Posts Tagged: Milongas

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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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.

FridayASU TANGO EXPERIENCE: A NEW FESTIVAL EXPERIENCE beginsASU Tango Club Logo
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.

Milongas

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
Sunday
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.http://tangofest.events.asu.edu/node/18

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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Teaching Tango at the University!

In addition to teaching in the community, I teach tango at ASU’s School of Dance in the Institute for Design and the Arts. Formally teaching two levels of social Argentine Tango at a University is a pretty unique situation. Students receive two credits towards their degree for each, even repeatable course they take. During a 16-week semester, we meet twice a week for a total of three hours a week.

When I was asked years ago to replace a retiring faculty member, a single tango course was in place. I immediately revamped the syllabus when I first came on board. Later the advanced level was added.

Over the course of a semester I take my students on a dynamic tango journey. They begin with walking and connection games. I conduct classes on milonga, vals, musicality and a presentation on the history and evolution of the dance form. We also watch videos of famous tango couples to help my students define their aesthetic. They are also required to attend milongas and practicas in the community and participate in the student-run Tango Club.

In the short time that I have been teaching, I have seen a difference in my students in their first tango class. When I first began teaching in 2005, almost none of the students in the class had ever heard of or seen tango prior to class. Now, thanks to reality TV shows, almost all students have seen or have been exposed to some form of social dancing, including tango. They are, of course, surprised to discover that Argentine Tango as a social dance is sometimes quite different from what they have seen on TV or YouTube.

Some students are occasionally disappointed but more often than not they are intrigued by the possibilities that Argentine Tango offers them through the partner relationship. This partnership demands skills in listening and improvisation, attention and patience in order to move through the space together. In this evolving dance form they learn to negotiate, lead and respect each other and their community, and the culture of the dance itself.

With more than 80 students each semester, it really never is the same class twice. Class has been called a stress reliever and a fun distraction to the everyday, heavy course load of many honors students. Although basic templates and syllabi are in place, my students inspire and surprise me all the time and oftentimes send me spontaneously into new, exciting directions. Every semester these young students remind me how magical and powerful dance can be.

They find friendships and sometimes even love – two of my students recently married. Students tell me that they learned to be better persons through tango or found their voice through the dance. Several of them have been dancing with me their entire college careers. Life has fed their dancing, and the dance has fed their life.

It is a wonderful experience to watch them form bonds of friendship and trust. I think one of the most exciting aspects of watching my students’ process of learning this dance is that they come with honesty and openness. They are willing to have a positive experience as they challenge themselves. They laugh together and help each other. It is a reciprocal openness that I share and enjoy so much.

I love my job!
I love dancing!
I love tango!

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Nice autumn weather!

On Sunday the sun came out for us!  We went to the Feria de los Mataderos.  This Dancers at Feria de los Mataderoswas my first time there.  We took a 20 minute (or so) taxi ride and we arrived around noonish.  It was a fair similar to the one in Recoleta or like the one here in Plaza Dorrego BUT it has a stage where there is live music and Folkloric dances.  It was really neat!  They danced: Chacarera, Chamame, Samba.  The artisans were lovely as well.  I think the small group of us who went enjoyed it.  I know I really enjoyed the empanadas that we ate!
Las SaltenasHere are the ladies making empanadas in a stall.

There was this very old man with a face of a thousand stories who was dancing in the street with the rest of whomever wanted to.  At one point he yelled at the crowd "to move farther away" – to give more space. 

Old Man at the Feria

Sunday we had a wonderful asado prepared for us by the America del Sur where we are staying.  We had some beef, chicken and veggies and a beautiful desert plate prepared for us by Chef Juan!  During the course of our meal we were also lucky to have some live music with 2 musicians. 

Dessert by Chef Juan

The America del Sur often plans things and it so happened that they were planned for this evening.  It was a lovely addition to our meal! 

Sunday night we went to El Beso for some dancing.  It was a bit of a controversial evening!!!  A little bit of male tension on the dance floor and some female frustration for the desire for more dances.  This is an interesting position that I have found myself in.  The need to fill my "contract" with everyone to have them dancing as much as possible or at least experiencing some growth and satisfaction.  AND noticing that this is the midway point of the tour – people are tired and some of us are coming down with colds!  NOT ME though!  I also had an interesting evening dancing with an older milonguero – pretty famous – he is known as ToTo!  Really interesting to dance with these older men (like the famous milonguero TeTe who just passed this January).  They have an interesting phrasing as well as small steps – not a lot of drama or not too busy in their dancing.  Really lovely and totally unexpected. 

Rommel has been down for a couple of days and today – Tuesday – seems to be much better.  Lu was a little under the weather and a few people in the group took the night off last night. 

I have decided to divide the group for the next few days to try to maximize everyone’s experience.  This also means dividing the assistants.  So for today and tomorrow I have decided to offer 2 options and those who want to go to 1 milonga go there and to another one go to the other one.  I do not think I can spread myself as thinly by trying to go to both places.  So I will just go to 1 or the other… some of the group are going to both – which is great!!!

So last night a small group of us went to see the Orquesta EL Afronte. www.elafronte.com.ar/  I think we had fun.  It is right around the corner from where we are staying, so that’s a nice bonus!  It’s a little place that has a dive-bar feel!  But seeing and dancing to live music is always pretty cool!!!  Ryan had an interesting dance – a full circle of sorts for him! He danced last night with the assistant who helped us on his first tour 3 years ago!!!  It was really nice to see her and for Ryan to be courageous and dance with her.  So great for him!IMG 3125
 

                    Here’s Delisa with Jose LuisD & JL

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