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Vio's Blog: Argentine Tango


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Neoliberal Tango

Most of us are familiar with deskilling in manufacturing. It means designing the production line so that each worker does only one small job over and over, and it’s easy to train anyone to do that one thing. This increases flexibility and power for the company while decreasing the meaning, opportunities for development, and power of workers. Deskilling also applies to retail, where workers are no longer experts on what they are selling, and do not provide personal service to their customers, but just stock shelves and ring cash registers. I observe that the deskilling of manufacturing and retail depend on the deskilling of the customer, who is no longer able to assess quality of products, nor repair them.

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Tango is not a place for aggression

The video proclaimed “if you dare to move your legs (or to enjoy the movement of your lady’s legs) you deserve to be restrained and to suffer.” And it had the intended effect which was to intimidate even the best dancers in the Wellington community from executing certain movements.



Berlin’s venerable dance-hall, Clärchens Ballhaus, is endangered. The building is protected, but the activities which fix it in the fading constellation of Berlin Bohemianism, are not.

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What is the Evil Sequence?

I first observed and wrote about the Evil Sequence in 2016. Now I hope to shine some sunshine on it, and hope we can grow

Near Death Experience

I sit in vigil at my beloved’s bedside, guarding his corpus against the authorities who seem to be practicing careless amputation (“ganchos aren’t tango”), bizarre bloodletting (“voleos aren’t elegant”), justified with dishonest claims about tradition. I stay awake to intercept the doping administered by ill-trained volunteers who appear in the night, zombies muttering insipid reactionary truisms ingrained by tango’s Fox Newscasters…

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Ignorantia juris non excusat

Repetitive marks disrespect the genre and our community. We need to respect our inheritance by keeping it alive. And we need to grow our community by challenging our partners to concentrate and to increase their knowledge and skills.



The message of elegance is exclusive, repetitive, and actually not that interesting. People who have musicality, emotion, and improvisational intelligence to share with us, but who may not see themselves in suits, heels, or extreme postures are driven away by these cliché images which indeed are only one of many facets of Argentine Tango.

Carlos Libedinsky’s Tango

“I started to play and compose because I felt the traditional tango could coexist with the sound of our times. I was interested in Tom Waits, Massive Attack, Air. A group of friends encouraged me…it was not only me who wanted new music.”


No more Mastery

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

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The Pleasure Principle

Dancers who violate the ronda, execute moves unsafely, or have difficulty dancing on music recorded after 1950 are simply unskilled, and ideology is no protection from the resultant problems.



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.


Prayer for Virtuosity

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.


No crash trance

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

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.”

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The evil sequence

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.

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Tango Fundamentalism

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.


Follow the music, and other evasive truisms

I’m having conversations with people about this restricted “marathon-style” dancing. There are several standard explanations,  all of which are truisms,  applicable to All tango,  and, 

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The uninvited.

We didn’t do it on purpose. A2 and B2 wanted to get together again and we settled on Thursday.  They suggested organising a group to

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And then it’s over

Tangotourist in Europe, Summer 2014 An abrupt ending to an endless weekend. I can’t tell if I liked it or not. But I’m sad it’s

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Milonga Popular

Tangotourist in Berlin, Summer 2014 A major benefit of dancing tango is walking home through cities quiet for dawn. Even if the milonga was uninspiring.

About Tango Styles

I don’t think that’s style…

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

Tango Bigotry

Tango bigotry

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

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What’s in a style?

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

What is Fundamentalist Tango?

By 2014, the global hegemonic viewpoint about tango calls itself “social dancing”. These posts document my evolving awareness of fundamentalist tango. I first observed its emergence in the form of the El Yeite milonga in Buenos Aires in 2010/2011 (I attended some of the first episodes of this milonga in its first location on Sarmiento, and later as it became seriously patrimonial on Av. Córdoba. In New Zealand this attitude of dancing was called “milonguero”, under the influence of Susannah Miller’s aggressive marketing campaign (c. 2005- see Merritt).

In Sydney it was called “salon style”. In Berlin it is called “social dancing”.

I was surprised to find this attitude in the hip youthful European “marathon scene” which also lays claim to “high level” – without seeking virtuosity, at least not in the form of aggressive improvisation and personal expression which was the norm c.2008 in Buenos Aires. At first I called it ‘neo-Victorianism’, then ‘smug tango’, and now I call it ‘Fundamentalism’.

Like most other kinds of fundamentalism, tango fundamentalist lays claim to “tradition”/authenticity,popularity“, and “inclusivity”. The inclusivity turns out to be mostly within friendship cliques and age segments. It can be very hard for visitors to dance with these people. Such segmentation already puts “traditionalism” in question.

The method for “popularizing” tango is to eviscerate virtuosity and ambition, reducing the vocabulary and demands.

  • Music:  Traditional tango music (composed and recorded before 1950) is “better” than other music for tango dancing, because of its musical complexity and richness. Fast and rhythmic music is preferred because it’s easier to achieve some semblance of musicality while dancing with untrained Revels who are not able to take slow steps for dramatic music. (See “Expectations“.) The capacity to dance on diverse music is not one of the criteria applied to assessing level.
  • Leading:   A good Mark constructs a physical frame and uses a simple vocabulary to enable even an inexperienced woman to have a nice time on the dance floor with him.
  • Embrace: It is claimed that “close” embrace is more “authentic” and offers better “connection”. The dichotomization of embrace into two “styles” is wholly new to this era of tango. More accurately the embrace should adjusted to the movement being executed, and to the mood and bodies of the partners. But Fundamentalists dance only in one position.
  • who to dance with:  Men should dance with the beginners (and might as well choose the ones showing the maximum amount of sexy legs). This has driven a sexist retrenchment with regard to ultrasexual women’s wear. It’s ok for Revels to reverse-cabeceo because the Marks’ priority is social, not artistic.
  • pleasure:  Marks’ maximum pleasure comes from experiencing the flow of the community of men around the room, being desired, enjoying a nice embrace, and appreciating the music. Revels’ pleasure comes from being tenderly dominated, with musicality.
  • safety:   To assure the safety of other dancers, large steps should be avoided and the Revel’s leg should not use the airspace.
  • pride:   Marks’ pride comes from propriety to the ronda, mastery, smoothness, and elegance, so he only does things that he is sure he can do in these ways. Revels’ pride comes from obedience.

Also typical of any kind of Fundamentalism, Fundamentalist Tango demonizes all others. Any other kind of dancing (regardless of its historical accuracy) is derided as “not really tango”, “disconnected”, “ugly”, and “dangerous”. In fact most of what Fundamentalists deride in their bigotry is a matter of level, not of “style”. Fundamentalist milongas are just as full of the problems of disconnection, bad traffic, lack of musicality as any other – which is ok, because that means there are beginners there!

Disturbingly, Fundamentalists eschew tango’s gifts, abandoning the richness of possibilities for an emaciated “elegance“, a superficial mastery, and an abridged and routinized vocabulary, which damages the global community of dancers.

Curious about the meaning of the term ‘nuevo’? 

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