is it to promote tango only? To improve the level of dancing in the US? Is it to Americanize tango salon?

On a final note, I saw beautiful dancing in the competition this weekend. It was a pleasure to share rondas with these dancers. Congratulations to the winners and we keep dancing!





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Day 2 of Qualifying Rounds at US Argentine Tango Salon Competition

The End of Day 2. Rommel and I advance to the Semi-Finals, along with 13 other lovely dancers. We are very excited. Out of 4 couples from Arizona, 2 have made it another day!

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1st USA Tango Competition in San Francisco, CA

I never thought I would be here talking about my experience at a Tango Competition.  I have poo-pooed the thought of competing in Argentine Tango for all of my tango career – until now.  I have been a strong advocate in promoting the dance form as a social dance, as a folk dance, not as a competitive sport!  or so I thought that was what it meant.

So Rommel Oramas asked me to join him as his partner in this Tango Competition.  At first I was furious and continued kicking and screaming for the most part for many  months until I did obviously, eventually, give in.  It was just something I didn’t think I wanted to do and didn’t want all those people who knew me as a social dancer to think I had crossed over to some other side! 

April 21 – 24, 2011 was the first officially sanctioned Tango Competition in the USA, Sanctioned by the Office of Festivals and Central Events of the MRamada, Rommel and Brianinistry of Culture of the Government of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. 

There were 25 couples who registered for the Tango Salon part of the competition – this included Rommel and myself. 

Tango Salon has a few key rules:

1) The Couple, once formed, may not be separated while the music plays. This means that they may not be break the embrace, considered as the tango dance position.

2) For the position to be considered correct, the body of one of the members of the couple must be contained all the time by the arm of the other member. It is understood that, in certain figures, this may be flexible; but not throughout the duration of the dance.

3) All movements must be made within the space allowed by the embrace between the members of the couple.

4) The Jury will take into account the couple’s musicality and walking style as fundamental to the score.

5) Within these parameters, the couple may carry out all the popular figures, including barridas (sweeps), sacadas al piso (drawn to the floor), enrosques (twists), etc. All other figures typical of stage tango such as ganchos (hooks), saltos (jumps) and trepadas (climbs) are completely excluded.

6) Couples, as in a dance hall, must constantly move counterclockwise, and may not stay in the same point of the choreographic space as this would obstruct the movement of the other dancers in the dance floor.

7) None of the members of the couple may lift his/her legs beyond the line of the knees.

And we were off and running!
Upon our arrival we were given a number that became our number for the duration of the event – #3. We were placed in a group – Number 1 – and on the first night danced with 5 other couples to 3 songs chosen ahead of time and told to us while we were on the dance floor. 

Each night started off with the Stage Tango Dancers doing their performances and then when they were done they continued with the Tango Salon category.  Each night Rommel and I were couple #3 and danced in the first group!  Each night we kept passing! 

Saturday night was a grueling night when after all the groups went they asked set up another group for a tie-breaker without telling any of use who the tie was for.  Rommel and I and another beautiful couple were in this tie-breaking round.  We had to dance to 2 songs. 

We passed!

There were 12 couples in the final round on Sunday.  12 of us past to this last round.  And this was an exciting time – 2 groups of 6.  Again in Group 1.  It was a “tanda” of 3 songs that were great for dancing, we knew the orquestas and we liked them. 

We didn’t get 1st, 2nd, or 3rd but it was an extraordinary experience.  Most of the couples were from California, there was 1 couple from Boston and 1 from New York. 

We found out from the judges that we came in 5th.  And I was complimented on my feet! 

Overall, I am glad to say I did it.  I feel well-equipped to talk about competition from new stand point. 

I did try to do some research on Tango Competitions because I remember when I started to dance tango – they didn’t exist, not that I had heard of.  And I did find out that 2010 was only the 8th time doing it in Buenos Aires – and this is the “world cup” or the World Championships –

I know the organizers of this festival and championships are looking forward to doing it again and having it grow and I am sure there will be more sanctioned championships throughout the world. 

The experience has added to my Tango experiences.  I can see myself training future competitors.  And I think the competition adds a dimension to the dance form that was completely unexpected – which is – to show others musicality, grace, endurance, beauty, connection, understanding of the dance form in the tradition of line of dance, respect for the floor and the other dancers – and all this can be done without having to be a show tango dancer. 

See 2 of our 3 dances in the 1st round of the final day of competition:

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