Posts Tagged: learn to dance

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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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 – http://www.nrde.org/benefitsofdance.html)

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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Welcome 2012!

2011 was an interesting year in my tango journey, as I guess they always are!

A highlight is always the new students that I meet and watching them dance! Some students move on and some get hooked! Some even return from long distances. I was very fortunate this year to be a part of 180 new students at ASU’s tango journey and to be a part of ASU’s first tango festival. I marveled at the creativity, ingenuity, and steadfastness of those who made that festival a first!

I traveled to several new cities making new friends, sharing more tango, bonding with some furry pals, and even re-connected with old friends at my high school reunion.

To challenge myself is to grow and sometimes it can change even my strong opinion about things. 2011 did just that with my first tango competition with my partner, Rommel Oramas, placing 5th. (read about it here.) Thank you Rommel for all the fun performances and festivals we have experienced together.

Thank you 2011 for the great dances and the new shoes! Thanks to all of you who have been a part of my growth as a teacher, a dancer, organizer, consultant, and a human being.

2012 is sure to bring new surprises, new challenges and new students!

May 2012 bring you all much happiness, abundance, compassion, success, love, and peace.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cabaceo – People are talking, I mean nodding, winking, etc….

I promised I would bring back some of my experience from the Women’s Retreat where I commented a week back about the class I was going to teach that centered on the pelvis and its function in alignment in tango.

Well, the Women’s Retreat was a wonderful way for me to connect with other women in tango. There were varied levels of experience in tango amongst us. There were some great conversations and insights into our shared interest of leading and following. I was delighted that a few older women commented on their excitement about the younger generation interest in tango. “Who is going to carry on when we’re gone?” I remember hearing this from some older students of mine as well.

I was inspired by sharing conversations with one lovely Hannah from the Portland area – an articulate brilliant young woman exploring and finding her way in tango. I was impressed by so many things she had to share but particularly by her interest in keeping the “cabaceo” alive and kicking. In her community – she says that people know already that she uses the cabaceo and she encourages her students to use it.

What is the “cabaceo”? There are many writings on this art of asking someone to dance but in a nutshell it is a word that comes from  Spanish or specifically castellano (Argentine Spanish) cabeza which means head. The cabaceo is the invitation to dance: a lock of the eyes, a simple subtle nod of the head, and typically from a distance. It is an invitation that no one else needs to know about. It is an invitation that can also be rejected without embarrassment, ideally. This means, for example, if someone catches my eye from across the dance floor and I choose not to dance with him then I do not lock eyes with them or nod my head in agreement. That leader may then move on looking for his next follower without “losing face”, so to speak.

Some of us use it strongly in our communities others not as much. But it seemed that there was a general consensus that the cabaceo works and is good for tango. The leader or a follower can ask for a dance through the use of the cabaceo and also be rejected from a dance by not acknowledging it. It was also remarked that the rejection needs to not necessarily be taken so personally. Someone mentioned that if you are “cabaceoing” someone all night and they have not caught your eye – then maybe they are trying to tell you something. This is sometimes hard to accept especially in smaller communities where everyone tends to know each other. I think the cabaceo works well in all circumstances actually.  We also spoke about cabaceoing another follower to dance with. This dynamic doesn’t seem to have been worked out completely yet… but I think in communities where followers know that other followers are leading the cabaceo works the same.

Upon my return from the retreat and back to the classroom for the final days of classes at ASU I was struck by 1 of my more enthusiastic beginners’ interest in discussing the cabaceo and how he had spent time researching it online. He too has decided that the cabaceo is worth keeping and using and was encouraging the rest of the class to try it out.

SO I think the cabaceo is still alive and well even in Tempe, AZ. I know many members of the community enjoy using it and you’ll be seeing more of my students trying it out!

How’s your cabaceo?

 

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New Classes Starting in January!

The holidays are upon us and you might be making your tango arrangements for the new year….Check out these classes and new locations too!

Classes at Interlingua AZ at 5107 N. 7th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85014-3107
Level I

January 10th – February 7th
Tuesdays 6:00pm – 7:15pm
5 lessons of 1 hour each and 15 minutes of practice. Price: $75 per person $150 per couple. Max 5 couples

Level II with Rommel Oramas
January 12th – February 9th
Thursdays 6:00pm – 7:15pm
5 lessons of 1 hour each and 15 minutes of practice. Price: $75 per person $150 per couple. Max 5 couples



NEW Classes at Plaza de Anaya
at 524 W. Broadway Rd, Tempe, AZ  85282
Fundamentals 8 week course
January 12th – March 1st
Thursdays
6:15pm – 7:15pm
Contact
Plaza de Anaya to register – (480) 894-8777

 

Spring 2012 Semester Long Courses:

Paradise Valley Community College
NEW INTERMEDIATE Argentine Tango
Begins 01/26/2012- 05/03/2012
Thursdays 7:45pm – 9:35pm
DAN125AE #38688

Scottsdale Community College
Beginner Argentine Tango

Begins 01/24/ 2012 – 05/11/2012
Tuesdays 7:15pm – 9:15pm
DAN125AE #36054

Arizona State University
Mondays and Wednesdays
Begins 01/09/12 – 04/23/12
DCE 110 (18483) – 6:45pm-8:15pm
DCE 210 (18517) – 8:30pm-10:00pm

 

REGISTER NOW!
Teachers are talking about this new unique tango experience!

ASU Tango Experience 2012 – A New Kind of Festival
March 2, 3, 4, 2012
http://tangofest.events.asu.edu/

 

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