Posts Tagged: social dancing

What are those legs doing? Are they social or not?

Are those legs being social or not on the dance floor?

I’m talking about those frog shaped legs at the milonga. After a long slash along the entire length of my calf from a heel at a milonga I have been compelled to write about this. And leave you a short video.

After the slash, I sat and observed this particular woman as I wondered how she could have managed such a feat. She was clearly having a great time dancing with the same guy, giggling and enjoying their unskilled tanda. AND I am not here to criticize her enjoyment of being completely manipulated by her leader. But no wonder she was off balance at one point committing some version of a front boleo with a wide gap between her legs that resembled a #4 stretch with the heel in question facing straight out towards other unassuming victims.

LADIES, those legs are meant to come together for a reason. EVERYTHING in tango comes from your understanding of walking, which translates to your understanding of the relationship between your 2 legs, which will translate to your pivots and to your boleos and all decorations.

Your weighted leg, your standing leg is YOUR responsibility and through your connection to your partner you are given information on what the other, the moving leg, is to be doing.

In general throughout my teaching in the US and Europe, I have found a general misunderstanding about this 2 legged relationship. I find those who are extremely fixated on KLT Keeping the Legs Together and those whose LEA Legs are Extra Appendages that they have seemingly no control over!  With the KLT group this fixation renders them remarkably tight to the point they can hardly move their legs. I am not denying that the adductors (a group of muscles of the thigh that bring legs together) are at play here but what IS missing is the understanding that your legs still have to move, and they move because, just like in walking, the thigh bone, the amazing femur, is a ball and socket joint. Those thigh bones are meant to roll in their places, in their sockets, in your pelvis. If you are so tight in your musculature here, you can’t move easily – which hinders many things, including balance. And the same is true with the LEA group. Meaning, they lose their balance too because the appendages are so far away from their home.

There is a way to manage both of these groups to have beautiful functioning dance legs without risk of injuring those around you or yourself!

So I leave you with a little video!

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Tango Etiquette and the Infamous Cabeceo

The rituals surrounding the milonga are prized among dancers. Almost like a rite of passage that once you know and have put them into practice you feel like you have actually been admitted into the social realm of Argentine Tango.

Fanning HerselfCabeza translates to “head” and a cabezeo is a nod of the head. This “codigo” or custom signals the invitation to dance. You do not need to approach someone to ask them to dance you can merely catch their eye, nod your head, and if there is a nod in response you have an agreement to dance. The follower will stay seated to wait for the nodee to come to her table to be sure that there is no confusion in a crowded milonga.

There is a lot written about this custom and in the US many argue for it and against it. The cabezeo means never having to say “no”. If you choose not to accept a cabeceo, you merely look away and no one needs to know.

Some milongas are small and it is convenient and expected to use the cabeceo. Other milongas are in very large dance halls and it is very difficult to cabeceo long distances. In this case the dancer looking for a dance (either the lead or follow) may approach who they would like to dance with and try to make eye contact from a closer distance. The goal is always to be subtle and polite. If you are at a milonga in a new city, observe to see what the locals are doing.
(Taken from the Tango Workbook Draft)

I want to make it clear at this point that I am not arguing the usefulness of this invitation, or the reason why it exists or why many people outside of Argentina (read mainly US, where I am most familiar) are very attached to this codigo. Tango etiquette and the infamous Cabeceo are part of the allure of the milonga! But I had a very interesting experience during my most recent trip to Buenos Aires.

I had the pleasure of taking several fantastic classes with well known teachers/dancers / performers. And the one remark that applies here is the following: “Times are different in Buenos Aires’ Milongas. Each milonga now has their own etiquette. Not every milonga uses the same rules.” And this applied to the cabeceo as well. There are milongas in Buenos Aires that are very ritualized and very adamant about los codigos. It is very clear from the moment you enter those milongas, I think you can feel it in the air, if you can’t see it right away. There are milongas where the women are seated by the hosts on one side of the dance floor and the gentlemen on the other, with the veterans or the faithful attendees sitting at their reserved and expected table every week. Ironically the spacing of these milongas usually adds to the ritual, as you often can not walk around and seek dancers out, you must be found at your seat or do the seeking from your seat, thus the cabeceo functions pretty well.

There are other dancing casuallymilongas where you find dancers searching for their friends, (in a dimly lit crowded space) and the gentlemen will approach a table, wait for the woman to look at him and nod respectfully and sometimes even ask, “Bailas”? If the woman ignores his hangout out by her table, he moves on. (Just as there are milongas where the dress code is different.)

Other milongas are in very large halls, a cabezeo from your seat would be almost ridiculous, although it is done. As the ladies scan the seated gentlemen during the cortinas,  you may spy a head nodding dramatically, emphatically and adamantly with eyebrows lifted in your direction. I think it is important to remember too that in Buenos Aires, if you do not live there and are only visiting, that you are entering into their weekly ritual. Dancers have milongas that they regularly attend and expect to see their friends and favorite dancers there. I always recommend that if you go to Buenos Aires, you must go for no less than 3 weeks and make your schedule milonga -filled (if that is your intention, which usually it is). Dancers will begin to recognize you and you will see what the etiquette is for those milongas you attend.

Generally speaking the milonga rules and codes are good ones. They respect others, the flow of the dance, and yet, the cabeceo is the one that people have the hardest time with. It takes a little practice and it’s not so unfamiliar to us in this culture. I see it among the young crowd in a “hey, what’s up man”, accompanied by a nod of the head.

Happy Dancing!

(Quote taken from The Tango Workbook that is currently in a draft stage.)

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What Tango do you do? Bag the Labels and Make it Delicious!

The labels conversation is back again!
It appears that my tango class to modern music brought up some good questions from experienced dancers and newbies.
I want to start this blog by saying Frazzled femalethere is ONE tango that will be heavily influenced by your community(ies); those you dance with most; the teachers you study with; the music you enjoy (rhythmic vs melodic); and if you travel to other festivals or communities.
The labels you might hear or see are marketing labels for students. In Buenos Aires the labels are used to capture tourists. The older milongueros are not hung up on labels they merely do what they do, dance tango! And the way they share information is through demonstration not necessarily through explanation! You just dance!
Even the new Argentines learning in Buenos Aires become tourists.  If they grew up with the music, if they are just learning, they too become a tourist to find a teacher to teach them tango. As I have said before the labels don’t get you far. In reality in the US they don’t bring in new dancers and the ones who have been dancing merely seek those teachers and dancers who they most like or identify with, to dance with or take classes from.
I have to say from my years of teaching at the University and growing new tango babies every year, I do believe that there is a fundamental ground work that has to be laid for a tanguero/a to find their way, regardless of the style, label conversation. I believe, as Graciela Gonzalez says, that there is technique that is fundamental to all tango dancing.
I remember a famous Argentine tango dancer sharing a story that a student had asked her to dance in a milonga and he started by asking her what style she danced. Surprised, she responded that she danced Tango. I suppose what doesn’t quite come across in this recount is that she didn’t understand what else they could possibly be doing at a milonga. Style was not the question for her. It never is, really. We must remember that tango is about the connection you have with your partner; that partner in that moment to that music.
So before you worry about what style you may or may not be doing, go for the connection and BE present with your partner, you only have that moment, those 3 minutes, so make them delicious.

See previous blogs here Labels Labels Everywhere Part 1 and Part 2.

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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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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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