Posts Tagged: tango salon

Mundial 2014 Day 1

What a crazy trip this has been so far! Some of you have been following me on Mundial day 1Facebook and know that my flight was cancelled and rescheduled for the following day. And it has been a whirlwind since!!! Classes, milongas, shoe buying, clothes fittings and fixings, non-stop!!!!

And today began the qualifying rounds of Tango de Pista at L’Usina del Arte en La Boca, Buenos Aires. (Incidentally, right across the street from a nice local restaurant called El Obrero where we went on one of the Cultural Immersion tours.)

Although the Usina is far from where we are staying it is quite a lovely venue and the dance floor is wood and wonderful!!!

Yesterday, we ventured to Usina by bus  which took us 40 minutes in light traffic and today by cab that took 20 or so minutes. This was a long weekend so the traffic was light.

The weather took a turn to 27 C. That’s 80 F !!!! It’s winter in Buenos Aires and I brought my boots and my sweaters!!!! They are expecting it to be warm all week. Strange since it was just 50F a few days ago!!!

Back to the Mundial! It appears there are about 380 couples registered for the Tango de Pista ( this is the Tango Salon competition’s new name since last year). For those who are new to my blog – this is different than the Stage Tango Category.

Out of all those couples we are #335 and we are dancing in Ronda #31. There are about 11 or 12 couples in each Ronda. We were told our 3 songs while we were back stage waiting to enter. Our songs were by Julio de Caro, Francisco Canaro, and Juan D’Arienzo. The goal is to express them differently and sometimes this is hard to do. You have to know your music! I leave this up to Rommel!!!

The space is an actual theater, an end theatre, with great seats for the audience in a sloped seating formation. There was formal lighting. It was nice.

It was pretty organized. We were given a call time of 3pm. I had time to do my makeup upon arrival. Then we had a chance to try the floor – a quick 1 song dry run!  Then the turn around time was rather quick. We performed and were done by 6pm. What a long day!!!! It started with getting my hair done at 1pm with a great hairdresser on the corner of our street. So grateful that Andrea Manoli’s a fabulous hairdresser and accommodating. She worked on the long weekend.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is day 2 of the qualifying rounds. After that we will know if we go on to the semi-finals. I was advised not to change dresses in previous competitions so the judges recognize you. However, there might be a change for me….

Reminder: if anyone you know wants to learn to tango socially I will be doing another Beginners  Blast in September. Send me a message if interested.

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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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Preparations…..

Here we are, 6+ hours of private lessons, waking up every morning/afternoon to hammering in the building, pouring rain and bubbling with excitement!

The Tango Salon Championship Qualification rounds are Monday and Tuesday.

I just got off the phone with NPR’s Tell Me More program from Washington DC where they interviewed me by phone about the Salon Championships and Tango in general. That was exciting!!!

Salon Canning with Alex and LisaBetween taking classes with Los Maestros and milongas I also managed to be part of Alex and Lisa’s 23rd wedding. Read more at 2people1life.  Alex contacted me in late July telling me about their Around the World Wedding plans and I responded to his email a little skeptically. He asked if I would be available for tango lessons and could help arrange a midnight tango wedding. It just so happened that I would be in Buenos Aires at the same time they were going to be here. After about 8 more emails and a few phone conversation, we had Alex and Lisa outfitted in Rommel and my clothes and shoes, we took them to Salon Canning to see Argentine Tango in action; to hear Color Tango play; to see a performance; they almost exchanged vows (again) at Confiteria Ideal but instead on the streets of San Telmo! Phew! all in 24 hours! They did manage to learn a few tango steps and we had pictures taken in front of the Obelisco. We can’t wait to see them!

Today we are off to some more classes. There are so many free events as part of the tango festival and we hope to catch some of them.

Next update will be the times we are dancing on Monday and Tuesday. And Rommel got his hair cut per “la maestras” orders!!!

 

 

 

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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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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:
http://www.tejastango.com/inside_2011archive.html#0004 and scroll down to The Continuing Conflict over Tango Styles.)

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