Quality Control - In the last days the Berlin Tango Scene has witnessed an interesting and overdue conflagration. Some Argentine tango blogger found a video of one of Berlin’s longtime teaching teams and publicized her outrage over the quality of their dancing. At first this post gathered some approval within the Berlin community. Then compassionate influencers quashed the self-righteousness of [...more]
The Pleasure Principle - The greatest pleasure for me in tango is the back circular contra voleo, c. 2007. In the moment of this voleo I feel fully alive, every muscle stretched out working, and sublimely connected to my partner who has snapped his power through my whole body. As the tips of my toes reach the highest point [...more]
Embracing Nuevo? - Most tango teachers don't want this label, not only because it's unpopular and bad for business, but because most of us did learn traditionally, and came to appreciate and love the music, the embrace, and the humor and charm of traditional tango...There are no styles. Any advanced or professional dancer can dance with any other, in any embrace, to any music...But those who unwittingly insult me with their compliments are also not wrong. To the extent that Nuevo Tango has any useful meaning it is the following two things, both of which are true about me (and most other professional dancers, regardless of what 'style' the observers paste on them)...
Renaming the Roles - A term sometimes used for the lead in BsAs is 'marcar', to mark. He is an artist, drawing in the dark. The role of the Revel is to bring his mark to life, to witness and celebrate his creativity, to give it back to him, a little more beautiful than he imagined.
The reverse cabeceo - It's when a follower does the man's cabeceo to a leader. She walks directly up to him, establishes eye contact, and gives him a nod. Um...There's more to the cabeceo than the repudiation of sound. Perhaps more fundamentally, it's a repudiation of demand, from either party.
Experience the “real” tango… - But Argentines say that the music itself brings emotions into you, and this is why they emphasize that to understand tango you must learn the language, even the old Lunfardo words and phrases. You must feel the pathos of the songs in order to fully experience the emotion of tango.
Fairy dust 22 May 2017 - As a tango dancer, I meet a lot of amazing women. Beautiful, smart, aware, interested in connecting with other women. Real sisters. Eventually the conversation turns to marking, their admiration for my skills, and why they don’t do it. Almost all of them first say: I want to learn one role fully first, then I’ll [...more]
How I Revel – 2017 21 May 2017 - So many women write and speak to me with the same question: “How do I find pleasure in tango, when I’m getting less and less from men?” They ask this question because where they live there are few advanced men, or becuase the men they like to dance with are not always available, or because [...more]
The final pitch to peak 9 May 2017 - She’s got a cute new haircut and she does her makeup well. She’s losing weight and dressing better. She’s also dancing better. She’s making lots of elegant little adornos. To me it looks like showing off, and disconnected, but she makes them sharp and correct. Now it seems she can be confident of dancing with [...more]
Conformity and power 7 May 2017 - When I started dancing tango I thought “finally, a place to wear fabulous clothes and shoes!” I dressed like a doll, and wore the most fabulous shoes I could find, 15cm heels with 3cm platforms covered in glitter. Everybody knew me for my shoes. I could hear the word “shoes” whispered as I went around [...more]
ForgeTube: Improvisation from the Elements 22 April 2017 - We are thrilled to announce the next step in our work to encourage Real Improvisation from the Elements: A video series in YouTube which shows the systems of variations for every tango movement. Today we launch our channel of 1-2 minute videos showing variations of the first 10 elements from the Tango Lexicon. Technique instruction [...more]
Why isn’t Argentine Tango more popular? 17 April 2017 - I think it’s two main reasons: Terrible marketing: meaningless (or somewhat frightening) words like ‘passion’ and ‘intimacy’, cliché images, music most people think is awful. Terrible teaching, too focused on walking, which is a boring and demeaning experience for beginners who can’t do it or appreciate it yet. To make tango popular we can: Show [...more]
Argentine Tango Dancing Flow 5 April 2017 - Tango induces the psychological state of Flow by demanding immediate mutual concentration and fusing action and awareness.
Real Improvisation 31 March 2017 - No matter how much you think you hate Nuevo Tango, you are the recipient of its gift to the world: the possibility to understand Argentine Tango by its most fundamental elements, Everything we love about traditional tango is better if you dance from the elements: better experience of connection with more intense concentration, more perfect embrace, richer musicality, and a safer ronda.
Partners 21 March 2017 - The deepest desire of human beings is not to be alone. Whatever our individual pathways toward or around this issue, tango has given us a way to experience partnership. I believe that it is this aspect of tango which is most compelling. Despite the thrills of sensuality, tenderness, attention, celebrity, and musicality, it is the [...more]
No more Mastery 20 March 2017 - Instead of going to a milonga as a dancer, for the first time I just went out as a writer. In a weird affirmation, someone came to sit and talk to me about writing. I also danced. He was a a visitor, attractive, in town for one of the marathonic events, and was recommended by [...more]
Better than Sex 8 January 2017 - When Argentine Tango is good –when the partners are able to maintain a sublime level of connection, moving as one– it is absolutely rapturous. It feels like [Hollywood] Movie Sex looks: smooth, passionate, consuming. This experience is so intense that it can trigger romantic emotions, the sensation of being in love – even though we [...more]
How to be a Good Man, as you become an Advanced Tanguero 3 January 2017 - Congratulations! After years of hard work, you are now mastering this dance! You can make girls feel really good and happy. Girls are starting to look for you, snuggle you, hang around you. This feels great! You’re a nice guy; you are not planning to use your newfound advantage to become a womanizer, but you [...more]
The Pleasure Principle 17 December 2016 - The greatest pleasure for me in tango is the back circular contra voleo, c. 2007. In the moment of this voleo I feel fully alive, every muscle stretched out working, and sublimely connected to my partner who has snapped his power through my whole body. As the tips of my toes reach the highest point [...more]
Inversion 16 November 2016 - The trail grows cold. Ecstasy is an endangered species. But the dogs' eyes glitter with hunger. Their frantic trotting exhausts me. They become aggressive...The party endures, heavy-hearted, addicted to a thrill who may never breach again.
Expectations 11 November 2016 - So I learn that my worst fears are true ... The whole evening is structured around the proclivities of untrained girls. And the men who want to dance with them.
Embracing Nuevo? 29 October 2016 - Most tango teachers don't want this label, not only because it's unpopular and bad for business, but because most of us did learn traditionally, and came to appreciate and love the music, the embrace, and the humor and charm of traditional tango...There are no styles. Any advanced or professional dancer can dance with any other, in any embrace, to any music...But those who unwittingly insult me with their compliments are also not wrong. To the extent that Nuevo Tango has any useful meaning it is the following two things, both of which are true about me (and most other professional dancers, regardless of what 'style' the observers paste on them)...
Prayer for Virtuosity 25 October 2016 - Tonight I have 80 square cm of paper with me, and it's more precious to me than any man here. I am trying to figure out what to I'm seeing, staring at it, praying my desire will be kindled, but I cannot want any of these dancers.
Why I love Eugenia Parrilla 10 October 2016 - She seems to be using tango to express herself, rather than reaching hungrily for ancient gender detritus. She seems to be using her whole body to the limits of her own possibility, rather than within a codified range of movement.
No crash trance 3 July 2016 - People attending this event have a genuine interest in tango being creative. To the extent that couples on the floor emerged from the depths to pay attention to one another, they seemed to feel enriched by others' movements. Here, if you do something extreme, people smile at you.
The hostile period 25 May 2016 - If this were a serious project, I would be able to say "You need to move your arm so I can do my job here. Thank you. Ok let's go rock the house."
Abracadabra 18 May 2016 - I love taking tango classes! I have an excellent memory for certain things (not numbers), and I find long sequences especially pleasurable to memorize. It’s funny when my male partners are annoyed by this. The sequences themselves are often delightful enough to enjoy repeating 100 times or even more. It’s fun to see how quickly and with [...more]
The evil sequence 27 April 2016 - These days in Berlin 50% of Marks do this sequence within 5 seconds that my eye lands on them. (I spent a couple of weeks sitting with my stopwatch in the milonga checking my perceptions.) Another 35% do it under 30 seconds. That leaves just 15% of the dancers in the milonga who are not doing this sequence ad nauseum... Not very many of the 15% are advanced dancers who are doing something else. When you look at the dance floor at any milonga, you see this sequence constantly, in dancers of all levels except rank beginners.
Divine Time Machines don’t pivot alone 8 March 2016 - To reveal more to herself and to her partner, the Revel must abandon the safe ground of knowledge, prediction, sequences, familiar movements, and righteousness. Crucially she must abandon her surety that the best thing she can do is to pivot. Pivoting is how we try to be good girls doing the hard work... But if we abandon a claim on certainty, avoid arbitrary endings and stay open to the previous movement continuing to unfold, then we offer ourselves to divine creativity.
Die Umarmung, die Tausende von Herzen bricht (The Hug to Break a Thousand Hearts) 12 February 2016 - Folgender Text wurde gepostet im Februar 2016 in der Facebook-Diskussionsgruppe der Milonga Popular/Tango Kollektiv als Teil einer Unterhaltung über Verführung in dieser Milonga. This was posted in February 2016 to the Milonga Popular/Tango Kollektiv Facebook Discussion group as part of a conversation about seduction in that milonga. (deutsche Version was posted in March.) Die Umarmung, [...more]
El Encuentro 9 December 2015 - The partners begin dancing autonomously, connecting their bodies to the music first, and then look for one another. They approach one another and begin to interact, still dancing autonomously. At some point, they connect. It might be useful to define the tango connection: It is a very particular power relation in which the Mark has creative power and the Revel has the power to manifest his spark.
Dancing with Germain 12 November 2015 - DJ Elio Astor's live mixes are improvised; Germain and I don't know what the music will be or how long it will go on. The reality of dancing this way is very, very difficult. Not knowing what will come, we must continually leap into our interpretation of the music and one another. The demand to "trust thyself" is immanent. In addition to the unknown of the music, Germain is a contemporary dancer. So the matrix of movement possibilities expands dramatically beyond the already-rich tango lexicon.
No Hungry Women 11 November 2015 - I can feel the hunger of the women. I know that hunger for tango ecstasy. I know it as an addiction, as a wound, as a sweet balm. I know that dancing with them won't be enough. I can give them my best and they will still be hungry. If I have any responsibility for the event, this sensation drains me to the point that I desperately want to lay down on the floor and go to sleep.
Berlin’s Authenticity, article for Modern Tango World Berlin edition 25 October 2015 - I made a series of interviews on behalf of the Berlin edition of Modern Tango World. This article is my own reflections, based on these interviews. “Erfahrungen machen” is a common German phrase, which translates as “making experiences”. The long history of tango here in Berlin has resulted in a maturity and diversity typified in [...more]
Berlin Tango Histories 22 October 2015 - “Berlin is the first city of the world where you had tango community who danced Argentine Tango. In Japan in 40s and 50s you had many people who heard tango music, But dancers in a community, you had in Uruguay and BsAs, but not in Europe. The first point of the world to have this outside from South America was Berlin. Berlin is famous for the boheme life. People come here to go out, to meet people, to laugh and love with them. And tango is a part of this.
Vio Music 25 September 2015 - I made a play for the word 'powerful'. Because to me what traditional tango music lacks is power, and that's what I get and like about the music I like to dance on (which is not all alternative music). Powerful music for me has deep sounds and it has emotions.
A social milonga 23 September 2015 - In Buenos Aires the worst thing that can happen to you at a milonga is not to find a table. At a table, you are never alone. Even if everyone else is dancing, you are obviously part of a group. Once you are sitting, you too are a host, watching out for arriving friends or handsome tourists who need a place. In Berlin, if you are lucky you get a chair, to wait in and to which you are not attached. Dancers in Berlin milongas are in perpetual solitary motion and circulation.
What is Tango improvisation? 22 September 2015 - We can dance the same songs every night for years because of the possibility to discover new relations between movement and music. We can do this because each dance is unique, because we create it anew each time. Argentine Tango improvisation must be authentic and spontaneous or tango becomes rote and dead. Either partner can kill it: The Mark through routine and the Revel through automatisms.
“The interesting questions” interview with Judith Preuss, Mala Junta 18 September 2015 - I’m not the first generation of tango dancers in Berlin. I have knowledge for 20 years. I entered the scene in 1991. From the beginning in Berlin women couples existed, Brigitte and Angelika. When my first dance partner quit, I started leading, leading, leading. Irma, my teacher said “ok, I don’t have men for you, [...more]
“The Borders are why you Stay” interview with Brigitta Winkler, PHYNIXtanzt and TangoMujer 18 September 2015 - The initial spark was the Horizonte Festival in the Künstlerhaus in Mariannenstraße in Kreuzberg in 1982. They had Latin American cultures and they invited an Argentine group who used to live in Paris, Alejandra Sedano and Coco Orlando Días, together with a live band. That was the first time that I saw tango. Jaun Dietrich [...more]
The significance of Berlin to Tango: Interview with DJ Michael Rühl, Roter Salon 18 September 2015 - Berlin is the first city of the world where you had tango community who danced Argentine Tango. In Japan in 40s and 50s you had many people who heard tango music. But dancers in a community, you had in Uruguay and Buenos Aires, but not in Europe. Berlin is the first point of the world to [...more]
“I feel very blessed that I speak this language” interview with Mona Isabelle, Tangoloft Berlin 18 September 2015 - Mona Isabelle is, without a doubt, a diva of the Berlin tango scene. Any room she is in sparkles more because she is there. She is always elegant, always energetic, always delighted to be there. Her presence enlivens and illuminates the evening. She has been described as an “Artist of Welcome”. She ended her interview [...more]
DJ Jens Stuller, Interview 1 September 2015 - My first big Milonga idea grew up in 2007, when I saw an announcement for a theater performance in an empty indoor swimming pool. I knew this former public pool from my youth, when I still was swimming there. I phoned the new owner Mrs. Berger and made an appointment to talk about the Milonga [...more]
Dancing in the Berlin Hauptbahnhof 1 September 2015 - Last Wednesday 19 August I danced in the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Europe’s biggest and most central train crossing station. It’s the highest security milonga I’ve ever been to. 500M from the German chancellor’s office, this building is in constant readiness for terror attack. It’s on the site of the former wall. The director of the annual [...more]
Martin y Maurizio: elevating revelations… 29 August 2015 - While most couples are stuck with a single gender performance, a gay role-changing couple can explore gender performance and its relationship to their dance with far more subtlety and interest. And it's not so crude as drag. Martin and Maurizio always dress as two elegant men and they wear men's shoes. It's in the physical expression, how they move, how they touch, how they look at each other, how they define and play with power.
“A new model for popularizing tango” Sven Elze and Pedram Shahyar, Tango Kollektiv 10 August 2015 - The challenge facing every tango professional is how to attract new dancers. We all have lots of ideas, and we know that most of them don’t work. If we had more students, the teachers wouldn’t need to compete, and most of our tango wars would go away. Sven and Pedram have some ideas, which are [...more]
The gender journey 25 July 2015 - I want to try to find a story of tango as a liberatory gender journey. For men, from fear of their own strength to sexual prowess to the decision to choose. For women, from inadequate object, to perfect femininity, and out the other side, beyond seduction and competition to a deeper power.
Is it a conversation? 25 July 2015 - I believe that the concept of "conversation" is being misapplied by dancers. A good conversation does not involve constantly interrupting, changing the subject, and re-interpreting your partner. Anyway, I don't think this is a helpful metaphor. In conversations, we start and yield, we falter and wait, we stop to think, we watch for cues, and we are usually sitting safely in a chair. There's a lot more at stake in tango. We risk our bodies, we have less time, and often our eyes are closed.
Growing up Tango in Berlin, interview with Max Power, Tanguito Potsdam 17 July 2015 - For me authenticity is really important, but it's authenticity for me, my logic, what I am doing. What I am teaching about tango makes sense. So that a student afterwards feels comfortable, feels logical, that they can use it, that they can understand it, practice it, get better.
A manifesto for dancing 17 July 2015 - I have been waiting to write a general TangoForge update until I knew the story. I still don’t know it, and it’s more complicated than I anticipated. But I have a part of it ready for you. It’s summer in Europe and I decided to get out of Berlin and see what’s there. So I [...more]
Elio Astor, NeoTango DJ 17 July 2015 - "I identify myself as a neotango DJ. NeoTango invites Argentine Tango to become contemporary by applying its biomechanics of connection and improvisation to the experiences and emotions of the world heritage of music. At the entrance of my neolonga is the statement by Gustav Mahler 'Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire'... "
finding my man 27 June 2015 - Day Four of the tango festival. I’ve had it with being Diva Freak. I can only keep it up for so long without a single person telling me they’re grateful to see some freedom and creativity on the dance floor. I lock into close embrace, and I stop dancing with men. Because every man who marks me [...more]
Game Tango: Watch the Avatar 13 February 2015 - Tango allows us to explore our gender fantasies. We can dress up, posture and pose, flirt, and swagger, excel, surpass others, and glory. Just like any game, tango can become addictive. We spend more time in the game than out of it, and the game takes over our consciousness even when we are doing other [...more]
Tango Fundamentalism 13 December 2014 - The New Victorian boys like to say that they don't need a big vocabulary because it's all about the music and connection with the partner. And those dancers who do still use the entire tango repertoire are accused of not caring about connection and emotion in the dance. "The music is leading," say the New Victorians, one of several truisms by which the New Victorians glorify simplistic dancing. None of these truisms necessitate eliminating movements.
Code of Ethics for Tango Communities 13 November 2014 - A code of ethics has three parts, the preamble which gives it context, the fundamental moral principles, and standards of conduct.
Something added in translation: Lead with the chest 7 November 2014 - You have surely noticed that I am obsessively annoyed by the incessant exhortation to “lead with the chest”. I think it’s inaccurate, unhelpful, and leads to unstable behaviour. I’m fascinated by and loose with words. I temper this with deep investigations with multilingual friends like ZM. What if this cliché is the detritus of a [...more]
Go! 1 October 2014 - It’s striking. Every time I talk with someone about having finally found the dance partner I’ve been looking for, and my plans to return to Berlin to try working with him, people respond with intense encouragement. “Go!” Many people have gone on from that point to offer assistance. I feel that I am surrounded by angels. I’m [...more]
One Tanda with Ekaterina 16 September 2014 - Ekaterina Khomenko was murdered in St Petersburg on 7 September. It is strongly believed that the murder is connected to her work as a Queer Tango teacher. (News articles: Global Voices and Queer Russia.) We danced this past July at the Berlin Queer Tango Festival 2014 and I want to thank Ekaterina more formally for what [...more]
the grind 13 September 2014 - You’re too tired to contemplate putting on your shoes. You’re worn out by life. You want to cry, or scream, or get drunk. And it was a crazy day. There’s no time for dinner now. But the milonga beckons. Maybe you’ll feel better there? You remind yourself that last night did not make you feel [...more]
The Big Tango Lessons, Berlin 2014 27 August 2014 - Several of the deep lessons here are things I had been saying, and even writing about, but they became more visceral and powerful during the trip. One of these is that I want a mark who trusts me. Another thing I've been expounding on is how good revelling can "set marks free". I've also written about the power of a woman's desire to attract the man she wants to dance with. By the end of this trip to Berlin I was getting my man every night.
Interview with Henning Klose, TangoLoft Berlin 25 August 2014 - My first experience of TangoLoft made me cry. I couldn’t even dance that night. I was so moved that a milonga could be everything that I dream of… Elegant – with candles and flowers and antique furniture. Comfortable – with various seating options. Gourmet –with a kitchen. Free – without scowling onlookers. Happy –with laughter and smiles. Diverse –with all [...more]
Why I don’t ask marks to dance… 13 August 2014 - The line of dance is not the only thing that circles. So do the arguments about tango. It feels more productive to use the term ‘spiral’, because then we feel we are getting somewhere, either spiraling out away from the familiar territory, or getting in closer to the deep truths. Pick your direction. (But please [...more]
The deeper cabeceo 6 August 2014 - Globally, the best coffee is served in places with inadequate and injurious seating… Black star, double eye, the Barn. If there are enough chairs and a table of the appropriate height this is a bad sign for the coffee. So I am drinking my thoroughly excellent espresso on the steps of the church, meditating on [...more]
Interview with Thomas Rieser, Nou Tango school, Berlin 5 August 2014 - Researching the schools in Berlin, I came across this interview with Thomas Rieser, founder of Nou Tango, Berlin. The interview just made me want to ask him more questions, and he kindly agreed. My first question was the obvious one from the other interview, which was to ask him more about the fact that he [...more]
Berlin Queer Tango Festival 2014 30 July 2014 - What has changed? My last Queer Tango Festival was Buenos Aires in 2009. The global scene has advanced in several dimensions: The level was much improved. The tendency to jerkiness which has characterised most qt events I’ve seen to date has been overcome. People danced with nice connection. I am thrilled. The number and level [...more]
Professionalism and commercialism in tango 13 July 2014 - Some observations… Tango is an international industry, with annual revenue of $400 million and growing. It’s a service industry with no certifications, no educational system, no required training, no industry standards. Functionally, the qualifications are conveying an aura of “authenticity” and having somehow acquired a reputation. In most of the world outside of Argentina, tango communities [...more]
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s “Milonga” 15 June 2014 - Why is it so hard to tell a new story about tango - or even a real story? It's just not all about drama with your lover. Tango is about race, class, and gender. So many stories to tell, but none of them start with one man and one woman. There are always the women not chosen. And the ghosts. Another disappointing stage show which can't beyond melodrama, threesomes, and chairs.
Music in which the rhythm doesn’t make noise 13 June 2014 - Last month we had the pleasure of dancing tango to the live jazz saxophone of Junio Karokaro. For some of us, the lack of a beat was challenging. One leader said "I can't use sequences, I have to lead one element at a time." Others promptly felt comfortable with it. We all agreed that this dancing was riveting. It took a lot of concentration and felt very satisfying.
The state of biomechanical science 4 May 2014 - I met with Michael Chang, who has been a Dance Sport competitor and coach for more than 20 years. He was Australia representative to the World Professional Championships of 10-Dance in 2009. Apparently, there are only a handful of scientists in the world studying dance and, as far as Michael is aware, none are studying Argentine Tango. I had ten questions for Michael about biomechanics. I wanted to be sure I was using the correct anatomical terminology.
Renaming the Roles 6 April 2014 - A term sometimes used for the lead in BsAs is 'marcar', to mark. He is an artist, drawing in the dark. The role of the Revel is to bring his mark to life, to witness and celebrate his creativity, to give it back to him, a little more beautiful than he imagined.
Jewel Lab honors Graeme Dallow 21 January 2014 - Graeme Dallow was an acrobat in the Radiant Review, a competitive figure skater, police commissioner, ballroom dancer, and the first person in New Zealand to dance and teach Argentine Tango.
Interview with Roberto Martinez 17 January 2014 - I’m sitting with Roberto in the milonga. He knows every song, and each one triggers a story about the men in the orquestra. “This guy Alberto Castillo had 200 suits. And shoes to match each one. They called him El Electrico because he sings as if he put his finger in the power point. His [...more]
Anatomical technique 17 January 2014 - Metaphors and indescribable sensations mystify tango technique. Anatomically-precise instruction enables students can develop the needed body awareness and control with the assistance of any exercise professional.
The Embrace 28 December 2013 - Tango offers diverse delights for various tastes and fascinating paradoxes for debate, but it is uncontroversial that the best and most essential of tango’s gifts is the experience of what we call “The Embrace”. Those who have experienced a real sublime Argentine Tango embrace are both blessed and cursed. They are blessed know that it [...more]
One tango . ? 10 December 2013 - I’m sure you’ve come across some delirious gushing descriptions of magical nights when dancers young and old shared a moonlit dancefloor, finding that across cultures, generations, and musicalities, “there is truly one tango”. Some are wary of such claims, either because they cling righteously to some territory and don’t want to be lumped with those [...more]
Tango Complex: An honest introduction to Argentine Tango 30 November 2013 - I was an economist with a salary on automatic deposit, poised to receive University tenure. I spent weekends at peace demonstrations and dinner parties. I was disappointed and jaded. I had looked for connection in research collaborations and community service. I found it in the arms of old men and US marines. My story is [...more]
Tango and Carbonara (or the Should and the Could) 10 November 2013 - In my view, authentic tango is one in which we find tango's soul through our own experience, and trust that we have something poignant to develop with our partners from our own context, rather than forsaking ourselves in imitation.
So about Gender and Tango… 28 October 2013 - Gender play Tango is a a space where most dancers do gender more extremely than in the rest of life. This can be fun, it can be healing, and it can be distorting. There are several dimensions to gender extremity in tango. The first has to do with costume, and is pleasurable for those who [...more]
I am not a teacup 4 October 2013 - I feel so sorry for the 40+ students who were beating themselves up for not inducing Nito's grace into his sequence but having no information about how to move. The corrections from the couple were only focused on getting the sequence right.
Argentine Tango out of the clichés 2 October 2013 - We're scheming to get tango out of the clichés. To show that it's athletic...that its romance will take you by surprise...that it's drop-dead sexy in whatever shoes you are already wearing... and that you can dance tango to the music you already love.
The reverse cabeceo 25 September 2013 - It's when a follower does the man's cabeceo to a leader. She walks directly up to him, establishes eye contact, and gives him a nod. Um...There's more to the cabeceo than the repudiation of sound. Perhaps more fundamentally, it's a repudiation of demand, from either party.
Right, wrong, and handsome 2 September 2013 - “It’s an interesting phrase…” my student said. “–The one the Argentine teachers use: ‘It’s not wrong, but…’ Why do they say that?” There are obvious answers, and deeper ones. On the obvious level are several possibilities, such as:  The student might be using a different, perfectly legitimate, sequence to get the same result. Affirming that [...more]
I don’t think that’s style… 10 August 2013 - Here we go again. My third post on style. The first one is here, it’s meant to calm new people. The second one is here, it’s a bit of a vent. I’m not being difficult. I really don’t get it. People in Australia are constantly saying to me “Eventually I want to learn all the styles, but for [...more]
Why Women should learn to lead, by Mitra Martin 15 July 2013 - Why Women Should Learn to Lead in Tango by Mitra Martin, founder of Oxygen Tango School of LA Here in Mar Vista , it is wonderous exciting to be surrounded by a lot of nice dancers who dance both roles fluently. It makes practicas super productive and fun and raises the level of Tango [...more]
Why rebel? 4 July 2013 - A rebellion is a daring and dangerous effort to disrupt the current state of affairs in loyalty to a deeper truth. I’m not saying I’ve got the only bead on truth, or depth. What I do, how I teach, and what I write is an expression of my commitment to the best and richest tango [...more]
Making tango your own 16 June 2013 - You are investing time, power, and heart into this dance. It may sound obvious, but it’s crucial to remind yourself that you’re doing all this for your own pleasure. Tango is a space of self-expression, elation, and emotional intensity that are very personal. It’s also an authoritarian, righteous, rules-centered, judgmental world. Perhaps too easily, we [...more]
Leaders’ versus Followers’ musicality 1 June 2013 - This post is the beginning of an investigation which I hope to continue in further discussions and observation. I was never interested in DJing, but more and more it becomes part of my work, as I host practicas and milongas. I have collected a nice library of music. Some days I really can’t stand any [...more]
Slippage and fracture in transmission 13 April 2013 - On a talk by contemporary dancer Sara Wookey entitled “Dance is hard to see,” regarding Yvonne Rainer’s ‘Trio A’. Presented by Performance Space. Trio A (1966) is a historically important, “paradigm shifting” dance. It was one of the first expressions of minimalism in dance, influenced by Rainer’s involvement with a multidisciplinary arts community in NYC which [...more]
Tango bigotry 1 March 2013 - Why are some of us so intent on putting down others’ way of dancing? While encouraging entrants to celebrate their love of tango and have fun, the upcoming Australian Tango Dance Challenge “forbids” ganchos and lifting the legs (they must have meant to say feet) “above the knees.” Why would a tango competition forbid moves [...more]
Moody milonguera / Us and the Onda 14 January 2013 - In Castellano, the mood of the milonga is called ‘onda’, a term used to describe the combined effects of everything from architecture to astrology. “The Onda” is an ineffable mix of the shape of the space, the lighting, the attitude of the organizer, the music, the feeling of the floor, who is there, who is [...more]
Experience the “real” tango… 9 December 2012 - But Argentines say that the music itself brings emotions into you, and this is why they emphasize that to understand tango you must learn the language, even the old Lunfardo words and phrases. You must feel the pathos of the songs in order to fully experience the emotion of tango.
Is tango art? Entry I 29 October 2012 - Part 1: 29 October, 2012 This is a question I’ve asked myself repeatedly. I think mostly my view has been that it’s not, but that it could be. Note that I have no training in dance as a fine art, and I don’t know the relevant concepts and terminology, so my criteria are drawn from [...more]
Tanguera’s tale 11 August 2012 - Before being a tanguera, I was an economist. I was interested in community-based economics, crafts and craftspeople. I’ve become one of the people I used to study. I work with my hands, my body, my creativity, my spirit. I integrate mind and body into my craft. It’s a beautiful and meaningful life. I do what I [...more]
Once and For All: Tango Nuevo is Not a Style of Dance 18 July 2012 - “Before ... creating tango steps was all about inspiration … but now we have this tool. And I think many people call it ‘nuevo tango’ because they couldn’t understand how all those steps just appeared…they didn’t realize it was the same thing that they were looking at.”
88 keys… 2 June 2012 - I made a rough estimate of the number of discrete tango moves. There are 25 movements in the tango lexicon, each with various numbers of variations (there are 48 sacadas, and far more ganchos). Different dynamics of motion would correspond to the chords.
An ode to Club Atlético de Quilmes and Authentic Argentine Tango, by Alistair Baillie 5 May 2012 - This post is an ode to Club Atlético Argentino de Quilmes. It features Diego Armando Maradona, Lionel Andrés Messi, Thomas and James Hogg, H. de Winton and J. C. Thring, and Royal Shrovetide Football too, but it is primarily an ode to the students of Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires that formed Argentino de Quilmes [...more]
What’s in a style? 10 April 2012 - People talk A LOT about different styles of Argentine Tango. They talk about what looks good, what’s “authentic“, which moves shouldn’t be done while dancing socially… I’ve written before that I think style is something you create on an individual level, from your choice in shoes to the sassy way you tilt your head when [...more]
A Passing Embrace 1 April 2012 - It’s the performance that counts. You drag your self into another reality, propped up with costumes and glue. You may not believe it, but you will convince those who aren’t paying close attention anyway.
Rethinking cortinas 21 March 2012 - So the function of cortinas is to determine if we'll be having sex or not. Cortinas mean that we are engaged in a negotiation. No cortinas, no sex. This is a very good example of why we need to investigate the "authentic traditions" of tango and see if they serve us or not.
What is Confidence? 9 February 2012 - In my work with dancers it’s become clear to me that what distinguishes rapid improvers from slow improvers is one thing, confidence. The confident ones have the intention to do the new thing right away. The unconfident ones have already decided they won’t be able to do it before they try. I can feel this [...more]
There’s nothing wrong with Contentment 26 January 2012 - Tango, like any art form, is rich enough to provide space for lots of different interpretations and personalities. And, like every art form, it’s rife with debates and policing. “That’s not a painting!” But Tango is also a “social dance”, by which we mean a medium for socializing. And, according to doctors these days, a [...more]
The power of desire 11 January 2012 - One of the most painful parts of tango for a revel is waiting, or sitting. It makes us feel passive and powerless when we wait for someone –anyone– to ask us for a dance. This is a mistaken perception of the situation and revels can develop a deeper understanding of what is going on. Your [...more]
Nuevo Tango Reloaded 9 January 2012 - The Buenos Aires perspective: "Tango Nuevo doesn't exist" and the NZ/AU perspective "There are styles of Argentine Tango and every dancer can be categorized into one of them" are talking past each other. I'm starting to feel it's a bit disingenuous to keep insisting that it doesn't exist. This post is my first attempt to describe what it is that people are seeing when they say "that's tango nuevo".
About “Authenticity” 1 January 2012 - I have forbidden myself from using the word "authenticity". I don't give "that's the way it's done" as an explanation, and I don't let myself say "how it is in Buenos Aires". Don't get me wrong, I love Buenos Aires and dancing there. But I recognize that these explanations don't serve my goals as a teacher and dancer - to empower my students and make tango culturally relevant.
Damian and Vio hit the streets, Sydney 30 November 2011 - November 2011 Any Time, Any Where, Any Shoe… Damian Thompson and Vio prove that tango belongs in the streets, of Sydney and the world… #1 #2 #3: more boots!
If you’re so openminded about tango, why do you use the cabeceo? 28 August 2011 - It’s painful to sit as a revel waiting to be asked for a dance. Marks feel a lot of stress in having to make the approach. And many people feel that the codigos and the cabeceo reinforce old fashioned gender roles about male privilege and female passivity. I’ve felt the anxiety that accompanies both roles, [...more]
Nuevo Tango Doesn’t Exist, But it Sure is Taking up a Lot of Space on the Dance Floor 19 July 2011 - Indeed, a visitor to Buenos Aires could not today distinguish between traditional and new milongas based on the music played, the embrace used, steps and movements, which orchestras are invited to play, or which dancers are invited to perform. What is different is age of patrons, and whether the tables are hosted and segregated...
Inhabiting the tango roles 16 March 2011 - If the leader doesn't risk openness and vulnerability, if the leader falls back or contracts power, the follower has to extend too far across the emotional and physical gap. It's very difficult for leaders to send their hearts forward, and much easier to pull the follower to them. This stance countermands a comfortable retreat to the intellectual side and requires a dramatic embodiment of an extreme and seemingly archaic gender role -- the protector.
Art and global culture 3 January 2011 - ...in the waves of globalization, one of which birthed tango. We tanguera/os are struggling to learn to share, gripping authority as it slips through the toes, parrying each fusion that comes, trading shifts on the guardwatch, fighting over the orthodox, whirling around to explain that tango has always been a fusion, has always been diverse, has always been changing, has always been shared.
Why we need Feminist Tango 18 March 2010 - A feminist tango is not anti-man in any way, but it is pro-woman. It means we give each other the same gracious generosity that we habitually and unhesitatingly offer to strange men. It means we give each other more, and what that more can be is open to the imagination of every woman who has suffered the unique and poignant pains of tango.
The Chicho Interview 1 December 2009 - "The traditionalists complain about the modern ones contending that they don’t dance tango, instead they do gymnastics, and the modern dancers complain that the others got stuck in time. There is no fusion, it is one group against the other, and it makes me sad because in reality we are all together."
Slideshow from 2009 Celebration of Women Leaders 26 June 2009 - On 19 April 2009, Duro y Vio organized two beautiful events at Spontaneous Celebrations to mark their departure from Boston. One was Boston’s first Queer Tango Milonga. The other was a Celebration of Women Leaders. Here’s the gorgeous slideshow from that event. Celebration of Women Leaders from vio saraza on Vimeo. Please do not repost [...more]
Gender, desire, and drag 2 April 2009 - This research note examines the unique possibilities that tango may create as it becomes queered, and identifies ways in which the extreme gender environment of traditional tango is already queer. I distinguish three layers of gender experience in tango: drag, object desire, and inhabitation of essence.
beautiful, complex interview with Pablo Veron 28 March 2009 - Pablo Veron was the choreographer and principle dancer of Sally Potter's movie, The Tango Lesson. In this interview in El Tangauta he discusses current tango debates, such as whether and how to differentiate styles of dancing, what has happened with the emergence of pedagogies for teaching, and the "industrialization" of tango. The interview beautifully articulates why improvisation is the soul of tango.
Queer Hip Hop 17 March 2008 - Homo Revolution is a national tour of Queer hip hop artists. It's interesting to reflect on the acts and meanings of queer hip hop as we think about building queer tango.
Tango: Reflections from one year in (before facebook) 15 October 2006 - If you are ok with meaningless, detached eroticism, desensitized from the emotions that normally accompany it, and seeking to avoid misunderstandings, entanglements, fluids, or diseases, tango is a way to get off several times a night for the rest of your life. And it’s an age-inclusive social space, where women become more sexy as they tuck decades of dancing into their girdles.